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 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Prison Accommodation

Clare Daly

Ceist:

13 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the categories of female offenders that will be housed in the new dormitory-style accommodation at the Dóchas Centre; his views on whether dormitory accommodation may prove more problematic than traditional cell-based accommodation due to drug use and possession of other prohibited items; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38009/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that an administrative building on the Dóchas Centre site has been converted into a new accommodation block which will provide an additional 70 spaces. It is expected that this block will be ready for occupation in early 2012. The opening of the new spaces at the Dóchas Centre will assist in alleviating the overcrowding issue.

The ethos upon which the Dóchas Centre was built was that the women prisoners should live together in a community style setting. Women prisoners serving short sentences can be housed in the same areas as women serving longer sentences. The Governor of the Dóchas Centre has the responsibility to determine who resides where within the female prison. This responsibility will remain with prison management when the dormitory style accommodation becomes available. However it is likely that the new accommodation will be used in particular for remand and short term prisoners.

The Irish Prison Service has informed me that there has been a significant reduction in the supply of contraband into the Dóchas Centre since netting was installed over the prison yards earlier this year. Other initiatives introduced in the Dóchas Centre, as well as the male prisons, have significantly reduced the availability of contraband in prisons, including:

tighter control and monitoring of prison visits;

airport style security screening of all staff and visitors coming into the prison;

x-ray scanners to scan all coats and bags/briefcases;

the establishment of the Canine Unit;

increased random searches of prisoner accommodation and it's occupants;

stricter searching of those committed to custody and of those returning to the prison after temporary release, court and after visits.

I am satisfied that significant progress is being made in order to reduce the flow of contraband into the prisons. I do not foresee a difficulty with continuing this good work whatever the style of accommodation.

Mental Illness in Prisons

David Stanton

Ceist:

14 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons in Irish prisons who suffer from mental illness; the types of condition from which they suffer; if he is satisfied that prisons are an appropriate location for such persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38066/11]

The prevalence of mental illness is significantly higher among prisoners compared to the general population and the mental health problems suffered by prisoners range from mild to severe. There is a strong argument that persons with severe mental illnesses who are involved in minor offences should be diverted away from the criminal justice system and measures have been undertaken to progress such an approach. However if a serious crime such as a homicide is involved, the issue has to be addressed by the criminal justice system. Furthermore, we also have prisoners properly convicted and imprisoned for serious offences who may develop mental illness after their imprisonment. Depending on the nature and severity of that illness the question has to be determined, as with any illness, whether it can be appropriately treated in a prison environment or whether a transfer to a designated centre is required.

A study undertaken in 2003 by the National Forensic Mental Health Service found that there is an excess of those with severe mental illness in all parts of the Irish prison population. The report estimated that 3.7% of male committals, 7.5% of males on remand, 2.7% of sentenced males and 5.4% of female prisoners should be diverted to psychiatric services, while as many as 20% of male committals and 32% of female committals needed to be seen by a psychiatrist.

In 2006 the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy published its report "Vision for Change". That report recognised the pivotal role of primary care in addressing the mental health needs of the population and noted that it is widely recognised that 90% of mental health problems can be dealt with in primary care without referral to a specialist mental health service. In each prison primary care is the model of care through which health care is delivered; it is the linchpin of the prison health care system and where a prisoner experiences a mental health issue the prison doctor is usually the first point of contact. The Central Mental Hospital National Forensic Mental Health Service provides 20 consultant led in-reach sessions weekly by arrangement at all Dublin prisons and also at Portlaoise and the Midlands Prisons. Specialist in-reach services are in place for consultant led mental health sessions in the remaining prisons.

The World Health Organisation has awarded a "Health in Prisons Best Practice Award 2011" to the recently opened High Support Unit in Mountjoy Prison. The High Support Unit is a 9 bed facility opened in the Medical Unit of Mountjoy Prison in December 2010. It provides expert, supportive, short term input for prisoners who are in an acutely disturbed phase of a mental illness or require increased observation for a physical ailment, which has attendant increased risks. It provides a more controlled and supportive environment for a vulnerable prisoner as a short term intervention. The Irish Prison Service are exploring the possibility of expanding on this initiative by opening similar Units in other prison institutions.

There are prisoners who should more properly be treated in some form of therapeutic environment. The Criminal Law (Insanity) Acts 2006 and 2010 provides for the transfer of prisoners to the Central Mental Hospital.

The existing arrangements do give rise to problems. An interdepartmental group has being designated to examine the issue of people with mental illness coming into the criminal justice system and this is in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Review Group which were approved by Government last July. My officials are consulting with the Department of Health on the arrangements involved including the terms of reference and an announcement will be made shortly.

National Women’s Strategy

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

15 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the outstanding elements of the national women’s strategy to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37933/11]

The National Women's Strategy 2007-2016 was published by the previous Government in 2007. The aims of the strategy are largely in line with the policies of the present Government. Its actions are being implemented by a wide range of Government Departments and Agencies. It goes without saying that the constraints of the public financial situation apply to some extent. This is a ten-year strategy containing 20 objectives and over 200 actions. Its full implementation cannot be expected after just four years. I was happy to note that considerable progress is being made in the implementation of the strategy and an annual report is published on my Department's website. To highlight some of the key achievements, women's employment has been less adversely affected to date in the recession and the gender pay gap has narrowed further. Significant advances have been made in relation to cancer screening services for women. In my own Department, Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, and the Anti Human Trafficking Unit have been set up. The Minister of State is actively leading work on women in politics and other decision making roles. Among the issues which will need further development are a couple of complex social welfare issues; enhanced caring; a number of health and well-being actions such as the mental health of women in the perinatal period and also the issue of bullying. My Department is undertaking a review of the strategy. This will explore the changed environment, achievements to date, steps to implement outstanding issues and may make recommendations for amendments which the Government will consider.

Domestic Violence

David Stanton

Ceist:

16 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that members of An Garda Síochána have received adequate training to deal with cases of domestic abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38065/11]

The National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014, includes an action to promote and develop understanding and recognition of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence across the State sector. Work in relation to relevant domestic and sexual violence training programmes for the justice sector, including An Garda Síochána, is being progressed by a committee led by Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, an executive office within my Department. The committee expects to finalise its report shortly. During their initial training, all members of An Garda Síochána receive instructions in the handling and investigation of incidents relating to domestic violence. This training includes procedures to be followed when recording reports of domestic violence, first aid training, diversity training and training on safety and barring orders. Additional training is given in the Garda College through a number of outside agencies which include Focus Point, the Rape Crisis Centre, Women's Aid, MOVE and AMEN.

The Garda Síochána Policy on Domestic Violence Intervention has been reviewed in recent years. Revised instructions were issued in 2007 which outlined procedures to be adopted in investigating such incidents. The recently amended Children First — National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011) has also been adopted as Garda policy. The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit within the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, under Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, has national responsibility for the monitoring and implementation of Garda Policy on Domestic Violence within the State. Members of this unit are available to provide expert assistance to District and Divisional officers and there are monitoring mechanisms in place, with a Garda Inspector appointed in every Garda Division, to ensure uniform enforcement countrywide. Members of An Garda Síochána have also attended at international training courses and seminars relative to issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse, with up-to-date information, legislation, guidance and best practice available to all members of An Garda Síochána, through internal mechanisms, to assist in the investigation of such incidents.

Proposed Legislation

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

17 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will publish legislation to consolidate and update the law on bail; the date on which he will provide guidance to the courts on bail in order to reduce the numbers of remand committals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37922/11]

A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights also restrict the extent to which the right to bail can be limited. Prior to the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, bail could be refused essentially only on the grounds that a person would be likely to abscond or interfere with witnesses. The Bail Act 1997, which gave effect to the terms of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, provides for the refusal of bail to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. I am conscious of public concern about the extent to which offences continue to be committed by people on bail. I share that concern. I believe the bail law must be continually reviewed to ensure all possible avenues are taken to protect the public against the commission of crime, particularly serious crime, by people on bail. Accordingly, my Department has been engaged in work to consolidate and update the bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law. The proposed legislation is being drawn up to operate within the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights. It will also have a focus on the protection of the individual and of the public. My intention is that the new proposals will provide better guidance to the courts on how such protection might be provided. I am also taking the opportunity to introduce some general improvements to bail law to improve the overall working of the bail system. I will bring proposals to the Government on the matter shortly.

Coroners Service

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

18 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will reintroduce the Coroners Bill 2007 to enable an overhaul of the Coroners Service, allowing the modernisation of death investigation, post-mortem and inquest procedures, and ensuring that Ireland complies with European jurisprudence and our obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in order that those who die in the care or custody of the State are guaranteed in law a public inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37880/11]

The Coroners Bill 2007 is before the Seanad having been restored to the Order Paper on my initiative. The Bill is in the course of being reviewed in my Department with a view, among other matters, to making it as cost-effective as possible. The Bill, as published, provides for the comprehensive reform of the existing legislation and structures relating to coroners and provides for the establishment of a new Coroner Service. The Bill incorporates many of the recommendations made by the Coroners Review Group in 2000 and the Coroners Rules Committee in 2003 and it aims to fulfil various obligations placed on the State by the European Convention on Human Rights and, particularly, the Article 2 requirement in relation to the investigation of deaths of people involving the State. The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 provides for some early reforms in coronial matters, including an amalgamation of the Dublin County and City coronial districts.

The Deputy will appreciate that the inquest is the main means by which the State fulfils its obligations under Article 2 of the Convention to investigate objectively and publicly any death that involves State authorities. At present, all deaths in prison custody are the subject of a Garda investigation and an inquest held by a coroner. The cause of death is determined by a jury on the basis of the information presented to the coroner. The circumstances of each death in prison custody are also examined by a multi-disciplinary group in each institution. The objective is to identify, where possible, measures which might be implemented to contribute to a reduction in the risk of deaths in the future. The Prison Rules 2007 are also being amended to reflect the recommendations of Inspector of Prisons in his report "Guidance on Best Practice relating to the Investigation of Deaths in Prison Custody". The effect of the amendment proposed will provide for an investigation which will be robust, independent and transparent. Investigations will be conducted by independent persons who will undertake an investigation into all deaths in prison. In the interim, the Irish Prison Service has, on an administrative basis, put in place an independent process for the investigation of deaths in prison in advance of the matter being placed on a statutory footing. This independent investigative system has been in place since March 2011.

Deaths in Garda custody, widely defined, are also the subject of distinct independent investigations. A death in Garda custody is defined as a death which takes place in the period after a person comes into the custody and control of a member of the Garda Síochána and before they leave Garda custody and control. It includes, for example, not only a death at the time of arrest, or in a Garda station, but the death of a person in hospital for treatment while still in Garda custody. Such deaths are the subject of an inquest but, in addition, under section 102(1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is required to refer to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission any matter that appears to indicate that the conduct of a member of the Garda Síochána may have resulted in the death of or serious harm to a person, and the Ombudsman Commission must immediately conduct its own independent investigation into the matter. As matters stand under the Human Rights Act 2003, our courts are required to interpret Irish legislation in so far as possible in a manner compatible with the State's obligations under the European Convention provisions. It means that coroner law is enabled to be interpreted in a manner compatible with Convention law and jurisprudence. It is my intention to progress the Coroners Bill as soon as possible in the New Year.

Legal Aid Service

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

19 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for the legal aid system in 2012; if he is planning to reduce the fees paid to participating professionals; the budget cuts envisaged for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38019/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that legal aid in Ireland falls under two separate categories, i.e. civil legal aid and criminal legal aid and I will deal with these separately as follows.

Civil legal aid in Ireland is delivered by the Legal Aid Board, which is a statutory independent body. Legal services are delivered through the Board's 29 law centres and a small number of specialist units. The service is complemented through the use of private practitioners.

In the last four years there has been a considerable increase in demand to the Board for legal services and this coincides with the downturn in the economy. In 2007 10,164 persons sought legal services from the Board in relation to general civil (non asylum) matters. This figure increased to 17,175 in 2010 and is likely to be greater again this year. Inevitably, this has created huge pressures for the Board and its capacity to deliver legal services within a reasonable period of time. As of the 1 November 2011, there were just under 4,800 persons waiting for a first appointment with a solicitor. This compares to 1,681 on the 1 January 2009. It is worth pointing out, though, that certain types of priority cases, domestic violence for example, receive an immediate or near immediate service and these account for about 15% of all legal aid cases.

The challenge for the Board in 2012 will be to continue to provide services in view of the significant increase in demand coupled with the fact that increasing the funding for the service is not currently a viable option. The Board's grant-in-aid, which accounts for the vast majority of its funding, has fallen from almost €27 million in 2008 to just over €24 million this year. Funding allocations for the Board for 2012 will of course be announced next week.

The Legal Aid Board has already taken a number of steps in order to try to optimise the service in view of the pressures it is under. I am aware that the Board's Chief Executive has been working on options to further respond to the situation in respect of the demand for the service. One approach which will be considered is a pilot ‘triage' service early in 2012. The objective of the triage service will be to ensure that every applicant for services gets to see a solicitor for the purpose of getting early legal advice within a short period of time.

The House will be aware that since the 1 November the Board has assumed responsibility for the Family Mediation Service. I took the decision to integrate the Family Mediation Service into the Board because it is my view that mediation in many family law cases offers a better route and outcome for the parties than the adversarial environment of the courts. I am informed that the Board is currently reviewing the operation of the State funded mediation service with a view to achieving synergies with its legal services and better options in terms of resolving family disputes.

The Board keeps under review the arrangements on which it retains professionals (primarily solicitors and barristers). The arrangements of foot of which barristers are retained have been in place since 1998 and are currently under review. There will be a level of restructuring of the current arrangements which will involve a reduction in the fees payable in most case types. The Board considers that the proposed revised arrangements will not significantly impact on the availability of barristers to take cases. It is not anticipated that there will be a significant reduction in the overall amount the Board pays to barristers — what is anticipated is that there will be more cases done for the same amount of money.

As the Deputy will be aware, the nature of Criminal Legal Aid is that it is demand led and is driven by the incidence of crime, detection rates and prosecution of cases through the courts system. It is therefore, difficult to control costs but in the current circumstances it is essential to do everything possible to control and reduce expenditure across all areas of the criminal justice system, including criminal legal aid.

A range of cost reduction measures were implemented this year including a 10% reduction in the fees and rates payable to legal practitioners under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme. As these reductions were introduced in the third and fourth quarters of this year, their full impact on expenditure will not be apparent until 2012.

I am aware of the impact on the legal profession of these reductions and have been concerned to ensure that legal representation can continue to be provided to those who need it. As with other sectors of the economy, the cumulative effect of reductions in fee rates paid has been a source of deep concern amongst practitioners about the level of cuts and the financial implications for firms and their employees. However, as the Deputy will appreciate, at this point there is no area of our society that is not feeling the effects of reduced incomes and the difficult economic climate.

I am not prepared to give an absolute commitment that there will be no reduction in the rates of fees paid under the scheme in 2012. This would be irresponsible given that I cannot know with certainty how economic matters will progress in the very volatile climate in which we find ourselves. However, what I can say is that every effort is being made to avoid that possibility. In that regard, the Task Force which I established to identify any structural changes necessary within the Courts system to achieve cost reductions in the medium to longer term, has identified a number of measures which have the potential to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, not just on criminal legal aid, but for other parts of the Justice sector such as An Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service. I have instructed my officials to move to implement these initiatives, where possible, by end 2012 and to ensure that any measures that require, for example, legislative change are prioritised.

I am fully committed, as are my colleagues, to delivering savings and meeting the public expenditure targets for 2012 which will become known after the Budget to be announced next week.

The Deputy should also be aware that in addition to the cost reduction measures, I intend to publish in 2012 a new Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Amendment Bill which will, amongst other measures, include a provision to transfer responsibility for the management and administration of criminal legal aid from the Department to the Legal Aid Board.

Prison Visiting Committees

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

20 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the specific actions he has taken in response to the reports of prison visiting committees laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38027/11]

The reports highlighted a number of issues across the prison system but there was also an acknowledgement of the efforts made by the Irish Prison Service to address the issues despite limited resources.

As I outlined in the House last week, several issues have been addressed. These include, for example, increased Library access in the Dóchas Centre; consideration to increasing the number of dedicated phone lines and call queuing to make it easier to pre-book visits in the Midlands Prison; efforts to reduce the number of prisoners on 23 hour lock up in Mountjoy Prison and more structured access to the Library there.

I fully accept that further improvements are needed. This Government remains committed to tackling overcrowding, poor physical conditions in our prisons, and to eliminate where possible the problem of slopping out. An extensive project to upgrade and provide in-cell sanitation to more than 100 cells in Mountjoy Prison will be completed shortly. The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, recently wrote to me congratulating my Department and the Irish Prison Service on the work carried out.

A similar renovation of B Division will result in 317 cells in Mountjoy Prison having in-cell sanitation by the end of next year, almost 60% of the total prison. The completion of the Midlands Prison extension and the provision of 70 extra dormitory style spaces in the Dóchas Centre will mean that approximately 80% of the prisons estate will have in-cell sanitation by mid 2012.

The World Health Organisation has awarded a "Health in Prisons Best Practice Award 2011" to the recently opened High Support Unit in Mountjoy Prison; and to the Red Cross Project which has been rolled out in Wheatfield, Cloverhill, Shelton Abbey and Mountjoy Prisons.

As regards the specific issues highlighted in the Dóchas Centre in 2010, I am informed that procedures are now in place which respect the dignity of the prisoner and ensure that searches are conducted in a professional manner by the staff involved and I expect those procedures to be fully complied with. A working group has also been established to oversee the implementation of guidelines on prisoner releases to ensure such a situation as that reported by the Committee does not arise in the future.

Finally, I announced plans some time ago to strengthen the independent oversight of our prisons. Under new legislation to be prepared, I intend to make Visiting Committees more effective while they continue their role of visiting prisons, meeting with prisoners, and liaising on their behalf with prison authorities. The arrangements for membership of the Committees will be changed and a link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons.

