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 30, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 31 to 59, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 60 to 69, inclusive, answered orally.

Nuclear Proliferation

John Browne

Ceist:

70 Deputy John Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the estimated cost of the oil embargo on Iran to the Irish economy; the actions he proposes to take in conjunction with the EU to prevent the uranium enrichment programme being pursued by Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9547/12]

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

71 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the justification for Ireland’s support of further European sanctions on Iran in view of our policy of neutrality; his views on reports that current sanctions on Iran mean the country is struggling to buy basic staples to feed its 74 million people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9626/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 71 together.

The latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran, issued on 8 November, concluded that there are both strong grounds for serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme and that information available indicated that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The report is based on information drawn from a wide variety of sources and deemed by the IAEA to be "consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organizations involved, and time frames". The IAEA is, of course, the internationally recognised watchdog on this issue, with unrivalled technical expertise and a record of absolute impartiality and independence. The Government is satisfied, as are Ireland's EU partners, that the IAEA's report is credible and its conclusions must be taken very seriously.

Regrettably, Iran made no move to address the findings of the IAEA report. Therefore, in addition to tough bilateral sanctions implemented by US, Canada and the UK, the EU has recently been compelled to adopt two further rounds of restrictive measures which I fully support. These were agreed at the Foreign Affairs Councils held on 1 December 2011 and 23 January 2012 and include a phased embargo of Iranian crude oil imports to the EU.

While Ireland does not import any Iranian crude oil, Ireland is of course affected by increases in the global price of crude oil. While any such recent increases are regrettable, Ireland has been prepared, along with our EU Partners, to accept them as the necessary price for maintaining international cohesion and pressure on Iran to address the concerns over its nuclear programme. Moreover, any increase is likely to be at least partially offset by concerted efforts underway to promote increased alternative oil supplies and lower price agreements by existing consumers of Iranian crude.

There is no doubt that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated internationally as a result of its government's refusal to address the nuclear issue. This isolation is compounding the already extensive economic problems which Iran is currently facing and is negatively affecting the wider Iranian population, with whom the EU has no quarrel.

However, these sanctions can be swiftly reversed if Iran takes concrete steps to address the very serious concerns of the international community and provide assurances as to the peaceful intentions of its nuclear programme. In this regard, I note with interest Iran's recent acceptance of the E3+3's proposal of October 2011 to renew talks.

It is my belief that the additional measures adopted by the EU, as well as the tough bilateral sanctions implemented by US, Canada and the UK in recent months, have been of great influence in triggering this belated acceptance of talks by Iran. I hope that renewed negotiations will begin soon and that Iran will now address comprehensively the international concerns about the possible military dimension of its nuclear programme. I urge the Iranian side to enter negotiations this time in a genuine spirit of compromise and cooperation. Ultimately, it remains the Government's strong view that the issues surrounding Iran's nuclear activities can only be adequately addressed and resolved through diplomacy and negotiations, and not by any other means.

Human Rights Issues

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

72 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the efforts he has made to intervene and save the life of Khadar Adnan, held in administrative detention in Israel for over 60 days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9625/12]

I am aware of the case referred to by the Deputy. Khadar Adnan is generally acknowledged to be a leader of Islamic Jihad. I have been very concerned that Mr. Adnan's hunger strike has now reached the point where his health is likely to be seriously endangered. My Department and the Embassy in Tel Aviv has been active in raising our concerns over this serious case with the Israeli authorities and requesting that all possible steps be taken which would allow Mr. Adnan to end his hunger strike. At Ireland's request, the EU has also raised this case locally with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, expressing concern for Mr Adnan's health and the fact that he continues to be shackled to his hospital bed and reiterating the EU's long-standing concerns about the widespread use of administrative detention.

Ireland and our EU Partners have been active for some time in raising the practice of administrative detention and urging the Israeli authorities to move away from and end its use. Such representations appear to have had some effect, with the overall numbers in administrative detention falling considerably in recent years. We will continue to press on this issue as well as on the specific case of Mr. Adnan.

I understand today from our officials on the ground that an understanding may have been reached in the last few hours which would include Mr. Adnan immediately ending his hunger strike. I am awaiting confirmation of this, but I am very hopeful that this is the case.

Arms Trade

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

73 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Britain recently supplied military equipment, including components for military combat vehicles, weapons night sights, communications and range finding, valued at more than £1 million to Egypt’s armed forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9612/12]

The recent elections in Egypt were free, fair and transparent. I regard the success of the elections as a clear sign that Egypt has embarked on the first steps of its democratic transition. However, I share the concerns of many in Egypt that the pace of the transition is too slow and urge the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to hand over power to civilian rule as soon as possible. I am also disturbed by the large number of deaths and injuries caused by the security forces in Egypt since the downfall of former President Mubarak. I urge the authorities to take steps to ensure that law and order is maintained in a manner consistent with human rights, including the right to freedom of assembly. The decision to transfer or deny the transfer of any military equipment or technology is at the national discretion of each exporting State.

In 2008, the EU adopted a Common Position which defines the rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment by Member States. Under this Common Position, Member States assess all licence applications for military exports against a series of Common Criteria. There are eight separate criteria which take into account the effect that the arms transfer could have on the country of final destination. The factors assessed include, among others, the human rights situation on the ground, the existence of tensions or armed conflict, the preservation of regional peace, security and stability, the question of whether the export could affect the sustainable development of the importing state, and the risk of exported military technology or equipment being diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions.

As a result of the Common Position, I would note that armaments companies in the EU are in compliance with one of the strictest export control regimes in the world.

The operation of the Council Common Position is kept under constant review by Member States in light of changing circumstances in individual buyer countries. Ireland strongly supports the Common Position and expects it to be fully implemented by all Member States. The Deputy can be assured that in discussions with our EU partners I will continue to make our position on this very clear.

Foreign Conflicts

Clare Daly

Ceist:

74 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will ensure that Ireland will adopt independent foreign policy positions in relation to the events in Syria and Iran. [9610/12]

Irish foreign policy is formulated in keeping with the national interest in keeping with this country's traditional values and role in the world. We seek also to act in concert with other states in order to achieve practical results. In particular, Ireland has committed itself, as a member of the European Union, to seek to coordinate where possible on foreign policy issues, so as to achieve greater effect in pursuit of the values we share with our fellow members. As successive Governments have made clear, Ireland shares the widely expressed concerns of the international community about Iran's nuclear programme. We have fully supported the efforts of the EU to try to engage Iran in constructive dialogue on these concerns, including most recently through agreeing two further rounds of sanctions at the Foreign Affairs Councils held on 1 December 2011 and 23 January 2012. It is my belief that international cooperation in maintaining and intensifying pressure on Iran, including through the imposition of even tougher sanctions, has been of great influence in persuading the Iranian Government, even if belatedly, in the past week to respond positively to the offer of talks which High Representative Ashton had made last October on behalf of the E3 + 3. I hope the Iranian side will enter negotiations this time in a genuine spirit of compromise and cooperation.

The grave situation in Syria is also one which requires the full engagement of the international community. Ireland is playing its part, bilaterally, with EU partners and at the UN. I have made clear the Government's unequivocal condemnation of the continued violence against civilians in Syria, including when addressing the UN Security Council on 9 February. I have also fully supported the robust economic, political and diplomatic measures taken by the EU, UN and Arab League to compel the Syrian regime to cease its appalling and unacceptable attacks on the Syrian people. Ireland voted in favour, along with the EU and an overwhelming majority of UN member states, of a UN General Assembly Resolution calling for an end to the violence in Syria and implementation of the Arab League peace plan on 16 February. I reiterate the urgent need also for the Security Council to agree a strong resolution on Syria.

The Government, together with its EU partners, will continue to work with the Arab League, UN and other international partners until the violence against Syrian civilians ceases.

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 67.

Human Rights Issues

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

76 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there are any concrete steps he is willing to take in order to share Ireland’s valuable experiences on peace building and peace negotiations with the Colombian civil society and Government; and if he will share those experiences with the vibrant social and civil movements of Colombia who are at the frontline of the struggle for peace. [9621/12]

I met with Colombian Vice-President Angelino Garzón during his visit to Dublin last month, on 24 January. As the Deputy will be aware, Mr Garzón has responsibility in the Colombian Government for taking forward the human rights agenda. We specifically discussed the progress being made under the Santos administration on the peace process, including the human rights conference which is due to be held in November/December this year. The Vice-President noted that plans for the conference, which will take place in Cartagena, were already at a well-advanced stage and the aim is to engage in a broad-based open discussion on Colombia's human rights agenda. The conference will constitute a key step in the Government's commitment to incorporate a wide range of stakeholders and civil society actors, including NGOs, trades unions, human rights organisations, and representatives of indigenous peoples, in the efforts to improve Colombia's human rights record.

