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 14, inclusive, answered orally.

Taxi Regulations

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

15 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide further details on when the review of the taxi sector will be completed in November; if he will publish the review; and if he will commit to providing additional resources to ensure a better system of regulation for the taxi sector. [33477/11]

The review is examing all aspects of taxi regulation and will make specific recommendations on matters concerning licensing, enforcement, vehicle standards, supply issues in rural and urban areas and future dialogue with the taxi sector. The review will enable the necessary further reforms of the sector to allow consumers to have confidence in the taxi system while also ensuring that legitimate and competent operators and drivers can be rewarded by operating fairly under a regulatory framework that is adequately enforced.

Good progress is being made on the review and I envisage that the the review steering group, which I am chairing, will complete its work this month. Some of the priority areas under consideration in the review include new powers to suspend or revoke a licence, measures to ensure revenue and social welfare compliance and the use of technologies to further consumer protection and enforcement. In addition, the conclusions of the economic analysis of the taxi market being carried out by the consultants, Indecon, will also be considered by the review group.

Publication of the review will of course be subject to Government approval and I would expect to submit the review proposals for Cabinet consideration at an early date. Any additional resources that might be required to implement the review recommendations will also be considered then.

Public Transport

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

16 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the efforts he has made to date to bring about a more diverse bus service provision; his plans to bring in competitive tendering in the bus licensing market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33466/11]

In accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government to explore the benefit to the public transport passenger of more diverse bus service provision, I am examining the options available.

The Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 enabled the granting of contracts for public service obligation (PSO) services on a direct award basis to Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann in respect of existing services and on a public tender basis for new services.

The existing contracts with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann were for 5 years and expire on 3 December 2014. The NTA must publish information regarding proposed tenders and direct award contracts, and the services and areas potentially covered by the award, in the Official Journal of the European Union at least 1 year in advance of an invitation to tender or direct award. In that event the NTA will be required to tender for the provision of subvented bus passenger services by 3 December 2013. It is within that timeframe that I am developing proposals and it is my intention to consult with my Ministerial colleagues on this subject in the near future.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

17 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he was consulted in advance of a decision (details supplied) to abandon a legislated emissions reduction plan; if he proposes any new domestic emissions reduction strategies within his own Department in order to help achieve the long term goal of a reduction of 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland by 2030 set by the previous Government; if not, if his attention has been drawn to any plans to make alternative domestic proposals in the absence of a legislated emissions reduction plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33446/11]

My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, has not abandoned the objective of underpinning national climate policy with legislation. His position is clearly set out in the reply to various written questions on 2nd November 2011, including Question No. 257, in which he states:

"My immediate priority is to finalise a review of national climate policy in the light of existing and anticipated national greenhouse gas mitigation targets up to 2020. The review will be made available on my Department's website in the coming days (published Thursday 3rd) and will provide the background for future policy development.

It is my objective, in line with the Programme for Government, to introduce climate legislation within the lifetime of this Government. As indicated in the Government legislation programme, published on 14 September 2011, I expect that it will be 2012 at the earliest before any legislation can be published, taking account of the need also to progress the broader climate policy agenda under the aegis of the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and the Green Economy."

Beyond 2012, when the current commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol has expired, the binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets which Ireland must meet under EU law relate to the period 2013-2020. Overall, the level of mitigation to be achieved by 2020 equates approximately to 20% below 2005 levels the achievement of which will represent a major challenge.

With regard to how the transport sector is addressing this challenge, I would note that Greenhouse Gas Emissions from this sector have been declining in recent years and I understand that the latest estimates show that they have fallen by about 14% from their 2007 peak in the last three years. While much of the reduction in emissions much of this, unfortunately, can be attributed to the decline in economic activity, specific measures such as the changed motor tax system, mobility management schemes, and the biofuels obligation all yield emissions savings on an annual basis.End of Take

Sports Capital Programme

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

18 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he intends to open up a new round of applications for the capital sports grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33409/11]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, funding is allocated towards the provision of sports facilities at national, regional and local level. It is the primary vehicle for promoting the development of sports and recreational facilities in Ireland.

€33 million has been provided in the Department's vote in the 2011 Estimates to meet payments in respect of projects which have been allocated funding under the Sports Capital Programme. Over 1,000 payments were made last year to projects which were being developed across the country. Such projects allow clubs to increase the opportunities for people to engage in sports at all levels.

No decision has been made in regard to the timing of a new round of the Programme.

Harbours and Piers

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

19 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans in relation to job retention and creation at Dún Laoghaire harbour and at Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33440/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

33 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has been in contact with a company (details supplied) in relation to the ongoing threat to jobs and downgrading of ferry services from Dún Laoghaire; and if he will provide an update on the actions taken regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33439/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 33 together.

The situation regarding employment in Dun Laoghaire harbour remains unchanged since my response to the Deputy's oral PQ on the matter on 29 September last.

Stena Line, as an independent commercial company, has taken a decision to introduce greater efficiencies and reduce their overall operating overheads. The number of passengers and cars using Stena Line's Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead ferry service and the number of sailings on the service has been falling for a number of years.The HSS Stena Explorer, operating on the Dun Laoghaire Holyhead route, generates most of its turnover during the period May to September. I understand that this, coupled with high fuel operating costs, leaves the remaining months unsustainable.

The company say they will continue to operate the route on a seasonal basis and services on the route are scheduled to resume in April 2012. Passengers and freight customers can still avail of the company's route between Dublin Port and Holyhead. This route is served by two vessels and the company operates a year round schedule.

As stated previously, the HSS Stena Explorer is a UK flagged vessel and I have no function in relation to employment on board the vessel. It is my understanding that the company has commenced consultations with their staff on board the vessel and those on shore in Dun Laoghaire and their trade union representatives to discuss the implications of the proposed changes.

Yesterday I met with a senior executive from Stena Lines with whom I discussed the matter and we agreed to a follow up meeting.

Over recent years the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company has been restructuring its business in order to keep it on a sustainable financial footing and to enable the harbour to develop and operate on a commercial basis into the future. This has inevitably led to some job losses. The company has also been pursuing a twin strategy of developing alternative income streams from marine leisure and tourism related business, whilst also reducing its high cost base. The Board formally adopted its Masterplan describing its vision for the future of Dún Laoghaire Harbour on 4 October last.

Sports Capital Programme

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

20 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the discussions he has with the National Asset Management Agency in relation to making NAMA properties available as local sports facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33413/11]

Under the Sports Capital Programme the Department provides funding at local, regional and national level to sporting clubs and organisations; voluntary and community organisations and, in certain circumstances, local authorities and schools/colleges towards the provision of sporting facilities. The Programme does not provide funding towards the purchase of land or buildings.

My officials have had discussions with NAMA with regard to how NAMA properties can be made available to sporting organisations. From these discussions, I understand that NAMA has already made arrangements with some sports groups to lease land controlled by NAMA and that NAMA tries to accommodate these requests where it is possible.

Public Transport

Eoghan Murphy

Ceist:

21 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views regarding the Smarter Transport Bill 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33235/11]

I welcome the Smarter Transport Bill 2011 which the Deputy recently published. The Bill makes provision for local authorities to make bye laws for the provision and use of charging bays on public roads for electrically powered and plug-in hybrid vehicles and for the control and regulation of parking by car club vehicles on public roads.

I believe the Deputy's Bill is important as it will, if enacted, provide the legislative basis to encourage greater and more widespread use of electric cars as well as making car clubs a more viable option for members of the public. Therefore, I look forward to the Bill being debated in the House in the coming months, and giving general support to the proposals contained within the Bill.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

22 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will be in a position to reinstate funding for the grants to support sport in disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33414/11]

The funding referred to by the Deputy relates to funding provided through the Dormant Accounts Fund for the appointment of Sports Inclusion Disability Officers (SIDOs) in Local Sports Partnerships. The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government has overall responsibility for dormant accounts spending. The funding through my Department was an element of a larger set of economic and social disadvantage funding measures.

Any funding secured from the Dormant Accounts Fund is clearly time bound and the SIDO appointments were made on that basis. In 2010, the Irish Sports Council agreed a funding mechanism to ensure the continuation of the SIDO scheme beyond the dormant accounts funding.

Road Network

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

23 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will approve the construction of the Ballaghaderreen bypass, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33239/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for the NRA in accordance with Section 19 of the Roads Act. However I can advise the Deputy that the NRA has allocated €7.65m to the Ballaghadereen By-Pass in 2011.

Tourism Promotion

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

24 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has had any discussions with Trinity College Dublin regarding the possible return of the Book of Kells to the town of Kells, County Meath; and if he will outline his position on the matter. [33415/11]

As the Deputy may be aware, Fáilte Ireland earlier this year allocated €2.7 million to Trinity College to develop a new setting for the Book of Kells exhibition within the grounds of the college. The proposal is to improve the overall visitor experience of the attraction including redesigned layout, increased space as well as the interpretation of the exhibition. The exhibition featured prominently in the recent itinerary of Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Ireland and the funding will allow the attraction to fully exploit the tourism potential of the exposure it received during that visit. I have not had any discussions with Trinity College on the issue referred to by the Deputy as the location of the Book of Kells is primarily a matter for the College.

Departmental Bodies

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

25 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he plans to review the semi-State bodies operating under his aegis in the area of tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33410/11]

Fáilte Ireland was established under the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003 to encourage, promote and support tourism. Its primary functions are the development of quality tourism product, domestic tourism marketing, tourism standards, enterprise support, capability building and human resource development for the tourism industry.

Tourism Ireland is accountable to the North South Ministerial Council and is funded by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, and by my Department. It promotes the island of Ireland as a tourist destination overseas. The company works closely with Fáilte Ireland, NITB, and the tourism industry in delivering its remit.

There is a close working relationship between the organisations. The CEO of Fáilte Ireland sits on the board of Tourism Ireland and the Tourism Ireland CEO regularly attends Fáilte Ireland board meetings on an observer basis. The boards of the two agencies, the chief executives and senior management teams also meet on an ongoing basis to discuss issues of mutual interest on tourism and to co-ordinate their activities.

I am satisfied that the two principal tourism agencies act in a cohesive manner in delivering their tourism remits. The Government believes it is important that all State agencies constantly review and monitor their operations to ensure optimal returns are received for public investment. I am aware that the tourism agencies are already working to share services, where possible, with a view to driving economies.

All semi-state bodies were reviewed as part of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. Whereas any change to Tourism Ireland would require agreement with the Northern Ireland authorities in the overall North-South framework, all agencies will be expected to deliver efficiencies with fewer staff, lower budgets and rationalised structures.

Clamping Industry

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

26 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will carry out a review of the unregulated clamping industry in a bid to create legislation that will be in the interest of drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33232/11]

I am aware of a range of issues which have been raised by members of the public regarding difficulties they have encountered with elements of the private clamping industry. While current legislation permits local authorities to clamp vehicles in public places, either directly or by contract with a clamping company, there is no legislation specifically covering clamping on private property.

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to regulate the vehicle clamping industry, I intend, in the near future, to present outline proposals on the matter to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht in order that the Committee's views on the subject can be obtained, prior to finalising my legislative scheme. I hope to be in a position to bring forward legislation on this matter in 2012.

Information and Communications Technology

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

27 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to improve the tourist experience here through the use of mobile Internet devices and applications similar to and including the Culture Fox application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33416/11]

The provision of information to tourists including through facilities such as mobile internet devices is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. I am aware, for example, that this Summer, Fáilte Ireland launched a free Discover Ireland app for Apple and Android mobile operating systems. For further information, I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 6.

Cycle Facilities

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

29 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans, in conjunction with bike schemes similar to that in Dublin, to make cycling in urban centres safer and more viable for everyone. [33434/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

36 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to aid the development of strategies for local authorities to put in place and achieve resourcing for bike schemes similar to that operated in Dublin. [33430/11]

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

46 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure that the expansion of the bike scheme in Dublin to other urban centres will be based on a joined-up national system. [33436/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 36 and 46 together.

Recognising the success of the Dublinbikes scheme, the Programme for Government commits my Department to seek to extend the scheme to other cities and integrate the scheme more effectively with public transport links. The National Transport Authority has, at my request, had an initial analysis of the potential for similar bikes schemes in the regional cities carried out. My Department and the NTA are currently considering the findings of that analysis including how to address key issues identified such as the changed commercial environment to that pertaining when the Dublinbikes scheme was negotiated and different characteristics of scheme provision in smaller cities. What is clear is that the way the scheme is funded in Dublin cannot be easily replicated in other cities so we do need to think outside the box a little bit.

I am committed to exploring a range of mechanisms to seek to secure public bike schemes in other cities and to that end I have arranged symposiums in Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway with the National Transport Authority and the City Councils to inform and involve key business and civic stakeholders, to consider the various issues involved and to provide a defined channel via my office or the National Transport Authority, which any interested parties can avail of to discuss engagement with the scheme publicly or in commercial confidence. The symposiums are taking place this week and next and any decisions regarding whether procurement of any further public bike scheme or schemes should take place on a national or individual city basis will need to await the outcome of those consultations.

Many more cyclists have taken to the streets and are learning the benefits and experiencing the safety of cycling following the introduction by Dublin City Council of the Dublinbikes Scheme. It has been hailed internationally as a great success and we will continue to examine ways it can be rolled out to other cities.

Public Transport

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

30 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to expand the real-time information displays for Dublin Bus services throughout the city. [33438/11]

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

47 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure that a free official smartphone application for the most common operating systems is available with real-time information on all public transport options. [33437/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 47 together.

Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) on 1 December 2009, the implementation of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), such as the Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI), now comes under the remit of the NTA.

I have been informed by the Authority, however, that the first phase of RTPI on the web encompasses all 5000 Dublin Bus stops. This information is taken from the Dublin Bus automatic vehicle location system and it is currently available on TransportforIreland.ie and dublinbus.ie/rtpi. The same information also feeds the current free Dublin Bus iPhone App with the app being available on android at the end of the month. RTPI for Bus Éireann will be available in early 2012 and information for other bus and rail transport operators will follow once their data is available in a reliable and standard format. The Transport for Ireland website will therefore continue to develop, and to offer integrated real time information on a multi-city, multi-operator, bilingual basis. The NTA will also develop an official free TransportforIreland iPhone and Android app based on this multi-operator information. With regard to the expansion of RTPI, currently 300 signs have been installed in the GDA and a further 200 are being deployed. It is not feasible to have an RTPI sign at every bus stop. However the real-time information for all 5000 Dublin Bus stops is available on the web, via the Dublin Bus iPhone app and the text service. The level of usage of these channels of information will feed into a review of any proposed expansion of the RTPI on-street signs programme.

Sport and Recreational Development

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

31 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the role he sees for sport in the promotion of the national image; how he intends to ensure this is realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33406/11]

Sport undoubtedly showcases Ireland around the world and we have a proud tradition in the international sporting arena where we consistently punch above our weight. Tourism Ireland is continuing to capitalise on the excellent publicity overseas surrounding Ireland's top golfers. The recent Home of Champions campaign is helping to promote golfing holidays on the back of the recent major wins by Irish golfers.

As Minister of State with responsibility for both Sport and Tourism, I want to ensure that Ireland's position as a leading location for international sporting events is further developed and enhanced. The Programme for Government includes a provision that event tourism will be prioritised to continue to bring major events to Ireland. The hosting of sports events gives an opportunity to show that a small country can host big events, such as the Tall Ships, Volvo Ocean Race or the Solheim Cup, in an efficient and capable manner.

The hosting of sports events also provides a great showcase for Ireland as a country. Millions around the world watch big sporting events on their television screens and this provides a great opportunity for people to view a positive image of Ireland. The media coverage of sports tourism events helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination. Fáilte Ireland continues to support the sports tourism sector under the festivals and events initiative and has allocated €3.8 million in 2011 for direct financial support to festivals and events, including sports. The Volvo Ocean Race will return to Ireland in 2012 with its finale in Galway while Dún Laoghaire will host the World Youth Championship sailing event next year.

Road Network

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

32 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has the authority to instruct Wexford County Council to lift planning restrictions along the preferred route for the Oilgate — Rosslare motorway in view of the fact that the restrictions prevent residents from developing and selling properties even though the project has been postponed indefinitely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33442/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. I have no function in relation to the planning process and, as previously indicated, it is a matter for the local authority in its capacity as the planning authority to assess how best to balance planning needs and the protection of route corridors for future road upgrades.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 19.

Inland Waterways

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

34 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport about the discussions he has had with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and his counterpart in the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding the potential re-opening of the Ulster canal between Clones and Enniskillen as a major tourist attraction in the Border area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33407/11]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Ulster Canal project is being progressed by Waterways Ireland, which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. He is liaising with his Northern Ireland counterpart, the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure on this project. I have had no role in the development of the project to date but I am open to having the implications for tourism development considered at the appropriate time.

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

35 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which an audit has been done of the total employment throughout the transport and tourism sectors with particular reference to the potential to absorb into the sector a greater proportion of those currently long-term unemployed; the extent to which he can or will engage with the relevant, interested parties, such as the stakeholders, with a view to maximisation of the economic impact of the sectors for which he has ministerial responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33384/11]

My Department does not directly audit the employment in the transport and tourism sectors but does keep under review the statistics which are available. According to the most recent CSO Quarterly National Household Survey, the numbers employed in the "transportation and storage" sector stood at around 95,000 in Quarter 2 of 2011. An estimate of all jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry based on the Fáilte Ireland survey of businesses indicates total employment in the sector at approximately 180,000.

The Government's plans as set out in the programme for Government place a heavy emphasis on tourism as one of the key areas for the generation of employment and on the delivery of effective transport services. I have also outlined my own priorities to 2016 for the transport, tourism and sport sectors on my Department's website. The tourism sector was the subject of specifically targeted measures in the Government's Jobs Initiative. In addition, just last week I announced more than €6.6 million in tourism capital funding for nine projects.

Transport demand is primarily derived from the outputs of other economic sectors. One would expect increases in demand and employment within the transport sector to result from increased economic outputs generally.

My Department has consulted recently with all stakeholders in the transport, tourism and sport areas in the context of the preparation of a new statement of strategy. The views expressed by stakeholders have helped to formulate the proposed strategies which I will be publishing by the end of the year.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 29.

Tourism Promotion

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

37 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the development of off-peak tourism here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33236/11]

The matter raised is an operational matter for the State tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland. I have referred the Deputy's question to both agencies for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

38 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to Parliamentary Question No. 56 of 6 July 2011, the extent to which he and his Department have examined and pinpointed the various factors affecting tourism costs and, ultimately, the competitiveness of that sector in this jurisdiction; if updated comparisons have been made with the prevailing situation in other eurozone or non-eurozone EU jurisdictions; the extent to which stakeholders in the sector have expressed their concern to him or his Department with a view to achieving the most advantageous and competitive position for this industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33383/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which he has had discussions with the catering and tourism sector with a view to identification of any State-generated costs likely to impede the competitiveness of the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33694/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which the total number of hotel accommodation units has been utilised throughout the country in the past 12 months; if he intends to introduce any measures to address any issues arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33695/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 201 and 202 together.