Human Trafficking

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

21 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of victims of human trafficking under 18 years of age who have been identified during each of the past five years; the number of times during each of the past five years that his administrative immigration arrangements for the protection of victims of human trafficking provided for a period of recovery and reflection of longer than 60 days; the length of time allocated in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37910/11]

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008 came into effect on 7 June 2008. I am informed by the Garda authorities that since then An Garda Síochána have undertaken human trafficking investigations involving 49 suspected victims under the age of eighteen as follows:

Year

Number

June to December 2008

6

2009

17

2010

19

2011 (to date)

7

Administrative Immigration Arrangements for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking, which included provisions for granting a 60-day recovery and reflection period, if required, and a 6 month temporary residence permission for persons who wish to cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking offence were also put in place with effect from 7 June 2008. The Administrative Immigration Arrangements for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking were amended on 9 March 2011 to include a provision that where a person below the age of 18 years who is not the holder of a valid permission to be in the State is identified as a suspected victim of trafficking, a recovery and reflection period of a duration greater than 60 days may be granted having regard to the arrangements in place for the care and welfare of the child.

To date, a recovery and reflection period of a duration greater than 60 days has not been granted where a person below the age of 18 years who is not the holder of a valid permission to be in the State is identified as a suspected victim of trafficking. 60 days recovery and reflection periods have been granted to two persons below the age of 18 years who were not the holders of a valid permission to be in the State to date, one in 2009 and one in 2010.

Irish Prison Service

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

22 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which the five-year capital strategy for the Irish Prison Service will be completed and published. [37920/11]

A new Five Year Prison Capital Programme from 2012-2016 is currently being drafted by the Irish Prison Service in the context of the revised capital allocations which I announced recently. I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that it has not been the practice in the past to formally publish Prison Capital Programmes. However, the one currently being drafted can be made available to the Deputy when it is finalised in early 2012.

Departmental Funding

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

23 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason funds provided to an organisation (details supplied) to support the community alert scheme have been cut; and if he will review the decision in view of the impending closure of many rural Garda stations. [38042/11]

In the context of the fiscal difficulties being experienced in the economy and in keeping with the budgetary cutbacks which are consequently necessary, it is regrettably necessary to reduce the level of support which my Department is in a position to provide to Community Alert in 2011. Funding totalling €137,000 has been provided to Community Alert in 2011. I would like to emphasise that this reduction in funding is due to the current position in the public finances and that the work of Community Alert continues to be highly valued.

The position regarding my Department's funding of Community Alert will be kept under ongoing review.

Prison Accommodation

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

24 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to reduce overcrowding in Cork prison; the timeframe he will use to achieve this reduction; and the date on which the practice of slopping out will end completely in Cork prison. [37915/11]

As I announced recently, the Government remains very much committed to addressing the twin problems of overcrowding and poor physical conditions, particularly in Mountjoy and Cork prisons.

Since my announcement of its 2012 Capital Allocation (€24.1 million), the Irish Prison Service has commenced work on developing a five year strategy for the continued enhancement of the prison estate including the provision of in-cell sanitation. While it is not possible at this time to be specific on the funding for use in respect of Cork prison, I can assure the Deputy that the need to improve conditions there will form a significant element of the Prison Service's strategy.

Citizenship Applications

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

25 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation to allow the conferral of citizenship on children of Irish parents born through surrogacy in other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37879/11]

The law as it stands allows children born through surrogacy arrangements to acquire Irish citizenship, provided the commissioning father is the biological father of the child. Such a father may apply to court for a declaration of paternity under section 35 of the Status of Children Act 1987. Once paternity is established the child can be determined to be an Irish citizen.

Given the complex way in which existing law, domestic and international, applies to surrogacy matters, a guidance document for people who are considering arranging for a surrogate mother to give birth to a child outside the State is being prepared by an interdepartmental group coordinated by the Office of the Attorney General. I expect that the guidance document will be finalised for publication shortly.

I have already indicated that I intend in due course to develop proposals for legislation on surrogacy.

Probation Service Staff

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

26 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons employed by the Probation Service as probation officers during each of the years since 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37907/11]

I am advised that the number of staff in whole-time equivalent terms in the Probation Service who are Probation Officers including Senior Probation Officers and Assistant Principal Probation Officers for each of the years is as follows:

Year end

Number

2005

280

2006

280

2007

285

2008

332

2009

296

2010

286

The Deputy will note that the current number of Probation Officers approximates to the number at the end of 2007.

Legal Services Bill

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

27 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the new regulatory arrangements recommended by the Competition Authority regarding the Legal Services Bill; if it commented on the importance of maintaining the independence of the regulatory arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37934/11]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

37 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, in view of the extensive regulatory regime associated with the Legal Services Bill, if a regulatory impact assessment was carried out; if he will provide a copy of that assessment or outline its findings; if no impact assessment has been carried out, whether he intends to arrange to have one done; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37935/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 37 together.

In the Programme for National Recovery 2011-16, the Government has undertaken to "establish independent regulation of the legal professions to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints". The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, published on 12 October, provides the statutory framework for delivering these commitments.

By the same token, the Bill supports the urgent objectives of structural reform, national competitiveness and economic recovery contained in the EU-IMF-ECB Memorandum of Understanding, while taking account of relevant recommendations made by the Legal Costs Working Group in 2005 and by the Competition Authority in 2006. The intervening and unprecedented developments which necessitated the EU-IMF-ECB Memorandum continue to shape the Government's determination of appropriate policy responses, including in relation to legal services and legal costs.

On 17th October, I briefed the EU-IMF-ECB Troika on the provisions of the new Legal Services Regulation Bill. The Troika considered the Bill to have met both the spirit and the letter of the Government's relevant undertakings. I am confident that the new Legal Services Regulation Bill will contribute to better regulation and competitiveness in the provision of legal services in the State. There will be greater transparency and accountability in relation to legal costs for the benefit of all concerned. Officials of my Department have recently met with the Competition Authority which has been welcoming of the Bill and its key provisions — including that of establishing an independent regulator. Under the Bill -

there will be a new and independent Legal Services Regulatory Authority with responsibility for oversight of both solicitors and barristers with a lay majority in its membership and a lay chair; the Bill contains a number of provisions to ensure that the Legal Services Regulatory Authority and the legal professions are free from government interference or control in the discharge of their functions

there will be an independent complaints mechanism within the new regulatory authority to deal with allegations of professional misconduct against solicitors and barristers. This will be supported by a new independent Legal Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal which will be independent of the Regulatory Authority and of the professional bodies

the Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator will assume the role of the existing Office of the Taxing- Master. The new Office will have enhanced transparency in its functions and publish its determinations. The legal costs regime will be brought into the open with supporting guidelines and greater public entitlement to legal costs information.

The Second Stage debate on the Bill is expected to commence in the coming weeks and I will be outlining my intentions in relation to Committee Stage amendments at the appropriate time. I am, of course, open to further discussion on ways in which we might strengthen aspects of the Bill. I believe that, with the constructive engagement of all concerned, the Bill provides a framework within which we can achieve an appropriate balance of the principles of professional independence and of independent regulation and make them mutually reinforcing.

While a preliminary regulatory impact assessment had been in preparation it did not prove possible to complete it for publication at the same time as the Bill due to the exceptionally demanding EU/IMF deadline that applied. However, I am happy to say that work on a regulatory impact assessment for the Bill is near completion and that it will be made available in the near future.

Criminal Assets Bureau

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

28 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amend the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37928/11]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime.

An Expert Group, established under the auspices of my Department, is currently reviewing the Proceeds of Crime legislation with a view to identifying possible improvements which would serve to enhance the powers of the Bureau.

The Expert Group is engaged in a comprehensive review of the operation of the legislation with particular regard to the experience of the Bureau to date.

I can inform the Deputy that the Group is reviewing a number of matters including decreasing the amount of time which must elapse before criminal assets which have been frozen become the property of the State; increasing the powers of receivers over properties so as to immediately deprive criminals of the use of those properties; short term seizure of assets believed to be the proceeds of crime pending determination by the courts and further improving measures supporting international cooperation.

When that work concludes I will bring forward my proposals in the normal way.

Related to the issue of further improvements to international cooperation in this area, the Deputy may wish to be aware that at European level I am currently engaged in the promotion of a European wide regime for the confiscation of proceeds of crime, based on the model currently operated in this jurisdiction by the Criminal Assets Bureau. I am strongly of the view that such a regime would strengthen cooperation between the asset recovery agencies of the European Union and provide for a more effective European response to the proceeds of crime.

Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 12.

Residency Permits

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

30 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of migrant women with dependant immigration status who have experienced domestic violence and applied for independent status; and the number of these women who were granted independent status and were facilitated with access to the labour market or social welfare system. [37913/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that applications from non-EEA women in the situation outlined by the Deputy are dealt with on a case by case basis and independent status is granted where the known circumstances of the case warrant it. In considering the circumstances of each such application every effort is made to ensure that the most appropriate permission stamp is granted consistent with overall public policy and the requirement to ensure that the integrity of the immigration system is upheld.

I am advised that very few non-EEA women who have experienced domestic violence have applied to my Department for independent status. However, where applications were made and the persons concerned were able to substantiate their claim with third party reports an immigration status was granted which allowed them to access the labour force and to apply for State aid where required.

Juvenile Offenders

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

31 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason he will not expand the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to cover St. Patrick’s Institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37924/11]

The powers of the Ombudsman for Children are determined by the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002. Section 11 (1) (e) (iii) of that Act limits the power of investigation as regards actions taken in the administration of prisons and places of detention. However, if an individual detained in the Irish prison system and who is less than eighteen years of age wishes to see the Ombudsman for Children, then the authorities will facilitate access to that person.

The Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 provides for a visiting committee to be constituted for every prison in the State and one of the statutory duties of such committees is to hear any complaints which may be made to them by a prisoner. Under new legislation to be prepared, I intend to make Visiting Committees more effective while they continue their role. The arrangements for membership of the Committees will be changed and a link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons.

The Inspector of Prisons also makes announced and unannounced visits to all prisons including St. Patrick's Institution throughout the year. He has shown a particular interest in juvenile prisons systems and has published inspection standards for juvenile offenders in St. Patrick's as a supplement to his general inspection standards.

Prisoner Complaints Procedures

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

32 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amend the 2007 prison rules to introduce independence to the investigation of prisoner complaints; the date on which these changes will occur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37929/11]

The Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 provides for a Visiting Committee to be constituted for every prison in the State and one of the statutory duties of such committees is to hear any complaints which may be made to them by a prisoner. Under new legislation to be prepared, I intend to make Visiting Committees more effective while they continue their role. The arrangements for membership of the Committees will be changed and a link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons.

There are also procedures within the Irish Prison Service (IPS) for the investigation of complaints by prisoners. I am not satisfied that the existing IPS procedures are sufficiently robust and independent of the local staff to meet best practice for the investigation of serious complaints. It is my intention to bring forward amendments to the Prison Rules 2007 which will introduce an independent element to the investigation. I have recently asked the Inspector of Prisons to give consideration to this matter and to advise me as to the most appropriate approach to be taken in an Irish context so as to ensure compliance with best practice. The Inspector's views will then be taken into account in relation to the framing of the amended Rules in this regard.

The Deputy can be assured that every effort will be made to finalise this work as soon as possible.

Prison Visiting Committees

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

33 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will publish new legislation covering prison visiting committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37926/11]

On 17 May last, the Government approved my proposals for preparation of the General Scheme of a Bill which will include provisions concerning the future role, composition and reporting arrangements of Prison Visiting Committees. These provisions are aimed at maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of the committees.

The proposed legislation will also provide a statutory framework to enable ratification of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP-CAT) and put the current arrangements for periodic visits to the State by the Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) on a statutory footing. The UN protocol provides for a system of inspections of places of detention at both UN and national level.

When work on preparation of the General Scheme is completed, I will be seeking Government approval for its publication to facilitate a consultation process in advance of drafting and publication of the Bill.

Traveller Community

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

34 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which a decision will be made regarding the granting of ethnicity status to members of the Traveller community. [37931/11]

During the course of the examination by a working group of the UN Human Rights Council of Ireland's report to that Council, prepared under the Universal Periodic Review procedures of the Council, my colleague, Minister Shatter, was asked, among many other matters, about the position of Travellers in Irish society.

One delegation specifically recommended that Ireland should recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority while other interventions were of a more general nature. Minister Shatter replied that serious consideration is being given to granting such recognition.

I am aware of the long standing wish of some Travellers that such status be granted but equally that there is no unanimity among Travellers about this issue. The previous Government was of the view that Travellers are not an ethnic minority.

I am also aware that dialogue between staff of my Department and representatives of Traveller organisations has taken place on the issue, most recently on 11 November 2010, during the course of a seminar on the third State report under the Council of Europe Convention on National Minorities.

Consideration is ongoing and it is intended that the question will be before the Government for decision as soon as possible.

Prisoner Releases

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

35 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to expand the numbers of prisoners participating in the pilot project on early temporary release; his plans to continue this pilot project beyond the current six-month lifespan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37919/11]

A number of key recommendations contained in the Thornton Hall Review Group Report are receiving priority attention in my Department and many are in the process of being implemented, most notably the introduction of an incentivised scheme for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service. In this regard, a six month pilot project commenced in October 2011 in which it is envisaged that a total of 130 prisoners will participate. I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that 39 prisoners have been released under the scheme to date with 5 more due for release this week, and a further 13 the following week. An evaluation of the pilot project will be undertaken after six months following which a decision will be made regarding any future plans.

Garda Vetting Service

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

36 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 225 CAO courses require Garda vetting for applicants; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that this means persons who committed very minor offences unrelated to education are prevented from applying to these courses in the absence of spent convictions legislation; the date on which he will introduce spent convictions legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37912/11]

Certain courses offered by the Higher Education Institutions through the Central Applications Office (CAO) require students to undertake placements that bring them into contact with children or vulnerable adults. Before a student can undertake such a placement, he or she must be vetted by the Garda Central Vetting Unit. This is a standard requirement that applies to all employment involving children and vulnerable adults and one that I will be putting on a statutory footing in the Vetting Bill. Details of the courses that are subject to vetting and disclosure requirements are set out on the CAO websitewww.cao.ie.

As the Deputy will be aware, section 258 of the Children Act 2001 provides for the non-disclosure of convictions acquired by persons while under the age of 18, subject to certain conditions, including that the person has not been convicted of another offence during the 3 years following his or her conviction. This non-disclosure provision applies to all offences other than those that fall to be tried by the Central Criminal Court (e.g. murder).

My Department is currently completing the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill which I expect to publish in the New Year. The Bill will provide for the non-disclosure of certain convictions after a number of years has elapsed, where a person is seeking employment. However, anyone wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults will still be required to disclose all prior convictions, and the Gardaí will be permitted to disclose all convictions in these cases. It will be for an employer to decide if those convictions are such as to call into question the suitability of the person to work with children or vulnerable adults.

Finally, the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill is intended to assist the reintegration of offenders by smoothing their path to employment. I would expect that responsible employers, including those providing placements to students on the courses referred to by the Deputy, would only take into account those convictions that are relevant to the employment.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 27.

Human Rights Issues

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

38 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that under the UN Paris Principles the Irish Human Rights Commission holds an A status rating, meaning it must be appropriately mandated and financially secure; and his plans for how the proposed merged body of the IHRC and the Equality Authority would work effectively with less resources. [37914/11]

I wish to draw the Deputy's attention to my statement when I announced the Government's plan to merge the Human Rights Commission and Equality Authority earlier this year. At that time I stated that the new Human Rights and Equality Commission will unequivocally keep faith with the UN Paris Principles on national human rights institutions. The position has not changed since I made that statement.

Prison Accommodation

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

39 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of prisoners currently incarcerated at all locations throughout the country; the number in high-security or other forms of prison, including open prisons; the extent to which rehabilitative or training programmes are available throughout; the total number of prisoners eligible for such schemes; the number currently receiving training or education; the number of any applicants for such programme; the extent to which an examination has been carried out as to the importance of such programmes when prisoners are eventually released into the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38008/11]

The numbers and locations of prisoners as at 28 November 2011 are outlined in the following table.

Institution

Number in custody

Mountjoy

591

Dóchas

128

St Patrick’s

188

Cork

287

Limerick

328

Castlerea

360

Cloverhill

411

Wheatfield

656

Portlaoise

267

Arbour Hill

151

Midlands

582

Training Unit

106

Loughan House

128

Shelton Abbey

105

Total

4,288

Portlaoise is the maximum security prison in the state, Shelton Abbey and Loughan House are the two open centres and the Training Unit is a semi-open facility.

The Irish Prison Service provides a range of rehabilitative programmes which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging and equipping them to lead productive lives on release. Programmes provided include health care, psychiatric, psychological, educational, work and training, vocational, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These interventions are important in addressing offending behaviour, drug and alcohol addiction, missed educational and vocational opportunities, anger management, and self management in the interest of encouraging positive personal development in prisoners, and preparing them for re-integration and resettlement on release from custody. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services.

Following a recommendation by the Inspector Of Prisons in his 2010 Annual Report, an independent education audit has been commissioned by the Irish prison Service on the adequacy, efficiency and relevance of the prison education system. The Psychology Service offers group and individual interventions to all prisoners. A particular emphasis has been put on the development of programmes for prisoners convicted of sex offences and violent offences. Significant progress is also being made in the development of programmes based on risk assessment and rehabilitation needs.

The Irish Prison Service will continue to seek to improve the services available to prisoners insofar as resources allow. In this regard, a number of projects are currently underway which will improve the facilities available. A significant programme of works is nearing completion in the Dóchas Centre where, in addition to improving the overall standard of the Centre, it will provide for additional training workshops and a new training kitchen. At the Midlands prison, as part of the new accommodation block, additional work training and educational facilities are being provided. It is planned to have the block fully commissioned by mid 2012. It will also include a new fully fitted kitchen which will provide enhanced training opportunities for prisoners.