Ireland stands ready to share its experiences in this context as well as in other fora. Ireland has welcomed a number of foreign delegations to Ireland for lesson-sharing visits. While the circumstances of all conflicts are different, it is hoped that by facilitating such visits we can share our experiences of the Northern Ireland conflict and help those engaged in conflict resolution efforts in their own countries. My Department would react favourably to a request from Colombia to facilitate such a lesson-sharing visit to Ireland.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

77 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will be raising the issue of China’s policies in Tibet during Xi Jinping’s imminent visit to Dublin; and if he will be calling for the safeguarding of Tibetans’ rights and interests with him. [9619/12]

As I have said recently, the Government has closely followed the reported violent events in areas of Tibetan population in Chinese provinces neighbouring Tibet and is concerned about the situation. Human rights issues were discussed during the recent visit of China's Vice President, Mr. Xi Jinping, to Ireland. The promotion of human rights is an important dimension of Irish foreign policy. Ireland together with our EU partners continues to convey its concerns about the situation in Tibet directly to the Chinese authorities through regular contacts in both Dublin and Beijing. The issue of Tibet is also raised by the European Union as part of regular political dialogue as well as during specific Human Rights dialogues with China which have taken place since 1995.

Ireland together with our EU partners believes that constructive dialogue between the Chinese Government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama is the best way to address differences and tensions in Tibet and to reach a solution that respects Tibetan culture, language, religion and identity. It is important for the long-term peace and stability of the region that the two sides come to an agreement on the future of Tibet. To this end, we continue to encourage an early resumption of dialogue by the parties.

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

78 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he agrees on the need for a robust arms trade treaty that protects human rights; and if he intends to become vocal about the resistance of Governments such as China, Egypt, Russia and the USA to strong human rights safeguards within any potential treaty. [9618/12]

Ireland strongly supports the process of developing strict controls on arms and works actively to promote the objective of strengthening arms controls globally. My officials will participate in a UN Diplomatic Conference from 2-27 July, where I hope agreement can be reached on a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Ireland has been active on work towards an ATT from the outset and during the preparatory process, including at the recent Preparatory Committee meeting held in New York from 13-17 February.

Ireland's objective is to secure a legally-binding and comprehensive treaty with universal application, one that is as robust as possible, and which takes full account of human rights obligations and international humanitarian law. While I am not in a position to comment on the negotiating positions which will be taken by other countries going into the July Diplomatic Conference, I can assure the Deputy that Ireland's objective has not altered since this process began, and that we will continue to work actively, with EU and other like minded partners, to agree an instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

79 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to Britain’s continued sale of firearms to Bahrain, with the British Government’s approval for the sale of military equipment valued at more than 1 million pounds despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf State in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago in the region; and if he intends to raise this issue with the British Government. [9611/12]

I remain concerned about the threat to human rights and the overall political situation in Bahrain. More needs to be done to address the legitimate demands of those peacefully seeking reform and greater inter-communal dialogue in Bahrain. It is essential that a process of national reconciliation and dialogue involving the political opposition, civil society and the victims of human rights violations gets underway as soon as possible. While I was relieved that last week's first anniversary of the 2011 protests did not result in further bloodshed, I was perturbed by the police's heavy-handed response to protests and I urge the Bahraini authorities to ensure full respect for the right to freedom of assembly, in accordance with Bahrain's international obligations. The decision to transfer or deny the transfer of any military technology is at the national discretion of each exporting State. Ireland has not issued a license for the sale of military goods to Bahrain since the outbreak of the protests.

In 2008, the EU adopted a Common Position which defines the rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment by Member States. Under this Common Position, Member States assess all licence applications for military exports against a series of Common Criteria. There are eight separate criteria which take into account the effect that the arms transfer could have on the country of final destination. The factors assessed include, among others, the human rights situation on the ground, the existence of tensions or armed conflict, the preservation of regional peace, security and stability, the question of whether the export could affect the sustainable development of the importing state, and the risk of exported military technology or equipment being diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions.

As a result of the Common Position, I would note that armaments companies in the EU are in compliance with one of the strictest export control regimes in the world.

The operation of the Council Common Position is kept under constant review by Member States in light of changing circumstances in individual buyer countries. Ireland strongly supports the Common Position and expects it to be fully implemented by all Member States. The Deputy can be assured that in discussions with our EU partners I will continue to make our position on this very clear.

International Agreements

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

80 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the current status of the Euro-Med investigation; and if he will clarify if there has been a breach of Article 2 of the EU-Israel Euro Mediterranean Association Agreement concerning the parties’ human rights obligations. [9617/12]

I understand the Deputy's question refers to the consideration by the former Joint Committee on European Affairs (JCEA) of the situation in Gaza and whether it constituted a breach of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, in particular Article 2 concerning the parties' human rights obligations. The Government regards Association Agreements, such as that which exists with Israel, as a central part of the EU's policy of seeking to remove barriers to trade and to develop trade with all of our partner countries, in the Mediterranean or elsewhere. They are framework agreements regulating and structuring contacts and co-operation between the EU and our partners across the full range of policy areas. This formal structure is the way in which the European Union organises its relations with all of its southern neighbours with the exception of Syria and Libya.

Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and similar Articles in Association Agreements with other partners in the region, place human rights firmly as an essential element of the relationship established under the Agreement. The EU has insisted on putting this framework in place, despite the reluctance on the part of some partners to accept human rights clauses as part of these agreements. Many of our southern neighbours would prefer ad hoc co-operation without the formal structured relationship or dialogue on human rights issues established by Association Agreements. The provision on human rights in Association Agreements enables the EU to formally raise our concerns about human rights issues in the political dialogue established by the Agreement, and helps to negate any counter-argument that these are domestic issues in which we should have no interest.

Association Agreements and the human rights provisions they contain recognise that the EU does have ongoing human rights concerns with our partner countries, and establishes political processes to discuss and if possible resolve these concerns. It would be counterproductive, therefore, to assert that the existence of human rights concerns constitutes a breach of the Agreement. The likely result would be that none of the EU's neighbours would accept the inclusion of such a clause in any Association Agreement.

The EU-Israel Association Agreement itself makes no provision for suspension. Instead, it provides in Article 75 that either party may raise a problem with the operation of the agreement at the annual association council, where the parties will work to resolve it. In other words, this is a political process, not a legal one.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 65.

Humanitarian Aid

Robert Troy

Ceist:

82 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions he proposes to take to tackle the nascent famine in the Sahel region of the Sahara desert in order to avert a humanitarian disaster; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9579/12]

Across the Sahel region of western Africa, a combination of drought, high grain prices, environmental degradation and chronic underdevelopment is expected to plunge millions of people into a new food crisis this year. Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, northern Cameroon and northern Nigeria are all likely to be affected. The UN is reporting that there are already an estimated 10 million people struggling to get enough to eat.

The region is ill prepared to manage a new food crisis, with a long history of recurrent droughts and food insecurity having eroded coping mechanisms and left many people increasingly vulnerable. Insecurity is also making the work of humanitarian organisations more difficult in many areas.

I have discussed the challenges involved with a number of key humanitarian partners over recent weeks, including Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, and OCHA's Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg. We agreed that we must learn from the Horn of Africa emergency and ensure that we act now and before the peak of this crisis. Our interventions must also strengthen people's livelihoods, target the most vulnerable groups in the most affected areas, and be well coordinated around national plans.

To this end, I have recently approved a package of funding for the region valued at over €5 million.

This support will be disbursed through a range of partners providing life-saving assistance on the ground, including UN agencies such as the World Food Programme and OCHA, the international federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), which includes the Irish Red Cross, as well as a number of Irish NGOs.

Finally, together with other donors and aid agencies, we will work to ensure greater linkages between our emergency relief and development programmes and in this way tackle the underlying vulnerabilities of people across the region.

Nuclear Proliferation

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

83 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on Taiwan’s plans to finish nuclear power plant four despite serious concerns over storage of radioactive waste being stored at existing power plants, an extensive list of defects on the unfinished NPPF project and two senior executives resigning form the project in late 2011 on that basis. [9613/12]

Ireland adheres to the One-China policy, recognising the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China. I have consulted my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and have been advised that Ireland recognises the right of States to determine their own energy mix, including whether or not to develop nuclear power. It is Ireland's expectation that, where a decision is taken by any authority, regardless of its status, to develop a nuclear power industry, this will be done in line with the highest international standards with respect to safety and environmental protection.

In view of the potential for transboundary impacts arising from the malfunctioning of nuclear installations, however limited that may be, the importance of prioritising nuclear safety and environmental protection is a matter of concern to all States, including Ireland.

Trade Promotion

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

84 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent of the trade promotional network provided through and by him throughout Europe and globally, by way of embassies, trade missions or otherwise, with the objective of maximisation of trade opportunities with emphasis on the promotion of Irish exports; the degree to which new contacts are being made on an ongoing basis; the extent to which Irish exporters can avail of such promotional facilities; if regular appraisal of the strength and weaknesses of such services is done on a regular basis with a view to ensuring the highest possible standard of promotion for Irish quality products on world markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9602/12]

The promotion of Ireland's economic and trading interests is a key priority for my Department and the Embassy network. Currently the diplomatic network includes 56 Embassies, 7 multilateral missions and 10 Consulates General. Many of our Ambassadors are also accredited to additional countries on a non-resident basis. The Embassy network is engaged on a continuous basis, in close co-operation with the relevant State Agencies, in the drive to promote Irish exports and our economic profile internationally. Embassies are a very effective platform for accessing key business contacts and opportunities and they regularly host promotional events in association with the State Agencies. They are also essential to the facilitation of trade missions organised by the State Agencies, including the Enterprise Ireland missions bringing Irish companies to international markets. In preparing programmes of trade and promotional activity for Ministers and other visitors, the Embassy network ensures that high level visits are leveraged for maximum impact. This is the case, for example, during the key St. Patrick's Day period, the programmes for which are currently being prepared. As an essential part of their activity, Ambassadors and Embassy network staff are constantly developing political, business and media contacts which can be used to advance Ireland's economic interests overseas and they are ready to assist Irish exporters and business people whenever possible.