I am in regular contact with stakeholders in the tourism sector which keeps me advised of issues of concern to the industry. Recent statistics show Ireland in the second most favourable position from the top of a league table across the EU measuring the annual percentage change in harmonised CPI for restaurants and hotels to August 2011. Ireland has recorded a decrease of 0.7% in the period while the EU average has increased by 2.6%. These statistics clearly demonstrate the increased competitiveness of the tourism industry within Ireland and by comparison with our European counterparts.

Fáilte Ireland's most recent accommodation occupancy statistics cover the period January to August 2011. It records improved occupancy rates over the period January to August compared to 2010. While there was no change in room capacity between 2010 and 2011, demand for hotel rooms rose by 6% over the same period.

The Government's Jobs Initiative introduced a new lower VAT rate of 9% from July 1st for a range of tourism services and also significantly reduced the cost of employing people by halving employers' PRSI for those on modest wages, further enhancing the competitiveness of the sector.

I am aware that there are a range of other costs that are of concern to tourism businesses including labour costs. Following the conclusion of the consultation period launched by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on proposals for the reform of the State's employment rights and industrial relations structures and procedures, I look forward to the implementation of the revised structures.

I have received copies of the pre-budget submissions made by tourism representative bodies to my colleague, the Minister for Finance in recent weeks. I will be taking account of their concerns in discussions on the framing of next year's budget.

North South Co-operation

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

39 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the North-South areas of co-operation being advanced in the area of tourism; if he will report on decisions made with his ministerial counterpart from the Northern Assembly on 5 October; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33418/11]

Tourism was identified in the Good Friday Agreement as one of the key areas for North/South cooperation, and consequently it is one of the sectors on which the North/South Ministerial Council meets in Sectoral format. The Council meets in this format in order to make decisions on common policies and approaches in the area of tourism. It also takes decisions on policies and actions to be implemented by Tourism Ireland Limited in its role to promote the island of Ireland overseas as a tourist destination. Amongst the likely discussion items at the next North/South Ministerial Council meeting in Tourism Sectoral format are a review of this year's visitor numbers to the island of Ireland, Tourism Ireland's Business Plan for 2012 and major tourism opportunities North and South in 2012 and 2013.

There is also ongoing cooperation between the tourism agencies and Government departments north and south in a number of other areas including the selection of suitable tourism projects to benefit from Peace/Interreg funds and in work to harmonise and share tourism statistics north and south. I had an informal meeting with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster MLA when she visited Dublin on the 5th October for the launch of Northern Ireland 2012. We discussed a range of tourism issues including the planned events in 2012 to mark the Titanic Anniversary and "The Gathering" event in 2013.

Road Network

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

40 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will request that local authorities carry out a review of speed limits on all national primary and secondary roads. [33233/11]

The Road Traffic Act 2004 establishes default speed limits that apply to defined categories of roads and which can only be changed by county and city councils through the making of special speed limit bye-laws. Section 9 of the 2004 Act sets out the range of special speed limits that may be applied by local authorities through bye-laws. In accordance with Actions identified in the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012, my Department issued guidelines on speed limits in January of this year to all local authorities. The onus is on local authorities to take these guidelines into account in relation to the speed limits to be set for all roads in their area of responsibility.

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide advice and guidance in relation to the making of speed limit bye-laws by county and city councils for the purpose of applying special speed limits. After taking the guidelines into account it is considered best practice for local authority officials to advise the elected members of their respective councils on what a suitable speed limit regime should be for different roads in their areas of responsibility. For new roads the local authority will have the relevant information on the speed for which the road was designed. As part of a Direction given in January 2011, all local authorities were requested to undertake an assessment of special speed limits in their functional areas and the results of that assessment are expected to be available to my Department shortly.

Ferry Services

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

41 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will liaise with his counterpart in the Northern Ireland Assembly to find a long-term strategic solution to ensure the continuation of the ferry service on Lough Foyle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33237/11]

As I previously advised the Deputy on 13 October 2011, and again on 25 October, neither my Department nor any of its agencies has any function in respect of, or finance for, the provision or subsidisation of ferry services on this or any other route. It is not the practice of my Department to subsidise loss-making ferry services nor are there any funds available to my Department for this purpose. As stated previously the subsidisation of loss-making ferry services across the board would result in significant financial costs to the State, and moreover, could potentially result in other transport providers being disadvantaged.

Tourism Industry

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

42 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the discussions he has had with the National Asset Management Agency or with other Departments on the impact that NAMA has on the hotel industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33411/11]

NAMA has purchased eligible land and development loans and certain associated loans from participating institutions. Hotels loans have transferred only because they have been advanced to debtors who also have land and development loans. I understand from NAMA that it has acquired loans secured by some 83 hotels located within the State, of which 81 are open for business, with an estimated 8,500 rooms. There are approximately 900 hotels in the State.

I am informed by NAMA that it has developed a comprehensive strategy to deal with the hotels that are within its portfolio. The agency assures me that a key criterion in its assessment is the debt servicing capacity of each hotel relative to its income. It will not support hotels that do not demonstrate long-term viability. However, it acknowledges that there are hotels for which, ultimately, alternative uses will have to be found.

NAMA has also expressed concern that some hotels are being supported by institutions that are not participating in the NAMA scheme and are offering rooms at unsustainable rates. NAMA point out that this practice causes as much difficulty for hotels with loans on NAMA's books as it does for other hotel operators.

I have not met with NAMA since my appointment. Officials from my Department and Fáilte Ireland met with NAMA last year to discuss overall policy in the Hotels Sector and brief them on Fáilte Ireland's analysis of the sector. The Agency welcomed receipt of the analysis and I am pleased to say that NAMA will take account of overall tourism policy considerations as their own strategy development evolves.

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

43 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the efforts he has made to ensure a viable and sustainable bed and breakfast sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33417/11]

The development of particular accommodation sectors including the Bed and Breakfast Sector is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. I am aware that Fáilte Ireland has done a considerable amount of work to assist the sector in recent times particularly in the development of a voluntary classification and categorisation system, supported by a new brand. The sector will also have benefitted from the Government's Jobs initiative earlier this year where there was a particular focus on stimulating tourism and hospitality. I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

44 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in view of the recent report from the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation entitled New Directions for Tourism in the West, the efforts he has made and will make to ensure a viable tourism industry in the west of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33405/11]

I welcome the publication of the report by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation on the challenges facing overseas tourism to the western seaboard. The report highlights a number of key trends and issues facing the region, where tourism is an important sector. The Government has already taken measures to assist the tourism sector generally including reductions in VAT and employers' PRSI, the National Internship Scheme and the short term visa waiver programme.

The report points to successful tourism initiatives, such as Galway's focus on events and the development of the Great Western Greenway. Both of these initiatives have benefitted very considerably from funding from Fáilte Ireland under the Festivals and Events and the Tourism Capital Investment Programmes. Tourism enterprises in the region also benefit from the wide variety of business supports provided by Fáilte Ireland, such as training, sales and marketing, web enablement, and quality and standards.

Tourism Ireland is currently targeting millions of potential holidaymakers and capitalising on late booking trends and on the many events that take place on the western seaboard and across the island at this time of year. The growth in overseas visitor numbers of 11% for the first eight months of the year is welcome news, even allowing for the poor weather and volcanic ash disruptions last year. However, we know that the distribution of visitors is uneven and some areas are performing better than others.

Tourism Ireland will be launching their marketing plans for 2012 towards the end of the year and will detail how they plan to build further tourism growth for Ireland, including the western seaboard, next year and in the years ahead.

Road Signage

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

45 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to carry out a review of road signage and its effectiveness in informing drivers of dangers in areas throughout the State which experience higher than average road traffic accidents. [33429/11]

The new 2010 Traffic Signs Manual (TSM) published in January this year constitutes a direction given to road authorities under section 95(16) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 in relation to the provision of traffic signs, other than regulatory signs. It provides details of the traffic signs which may be used on roads in Ireland, including their layout and symbols, the circumstances in which each sign may be used and the rules for positioning them.

Sections 6.1, 6.5 and 6.6 of the 2010 TSM further standardise treatment of warning road signage for locations with accident problems and also for difficult bends, corners and sharp changes of direction where motorists might experience difficulty in negotiating. Taking cognisance of the clear guidelines within the TSM, it is a matter for each road authority to determine the location of traffic signs to ensure that clear and effective signing is in place for the efficient operation of the road network, the enforcement of traffic regulations and for road safety purposes.

In addition to the recently published TSM, the European Communities (Road Infrastructure Safety Management) Regulation 2011 transposes the four pillars of the EU Road Infrastructure Safety Management Directive, namely: road safety impact assessments; detailed systematic and technical safety audits; ranking of high accident concentrations on particular sections of the road network and periodic safety inspections of the network. This, together with the implementation of the 2010 TSM guidelines, should increase the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians on our road network. Bearing in mind the initiatives outlined, my Department has no proposals to carry out a further review of road signage on our road network at this time.

Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 29.

Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 30.

Departmental Schemes

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

48 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to put in place incentives for car pooling and other measures to reduce congestion on our roads. [33435/11]

In line with the commitment in the national smarter travel strategy a national car sharing database is now available at carsharing.ie, launched by the National Transport Authority in July 2011.

Carsharing offers people a cost effective and a more sustainable way of travelling by car, where public transport, walking or cycling are not viable options. Carsharing can also ease destination parking pressure.

Carsharing.ie is an all-island service for the public, which is free of charge to use. The service can be used by any individual or group looking to promote carsharing, for example:

To set up a private carsharing group for regular trips to a workplace, community group or sports club.

To set up private carsharing groups for one-off trips, for example to music festivals, weddings or sporting fixtures.

To generally seek or offer lifts.

By the end of July 2011, 31 large organisations had signed up to the car sharing database.

Tionscal Turasóireachta

Ceist:

49 D’fhiafraigh Michael P. Kitt den Aire Iompair, Turasóireachta agus Spóirt an polasaí atá aige chun an turasóireacht a fheabhsú sa Ghaeltacht; an bhfuil an Ghaeltacht sa phlean don, Gathering, sa bhliain 2013; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29842/11]

Is ábhar feidhmiúil do Fáilte Ireland é an tábhar seo a ardaíodh. Táim tar éis Ceist Pharlaiminte an Teachta a chur faoi bhráid Fáilte Ireland le freagra díreach a chur amach. Muna fhaigheann tú freagra laistigh de dheich lá oibre bheinn faoi chomaoin agat dá bhféadfá mo oifig phríobháideach a chur ar an eolas faoin scéal más é do thoil é.

Rural Transport Services

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

50 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the rural transport network will be included as an integral part of the local integrated transport services; his views on the ten-point action plan proposed by the RTN; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33234/11]

My Department is currently exploring efficiencies that can be made by bringing together aspects of HSE transport, school transport, the Rural Transport Programme and other transport services. The overall aim is to reduce duplication and costs while increasing efficiency and maintaining service provision. All stakeholders will have a role to play including the Rural Transport Network. The ten point action plan proposed by the RTN will be considered in that regard. Indeed, my Department has already met with the RTN and is due to do so again shortly.

I will take this opportunity to re-affirm my commitment to the rural transport programme. Rural transport is specifically mentioned in the Programme for Government and while there is a need to find savings, it is vital to the needs of many rural areas and for tackling social isolation.

Irish Language

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

51 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way he will contribute to the maximisation of the potential of the Irish language and cultural tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33408/11]

The issues raised are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland. I have referred the Deputy's question to the agencies for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Overseas Development Aid

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

52 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the commitment of 0.7% of GNP target for overseas development aid will be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32723/11]

Ireland's overseas development programme, managed by my Department, has an enviable international reputation and is rightly recognised as one of the best in the world. Its priority is the fight against extreme poverty and hunger, and it is concentrated in some of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The programme has a rigorous focus on achieving results and provides strong international leadership in making aid more effective. The latest mid-term OECD Review of our aid programme, published last month, stated that Ireland is one of the best performing members in relation to aid effectiveness.

In this House, Ireland's aid programme enjoys strong cross party support and consistently receives high levels of support from the wider public. This Government is strongly committed to the programme, which is central to our foreign policy, and we are proud of its achievements. The Programme for Government underlines our commitment to the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). We remain focused on this 0.7% target and are working towards its attainment.

We were elected to restore growth and prosperity to the economy and rebuild our international reputation on the world stage. Although we have made steady progress, we continue to face considerable challenges in ensuring our public finances are put back on a sound and sustainable footing. However, despite our current difficulties we are not willing to turn our back on the world's poorest and most marginalised, and are working hard to ensure Ireland meets its international commitments on Overseas Development Assistance.

The Government is ambitious for our aid programme, and is committed to maintaining its high international reputation, but above all, we want to ensure that we continue to deliver real and sustainable improvements to the lives of the world's poorest citizens.

International Agreements

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

53 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is positively disposed towards Ireland joining the Commonwealth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30793/11]

Ireland engages regularly with countries which are members of the Commonwealth on matters of shared interest in a number of international fora, most notably the European Union and the United Nations. We also have strong bilateral trade, investment, cultural and diplomatic relations with many countries which are members of the Commonwealth. In addition to this, we also have development cooperation programmes with some Commonwealth members.

The Government believes the current arrangements are well suited to the promotion of relations between Ireland and members of the Commonwealth, and has no plans for changes in this regard.

Northern Ireland Issues

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

54 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support additional legal measures to oblige the British Government to hold a proper inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. [31047/11]

Following the meeting of the Finucane family with Prime Minister Cameron in Downing Street on 11 October last when they were informed of the British Government's decision to proceed with a non-judicial Review, rather than a judicial Inquiry, into the Pat Finucane case, I was in contact with the Secretary of State to inform him personally that our Government fully shared the family's disappointment with the decision. A meeting with the family was subsequently arranged and I met Geraldine Finucane and members of the family, together with their legal representative, on 17 October. I reiterated the Irish Government's long-standing support for the family and confirmed our commitment to the fulfilment of the obligations made by both the British and Irish Governments at Weston Park. It was agreed that we would continue consultations with the family and their legal representative with a view to determining how best to proceed. This process is ongoing.

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

55 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on discussions regarding the cross-Border implementation bodies. [31048/11]

Discussions regarding the cross-border implementation bodies, as well as Tourism Ireland, are ongoing within their different spheres of operations. Sectoral meetings of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) involving the cross-border bodies and the relevant Departments have been taking place on a regular basis. There was a discussion about the cross-border bodies at the NSMC Institutional meeting on 3 October in Belfast in which I myself participated, as did the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Minister Kennedy on the northern side.

The Council noted progress in respect of the bodies' Corporate and Business Plans and the implementation of cumulative efficiency savings. A review of Financial Memoranda of the cross-border bodies is underway, and a report on progress will be provided to the next NSMC Institutional meeting in spring 2012.

The Council noted that the Boards of the cross-border bodies are due for renewal in December 2011 and that nominations will be brought forward for approval at the NSMCPlenary meeting, which will take place later this month in Armagh. Revised reduced remuneration rates for Board members were agreed, to take effect from December 2011.

EU Presidency

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

56 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans for the Presidency of the European Council in 2013. [31198/11]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

57 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has developed early priorities for the Presidency of the European Council in 2013. [31199/11]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

58 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has put in place arrangements to ensure regular contact with the leaders of the other members of the troika for our EU presidency. [31200/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 to 58, inclusive, together.

In 2013, Ireland will hold the Presidency for the seventh time. As in the past, our objective will be to demonstrate that Ireland is a strong supporter of the European project and a committed member that is capable of contributing to progress on the EU's wide agenda. Ireland will adopt a determined approach to ensure that its stewardship of the Council contributes to tackling the key challenges facing the Union, and promotes smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.

As with all EU Presidencies, Ireland's Presidency will, to an extent, be shaped by proposals and polices already under consideration. The European Commission is expected to publish its next annual Work Programme shortly and this will highlight many of the issues that are likely to figure prominently on the EU agenda during the Irish Presidency in 2013. Work has begun within Government Departments and the Irish Permanent Representation in Brussels to identify issues that are likely to be priorities in 2013.

National priorities will also figure prominently on Ireland's Presidency agenda that are important to all EU citizens. These will include the next Multiannual Financial Framework which sets out the EU budget after 2013, and linked to this debate, the future of the Common Agriculture Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. A key focus for Ireland will continue to be the economic and financial situation and how we secure competitiveness, growth and jobs. Our Presidency, falling as it does in the first half of the year, coincides with the European Semester and the process of coordinating Member States' economic and budgetary policies. The Government will also be placing a strong emphasis on research and innovation and securing agreement on Horizon 2020; the future framework programme for research and innovation. Climate change and environmental issues are also likely to figure prominently on the EU agenda.

Negotiations have also begun at official level with Ireland's Trio partners, Lithuania and Greece, on the common Trio programme to be published in December 2012. I have met with my Lithuanian counterpart on two occasions in recent months but have also proposed a joint Trio meeting with the Lithuanian and Greek Trio Foreign Ministers to discuss Presidency issues. The Minister of State for European Affairs has met with her both her Greek and Lithuanian counterparts in recent months. The frequency of meetings and contacts at all levels will continue to increase over the coming months.

OSCE Chairmanship

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

59 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to outline his personal involvement in our forthcoming OSCE chairmanship. [31201/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland will assume the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in January 2012 for one year. Comprising 56 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE is the world's largest intergovernmental regional security organisation, dealing with a range of issues in the areas of democratisation, human rights, arms control and economic and environmental security.

As this is the first time Ireland will chair the organisation, it offers us a welcome opportunity to assume a leadership role on the global stage, consistent with our strong commitment to effective multilateralism and the promotion of human rights and democratic values. In my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I will hold the position of Chair-in-Office of the OSCE for the duration of Ireland's Chairmanship of the organisation in 2012. I will bear overall responsibility for the executive action of the OSCE next year and the co-ordination of its activities. I will be closely involved in the handling of all major challenges facing the OSCE in 2012 and will have ongoing contact with the key players. I hope to bring the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process to bear in these contacts and in the work of advancing conflict resolution within the OSCE region. The OSCE Chairmanship involves a considerable work programme and I will have a key leadership and supervisory role.

Ireland was one of the founding States of the OSCE and we have always recognised the organisation's vital role in maintaining peace and security in the Eurasian region. During 2012, I will emphasise the strong commitment of the OSCE to the defence and protection of human rights, focus on the need for commitments agreed upon in the analogue age to be adapted to our digital age and stress the benefits of good governance across the OSCE area.