UN Conventions

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

40 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37932/11]

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

The ongoing implementation of our National Disability Strategy in many respects comprehends many of the provisions of the Convention. In addition, the Inter-Departmental Committee on the UNCRPD monitors the remaining legislative and administrative actions required to enable ratification. At the Committee's request, the National Disability Authority, the lead statutory agency for the sector, has independently assessed the remaining requirements for ratification so as to ensure conclusively that all such issues will be addressed.

One of the key requirements in this regard is the enactment of mental capacity legislation. The Government's Legislation Programme as announced on 14 September 2011, indicates that the Mental Capacity Bill is expected to be published in early 2012. The Bill will replace the Wards of Court system with a modern statutory framework governing decision-making on behalf of adults who lack capacity. The passage of this Bill will add substantially to the overall progress on implementation of the requirements towards ratification of the Convention.

Prisoner Releases

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

41 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners who were rearrested within three months of release, six months of release and one year of release. [37925/11]

The Irish Prison Service facilitated a major study of prisoner re-offending by the UCD Institute of Criminology, the findings of which were published in the May 2008 edition of the academic journal, Criminology & Criminal Justice. The recidivism rate was found by this study to be under 50% after 4 years which is in the mid to lower range of recidivism rates when compared to similar countries internationally.

I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the Probation Service is in the process of conducting initial research in order to measure the recidivism rates of offenders under their management. Preliminary findings from the work done to-date indicate that the percentage of offenders who did not commit an offence in the 12 and 24 month periods after their initial conviction is high. However, this is a complex area of study and this research needs to be validated further before exact figures and findings can be published.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

42 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, in the course of the current appraisal of Garda stations and staffing levels throughout the country, he will ensure that adequate resources remain to provide for the maximum possible level of Garda cover in all areas throughout the country, with particular reference to the need to continue relentless pursuit of the activity of criminal gangs; if he will have regard for the known areas in which such gangs have previously concentrated, notwithstanding current or expected financial constraints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38007/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that adequate resources are available to him to enable the Garda to continue in its actions against organised crime; if all of the necessary legislation is now in operation; if further legislation is needed in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38233/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that sufficient resources are available to An Garda Síochána to facilitate the maximum level of activity, including surveillance, intelligence and prosecution, against criminal gangs with a view to a maximum level of attrition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38235/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the necessary resources remain available to the Garda to ensure the maximum level of activity against drug gangs; if such resources will remain available as required in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38238/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is in a position to ensure the highest possible level of Garda activity remains directed against criminal gangs operating in urban and rural environments, regardless of any budgetary constraints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38240/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42, 149, 151, 154 and 156 together.

It is the case that, as with every other public sector organisation, the Garda Síochána is going to have to manage with reduced resources and I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána on 31 October 2011, on the latest date for which figures are readily available was 14,099. Responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends and the situation is kept under continuing review to ensure optimum use is made of all resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

An Garda Síochána pro-actively targets groups and individuals engaged in organised criminal activities. To this end, An Garda Síochána is committed to the use of intelligence-led operations and tactics, including those of specialist national units. As a result of these operations a number of individuals (including members of criminal groups) are before the Courts charged with serious offences. The monitoring of such groups is ongoing and kept under constant review. Members of An Garda Síochána continue to utilise all available legislation, including the additional legislative provisions introduced by the Oireachtas in 2009 which amended the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 relating to organised crime. Multi-disciplinary approaches, such as the Criminal Assets Bureau, are also utilised to ensure the activities of individuals and groups involved in criminal enterprise are effectively targeted.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 12.

Garda Training

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

44 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the recommendations of the Garda Síochána training and development review group report that have been implemented and those which are outstanding; the date on which he expects all the recommendations to have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37909/11]

The information requested is not immediately available and as soon as I receive it from the Commissioner, I will get in contact directly with the Deputy.

Departmental Bodies

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

45 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of both of the groups he has appointed to conduct a strategic review of penal policy and to examine the issue of persons with mental illness in the criminal justice system; the names of persons on both of these groups; the terms of reference of each group; the criteria used to select the appointees; the length of time they will take to review these areas; and the dates on which they will publish their recommendations. [37930/11]

The Deputy will be aware that I established the Thornton Hall Review Group in April, 2011. They reported to me in July 2011 and one of their recommendations was the establishment of an all encompassing strategic review of penal policy which would incorporate an examination and analysis of all aspects of penal policy including prevention, sentencing policies, alternatives to custody, accommodation and regimes, support for reintegration and rehabilitation, the issue of female prisoners and 16 and 17 year olds within the system. On foot of another of its recommendations, an inter-departmental group is being designated to examine the issue of people with mental illness coming into the criminal justice system. I hope to announce details on membership and terms of reference for both groups shortly.

Domestic Violence

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

46 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence as set out in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37911/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 164 to 166, inclusive, of 30 November 2011.

Human Rights Issues

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

47 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the representations he has made to the relevant authorities regarding the human rights of those at Camp Ashraf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38189/11]

I have made clear in answer to previous questions my deep concern about the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, in light of the serious violence which took place in the camp last April and the Iraqi Government's clear insistence that it wishes the camp to be closed by the end of 2011.

Ireland and its EU partners are determined to seek a long-term and peaceful solution to the predicament of the residents of Camp Ashraf and EU Foreign Ministers are scheduled to discuss the question of Camp Ashraf at today's Foreign Affairs Council. I welcome the fact that the High Representative has appointed a Special Envoy, Ambassador Jean de Ruyt of Belgium, to work with the Iraqi authorities, the camp residents and other concerned international actors, including the UN and US, to achieve a peaceful resolution of this situation fully in line with international humanitarian and human rights principles.

A process to manage the closure of the camp, led by the UN, is now getting underway. The UNHCR is undertaking this process to register and determine the status of those in the camp, including whether residents hold nationality of third countries. I fully support the efforts of UN envoy Martin Kobler to mediate between the government of Iraq and Camp Ashraf residents, and urge the Iraqi authorities to extend the deadline for the closure of Camp Ashraf to provide sufficient time to enable the UNHCR to explore resettlement options for camp residents that do not wish to return to Iran and do not have another nationality. It is also imperative that there should be no attempt at forced repatriation of any of those camp residents who do not wish to return to Iran.

Ireland fully recognises Iraqi sovereignty over the whole of its territory, including Camp Ashraf, but this sovereignty also carries with it responsibilities. The Iraqi Government has primary responsibility for the protection of all persons resident on its territory, including Camp Ashraf residents. Ireland, along with our EU partners, strongly condemned the violence which took place in Camp Ashraf last April and I call on the Iraqi government to refrain from the use of violence and to show full respect for the human rights of Camp Ashraf's residents in the period ahead while the UNHCR explores resettlement options.

Passport Applications

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

48 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a passport may be issued to a person who is applying for a passport for the first time and has no alternative identification other than the photograph furnished with the application, which was duly authenticated by a relevant member of An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38248/11]

The Passports Act, 2008 provides,inter alia, that the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be satisfied as to the identity of each applicant for before a passport is issued to him/her. Proofs of identity are required in respect of all passport applications. These requirements, which are outlined both in the passport application form notes that accompany each application form and on the Department’s website www.passport.ie, enhance existing procedures to combat passport and identity fraud. They are also intended to increase public awareness of the importance of a passport in terms of a person’s identity and the need to ensure that people take great care in protecting their passports.

In January this year, a series of changes to passport application procedures for first time adult applicants and those reporting passports lost or stolen was introduced. The changes, which were introduced to combat passport fraud and identity theft, required that applicants in these categories submit additional documentary evidence to establish identity and entitlement to an Irish passport. Particularly in the light of recent high profile international incidents relating to passport fraud, the measures were introduced to protect the integrity and international reputation of the Irish passport. Among the requirements for first-time applicants or for those persons, whose passports have been lost or stolen, is the need to provide an additional form of photo-identification such as a copy of driver's licence, work ID, student card, social club membership or a passport from another country.

In those exceptional cases where an applicant is unable provide any general photographic ID, the Passport Service will require that the applicant complete and have witnessed a certificate of identity. The certificate includes pre-printed details, including the application photograph, and must be witnessed by one from a list of persons, who are acceptable to the Passport Service for this purpose, and who also personally know the applicant. The certificate of identity will be sent to the applicant upon receipt of the original passport application.

Tax Yield

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

49 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the total amount of universal social charge paid by pensioners in receipt of the State pension since the charge was first introduced. [38087/11]

The Universal Social Charge (USC) was introduced on 1 January 2011 and replaced the Income and Health Levies. The USC is not charged on State Pensions paid by the Department of Social Protection.

Tax Code

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

50 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the reason the threshold for qualification to pay the universal social charge was set at €4,004.00 per annum; and if he will raise this figure considerably in budget 2012. [38088/11]

The Universal Social Charge is designed to apply on a wide base with no special exemptions. However, an exemption threshold at €4,004 per annum is included for administrative reasons. It is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Mortgage Arrears

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

51 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding schemes to assist mortgage holders in negative equity; and if he is open to other solutions that assist the customer, the banks and the taxpayer. [38093/11]

There is no scheme in place to assist mortgage holders who are in negative equity but who can meet their repayments and do not wish to move house. Trade down mortgages were recommended in the recently published report of the Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group in appropriate circumstances. In order to ensure that proposals in relation to such mortgages are consistent with the Central Bank's consumer protection and prudential policy objectives, a maximum loan to value ratio and other parameters would need to be agreed between mortgage lenders and the Central Bank.

The Central Bank has advised me that they wrote to all mortgage lenders to ascertain whether they were offering, or intended to offer, a mortgage product that would allow home owners to sell their existing home and transfer the negative equity portion of the original loan to the new loan. In response to the Central Bank's letter, only a small number of mortgage lenders said that they would consider offering such a facility. A trial period commenced in mid-2011 and was due to be assessed by the Central Bank and the institutions involved before the end of the year. However the low level of activity makes it difficult to conduct a meaningful review at this time and the proposed review will not take place until the first half of 2012. Any institution offering such a facility may only do so in accordance with criteria agreed in advance with the Central Bank and subject to a trial period. The Central Bank is concerned as to whether such products are in the long term interest of consumers as it could lead to indebtedness at a time when there is no certainty over the direction of future property values.

Tax Reliefs

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

52 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he will give serious consideration in budget 2012 to abolishing the tax write-off to which Ministers are entitled for the cost of having their clothing dry cleaned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38121/11]

It is long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Tax Code

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

53 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a matter (details supplied) regarding widowers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38122/11]

Individuals in receipt of payments from the Department of Social Protection such as Widow/er's Contributory Pension, Widow/er's Non-Contributory Pension, Deserted Wife's Benefit, Deserted Wife's Allowance or the One Parent Family Payment were exempt from the Health Levy on non-Department of Social Protection income but are not exempt from the Universal Social Charge (USC) on this income. All Department of Social Protection payments, including those mentioned above, are exempt from the USC. Therefore, only non-Social Protection income, if there is any, is subject to the USC.

Medical Card holders pay a concessionary higher rate of USC of 4%. This is a transitional measure and will cease at the end of 2014.

It should be noted that individuals in receipt of a Widow/er's (Contributory) Pension pay less tax than other individuals on the same gross income. This is particularly true of the lower paid widows/ widowers, who have an effective tax rate 7.5 percentage points below other income earners on the same income.

At all income levels the widows/widowers pay less taxes and charges. This is because (i) the Widow/er's (Contributory) Pension is not subject to the USC or PRSI and (ii) Widows/widowers receive a higher personal tax credit of €2,190 per annum (€540 greater than the personal tax credit).

Tax Yield

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

54 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that €520 million revenue would be raised per annum through the application of a 5% levy on the gross income of earners earning more than €120,000 per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38133/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2012 incomes, of the application of a 5% levy to the total gross income of income earners earning in excess of €120,000 per annum would be of the order of €520 million. It should be noted that gross income is as defined in Revenue Statistical Report, 2009.

These figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2012. They are, therefore, provisional and likely to be revised.

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

55 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance the estimated increase in revenue to the Exchequer if a third rate of income tax of 55% was imposed on all income above €100,000; and if he has given consideration to establishing such a rate. [38139/11]

It is assumed that the threshold for the proposed new tax band mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2012 incomes, of the introduction of a new 55% rate would be of the order of €760 million. However, given the current band structures, major issues would need to be resolved as to how in practice such a new rate could be integrated into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners.

This figure is an estimate from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using latest actual data for the year 2009, adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2012. It is, therefore, provisional and subject to revision.

It is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

56 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding tax units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38154/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested, estimated by reference to the income tax year 2011, is set out in the following table:

All income earners for Income Tax Year 2011 (provisional)

Gross Income Range

Gross Income

Numbers

Income Tax Liability

0-50,000

36,479,003,462

1,663,341

2,255,222,703

50,001-100,000

25,835,893,121

380,204

4,407,923,026

100,001-150,000

8,437,490,248

70,892

1,959,539,562

Over 150,000

11,800,226,968

40,162

3,245,170,995

Total

82,552,613,799

2,154,599

11,867,856,286

It should be noted that the income ranges shown in the above table relate to Gross Income as defined in Revenue Statistical Report 2009.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends in the interim. These are, therefore, provisional and likely to be revised. It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Income Statistics

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

57 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the median gross income earned in 2009 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38159/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that based on the incomes of income earners on the income tax record for the tax year 2009 the median gross income is €27,479. It should be noted that gross income is as defined in Revenue Statistical Report, 2009.

The information on incomes is based on income returns on Revenue records at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes, representing about 98% of all returns expected. A married couple who have elected or have been deemed to have elected for joint assessment are counted as one tax unit.

Housing Policy

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

58 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on a proposal regarding the revival of the property market (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38182/11]

I am aware of the proposal to introduce a residential value protection scheme. The scheme as proposed would allow purchasers of new and second hand houses and apartments under €350,000 to insure against the risk of their property falling in value by up to 15 per cent over three years from the date of purchase. The risk would be shared in different proportions by government, financial institutions, the vendor and the purchaser. The proposed scheme would be limited to the first 20,000 applicants. The proposed scheme is a housing policy issue which is a matter for my colleague Mr Phil Hogan TD, Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government and I have asked that the details of the scheme would be forwarded to him for consideration.

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

59 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if an estimate has been provided for the loss of revenue to the State due to cross-Border shopping in each of the years from 2009 to date in 2011; his views on whether retail businesses along the Border will suffer severely as a result of the increase in VAT rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38198/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a number of studies have been undertaken in the last few years to determine the level of cross-Border shopping and how much this affects Exchequer revenue. The Report on the Implications of Cross Border Shopping, which was undertaken on behalf of the Minister for Finance by the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office, was published in March 2009. This was followed on 4 December 2009 by the results of a survey of cross-Border shopping as part of the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) conducted in Quarter 2, 2009. On 12 November 2010, the results of the QNHS cross-Border shopping survey for the year to Quarter 2, 2010 were released. The report undertaken by Revenue and the CSO estimates the value of cross-Border shopping in 2008 in the range of €350m to €550m and the potential loss in VAT and excise revenues at between €58m and €90m (for reference, the higher estimate represents 0.4% of the total VAT and 0.6% of excise revenue in 2008). In addition to the VAT and excise loss, there is a possible corporation tax revenue loss that is tentatively estimated to be in the range of €15m to €24m. However, it should be noted that all estimates for corporation tax revenue should only be considered as indicative of the potential loss given the difficulties in calculating a figure for the direct impact of cross-Border shopping on such activities.

Total household expenditure on cross border shopping in Northern Ireland between Quarter 2 2008 and Quarter 2 2009 is estimated at €435 million. The combined VAT and excise revenue loss is estimated at €63m and a possible corporation tax revenue loss in the range of €19m.

The results of the report for Q2 2010 indicate that 14% of households in the Republic made a shopping trip to Northern Ireland in the twelve months to Q2 2010, compared to 16% in the previous year. While there was an increase in cross-Border shopping in the Border area from 41% to 43% over the year; there was a marked decrease in shopping activity by people from Dublin, where 15% made a shopping trip in 2010, compared with 21% in 2009.

The QNHS also showed that the majority of trips involved purchases of groceries, alcohol, clothing and durables, similar to the previous year. The report estimated that the total expenditure in the year to Q2 2010 on cross-Border shopping trips at €418 million, reduced slightly from €435 million in the previous year. Based on the data contained in the survey, Revenue has estimated that the VAT, Excise and Corporation Tax losses in this period due to cross-Border shopping was in the region of €80 million, a similar level to the €81 million the previous year and suggesting that the level of cross-Border shopping had stabilised.

The statistics in the QNHS Reports were broadly in line with the results of the March 2009 Report on the Implications of Cross Border Shopping, which noted that the main causes of price differentials between goods in Northern Ireland and the Republic were operating costs, profit margin (mark-up), taxes and a significant depreciation of Sterling against the Euro. While variations in the VAT rates widened some price differentials, their impact remained small compared to the significance of the change in the exchange rate.

In the 2010 Budget excise duty on alcohol was reduced by around 20%. In addition, with the increase in the UK standard VAT rate from 15% to 17.5% in 2010 and to 20% on 4 January 2011, there is currently only one percentage point difference between the standard VAT rate in Ireland and the UK, having reduced from 6.5 percentage points in 2009. With the proposed increase in the Irish standard VAT rate to 23% that differential will increase to 3 percentage points. However, it must be pointed out that for most of the last two decades there was a differential of 3.5 percentage points between the VAT rates of both jurisdictions (with Ireland at 21% and the UK at 17.5%).

However, as the CSO and Revenue studies indicates, fluctuations in the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro represent the most significant influence in relation to cross-Border prices. In this respect, the current exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro should provide less incentive for people to shop outside the State, despite proposed increase in the Irish VAT rate.