UnderTrading and Investing in a Smart Economy, the Government’s Trade Strategy and Action Plan for the integrated promotion of overseas trade, tourism and investment, twenty seven key markets have been identified based on the priorities of the State Agencies. The relevant Ambassador in each case chairs a local market team which includes representatives from the relevant State Agencies in the field. These market teams submit annual market plans as well as twice yearly reports on implementation for review by the Export Trade Council which I chair and which brings together the relevant Ministers, senior Departmental representatives, State Agency CEOs and individuals with experience of the export sector. The second meeting of the Council, which I chaired on 16 February 2012, provided the most recent opportunity to review the progress being made in relation to maximising trade opportunities in both existing and emerging markets.

Human Rights Issues

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

85 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he acknowledges that arms sales from China and Russia are fuelling serious human rights violations in Darfur whose exports include significant quantities of ammunition, helicopter gunships, attack aircrafts, air-to-ground rockets and armoured vehicles; his views that the conflict in Darfur is sustained by the constant flow of weapons from abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9615/12]

We remain seriously concerned by the persistence of the conflict in Darfur and the continuing suffering of the people in the region. The UN estimates that, since 2003, the violence in Darfur has resulted in the deaths of over 300,000 people and the displacement of nearly three million.

In March 2005, the UN Security Council extended an existing arms embargo to include the Sudanese Government forces active in the region, and any other belligerents in North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur. Ireland takes the clear position that this embargo must be observed and that all States must fulfil their obligations under international law, including human rights and humanitarian law. We and our EU partners believe that the best hope for an improvement in the conditions facing the people of Darfur is through the full implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, which was agreed between the Sudanese Government and rebel groups in May 2011 and which sets out a comprehensive framework for an end to the conflict. It addresses issues such as arms proliferation and it sets out measures for disarmament and arms control in Darfur. The EU Foreign Affairs Council last month, which was attended by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, examined the situation in Darfur. Ministers stressed the importance of implementation of the Doha Document and emphasised that a lasting and comprehensive peace settlement can only be achieved with the involvement of all stakeholders in Darfur. They also expressed the readiness of the European Union to support recovery programmes as and when there are improvements in the security environment, and reaffirmed our support for the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, UNAMID.

Ireland and our EU partners have consistently urged all rebel movements to engage in the peace process and have called on the Government of Sudan to keep open the door to peace. On behalf of the Government, I do so again today. It is essential that we retain a focus on the need for accountability for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur and the obligation on the Government of Sudan and all UN member States to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court.

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

86 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the recent raid by the Ugandan Government on a workshop run by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists in Entebbe, Uganda; his views that this is a blatant infringement of human rights and if he will be calling publicly on the Ugandan Government to end the ongoing harassment of persons involved in such lawful activities. [9614/12]

The Government shares the Deputy's concerns in relation to the situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons and activists in Uganda and we have consistently made our views on these issues known to the Ugandan authorities. I am aware of the recent incident in Entebbe in which a human rights defenders' workshop was disrupted.

More generally, we are concerned about reports of ongoing harassment against LGBT activists and individuals in Uganda, and we view the recent reintroduction in the Ugandan Parliament of a Private Members Bill seeking to criminalise homosexuality as of particular concern. The Deputy will be aware that a previous Private Members Bill raised similar concerns for us and we made our views known very clearly at Government level in Uganda. This bill was not followed through and did not have the support of the Government of Uganda.

Ireland has been actively engaged with the Ugandan Government for some time in highlighting the human rights implications of this draft legislation, and pointing out that the passage of any such law would be in conflict with Uganda's international human rights obligations and would damage relations with international partners.

Ireland has also consistently raised the issue locally through our Ambassador in Kampala, and we will continue to use every opportunity to raise the matter as an issue of human rights. Our Ambassador in Kampala has also engaged with local human rights groups in order to hear how best the international community should support the cause of human rights defenders in this area and we have been active in our support for individual defenders who have reported harassment and threats on the basis of sexual orientation.

We have communicated to the Ugandan Government that we believe that this issue has the potential to undermine and blemish Uganda's human rights reputation both domestically and internationally.

Ireland, in conjunction with our EU partners and the donor community, remains committed to ensuring that the citizens of Uganda do not suffer violence or discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

Diplomatic Representation

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

87 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to allocate further diplomatic resources to the BRICS countries over the next year; if he will provide details of his plan; if specific targets have been set to enhance trade and strengthen connections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9371/12]

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

88 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is satisfied with the number of diplomatic staff currently allocated to the BRICS countries; if he has conducted any assessment of the current allocation and its effectiveness in growing trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9372/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 88 together.

Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy, the Government’s Trade Strategy and Action Plan for the integrated promotion of overseas trade, tourism and investment,seeks to build on our strengths in existing markets and develop exports and tourism in emerging economies. The UK, USA and our Eurozone partners continue to be key markets for Ireland, given our strong knowledge and understanding of these markets and our shared historical and cultural linkages.

The Government is, of course, fully committed to developing and expanding engagement with key high potential markets, such as the so called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Each of these countries has been designated a priority market under the Trade Strategy based on the targets of the State Agencies and progress to date was most recently reviewed at the second meeting of the Export Trade Council, which I chaired on 16 February.

We are already increasing our trade footprint in these markets. I am confident that a range of trade missions and other initiatives during the year ahead will help to build on the progress already achieved in these and other markets.

Embassies and State Agencies based in the BRICS countries, through the local market teams established under the trade strategy and chaired by the Ambassador, are coordinating their resources to ensure the best possible return on Government investment in promotional activities in these markets.

A table setting out the details of staff in the Missions and the location of Honorary Consuls in the BRICS countries is provided below. The staffing figures include diplomatic and administrative staff on posting from Headquarters.

The size, scale and distribution of our diplomatic network is kept under review by my Department and considered by the Government on an ongoing basis. Any decision to retain or expand a Mission overseas is undertaken having regard to clear national priorities and available resources, and must be on the basis of an anticipated and ongoing significant return for the State.

BRICS Country

Missions

Staff at Missions

Honorary Consuls

Honorary Consul Locations

Brazil

Embassy in Brasilia

2

1

Sao Paulo

Russia

Embassy in Moscow

9 (including visa office)

1

St. Petersburg

India

Embassy in New Delhi

7 (including visa office)

4

Bangalore, Chennai Mumbai Kolkata

China

Embassy in Beijing

9 (including visa office)

1

Hong Kong

Consulate General in Shanghai

3

South Africa

Embassy in Pretoria Office in Cape Town

4

0

Human Rights Issues

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

89 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will restate his position on extreme human rights violations being committed by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, which according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay has resulted in the deaths of approximately 5,400 persons in the past year, primarily civilians; if he is in favour of immediate collective action to bring about a quick end to the violence; if he will outline the representations he has made at bilateral and multilateral level in an effort to resolve the crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9584/12]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

120 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the situation in Syria and the decision by China and Russia to block the UN resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8005/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 120 together.

I have on a number of occasions stated clearly my grave concerns at the deteriorating situation in Syria and condemned the unacceptable violence and repression which is now estimated to have claimed some 7,000 lives since last March. In my address to the UN Security Council in New York on 9 February, I described the current situation in Syria as completely intolerable and condemned the appalling suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of the Assad regime. I also discussed the situation with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and US Deputy Secretary of State Burns during the course of my visit to the United States last week.

Given the serious implications for regional peace and security, it is deeply regrettable that the Security Council has so far been unable to speak with a single voice on Syria, in failing to pass a Resolution on 4 February which otherwise commanded the full support of the Council. The ramifications of this failure have been made painfully clear in the weeks since as the violence in Syria, and in particular the appalling attacks on the civilian population in cities such as Homs, Bab Amr and Hama, has increased significantly. There is a desperate need for humanitarian access, including medical assistance, to citizens in these areas.

The international community can no longer continue to ignore the daily escalation of bloodshed and repression as the Assad regime seeks to extinguish the legitimate desire of ordinary Syrians for democracy and renewal. There is a clear onus on the international community to protect the people of Syria from further suffering and to promote a speedy resolution of this conflict through peaceful political dialogue. It is clear that President Assad will not begin this process without additional pressure from the international community.

I welcome the continued strong leadership of the Arab League as well as the UN Secretary General and others in the international community who are striving to end the violence in Syria. The initial meeting of the Friends of Syria Group in Tunisia on 24 February, which will be attended by Arab League Foreign Ministers as well as EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State Clinton amongst others, will provide a timely opportunity to consider next steps and to bring together representatives of Syria's fragmented peaceful opposition.