I look forward to the support and advice of the House in carrying out my duties as Chair-in-Office.

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

60 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if any officials from his Department or the Department of the Taoiseach will be involved in the forthcoming OSCE chairmanship. [31202/11]

In my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I will hold the position of Chair-in-Office of the OSCE for the duration of Ireland's Chairmanship of the organisation in 2012. I will bear overall responsibility for the executive action of the OSCE next year and the co-ordination of its activities. Officials in my Department have been actively engaged since autumn last year in preparations for our Chairmanship. As part of these preparations, Ireland is participating this year in the OSCE Troika with the current chair of the organisation, Lithuania, and previous chair, Kazakhstan. Weekly Troika meetings take place at OSCE headquarters in Vienna.

A dedicated OSCE Task Force was established in my Department last October. This comprises a total of twelve Dublin-based officials, with fourteen officials working at Ireland's OSCE Mission in Vienna. Two special representatives on the protracted conflicts in the OSCE area have also been appointed. Officials working on the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office have been sourced from officers reassigned from other duties, internships, secondments from other countries and a small number of retired civil servants.

The OSCE's activities cover a broad spectrum of activities and I want to ensure that all Government Departments are in a position to contribute to and gain from our chairmanship. To this end, regular consultations take place with officials from other Government Departments, including the Department of the Taoiseach, who will also contribute relevant expertise over the course of Ireland's chairmanship.

Official Engagements

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

61 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has met any attendees to the Global Economic Forum before or since the forum in October 2011. [32726/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, I attended the first Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh in 2009 where I met many of the attendees at the 2011 Forum. Since taking up my post as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in March, 2011, I have made a point of meeting with Global Irish Network members on my travels abroad.

I met a number of the Network members in the US both during St Patrick's Day period and during my visit for the UN General Assembly last September. Likewise during my visits to London and Paris in May, 2011, I had the opportunity to engage with British and French based members.

Since the Forum, I met with Japanese network members during my visit to Tokyo while my visit to Korea provided an opportunity to re-engage with a number of the Asian attendees who were in Korea for the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum and the Asian Gaelic Games.

On 6 November, I attended a round table with Russian Network members, while yesterday I met with members of the Irish Technology Leadership Group.

I have also met with key Irish members of the Network in recent months including John McColgan ahead of the launch of his worldirish.com website.

Human Rights Issues

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

62 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the arrest of a person (details supplied). [33606/11]

As the Deputy will recall from my reply to him on 29 September, PQ No 44, I gave an undertaking that my Department would contact him when the Embassy received a response from the Isle of Man authorities in respect of this case. I understand that an official of the Consular Assistance Section of my Department contacted the Deputy's office on 19 October to let him know that the police authorities in the Isle of Man reverted to our Embassy in London to confirm that the enquiry in this case was complete and that there would be no further police action against the person mentioned. I am informed that the police officer involved indicated that he also informed the person concerned of the fact and that she no longer had to answer bail on the 16th October.

Therefore, I am satisfied that my Department has responded to the Deputy as agreed. As mentioned earlier I am informed that the Isle of Man police have stated that they have responded directly to person concerned.

However, should the person concerned feel aggrieved at having been arrested in the first place, it is open to her to pursue the matter directly with the Isle of Man Police and they can be contacted in writing to Isle of Man Constabulary, Police Headquarters, Glencrutchery Road, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM2 4RG or by telephone to 0044 1624 631461.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

63 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is concerned about the loss of civilian life in Libya; if he has raised this matter on the international stage; if he is cognisant of human rights reports on Libya; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33656/11]

I welcome the end of the conflict in Libya which, according to some estimates, has resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 Libyans. I represented Ireland at the High-level Meeting on Libya which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convened in New York on 20 September on the margins of the sixty-sixth session of the UN General Assembly and was impressed by the new authorities' vision of an inclusive and democratic future for all Libyans and their well-judged plans for achieving it. The Libyan people suffered greatly under Colonel Gaddafi's long despotic rule, with no respect shown for their basic rights. The upholding and defence of those rights must be the greatest priority of the National Transitional Council which has now assumed full power in Libya, pending the election of a new government and adoption of a new constitution by the Libyan people. I welcome the NTC's commitment, as stated following the Declaration of Liberty pronounced by Chairman Abdul Jalil in Benghazi on 23 October, to the holding of democratic elections by next June.

There is no doubt that very major human rights violations occurred during the recent conflict in Libya, including cases of extra-judicial killings, which according to reports were perpetrated by both sides to the conflict. Respect for human rights and the rule of law will be crucial in the new Libya and must be a key priority for the National Transitional Council and its international partners. I welcome the commitment of the NTC and its leaders to protect and promote human rights, to fully investigate allegations of human rights violations, and to fully cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya. I also welcome that the NTC has extended an open invitation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council to visit Libya.

The ending of impunity in Libya and accountability for any violations committed during the conflict must also entail a full, impartial and credible investigation into the circumstances surrounding Colonel Gaddafi's death. I welcome the NTC's commitment to conduct such an investigation which is essential if Libya is to move forward on a path towards full democracy in which the rule of law and basic human rights are fully respected.

Libyans can now look forward to a better future for their country and one in which they can hopefully have confidence that their basic human rights will be fully protected and vindicated. Ireland along with our EU Partners will continue to be supportive throughout the crucial transition period, as will the UN which has been assigned the lead role in coordinating international support to the new Libya.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

64 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his approach to the current repressive policies against Tibet; if he will confirm if he will call for the introduction of international independent observers in Tibet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33659/11]

The Irish Government conveys its concerns about the situation in Tibet and related human rights issues directly to the Chinese authorities, through regular diplomatic contacts in both Dublin and Beijing. The European Union, on behalf of its Member States, also raises human rights issues on a regular basis with China. This includes human rights problems in Tibet and the disturbing events in Kirti Tibetan monastery in Sichuan Province in China. The High Representative, Catherine Ashton, speaking on behalf of the European Union, has also expressed her concern at the situation at Kirti monastery and has urged the Chinese authorities to allow Tibetans to exercise their religious, cultural and educational rights. These issues are also discussed as part of the formal comprehensive human rights dialogue between the European Union and China. The most recent of these formal dialogues took place in June of this year. Human rights issues in China, are also the subject of attention and debate at the United Nations in New York and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

A group of United Nations experts, led by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, an independent human rights expert appointed by the Human Rights Council, voiced concern on 1 November over reports of human rights restrictions on the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China's Sichuan province, including allegations of intimidation, security raids and surveillance of the sites and religious activities. Such restrictive measures, the UN experts noted, not only curtail the right to freedom of religion or belief, but also serve to further exacerbate existing tensions.

The Deputy will be aware that the Irish Government is committed to the One-China policy, which acknowledges Tibet as part of China. We believe that constructive dialogue between the Chinese Government and representatives of the Dalai Lama is the best way forward to address differences and tensions in Tibet over issues of culture, language, religion and identity. It is essential, for long-term peace and stability in the region, that these two sides reach an agreement on the future of Tibet. To this end, we encourage an early resumption of dialogue by the parties.

Official Engagements

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

65 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his attendance at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle on 7 and 8 October 2011. [29504/11]

The second Global Irish Economic Forum was held in Dublin Castle on 7 and 8 October. The primary purposes of the Forum were to engage fully with the Irish Diaspora in developing Ireland's global business and trade relations; to discuss face-to-face the Government's priorities for economic renewal with key members of the international business community; and to strengthen ties with the Irish Diaspora as a key part of the Government's efforts to restore Ireland's international reputation abroad. There was an exceptional uptake on the Taoiseach's invitation from among members of the Global Irish Network. In addition to the members of the Network, attendees also included members of the Government, Secretaries General of Government Departments, CEOs of State Agencies and members of the Opposition and leading members of the Irish business and cultural sectors.

Over the course of the two days, I made an address at the opening session and took part in the opening plenary debate which discussed "Ireland: the road to recovery". I was also a panellist for other debates including "Ireland's image abroad: communicating the message" and the closing plenary discussion, alongside the Taoiseach and President Clinton.

In response to requests from participants at the 2009 Forum, a considerable amount of time was devoted to small break-out working groups. Each working group focussed on a topic of relevance to the Programme for Government and, in most cases, involved the participation of the relevant Minister, Minister of State and/or representatives from appropriate Departments or State Agencies. I took part in two working groups, "Ireland's reputation abroad" on 7 October and the "Job Creation" group on 8 October. I also delivered the closing address to the Forum.

The Forum was marked by a high level of enthusiasm among the participants, with candour and frankness characterising the discussions. The feedback to date from all who attended has been extremely positive with participants expressing significant satisfaction with the quality of the discussions and the management of the event.

The Report of the Forum, including the outcomes, is being finalised by my Department and will be published shortly.

Proposed Legislation

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

66 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 103 of 31 May 2011 the date in 2011 on which he proposes to introduce this legislation; if a title for the Bill has been introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33593/11]

There have been a number of Parliamentary Questions on this matter dating back to March 2010 when the first question asked whether the rules concerning Approved Minimum Retirement Funds (AMRFs) would be amended to allow the AMRF owner access to the fund before the age of 75 years. The reply to that question indicated that it had been decided to allow such individuals, who meet the specified income requirements after retirement and before age 75, to have their AMRFs treated as Approved Retirement Funds (ARFs) to which they would have access. The reply also indicated that this change would be legislated for in due course. In my reply of 31 May last to the same question now being put to me, I stated that section 19 of Finance Act 2011 provided for the legislative change referred to.

Under the regime of flexible options on retirement introduced in 1999 and extended in Finance Act 2011 to all main benefits from retirement benefit schemes (other than Defined Benefit arrangements), the options to

invest in an ARF, or

receive the balance of the pension fund in cash (subject to tax, as appropriate) are subject to conditions. Prior to Finance Act 2011, the conditions included the requirements that the individual be over 75 years of age or, if younger, that the individual has a guaranteed level of pension income (specified income) actually in payment for life at the time the option to effect the ARF or cash option is exercised. Finance Act 2011 increased the guaranteed level of pension income required from the previous fixed amount of €12,700 introduced in 1999, to a variable amount equal to 1.5 times the maximum annual rate of the State Pension (Contributory) bringing the "specified income" limit to €18,000 per annum at present.

Prior to Finance Act 2011, if the minimum specified income test was not met at the time the option to effect the ARF or cash option was exercised and the individual placed a "set aside" amount in an AMRF, that capital sum was effectively "locked in" and could not be accessed by the individual, other than to purchase an annuity, until he or she reached 75 years of age (at which point the AMRF automatically becomes an ARF) though any income generated by the fund could be drawn down subject to tax. This was the position even if the minimum specified income test was met after retirement. Finance Act 2011 changed this rule so that where the minimum specified income test is met at any time after retirement and before age 75, the AMRF automatically becomes an ARF with full access to the funds.

As a transitional measure, Finance Act 2011 allows the previous lower guaranteed income requirement of €12,700 per annum to continue to apply for a period of 3 years from the date that Act was signed into law (6 February 2011)—

for individuals who had retired before that date and who already had an AMRF, and

for individuals who availed of the deferred annuity purchase option*, had exercised the ARF (or cash) option within one month of the date of passing of Finance Act 2011 and who in exercising that option had transferred the requisite amount to an AMRF within that one month period.

This means that if such individuals satisfy the guaranteed income requirement of €12,700 within that three-year period their AMRF becomes an ARF. After this three-year period expires, the new higher guaranteed income test will have to be satisfied before the AMRF can become an ARF. The amount of guaranteed income required to meet the test will change in line with any future change in the maximum annual rate of State Pension (Contributory).

*The deferred annuity purchase option was introduced with effect from 4 December 2008 for members of defined contribution occupational pension schemes and allowed them to defer the purchase of an annuity for an initial period of 2 years, in light of the fact that pension funds had been adversely affected by the falls in equity markets and the more general falls in assets values. The deferral option was operated administratively by the Revenue Commissioners. The period of deferral was subsequently extended to 6 March 2011 i.e. one month beyond the passing into law of the Finance Act 2011.

Tax Reliefs

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

67 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on application for tax relief on student contribution charges; the amount that will be repayable to taxpayers with more than one child attending third level college for this tax year; when applications for this tax relief may be applied for and by whom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33602/11]

Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides, subject to certain conditions, for tax relief at the standard rate of income tax (20%) as regards qualifying fees paid by an individual in respect of a third level education course including a postgraduate course. Qualifying fees means tuition fees in respect of an approved course at an approved college and includes what is referred to as the "student contribution". For the tax year 2011 and subsequent tax years, the maximum annual relief for tuition fees (including the student contribution of €2,000) is €7,000 per course.

The tax relief is confined to tuition fees only. Tuition fees that are, or will be, met directly or indirectly by grants, scholarships, employer contribution or other means are to be deducted in arriving at the net fees qualifying for tax relief.

An individual can claim tax relief on fees paid by him/her in respect of an approved third level course pursued by him/her and on fees paid by him/her in respect of an approved course pursued by other individuals (e.g. a son or daughter).

A claim for relief may be in respect of a number of students — the maximum amount allowable (i.e. €7,000) applies per course rather than per claim. However:

the first €2,000 of all fees claimed by an individual does not attract tax relief where any one of the students to whom the claim refers is a full time student;

the first €1,000 of all fees claimed by an individual does not attract tax relief where all of the students to whom the claim refers are part-time students.

The disregard of €2,000 or €1,000, as the case may be, applies to each claim, the subject of which may be one or more students. The general effect of this approach is that all claimants will get full tax relief on an amount equal to the student contribution of €2,000 for the second and subsequent students in their claim.

The examples below are premised on a claimant who is within the tax net paying the third level fees. Different scenarios may arise where the student pays the fees or where a parent is not in the tax net to benefit from tax relief.

Example 1.

Claimant with one student in third level education.

Student

Student Contribution

Less Disregard

Tax Relief @ 20%

Full time in public college

€2,000

€2,000

NIL

Example 2.

Claimant with three students in third level education.

Student

Student Contribution

Less Disregard

Tax Relief @ 20%

Student 1 — Full time in public college

€2,000

€2,000

NIL

Student 2 — Full time in public college

€2,000

Nil

€2,000 @ 20% = €400

Student 3 — Full time in public college

€2,000

Nil

€2,000 @ 20% = €400

Example 3.

Claimant with one student in part-time third level education.

Student

Student Fees

Less Disregard

Tax Relief @ 20%

Part time in public college

€4,000 (including student contribution)

€1,000

€3,000 @ 20% = €600

Example 4.

Claimant with two students in third level education.

Student

Student Fees

Less Disregard

Tax Relief @ 20%

Student 1 — Full time in public college

€2,000

€2,000

NIL

Student 2 — Part-time in public college

€4,000 (including student contribution)

Nil

€4,000 @ 20% = €800

The relief can be claimed either on the individual's tax return at the end of the tax year, or a claim can be made during a tax year for that tax year once the fees have been paid. The relief can be granted in the determination of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point certificate .

Banking Sector Regulation

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

68 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the powers he has to ensure that the ECB interest rate cut is passed on by all banks that operate here; his plans to legislate for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33669/11]

As Minister for Finance, I have no statutory role in the setting of interest rates charged by financial institutions regulated by the Central Bank. While I have no plans to introduce legislation to force lending institutions to reduce their variable mortgage rates, the matter will be kept under review in the context of decreases/increases announced by the ECB.

The Central Bank has responsibility for the regulation and supervision of financial institutions in terms of consumer protection and prudential requirements and for ensuring ongoing compliance with applicable statutory obligations. Each institution determines the rate it charges its customers, depending on a number of factors, such as cost of funds and commercial considerations, competition in the market, risk pricing, and the impact on deposit rates.

If the Central Bank and theFinancial Regulator require additional legislative measures to enable them to carry out their activities more efficiently, I will consider their request with a view to bringing proposals to Government.

Departmental Appointments

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

69 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the changes he has made to the banking policy division of his Department since taking over as Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33702/11]

My Department works in close liaison with all relevant agencies, particularly the Central Bank and the NTMA, in relation to banking sector issues. The Government, in March 2011, approved the appointment of Mr John Moran at Second Secretary level in the Department, on secondment from the Central Bank, to oversee the Banking Division. In June 2011, following a TLAC competition, Mr Neil Ryan was appointed at Assistant Secretary level in the Banking Division of the Department. In August 2011, the NTMA Shareholder Management Unit, lead by Mr Michael Torpey, moved into the Department of Finance to enhance the oversight of the Banking Division.

A financial markets training programme was initiated in September 2011 to enhance the general understanding and awareness of the financial markets within the Department of Finance. The programme delivery is led by a Professor of Finance from DCU who has delivered similar courses at the Central Bank as well as the Dutch National Bank.

In addition, the establishment of a financial stability unit within the Banking Division to examine systemic risks across the financial sector, and their interaction with macroeconomic factors, should enhance the focus and analysis in this area. The financial stability team will work closely with the Economic Policy, Forecasting and Analysis Unit as well as the Central Bank's financial stability team and the NTMA to try to provide a co-ordinated approach towards this important theme.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

70 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there are new management teams in place in Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33703/11]

The Executive Committee of AIB is currently comprised of the following individuals:

David Hodgkinson, Executive Chairman,

Stephen Bell, Acting CRO,

Bernard Byrne, Director of Personal & Business Banking,

John Conway, Human Relations Director,

Keith Davies, Group Services & Transformation Director,

Marcel McCann, Operations & Technology Director,

Jerry McCrohan, Director of Corporate & Intuitional and Commercial Banking,

Gerry McGinn, Managing Director, First Trust Bank,

Fergus Murphy, Managing Director, EBS,

Ronan O'Neill, Managing Director, AIB UK,

Peter Spratt, Head of Non Core Unit,

Paul Stanley, Acting CFO.

None of these individuals were members of the Executive Committee of AIB at the time of the bank guarantee in September 2008. In addition, the Board of Directors of the Bank has been entirely renewed since September 2008.

Bank of Ireland is engaging in an ongoing programme of change including board and management renewal.

The Executive Committee of BoI is currently comprised of the following individuals:

Richie Boucher, Group Chief Executive,

Julie Sharp, Head of Group HR,

Des Crowley, Chief Executive Officer — Retail (Ireland & UK),

Denis Donovan, Head of Non-Core Division,

Liam McLoughlin, Head of Group Manufacturing,

Vincent Mulvey, Chief Credit & Market Risk Officer,

Peter Morris, Chief Governance Risk Officer,

John O'Donovan, Group Chief Financial Officer.

Significant management renewal at Group Executive level has already been undertaken with 50% of the team as at 1 January 2009 having left the Bank including the Group CEO, Chief Risk Officer, Head of Manufacturing and Head of HR.