School Transport

Michael Creed

Ceist:

60 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the contractual arrangement between him and Bus Éireann regarding the operation of the school transport scheme; the cost of this contract; when it is up for review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38077/11]

The School Transport Scheme has, since its inception, been operated by Bus Eireann (formerly CIÉ) on behalf of the Department, and this remains the position.

The 2011 allocation to my Department for the provision of School Transport is almost €180m. This allocation provides for all aspects of school transport provision including the disbursement of grants for eligible recipients.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

61 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 192 of 22 November 2011, if the matter will be reinvestigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38078/11]

The planning and organising of school bus routes is an operational matter for Bus Éireann which operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department. Bus routes are planned in such a way as to ensure that, as far as possible, eligible pupils have a reasonable level of service while at the same time ensuring that school transport vehicles are utilised in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Bus Éireann has advised that the child in question has a morning pick up time of 8.00am (previously this was 8.15am) and a set down time of 9.10am; school commences at 9.20am. The bus service in question provides transport for ten other children and two escorts who travel with the children to and from school.

It is considered to be a reasonable level of service in the context of the general operation of the scheme.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

62 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an extension for a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [38079/11]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. Officials from the Planning and Building Unit of my Department have requested a meeting with the school and the Design Team to expedite the preliminary design process. When completed, the Stage 1 submission which incorporates the preliminary design will be submitted to my Department for technical review.

Thereafter, the next stages for the project will be the completion of stage 2(a) — Developed Sketch Design and stage 2(b) which will include applications for planning permission and other statutory approvals.

I recently announced that a construction programme for 2012 will be published in early December and that a further 5 year construction programme will be announced early in 2012. This school building project will be considered in the context of these construction programmes.

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

63 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a decision has been made on an appeal in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38116/11]

Only one of the students in question has appealed the decision of her grant awarding authority appeals officer to my Department and a decision will issue on this shortly.

While the second student has indicated by a letter attached to a representation from the Deputy that she wishes to appeal the decision of her grant awarding authority, she has not actually made an appeal to the grant awarding authority appeals officer.

In terms of procedure, the applicant must first appeal the decision of the grant awarding authority to its appeals officer.

Where the appeals officer rejects the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department or the independent appeals board, as appropriate.

The relevant grant awarding authority has confirmed that it has not received an appeal from the applicant in question. My Department will be informing the applicant of the correct appeals procedure.

Departmental Bodies

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

64 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rent paid by FÁS on a lease (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38125/11]

The amount paid by FÁS in respect of rent for the Birr Technology Building, Birr, Co. Offaly, is €99,000 per annum plus VAT.

Schools Building Projects

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

65 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made in relation to a proposed school (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38146/11]

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy was included in the School Building Work Programme for 2011 which was announced on 24th January 2011. The project is one of a number of projects which were authorised to complete tender documents in 2011.

The Design Team have recently informed my Department that they are working on finalising the Stage 2b report, which includes the detailed design and tender documentation, for submission to my Department.

When the stage 2(b) submission is received it will be reviewed by my Department and my officials will then contact the school with regard to the further progression of the project.

Special Educational Needs

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

66 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants in schools in County Carlow, and how this compares to the last school year. [38155/11]

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 NCSE has advised all mainstream schools of their SNA allocations for the 2011/12 school year and has recently published statistical information in relation to the allocation of SNA posts and resource teaching hours to Primary Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website at www.ncse.ie.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of SNAs allocated to schools in County Carlow for the current school year is therefore available on the NCSE website. However, as this is the first year that the NCSE has published statistical information in this format, the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of SNAs employed by schools in County Carlow for last year is not readily available.

Departmental Expenditure

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

67 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of money spent on capital investment in schools in County Kildare from 2000 to 2011, broken down by scheme and school. [38174/11]

Officials in my Department are examining the Deputy's request and will be in contact regarding the matter.

Special Educational Needs

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

68 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate whether any assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38205/11]

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 NCSE has now advised all mainstream schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school. The NCSE recently published statistical information on SNA allocations on a county by county and school by school basis on its websitewww.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for Deputy's question regarding an individual application for SNA support to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

School Transport

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

69 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total financial allocation for school transport for 2011; the allocation for the primary sector; the allocation for the second level sector; the total expenditure under the scheme up to the 15 November 2011; the likely expenditure for the full year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38220/11]

The allocation for school transport for 2011 is almost €180m. In general, expenditure for the Primary Sector is in excess of 65% of the annual allocation. Payments made to the end of November will be in the region of €155m with an estimated year end outturn of approximately €172m.

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

70 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students in receipt of grants under the higher education grant scheme for the 2011-12 academic year; the number in receipt of the non-adjacent rate of grant; the number in receipt of the adjacent rate of grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38221/11]

From the information made available to my Department by the 66 grant awarding authorities, 43,082 students have been awarded a grant so far this year under the student grant scheme. This includes both new applications and renewals.

The information from 33 grant awarding authorities in this regard refers to the week ended 11 November 2011. The information from the remaining 33 awarding authorities refers to the week ended 23 September 2011.

The statistical breakdown on the number of students awarded the adjacent rate of grant and the non-adjacent rate of grant will not be made available to my Department by the grant awarding authorities until the end of the academic year.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

71 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total allocation for higher education grants for 2011; the expenditure for 2011 up to 15 November last; the likely expenditure by the end of December; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38222/11]

The allocation for the student grant scheme for the 2011 financial year — which covers both further and higher education — is some €386m.

The expenditure up to the end of November is some €286m. The actual outturn on the student grant scheme will not be known until end of year claims, which are now due, from the 66 grant awarding authorities have been received and processed.

Site Acquisitions

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

72 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has given any consideration to the possibility of developing educational facilities on lands in the ownership of the Department of Defence at Magee Barracks, Kildare town; if he has had any approaches from the Department of Defence in relation to these lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38251/11]

I can confirm to the Deputy that following an assessment of demographic data and the enrolment trends of primary schools in the Kildare Town area, I announced in June of this year that a new primary school will be required for the area in the coming years.

In this regard, my Department is currently considering a number of accommodation options including the possible acquisition of lands at Magee Barracks in the ownership of the Department of Defence. I can confirm that discussions have taken place with Department of Defence officials and a technical inspection of the lands at Magee Barracks has been carried out.

The acquisition of a suitable site and the delivery of a new school building will be considered in the context of existing commitments and other competing demands on my Department's capital budget.

Public Service Reform

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

73 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if there will be any retirement packages for public servants after February 2011 if more persons are interested in voluntary redundancies. [38085/11]

There are no plans at this time for any early retirement or redundancy schemes in the public or civil service post February 2012.

Departmental Properties

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

74 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the occupancy rate for each building leased by the Office of Public Works for the years 2010 and 2011. [38096/11]

The Office of Public Works leases 337 office buildings, of which three have accommodation which is presently unallocated.

Departmental Expenditure

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

75 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the rent paid for each building leased by the Office of Public Works, by year, from 2008 to present. [38097/11]

The Office of Public Works is correlating the information requested and this report will issue directly to the Deputy when available.

Public Procurement

Robert Troy

Ceist:

76 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works intends to introduce a requirement that State-funded construction contracts specify the use of an imported substitute product instead of indigenously produced cement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38177/11]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

77 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works has carried out an impact assessment on its proposal to specify the use of imported substitute materials instead of indigenously produced Irish cement in State-funded construction projects. [38178/11]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

78 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a proposed requirement being prepared by the Office of Public Works which will require State-funded construction contracts to specify the use of an imported substitute product instead of indigenously produced cement would be without precedent within the EU; if his further attention has been drawn to the detrimental consequences arising for the cement manufacturing sector here, up to and including potential plant closures and significant job losses at a time when the Irish construction sector is struggling to survive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38179/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 to 78, inclusive, together.

A short introduction to the background of these questions is necessary. The Office of Public Works (OPW) has been tasked with producing a Guidance Document on Construction Procurement which will address the major elements of construction including cement. The Guidance Document will form part of the Green Public Procurement (GPP) Action Plan being developed by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. The GPP Action Plan was approved by government in November and its publication is set to take place in the new year. The legislative basis for Green Public Procurement is established in EU Directives 17 and 18 of 2004.

Green Public Procurement is defined in EU Communication 400 of 2008 as "Public Procurement for a better Environment". It is defined as“a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with reduced environmental impact throughout their life-cycle compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured.”

The Guidance Document will include cement, as the manufacture of this material has one of the most significant environmental impacts of all construction materials. The document recommends the use of alternative cements as a means of reducing this environmental impact. The Guidance Document is produced in reference to the National Concrete Standard IS EN 206, which makes provision for the use of several different alternative cements, including limestone, pulverised fly ash (PVA), slag and pozzelanas. PVA is a recyclable by-product of coal power electricity generation such as is found at Moneypoint, Co. Clare. Slag is a recyclable by-product of steel manufacture and is available from Britain, north west France, Belgium and Holland.

The Guidance Document does not require the use of any particular alternative cement — all are acceptable. Neither does it require a particular percentage use of alternative cement. Decisions on the type and quantity of alternative cements are left to the judgement of the specifying authority and are to be made in the context of the functional and technical requirements of the specific project. In conforming with EU procurement principles the Guidance Document avoids being specific in favour of any particular product or supplier.

The Guidance Document does not make any proposal requiring the use of imported materials. However, the OPW has made a number of assessments into the impact of increasing the use of alternative cements. These assessments have included:

1) Cost abatement data produced by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) demonstrating that the use of alternative cements provides a cost-saving to the economy. (Ireland's Low Carbon Opportunity published in 2009)

2) Consideration of the technical potentials as provided for in the National Concrete Standard IS EN 206 and demonstrated in recent projects using alternative cements e.g. the Jack Lynch tunnel in Cork, the Dundrum Luas Bridge in Dublin, the Shannon tunnel in Limerick and the National Conference Centre in Dublin.

3) Assessment of the non-technical factors influencing the potential use of cements made in relation to critical factors outlined in the ‘Cement Technology Roadmap 2009' by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Energy Agency. These indicate that Ireland has high potential for the use of alternative cements.

4) Analysis of potential changes to carbon foot-printing methodologies and of potential transition to using full Life Cycle Analysis in material impact assessments. Both of these demonstrate that alternative cements reduce the environmental impact of cement. Throughout Europe there is widespread use of alternative cements by reason of sustainability, technical issues and cost benefit. All manufacturing facilities of cement production in Ireland benefit significantly from the European Trading Scheme (ETS) financial subsidy. It is understood this will continue into the future providing employment assurance to manufacturers experiencing production slow down due to economic and other reasons. It is noted that data from CemBureau (the European wide association of cement manufacturers) shows that there has been significant production over-capacity in the Irish cement industry.

Decentralisation Programme

Clare Daly

Ceist:

79 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason a three-acre site was purchased in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, in 2009 for the Health and Safety Authority, although it was clear that the move would not take place and that the price was excessive. [38180/11]

The decentralisation project to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, is currently awaiting review and decision from Government. In this regard the contract was signed for the acquisition of the site in May 2006 at a price in line with the property market at that time.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

80 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total amount of money spent on property acquisitions and construction costs and rents associated with the decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004, and the amount of money saved or received from the sale of property or the cessation of leases in Dublin as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38184/11]

The 2009 Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) includes an audit of property management under the decentralisation programme. This report identified capital expenditure on the Programme of €289.4 million on property and recurring costs (leases) of €7 million (as at April 2010). Dublin property disposals were €356m and leases with an annual value of €10m over the same period were surrendered.

The figures provided have not been updated since April 2010, due to the deferral for budgetary reasons in October 2008 of the implementation of the elements of the programme remaining to be completed at that time. My Department has asked the OPW and others to provide details to it on the additional property costs in respect of the period from April 2010 up to the cancellation of the programme, as well as details of any additional disposals made. The relevant information will be sent directly to the Deputy when it becomes available.

Departmental Expenditure

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

81 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding his negotiations with the Department of Justice and Equality concerning the overspend on Garda security for the visits of Queen Elizabeth II of the UK and President Obama of the USA; if he is in receipt of all requested documentation from the Department of Justice and Equality; when he expects to make a decision on this claim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38194/11]

My Department has just received a report from the Department of Justice on the security costs associated with the State Visits which my officials will be examining in detail. I have also recommended a supplementary Estimate for the Garda Vote to cover the additional cost to the Vote of the State Visits which could not be met from savings elsewhere on the Vote. This Supplementary will go before the relevant Dáil Select Committee before being returned to the Dáil to be voted on.

Job Creation

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

82 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an update on practical measures to assist small businesses. [38091/11]

Some issues impacting on SMEs have already been addressed in the Jobs Initiative which includes the following key initiatives:

The design of a Temporary, Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme.

An initiative on a Microfinance Fund;

The extension of the 15-day prompt payment arrangements across the wider public sector in Ireland for invoices received after 1 July 2011;

In January the Government will publish its first annual Action Plan for Jobs, which will contain a series of measures from across the entire range of Government activity to be implemented during 2012, with quarterly targets to be hit. It will be a whole of Government process, and all Departments will be involved.

Government last week discussed a wide range of initiatives that will be contained in January's Action Plan for Jobs. These include three measures to help combat the problems that businesses at all levels face in accessing credit.

Access to Finance

Access to Finance is a key issue for the small business sector. The latest restructuring of the domestic banking sector creates capacity for the pillar banks to lend in excess of €30 billion over the next three years in SME and other important sectors. Both banks will be required to sanction lending of at least €3 billion this year, €3.5 billion next year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs.

Small Business Advisory Group

The Advisory Group for Small Business was established on 16 June, and is chaired by my colleague in the Department, Minister Perry, as Minister for State for Small Business. Primarily, the Group's remit is to provide policy advice to my Department, for onward reference to Government, on the key issues affecting the SME sector and what initiatives/actions should be prioritised to address these.

Government has approved five key deliverables which have been selected from the Advisory Group report, for early implementation. These initiatives are being pursued to help small companies access the business supports they require, address some of the challenges of the hidden economy, assist their cash flow by promoting prompt payments, and seek ways to reduce administrative burdens.

Enterprise Supports

The Enterprise Agencies under my remit also offer a wide range of business support to start ups and small businesses.

State Agencies

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

83 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the underspends and savings in Enterprise Ireland programmes in 2010 and 2011. [38099/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

84 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the spending carried over in Enterprise Ireland programmes in 2010 and 2011. [38100/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 84 together.

Within the Vote of this Department, programme funding is provided to Enterprise Ireland through two Subheads. Funding under Subhead F covers the cost of Science, Technology and Innovation programmes. This includes significant Research and Development programmes operated by Enterprise Ireland, aimed at providing direct and indirect research development and innovation supports for indigenous companies, supporting collaboration between industry and third level researchers and supporting the commercialisation of State funded research. In 2010 there were no savings or underspends arising in these programmes. While there was no capital carryover in the Enterprise Ireland F subhead in either 2010 or 2011, €2.15m of Own Resource Income generated by Enterprise Ireland in 2009 was profiled for and spent in 2010.

Funding under Subhead D2 provides for direct supports to Irish companies at all stages of development in respect of potential job creation and export growth. It is aimed at supporting companies to scale and grow, building company capability in leadership, management and market skills, supporting companies in exploring new opportunities, and supporting business infrastructure. Financing is through a mix of grants, equity and seed and venture capital investments, and contributions to third party agencies. In 2010, there were savings of €3.3m under this subhead, which were voted to the County Enterprise Boards to support the micro-enterprise sector. There was no carryover in either 2010 or 2011.

The Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme (Subhead L2) was introduced to help employees maintain their jobs while at the same time assisting employers to retain their productive capacity. The Scheme was operated as part of an Irish State Aid scheme approved under the European Commission's Temporary Framework on State Aid, introduced in December 2008. The Framework was brought in on a temporary basis to allow Member States increased flexibility to assist companies in the real economy that were facing difficulties in accessing finance as a result of the economic downturn.

In order to qualify for support enterprises had to commit to retaining a multiple of the number of jobs they were in receipt of subsidies for until the end of November 2010. An underspend of €21.14m arose in 2010 under the scheme, due to approved enterprises not maintaining the required number of committed jobs, as defined for the purposes of the scheme, for a given claim period. An amendment to the Temporary Framework by the European Commission in December 2010 meant that it was not possible to secure approval for any prolongation of this scheme.

Outturns under subheads D and F for 2011 are not yet available and will be published in the Revised Estimates Volume 2012.

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

85 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the underspends and savings in Industrial Development Agency programmes in 2010 and 2011. [38101/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

86 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the spending carried over by IDA Ireland programmes in 2010 and 2011. [38102/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 86 together.

The Exchequer allocation to IDA Ireland in 2010, as outlined in the Revised Book of Estimates for 2011, amounted to €130.7m as follows:

Current Expenditure

€m

Subhead C1

Pay

€24.530m

Non-Pay

€14.710m

Total Current Expenditure

€39.240m

Capital Expenditure

€m

Subhead C2 — Grants to Industry

€90.460m (incl €5m carryover from 2009)

Subhead C3 — Grant for Industrial Property

€1m

Total Capital Allocation

€91.460m

Total Exchequer Allocation for 2010

€130.7m

There were no savings arising on foot of these allocations in 2010.

The Exchequer allocation to IDA Ireland for 2011 is €124.577m as follows:

Current Expenditure

€m

Subhead C1

Pay

€24.667m

Non-Pay

€13.910m

Total Current Expenditure

€38.577m

Capital Expenditure

€m

Subhead C2 — Grants to Industry

€85m

Subhead C3 — Grant for Industrial Property

€1m

Total Capital Allocation

€86m

Total Exchequer Allocation for 2011

€124.577m

I have been informed by IDA Ireland that savings of approximately €900,000 will arise in 2011 under Subhead C1, Pay. No savings are envisaged in relation to Capital Expenditure.