At UN level, Ireland and all EU partners voted in favour of a UN General Assembly Resolution on 16 February which was supported by an overwhelming majority of UN member states. The Resolution condemned human rights violations in Syria, called for an end to the violence, supported the Arab League peace plan and called on President Assad to resign in order to allow a political transition to begin. The UN General Assembly also received a briefing from High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay on 13 February which described the appalling and widespread human rights violations ongoing in Syria. The human rights situation in Syria is also likely to be addressed at the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month.

The EU is also playing its part, not least through the enactment of tough sanctions against Syria which include a ban on oil imports. Syria will also figure heavily on the agenda for the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 27 February which I will attend and where there is likely to be consideration of how to increase even further the already considerable international pressure on the Assad regime to change course. This may include additional restrictive measures.

Meanwhile, Arab League Ministers met in Cairo on 12 February and decided to increase sanctions against Syria, to support Syria's non-violent opposition, and to appoint former Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Khatib as Arab League envoy to Syria. The Arab League plan adopted last November and recently considered by the UN Security Council still represents the most credible basis for resolving the current crisis. All sides need to desist from further violence and to allow the main elements of the Arab League plan, including withdrawal of all military forces to barracks, release of all detainees and the stepping down of President Assad to allow the start of a political transition, to be implemented. In relation to the Arab League's proposal for a joint UN-Arab peace-keeping force to be established, this idea is under consideration but it is clear that a prior ceasefire would be essential.

Ireland and its EU partners, working with the UN, the Arab League and international partners such as the US and Turkey, are determined to maintain strong and united political pressure on the Syrian regime until it ends the violent repression against its own people and begins a process of transition.

Nuclear Proliferation

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

90 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views that the decision by EU foreign ministers to impose further sanctions on Iran will have a serious impact on the Iranian people; his further views on recent reports that ordinary citizens are already facing difficulties due to soaring food prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9627/12]

Given the failure of the Iranian government to respond to the serious concerns of the international community raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency report of 8 November, the EU has recently been compelled to adopt two further rounds of restrictive measures against Iran, at the Foreign Affairs Councils held on 1 December 2011 and 23 January 2012 respectively. These latest sanctions adopted by the EU specifically target additional entities and individuals directly involved in Iran's nuclear activities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Among these entities are the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) while there are also new restrictions against members of, as well as entities controlled by, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). In addition, there are new measures in the energy sector, including a phased embargo of Iranian crude oil imports to the EU; in the financial sector, including against the Central Bank of Iran; and in the transport sector.

The aim of all these measures is to persuade Iran to return to the negotiating table so that the issues raised in the IAEA report and in repeated UN Security Council and IAEA Resolutions can be adequately and comprehensively addressed.

There is no doubt that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated internationally as a result of its government's refusal to address the nuclear issue. This isolation is compounding the already extensive economic problems which Iran is currently facing and is negatively affecting the wider Iranian population, with whom the EU has no quarrel.

However, these sanctions can be swiftly reversed if Iran takes concrete steps to address the very serious concerns of the international community and provide assurances as to the peaceful intentions of its nuclear programme. In this regard, I note with interest the recent letter of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, who leads negotiations on the nuclear issue with Iran on behalf of the E3+3, accepting HR Ashton's proposal of October 2011 to renew talks.

It is my belief that the additional measures adopted by the EU, as well as the tough bilateral sanctions implemented by US, Canada and the UK in recent months, have been of great influence in triggering this belated acceptance of talks by Iran. I hope that renewed negotiations will begin soon and that Iran will now address comprehensively the international concerns about the possible military dimension of its nuclear programme. I urge the Iranian side to enter negotiations this time in a genuine spirit of compromise and cooperation.

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

91 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the imposition of sanctions on Iran because of their nuclear programme if he will consider calling for sanctions on Israel because of their nuclear activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9624/12]

The latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran, issued on 8 November, concluded that there are strong grounds for serious concern regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme. It concluded that information available indicated that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. In response to the failure on the part of Iran to address the international community's concerns following the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on the Iran nuclear issue, the EU has implemented two further rounds of sanctions against Iran, which were approved by the Foreign Affairs Council at its meetings on 1 December and 23 January. The aim of these measures is to persuade Iran to return to the negotiating table so that the issues raised in the IAEA report and in repeated UN Security Council and IAEA Resolutions can be addressed. It is the earnest hope of the Government, as well as of its EU, US and international partners, that productive negotiations with Iran will get underway again soon and address comprehensively the many serious issues relating to Iran's nuclear programme, including its possible military dimensions.

Israel has never officially declared that it possesses nuclear weapons. It is one of just three states not to have ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is acknowledged as a cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. In both national and EU statements, and through our participation in the New Agenda Coalition, Ireland has repeatedly called on all states not party to the NPT to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapons states and to conclude a full-scope safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ireland regards the establishment of a Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems as a particularly important objective. I am very pleased that at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Ireland brokered agreement on a text which emphasised the importance of establishing such a zone and which set out a number of practical steps towards achieving this, including the convening of a conference in 2012. We are hopeful that all countries in the region, including Israel and Iran, will participate in the Conference and in the process going forward.

Ireland is rightly regarded as having a long and very close association with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and as being a very active proponent of complete nuclear disarmament. The Deputy can be assured that full implementation of the NPT remains a key foreign policy objective for the Government as we enter the 2015 NPT review cycle, which begins in Vienna in late April.

I am repeatedly urged to consider sanctions against Israel for various reasons. I have made clear that, like all previous Irish Governments, the Government does not support such sanctions, and further that there would be no possibility whatever of achieving an EU consensus in favour of such sanctions.

Diplomatic Representation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

92 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the recent media reports about him confirming that a review of the closure of the embassy in the Vatican would take place are true; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9355/12]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

121 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he intends to review the decision to close the Irish embassy in the Vatican; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7784/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

125 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the disclosure that the closing down of the embassy to the Holy See saved just €600,000 out of a total bill of €76 million for overseas embassies, if he will now reverse his decision and reopen our ties with Rome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9839/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 121 and 125 together.

As was outlined in my statement of 3 November last year, the decision of the Government to close our embassy to the Holy See and to appoint a non-resident Ambassador was driven by economic factors deriving from our need to cut public expenditure and focus the modest resources of our diplomatic service on economic recovery. The total cost saving in a full year is estimated at €845,000.

However, as the economic situation improves and in the context of the regular review of our diplomatic network, it may be possible to revisit the matter at some time in the future. If the Vatican is prepared to relax its current requirements so as to allow the state-owned Villa Spada to serve as a location for both our Embassy to Italy and our Embassy to the Holy See that is something that can be taken into account in any future considerations.

EU Treaties

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

93 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has considered comments made in France by Minister François Fillon who considers that a referendum will be necessary to adopt a fiscal rule to balance its budget; his views that the same principle would apply here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9456/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

111 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised the question of the legitimacy of such a far-reaching agreement as the Eurocompact treaty being implemented without reference to the citizens of Europe through referenda at the EU leaders’ summit on 30 January 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5271/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

112 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised the issue and his views on the matter of growing calls for a referendum on the Eurocompact treaty in Ireland at the EU leaders’ summit on 30 January 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5272/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

113 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised the issue of demands for a referendum on the fiscal compact treaty in Ireland at the EU leaders’ summit on 30 January 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6594/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

114 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the likelihood of a referendum being held here on the fiscal compact agreed by him and other EU leaders at the EU leaders’ summit on 9 December 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2330/12]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

116 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he intends to insist that the rights of all EU members be respected and that a new effort should be made to get Britain to agree to the treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5169/12]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

118 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views that it is not a welcome development that in the first time in the history of the European Union that a treaty is not being signed by all its members; if he, or other EU members, will be making an effort to achieve unanimity before March; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6387/12]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

119 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will investigate comments from a high level European official who said that the EU treaty was drafted to avoid a referendum; if he agrees with this position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7778/12]

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

122 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised the issue of the possibility of a referendum on the new EU treaty at the EU Council summit on 30 January 2012. [6465/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which it is anticipated that the fiscal stability compact will be observed in the spirit and the letter; if he will outline anticipated action likely to be taken by countries who default; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9978/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which a commitment has been made within the eurozone and within the European union as a whole to adhere to political, fiscal and economic commitments already entered into or likely to arise from the fiscal stability compact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9979/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93, 111 to 114, inclusive, 116, 118, 119, 122, 126 and 127 together.

When agreement was reached at the European Council in December to put in place new arrangements to enhance the stability of the euro area, Ireland made clear its preference for proceeding within the framework of the EU Treaties, and with the involvement of all 27 Member States. This did not prove possible, so it was agreed to proceed with a separate Treaty among those wishing to participate. Agreement on these new arrangements — set out in the "Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union"— was reached at the end of January by Heads of State and Government.