Schools Recognition

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

71 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the support and funding for ABA schools for children on the autistic spectrum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33504/11]

It is understood that the Deputy's question refers to the ABA pilot scheme which was funded by my Department for the past decade. All of the centres which participated in this scheme have been granted recognition as special schools for children with autism. These schools will operate in line with my Department's policy. Following their recognition the new schools are currently progressing well in the transitional phase. All thirteen schools have opened and it is my intention to continue to support this transitional process.

The pilot scheme was established in the absence of a network of school-based special classes for children with autism which is now available. The establishment of this network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 450 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools.

School Enrolments

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

72 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who come to Ireland each year to study English; the number who come from China, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan; the visa requirements such as educational qualification and the maximum and minimum period of stay permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33540/11]

According to the annual survey of approved language schools carried out by Fáilte Ireland, an estimated 96,250 overseas English language students studied in Ireland in 2010.

The following number of English language students studied in Ireland in 2010 (or 2009, where current figures are not available):

No. of Students

Japan

2,000

South Korea

3,100

China

2,098 (2009 figures)

Taiwan

89 (2009 figures)

English is one of the official languages of Singapore, and is the primary language of instruction in the education system, so there is no major market for English language instruction there. Visa regulations are a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality. Student visa requirements for English language students are, however, set out on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service www.inis.gov.ie.

Special Educational Needs

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

73 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no language unit for pupils with speech and language difficulties in counties Carlow and Kildare; and if he would consider locating such a unit in a school (details supplied) in County Carlow. [33546/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports. This includes the allocation of resource teaching hours to schools as well as the establishment of special classes, including special classes for Specific Speech and Language Disorder (SSLD), in various geographical areas, as required, and the discontinuation of such classes where the need no longer exists. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such supports.

Schools in the area referred to by the Deputy may apply to the NCSE to establish a special class for Specific Speech and Language Disorder (SSLD), subject to criteria, and where they have a sufficent number of qualifying pupils.

Pupils who are not enrolled in a special class for SSLD and who meet the criteria for Specific Speech and Language Disorder, as outlined in my Department's Circular 0038/2007, may qualify for additional teaching support where he/she is enrolled in mainstream school. Applications for such support may be made to the NCSE through the local SENO. Pupils with mild speech and language difficulties may qualify for supplementary teaching support from within the school's general allocation of learning support/teaching support.

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

Higher Education Grants

Jack Wall

Ceist:

74 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding cuts to education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33550/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the reality of our economic situation presents significant challenges that have to be reconciled with limitations on public resources. This is a very stark reality, which, unfortunately, means that changes to any public service, including the student grant scheme, cannot be ruled out.

I empathise with students and I am very conscious of the fundamental role played by the student grant scheme in supporting families who are putting their children through further and higher education. However, the state of the public finances is such that tough decisions have to be made to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run. For this reason it is the responsibility of Government to take into consideration all areas of public services when formulating Budget 2012. Ultimately, our budgetary decisions now will play a major part in creating a sustainable economy and in regaining our economic independence. I will take the concerns of students into consideration during the budgetary process in this context.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

75 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he plans to take to address concerns (details supplied) regarding the student contribution charge and cuts to the maintenance grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33553/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the reality of our economic situation presents significant challenges that have to be reconciled with limitations on public resources. This is a very stark reality, which, unfortunately, means that changes to any public service, including the student grant scheme, cannot be ruled out.

I empathise with students and I am very conscious of the fundamental role played by the student grant scheme in supporting families who are putting their children through further and higher education. However, the state of the public finances is such that tough decisions have to be made to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run. For this reason it is the responsibility of Government to take into consideration all areas of public services when formulating Budget 2012. Ultimately, our budgetary decisions now will play a major part in creating a sustainable economy and in regaining our economic independence. I will take the concerns of students into consideration during the budgetary process in this context.

Special Educational Needs

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

76 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the teacher allocation ratio for schools catering for children with severe and profound disability is 6:1 and is also applied to schools who cater for children with severe and profound disability and ASD; if he will consider revising the teacher allocation ratio for schools catering for children with severe and profound disability and ASD; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33558/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools. The NCSE operates within my Department's policy in allocating this support. The staffing of special schools is determined by reference to the recommendations outlined in the Report of the Special Education Review Committee, 1993, also known as the SERC Report. These ratios range from 6:1 to 11:1, depending on the level of disability. The staffing ratios for special schools in respect of the various disability categorisations, based on SERC recommendations, are set out in my Departments Circular 0038/2010.

Circular 0038/2010 details that the pupil-teacher ratio for classes in schools catering for children with severe and profound disability, or multiple disabilities, is 6:1. It also sets out that the pupil-teacher ratio for classes in schools catering for children with Autism is 6:1. Therefore, the staffing allocation ratio for pupils with either severe and profound general learning disability, multiple disabilities, or Autism, is 6-1, which is the lowest pupil to teacher staffing ratio applicable. There are no plans to amend disability category staffing ratios, however, my Departments Circular 0042/2011 advises that special schools, going forward, will be staffed based on their actual current pupil profiles and the disability category of each pupil, as opposed to primarily by school designation.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

77 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he in receipt of correspondence from a school (details supplied); his views on the matter contained within this correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33572/11]

As the Deputy will be aware the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is an independent agency with responsibility for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools. The NCSE operates within my Department's policy in allocating this support.

Circular 0042/2011 provides information to schools regarding the staffing arrangements which apply in special schools in the current school year.

My Department has corresponded with the school in question in relation to the matter raised by them with regard to the filling of a staffing vacancy at the school. The position, which has been outlined to the school, is that if there is a surplus permanent teacher on a redeployment panel within 45 km of a Special School that has a vacancy, then the vacancy may be filled on a permanent basis through the redeployment of the surplus permanent teacher. Absences in respect of Career Breaks, secondments etc., are covered through the employment of a fixed term (temporary) teacher.

If there is no permanent teacher awaiting redeployment through redeployment panels then the vacancy is to be considered to be fixed term (temporary) and should be filled in the normal manner.

School Transport

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

78 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a situation (details supplied) regarding school transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33657/11]

Under the terms of the Primary School Transport scheme pupils are eligible for school transport if they reside 3.2 kilometres or more from and are attending their nearest national school having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann has advised that the pupils referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied are not attending their nearest school and are therefore not eligible for school transport under the terms of the scheme.

Pupils who are not eligible for school transport may apply for concessionary transport provided there are spare seats available on an existing service. I am working to make the charge for concessionary transport more equitable. There is no provision within the scheme to waive charges for pupils who are not eligible for school transport.

Special Educational Needs

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

79 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding special needs assistants at a school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33660/11]

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 teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

The policy position of my Department in relation to the provision of Special Needs Assistant support, including in relation to the school referred to by the Deputy, has previously been provided to the Deputy in response to his Parliamentary question 28925/11 of 12th October, 2011.

The school in question has been allocated 3 SNA posts and 44.1 Resource Teacher hours for the current school year.

It is worth noting that SNAs are a school based resource and the allocation of SNAs to a school are subject to change over time. For example, children may have diminishing care needs or some children in a school may progress on to second level. Allocations are made by SENOs who have considerable professional experience and formal qualifications in the assesment of children with special educational needs.

The allocation of SNAs, while allocated on the basis of an assessed need of an individual child, are allocated to the school and should be deployed with discretion by the school in a manner which best meets the support requirements of all the children. If the parent concerned feels their child has experienced a regression due to changes in the school's overall SNA allocation they should raise this matter directly with the Principal and the local SENO.

I have also arranged for the Deputy's additional query in relation to the specific application for support for an individual pupil to this school to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Third Level Courses

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

80 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for developing the international education sector here over the next few years. [33674/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

81 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he has taken to develop the international education sector here since his appointment. [33675/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

82 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of overseas students attending third level education institutions in September this year; the number of overseas students attending third level education institutions for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33676/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

83 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the targets set for increasing the number of international students studying in third level institutions here this year and over the next few years; if he is on track to meet these targets. [33677/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

84 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of fee income generated this year and in each of the past five years as a result of international students studying in third level institutions here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33678/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 to 84, inclusive, together.

The Government is strongly committed to promoting Ireland as a centre for international education. The Programme for Government sets out an ambitious target of doubling international student numbers over the coming five years, through full implementation of the international education strategy, Investing in Global Relationships.

The strategy contains ten strategic actions to improve Irish performance in attracting international students. Significant progress has been made in the first year of implementation, and the High Level Group will shortly be developing an implementation timetable for year two. Since the Government took office, we have taken a number of specific initiatives to promote international education, including:

The launch of a new international brand and marketing campaign for Irish education, Education in Ireland, managed by Enterprise Ireland.

The development of agreed priority markets by the High Level Group on International Education and the development of market-specific plans, starting with the USA.

The roll-out of market specific initiatives, such as a trusted agents programme in India.

The launch of a targeted scholarship programme for English teachers in priority markets including Korea, Japan and Turkey.

Ministerial level visits to strategic markets including the USA, Malaysia and Singapore and official level visits to India and Russia. Figures on the number of international students in Irish higher education institutions, and the revenue generated (fee income plus student expenditure), are set out in the table.

Tuition fee income amounted to €209m in 2011, an increase of €20m from 2010. No comparable data is available for the years 2007/8 and 2008/9.

Year

Revenue

Student numbers

2010-2011

€460 million

29,376

2009-2010

€428 million

25,781

2008-2009

No available data

No available data

2007-2008

No available data

No available data

2006-2007

€372 million

27,275

2005-2006

€335 million

25,319

2004-2005

€300 million

22,947

Third Level Facilities

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

85 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the most recent percentage occupancy rates of teaching and research facilities in each of the third level institutions here in terms of the number of hours that these facilities are used. [33679/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

86 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the most recent percentage occupancy rates of teaching and research facilities in each third level institution, broken down on a monthly basis in terms of the number of hours that these facilities are used. [33680/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

87 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the most recent percentage occupancy rates of teaching and research facilities in each third level institution during the day, evening time and weekends, in terms of the number of hours that these facilities are used. [33681/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 to 87, inclusive, together.

The detailed information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. However, the Higher Education Authority has commenced an exercise to assess the efficiency of utilisation of existing higher education space with a view to determining whether spare capacity exists within the sector critically during holidays, night-time, weekends and which may be used to absorb increased student numbers or for other relevant purposes. It is anticipated that data collected from the exercise may become part of a space management tool that may be used by institutions to more effectively manage their physical estates.

Third Level Expenditure

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

88 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of the amount each third level institution here spent on advertising this year and over the past few years. [33682/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available in the Department, however, the Higher Education Authority has been requested to contact each institution seeking a response and I will forward the available data to you as soon as possible.

Third Level Courses

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

89 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has carried out any research into the duplication of courses in Irish third level institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33683/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

90 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has any role in determining the kind of courses on offer in third level institutions. [33684/11]

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

Universities and Institutes of Technology are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997 and the Institutes of Technology Act 2006 and my Department does not have any function in relation to their academic affairs, including decisions concerning course provision. This kind of autonomy is a hallmark of a high quality, modern higher education system. My Department and HEA, in partnership with our higher education institutions are now together implementing the wide ranging reforms set out in the National Strategy for Higher Education. An element of these changes, currently under consultation, includes the development of regional clusters of institutions. The HEA will engage with all higher education institutions in a strategic dialogue in a systematic way to ensure that there are clear pathways and higher education opportunities available to students on a regional basis, while avoiding unnecessary duplication. I expect the HEA to develop clear guidelines for these clusters before the end of the year.

Departmental Expenditure

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

91 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he has taken to date to tackle the salaries and allowances paid to senior academic staff in third level institutions; and if savings can be made in this area. [33685/11]

The Government is taking measures to reduce salary costs at the highest levels across the public sector through the application of salary ceilings. We are also committed to delivery on the public service reforms agreed under Croke Park. Policy on rates of pay in the Education sector forms part of wider public pay policy, including related commitments and reforms under the Croke Park agreement.

Historically, academic grades in Irish universities are linked to civil and public service grades and in the past therefore received pay increases in line with their public service counterparts. These grades were subject to pay reductions from January 2010 along with the pension levy provisions. With effect from January 2011, new recruits to these grades are subject to a 10% reduction in pay rates, as is also applicable to persons recruited for the first time to direct entry grades in the Public Service. Staff in the Higher Education Sector are covered by the provisions of the Croke Park Agreement, which provides that their pay will not be further reduced. Future appointments to Heads of Universities will be subject to the €200,000 pay ceiling applying across the Public Service.

There are believed to be 99 employees in the Higher Education sector earning more than €200,000 per annum. Of these, 89 are Academic Medical Consultants. Academic Consultants represent about 3.5% of the approximately 2,500 Medical Consultants employed in the Health Service. Since January this year, all new appointees to medical consultant posts are subject to a 10% pay reduction.

Under a Government Decision made earlier this year, the issue of the implementation of pay ceilings for medical consultants is to be considered in terms of ongoing contacts between the Minister of Health and the consultants in relation to the Consultant Contract. This process is ongoing. Of the other 10 posts paid in excess of €200,000 per annum: — 4 relate to Heads of Level I Universities — 6 are appointments made under Section 25(5)(a) of the Universities Act 1997.

The revised pay ceiling will apply to future appointments as Heads of Level I Universities while current incumbents may make voluntary waivers of salary. I have written to all of these incumbents since entering office asking them to make voluntary waivers. The remuneration of appointments made under Section 25(5)(a) of the Universities Act 1997 are not subject to the sanction of either the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform or the Minister for Education and Skills as the Act provides that a university may depart from sanctioned levels of remuneration where the governing body is satisfied that such departure is necessary to meet the objects of the university. In this context, having regard to statute, a pay ceiling may not be imposed. However a review of the mechanisms and procedures underpinning such appointments is being undertaken by the Department of Education & Skills, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Higher Education Authority (HEA). Again current incumbents may make voluntary waivers of salary.

Departmental Research

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

92 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has carried out any research comparing the pay of academic staff here with international academic staff; and if any significant differences exist in salary scales. [33686/11]

I refer the deputy to the following document which has been prepared by the Higher Education Authority, and which seeks to outline and compare the salary levels of academic staff in Irish universities with those in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. Academic Pay Scales in Ireland and Other Countries. This note seeks to outline and compare the salary levels of academic staff in Irish universities with those in the UK and elsewhere. The information provided in this note is limited by a number of factors:

It does not benchmark academic salaries against other salaries in the public sector or private sector either in Ireland or other countries;

The salary information provided in the note is based on a straight currency conversion. Such an approach does not provide information on the standard of living that accompanies salary levels in different countries. A study of the purchasing power parity (PPP) would be required to show the relative value of salary levels across different currencies and economies.

Ireland

Under Section 25(4) of the Universities Act 1997, the remuneration, fees, allowances and expenses paid to employees of a university require the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

Professor

The highest academic grade in Irish Universities is Professor and the remuneration for it is set by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. The Review Body's Report No. 42 published in September 2007 set out a common salary scale for the grade of Professor and recommended an average increase of 5.5% for it.

The current salary scale (w.e.f. 01/01/2010) for the grade of Professor in Irish Universities is as follows:

1

113,573

2

120,049

3

126,525

4

133,001

5

139,478

6

145,952

Other Academic Grades

There is no common grade or salary structure for remaining academic grades in Irish universities. Therefore, different titles and pay structures are used for what may be similar grades.

Outlined as follows is a summary of other academic grades in universities and the approximate salary scales that would apply. Salaries are w.e.f. 01/01/2010:

Salary

Associate Professor

€82,970-€112,759

Senior/Statutory Lecturer

€67,071-€100,398

College Lecturer/Lecturer Above Bar

€50,807-€81,459

Junior Lecturer/Lecturer Below Bar

€35,355-€72,024

It should be noted that historically academic grades in Irish universities are linked to civil and public service grades and therefore received pay increases in line with their public service counterparts.

All academic grades in Irish universities have been in receipt of pay increases as provided for in national pay agreements e.g., Sustaining Progress, Towards 2016. In line with the rest of the public sector, these grades were also subject to reductions in pay w.e.f. 1st January 2010 under the terms of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009.

UK

A nationally negotiated single pay spine or scale is in existence for all staff (academic and non-academic) in UK universities. This spine currently has a minimum point of approximately €15,000 and a maximum of €63,000 and would generally apply to lower and middle-range academic grades. However, universities in general may supplement pay rates for each grade in the form of attraction and retention premia where labour market conditions dictate. This would appear to be particularly common for the grade of Professor.

In University College London, the following academic pay levels apply (August 2009) http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/salary_scales/final_grades.php:

Salary

Lecturer A

€37,199-€40,653

Lecturer B

€41,872-€50,007

Senior Lecturer

€54,644-€59,711

Professor Band 1

Starting at €67,205

Professor Band 2

Starting at €80,606

Professor Band 3

Starting at €124,009

Staff also receive a London allowance of €3,189.

In Queen's University Belfast, the following academic pay levels apply (August 2009) http://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/HumanResources/PersonnelDepartment/PayandAdvancement/ SalaryScales/:

Salary

Lecturer and Other Academic Grades

€37,287-€67,347

Professor Range 1

€65,871-€69,827

Professor Range 2

€74,483-€98,424

Professor Range 3

€101,070-€114,374

Professor Range 4

€117,044-€129,002

In the University of Greenwich, the following academic pay levels apply (August 2009) http://www.gre.ac.uk/offices/personnel/pay:

Salary

Grade AC1

€27,728-€33,105

Grade AC2

€34,099-€39,529

Grade AC3

€40,731-€50,109

Grade AC4

€51,612-€59,833

Grade AC5

€61,650-€73,613

Professors may also receive salaries up to €120,784 as a result of a number of factors e.g., recruitment and retention, merit and contribution.

Staff also receive a London allowance of €3,744.

USA

The following are the average salaries paid to academics in American universities in 2009/10. The information is based on the Annual Report of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) which conducted a survey of salaries across all institutions http://www.aaup.org/NR/rdonlyres/AFB34202-2D42-48B6-9C3B-52EC3D86F605/0/zreport:

Salary

Professor

€79,085

Associate

€55,125

Assistant

€46,410

Instructor

€34,280

Lecturer

€38,261

No Rank

€43,787

These figures exclude additional payments for e.g., summer teaching, administrative stipends,

Canada

The following are the average salaries paid to academics in Canadian universities in 2008/09. The information is based on a research paper prepared for Statistics Canada http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-595-m/81-595-m2009076-eng.pdf:

Salary

Full Professor

€61,352-€83,555

Associate Professor

€50,205-€70,911

Assistant Professor

€41,280-€58,284

Lecturer

€34,863-€45,576

Australia

There is no common pay scale for academic staff in Australian universities. Each university sets its own pay scales based on local "enterprise" agreements.