Job Losses

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

87 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, with regard to the interest by a variety of parties in a company (details supplied) in County Leitrim, if this process has proceeded; whether it is in any way affected by international confidence in the eurozone; if he has been proactive with stakeholders with regard to saving jobs; how last proposal affecting 100 workers played out; and when is it envisaged that a firm announcement will be made. [38249/11]

My priority from the outset has been that any decision taken by Bank of America should have minimal impact on employees at the Carrick on Shannon operation and ensure that jobs are maintained at the facility. I emphasised this when I met with Senior Bank of America Executives in their Headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina in September. I am advised that the process regarding the sale of Bank of America's Irish and UK credit card businesses has not been unduly impacted by the ongoing Eurozone difficulties.

There has been considerable interest in both the MBNA Ireland portfolio and the MBNA UK portfolio, which are likely to be sold separately, with negotiations regarding the sale of the MBNA Ireland portfolio considerably advanced.

IDA has met the relevant parties, is monitoring the situation closely and is providing relevant input into the process as it moves forward. IDA is in regular contact with local Bank of America management in Carrick-on-Shannon and Dublin and at corporate level to monitor developments.

On 7 November 2011 Bank of America announced 102 redundancies in the Carrick-on Shannon centre and a further 150 in its Chester (UK) centre. These roles will go by year end 2011, with the company hoping to achieve these on a voluntary basis. This decision, according to local Bank of America management, had been made in principle several months ago, prior to the group's decision to exit its international credit card business.

Redundancy Payments

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

88 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their rebate payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38132/11]

A redundancy rebate claim in respect of the company concerned was received on 28 July 2011. Redundancy rebate claims received at the start of May 2011 are currently being processed.

Pension Provisions

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

89 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the Labour Court judgment LCR19293; the reason she is refusing to provide funding to assist the implementation of this finding; her further views on whether such refusal is an undermining of the Labour Court by her which sends the wrong signal to other employers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38195/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

99 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection if she intends to introduce a pension scheme for community employment scheme supervisors and assistant advisors in line with Labour Court recommendation LCR19293; if she intends to provide the necessary funding to scheme sponsors to fund the pension scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38186/11]

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

102 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the Labour Court judgment LCR19293; the steps she is taking to implement this judgment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38196/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 99 and 102 together.

The Labour Court recommended in July 2008 that an agreed pension scheme should be introduced for community employment (CE) scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors, and that such a scheme should be adequately funded by FÁS. Notwithstanding the positions of the Department in rejecting that liability for these costs falls to be met from public funds, this matter has been the subject of discussions between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, my Department, and the unions representing CE supervisors. In the event that funding was required from FÁS, the implementation of the claim is not considered sustainable in light of the current and ongoing fiscal environment and the requirement to contain and reduce public expenditure. The costs of the introduction of any scheme are likely to be of the order of €3m per annum with retrospective costs of the order of at least €30m.

The Deputy should also note that FÁS is not the employer of CE supervisors and such employees are not public servants. Neither was FÁS a party to the Labour Court dispute on this matter. The responsibilities of the sponsoring organisations and the individuals concerned must also be recognised when considering pension provision arrangements.

Social Welfare Fraud

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

90 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to deal with social welfare fraud; if there are any accurate figures on the amount of persons involved in fraud and the amounts involved. [38089/11]

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of my Department which processes in excess of 2 million claims each year and makes payments to some 1.4 million people every week at a cost of some €21 billion per annum. However, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them.

For 2011, my Department has a target of reviewing 780,000 individual welfare claims and achieving €540 million in control savings. At the end of October, some €536 million in estimated control savings were reported and over 746,000 reviews have been carried out. For 2012, the target for control savings is provisionally set at €625 million, an increase of €85 million on the 2011 target.

The only fraud that my Department knows about as a fact is, by definition, proven fraud. While there are many perceptions/suspicions of fraud and people knowing ‘for a fact' that a person is defrauding the social welfare system, these may not stand up to scrutiny. In this regard, it should be noted that some 190,000 people work and legitimately receive a social welfare payment. It can sometimes be perceived by members of the public that these people are defrauding the social welfare system, when in fact they are not.

In 2010, total overpayments amounted to €83.4 million representing 0.41% of total Departmental expenditure. Overpayments arising from suspected fraudulent activity amounted to less than 0.1% of total Departmental expenditure in 2010. It is important to emphasise, therefore, that the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them each week.

As the Deputy may be aware, I recently launched a Fraud Initiative (2011-2013) which is aimed at putting in place a range of actions to combat fraud and abuse of the social welfare system and at ensuring that public confidence in the system is improved. A key priority for my Department is to ensure that fraudulent activity within the social welfare system is vigorously prevented and combated. Social welfare fraud undermines public confidence in the entire system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments and taxpayers

Under the Initiative, there will be greater liaison by my Department at both central and local level and with employers, the business community generally and the groups representing social welfare recipients. This will raise awareness among those interested parties of my Department's policies and projects in relation to dealing with fraud and abuse. Those stakeholders will be encouraged to pass on specific information and concerns to the Department with a view to tackling social welfare fraud.

As Minister, I am very conscious of the need to protect public money and I am determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected.

Employment Support Services

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

91 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are any schemes or benefits for self-employed persons who lose their jobs or businesses due to the recession. [38090/11]

Self-employed persons who lose their jobs or businesses due to the recession may establish entitlement to payments made under social assistance means-tested schemes, including jobseeker's allowance. They can apply for the jobseeker's allowance where their business ceases and they become unemployed or in other circumstances where they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. For the purposes of establishing entitlement to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker's allowance, the means of the individual is taken into account.

Community Employment Schemes

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

92 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38115/11]

Community Employment is an employment and training programme which helps long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine. The programme assists by enhancing and developing a person's technical and personal skills which can then be used in the workplace.

The criteria for participating on community employment are based on age and length of time in receipt of various social protection payments. There are two options under which community employment can be accessed. In general, a person must be aged 25 or over to access community employment although some exceptions exist where a person is in receipt of disability-related payments, is a member of the Traveller community, a refugee or a young person recovering from drug misuse.

I have no proposals to amend the criteria until I have had the opportunity to undertake a broader review of community employment which I have already indicated I wish to undertake. Any review of community employment will have to examine the current eligibility and access criteria, including how community employment can be more effectively deployed to tackle youth unemployment.

Social Welfare Appeals

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

93 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 134 of 17 November 2011, if she will expedite and approve the appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38135/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 5 August 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 17 November 2011 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Job Initiative

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

94 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection the way she proposes to deal with the anomaly where a person who leaves a FÁS course to take up a JobBridge internship loses their free child care entitlement. [38157/11]

In order for an individual to be eligible to participate in JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme an individual must be:

currently in receipt of a live claim (Jobseeker's Allowance/Jobseeker's Benefit/Signing for Credits) on the Live Register;

and have been in receipt of Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance or signing for Social Insurance Contribution Credits for a total of 78 days or more in the last 6 months.

An intern participating in JobBridge will continue to receive the social welfare entitlements, including secondary entitlements such as fuel allowance, that they had been receiving immediately prior to commencing the scheme.

The Child care Employment and Training Support Scheme (CETS) supports the child care needs of participants in training and educational courses operated by FÁS and Vocational Educational Committees (VECs). Participants on the JobBridge internship scheme are not trainees and therefore do not qualify under the criteria laid down for CETS. However, participants on JobBridge retain their existing social welfare entitlements and also receive a top up bonus of €50 per week for the duration of their internship.

Question No. 95 withdrawn.

Employment Support Services

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

96 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection the schemes that are open to persons on disability payments to enable them to gain experience in a particular career; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38167/11]

Persons with a disability who meet the entry criteria are able to participate in the full range of FÁS programmes and services. Persons with a disability may call into a FÁS Employment Service Office or Local Employment Service Office to meet with an Employment Services Officer or Mediator who will provide them with full information, advice and guidance in relation to training and employment.

The Supported Employment Programme, operated by FÁS, is an employment and recruitment service to assist people with a disability to secure and maintain a job in the open labour market. The range of supports provided by job coaches under the programme include work experience placements as well as support with the job application process, matching skills with employers needs and assistance with integrating into the workplace.

As well as the Supported Employment Programme, a range of other supports are also available to support the employment of people with disabilities. These include the Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme, the Reasonable Accommodation Fund for the Employment of Disabled People, the Workplace Equipment Adaptation Grant and the Employee Retention Grant Scheme.

Job Initiative

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

97 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the fact that those on disability payments cannot currently apply for vacancies on JobBridge and that this is a barrier to persons who need experience in particular fields of employment (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38168/11]

In order to be eligible to participate in JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, an individual must:

currently be on the Live Register; and

have been in receipt of Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance or signing for Social Insurance Contribution Credits for a total of 3 months or more in the last 6 months. Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, it is imperative to keep those on the Live Register close to the labour market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will ensure that those availing of activation measures such as the National Internship Scheme will gain work experience and so be in a better position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves.

For these reasons, eligibility for the scheme is confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of unemployment payments or signing for credits for 3 months. In so designing the scheme, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it and ensure a reduction in Exchequer costs over time.

Individuals who are in receipt of a disability allowance can access the FÁS Work Placement Programme, which provides participants with a work experience placement of between two and nine months. During this time participants may be able to retain their social welfare entitlements. In addition, people in receipt of a disability allowance can access a range of other specific programmes, such as the Supported Employment Programme and the Wage Subsidy Scheme. Both of these programmes aim to assist people with a disability to secure and maintain a job in the labour market.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

98 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection if participants on the rural social scheme can continue to participate on the scheme if the work they are doing ceases due to cutbacks in the budgets of other Departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38170/11]

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) has operated since May 2004 with the aim of providing income support for eligible farmer and fishermen/women in receipt of specified, long-term social welfare payments. The work undertaken by participants supports the provision of services of benefit to rural communities. The RSS currently funds the engagement of 2,600 participants and 130 supervisors. Supervisors are employed for 39 per week with participants required to work 19½ hours per week.

Overall responsibility for the operation of the RSS rests with the Department of Social Protection with responsibility for its day-to-operation resting with 35 Implementing Bodies comprising 34 local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta. In general, participants on the RSS are required to work on a range of service provision within an overall framework for the scheme developed and delivered by the Implementing Body. This framework takes account of movements in work requirements, new opportunities, completion of existing tasks, emerging pressures and priorities, weather and other matters that impact on the tasks undertaken. I am confident that the Implementing Bodies for the RSS have the necessary strategies in place to manage any reduction in funding resulting from Budget adjustments by other Government Departments and Agencies. I have no proposals to reduce the numbers supported by the RSS.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 89.

Departmental Staff

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

100 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the circumstances under which a number of temporary community welfare officers were transferred to the Department of Social Protection, after which the Department stated that no temporary CWOs would be transferred; if more temporary CWOs will be transferred or reinstated to the central rents unit from where they originated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38188/11]

The transfer of the Community Welfare Service from the HSE to the Department of Social Protection was effective from 1 October 2011. With the exception of one person, all those who transferred from the HSE to this Department are permanent staff members. The employment contract of the one Temporary CWO who transferred is not due to end until December 2011, and the Department has honoured the end date of this contract. The Temporary CWO, in question, is not employed in the Central Rents Unit.

The staffing needs of specific areas in the Department, including the Central Rents Unit, are continuously reviewed, having regards to workloads and the competing demands arising. I can assure the Deputy that the best use will be made of all available resources.

Social Welfare Appeals

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 in relation to their disability allowance claim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38190/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1 June 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 14 October 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 15 November 2011 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 89.

Community Employment Schemes

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

103 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the possibility of increasing the number of personnel involved in community work through FÁS, Tús, the rural social scheme or any other structure, in view of the fact that there are now almost 440,000 persons unemployed; her views on whether it would not only be in the interests of the participants to have the opportunity to work 19 to 20 hours per week, but would also improve the services available to the elderly, disabled and communities in general; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38202/11]

The allocation for community employment in 2011 will allow for the engagement of 23,300 people on the various projects throughout the country. The rural social scheme currently employs 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff in 34 local development areas and in the Gaeltacht. Tús, the community work placement initiative introduced during 2011, currently employs over 1,800 people and is on course to employ in excess of 2,000 in early December with the aim of achieving full rollout with 5,000 placements in 2012. Additionally, my Department provides funding to some 430 service providers under the community services programme which supports some 2,800 people in work directly and a further 900 indirectly. Consideration of the expansion of these initiatives can only be undertaken in the context of the resources allocated to my Department for 2012.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

104 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when jobseeker’s benefit or allowance will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38242/11]

Payment of jobseeker's benefit to the person concerned has been suspended as she is currently attending a full-time course of study. She applied for a back to education allowance but her application was refused as the college she attends is not a FETAC-approved college for the purpose of the back to education scheme.

The person concerned has requested a review of the decision and she will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision to refuse invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38243/11]

Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions.

This department received an application for invalidity pension from the person concerned. One of the conditions for receipt of invalidity pension is that a person must be expected to continue to satisfy the medical conditions for at least 12 months forward from the date of the invalidity claim. The person concerned had been examined by a medical assessor on 21 April 2011 who was of the opinion that the person would not satisfy the medical conditions for the next 12 months in accordance with the conditions for receipt of the pension. Accordingly, the application for invalidity pension was disallowed. He was notified of this decision on 22 October 2011 and was advised of his right to request a review of the decision and also of his right to lodge an appeal with the social welfare appeals office.

If the person concerned now wishes to request a review of the decision he may provide further medical evidence in support of his application. This should be sent directly and as soon as possible to invalidity pension section. Any further medical evidence will be evaluated by a medical assessor and a decision on the review will issue to the applicant. The applicant will be notified of his right to appeal this decision if he is still not satisfied.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent of entitlement to jobseeker’s allowance or benefit or other payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38245/11]

The person concerned should contact her local social welfare office as soon as her VTOS course ends in order to establish her entitlement to jobseeker's payments. She should contact the local DSP office administering supplementary welfare in relation to those entitlements.

Social Welfare Appeals

Áine Collins

Ceist:

107 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason an appeal was originally refused in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork, in view of the recent European Court of Justice ruling which found that parents of Irish citizens are entitled to live and work in Ireland and consequently would be entitled to the same benefits as Irish citizens if unemployed. [38254/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that no appeal, by the person concerned, was received by that office. 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.

Enterprise Support Services

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

108 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding an application by a company (details supplied) in County Kerry for inclusion in Enterprise Ireland’s high-potential start-up programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38183/11]

My officials have been in contact with both Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in regard to this matter. I understand that the individual referred to by the Deputy has been a client of Údarás na Gaeltachta since 2008. To date, his business has received support from Údarás na Gaeltachta by way of employment grants totalling €17,000. In addition, ten mentoring visits were provided to him under Údarás na Gaeltachta's Mentoring Programme for business development purposes. My officials have been informed by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation that, as the individual's business will, in the first instance, be focusing on the domestic market, it does not currently meet the eligibility criteria for participation in Enterprise Ireland's High Potential Start-Up Programme.

Museum Projects

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

109 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when the top two floors of the Natural History Museum will be reopened, in view of the fact that they have been closed for four years for the publicised intention of installing safety barriers and a fire escape; and if a plan exists to expedite delivery of these health and safety measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38203/11]

My Department requested the Office of Public Works to examine the feasibility of a more limited development at the Natural History Museum which, at minimum cost, would provide safe access to and circulation around the upper balconies through a new enclosed lift and stairs at the southern end of the building. The examination has been completed and a report has been prepared. In view of the current economic climate it is not possible to state when funding will become available for the works.

Broadcasting Services

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

110 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if Ireland’s Euro 2012 soccer internationals will be available to Irish emigrants to view online worldwide next summer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38080/11]

RTÉ is an independent national public service broadcaster whose remit and obligations are set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009. Section 114(1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 states the principal objects and associated powers of RTÉ and Section 98 provides that it shall be independent in the pursuance of these objects, subject to the requirements of the Act. As such I, as Minister, have no function in RTÉ's general day to day matters such as programming. I note, however, that Section 114(1)(f) provides that one of RTÉ's primary objectives is "to establish, maintain and operate a television broadcasting service and a sound broadcasting service....which services shall be made available, in so far as RTÉ considers reasonably practicable, to Irish communities outside the island of Ireland". RTÉ has informed me that it is only licensed to broadcast the relevant Euro 12 international games within the borders of this State because UEFA, as rights holders, licence broadcasters such as RTÉ strictly on a territorial basis. It is for this reason that these internationals will not be available to watch online on RTÉ outside the territory of the State.

Energy Conservation

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

111 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has agreed on a tendering process for the proposed pay-as-you-save contracts to insulate domestic and public buildings. [37550/11]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to roll out a Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) energy retrofit scheme after 2013. Such a scheme would substitute Exchequer funding currently being provided to the Better Energy Programme. The PAYS concept is an innovative financing mechanism that would allow consumers to finance upgrades directly through the energy savings generated. My Department has established a project team to undertake the necessary technical and financial analysis of a PAYS model in the Irish context and I will bring forward proposals to Government shortly. There are considerable complexities involved in the development of a Pay-As-You-Save scheme and any tendering process will be developed at the appropriate time in light of comprehensive consultation with all stakeholders.

National Postcode System

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

112 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the postcode tender process; if same will be finished by the end of the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38163/11]

The procurement process to select an organisation to implement a National Postcode System was launched in January 2011 with the publication of a pre-qualification Questionnaire onwww.etenders.gov.ie. This process is still ongoing. The final decision to proceed with implementation of a national postcode will be one for Government and will be based on appropriate financial, technical and operational considerations.

Exploration Licences

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

113 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of the legislation that authorises him, as the regulatory body, to issue licences for the exploration phases associated with hydraulic fracturing; if further legislation will be required in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38185/11]

Petroleum exploration in Ireland, in common with most other jurisdictions, is carried out by private enterprise under licence from the State. Petroleum exploration authorisations are issued under the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960 and the operational framework is set out in the Licensing Terms for Oil and Gas Exploration, Development & Production 2007.