It is intended that the Treaty will be signed in the margins of the meeting of the European Council on 1/2 March, and that it will then be ratified by each of the Contracting Parties, in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. It will enter into force once twelve Contracting Parties whose currency is the euro have ratified it. The target date for entry into force is 1 January 2013.

The question of whether an amendment of the Constitution will be required in order for Ireland to ratify the Treaty is currently being examined by the Attorney General, who will present her advice to the Government in due course. The Government has made it clear that if a referendum is required, one will be held.

It is a matter for other Contracting Parties to decide what approach they will take, taking into account their own constitutional requirements. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on what this might entail in each case.

The Treaty sets out how it will apply to Contracting Parties once it has entered into force and once they have ratified it. As with all international agreements, once they are bound by it, there will be a legal obligation on Contracting Parties to abide by its provisions. Article 8 of the Treaty provides for a role for the EU Court of Justice where possible breaches of Article 3.2, on the deficit brake, is concerned.

I am, of course, disappointed that it was not possible to proceed with the agreement of all 27 EU Member States. This was the Government's strong preference, though I respect the rights of partners to decide the best approach from their respective perspectives.

I would of course, welcome participation by all Member States, and would note that Article 15 makes it clear that the new Treaty "shall be open to accession by Member States of the European Union other than the Contracting Parties".

Furthermore, Article 16 of the new Treaty provides that "within five years, at most" of the new Treaty entering into force "the necessary steps shall be taken�with the aim of incorporating the substance of this Treaty into the legal framework of the European Union". This is a most welcome provision, and the Government hopes that such incorporation can take place at as early a date as possible.

In the meantime, it is important to recognise that, while the arrangements are not part of the EU Treaties, Article 2 makes it clear that the new Treaty "shall be applied and interpreted by the Contracting Parties in conformity with the Treaties on which the European Union is founded".

Furthermore, the new Treaty shall apply only "insofar as it is compatible with the Treaties on which the European Union is founded and with European Union law". This is an important provision that the Government argued for and strongly supports.

Finally, while the new Treaty is not part of the EU Treaties, many of its provisions are already found in EU Treaties or law, including within the Stability and Growth Pact, as strengthened by the six legislative measures adopted last year — the so-called "six-pack".

International Financial Services Centre

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

94 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the success the IFSC pensions working group has had in promoting Ireland as a prime location for centralised management of pension funds. [9205/12]

Unlike other markets and activities undertaken in the IFSC, the cross-border pensions market is at an early development stage within Europe as a whole. To date, the success of the IFSC Pensions Working Group is evidenced by the development of Ireland's Common Contractual Fund structure (CCFs), to compete with other jurisdictions for the pooling of pension assets. 18 CCFs have been authorised to date, with total assets of €7.25Billion.

Building on this success the IFSC Pensions Working Group is seeking to broaden the potential for using Ireland as a base for the centralised management of pension schemes, which it is expected would increase the numbers employed in providing services to pension schemes in areas such as administration, legal, actuarial, investment and other highly valued roles.

Food and Beverage Exports

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

95 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach the value on a yearly basis of food and beverage exports to China from 2000 to 2011, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9252/12]

The information requested by Deputy Smith is presented in the following table.

The table shows the total value of exports of Food and live animals and Beverages, excluding commodity Division 08 — Feeding stuff for animals — for the years 2000 to 2011. The figures are an aggregate of China, Hong Kong and Macao.

Exports to China

Food and live animals and Beverages, 2000-2011

Food and Live Animals

Beverages

Grand Total

Jan-Dec 2000

€95.3m

€0.9m

€96.2m

Jan-Dec 2001

€107.2m

€0.5m

€107.7m

Jan-Dec 2002

€42.5m

€1.3m

€43.8m

Jan-Dec 2003

€27.4m

€0.5m

€27.9m

Jan-Dec 2004

€28.0m

€1.1m

€29.1m

Jan-Dec 2005

€50.4m

€3.1m

€53.5m

Jan-Dec 2006

€72.4m

€2.6m

€75.0m

Jan-Dec 2007

€93.8m

€3.8m

€97.6m

Jan-Dec 2008

€78.1m

€3.7m

€81.8m

Jan-Dec 2009

€115.7m

€2.0m

€117.7m

Jan-Dec 2010

€128.7m

€3.6m

€132.3m

Jan-Dec 2011

€191.0m

€3.6m

€194.6m

Grand Total

€1,030.5m

€26.7m

€1,057.2m

Departmental Staff

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

96 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Taoiseach the numbers of persons employed in his Department and agencies thereof whose gross salary as of the latest date available was in each of the bands (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9293/12]

The information requested by the Deputy for my Department and the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), which is the only State Agency under the aegis of my Department, is outlined in the following table:

Gross Salary Band

Number of Staff in the Department of the Taoiseach

Number of Staff`in NESDO

€0 —€10,000

0

0

€10,000 —€20,000

4

0

€20,000 —€30,000

43

0

€30,000 —€40,000

34

2

€40,000 —€50,000

35

5

€50,000 —€60,000

24

1

€60,000 —€70,000

7

0

€70,000 —€80,000

13

2

€80,000 —€90,000

8

5

€90,000 —€100,000

5

3

€100,000 —€115,000

5

2

€115,000 —€125,000

1

0

€125,000 —€150,000

3

1

Greater than €150,000

4

0

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Ceist:

97 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six-month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9295/12]

My Department is playing a central coordinating role in preparations for Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013. The Department is leading the coordination of policy planning for the Presidency, working closely with Ireland's Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels, as well as with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senior officials from my Department also chair a number of smaller working groups tasked with more specific areas of planning including a semi-state agency group that is reviewing the promotional opportunities presented by the Presidency and a communications group. Officials from my Department are also working closely with the EU institutions in the run-up to the Presidency.

I have also met with several of my European colleagues in recent months and discussed issues including the Presidency. One of my recent meetings was with the Prime Minister of Denmark which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Minister of State for European Affairs visited the European Parliament last November and will travel to Strasbourg again in March to meet with key contacts ahead of the Presidency. The Minister of State has also met with many of her counterparts in other EU Member States in recent months. Meetings have also been held with civil society representatives and other stakeholders.

The 2012 estimate for my Department for the EU Presidency is €2.2 million, €1 million in respect of pay and €1.2 million in respect of non-pay. A total of €3,639.88 has been spent to date (i.e. 17 February 2012) by my Department in respect of the EU Presidency.

In keeping with the precedents set for previous EU Presidencies there is a need for additional staff to assist with the central planning and preparation functions for the forthcoming Presidency. These functions are now shared between my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in light of the transfer of functions between the Departments that took place last year.

I estimate that approximately 21 additional staff will be required by my Department for the duration of the Presidency. In view of the temporary nature of the work involved the emphasis being taken in relation to the filling of these posts is to seek redeployment from elsewhere in the public service as far as possible or to fill them by way of temporary recruitment.

In this regard two staff have already been redeployed to my Department from other parts of the civil service. My Department is also currently in the process of establishing a panel of temporary Executive Officers with relevant EU related qualifications to assist with necessary functions for the Presidency. It is expected that 10 people will be drawn from the panel as soon as it is established. It will be drawn from thereafter as required.

Youth Unemployment

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

98 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Taoiseach if he has responded to the letter from the European Commission President, Mr. Barroso, of 31 January last inviting him to submit plans and proposals to address youth unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9481/12]

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

99 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Taoiseach if he plans to establish an action team as requested by European Commission President, Mr. Barroso, to address youth unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9482/12]

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

100 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Taoiseach if a date for the European Commission team visit to Ireland to discuss youth unemployment as indicated in the letter from the European Commission President, Mr. Barroso, dated 31 January last has been set; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9483/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 to 100, inclusive, together.

Following on from the informal European Council meeting in January, President Barroso wrote to the eight member states with youth unemployment levels significantly above the EU average. The countries involved are Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, Latvia and Ireland.

In his letter President Barroso offered the assistance of the Commission to explore ways to combat youth unemployment and increase supports for small and medium sized enterprises.

I replied to President Barroso indicating that I agree that there is urgency in tackling this issue.

I also highlighted that this initiative is timely in the context of the Government's recently published Action Plan on Jobs and the labour market activation policy statement "Pathways to Work" which is due to be published this week.

As a first stage in this process Commission officials are visiting today, Tuesday 21 February, to meet with officials from relevant Departments to explore these issues in some detail.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has informed the House, and the Commission is aware, that Ireland has no unallocated Structural Funds. Recent Commission figures show that Ireland has the highest Cohesion absorption rate in the EU at 48% for the current 2007-2013 Structural and Cohesion funding round and it is estimated that the remaining 52% allocated to Ireland will be drawn down. We will, in the first instance, be looking at whether employment programmes might be re-focused to better effect.

Departmental Agencies

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

101 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Taoiseach if he will provide the number of retired persons serving on State boards and commissions; and the amount it is costing the State. [9609/12]

There are no retired persons serving on State boards and commissions under the aegis of my Department.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Ceist:

102 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach the total photography costs for his Department since coming to office; the list of occasions for which photographers were booked over the past year; the breakdown of costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used; if there is a policy around the booking of photographers in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9670/12]

The total spend by my Department on photography since March 2011 is €30,629.00. Increasingly my Department utilises its own staff to take photographs in house thereby reducing costs. The comparable cost in 2008 for example, was €83,398.00.