The following are the salaries currently (April 2010) applying in Monash University, Melbournehttp://adm.monash.edu.au/enterprise-agreements/academic-professional-2009/s1-academic-salary-rates.html:

Salary

Professor

€97,541

Associate Professor

€75,723-€83,421

Senior Lecturer

€62,888-€72,513

Lecturer

€51,337-€90,963

Assistant Lecturer

€35,935-€48,770

New Zealand

Under New Zealand legislation each Vice-Chancellor (President) is the employer of the staff of the university and each university negotiates its own employment agreements (including salary scales) with the relevant representatives of staff.

The following are salary scales applicable to academics in the University of Otago (July 2009) https://docushare.otago.ac.nz/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document26992/AcademicStaff NonMedicalandDentalPayScale.pdf:

Salary

Professor

€71,476-€87,274

Associate Professor

€62,018-€68,420

Senior Lecturer

€47,399-€59,444

Lecturer

€37,285-€44,970

Assistant Lecturer

€27,666-€31,468

Teaching Qualifications

Ciara Conway

Ceist:

93 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will supply an official definition as to the qualifications that are required for a literacy and numeracy teacher as same is being queried by a person (details supplied); if he will clarify the requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33689/11]

The recognition of teacher qualifications in this State is a matter for the Teaching Council, the body with statutory responsibility for establishing and maintaining standards in the teaching profession. While it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in individual cases, I have forwarded the Deputy's correspondence on to the Teaching Council for a direct reply.

Schools Building Projects

Ciara Conway

Ceist:

94 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school building project (details supplied ) has not progressed at the same pace as the other schools on the 2011 schools building programme; the date on which the tender for the building contract for the project will be released and awarded; the date on which construction on this project will commence and the expected completion date of same; when he will formally supply the board of management with these dates and meet with them to outline the relevant steps which need to be taken when transferring from a temporary building to a permanent building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33704/11]

The Deputy may be aware that the project to which she refers was tendered in 2009 and a preferred bidder was identified to do the works. Unfortunately a number of issues outside of my Department's control delayed the progression of this project. However, I am pleased to inform you that most of these issues have now been resolved.

Provided there are no further issues, it is intended that the project will be re-tendered in the coming months. Officials from my Department have written to the school authorities recently to appraise them of the situation.

Departmental Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

95 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if there are plans for the recruitment of further new staff for the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33530/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Top Level Appointments Committee is currently conducting a recruitment campaign to fill one Revenue Commissioner post and Revenue is conducting a campaign to recruit up to 30 Administrative Officers with specific information and communications technology skills. Revenue has also received sanction to recruit up to 10 Executive Officers with information and communications technology skills and the timing of this recruitment campaign will depend on progress with the Administrative Officers. These posts will have to be filled within existing resources and the Employment Control Framework for the Revenue Commissioners.

Flood Relief

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

96 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the financial resources such as humanitarian aid, rebuilding funds and refurbishment funds being made available to residents and businesses flooded in the Dublin region in the past week, separate to supplementary welfare allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33595/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that neither the Minister for Finance nor I have policy responsibility for disbursement of funds across the areas referred to in the Deputy's question. The Minister for Social Protection and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government have policy responsibility.

In this regard the Deputy may wish to note that yesterday the Government decided to set aside €10 million to provide financial support to the victims of the recent flooding. This fund will be administered by the Department of Social Protection. The Government has also established an interdepartmental working group, chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, to manage the response to the victims of the flooding.

National Lottery Funding

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the full extent of funding available to him in the current year from the proceeds of the national lottery; the extent to which such funds are to be spent and under which headings now and in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33700/11]

Funding arrangements for 2012 and subsequent years for all subheads which are supported by Lottery funding will be decided in the context of the annual Estimates.

Flood Relief

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

98 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if funding will be provided to deal with flooding problems in an area (details supplied) or if the Office of Public Works will carry out necessary drainage work. [33538/11]

The Office of Public Works has received applications for funding for minor works/studies for a number of locations, from Cavan County Council under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Studies Scheme 2011. The applications include a funding request to undertake a hydrological study of the Erne catchment.

These applications are currently being considered by this Office, having regard to the scheme eligibility criteria and the overall availability of resources for flood risk management. The OPW is commissioning a study of the Neagh-Bann & North West River Basin Districts, to commence early in 2012 as part of the national Catchment Flood Risk Management & Assessment (CFRAM) Programme. The study will identify and examine in detail the causes of flooding throughout the study areas, and produce an integrated plan of specific measures to address the significant flood risk factors in a pro-active and comprehensive way. A full hydrological study of the Erne catchment will be undertaken as part of this study.

The applications from Cavan County Council are currently being considered by this Office, having regard to the scheme eligibility criteria and the overall availability of resources for flood risk management, and the above study.

Enterprise Support Services

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

99 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he expects a loan guarantee scheme to be available for small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33668/11]

The design phase of a Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme is nearing completion and I will be bringing formal proposals to Cabinet shortly. Once a suitable scheme design has been finalised and approved by the Government, there will then be a further Request for Tender published at the end of November to select an operator to allow for the roll out of the scheme over the coming months.

In parallel with the work taking place on the design of the Scheme, the Department is preparing primary legislation to make the necessary statutory provision for such a scheme.

The Scheme will provide a level of guarantee to banks against losses on qualifying loans to job-creating firms to get banks lending again to industry and entrepreneurs.

This Scheme will be closely targeted at commercially viable, well performing companies that have a solid business plan and a defined market for their products or services which can demonstrate repayment capacity for the additional credit facilities but which cannot secure credit facilities due to the following two market failures:

Insufficient collateral for the additional facilities or,

Growth/expansionary SMEs which due to their sectors, markets or business model are perceived higher risk under current credit risk evaluation practices.

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 any commitment to a roll-over of the scheme for subsequent years. The temporary partial credit guarantee scheme will complement the Government plans on the restructuring and recapitalisation of the banking system which seek to secure an adequate flow of credit into the economy to support economic recovery.

Social Welfare Appeals

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

100 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision in respect of their appeal for disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33498/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that she was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 6 August 2011 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant Department papers and the comments of the Social Welfare services on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

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

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

101 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on an appeal for illness benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33499/11]

Payment of illness benefit, to the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

An appeal was registered on 1st November 2011 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The person concerned will be notified when arrangements for the examination have been completed.

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

Jack Wall

Ceist:

102 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent allowance has been reduced in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33502/11]

The community welfare service (CWS) and the community welfare officers providing it transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The person concerned has been contacted and advised that the reason for reduction in his rent supplement from the October payment is due to his invalidly pension being awarded. Invalidly pension is in excess of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate and the increase in payment is fully assessable for rent supplement.

Question No. 103 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Ceist:

104 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33514/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 06 October 2011 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

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

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

105 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection her plan for the forthcoming social welfare budget to address the issue whereby social welfare recipients will be encouraged to accept part-time employment as a first step towards reducing their dependency on welfare payments. [33544/11]

The Department of Social Protection 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. In addition to income support, supports available include the back to education programmes, back to work schemes and part time work. In addition, 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 this Department.

In relation to the specific issue raised by the Deputy, the jobseekers schemes provide income support for people who are seeking their first job or have lost work and are seeking alternative employment. A fundamental qualifying condition for both the jobseeker's benefit and jobseeker's allowance is that a person must be available for and genuinely seeking full-time work.

Arrangements currently exists whereby persons who are employed for up to three days in a week may claim a jobseekers payment in respect of the remainder of the week, subject to being available for full-time work.

Also, the part-time job incentive scheme is available to those who were previously on a jobseekers payment for 15 months or more and are now working under 24 hours per week while seeking full time employment. This payment is not affected by the earnings received from the part-time job.

The Department will continue to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments by entering into both part time and full time employment. The National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the live register. It provides an opportunity to explore and access, under professional guidance, a full range of training and employment services, including part-time employment.

In addition, as provided for under the Programme for Government, a new National Employment and Entitlements Service is being established under the management of the Department of Social Protection. The new service will integrate employment and benefit payment services, currently delivered by FÁS and the Department, respectively, within the Department and will be based on a case management approach.

In line with good international practice, this new service will focus primarily on activation with the aim of encouraging and enabling customers to embark on developmental pathways appropriate to their needs — pathways to employment and/or training and/or personal development. The objective of the new service is to offer users a high level, personalised employment support and prioritise the provision of more intensive support for those on the live register who are identified as being most at risk of long-term unemployment. A key feature of the new service will be that customers will be expected to engage with these options in order to retain their entitlement to full benefit payments.

These developments will inform the deliberative process for Budget 2012.

Departmental Staff

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

106 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has received representations from social welfare offices calling for additional resources, staff and so on; if she will identify the relevant offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33547/11]

The staffing needs of my Department are regularly reviewed, having regard to workloads, management priorities and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources. The Department will continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies by way of redeployment, or transfer from within the Department and other Government Departments, taking account of the employment control framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Ceist:

107 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33551/11]

In the case in question, an application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) 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 DCA. A letter issued on the 17 May 2011 refusing the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision. She was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on the 18 October 2011 that the appeal had been disallowed.

The decision/appeal process for this application is now complete. If the person concerned has additional information which was not made available to the deciding officer and appeals officer when they made their decisions, it is open to her to re-apply for the payment.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

108 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [33554/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the illness benefit claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an examination by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the benefit. An appeal was registered on 22 October 2011 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of the Social Welfare services on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

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.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

109 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33563/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received from the person concerned on the 24th January 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 the 10th February 2011 refusing the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against the decision. She was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on the 23rd July 2011 that the appeal had been disallowed.

The decision/appeal process for this application is now complete. If the person concerned has additional information which was not made available to the deciding officer and appeals officer when they made their decisions, it is open to her to re-apply for the payment.

Social Welfare Code

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

110 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the partial capacity scheme; if it is now possible to apply for this scheme and the qualifying criteria for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33566/11]

The legislative basis which provides for the introduction of the Partial Capacity Benefit scheme is contained in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2010. Full details of the scheme will be set out when the scheme is being formally launched before the end of this year

The Partial Capacity Benefit scheme will be open to people who are in receipt of Invalidity Pension (IP) or who have been in receipt of Illness Benefit (IB) for a minimum of six months. Participation in the scheme will be voluntary and the scheme is designed in particular to respond to the needs of people who currently seek to avail of "exemptions" in order to take up employment opportunities. The limitations on hours worked which apply under the existing ‘exemptions' arrangements will not apply to the new scheme.

An extensive programme of work is currently being finalised with a view to enabling the formal introduction of the scheme before the end of the year. Regulations will be introduced shortly which will set out, for instance, the rates of payment which will apply to those who avail of the scheme. Development work is also close to completion on the necessary processes and information technology systems to process, record and pay applicants.

The introduction of the Partial Capacity scheme will mark a key development of the social welfare system. The scheme recognises that the current structure of the welfare system, which categorises people as ‘fit to work' or ‘unfit to work', does not reflect the reality for many existing welfare customers. It will provide an opportunity for people with disabilities, and assessed to have an employment capacity which is restricted when compared to the norm, to avail of employment opportunities while continuing to receive an income support payment.

Flood Relief

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

111 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Social Protection if the humanitarian assistance scheme 2009, as administered through the community welfare service, will offer assistance to householders who were affected by the recent floods in the Blackrock-Monkstown area of County Dublin; if the scheme will be especially targeted at those whose houses were flooded in the past and who do not have insurance cover as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33568/11]

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the lead Department for severe weather emergencies and the Office of Public Works has responsibility for capital flood relief activities. However, the Department of Social Protection has an important role to play in assisting households in the immediate aftermath of emergency events such as the recent floods.

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

Under the SWA scheme, the Department can make a single payment to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. These payments are known as exceptional needs payments (ENP).

In addition to the payment of ENPs, SWA legislation also provides for assistance in the form of an urgent needs payment (UNP). In certain circumstances, this payment can be made to persons who would not normally be entitled to SWA. Examples of situations where such assistance may be provided would be in the aftermath of flooding or a domestic fire where the immediate needs, such as food, clothing, fuel, household goods and perhaps shelter, of the people affected may be met by a UNP in cash or in kind.

The Department's response to the current flooding situation, has involved departmental officials (former Community Welfare Officers) providing individual households with emergency payments to offset their immediate needs e.g. assistance with the purchase of food, clothing, fuel and household goods. Officials have made house to house calls to individuals they have identified as being vulnerable at this difficult time. In addition, emergency clinics have been established in the worst affected areas to offer help to households.

Officials are currently working in conjunction with the Red Cross and other agencies assisting households with their immediate needs.

As was the case in 2009, a humanitarian assistance scheme would be required where a particular event has caused loss and damage to a large number of people on a wide-spread scale and the support required is greater than can be coped with by the usual assistance mechanisms. When the full extent of an emergency event has been determined a decision to provide humanitarian assistance to the people in an area affected is a matter for Government. No such decision has been made.

Redundancy Payments

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

112 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a redundancy application (details supplied). [33573/11]

An on-line application for a redundancy rebate has been received from this employer. All customers using my Department's on-line redundancy system are also required to submit a hard copy of the form which should be signed and dated by both the employer and the employee concerned. The hard copy forms have not yet been received. The application cannot be processed until the latter have been received.

Social Welfare Benefits

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

113 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on the application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [33581/11]

I confirm that an application for carer's allowance has been received from the person concerned.

On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspect of his claim a decision will be made and the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

The average time taken to process a claim to completion, including assessment of the claimant's means and the entitlement of the care recipient to full time care and attention on medical grounds is approximately 19 weeks.

Employment Support Services

Joe Carey

Ceist:

114 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to review the eligibility criteria for the JobBridge programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33588/11]

My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme, including its eligibility criteria, on an ongoing basis.

To date, some amendments to the eligibility criteria have taken place. In August of this year, for example, sole traders became eligible to participate in the JobBridge scheme for which they had not been eligible on its launch.

Social Welfare Benefits

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

115 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding entitlements in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33592/11]

The person concerned is currently in receipt of the maximum rate of State pension (contributory) and also receives an increase for a qualified adult in respect of his wife.

In addition to this he is in receipt of a fuel allowance and the full range of household benefits entitlement (free electricity/telephone allowances, free TV licence and a free travel pass).

A letter has issued to the person concerned asking him to contact an official of my Department if he wishes to discuss his entitlements.

Flood Relief

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

116 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection the financial resources such as humanitarian aid, rebuilding funds and refurbishment funds being made available to residents and businesses flooded in the Dublin region in the past week, separate to supplementary welfare allowances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33594/11]

The Government in recognising the devastation suffered by many families arising from the recent floods has agreed to set up a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme with an allocation of up to €10 million. The scheme will provide means-tested financial support to people who have suffered damage to their homes as a result of the recent flooding. The main details of the Humanitarian Assistance Fund are as follows:

It will be administered on the ground by staff from the Department of Social Protection (former Community Welfare Officers),

It will provide hardship alleviation assistance, as opposed to full compensation, to householders affected by the flooding.

Damage to a person's home and its basic contents, such as carpets, flooring, furniture, household appliances and bedding, will be the main criteria. Structural damage may also be considered.

Eligibility will be subject to a means test.

Assistance will not be given for losses which are covered by insurance.

Commercial and business losses will not qualify for humanitarian assistance.

In addition, the Government has also established a cross-Departmental/Agency Working Group, chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, to oversee the State's collective response to those affected by the flooding. The working group will identify any gaps that may exist within existing services to address the consequences of the flooding for individuals, families and communities. If additional services are required the Group will report to Government with proposals to address these issues.

Social Welfare Code

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

117 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that rent supplement recipients have had their rent supplement withdrawn or decreased on the grounds that they have refused an offer of social housing despite a policy being in place across local authorities which allows for a person to make two refusals without negative repercussions; her view on whether it is unfair and inconsistent for community welfare officers to penalise these persons in view of the fact that local authorities recognise that there can be very legitimate grounds for a refusal of a social housing offer; and whether she will issue all CWOs with a directive that they must not penalise rent supplement recipients in this way. [33600/11]

The community welfare service (CWS), and the community welfare officers providing it, transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

Since 2005 rent supplement expenditure has increased from €369 million to €516 million in 2010. The number of persons claiming the allowance increased from almost 60,200 persons in 2005 to some 95,700 as at October 2011, a 59% increase.

It is a condition of any applicant's entitlement to a rent supplement that they have not refused to accept, within any continuous 12 month period, a second offer of accommodation provided by either a housing authority (including accommodation offered under the Rental Accommodation Scheme) or any approved body by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government for the purposes of Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 (No. 18 of 1992) i.e. the Capital Assistance Housing scheme.

Where a rent supplement claimant refuses a second offer of accommodation within a 12 month period the Community Welfare Service is obliged to cease payment of rent supplement for a period of 12 months from the date of refusal. This legislative provision has been set out in detail to staff.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

118 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection the grounds on which back-to-school allowance was refused to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if that decision can be appealed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33646/11]

One of the conditions for receipt of a Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance payment is that the applicant must be in receipt of a qualified child allowance in respect of the child in question. Departmental records show that no such increase is payable to the person in question. My Department have issued the person with a review form, which should be completed and returned to the Department where a full review of her entitlements will be carried out.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

119 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33548/11]

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 time it takes to process applications can also vary depending on the legal complexities involved.

With regard to the application referred to in the Question, a letter of offer issued to the applicant on 20 April 2007 and the contract for the sale of the site was received by my Department from the solicitor acting on behalf of the applicant on 2 June 2011. Officials from my Department have examined this contract and are awaiting clearance from the Chief State Solicitor's Office in order to forward the file to that office.

It should also be noted that my Department will be writing to all remaining applicants under the voluntary bog purchase scheme in the coming weeks to outline their options in light of recent policy decisions regarding the availability of alternative compensation arrangements.

Teidlíochtaí Pinsin

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

120 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil cnapshuim, pinsean nó aon íocaíocht eile dlite d’iarfhostaí de chuid na Roinne (sonraí tugtha) a chuaigh ar phinsean le gairid; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [33661/11]

Mar a bheidh ar eolas ag an Teachta, is de réir mar a leagtar amach iad ina gconarthaí fostaíochta, agus i gcomhréir leis na téarmaí agus na coinníollacha fostaíochta atá leagtha síos ag an Aire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe, a bhíonn teidlíochtaí pinsin, srl, baill foirne atá ag dul ar scor. Tá iarrtha agam ar oifigigh mo Roinne teagmháil a dhéanamh leis an duine atá i gceist chun aon cheist a d'fhéadfadh fós a bheith aici i ndáil lena teidlíochtaí pinsin a shoiléiriú léi.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

121 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Office of Public Works will provide a progress report with respect to the works being carried out on Maretimo Stream, Blackrock, County Dublin; if contractors are currently behind schedule on the project; and, if that is the case, if he will confirm that the project will be fast tracked in view of recent flood damage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33567/11]

The Dún Laoghaire Sewerage Scheme, Phase 1 (Carysfort-Maretimo Stream) is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 among the list of contracts in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to start in the period 2010-2012.