I am aware that there has been a good deal of public interest recently on the topic of onshore gas exploration with considerable focus on the possibility of hydraulic fracturing technology being used following the award of onshore licensing options in February of this year. The Licensing Options are preliminary authorisations and are designed to allow the companies assess the shale gas potential of the acreage based on studies of existing data from previous exploration activity. This work is largely office/desktop based and does not involve exploration drilling or hydraulic fracturing.

By the end of the licensing option period in February 2013, the companies will have to decide whether to apply for a follow-on exploration licence or relinquish the acreage. In the event any of the companies involved decide to apply for an exploration licence that proposes the use of hydraulic fracturing, their application would be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment that would include a public consultation phase. My Department would also seek and be guided by the expert advice of other relevant statutory authorities such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Local Authorities. The outcome of the Environmental Impact Assessment would determine whether or not an exploration licence would be granted.

In the event that at some point in the future a commercial discovery of natural gas is made and an onshore gas extraction project is proposed then there is a comprehensive regulatory framework in place that would apply to any such proposal. The development of such a project would require a number of statutory consents including a planning consent from An Bord Pleanála under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure Act) 2006, an Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Licence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with a Petroleum Lease, a Plan of Development consent and a Gas Pipeline consent from myself as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. A core element of these consent processes would be to consider the potential environmental impact of any proposed development.

It is too early to conclude at this point whether or not these licensing options will proceed to the exploration licence stage and much too early to anticipate a commercial discovery that could potentially lead to a natural gas production project. Notwithstanding, this I have asked the EPA to examine the area and advise on the environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting natural gas. The EPA has commenced research into the environmental considerations and impacts of shale gas exploration and extraction and into the regulatory approaches of other countries, with a view to helping to establish best environmental practice. The EPA proposes to commission a further and more extensive study in 2012 and is liaising with my Department. In the event that future studies on technological developments bring to light new issues, I will be happy to examine such matters and to consider the introduction of statutory measures if necessary.

Alternative Energy Projects

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

114 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to improve the structures to encourage farmers and others to utilise small wind generation units or anaerobic digesters at farms in order to minimise problems with slurry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38200/11]

My Department has recently received State Aid clearance in respect of the REFIT (Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff) for electricity from biomass technologies including Anaerobic Digestion. Government approval is currently being sought to open the scheme and once this has been obtained, the scheme will be formally launched and open for applications.

ESB has been operating a micro-generation feed-in-tariff scheme for the domestic sector for the past number of years, which has 387 customers signed up to date. The available tariff is 19c per Kilowatt hour, made up of a 10 cent per kilowatt hour tariff offered by ESB Networks and a 9 cent per Kilowatt hour tariff offered by ESB Electric Ireland (formerly Customer Supply). No other electricity supply company has introduced a micro-generation programme.

Building Regulations

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

115 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if building regulations that require all new dwellings to have 10 kWh/m2/annum thermal or 4 kWh/m2/annum of electrical energy are being enforced; and the body with responsibility for enforcement. [38072/11]

With effect from 1 July 2008, Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy) of the Building Regulations introduced, among other things, the requirement for a new dwelling to source a reasonable proportion of its energy consumption from renewable energy sources. The accompanying Technical Guidance Document (TGD L) outlines how this requirement can be achieved in practice by providing from renewable energy technologies a contribution of 10kWH/m2/annum towards domestic hot water heating, space heating or cooling or 4kWH/m2/annum of electrical energy or a combination of these which would have equivalent effect.

Where a building or development contains more than one dwelling the requirement can be applied to each individual dwelling or as an average contribution from renewable technologies across all dwellings.

Under the Building Control Act, 1990 responsibility for compliance with the building regulations is first and foremost a matter for the owner and builder of a building. Enforcement of the building regulations is the responsibility of the 37 building control authorities. The resolution of problems arising between building owners and builders is a matter for the parties concerned, namely the building owner, the relevant developer and the builder's insurers. Where the construction of a building is the subject of a contract between the client and the builder, enforcement is a civil matter.

Building control authorities are empowered to carry out inspections and can issue enforcement notices in relation to contravention of the building regulations within a period of five years from the completion of the new dwelling. Where necessary and appropriate they can also initiate enforcement proceedings to ensure compliance. The Building Control Act 2007 includes provision for summary prosecution of offences in the District Court.

Motor Taxation

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

116 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding car tax. [38073/11]

The correspondence attached to the question includes a proposal for a revised system of motor taxation containing two elements, arising from a perceived unfairness due to different rates of motor tax applicable to similar cars, depending on the date of first registration — pre-July 2008 cars based on cubic capacity and post-July 2008 cars based on CO2 emissions.

The first element of the proposal relates to car tax being used for the upkeep of the road network on the basis of the current motor tax system or alternatively related to the value of the vehicle. The latter element is, in effect, already a feature of the taxation system through vehicle registration tax (VRT) where the tax applied is a percentage of the open market selling price. The revenue collected goes to the Exchequer and expenditure derived from it is a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The proceeds of annual motor tax are applied, via the Local Government Fund, to Local Authorities and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the bodies with responsibility for the upkeep of roads.

The second element of his proposal for motor tax suggests introducing a separate CO2 tax based on fuel consumption. The rate of motor tax for private vehicles first registered from July 2008 is linked to fuel consumption rates, as CO2 emissions relate directly to the carbon content of the fuel consumed. My reply to Question No. 354 of 22 November 2011 addresses the application of the CO2 system of motor taxation to vehicles registered prior to 01 July 2008.

Mortgage Repayments

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

117 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will intervene with the banks in order that they provide breathing space to the residents of a complex (details supplied) who find themselves homeless and having to pay mortgages for homes that are uninhabitable through no fault of their own; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38214/11]

I understand that Dublin City Council, having moved quickly to make arrangements for the provision of temporary accommodation for affected residents who required it, continues to engage with the residents in order to address and advise them in relation to specific family and individual needs. I have no function in relation to this aspect of the matter but I have asked Dublin City Council to do all they can to assist the affected residents and see them through this very stressful and distressing ordeal. I would also urge relevant financial institutions to show similar compassion and understanding in their dealings with affected residents.

Building Regulations

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

118 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it contravenes building guidelines for a local authority to build a house in which the toilet is put in the kitchen of the house with a single door opening into the cooking and eating area of the family home. [38128/11]

The Building Regulations set out the legal requirements that must be achieved by new buildings, including dwellings, or by existing buildings which are subject to an extension, a material alteration or a material change of use. The second schedule to the regulations outlines the requirements in 12 parts (classified as Parts A to M) and an accompanying Technical Guidance Document (TGD) is published to demonstrate how compliance with each part can be achieved in practice.

TGD G addresses the requirements in relation to hygiene and at section 2.5 specifically states, in relation to a dwelling, that a room or space containing a water closet should be separated from a place used for the preparation of food by means of a door. The room arrangement described is therefore permissible.

The room in question, however, would need to comply with the basic ventilation provisions addressed in TGD F in relation to sanitary accommodation (not including a bath or shower). In addition, the guidance in relation to access for persons with a disability under TGD M should also be applied.

Energy Efficiency

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

119 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if Dublin City Council has applied for funding for 2012 under the retrofit programme to bring residential stock in Dublin city up to an average BER rating of C1; if he will ensure funding will be made available to the city council if any such application is made. [38138/11]

In line with overall national policy which promotes a reduction in energy use, the enhancement of energy efficiency standards remains a priority within my Department's overall strategy for the improvement of local authority housing.

Under the Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers. It is a matter for local authorities to select the properties to be upgraded, within the allocation provided, and to determine the nature and the scale of the works to be undertaken in each case.

The capital allocation for the Improvement Works Programme for next year will be determined as soon as possible following the conclusion of the 2012 estimates process. My Department will be writing to local authorities shortly requesting details of the progress achieved in 2011 and an outline of the proposed work programme for 2012.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

120 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money that has been paid to local authorities for work on unfinished housing estates; and if he will provide a breakdown by county. [38156/11]

Of the total €2.36m approved under the public safety initiative, €1.075m has been paid to 19 local authorities for safety works on unfinished housing developments. A breakdown by local authority area is set out in the table below.

Total

CARLOW County Council

54,366.50

CAVAN County Council

106,201.98

CORK County Council

114,067.50

GALWAY County Council

30,262.00

GALWAY City Council

13,153.00

KILKENNY County Council

24,493.30

LAOIS County Council

71,111.00

LEITRIM County Council

16,500.00

LIMERICK County Council

61,191.92

LONGFORD County Council

235,535.77

MAYO County Council

4,209.50

MONAGHAN County Council

31,182.83

OFFALY County Council

25,517.63

ROSCOMMON County Council

75,618.15

SLIGO County Council

49,148.50

SOUTH TIPPERARY County Council

7,700.00

WATERFORD County Council

21,000.00

WESTMEATH Council

42,765.50

WEXFORD Council

91,356.02

TOTAL

1,075,381.10

Energy Efficiency

Pat Breen

Ceist:

121 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a scheme regarding energy efficiency (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38217/11]

In line with overall national policy which promotes a reduction in energy use, the enhancement of energy efficiency standards remains a priority within my Department's overall strategy for the improvement of local authority housing.

Under the Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers.

Since the introduction of the retrofitting initiative in 2009, my Department has provided funding for energy efficiency improvement works to some 3,000 local authority dwellings across the country. In 2011, some €31million is being provided to local authorities in respect of their improvement works programmes. Under this year's programme there is a particular focus on returning vacant properties to productive use. Works to occupied units may also be carried out, within the allocation provided, where the local authority considers this appropriate.

My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, recently published the Affordable Energy Strategy aimed at meeting an important commitment in the Programme for Government. The strategy will be the framework for building upon the many measures already in place to protect households at risk from the effects of energy poverty, which include the thermal efficiency-based measures delivered through the Better Energy: Warmer Homes Programme.

Both the Better Energy: Warmer Homes and Better Energy: Homes schemes, which are aimed at improving the energy efficiency and comfort levels of homes, are administered by Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) and fall within the remit of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Any proposal to extend the benefits of these schemes to include social housing tenants is, in the first instance, a matter for the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Local Authority Charges

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

122 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when draft guidance for local authorities in respect of development contributions will be issued, particularly with regard to section 49 levies, in view of the fact that uncertainty is inhibiting both sales and investment. [38219/11]

My Department is currently preparing draft guidelines on development contributions, which I expect will be available for public consultation by year end. Following such consultation, and consideration of any submissions received, I will issue the guidelines as Ministerial guidelines under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000-2010.

Áine Collins

Ceist:

123 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position of not-for-profit child care community-based organisations in respect of county council rates on their premises. [38246/11]

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority. The Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation of each property, determined by the Valuation Office, to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function of a local authority.

With regard to the application of rates to child care facilities, local authorities levy rates on commercial establishments. Where child care provision is within a community facility, operating in a non-profit capacity, commercial rates do not generally apply.

Departmental Funding

Robert Troy

Ceist:

124 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the withdrawal of State funding from an organisation (details supplied) with more than 8,000 members which, when closed, will result in the loss of 12 jobs. [38104/11]

It has been decided that funding from the Department to People with Disabilities in Ireland (PwDI) must cease at the end of 2011. On the basis of a value for money review it has been clearly established that the vast majority of the money allocated to PwDI is being spent disproportionately. The largest proportion of PwDI's annual budget has been spent over the last number of years on the operation of its office headquarters and on administration rather than on the creation of programmes and services which would directly benefit people with disabilities. This was an untenable situation that could not be allowed to continue, as people with disabilities were not benefiting sufficiently from the allocation in real terms. However, there is no reason why the local PwDI networks around the country should not continue to be active as volunteer bodies and continue their work with people with disabilities.

It is my wish to ensure that people with disabilities directly benefit from any money allocated to this sector. With this in mind, I am currently overseeing the finalisation of a major Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services in the Department of Health to ensure that existing funding allocated for people with disabilities is spent to best effect. I am also interested to hear what people with disabilities have to say on issues affecting them. I have recently set up and chair a new Implementation Group to develop and progress the National Disability Strategy. This new group held its inaugural meeting yesterday, 30 November. It includes representation from a number of disability stakeholder organisations and also a number of people with disabilities who will be able to bring their lived experience directly to bear on the very important work of this high level group. This will ensure the voice and perspective of people with disabilities will continue to be heard in a more focused and cost-effective way.

House Prices

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

125 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress he has made on the development of a national house price database; and the money that has been spent on this project [37758/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to improve the quality of information available on the Irish housing market by requiring that the selling price of all dwellings be recorded in a publicly available national housing price database.

To give effect to this commitment the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009, which provides for establishment of the Property Services Regulatory Authority, was amended at Committee Stage to expand the Authority's statutory functions to include the publication of residential property sales prices. This information will be supplied to the Authority on an ongoing basis by the Revenue Commissioners who are in receipt of it for stamp duty purposes. In anticipation of enactment of the Bill the Implementation Group established to put in place the necessary arrangements for the establishment of the Authority has initiated work for establishment of the housing price database. No expenditure on the project has arisen to-date.

The Bill was passed by the House on 22 November 2011. The amendments made in the House will be considered by the Seanad on 9 December.

Garda Civilian Staff

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

126 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a person (details supplied) may retire early on health grounds. [38084/11]

Civilian staff working in An Garda Síochána come under the remit of the Garda Commissioner. Therefore, such matters are dealt with by An Garda Síochána and I have no function in relation to the matter.

Court Sittings

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

127 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm that the required statutory instrument is in place to allow the sitting of the Castletownbere District Court in the Bantry District Court area. [38105/11]

As I indicated to the Deputy in response to Question No. 482 on 22 November 2011, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions which includes management of court venues and designation of court areas and I have no role in the matter.

As the Deputy is aware, the Courts Service informed me that, due to the lack of suitable premises in Castletownbere, the District court sittings were moved to Bantry with effect from 1 October 2010. I was informed that the Court sat six times in 2010 dealing with only 232 matters. Unfortunately, due to current economic conditions, the Courts Service is not in a position to provide a premises or facilities of an appropriate standard in Castletownbere and a proposal about its future is due for consideration at the next meeting of the Courts Service Board. In the meantime, the sittings will continue to be held in Bantry.

The making of Statutory Instruments creating District Court districts and District Court areas is a matter for the Courts Service. I am advised that Castletownbere and Bantry were established as District Court areas under the District Court (Areas) Order, 1961 (S.I. No. 5 of 1961) and both are located in District No. 18 as set out in the District Court (Districts) Order, 2011 (S.I. No. 429 of 2011). In accordance with section 27 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1953, a judge can transfer any business of the District Court in which he has jurisdiction to, inter alia, some other place in his district which is a place appointed for the transaction of business in the District Court. I am informed that this was done in this instance in the absence of a suitable premises in Castletownbere.

Citizenship Applications

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

128 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will investigate the delay in the processing of an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied); and when a decision will issue. [38124/11]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in May, 2010.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. I can inform the Deputy that the measures I introduced earlier this year have resulted in a significant increase in the number of cases decided and it is my objective that by the spring of next year, save in exceptional circumstances, persons applying for citizenship will be given a decision on their application within six months.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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.

Probation and Welfare Service

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

129 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has issued instructions to the probation and welfare service to close its offices in Athy, County Kildare; if he will indicate the level of service to be provided in the Athy area; if he will indicate the location at which staff now working in Athy will be based; if he will consider the relocation of these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38129/11]

I have been informed by the Probation Service that the premises in Athy was vacated yesterday, 30 November 2011, on the recommendation of the Office of Public Works. As an interim measure, the Athy team have relocated to Probation Service offices in Portlaoise and will continue to service the Kildare area from there. The Athy team also have access to office space in Carlow, Ballyfermot and Cloverhill Court House. The Service is now working with the Office of Public Works on identifying suitable accommodation within State Offices in the Kildare area.

Garda Stations

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

130 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he can take account of the inadequate facilities at the Garda station in Clane, County Kildare, which lacks wheelchair access or any private interview space for victims of personal crime including sexual and domestic incidents, has a unisex toilet which contains the only source of water for hand-washing, drinking and cleaning utensils, and lacks basic changing or shower facilities to support gardaí on duty in inclement weather or on poor terrain; if he will report on the progress of plans to refit the empty adjacent station building which has stood idle for nearly three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38166/11]

The programme of refurbishment of Garda accommodation is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána. This programme is progressed in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that proposals in relation to the refurbishment of Clane Garda station are being developed. These proposals will be progressed in the context of An Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and in the light of available resources.

Garda Recruitment

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

131 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for Garda recruitment in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38169/11]

The moratorium on Public Service Recruitment continues to apply to An Garda Síochána and no date has been fixed for future intakes into the Garda College. A decision on when recruitment will recommence will take into account the rate of retirements in the Garda Síochána and Government targets, set in the context of the agreement with the EU and the IMF, to reduce the numbers of public servants.

Crime Statistics

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

132 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of garda who have been assaulted on duty in 2010 and 2011; the number of members of the public who have been charged with section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38172/11]

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.

Estate Management

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

133 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the intended meaning of the following wording in the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011: “the annual services charges shall be calculated on a transparent basis and shall be equitably apportioned between unit owners”; the place where residents may seek clarification as to whether a service charge is equitable or not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38173/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position as Minister for Justice and Equality to give legal advice in response to Parliamentary Questions. However, I can indicate the following by way of general information.

Section 18 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 provides that an owners' management company must establish a scheme for annual service charges to fund expenditure on the maintenance, insurance and repair of common areas and for the provision of common services to unit owners. Subsection (13) provides that the annual service charges shall be calculated on a transparent basis and equitably proportioned between unit owners, which means that the members of the company must be informed of the amount of the intended charge and that the charge should be fair to each unit owner, allowing for differences that may exist, say, in the size of individual units.

I should add that any annual service charge must be approved by a general meeting of the members of the owners' management company as provided for under section 18(2) and subsection (3) outlines the categories of expenditure which must be itemised in any scheme of annual service charges.