However for major events and inward state visits my Department continues to use the services of a professional photographic agency. As requested, attached is a breakdown of costs for each occasion a photographer was engaged.

A framework for the provision of professional photography services is currently being finalised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and will be open to all Government Departments in the coming days. My Department will enter this framework as soon as it is available.

Details of photogorpahy paymentsbetween 9th March 2011 and 7th February 2012

Vendor

Price

Payment Date

Reason for Job — Job description

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

514.75

18-Mar-11

Last Cabinet Picture Brian Cowen 01/02/2011 — Inv no. 28876 22/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

108.1

18-Mar-11

Last Cabinet Picture Brian Cowen 01/02/2011 — Inv no. 28876 22/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

100

18-Mar-11

Jpegs Cowen/Clinton 01/10/2010, Ahern/Clinton 17/11/2007 — Inv no. 28945 28/02/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

21

18-Mar-11

Jpegs Cowen/Clinton 01/10/2010, Ahern/Clinton 17/11/2007 — Inv no. 28945 28/02/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

488.5

18-Mar-11

Air Corps Baldonnell 22/02/2011 — Inv no. 28900 24/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

102.59

18-Mar-11

Air Corps Baldonnell 22/02/2011 — Inv no. 28900 24/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

475.5

18-Mar-11

Jpegs — Aras Mr Cowen Resignation 01/02/2011 — Inv no. 28944 28/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

99.86

18-Mar-11

Jpegs — Aras Mr Cowen Resignation 01/02/2011 — Inv no. 28944 28/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

25

18-Mar-11

Flight of The Earls — Inv no. 28946 28/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

5.25

18-Mar-11

Flight of The Earls — Inv no. 28946 28/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

64.5

18-Mar-11

Aras Dissolution 01/02/2011 — Inv no. 28947 28/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

13.55

18-Mar-11

Aras Dissolution 01/02/2011 — Inv no. 28947 28/02/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

125

18-Mar-11

Fulbright Awards images 24/06/2010 — Inv no. 27689 30/06/2010.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

26.25

18-Mar-11

Fulbright Awards images 24/06/2010 — Inv no. 27689 30/06/2010.

Purchased using Department Credit Card

136.9

19-May-11

P. Kiernan, 19-April-2011, The Press Association, Nottingham, 120.00 GBP @ 0.8765.

Purchased using Department Credit Card

2.4

19-May-11

P. Kiernan, 19-April-2011, Cross order Handling Fee.

Petty cash

12.75

31-May-11

Hacketts Reprographics

Petty cash

7.5

31-May-11

Hacketts Reprographics Visa photos for 1 of the Taoiseach’s delegation for USA Mar 2011, 10 Mar 2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

415.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29203 1916 Commemoration 24/04/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

87.2

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29203 1916 Commemoration 24/04/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

306.75

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29228 SDLP 14/04/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

64.42

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29228 SDLP 14/04/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

295.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 28992 Launch of Census 10/3/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

62

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 28992 Launch of Census 10/3/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

395.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29004 Newly appointed Ministers 15/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

83

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29004 Newly appointed Ministers 15/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

-0.01

02-Jun-11

A/C TAOI — Jesse Jackson 21/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

338.5

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29016 Jesse Jackson 21/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

71.09

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29016 Jesse Jackson 21/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

331.75

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29017 Book of Condolence — Japan 22/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

69.67

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29017 Book of Condolence — Japan 22/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

331.75

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29041 US Ambassador Dan Rooney 28/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

69.67

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29041 US Ambassador Dan Rooney 28/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

50

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29063 Jpegs 1916 Commemoration 04/04/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

10.5

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29063 Jpegs 1916 Commemoration 04/04/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

420.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29124 Mass New Dail 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

88.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29124 Mass New Dail 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

445.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29125 Taoiseach Office P Call 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

93.5

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29125 Taoiseach Office P Call 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

323.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29126 Reception New Ministers 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

67.88

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29126 Reception New Ministers 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

406.75

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29127 New Cabinet Meeting 10/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

85.42

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29127 New Cabinet Meeting 10/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

645.25

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29128 New Ministers Appointments 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

135.5

02-Jun-11

Inv no. 29128 New Ministers Appointments 09/03/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

1,950.00

23-Jun-11

The Late Dr. Garret Fitzgerald’s Funeral 21-22 May 2011 — Inv no. 29412 31/05/2011. Photography assignment covering attendance, taking colour, processing — Mansion House Morning x 2 evening x 1, Donnybrook Church 21 and 22 May 2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

409.5

23-Jun-11

The Late Dr. Garret Fitzgerald’s Funeral 21-22 May 2011. Inv no. 29412 31/05/2011. Photography assignment covering attendance, taking colour, processing — Mansion House Morning x 2 evening x 1, Donnybrook Church 21 and 22 May 2011.

Purchased using Department Credit Card

140.8

23-Jun-11

27 May 2011 Eoghan O’Neachtain — My Photo Book.de

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

3,750.00

23-Jun-11

President Obama Visit all day 23 May 2011. Inv no. 29418 31/05/2011. Daily rate to incorporate full day photography and full syndication of images.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

787.5

23-Jun-11

President Obama Visit all day 23 May 2011. Inv no. 29418 31/05/2011. Daily rate to incorporate full day photography and full syndication of images.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

-0.01

27-Jun-11

A/C TAOI — Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Church Leaders on 19 May 2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

338.5

27-Jun-11

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Church Leaders on 19 May 2011 at Gov. Buildings. — Inv no. 29341 31/05/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

71.09

27-Jun-11

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Church Leaders on 19 May 2011 at Gov. Buildings. — Inv no. 29341 31/05/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

520.25

27-Jun-11

British PM Visit to Gov. Buildings on 18 May 2011. — Inv no. 29338 31/05/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

109.25

27-Jun-11

British PM Visit to Gov. Buildings on 18 May 2011. — Inv no. 29338 31/05/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

48.67

27-Jun-11

US Congressman on 16 May 2011. — Inv No. 29334 31/05/2011. Photography assignment covering attendance, taking colour, processing, digital contact sheet.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

231.75

27-Jun-11

US Congressman on 16 May 2011. — Inv No. 29334 31/05/2011. Photography assignment covering attendance, taking colour, processing, digital contact sheet.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

338.49

28-Jul-11

Hungarian Prime Minister 01-06-11 Invoice No. 29442

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

71.08

28-Jul-11

Hungarian Prime Minister 01-06-11 — Invoice No. 29442

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

0.01

28-Jul-11

Hungarian Prime Minister 1/6/11

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

708.75

28-Jul-11

Excellence Awards ON 09/06/2011 — Invoice No. 29477 30/06/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

148.84

28-Jul-11

Excellence Awards ON 09/06/2011 — Invoice No. 29477 30/06/2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

671.25

28-Jul-11

North South Ministerial Council 10-6-11 — Invoice No. 29478 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

140.96

28-Jul-11

North South Ministerial Council 10-6-11 — Invoice No. 29478 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

-0.01

28-Jul-11

President of European Council 17/6/11

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

464.5

28-Jul-11

President of European Council 17-6-11 — Invoice No. 29515 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

97.55

28-Jul-11

President of European Council 17-6-11 — Invoice No. 29515 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

215

28-Jul-11

President Obama Visit 23 May 2011 — Invoice No. 29558 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

45.15

28-Jul-11

President Obama Visit 23 May 2011 — Invoice No. 29558 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

612

28-Jul-11

Obama and Cabinet Ministers 23 May 2011 — Invoice No. 29560 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

128.52

28-Jul-11

Obama and Cabinet Ministers 23 May 2011 — Invoice No. 29560 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

275

28-Jul-11

Maxwells Invoice — New Ambassadors 30-6-11 — Invoice No. 29447 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

57.75

28-Jul-11

Maxwells Invoice — New Ambassadors 30-6-11 — Invoice No. 29447 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

295.25

28-Jul-11

Chinese Delegation — Invoice No. 29476

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

62

28-Jul-11

Chinese Delegation — Invoice No. 29476

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

231.75

28-Jul-11

Saudi Minister 14 June 2011 — Invoice No. 2959030/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

48.67

28-Jul-11

Saudi Minister 14 June 2011 — Invoice No. 2959030/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

306.75

28-Jul-11

Richard Haas meets Taoiseach Enda Kenny on 01/04/2011. — Inv no. 29591 30/06/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

64.42

28-Jul-11

Richard Haas meets Taoiseach Enda Kenny on 01/04/2011. — Inv no. 29591 30/06/2011.