In January 2011 my Department approved funding to allow Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to award the contract for the work. While the administration of the contract is a matter for the Council, I understand that the contract has been awarded, that construction has been under way for some months and that the Council is progressing the contract as quickly as possible.

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

122 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funding he has provided for the upgrade of the waste water treatment plant at Ballyhale, County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33505/11]

Ballyhale Waste Water Treatment Plant Upgrade is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 as a contract to start within the lifetime of the Programme, as part of the Kilkenny Grouped Villages Sewerage Scheme.

Kilkenny County Council wrote to my Department in October 2011 with revised proposals for some remedial works at Ballyhale Waste Water Treatment Plant of a scale more amenable to small schemes funding under the Rural Water Programme. This proposal has been approved by my Department. The progression of these contracts is now a matter for the Council.

The Council is continuing work on developing proposals under the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, for the procurement of the other contracts under the Kilkenny Grouped Villages and Sewerage Scheme, with a view to advancing these contracts to procurement as soon as possible.

Environmental Policy

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

123 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is still committed to publishing the Climate Change Bill in 2012 as indicated in the most recent Government legislative programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33510/11]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 257, 258, 268, 269, 292, 294, 295 and 302 of 2 November 2011 which set out the position in relation to climate legislation.

The Climate Policy Review was issued on 3 November 2011 and is available on my Department's website www.environ.ie.

Social and Affordable Housing

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

124 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will make money available to local authorities for the insulation of senior citizens housing complexes owned by local authorities. [33516/11]

Under my Department's Social Housing Improvement Programme, funding of up to 90% of the approved cost is provided to Housing Authorities to undertake improvement works to occupied and vacant social housing units, including works to improve the energy efficiency and general standard of the houses concerned. In the case of works to improve the energy efficiency of a dwelling, authorities are required to undertake a pre-works and a post-works Building Energy Rating (BER) assessment and the amount of grant paid to housing authorities is linked to the level of energy savings achieved. In 2011, Dublin City Council received an allocation of €5.5 million for such improvement works. It is a matter for the Council to select the properties to be upgraded and to determine the nature and the scale of the works to be undertaken in each case. My Department understands that the City Council has been focusing its 2011 programme on upgrading vacant and void properties and has recently sought an increased capital allocation for this year in respect of additional works completed under the programme. Upgrading vacant and void properties is consistent with the Department's objectives of returning stock to viable use and meeting housing need. However, any additional funding can only be considered in the context of savings arising elsewhere in the programme.

The City Council has indicated its intention to submit proposals for the upgrading of a number of occupied/semi-occupied flat complexes in 2012. It is a matter for the City Council, as part of its responsibility for the management of its social housing stock, to decide if the complex in question will be included under that programme.

Local Authority Housing

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

125 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown of the amount of funding made available to Ballymun Regeneration Limited for the refurbishment of Silloge 4; and the total cost per unit for the 122 local authority houses, including the ground works and underground services at Silloge 4. [33517/11]

My Department has been working closely with Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. and Dublin City Council to ensure that the housing units at Sillogue 4 are satisfactorily completed and are used to provide much needed new housing for the remaining families and households in the blocks and towers. To date the project has received funding of €33.07 million, for the planning/design, ground works, services and construction. This equates to €267,000 per unit for the 124 units and reflects the high cost of services and works contracts which prevailed at the time these contracts were tendered.

My Department recently approved a budget of €9.3 million for the pyrite remediation and completion works. This budget includes the costs of the pyrite testing and remediation, security, and the completion works. It should be noted, however, that Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. with the Contractor — James Elliot Construction — are examining all available legal avenues for the recovery of costs for the remediation works to this project which, if successful, will ultimately defray the public expense on this element of the project.

In the context of the substantial investment to date in the Ballymun Regeneration Programme and the housing need of the families still living in the blocks and towers, it was determined that it is in the public interest to see the 124 units at Sillogue 4 completed and tenanted as soon as possible and without prejudice to the outcome of a potentially lengthy and complex legal challenge.

Waste Management

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

126 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide full details of restructuring proposals for the waste management business and the replacement of side-by-side competition with tendering for the entire market, called franchise bidding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33565/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service. This system of market structuring is known as franchise bidding.

A Regulatory Impact Assessment is currently underway, the purpose of which is to evaluate options for the regulation of household waste collection markets, including both the current system of side-by-side competition and franchise bidding. The assessment is being informed by the outcomes of the recent public consultation process, which concluded in September. I intend to bring policy proposals to Government before the end of the year.

Community Development

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

127 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a Leader payment due to an organisation (details supplied) will be released. [33571/11]

There are 36 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver the RDP throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations.

My Department has been in touch with Sligo LEADER Partnership which is the group dealing with the project referred to in the question. Sligo LEADER Partnership has confirmed that it will be in a position to process a payment claim for this project very shortly.

Local Electoral Areas

Niall Collins

Ceist:

128 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to revise the local authority boundaries in view of the 2011 census, and also in view of his announcement to amalgamate a number of local authorities across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33577/11]

Unlike for Dáil constituencies, there are no constitutional or statutory requirements in relation to the frequency of local electoral area boundary reviews. The most recent reviews of local electoral areas were carried out in 1998 and 2008. The June 2009 local elections took place on the basis of the local electoral areas enacted following the 2008 review.

The next local elections are due to take place in 2014. I will give consideration to the need for a review of local electoral areas in the light of the final results from Census 2011 which are due in Spring 2012 and which will give clear information on population change in local electoral areas.

Other relevant factors, including the report of the Constituency Commission established in July 2011 to review Dáil and European Parliament constituencies and any related subsequent decisions of the Oireachtas, will also be taken into account.

The new unified local authorities in Limerick and Tipperary will give rise to a review of the local electoral areas in these counties. These reviews will be carried out on the basis of the final population figures for Census 2011. The new local electoral areas in Limerick and Tipperary will be in place for the local elections to be held in 2014.

Voting Age

Niall Collins

Ceist:

129 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reduce the voting age to 17 or 16 years of age in advance of the 2014 local elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33578/11]

The Programme for Government sets out a comprehensive range of constitutional reform measures including the review by a Constitutional Convention of reducing the voting age to 17. I will bring forward proposals for change to electoral law in light of the decisions for change which may arise from these processes.

Flood Relief

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

130 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the financial resources such as humanitarian aid, rebuilding funds and refurbishment funds being made available to residents and businesses flooded in the Dublin region in the past week separate to supplementary welfare allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33596/11]

An inter-agency approach is underway to assist those affected by the severe flooding which occurred in Dublin and the surrounding region on 24 October 2011.

Community Welfare Officers, working in co-operation with the local authorities and the Irish Red Cross, have been contacting households and individuals identified as being particularly vulnerable, and emergency clinics have been established in the worst affected areas to help households. Some financial assistance has been provided so far on a case-by-case basis and this is expected to increase as the extent of the problems for individuals and households becomes clearer.

The Government has established a cross-Departmental/Agency Working Group, chaired by my Department, to oversee the State's collective response to those affected by the flooding. The Government has approved an amount of up to €10 million towards financial assistance. The Group will identify any gaps that may exist within existing services to address the consequences of the flooding for individuals, families and communities. If additional services are required, including humanitarian assistance, the Group will report to Government with proposals to address these issues.

Water Services

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

131 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the gross estimated cost per annum of providing for all of the services, to implement the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011; the sources of funding to implement the Bill broken down between registration fees, inspection charge, other payments by owners of waste water systems, other local authority contribution and Exchequer contribution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33648/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

132 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends introducing grant aid to assist those who are required to upgrade their waste water systems under the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33649/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 132 together.

The Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011, which provides for the establishment of a system of registration and inspection of septic tanks and other on-site systems, was published on 3 November 2011. Details of how the new system will operate are included in the Bill and the accompanying explanatory memorandum. The Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for the Bill also considers the costs arising from the introduction of the new registration and inspection regime; a copy of the RIA is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

The legislation provides for the payment of fees by householders served by septic tanks and other on-site systems to have their systems registered. These fees are to be paid to the relevant local authority and to the Environmental Protection Agency respectively. The intention is that the revenues generated by the fees will be used to fund the inspection and supervision activities by the local authorities and the EPA which are provided for in the Bill.

My Department will keep under review options to provide financial support to house holders, whose domestic waste water treatment systems are deemed, following inspection, to require substantial remediation or upgrading. Any such support would have to take account of the overall very difficult budgetary situation.

Community Development

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

133 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the specific plans in place for the inner city of Dublin in the absence of any partnership structure or local development company. [33655/11]

In line with commitments in the Programme for Government, and in the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, my Department has begun to examine the scope for greater alignment over a range of Local Government and Local/Community Development functions and programmes. While it is too early at this stage to determine the outcome of this process, my aim is to ensure the long-term sustainability of local and community development supports through ensuring the maximum level of funding is delivered to front line services and through minimising administration and ancillary costs.

In addition, following the closure of the Local Development Company in question my Department is working towards an alternative delivery structure for the Local and Community Development Programme in that area. My primary concern is to implement the Programme in the best possible way by ensuring that scarce resources are targeted at the most vulnerable communities. Funding for the Programme in 2012, and beyond, will fall to be considered in the context of the annual Estimates process and in light of the outcome of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure.

Building Regulations

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

134 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding his plans to introduce a national building inspectorate service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33658/11]

The Local Government Efficiency Review Group (July 2010) recommended that a single building inspectorate service could be established on a regional basis to streamline the approach to the inspection of property.

In July 2011, I announced a number of measures to be advanced by my Department and local authorities with a view to improving compliance with, and oversight of, the requirements of the Building Regulations.

In broad terms the measures, which include the streamlining of inspection arrangements on a regional basis, will involve:

(a) the introduction of mandatory certificates of compliance by builders and designers of buildings confirming that the statutory requirements of the Building Regulations have been met;

(b) more efficient pooling of building control staff and resources across the local authority sector to ensure more effective and meaningful oversight of building activity;

(c) standardised approaches and common protocols to ensure nationwide consistency in the administration of building control functions;

(d) better support and further development of the building control function nationwide.

The mandatory certification and improved inspection arrangements outlined above are key reforms which, I believe, will have the capacity to improve the quality of buildings and will lead to further strengthening of the regulatory regime as early as possible in 2012.

The matter will be kept under review in the context of the ongoing actions being taken at Department and at Local Authority levels to further the development of the Building Control function.

Forbairt Pobail

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

135 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén uair a thabharfar cead do Chomhar na nOileán an deontas atá á mholadh acu le haghaidh seomraí feistis ar Árann, do Mheitheal Forbartha Chill Éanna, a cheadú go hoifigiúil; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [33663/11]

Tá cistiúcháin €427m ar fáil faoin gChlár um Fhorbairt Tuaithe (RDP) 2007-13 á roinnt amach do thionscadail cháilithe roimh dheireadh 2013. Cuspóir amháin den RDP is ea áiseanna fóillíochta oiriúnacha nach bhfuil ar fáil faoi láthair a shainaithint agus a sholáthar go dtí na pobail áitiúla.

Tá conradh idir mo Roinn le 36 Grúpa Gníomhaíochta Áitiúil agus ní mór do na grúpaí sin an RDP a sholáthar ar fud na tire. Is iad na grúpaí sin na priomh-cinneadóirí mar gheall ar leithdháileadh na gcistí go dtí na tionscadail seo. Nuair a bhíonn na cinntí seo á dhéanamh bíonn an stráiteis forbartha áitiúil curtha san áireamh ag na grupaí indibhidiúla agus bíonn rialacháin oibriúcháin na Roinne agus na rialacháin ón Aontas Eorpach curtha san áireamh freisin.

Dé réir choinníollacha den RDP nuair atá deontas ceangaltas molta níos mó ná €150,000 i gceist bíonn córas formheasa ag an Roinn chun tacaí a thabhairt do na Grupaí Gníomhaíochta Áitiúla a áirithiú ionas go mbeidh na tionscadail seo comhlíontach le na rialacháin oibriúcháin agus go soláthraíonn siad leis na cuspóirí foriomlána agus go bhfaigheann an RDP luach as a gcuid airgid. Bhí teagmháil ag mo Roinn le Comhair na nOileáin Teo maidir leis an tionscadal seo agus táimid ag iarraidh soiléiriú a fháil orthu go bhfuil siad ag iarraidh formheas don deontas agus gurb é an tsuim iomlán atá i gceist ná 200,000.

Chuir an grúpa in iúl don Roinn le gairid go raibh na doiciméid ábhartha chomh maith leis an t-iarratas ar cheadúcháin seoltha isteach acu chuig mo Roinn ach go dtí seo níl na doiciméid seo faighte ag oifigigh na Roinne. Déanfar próiseáil ar na doiciméid ábhartha, chomh maith le próiseáil ar an iarratas ceadúcháin, i gcomhréir leis na próisis ábhartha chomh luath agus a fhaightear na doiciméid agus an t-iarratas céanna ón ngrúpa. Cuirfidh mo Roinn an grúpa ar an eolas faoin toradh nuair a chríochnaítear an próiséas seo.

Funding of €427m is available under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 for allocation to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. One of the objectives of the RDP is to identify and provide appropriate amenity and leisure facilities to local communities not otherwise available to them.

There are 36 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver the RDP throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations.

Under the RDP once a proposed grant commitment goes over €150,000 there is a system of Department approval in place which supports Local Action Groups to ensure that such projects are compliant with the operating rules, will contribute to the overall aims and objectives and provide value for money for the RDP. My Department has been in contact with Comhar na nOileain Teo with regard to this project to clarify if they are seeking approval for the grant amount of €200,000.

The group indicated that they submitted the relevant project documentation and request for approval to my Department very recently. However, my Department has not as yet received the request. As soon as the request and relevant documentation is received it will be processed in line with the relevant procedures and my Department will inform the Group on completion of the process.

Homeless Persons

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

136 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the level of funding that was provided to the Simon Community and other organisations for emergency services for the homeless in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and the amount that will be provided in 2012. [33666/11]

My Department's role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities and the purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.

My Department does not fund any service directly but recoups the local authorities 90% of the cost of the service provided with an additional 10% coming from the local authorities own resources. Funding recouped by my Department to local authorities in each of the years from 2007 to 2010 and to date in 2011 for the provision of homeless accommodation and related services is as follows:

2007€000

2008€000

2009€000

2010€000

To Oct 2011€000

52,987

53,235

56,057

54,703

31,003*

(*recoupment to date out of total 2011 Estimates provision of €53.413 million)

Up to 50 different organisations provide emergency services throughout the country. The Simon Communities, Focus Ireland, Novas, St. Vincent de Paul, the De Paul Trust, the Salvation Army and Crosscare, who have built up the services over the years, receive the bulk of the funding that goes to the voluntary sector providers and details of the 90% funding recouped to the local authorities in respect of these organisations are outlined in the table below. The HSE also provides funding to these organisations in respect of health and social care services for homeless persons.

The level of Exchequer funding to be provided in 2012 will be determined as part of the Estimates process currently underway.

Section 10 Current funding

2007€000

2008€000

2009€000

2010€000

To Oct 2011€000

Simon Communities

4,944

4,683

6,089

5,978

2,481

Focus Ireland

4,049

4,130

4.192

4,977

2,355

Novas

1,755

1,786

2,361

2,203

1,377

St. Vincent De Paul

2,058

2,105

2,355

2,025

1,834

De Paul Trust

1,449

1,531

2,280

2,558

1,018

Salvation Army

2,178

2,155

2,303

2.706

729

Crosscare

1,104

2,256

2,057

2,336

1,021

Nuclear Plants

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

137 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland has completed its independent assessment of the possible impacts for Ireland from the UK’s nuclear building programme; when he expects this report to be completed; and when it will be published. [33667/11]

At the request of my Department, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is conducting an independent assessment of possible impacts for Ireland from the UK's new nuclear build programme. This work is ongoing. Its initial timeframe was revised to take account of the demands placed on the RPII's Nuclear Safety Directorate by the response and follow-up to the accident at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan in March 2011. It is expected that the results of the assessment will be provided to my Department at the end of 2011.

Mortgage Arrears

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

138 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details about the two mortgage-to-rent schemes; when they will be launched; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33671/11]

The introduction of two mortgage-to-rent schemes, as part of a range of measures to assist households with unsustainable mortgages, was announced in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mortgage Arrears which was launched on 12 October 2011. Work is now underway to implement key elements of the report and I will shortly launch two mortgage-to-rent schemes in line with the report's recommendations.

These schemes will operate on a pilot basis initially, subject to prompt review ahead of wider roll-out. Under each scheme, households in extreme mortgage distress who are eligible for social housing will be able to remain in their homes as social housing tenants with either the lending institution or a housing association taking ownership of the property. My Department is now well-advanced in its work with a lender and an approved housing body to make the pilot schemes operational as soon as possible.

Local Authority Housing Loans

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

139 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to ensure the interest rate cut is passed on to local authority mortgage holders. [33688/11]

The interest rate on local authority housing loans is determined by the Housing Finance Agency by reference to mortgage rates prevailing in the financial market. The Board of the Agency decided today, 9 November 2011, to pass on the variable interest rate reduction of 0.25% to local authority mortgage holders. The current variable interest rate to local authority borrowers, excluding mortgage protection, is 3.0%. The current fixed interest rate available on local authority loans, excluding mortgage protection, is 4.4% for a period of 5 years.

Crime Levels

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

140 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are figures to indicate the amount of goods stolen in the Dublin region for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; the amount of goods that have been recovered in these years; the number of persons arrested and charged to date for each of these years; the number of successful convictions secured in each of these years; the additional steps gardaí will take to tackle same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33527/11]

Following the submission in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from An Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, the CSO is now compiling, publishing and responding to queries regarding recorded crime statistics. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy. I have also requested a report from the Garda authorities. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Immigration Policy

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

141 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of students that have been designated as timed-out students under the New Immigration Regime for Full Time Non-EEA Students that was published in September 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33531/11]

The ‘New Immigration Regime for Full Time Non-EEA Students' was published in September 2010 and has been in operation since 1 January 2011. The new regime introduced maximum periods for residence in the State on foot of a student permission and provided for a differentiated approach between "Degree Programme" courses and those at the "Language or Non-Degree Programme" level.

Existing students who exceed the new time limits are regarded as "timed-out". However, because of the new time limits and the differentiation between the types of course it is not possible to give an exact number of students who are deemed to be timed-out as a result of the new immigration regime. This operates on a rolling basis and it will depend not just on the number of years the student has been in Ireland but also on the nature of their course and their progress. For example, all students were permitted to complete any course they had commenced prior to the introduction of the new rules. A student can also move from a language course to a degree programme in which case different limits apply. In addition students who finish an honours degree course and above are permitted to remain on for a further year during which they can work, engage in internship or, if they wish to stay for a longer period, seek an employment permit.