Garda Strength

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

134 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí stationed in County Kerry in 2009; the numbers at the present time; if he is satisfied that sufficient personnel are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38201/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, that as of 31 December 2009 and 31 October 2011 the personnel strength of Kerry Garda Division was 339 and 326 respectively.

Garda Management closely monitors the allocation of resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. Senior Garda Management is satisfied that a full and comprehensive policing service continues to be delivered in Kerry Garda Division and that current structures in place meet the requirement to deliver an effective and efficient policing service to the community. This situation will be kept under review.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date regarding the determination of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38207/11]

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 29th January, 2008, 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 initiated Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in his case. The Judicial Review proceedings were unsuccessful meaning that the earlier decisions of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister stood.

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. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the 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 the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date regarding the determination of an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38208/11]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in April, 2007. I considered the application in May, 2011 and decided to defer making a final decision in this case until May 2013. The person concerned was notified of this decision in a letter issued on 31 May, 2011.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position in respect of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38209/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 401 of Tuesday, 29th November, 2011. The position is unchanged since then.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the 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 the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate if a stamp 4 visa will be issued to facilitate employment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38210/11]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of Thursday, 6th October, 2011 in this matter. I re-iterated this position in my Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 400 of Tuesday, 29th November, 2011. The position is unchanged since then.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The 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 the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Garda Remuneration

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

139 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm that gardaí are paid overtime or expenses for court appearances; and if so, if he will quantify the amounts paid for court appearances in 2010. [38213/11]

Overtime and travel/subsistence payments may be made to a Garda member attending court. This will depend on a number of factors, including when the member is rostered for duty and the location at which the court is sitting.

I understand from the Garda authorities that approximately 25% of overtime was expended on court duty in 2010 which equates to approximately €13.5m. I am further informed that it is not possible to quantify the corresponding travel and subsistence expenditure.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or likely position and procedure to date in the determination of residency or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38223/11]

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 9th July, 2008, 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. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the 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 the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38224/11]

The person referred to by the Deputy is a failed asylum seeker who has been in the State from 19 February 2007. He married an EU citizen on 25 June 2009 and applied for residency on the basis of EU Treaty Rights under the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 and 2008. Permission to reside in the State was granted from the 29 July 2010 on the basis of being married to an EU citizen spouse who was residing and exercising her EU Treaty Rights in the State by being in employment in the State.

Should the person in question wish to make a submission against any other person's deportation, they are free to make any such submission, which should be made in writing and lodged with the Repatriation Unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current and expected position in the matter of the determination of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38225/11]

The person concerned was granted temporary permission to remain in the State, on Stamp 4 conditions, on 25 June 2010. This permission was renewed subsequently and is currently valid until 26 December 2011. The person concerned was advised in both decision letters that he is required to apply one month before the expiry period if he wishes to renew his permission to remain. To date, INIS have no record of such renewal application having been made and I would recommend that the person concerned should do so as soon as possible.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the 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 the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate the current position and likely determination date for the conclusion of an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [38226/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 165 on 20 October, 2011. The position remains unchanged.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which circumstances relating to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway have been examined in view of the full extent of circumstances prevailing in the person's homeland including the death of family members; the extent to which such circumstances will be examined in detail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38227/11]

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 15th July, 2010, 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. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

I am satisfied that the State has a very fair and comprehensive mechanism in place for the consideration of all asylum applications and, as such, I am satisfied that the asylum application made by the person concerned was properly considered before a decision to refuse it was taken. I am equally satisfied that any future decision taken in the context of the case of the person concerned will have regard for all relevant factors.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the 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 the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will examine the circumstances in the application against refoulement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38228/11]

The individual concerned claimed asylum in 2005 and the issue of refoulement was considered in the context of that asylum claim, which was ultimately rejected by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. The refusal of the asylum claim was upheld on appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Following the refusal of her asylum claim, the applicant's legal representatives submitted representations under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), which included material in relation to Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 on the prohibition of refoulement. I am satisfied that the representations submitted for consideration under Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, were given the fullest consideration before a Deportation Order was made against this person.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. As this person has not yet complied with the requirements of the Deportation Order and has remained in the State in contravention of the Deportation Order, the enforcement of that Order is now an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

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. The 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.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the requirements, if any, in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38230/11]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that the person mentioned by the Deputy has permission to remain in the state until 2 June 2016 and that this permission allows him to work in the State without the requirement of a work permit.

This person's family members have permission to remain in the State as his dependants. To date no application has been received from any of his dependants for a change in their immigration status.

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 system.

Garda Investigations

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which corporate enforcement is likely to become actually enforceable, with particular reference to those who have shown a reluctance to co-operate with the Director of Corporate Enforcement or have placed themselves outside the jurisdiction, thereby making it impossible to obtain an explanation for decisions which may have negatively affected the economic situation and resulted in a liability for the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38231/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if any action has been taken or is likely to be taken against those who took corporate decisions that ultimately led to economic damage and a major liability on the taxpayer; if Garda investigations are under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38232/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 148 together.

I attach the highest priority to the full investigation of white collar crime and bringing the perpetrators of such crime to justice. I have already expressed my unhappiness at the protracted nature of the investigations underway. This is not a criticism of the investigators and prosecutors, who face tough challenges as a result of the complexities of the matters being investigated. At the same time, I am anxious to ensure that I do not say anything which might jeopardise any prosecutions.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment that rogue bankers and all those that misappropriate or embezzle funds are properly pursued for their crimes and that the full rigours of the law will apply to them. Within eight weeks of taking up office, I moved urgently to draft, and seek Government approval to the introduction of, additional legislation. This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Act 2011, was enacted on 2 August.

The main purpose of the Act is to facilitate the more effective investigation of white collar crime and to reduce associated delays. The Act provides for new procedures to facilitate Garda access to essential information, documentation and electronically held information to assist in current and future investigations of white collar crime. The Act is targeted at specified serious and complex offences attracting a penalty of at least 5 years imprisonment, including offences in the areas of banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud and corruption.

The Act provides for a new offence regarding failure to report information to the Gardaí which could prevent the commission of white collar crime or assist An Garda Síochána in an investigation into white collar crime. The Act also contains provisions to protect whistleblowers who disclose information to An Garda Síochána relating to relevant offences.

In addition, it provides for offences committed by persons or witnesses who are unwilling or reluctant to assist with an investigation. The provisions of the Act include a new power for the Garda Síochána to apply to court for an order to require any person with relevant information to produce documents, answer questions and provide information for the purposes of the investigation of relevant offences. Failure to comply with such an order will be an offence, punishable by way of a term of imprisonment or a fine or both. This is a central provision of the Act.

It is expected that the Act will provide vital assistance to An Garda Síochána in the completion of current investigations as well as providing assistance to them in investigations undertaken in the future.

The decision to seek the extradition of a person charged with a criminal offence rests with the DPP and arises only where the Director has decided that a person should be prosecuted in the first instance. As the Deputy will appreciate, the Director is independent in the exercise of her functions and, as Minister, I have no function in deciding whether a person should be charged with an offence or whether a person's extradition should be sought.

With regard to the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, I am informed by the Garda authorities that three investigation files and a supplementary file have to date been submitted to the Law Officers. Directions are awaited. The investigations by An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement are ongoing.

Any allegations of criminality against any persons or business reported or made known to An Garda Síochána will be fully investigated.

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 42.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of known criminal gang members currently in prison; the number likely to be released over the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38234/11]

The emergence in recent years of criminal gangs has had significant implications for the management of Irish prisons. Rivalries and feuds which develop on the outside continue inside of prison. Prison management have to ensure that the various factions are kept apart and, as far as possible, that gang members do not have influence over other inmates or criminal activities outside the prisons. Gang members are being managed on a daily basis through segregation and separation throughout the prison system. Membership/allegiance to these criminal gangs fluctuates on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated. Intelligence on the ground would suggest that at any given time between 30% and 40% of the prison population has links to a criminal gang.

A number of initiatives have been introduced with a view to preventing identified gang leaders from conducting criminal activities while in custody and also to prevent them exerting inappropriate influence over other persons. For example, the security initiatives undertaken by the Operational Security Group have made it more difficult for prisoners to engage in illegal activities while in prison. These initiatives include the introduction of passive and active drug detection dogs and the installation of airport style security including scanners and x-ray machines. Core functions of this group include gathering and collating intelligence information on criminal gang members in Irish prisons, carrying out intelligence led searches and preventing the flow of contraband (including mobile phones) into the prisons.

I can advise the Deputy it is not possible to provide the number of prisoners in this category who are due to be released in the next 12 months without the manual examination of prisoner files. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources. However, I can inform the Deputy that there is regular contact between the Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues including the operation of criminal gangs. Gardaí are also provided with reports detailing the release dates of this category of prisoner.

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 42.

Prison Accommodation

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which it is expected that sufficient prison spaces will be provided to meet prison accommodation requirements and achieve a reduction in cell multi-occupancy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38236/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population in Ireland over recent years. The problem of prison overcrowding therefore remains a challenging issue which unfortunately cannot be resolved overnight.

I share the view of the Thornton Hall Review Group that decisive action is required on a number of fronts in order to address the problem of overcrowding and poor physical conditions particularly in Mountjoy and Cork Prisons. Whilst the reduced capital envelope this year will not allow the Prison Service to proceed with the construction of Thornton Hall or Kilworth prisons, this does not signal a reversal of the Government's decision earlier this year to approve in principle the recommendations contained in the Thornton Hall Review Group Report. It has been necessary to defer the commencement of these projects but the Deputy can be assured that it is my strong intention to revisit the timeframe for their delivery in 12 months time.

Despite a reduction in the capital allocation available to the Prison Service in 2012, work will continue on the completion of a new 300 space prison wing in the Midlands Prison and it is expected that these spaces will be fully commissioned by mid 2012. I can also advise the Deputy that an administrative building on the Dóchas Centre site has been converted into a new accommodation block which will provide an additional 70 spaces. It is expected that this block will be ready for occupation in early 2012. The opening of the new spaces at the Dóchas Centre will assist in alleviating the overcrowding issue. It is expected that the new accommodation, which is dormitory style, will accommodate prisoners who are being held on remand and those serving short sentences.

I am also continuing to pursue alternatives to custody and progress is being made. The recently enacted Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011 requires the sentencing judge to consider the imposition of community service where a custodial sentence of 12 months or less is being considered. A number of key recommendations contained in the Thornton Hall Review Group Report are also receiving priority attention in my Department and many are in the process of being implemented, most notably the introduction of an incentivised scheme for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service. In this regard, a six month pilot project commenced in October 2011 in which it is envisaged that a total of 130 prisoners will participate. To date, 39 prisoners have been released under the scheme with a further 18 due for release in the near future.

The Fines Act 2010 introduced measures to prevent the automatic imprisonment of fine defaulters. I intend to bring forward new legislative proposals to introduce a system of "attachment orders" allowing a small amount of money to be taken from wages or social welfare facilitating the payment of the debt or fine over time. The concept of restorative justice also has a place in the range of non-custodial options which are available for use by the courts. The Deputy can be assured that my focus is to encourage the use of such options to the greatest extent possible.

Prison Committals

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of prisoners in all prisons serving sentences for serious crimes; the extent to which such numbers have fluctuated in recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38237/11]

The statistics requested by the Deputy are provided in the following tables. In 2010 the Irish Prison Service recategorised the offence groups under which prisoners' convictions are recorded. Statistics are now compiled using the same groups as those used by An Garda Síochána, the Central Statistics Office, the Courts Service and the Probation Service.

On 28th October, 2011 there were 4,249 persons in custody, 3,611 of which were sentenced prisoners. The offence profile for those prisoners is provided in the following table as well as the profile for the sentenced prisoner population on 30 November 2010. About 85% of sentenced prisoners are serving sentences of one year or more.

Offence

28.10.11

30.11.10

Homicide Offences

375

368

Sexual Offences

305

310

Attempts/Threat to Murder, Assaults, Related Offences

422

455

Dangerous or Negligent Acts

90

110

Kidnapping and Related Offences

38

34

Robbery, Extortion and Hijacking Offences

94

90

Burglary and Related Offences

321

334

Theft and Related Offences

646

651

Fraud, Deception and Related Offences

38

37

Controlled Drug Offences

777

852

Weapons and Explosives Offences

197

209

Damage to Property and to the Environment

106

96

Public Order and Other Social Code Offences

61

49

Road and Traffic Offences

56

71

Offences against Govt., Justice Procedures and Org. Crime

58

47

Offences Not Elsewhere Classified

27

8

Total

3,611

3,721

The profile for the years 2007 to 2009 is included in the following table.

Offence

4.12.09

5.12.08

5.12.07

Murder

264

251

228

Manslaughter

71

72

84

Sexual Offences

292

275

237

Other Offences against the person

526

433

405

Offences against property with violence

102

96

86

Offences against property without violence

941

749

696

Drug Offences

760

567

472

Road Traffic Offences

170

184

190

Other Offences

292

317

298

Total

3,418

2,944

2,696

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 42.

Jury Intimidation

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which incidents of witness intimidation or interference with juries have been identified over the past five years; the extent of any action taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38239/11]

Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 makes it an offence to harm or threaten, menace or in any other way intimidate or put in fear a person who is assisting in the investigation by An Garda Síochána of an offence or a witness or potential witness or a juror or potential juror in proceedings for an offence or a member of his or her family, intending to obstruct, pervert or interfere with an investigation or the course of justice.

The original penalty provided for in the 1999 Act upon being found guilty under this section was 10 years. In view of the gravity with which this type of criminal activity is viewed, the penalty was increased to 15 years by the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that separate records are not maintained of offences under section 41 as between those directed against witnesses and those directed against jurors. Accordingly, the information available from the Gardaí covers both categories of individuals. The Deputy will appreciate that, of their nature, instances of intimidation of jurors are less likely to come to notice than instances of witness intimidation. The Gardaí rigorously enforce the provisions of the law relating to witness and jury intimidation and, of course, will continue to do so. The table below shows the position with regard to the number of proceedings commenced and convictions for offences under Section 41 of the 1999 Act for the period from 2006 to 29 November 2011.

Year

Proceedings*

Convictions**

2011

33

6

2010

43

17

2009

31

12

2008

18

6

2007

16

3

2006

45

12

*These figures indicate the number of proceedings commenced in respect of incidents reported for the years in question.

**Figures provided are provisional and will change in the light of the outcome of court proceedings.

Question No. 156 answered with Question No. 42.

Garda Operational Reviews

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will ensure that any operational review throughout An Garda Síochána in the context of budgetary constraints are not allowed to affect negatively the force’s ability to deal with crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38241/11]

As I have indicated to this House on many occasions, tackling crime, and bringing those involved to justice, is a priority for the Government. At operational level the implementation of specific measures to deal with those engaging in criminal activity is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

In that context Garda management closely monitors the allocation of resources with reference to crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. Additionally, the Garda authorities are satisfied that a full and comprehensive policing service continues to be delivered and that the current structures in place meet the requirement to deliver an effective and efficient service to the community.

Defence Forces Properties

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

158 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to repeated approaches to him by a society (details supplied) seeking to have improved management systems put in place for the Curragh plain, County Kildare; if he has considered these proposals; if he intends to implement either a revised or improved management system for this national resource; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38250/11]

Since being appointed Minister for Defence I have had one approach from this Society and met with three of their representatives in June last. At that meeting they outlined their concerns on a number of incidents that had occurred in the Curragh over recent years and sought the introduction of a number of measures that had been proposed by the Inter-Departmental Task Force on the future management and development of the Curragh of Kildare including the establishment of a Statutory Authority under the aegis of the Minister for Defence to manage the Curragh with the exception of the Defence Forces Training Centre.

At that time I indicated that the establishment of such a body as a separate agency under the aegis of my Department would have involved additional costs in terms of staff, accommodation, expenses and payments to members of the Authority, which would be significantly greater than the costs incurred by the Department in administering the Curragh Lands. As you are aware the Government has targeted the rationalisation of State agencies as a key cost saving measure. In that context it would be inappropriate and indeed costly to establish a separate agency to manage work currently being done economically by the staff of the Department. Given the requirements of administrative efficiency, and the technical issues raised in relation to the role of the Minister as the final arbiter in disputes relating to the use of the Curragh Lands, it was decided not to proceed with the establishment of the Authority, which was a primary focus of the recommendations of the Inter-Departmental Task Force.

The way forward now will involve a review by the Department of the varying usage of the lands by a range of different interests in the Curragh, not least the Defence Forces, with a view to establishing how these can be best accommodated and managed within the existing administrative framework and within existing resources. The question of the requirement for legislation to address any other issues in relation to the Curragh Lands can then be examined in this context. This work will proceed as resources allow, given the competing demands on the Department's staff and resources and the need to prioritise issues and allocate reducing resources to the core Defence policy and operational issues.

I understand that the Deputy accompanied representatives of the Society at a meeting with one of my predecessors when the general position as outlined above was conveyed to them.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

159 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence if he has had any engagement with any agency or body, other than Kildare County Council, in respect of the future use of lands at Magee Barracks, Kildare town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38252/11]

Officials from Enterprise Ireland and the IDA visited the site on the 14 November last. On 16 November, I met with a deputation from Kildare Chamber of Commerce to discuss possible future uses. In terms of disposal the Deputy will appreciate that the market remains extremely difficult.

In the past week my Department has written to all other Government Departments and a number of State agencies advising them of properties, including the former Magee Barracks site, which are available for disposal and expressions of interest, if any, are awaited.

Whilst I am open to any suggestions on the future use and development of the site I would like to reiterate that it is the Department's intention to dispose of the property, taking account of the market conditions, so as to maximise the return to the Defence Forces.

Kildare County Council is currently preparing a Local Area Plan (LAP) for the town of Kildare. This plan will set out a vision for the future development of the town. The Magee site is a significant site in the town and will be a central feature of the plan.