DEPT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE

2,106.14

28-Jul-11

LK Photo SPD11 Photographer D. Taoiseach

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

263.5

25-Aug-11

Invoice No. 29680 29/07/2011 — New Sec Gen and Ian Paisley on 26/07/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

55.34

25-Aug-11

Invoice No. 29680 29/07/2011 — New Sec Gen and Ian Paisley on 26/07/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

575.25

25-Aug-11

Invoice No. 29643 29/07/2011 — Meeting EU Parliament President 12 July 2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

120.8

25-Aug-11

Invoice No. 29643 29/07/2011 — Meeting EU Parliament President 12 July 2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

-0.01

08-Sep-11

A/C TAOI — Strategy for International Services Industry 14-7-2011

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

288.5

08-Sep-11

Strategy for International Services Industry 14-7-2011 — Inv No. 29653 29/07/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

60.59

08-Sep-11

Strategy for International Services Industry 14-7-2011 — Inv No. 29653 29/07/2011.

HACKETT REPROGRAGHICS

16.52

15-Sep-11

Product code MISC, photoshop.

HACKETT REPROGRAGHICS

9.49

15-Sep-11

Product code FPP75DIG10-15, (QTY 10-15) 7x5 Digital Prints.

HACKETT REPROGRAGHICS

3.47

15-Sep-11

Product code MISC, photoshop.

HACKETT REPROGRAGHICS

1.28

15-Sep-11

Product code FPP75DIG 10-15, (QTY 10-15) 7x5 Digital Prints.

DEPT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE

303.3

15-Sep-11

J. Higgins Photos Taoiseach 4/5 May 2011 — New York

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

463.5

03-Nov-11

Arvato — 150 new jobs announcement in Government Buildings 21 Sept 2011 — Inv No. 29960 29/09/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

97.34

03-Nov-11

Arvato — 150 new jobs announcement in Government Buildings 21 Sept 2011 — Inv No. 29960 29/09/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

281.75

29-Dec-11

Photocall TAOISEACH and New SDLP Leader 09/11/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

59.17

29-Dec-11

Photocall TAOISEACH and New SDLP Leader 09/11/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

3,270.00

29-Dec-11

Photographer for the Presidential Inauguration on 11/11/2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

686.7

29-Dec-11

Photographer for the Presidential Inauguration on 11/11/2011.

Purchased using Department Credit Card

212.96

29-Dec-11

Kate O’Toole — 19 November 2011 —www.gettyimages.com

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

64.42

26-Jan-12

Taoiseach signs Book of condolence 20 Dec 2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

306.75

26-Jan-12

Taoiseach signs Book of condolence 20 Dec 2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

245.25

26-Jan-12

Taoiseach — Christmas Media Meeting 22 Dec 2011.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

51.5

26-Jan-12

Taoiseach — Christmas Media Meeting 22 Dec 2011.

Passport Applications

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

103 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason a passport application was refused in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9401/12]

The Passports Act, 2008 provides, inter alia, that only Irish citizens are entitled to be issued with Irish passports. Each application received by the Passport Service must, therefore, demonstrate that person's entitlement to Irish citizenship before a passport can issue. The person in question was born in Co. Mayo on 1 June, 2009. Her entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended (the Act). Section 6A of the Act provides that persons, born in the State on or after 1 January 2005, where neither parent is an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction, may claim citizenship by birth in the State (and thereby establish eligibility for an Irish passport) only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for three years of the four years preceding their birth.

It is the practice of this Department to seek and consider documentary proofs of Irish citizenship in all passport applications. In the case of passport applicants, born in the State on or after 1 January 2005, where neither parent is Irish, British, or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction, proofs are specifically required in respect of the lawful residence in the island of Ireland of a parent to establish an entitlement to citizenship for the child.

In line with guidelines provided by Department of Justice and Equality, which is the Department responsible for immigration and citizenship, the proofs of lawful residence which are accepted and considered by this Department for passport applications are immigration stamps in passports and/or the registration cards/books which are given to persons registering with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). These are official documents which can be objectively verified by the Department.

In the case of the person in question, two applications were made, on her behalf, to the Department in 2010 and 2011. On both occasions, the evidence of immigration stamps and cards in respect of the child's mother in the period 1 June, 2005 to 31 May, 2009 did not yield the required amount of lawful residence to demonstrate this person's entitlement to Irish citizenship and thus a passport.

The Passport Service wrote to the parents in respect of both applications to seek additional evidence of the parent's lawful residence in order to progress their daughter's passport application to passport issue. As no response was received to these letters, the Passport Service is unable to issue a passport to the person in question under the Passport Act, 2008.

Overseas Development Aid

Stephen S. Donnelly

Ceist:

104 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the review of Ireland’s international debt policy and the ongoing review of the White Paper on Irish aid will take into account the following matter (details supplied). [9941/12]

The aim of the current Review of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid is to examine the changing context for our aid programme, at home and globally, and to learn from what works best in delivering real results for poor people on the ground. The Review will set out clear priorities for the aid programme over the coming years.

I have recently launched a wide consultation process for the Review, involving the public, civil society, our partner countries and the private sector.

I would very much welcome input into the review from members of the Oireachtas. Members can input in writing, by contacting Irish Aid directly or by attending one of the consultations on the review of the White Paper.

The Government's debt policy strategy was prepared jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Finance, and was launched in 2002. In our ongoing review we are surveying the changes in the global situation and the impact to date of debt relief efforts.

Much has already been achieved and Ireland has played a strong role in the development of a consensus on the issue of debt cancellation for the least developed countries. We have contributed our full financial share of over €116m to the two main global initiatives to address debt relief. We have also worked with our partners in our programme countries to help ensure that the additional money from debt relief has been spent on programmes that benefit the poor.

Many of the issues the Deputy has noted, including taxation and responsible lending, will be taken on board in our review of the White Paper. The review process is an important opportunity t o ensure that our development programme builds on its strong reputation for quality and effectiveness in the fight against poverty and hunger.

Diplomatic Representation

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

105 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has explored the possibility of merging the ambassadorial functions and responsibilities of the Holy See and the Italian embassy; if he has asked the Holy See to reconsider its position regarding the joint servicing arrangement; if any discussions have taken place to date regarding a possible co-location of both embassies and their respective offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9225/12]

For what I understand are historical reasons, the Holy See does not accept accreditation from a resident Embassy that is also accredited to Italy. It is not acceptable for one Ambassador to be accredited to both States, neither is it acceptable for embassies to the Italian Republic and the Holy See to operate from the same address. If the Vatican is prepared to relax its current requirements so as to allow the state-owned Villa Spada to serve as a location for both our Embassy to Italy and our Embassy to the Holy See that is something that can be taken into account in any future considerations.

EU Treaties

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

106 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there is any basis in EU treaty law for the proposed automatic correction mechanism outlined in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9449/12]

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

108 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the EU treaty basis for the proposal to make the balanced budget rule as outlined in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic andMonetary Union subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9451/12]

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

109 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the proposed penalty of no more than 0.1% of GDP for non-compliance with a European Court of Justice judgment on compliance with Article 3(2) of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union has any basis in EU treaty law or any other EU legal instrument; if so, if he will detail the legal basis of this proposed penalty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9454/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106, 108 and 109 together.

When agreement was reached in December to put in place new arrangements to enhance the stability of the euro area, Ireland made clear its preference for proceeding within the EU Treaties, and with the involvement of all 27 Member States. This did not prove possible, so it was agreed to proceed with a separate Treaty among those wishing to participate. Agreement on these new arrangements — set out in the "Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union"— was reached at the end of January.

While the arrangements are not part of the EU Treaties, Article 2 makes it clear that the new Treaty "shall be applied and interpreted by the Contracting Parties in conformity with the Treaties on which the European Union is founded". Furthermore, the new Treaty shall apply only "insofar as it is compatible with the Treaties on which the European Union is founded and with European Union law". This is an important provision that the Government argued for and strongly supports.

What is more, Article 16 of the new Treaty provides that "within five years, at most" of the new Treaty entering into force "the necessary steps shall be taken ... with the aim of incorporating the substance of this Treaty into the legal framework of the European Union". Again, this is a most welcome provision and the Government hopes that such incorporation can take place at as early a date as possible.

While the new Treaty is not part of the EU Treaties, many of its provisions are already found in EU Treaties or law, including within the Stability and Growth Pact, as strengthened by the six legislative measures adopted last year — the so-called "six-pack".

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

107 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will detail in general terms the different legal obligations placed on him arising from political agreements at European Council level as represented in Council summit conclusions; regulations as agreed by the European Parliament and European Council; EU treaty law, inter-governmental treaty law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9450/12]

EU Treaties are agreements between all EU Member States that create binding obligations in international law and constitute the primary source of Union law. A Regulation is a legislative act of the Union which, under the ordinary legislative procedure, is jointly adopted by the European Parliament and the Council under the powers conferred upon them by the Treaties. A Regulation has general application, is binding in its entirety and is directly applicable in all Member States.

Council Conclusions are conclusions adopted at Council meetings. They record political agreement within the Council on policy issues under discussion and the Council's commitment to policy initiatives or actions. They also provide the opportunity for the Council to express its position on developments both within the European Union and internationally. Council Conclusions are not themselves legally binding instruments although they may refer to such instruments or even attach them as annexes.

Questions Nos. 108 and 109 answered with Question No. 106.