A snapshot of the student population taken earlier this year showed that a little over 2,800 registered non-EEA students had been in Ireland since before 1 January 2004 although for the reasons outlined above not all of these would be regarded as timed out.

Garda Transport

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

142 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the squad car in Sneem, County Kerry, which was crashed recently, will be put back on the road as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33539/11]

The allocation of Garda resources, including transport, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. In that context the efficient deployment of Garda vehicles within each Garda Division is a matter for the Divisional Officer in the light of operational requirements. I am advised by the Garda authorities that the situation with regard to Sneem Garda station is being kept under on-going review. Currently the area is being serviced by mobile patrols operated by Caherciveen District personnel and the Divisional Traffic Corps.

Court Accommodation

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

143 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the poor condition of the railings at Carlow courthouse; and if he will ensure that remedial works are carried out regarding same. [33545/11]

The Deputy will be aware that, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service and I have no role in the matter. Section 4(3) of the 1998 Act provides that the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which includes the maintenance of court buildings.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that a major refurbishment of Carlow Courthouse was completed in 2002. Unfortunately, having regard to the current financial climate, the Courts Service is not in a position to undertake a restoration project on the railings at this time. The Courts Service has indicated that it is in contact with Carlow County Council about measures to preserve the railings.

Garda Stations

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

144 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average running costs, excluding salaries and allowances, of a one-person Garda station in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33556/11]

The Garda Commissioner is the Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote. In that context I am informed by the Garda authorities that financial operating cost statements are maintained at District Headquarters level rather than at Garda station level. Additionally it is the case that the costs arising in respect of individual stations can vary considerably owing to a number of factors. These include whether the station site is freehold or leased and the extent to which expenditure is required on maintaining the property.

In the circumstances I regret that I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

145 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has any official role in the closure of a Garda station or can same be closed without the need for ministerial approval or order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33557/11]

Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 the Garda Commissioner must each year prepare a policing plan setting out the proposed arrangements for the policing of the State, including any proposals in relation to Garda stations. The policing plan, once it has been approved by the Minister, is laid before each House.

Garda Deployment

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

146 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding anti-social behaviour. [33560/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the location referred to is within the Clontarf Garda Sub-District. Local Garda management is aware of difficulties being experienced by local residents as a result of anti-social behaviour at the location and is closely monitoring the situation and following up on complaints received.

The area is the subject of regular patrols by uniform and plain clothes personnel, including the Community Policing Unit and the Mountain Bike Unit, District and Divisional Detective and Drug Units, supplemented as required by the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel. A member of the local Community Policing Unit is allocated specifically to the area.

Local Garda management keeps under review patrols and other operational strategies in place, in conjunction with other policing needs of the residents in the area, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Current policing plans in the area are designed to address issues of crime and public order offences. Community policing is a central feature and core value of policing policy, and current policing strategies are predicated on the prevention of crime, public order offences and anti-social behaviour. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a policing service to the area.

International Agreements

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

147 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Preventing and Combating of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the convention was adopted on 11 May 2011 and has been signed up to since then by 16 states, excluding Ireland; the reason for the delay in signing this convention; if there are difficulties in meeting the legally binding obligations set out in the convention on signing by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33576/11]

Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, an executive office within my Department, actively contributed to all stages of the drafting process in relation to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. That process took place over a period of almost two years. I am aware that 16 Council of Europe member states signed the Convention but it has not yet entered into force. Before the Convention enters into force 10 signatories must have expressed their consent to be bound by it.

As the Convention is a very detailed one and its scope is very broad, it has potential policy implications across a wide range of government departments and state agencies. For that reason the Convention's implications require careful and comprehensive examination. Cosc is currently examining the Convention with a view to identifying the issues which need to be addressed in order to pave the way for a submission to the Government on the question of signature of the Convention by Ireland.

Garda Expenditure

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

148 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount paid by the Garda to its staff in mileage, motoring allowances and subsistence since 2008 in tabular form. [33589/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the relevant amounts paid by An Garda Síochána in travel costs (including mileage), motoring allowances and subsistence costs in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and to date in 2011 are outlined in the table below:

2008€

2009€

2010€

Jan - Oct 2011€

Travel

7,568,419

3,973,932

3,272,530

2,457,044

Motoring Allowance

3,292,920

2,777,632

2,378,368

1,845,264

Subsistence

26,841,562

15,951,250

13,478,235

12,351,457

Grand Total

37,702,901

22,702,814

19,129,133

16,653,765

Traffic Fines

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

149 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown, on a quarterly basis of the amount of fines that have been issued from the go-safe speed camera detection vans since their introduction onto the roads in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33590/11]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Asylum Applications

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the special circumstances of an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in view of the Zambrano case; if he will provide a status update on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33601/11]

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 12th March, 2009, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. In advance of a final decision being made, the case of the person concerned will be examined to determine what, if any, impact the European Court of Justice Judgment in the Zambrano case may have on his case. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

The Deputy will appreciate that the purpose of requiring production of a national passport is to establish a person's identity and nationality so that international travel and residence can be facilitated. Permission to reside takes the physical form of some type of passport endorsement such as, in the Irish case, a residence stamp. Given the importance of ensuring that an immigration permission be availed of only by the person for whom it is intended, it has become a fundamental requirement in immigration regimes around the world that foreign national visitors or residents must be in possession of a valid passport so that the appropriate immigration permission may be placed within it.

The Deputy should note that as the person concerned has no current right of residency in the State, he would not be in a position to meet the lawful residency criteria applicable to persons applying to my Department for a Certificate of Naturalisation.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Visa Applications

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

151 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the status of visa applications (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33672/11]

The visa applications referred to by the Deputy were received in the Visa Office, Dublin on the 22 September 2011. They were refused by the Visa Officer on the 7 November 2011 for the following reasons:

1. There was insufficient documentation submitted in support of the applications. The Visa Officer noted that insufficient evidence regarding the marital and family status of the contact host was provided;

2. The Visa Officer noted inconsistencies in that there were contradictions in the information supplied. This refusal reason is essentially linked to the concern surrounding insufficient documentation;

3. The primary applicant had not provided evidence of a relationship being in existence prior to the visa applications/marriage;

4. It was the opinion of the Visa Officer that the granting of visas may result in a cost to public funds and public resources.

In arriving at this decision, the Visa officer also noted the immigration history of the primary applicant.

It is open to the persons concerned to submit an appeal within two months of the date of refusal, in this instance before the 7 January 2012. If doing so, the applicant would be strongly advised to be in a position to address the above mentioned concerns. Guidelines on the visa appeals process are available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie).

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Human Trafficking

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

152 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm that cases of forced labour can be prosecuted under the Criminal Law (Criminal Justice) Act 2008 without movement being required; if not, if he will detail the specific pieces of legislation that criminalise forced labour and under which prosecutions may be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33673/11]

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 criminalises the trafficking of persons for the purposes of labour exploitation (including forced labour), sexual exploitation and exploitation consisting of the removal of a person's organs. For the purposes of the Act, the term "trafficks" is broadly defined. For example, the commission of an offence does not require cross-border movement or illegal entry into the State. It includes recruitment, taking a person into one's custody, care or charge, and providing the person with accommodation or employment. However, the legislation is primarily an anti-trafficking measure and was never intended to address any of the above exploitative phenomena outside the context of human trafficking.

This does not necessarily mean that a person subjected to forced labour but who has not been trafficked (or where trafficking is difficult to prove) does not have the protection of the criminal law. It is likely that activities constituting forced labour could be prosecuted under a range of offences, for example, false imprisonment, blackmail, assault, the coercion offence in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, offences under employment law and health and safety legislation, immigration law, etc.

Internationally, forced labour covers a diverse range of exploitative behaviours. The extent and nature of the phenomenon in this jurisdiction is unclear. At the request of my Department and with a view to establishing the exact nature of alleged abuses, the Garda authorities have recently completed an analysis of allegations of forced labour which have come to their attention. The results of the analysis are currently being examined in my Department so that any legislative and administrative measures required to address deficiencies can be identified. In the event that a need for additional legislative measures is established, proposals will be brought to Government in the usual manner.

Irish Red Cross

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

153 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if following his letter to the chairman of the Irish Red Cross of 16 July regarding corporate governance issues the society has now considered a more comprehensive reform of its corporate governance arrangements; his views on the fact that the current vice chairman of the IRC is still serving in that position for the 21st year in a row, that the current treasurer in that position for ten years in a row and both on the executive committee for 21 and ten years respectively; his further views on whether this arrangement is in line with best practice corporate governance guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33562/11]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

154 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence his views that the time is now appropriate for the vice chairman and treasurer of the Irish Red Cross to step down from their positions in order to allow for a more reasonable turnover of personnel at leadership positions within the IRC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33582/11]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

155 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if consideration has been given to incorporating term-limits and retrospection of service for members of the Irish Red Cross executive committee in the amendments to the Irish Red Cross Order 1939; when he expects to bring forward the draft legislation on the Red Cross to Cabinet for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33583/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 to 155, inclusive, together.

The Irish Red Cross Society is an independent charitable body corporate which, in accordance with relevant legislation, is responsible for handling its own internal affairs. On 16 May 2011, I wrote to the Chairman of the Irish Red Cross Society regarding corporate governance, emphasising my views on turnover and rotation at leadership levels in the Society. I did so as I am of the opinion that it is not conducive to good corporate governance that any individual should serve indefinitely on the Central Council or the Executive Committee, or in the same appointment. The Chairman, in his response, advised me that the issue of turnover and rotation at leadership levels was raised by him at a subsequent Central Council meeting and that agreement was reached on a mandatory three-year break, or one full-term break, for Executive Committee members in circumstances where a member may have previously served for two full terms.

The requirement for a break in service after two three-year terms will apply to any position on the Executive Committee and therefore, it will not be possible to serve two terms in one position and then a further term immediately afterwards in another position on the Committee. With regard to the length of time that the Treasurer of the Society has served, I am informed by the Society that whilst the person in question has been elected to the Society's Executive Committee for the past ten years, he was first elected as Treasurer in 2009 and, earlier this year, was re-elected for a third term in this position.

Following my letter, I subsequently met with the Chairman and the Secretary General of the Society. The matters raised in my letter were discussed and the progress that the Society has made in relation to governance reform was outlined. Overall, it was a very positive meeting; I offered my support to the Chairman and the Secretary General in their efforts and I anticipate that further progress in this regard will be made in the coming months.

When the Office of the Attorney General has finalised its work on the proposed amendments to the 1939 Order, I will bring the draft legislation to Government for approval. Regardless of whatever changes are made to the 1939 Order, a comprehensive review of all Red Cross legislation, and in particular the primary legislation, will then be commenced in accordance with a commitment given in the Programme for Government.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

156 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence following his comments to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence last July regarding his grant-in-aid to the Irish Red Cross, if he will confirm that the grant will be paid this year; the total amount of this grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33584/11]

My Department pays an annual grant to the Society of €951,000 which includes the Government's annual contribution (currently €130,000) to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The balance of the grant goes towards the salary and administration costs of running the headquarters of the Irish Society. The grant for this year has been paid in full. I am satisfied that the annual grant paid by my Department is properly accounted for and used for its intended purpose. However, in light of recent controversies, I recently asked the Chairman of the Society for assurances in this regard and for information about how the grant is utilised. Comprehensive and satisfactory answers were provided by the Chairman.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

157 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence his views on claims made at a recent meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts that overseas aid donations to the Red Cross have been retained in Red Cross domestic accounts; if he is satisfied as to the use of international aid donations made to the Red Cross; if the IRC have specific policies in place for the handling of such donations; if he will confirm that any unspecified aid donation made at a time of a major disaster appeal goes into the general domestic fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33585/11]

The Irish Red Cross Society is an independent statute based charitable organisation with full power to manage and administer its affairs through its governing body, the Central Council. The Irish Red Cross Order 1939, which established the Society in Ireland, does not make any provision for the Government to intervene in the day to day administration of the Society. Furthermore, there is an obligation on Governments to protect the independence of national Red Cross organisations. My Department was made aware of allegations relating to the misallocation of funds by the Irish Red Cross Society particularly in relation to the Haiti appeal through correspondence dated 30 November 2010. The letter to the then Minister referred to enclosed copies of letters sent to the Chairman of the Society and its external auditors, which outlined the substance of the allegations. My Department is satisfied that the manner in which the Society allocates unspecified donations is in conformity with standard practice by Red Cross societies across Europe. My Department is also aware that the Chairman of the Society has strongly refuted the allegations and that the Society's external auditors found the allegations to be groundless.

Question No. 158 withdrawn.

Grant Payments

Pat Breen

Ceist:

159 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason payment has not issued to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33496/11]

The holding of the person concerned was restricted under the TB Eradication Scheme during the period 4 October 2007 to 4 February 2010. Payments due to him under the ERAD compensation schemes have been paid in full up to September 2010. However, the District Veterinary Office has informed the herdowner concerned that payments under the Income Supplement Scheme for the period October 2010 to January 2011 are being withheld because of tax clearance certificate issues and an ongoing investigation into the test completed on 4 September 2010. It is expected that the District Veterinary Office will contact the herdowner in the near future regarding the outcome of these matters.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

160 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [33524/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 9 May 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing the 50% advance of the Single Payment to issue to the applicant on 8 November.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

161 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33586/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 8 April 2011, following processing of which an over-claim was identified on one of the land declared. The person named has been written to in this regard and, immediately on receipt of a satisfactory reply, the application will be further processed with a view to the appropriate payment issuing shortly thereafter.

Departmental Schemes

Pat Breen

Ceist:

162 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33650/11]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st September 2010.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. During these checks a discrepancy was discovered in respect of one parcel listed on the application of the person named. A letter issued to the person named dated 21 October requesting clarification of the area on this specific parcel. Officials in my Department are awaiting a response to this letter and on receipt of clarification regarding the matter the file will be further processed.

Child Protection

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

163 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will review a matter (details supplied) regarding safety of young persons. [33559/11]

This matter has been referred to the HSE for attention in line with Children First Guidance.

Foreign Adoptions

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

164 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding inter-country adoptions. [33494/11]

The Adoption Act, 2010, commenced on 1st November 2010. This coincided with Ireland's formal ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption . The purpose of the Adoption Act, 2010, is to improve standards in both domestic and intercountry adoption. The regulatory framework governing adoption has been strengthened in an attempt to ensure that the best interests of children are protected at every step throughout the adoption process. With effect from 1 November inter-country adoptions can be effected with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention or with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement.

The Adoption Authority is an independent statutory body charged with implementing the Adoption Act, 2010. The Authority has responsibility for the direct operational implementation of legislation and Government policy. It has a quasi-judicial role and is independent in its decision-making functions.

The negotiation of bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption with non-contracting states, such as Russia, is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010 which states that "the Authority with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State." Ireland currently has no bilateral agreements with non-Hague countries. As the Hague Convention is designed to ensure a minimum set of standards in intercountry adoption, the Adoption Authority have indicated that their first priority is to reach agreements on arrangements with other Hague countries. However, my Department is currently in discussions with the Authority on the appropriateness and feasibility of exploratory discussions with the Russian authorities concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State.

As provided for in Section 72 of the Adoption Act, 2010, the Authority is establishing administrative arrangements concerning the processing of applications with other Hague countries in relation to intercountry adoptions. The Authority has already travelled to a number of jurisdictions in order to make contact with the Central Authorities; advise of our processes and procedures, assess the need for additional administrative arrangements or agreements; and to glean as much information as possible of relevance to prospective adopters from those countries. The visits also provide opportunities to streamline processes on both sides and get up to date information for prospective adopters on developments in these countries. However, it is a matter for each individual country to decide with whom they wish to co-operate.

The Vietnamese authorities have indicated that they are finalising technical issues in relation to the Hague ratification process and hope to lodge the papers of ratification shortly. Administrative arrangements will be a matter for the Adoption Authority, as Ireland's designated Central Authority, to make with the designated Vietnamese Central Authority. As both countries will have ratified The Hague Convention there will be no need for a bilateral agreement with regard to intercountry adoption.

The Authority has confirmed that delegations will shortly travel to Mexico and the United States to discuss possible administrative agreements under the Hague Convention. The Authority has also commenced a review of the adoption laws of Lithuania, Panama, Kenya and Kazakhstan as prospective countries for adoption into Ireland, and said it would look at other Hague countries as appropriate.

National Lottery Funding

Pat Breen

Ceist:

165 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding an application for funding in respect of an organisation (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33508/11]

My Department has received an application for funding from the 2011 National Lottery allocation from the organisation in question. The Deputy might note that this is one of a large number currently being assessed by my Department and I will keep him informed of the outcome of the application as soon as a decision has been made.

Health Service Staff

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

166 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of social workers in place on 1 January 2011; the latest figure for the number of social workers in place; if the number of social workers recommended in the Ryan report will be achieved by the end of the year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33603/11]

The Ryan Report Implementation Plan committed to the recruitment of an additional 270 social workers. 200 of these new posts were in place by the end of 2010. The HSE National Service Plan includes financial provision for the recruitment of a further 60 social workers this year. I have been assured by the HSE that it plans to have these additional staff in place by the end of the year. My Department will continue to closely monitor the position with regard to the recruitment of the additional personnel. Provision for the recruitment of the balance of 10 social workers is being dealt with in the context of the current expenditure review process and the preparation of the HSE National Service Plan for 2012. The additional social workers to be recruited will be targeted at priority areas of the service having regard to an overall assessment of workload undertaken by the National Director and his team. The recruitment of the additional social workers is one element of a wider change agenda within the HSE, through which I believe we can deliver better outcomes for children and families. This reform agenda will lead to the establishment of a new Child and Family Support Agency which will provide a dedicated focus on child protection and support families in need. I am advised that the total number of social workers employed in the HSE (and funded agencies) at the end of 2010 was 2,432 WTEs.

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

167 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of social workers who have taken maternity leave this year; if these workers are being replaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33604/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

168 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of social workers who have retired leave this year; if these workers are being replaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33605/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together.

The Government is committed to fundamental reform and transformation of the delivery of our children and family services. A number of significant structural and legislative changes are key to effecting such reform. This includes the establishment of a new agency with dedicated responsibility for the delivery of child welfare and protection services, separate from the HSE. The employment control framework for the HSE provides that the grade of social worker is exempted from the public sector moratorium on recruitment and filling of vacancies.