Farm Payments

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

160 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a single farm and disadvantaged area payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38095/11]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 6 May 2011. This application was selected for and was the subject of a Ground Eligibility Inspection. This inspection was completed and the results are now being processed.

In the vast majority of inspected cases, including this case, amendments have had to be made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. This work is ongoing and every effort is being made to complete the processing of those who were the subject of a Ground Eligibility Inspection.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

161 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38123/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 15 April 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing payment to issue shortly, directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Harbours and Piers

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

162 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will make the necessary funding available to Kerry County Council for a compulsory purchase order for lands required for an access road to the proposed pier at Cromane, County Kerry. [38134/11]

Kerry County Council proposes to construct a new pier at Cromane, County Kerry. The proposed pier will be the property of that Local Authority who will be responsible for its development, maintenance and repair.

My Department manages the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Programme and subject to the availability of exchequer resources endeavours to provide funding for Local Authority owned piers and harbours.

No application for funding in respect of Cromane was received from Kerry County Council in 2011, but any application for funding in future years by Kerry County Council will be given consideration subject to available exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

Grant Payments

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38148/11]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 10 May 2011. This application was selected for and was the subject of a Ground Eligibility/Cross Compliance Inspection. This inspection was completed and the results are now being processed.

In the vast majority of inspected cases, including this case, amendments have had to be made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. This work is ongoing and every effort is being made to complete the processing of those who were the subject of a Ground Eligibility Inspection.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

164 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38149/11]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in June 2009 and received payments for the first two years of the contract. In addition, 75% of the Year 3 payment for 2011 for the amount of €4073.63 will issue within the next week. The balancing 25% payments in respect of Year 3 will commence before the end of the year.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

165 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38150/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 10 May 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing payments under both schemes to issue shortly, directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

166 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38151/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised. The 50% advance of the Single Payment issued to the person named on 24 November 2011, while payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme issued on 25 November 2011. Balancing payments under the Single Payment Scheme are due to commence issuing as and from today, 1 December.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

167 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38152/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Schemes was received from the person named on 11 May 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised with full payment under both schemes due to the applicant. The 50% advance of the Single Payment issued to the person named on 22 November 2011, while payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme issued on 24 November 2011. Balancing payments under the Single Payment Scheme will commence issuing to all fully processed applicants, including the person named, as and from today, 1 December.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

168 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38153/11]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 13 May 2011. This application was selected for and was the subject of a Ground Eligibility/Cross Compliance Inspection. This inspection was completed and the results are now being processed.

In the vast majority of inspected cases, including this case, amendments have had to be made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. This work is ongoing and every effort is being made to complete the processing of those who were the subject of a Ground Eligibility Inspection.

Departmental Schemes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

169 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if non-eligibility for disadvantaged area scheme payment due to low stocking density can affect eligibility for the single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38160/11]

The minimum stocking rate requirement under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is as outlined in the Terms and Conditions, which govern the Scheme. Applicants who fail to meet this requirement will not receive any payment under that Scheme for the year in question. Such stocking limits, while a requirement under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, are not a requirement under the Single Payment Scheme. However, it is necessary under the requirements of the Single Payment Scheme that the declared land be maintained in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. In the case of some land types, this can only be achieved by livestock grazing the land.

Both the Schemes are governed by their own set of Terms and Conditions, which are available on my Department's website.

Grant Payments

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

170 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outstanding information required by him in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; when the farm payment due will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38162/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 19 April 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing payment to issue shortly, directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

171 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason the single farm payment has been delayed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when payment will issue. [38165/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 26 April 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing full payment to issue to the applicant in the first week of December, directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Food Harvest 2020

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

172 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has an estimate available of the capital requirements to increase and expand processing and handling systems in the dairy industry as projected in Food Harvest 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38171/11]

Food Harvest 2020 has a target of a 50% increase in milk production by 2020. I believe this target can be achieved through a focused and determined implementation of the report's recommendations for the dairy sector, which include:

(i) the need to improve on-farm competitiveness through, for example, animal health and genetic improvement programmes as well as increased efficiency through education and technology transfer,

(ii) the need to ensure adequate capacity and maximum efficiency at processing level,

(iii) the need to facilitate more commercially focused R&D and marketing activities, as well as further research into strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It is a matter for the dairy processing industry as to what their capital requirements will be to ensure the provision of adequate processing capacity. However, it is encouraging that the importance of the issue has been acknowledged in the Dairy Expansion Activation Group's Road Map for the implementation of Food Harvest 2020 in the dairy sector, which contains specific actions required at processing level. I am confident that the processing industry will respond as necessary and will work with the rest of the sector to ensure that theFood Harvest 2020 objectives are met.

Fur Farming

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

173 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is committed to a ban on fur farming in the forthcoming animal welfare Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38191/11]

I have established a Review Group in my Department to review all aspects of fur farming. Submissions have been invited on the review with a 31 December 2011 closing date for receipt of submissions. I will consider what action, if any, to take following the submission of the Review Group's findings.

Forestry Sector

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

174 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of hectares that he expects will be planted in forestry this year; the number he intends to fund for 2012; the benefits, if any, planting these areas will provide in meeting our climate change commitments; if he has the capital available to meet his commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38199/11]

It is anticipated that payment will be made for approximately 7,000 hectares of new forestry in 2011. Funding for 2012 will be announced as part of the 2012 Budget process. Forestry makes a significant contribution to Ireland's climate change mitigation strategy. For the purpose of the Kyoto Protocol eligible forests (i.e. those planted since 1990) will sequester 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (Mt CO2 ) over the 5-year period to the end of 2012 (2.6 million tonnes in 2010). This represents 25% of the emission reductions arising from existing measures outlined in the National Climate Change Strategy.

Grant Payments

Michael Creed

Ceist:

175 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of the outstanding balance of a 2010 REP scheme 4 application; if he will arrange for prompt payment of 2011 REPscheme 4 and disadvantaged area payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38211/11]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 27 April 2011.

This application was selected for and was the subject of a Ground Eligibility/Cross Compliance Inspection. This inspection was completed and the results are now being processed.

In the vast majority of inspected cases, including this case, amendments have had to be made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. This work is ongoing and every effort is being made to complete the processing of those who were the subject of a Ground Eligibility Inspection. Insofar as REPS is concerned, the person named commenced in the scheme in June 2008 and received payment for the first two years of the contract. In addition, 75% of the year 3 payment for 2010 issued on 7th April 2011 for the amount of €6724.28 and the remaining 25% balancing payment will be paid shortly.

Finally, my Department has now completed the necessary administration checks, including plan checks, on all REPS 4 applications and the 2011 payments will commence in the next few days.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

176 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38216/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 13 May 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing payment to issue shortly, directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Sean Conlan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive a single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38247/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 12 May 2011, processing of which was recently finalised, thereby allowing the appropriate payment issue shortly, directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

178 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total expenditure to date in 2011, broken down by specific scheme, on the targeted agricultural modernisation schemes. [38253/11]

Grant payments under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) are made when documented claims in respect of completed projects have been submitted and verified by my Department. The expenditure to date in 2011 under the Schemes is set out in the following table:—

Scheme

Amount (€m)

Bioenergy

0.158

Dairy Equipment

Poultry Welfare

0.462

Rainwater Harvesting

Sheep Fencing/Handling

Sow Welfare

Total

0.620

Inter-Country Adoptions

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

179 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in view of the fact that Ethiopia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the efforts she can make to progress a bilateral agreement with the Ethiopian state; her views on whether the prospect of such an agreement is realistic; and if so, the likely timetable. [38126/11]

Adoptions from Ethiopia, effected under the transitional arrangements provided for in the Adoption Act 2010, are ongoing and are currently being examined, and recognised, by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). These transitional arrangements may lead to adoptions from Ethiopia taking place up to the end of October 2013.

Adoptions from Ethiopia which are not covered by the transitional arrangements referred to above require a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Ethiopia. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on inter-country adoption with states who have not ratified the Hague Convention 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.”

Ethiopia, as it is not a signatory of the Hague Convention, is covered by Section 73 of the Adoption Act, 2010. The opening of negotiations on such a bilateral would require an analysis of

the current situation regarding adoptions in Ethiopia;

issues regarding the compatibility of the laws between the two countries and

the plans of that jurisdiction vis a vis the Hague Convention.

The AAI have indicated that certain issues could arise that would require detailed consideration, especially issues relating to the effect of Ethiopian adoptions in the context of the Adoption Act 2010. My Department is in regular and ongoing contact with the AAI and the Irish Embassy in Ethiopia in order to assess possible next steps vis a vis that jurisdiction. However further action will have to have regard for the wider work programme of the AAI and agreed priorities.

As the Hague Convention is designed to ensure a minimum set of standards in inter-country adoption, the Adoption Authority of Ireland have indicated that their first priority is to reach agreements on arrangements with other Hague countries. The AAI have recently returned from the USA and now intend to develop an administrative arrangement with the USA for inter-country adoption. In the coming weeks the AAI intends to visit Mexico and Vietnam in the context of entering into administrative arrangements with both those jurisdictions, the latter being dependent on the entering into force of the Hague convention in Vietnam on 1 February 2012.

I am extremely conscious that the Authority have a full work programme in the terms of these countries as well as the important upcoming priority of our engagement with Vietnam. In addition, the Authority and my officials will be undertaking exploratory meetings with the Russian authorities in the coming weeks.

The Authority must also prioritise checks of legal compatibility with a wide range of jurisdictions in order to process applications for the recognition of the adoptions of children already adopted from abroad by Irish citizens. These are desktop reviews requiring legal advices but are urgently required to regulate the status of children already adopted.

Children in Care

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

180 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children who have gone missing while in care between January and July 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38111/11]

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive for the information in question which I will forward to the Deputy.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

181 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children who have died while in care between January and July 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38112/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that one child died while in care between January and July of this year.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

182 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will have a operation carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38071/11]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals have been instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they have no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. Where they fail to do so, the NTPF will source the necessary treatments elsewhere and an appropriate budgetary adjustment will be made.

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and facility involved.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

183 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a hospital appointment in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [38074/11]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and facility involved.

Medical Cards

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

184 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite an application for renewal of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38076/11]

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

Departmental Funding

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

185 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Health the total amount of funding being allocated to an organisation (details supplied) for 2012; if he will give an assurance that such funding will not be reduced in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38081/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, a comprehensive review of expenditure has been undertaken within each Department which has been the basis for the 2012 Estimates. The level of funding available for the health budget and the extent of the savings required in the health sector will be indicated when the Estimates are published, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage prior to this publication. The level of funding which the HSE will allocate to specific organisations in 2012 will have to be determined by the Executive in the context of the overall level of resources which will be made available to it next year, and priorities identified in the National Service Plan.

I have referred this matter to the HSE and asked it to inform the Deputy regarding the organisation's budget when it is finalised.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

186 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the fair deal scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [38092/11]

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

Hepatitis C Infection

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

187 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will consider an amendment to either the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 or the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act 1996 or both, as required, to deal with the anomaly of those who are currently testing negative following anti-D contamination but who are suffering ill-health consistent with those testing positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38103/11]

Section 6 of the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act, 2006 (No. 22 of 2006) rectified an ambiguity in previous legislation as to the definition of "contracted Hepatitis C" and "diagnosed positive for Hepatitis C". This was important in relation to eligibility to apply for compensation under the Hepatitis Compensation Tribunal Act and for services under the Health Amendment Act (HAA) Card. The HAA card entitles holders to avail of a broad range of health services free of charge. As a result of this amendment, there is a now a clear definition for "diagnosed positive for Hepatitis C", using internationally recognised scientific tests, which must apply before a person is eligible for compensation or for services under the Health Amendment Act, 1996.

Some 1,500 people have a HAA Card.

Taking account of international practices and clarification of eligibility brought by the 1996 Amendment, I am satisfied that the present arrangements are fair and reasonable.

Medical Cards

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

188 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Health, further to Parliamentary Question No. 525 of 2 November 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38127/11]

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

Health Services

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

189 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an assessment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38136/11]

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

190 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding physiotherapy in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38137/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together.

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

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

191 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the fair deal scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38140/11]

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

Cancer Incidence

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

192 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health his views on the recent report by the OECD regarding Irish cancer survival rates; if he is concerned at the findings; how he proposes to improve our survival rates in respect of all cancers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38181/11]

The OECD'sHealth At A Glance 2011: OECD Indicators presents the most recent comparable data on key indicators of health and health systems across OECD countries. This includes data on cancer incidence, mortality and five-year relative survival. While it is welcome that the report mentions notable increases in breast cancer survival rates in Ireland, it also shows that survival rates for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer lag behind the OECD average, with the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer being the lowest in the OECD 16.

These data refer to cancers detected in 2004 or latest available year (cancers diagnosed in 2001-2003 in the case of Ireland) and followed up until 2008. For this reason the establishment of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) in late 2007 and the subsequent changes in the organisation and delivery of cancer services in Ireland within the eight cancer centres are not yet reflected in these data. International evidence shows that the best outcomes for cancer patients are achieved by specialist teams in specialist settings, with access to ongoing education, training, research and peer review. Accordingly, the NCCP has been working to centralise diagnosis and treatment for cancer in eight designated cancer centres and has made considerable progress in this area.

Cancer screening is also key to improving survival and can play a role both in prevention (cervical and colorectal screening) as well as early detection. The OECD data do not reflect the introduction in 2008 of CervicalCheck, which last year screened 329,000 women, or the completion of the national roll-out of BreastCheck, which in 2010 screened over 118,000 women. In addition to these programmes, work is continuing on the introduction of a national colorectal cancer screening programme in mid-2012. These measures should be reflected in improved Irish cancer survival rates in the coming years.

Hospital Accommodation

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

193 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the number of public hospital beds that were in place in 2007 and the number now available in November 2011; the number of private hospital beds in place in 2007 and the number now available; if he is satisfied that sufficient beds are now available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38192/11]

The national average number of acute hospital beds available in public hospitals for the years 2007 and 2010 broken down by public, private and non-designated is set out in the table below. Acute bed numbers in public hospitals are counted as an average of beds available over each year, given that the number of beds available in each hospital can vary over any year for operational reasons. This data comprises in-patient beds and day places and includes acute psychiatric beds. 2010 is the latest year in respect of which national validated acute bed data is available.

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

Year

Public

Private

Non-Designated

Total

2007

10,279

2,471

918

13,668

2010

9,461

2,411

1,144

13,016

Home Help Service

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

194 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if a person (details supplied) in County Donegal will be allocated home help hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38197/11]

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if he will indicate if and when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38206/11]

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

Departmental Funding

Joe Costello

Ceist:

196 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health the amount of State funding granted to an organisation (details supplied); if he will ensure that existing funding is maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38218/11]

Below are the details provided to me by the HSE, regarding funding to the Irish Osteoporosis Society:

Allocated

Sought

€128,000 in 2006

€250,000 in 2007

€250,000 in 2008

€225,000 in 2009

€205,000 in 2010

€225,000

€150,000 in 2011

€205,000

I have requested my officials and the HSE to meet with the Irish Osteoporosis Society. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss further the issues and concerns that have arisen in relation to funding.

Medical Cards

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

197 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure a seriously ill person will receive a longer issue on the person's general medical services card than a month at a time. [38255/11]

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

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health when the fair deal payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38256/11]

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

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health when the fair deal payment will issue to a person (details supplied). [38257/11]

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

Public Transport

Jack Wall

Ceist:

200 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the reduction in student fares as a result of the recent introduction of an integrated ticketing system known as the Leap card (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38120/11]

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority. I have referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for direct reply. He should inform my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

Ministerial Travel

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

201 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the use of bus lanes by Ministers; his plans to alter this provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38147/11]

As part of plans to reduce Government costs, this Government decided, on coming to power, to set an example by withdrawing State cars from all members of the Cabinet except the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence. It is estimated that this will result in an annual saving of €4m per annum to the State. Other members of the Government, and the Ceann Comhairle, now provide their own cars. State cars are driven by Gardaí, and as such receive exemptions from a wide range of traffic and parking regulations. Among other exemptions, Gardaí have the right to use bus lanes. As a consequence, with civilian rather than Garda drivers, Ministers no longer had the exemptions which applied to their predecessors.

The Government subsequently decided that, in order to facilitate the business of Government and the Dáil, members of the Government, the Attorney General, Ministers of State who regularly attend Cabinet (i.e. the Chief Whip and super-junior Minister — no other Minister of State has this right), and the Ceann Comhairle, should only be allowed to retain the traffic exemption of travelling in with-flow bus lanes, while on official business. This is not some new privilege. It means that Ministers, like their predecessors, can avail of bus lanes whilst on official business to get to official functions on time.

This measure was introduced by the Road Traffic (Bus Lanes) (Exemption Regulations 2011) (S.I. No. 527 of 2011).

Penalty Points System

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

202 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress, if any, that has been made with the Northern Ireland and UK authorities regarding the problems of speeding and other activities in which penalty points should be applicable either north or south of the Border in order to minimise the risks of accident and death, especially along motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38193/11]

Officials from my Department are continuing to work with the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland towards the longer term objective of introducing mutual recognition of penalty points for driving offences.

Unlike the bilateral arrangements between the UK and Ireland, under Article 15.4 of the 1998 EU Convention on driving disqualifications, which came into operation in January 2010, there is no agreed international framework dealing with the recognition of penalty points for driving offences. Accordingly, a significant volume of work will be required, including the provision of an appropriate framework of law and international agreement.

It is intended that, initially, mutual recognition will be applied to a four penalty points offences; namely, drink driving, speeding, use of a mobile phone while driving and non-use of a safety belt.

I have met with my counterpart Mr. Alex Atwood MLA, Minister of the Environment on the Northern Ireland Executive to discuss this matter, and it was also discussed at the most recent North South Ministerial Council.