The Ryan Report Implementation Plan committed to the recruitment of an additional 270 social workers. 200 of these new posts were in place by the end of 2010. The HSE National Service Plan includes financial provision for the recruitment of a further 60 social workers this year. I have been assured by the HSE that it plans to have these additional staff in place by the end of the year. The additional social workers will be targeted at priority areas of the service having regard to an overall assessment of workload undertaken by the National Director and his team. The recruitment of the additional social workers is one element of a wider change agenda within the HSE, through which I believe we can deliver better outcomes for children and families. This reform agenda will lead to the establishment of a new Child and Family Support Agency which will provide a dedicated focus on child protection and support families in need.

In relation to the specific manpower related matters raised, I have asked the Health Service Executive for the information in question which I will forward to the Deputy.

Water Fluoridation

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

169 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on correspondence regarding fluoridation of the water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33519/11]

The Forum on Fluoridation, which was established by the Minister for Health and Children, advised in 2002 that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure. The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health, which was established in 2004, monitors new and emerging issues on fluoride and its effects on health and related matters. It advises that the balance of scientific evidence worldwide confirms that water fluoridation, at the optimal level, does not cause any ill effects and continues to be safe and effective in protecting the oral health of all age groups.

The report of the EU Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER), published in June of this year, has not made any findings of negative health or environmental effects concerning fluoridation of water. Fluoride added to water is not classed as a medicine under EU or Irish law. I have no plans to discontinue the policy of fluoridation of public water supplies, which continues to make an effective contribution to oral health in Ireland.

Health Services

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

170 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if Pobal funding will continue for a service (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33665/11]

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

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

171 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health his views and the position regarding orthodontic treatment in the midlands region in view of the fact that no new patients can start orthodontic treatment for the time being, that there is now a waiting list of 18 months when there was no waiting lists previously because local health management are not replacing staff that are leaving and this is resulting in a pause in the orthodontic service; his views on whether this situation acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33497/11]

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

Care of the Elderly

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

172 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Health when the review of the Health Information Quality Authority standards for nursing homes which is also applied to welfare homes will be completed and when new standards specifically for those welfare homes will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33507/11]

My Department has initiated a review of the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2009, as amended. These Regulations set out detailed requirements regarding, among other things, staffing and environmental conditions for all designated centres, including welfare homes.

As part of the review process submissions were invited and received from interested parties, including the support care homes referred to by the Deputy. The Department also met with a representative from the care homes. Due consideration is being given to the issues raised including the nature and status of the care homes.

It is expected that the review will be completed shortly and that amending regulations will introduced in 2012.

Medical Cards

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

173 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33518/11]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

174 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will reverse the decision which he introduced on 1 October 2011, whereby the rules of the fair deal have been changed so that now an applicant will only receive funding from the date he or she is approved and not the date when he or she applies, despite the fact that the person applied upon entering a nursing home, and the person and his or her family is then left facing the full cost of the nursing home in question, which is a considerable sum of money per week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33520/11]

The Minister for Health has agreed to an amendment to the HSE's National Guidelines for the Standardised Implementation of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. The amendment was agreed subject to assurances from the HSE that:

individuals with complex cases will not be disadvantaged,

average processing times for complete applications should not exceed 4-6 weeks,

geographical location will not disadvantage applicants, and

acute hospitals will not be detrimentally affected, subject to the scheme being operated within the financial resources allocated.

The HSE's Guidelines now state that, subject to overall resources, people who enter nursing homes will have their financial support paid either from the date that the application is approved, or date of admission to the nursing home, whichever is the later.

It should be noted that the amendment will have no retrospective effect, will be reviewed in one year and will only apply to applications received after the 1 October 2011.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

175 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that delays in the fair deal appeals office is leaving persons in acute hospital beds; and if he will look into the circumstances of a person (details supplied). [33521/11]

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

Health Services

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

176 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health if he will review the policy of cutting treatments available on the medical card dental scheme; if he will reinstate the scale and polish scheme to ensure patients attend for regular cleaning thus preventing extra costs to the health service into the future; and his plans to carry out a cost benefit analysis of the cuts in dental treatment for medical card holders. [33523/11]

The current position of the public finances has led to a reduction in funding for the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) and a consequent reduction in the services available under the Scheme. However, the HSE has measures in place to ensure that patients with special needs, high risk patients and those who have greater clinical needs receive priority for treatment. In addition, a free oral examination every calendar year and free emergency treatment, with a focus on the relief of pain and sepsis, are available to all eligible patients.

While my Department has no plans to carry out a cost benefit analysis, the operation of the DTSS will continue to be monitored to ensure the most beneficial, effective and efficient use of available resources.

Accident and Emergency Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of persons who were treated in the accident and emergency department of each of the six major hospitals in the Dublin region for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33528/11]

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

Health Service Reform

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

178 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the names of all Health Service Executive hospitals which will be affected by the interim management support structure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33532/11]

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

179 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the duration of the contract to provide senior interim managers’ contracts in the context of the interim management support structure for the Health Service Executive West; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33533/11]

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

180 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will publish the four-year framework agreement for personnel placement and supply services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33534/11]

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

181 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will publish the interim management support structure for the Health Service Executive West. [33535/11]

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

192 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will list the names of all Health Service Executive hospitals which will be affected by the framework agreement for personnel placement and supply services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33726/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 to 181, inclusive, and 192 together.

As these are service matters, they have been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Freedom of Information

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

182 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health the reason no response, reply or acknowledgement has ever been issued in response to a letter concerning a matter of extreme importance and sensitivity which was sent to the office of the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive (details supplied) via registered post, fax and email; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33552/11]

As advised in my reply to your PQ 29762/11 of 18th October 2011, under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003, the HSE is an entirely separate organisation to the Department of Health and is responsible for ensuring that it complies fully with the FOI Acts. If an organisation does not fulfil its requirements under the Acts, provisions exist by way of internal review and referral to the Information Commissioner to deal with these instances.

Also as previously advised this FOI request was subsequently submitted to the relevant local HSE office where it is being processed. I understand that the relevant decision maker has been in touch with the solicitor concerned and has agreed to a phased release of the relevant records to commence within the next few days.

Health Services

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

183 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the parents of a child (details supplied) have been informed that it will take between 12 to 18 months to have a full assessment carried out by the autism team at Mounthamilton House, Dundalk, County Louth; if he is satisfied that this waiting time is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33555/11]

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

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

184 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the future plan for a facility (details supplied) in County Kerry; if the welfare of the service users are being fully considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33564/11]

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

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

185 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding funding in respect of an organisation (details supplied) in County Dublin. [33587/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised me that expenditure on health services for people with a disability in 2011 will be approximately €1.5 billion. Special consideration was given to disability and mental health in Budget 2011 through a maximum reduction of just 1.8% in the allocation for the two sectors. The relatively lower reduction of 1.8%, compared to other areas of the health budget that saw reductions of up to 5%, recognises that these services are provided to vulnerable groups and should help to ensure that existing services are maintained and that priority is given to the delivery of frontline services.

I recognise and appreciate the valuable contribution that Prosper Fingal makes to the provision of services to individuals with intellectual disabilities in North Dublin through a range of community-based day, respite, and residential services on behalf of the Health Service Executive. The HSE has advised that Prosper Fingal will receive approximately €6.55 million in funding from them in 2011. Taking the reduction in the overall HSE disability budget for 2011 into account, the HSE was asked to manage the additional resources and engage with service providers including Prosper Fingal, to ensure that existing support needs, and demands for additional places and supports, are managed effectively within the overall allocation.

Budget 2012

With regard to the level of funding for the Disability sector next year, this is being considered as part of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure and Estimates process for 2012 which is currently underway. Deliberations on the expenditure allocations for 2012 are likely to continue up until Budget time and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage pending the outcome of those deliberations. As you are aware, the very difficult financial position facing the Exchequer will obviously require very careful management across all areas of expenditure.

Medical Cards

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

186 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the minimum length of time for which a medical card is awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33597/11]

I have asked the Health Service Executive to confirm the minimum length of time for which a medical card is awarded. I will revert to the Deputy on the matter as soon as possible.

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

187 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health his views on the fact that a medical card was issued to a family in County Tipperary who subsequently cancelled their health insurance, a week later the same family received a general practitioner visit card, this person then phoned the primary care reimbursement service to inquire about why they received a GP visit card when they had received a medical card and was informed that the medical card was sent to them in error; his further views that this error is highly unacceptable in view of the consequences, that is, cancellation of medical insurance and penalties that will be applied should they need to re-instate medical insurance; his further views that this medical card should remain with the client for the period of time that it was issued; the person responsible for this error; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33599/11]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

188 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the number of applications received in the west region of the Health Service Executive for the fair deal scheme in 2011; the number of applications approved; the number of applications awaiting approval; the average time to process an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33662/11]

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

Departmental Reports

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

189 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health when the report on symphysiotomy commissioned in June will be completed; and the consultation that has been undertaken with the victims’ groups in relation to the publication. [33664/11]

The independent academic researcher appointed to complete a report into the practice of symphysiotomy has advised my Department that she experienced unforeseen difficulties in accessing information sources and, as a result, she expects to complete the report this month rather than as originally planned. I am very conscious that the women who underwent this procedure are anxious for this report to be completed as soon as possible but I also mindful that quality and accuracy must take precedence over speed.

As soon as the draft report is received my Department will further engage with patient representative groups and the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

It is my intention that the report be published, subject of course to the usual legal and related considerations which as of now are not expected to create any significant barriers to publication.

Legislative Programme

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

190 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health if there are plans to amend the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005; the reasons for such amendments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33687/11]

Government approval was given on 26th July 2011 to the drafting of the Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill to:

(i) remove difficulties in relation to the effective operation of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council, in particular to urgently provide for the Minister to continue to appoint professional representatives to the Council from the designated professions under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, whose term of office expired in March 2011, and

(ii) implement Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications in respect of the professions designated under the 2005 Act and provide a legal base for the assessment of qualifications which are outside the scope of the Directive.

Work is ongoing with the Office of the Attorney General with regard to the drafting of these amendments and it is hoped that the Bill will be enacted in 2012. These amendments are technical in nature and simply facilitate the more effective operation of the Act.

Health Service Staff

Simon Harris

Ceist:

191 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Health the background and qualification checks he and the Health Service Executive carry out on agency care assistants; the way these assistants are monitored while assigned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33705/11]

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

Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 178.

Tourism Industry

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

193 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the yearly increase in visitor numbers to Ireland this year over last year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33506/11]

Recent figures from the Central Statistics Office show that trips to Ireland for the first eight months of 2011 were up by 11% compared to the corresponding period in 2010. There were 4,481,800 overseas visitors to Ireland during the eight-month period. All of our main overseas markets showed an increase in visitor numbers for the eight month period with Mainland Europe up by 13%, visitors from Britain up by 8.3%, visitors from North America up by 12.6% and Other (i.e. long-haul) markets showing a 17.5% increase. Even taking account of the disruption experienced in 2010 due to the Volcanic Ash cloud, this is significant and real growth.

These figures are very encouraging and show that the Irish tourism industry is on track to record growth in overseas visitors for the first time since 2007. The challenge now is to maintain this momentum for the remainder of this year and into 2012. In this regard, I am pleased that the additional cooperative marketing campaign between Tourism Ireland and airlines, ferry operators and travel agents that I recently announced is now underway and will seek to build on this growth. Furthermore, I will be launching Tourism Ireland's 2012 Marketing Plans at the end of this month.

Driving Tests

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of persons who applied for their driving test between 4 January and 1 November 2011; the number of persons who took their driving test between 4 January and 1 November 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33529/11]

The operation of the driving test is the responsibility of the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the Deputy's question to the RSA for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.

Road Fatalities

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

195 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a breakdown on a county basis of the number of road deaths that have occurred on roads here for the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33591/11]

Responsibility for compilation and provision of road collision statistics rests with the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the Deputy's question to the RSA for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten working days.

Rail Network

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

196 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he or Irish Rail will be conducting an investigation into the way the scaffolding and associated refurbishment works on the railway bridge over the Dodder River near Lansdowne Road, Dublin, contributed to the flooding of nearby homes due to the collection of tree branches and other debris on the overhanging structure not ordinarily in place there (details supplied), resulting in river waters accumulating and breaching the flood walls along the river bank; the contribution that will be made to rectify the financial damage visited on the local residents due to the presence of these works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33598/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. Noting this I have referred the Deputy's question to Iarnród Éireann for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has identified costs affecting the transport sector here as compared to such costs in competing jurisdictions; the actions needed to address any such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33690/11]

I refer to my previous replies to the Deputy in relation to this matter — reference Dáil questions numbers 224, 226, 227, 230 on 1 June, numbers 56, 182 and 183 on the 6 July and number 216 on 29 September, 2011.

International comparative data on transport costs are not readily available from respected international statistical sources such as Eurostat and the International Transport Forum. My Department has no direct control of transport costs in general but keeps under review costs arising from the services provided through our agencies. Cost competitiveness is a key consideration for Ireland as an open export-oriented economy and transport is one of the many factors influencing that competitiveness. The Government's plans to improve competitiveness are set out in the Programme for Government and place a heavy emphasis on the delivery of effective transport services. I have also outlined my priorities to 2016 for the Transport, Tourism and Sport sectors on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which comparisons have been made between airport charges here and those applicable in competing jurisdictions; the degree to which any such issues can be addressed with a view to ensuring the competitiveness of the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33691/11]

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) regulates airport charges levied at Dublin Airport since 2001. Airport charges at Cork and Shannon Airports are set by the relevant airport authority while charges at the six regional airports, which are owned and operated independently, are a matter for each airport concerned.

A study of airport charges conducted in 2010 by the Airports Council International (ACI) found that Dublin Airport's charges were amongst the lowest of comparable metropolitan airports in Europe. Cost comparative exercises however are not straight forward and need to be approached cautiously, particularly given the impact that subsequent developments at individual airports and currency movements can have.

This Government is committed to delivering increasing routes, airlines and passenger numbers through Irish airports and to this end has developed a comprehensive three-pronged strategy to encourage in-bound tourism. Included in this strategy is a new growth incentive scheme which has been introduced by the Dublin Airport Authority applying to the three airports under its remit. It provides for a rebate scheme for airlines, depending on passenger growth at the airports in question. The package also includes a commitment to abolish the travel tax, subject to agreement on the re-instatement of routes and the restoration of lost capacity, and more targeting co-operative marketing of new routes from key source tourism markets.

Departmental Expenditure

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which infrastructure investment is likely to take place in respect of roads, rail or other transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33692/11]

Funding for all capital transport projects for the next five years will be determined in the context of the capital review which will be published tomorrow. I will announce my Department's plans for capital expenditure immediately thereafter.

Transport Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has had discussions with stakeholders in the transport sector with a view to identifying any issues needing attention or resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33693/11]

Since my appointment as Minister, I have sought to meet with the Chairpersons and Senior Management of the State agencies for which I have responsibility. These meetings provide a valuable opportunity for both myself and the Chairpersons to raise issues of relevance. Additionally, officials of my Department maintain contacts at various levels with agencies and other stakeholders on an ongoing basis.

My Department also consulted recently with all stakeholders in the transport, tourism and sport areas in the context of the preparation of a new Statement of Strategy. The views expressed by stakeholders have helped to formulate the proposed strategies.

Questions Nos. 201 and 202 answered with Question No. 38.

Tourism and Leisure Sectors

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has examined the potential for expansion in the tourism sector in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33696/11]

The Government has taken a number of initiatives to encourage growth in the tourism sector.

The Jobs Initiative recognises the vital contribution of tourism to employment, economic activity and exports. The reduced VAT rate on a range of labour-intensive tourism services from 13.5% to 9% is a major concession providing an opportunity to enhance the competitiveness of Irish tourism.

The Government has also reduced the cost of employing people by halving employers' PRSI for those on modest wages and also by reviewing the regulatory framework for employment in a range of sectors.

The new National Internship Scheme (NIS) provides an opportunity for the tourism industry to take on interns in a range of areas.

The Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme will allow persons from selected countries granted leave to enter the UK as a tourist or business visitor to be able to travel to Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa.

These measures should help grow and sustain employment in the sector. I hope that we are beginning to see a recovery across the various overseas source markets for Ireland — with trips to Ireland for the first eight months of 2011 up by 11% compared to the corresponding period in 2010, including growth of 8.3% from Britain, 12.6% from North America, and 17.5% from other source markets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which he has engaged with the various sporting authorities with a view to utilisation of the leisure sector in the context of national economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33697/11]

I recognise that the Sport sector generates a significant economic return on Exchequer investment. Both myself and Minister of State Ring have ongoing dialogue with the key sport stakeholders on the strategic issues and challenges facing the sector and on the sport policy priorities and actions required for the future development of Irish sport to continue to maximise the economic benefits of the sector.

Swimming Pool Projects

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when it is expected that necessary funding will be provided for the provision of a swimming pool at Leixlip, County Kildare, with particular reference to the population expansion in the area and the recreational need accruing therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33698/11]

The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme was closed to new applicants on 31 July 2000 and no application was made in respect of a public swimming pool for Leixlip before that date.

Under the current round of the programme, 58 applications were received, of which 46 projects have been completed and opened to the public, and 12 other projects are at various stages of development. The priority now is to work with the relevant local authorities in completing the remaining 12 pool projects, which are included in the current round. Since the current round commenced in 2000, total expenditure to date has amounted to €146.21m million and this has leveraged a total investment of some €412m in respect of swimming pools throughout the country. A sum of €6.65m was allocated to the programme in 2011.

No decision has been taken on the timing of a new round of the programme. If the programme re-opens it would be open to each Local Authority, including Kildare County Council on behalf of Leixlip, to submit an application under the terms that will apply.

Sports Capital Programme

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects to be in a position to respond to various sporting and recreational groups for funding under the major and minor capital requirements programme; the total amount available under such headings in the current year; the extent to which commitments entered into in previous years is likely to absorb such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33699/11]

Capital funding for sports infrastructure is provided through a number of publicly funded capital programmes:

Sports Capital Programme;

Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme;

The development of the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown.

In 2011 the following amounts have been allocated under these headings as follows:

Heading

€m

H1

Sports Capital Programme

€33m

H2

Grants for Swimming Pools

€6.65m

H4

National Sports Campus

€3.5m

A number of allocations have been made this year. In relation to the H1 subhead, the IABA has been allocated €1.25m to improve facilities in boxing clubs and, in particular, with a view to accommodating more female members. Connacht Rugby was allocated €424,000 to carry out works at the Sportsground in the context of the Heineken Cup, and €4.5m has been allocated to Local Authorities in respect of sports capital projects. In relation to the H2 subhead, €10.67m was allocated to Local Authorities for energy updating and enhanced disabled access for 56 swimming pools.

No decision has been made on the timing of a new round of the Sports Capital Programme, and any decision on a new round will be made in the context of the capital expenditure review and the Estimates process.