Diplomatic Assistance

James Bannon

Ceist:

110 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the assistance that has been offered to a person (details supplied) in County Longford who was held in legal limbo abroad for years and only gained freedom earlier this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9520/12]

The Irish citizen referred to by the Deputy was arrested in Guatemala in May 2006. Consular assistance was provided by the Department through the Embassy of Ireland in Mexico and with the assistance also of the Honorary Consul in Guatemala. The case was also raised at Ministerial level with the Guatemalan Governments, including by letter of May 2010. However, as I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, my Department is unable to interfere in the judicial processes of other countries.

The person named by the Deputy was tried by a Guatemalan court in September 2006 and sentenced to four years imprisonment. He appealed the decision and this led to a new trial being ordered. Following a number of appeals and counter-appeals he was cleared of all charges and released on 22 February 2011. Officials from Embassy Mexico attended his trials on several occasions and provided ongoing consular assistance during his imprisonment.

On release, the Embassy and Honorary Consul provided further consular assistance in relation to regularising his visa position. They also arranged for his subsistence needs and for his return to Ireland. The Irish citizen signed an undertaking to repay this amount. The Embassy arranged for him to be met on return to Ireland by an official from the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas in order to assist with his accommodation and welfare needs.

I understand that the person named by the Deputy is currently pursuing a legal case against the Guatemalan authorities in respect of his ordeal.

Questions Nos. 111 to 114, inclusive, answered with Question No. 93.

Northern Ireland Issues

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

115 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views regarding the recent poverty statistics particularly those in west Belfast and Derry published recently; if he intends to discuss them at a future North-South Ministerial Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3306/12]

The statistics published last month were deeply worrying, especially insofar as they concerned child poverty, and I am glad the Deputy has raised the matter. Discussions at North South Ministerial Council meetings, especially at plenaries, cover a wide range of matters including economic issues relevant to this topic. There are also individual measures within the current areas of North South cooperation which touch on this issue such as, addressing educational underachievement, access to health services and supports for job creation.

One of the target support groups of the EU PEACE 111 programme, which is channelled through the Special EU Programme Body (SEUPB), is people who have been excluded or marginalised from economic, social and civil support networks as a result of sectarianism or racism and which includes young people and minority communities. We are actively working to bring about a PEACE 1V programme to continue work in this area. I will raise these important poverty issues at the next Plenary meeting of the NSMC in June 2012.

Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 93.

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

117 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the implementation of the Weston Park Accord, including outstanding issues and his plans on the way in which these issues will be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6188/12]

The various measures included in the package agreed at Weston Park in August 2001 addressed four issues to assist in the successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement: policing, normalisation, the stability of the institutions and decommissioning. There has been huge progress made in all of these areas and this progress was highlighted by a number of important milestones during 2011. April 2011 saw the one year anniversary of the successful devolution of justice and policing to the Northern Ireland Assembly. On 5 May 2011 the Northern Ireland Assembly elections took place, the first time that a full Assembly term had been served out since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The orderly and non-contentious manner in which the elections were held underlined that politics and society in Northern Ireland has continued the transition towards normality. Another important milestone was reached on 4 July 2011, when the Independent, International Commission on Decommissioning presented its final report to the two Governments. November 2011 marked the ten year anniversary of the establishment of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The PSNI continues to progress towards being fully representative of the communities it serves and there continues to be an excellent working relationship between it and An Garda Síochána. The Government, together with the British Government, remains committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and stands ready to assist as and when necessary.

Questions Nos. 118 and 119 answered with Question No. 93.
Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 89.
Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 92.
Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 93.

EU Treaties

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

123 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he expects the legal advice from the Attorney General on the EU treaty and its ratification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9642/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, following agreement on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union at the informal meeting of the European Council on 30 January, and a subsequent meeting of the Government, I sought the views of the Attorney General formally on what will be required by way of ratification in Ireland. The Attorney General is now studying the legal implications carefully, and will, in due course, deliver her advice. There is no deadline for this work, the Attorney General will take whatever time she needs.

Once her advice is received, the Government will consider it and will take whatever steps are necessary. As the Deputy will be aware, members of the Government are not officially responsible to the Dáil for advice they may have received or sought from the Attorney General.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Ceist:

124 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the total photography costs for his Department since coming to office; the list of occasions for which photographers were booked over the past year; the breakdown of costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used; if there is a policy around the booking of photographers within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9664/12]

The total spend by my Department on photography since March 2011 is €57,561.65. The table outlines the costs associated with each occasion:

Event

Cost

State Visit of Queen Elizabeth II

€22,662.70

Credentials

€10,104.03

State Visit of Prince Albert of Monaco

€6,213.35

Expenditure of missions abroad*

€4,970.00

Official Visit to Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania

€2,388.30

Diplomatic Corps New Years Greetings

€2,015.97

Global Irish Economic Forum

€1,923.90

Inauguration of President Higgins (reception)

€1,817.30

Africa Ireland Economic Forum

€1,220.59

Science for Development Award at BT Young Scientist

€682.20

Official Visit by Indian Minister

€569.00

Launch of the 2010 Irish Aid annual report

€569.00

Launch of EU Presidency Logo

€560.84

Launch of Africa Day 2011 — Dublin

€526.35

Official Farewell for the British Ambassador

€524.84

Launch of Our World Awards

€302.50

Launch of Certificate of Irish Heritage

€296.23

Irish Aid Fellowship Annual Meeting

€119.55

Official Visit to Korea/Japan

€95.00

Total

€57,561.65

*It was not possible in the time available to provide a detailed breakdown.

Where ever possible my Department utilises its own staff to take photographs in-house, thereby reducing costs. However, for major events when high-resolution photography is required for the media or for publication, my Department uses the services of a professional photographic agency. As the table indicates there were a significant number of such events in 2011.

In September 2011, the Department led a collaborative advertised tender process for the procurement of a competitive framework of photographic service providers which will be available for use by all Government Departments. The tender process is nearing completion and details of the new framework arrangements will shortly be posted on the National Procurement Service website:www.procurement.ie.

Question No. 125 answered with Question No. 92.
Questions Nos. 126 and 127 answered with Question No. 93.

Human Rights Issues

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have been made aware of large-scale human rights abuses in the wake of various conflict points globally; the action taken or likely to be taken to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9980/12]

Human rights concerns remain central to our foreign policy. Together with our EU partners, Ireland closely monitors the human rights situations in many countries, including post-conflict countries, throughout the world. We do this on the basis of information obtained from a variety of sources including both official channels and non-governmental/civil society organisations. Where and when the situation warrants, we make known our concerns about human rights violations to the Governments in question. We do this bilaterally, through the EU, or through action at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.

Ireland supports the use of the full UN human rights machinery in responding to human rights abuses, including supporting the role of UN Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Bodies, Special Procedures and Mandate Holders and the convening, where appropriate, of Special Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. At the UN, the EU regularly makes statements on the human rights situations in a number of countries from all regions. Ireland is fully associated with these statements.

The EU has adopted Common Positions on certain countries, which attach priority to promoting human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. In addition, the EU conducts human rights dialogues with a number of countries and also raises human rights concerns as part of political dialogue meetings.

Ireland has been a consistent and strong supporter of the International Criminal Court, recognising it as an essential means of combating impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Active participation in multilateral organisations including the EU, UN and the Council of Europe provides an opportunity for Ireland to voice its concerns regarding human rights abuses. Through these organisations, international pressure can be brought to bear on those responsible for violation of human rights. Ireland will continue to use these mechanisms as a means of highlighting violations of human rights and furthering their protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of countries in which the death penalty has not been yet abolished; the executions recorded on an annual basis through the enforcement of the death penalty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9981/12]

Ireland is adamantly opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and accordingly seeks its universal abolition. We continue to work in close cooperation with our EU partners in accordance with the common EU guidelines on the issue of the death penalty, to seek its universal abolition. The EU guidelines, adopted in 1998, set out clearly the common EU position on the use of the death penalty. These guidelines seek, in the first instance, the universal abolition of the death penalty and state that where the death penalty still exists, the EU will continue to press for its use to be progressively restricted. The EU utilises every possible occasion to voice its concerns regarding the use of the death penalty and intervenes in cases which fall under the criteria set out in the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty. Ireland strongly supports these efforts.

According to Amnesty International in its report "Death Sentences and Executions 2010”, 58 countries retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes. 96 countries do not provide for the death penalty for any crime and 9 countries have laws that provide for the death penalty only for exceptional crimes under military law or crimes committed in exceptional circumstances. 34 countries retain the death sentence but can be considered as having abolished the death sentence in practice.

Unfortunately it is not possible to give an exact number of executions carried out for, as the report of the UN Secretary General on the "Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” (A/65/280 of 10 August 2010) points out, “that is very difficult to establish the number of cases in which the death penalty has been imposed and subsequently implemented due to their fact that several States keep figures on executions secret”. Amnesty International, in the report already cited, state that at least 527 executions were carried out in 2010.

The UN General Assembly passed a Resolution, 65/206, in 2010 which called on States to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. The Resolution was cosponsored by the EU member States and was adopted by 109 votes to 41 against, with 35 abstentions while 7 States were not present. The issue will be considered again at the General Assembly later this year. The abolition of the death penalty is a political priority for Ireland and our EU partners. We will continue to monitor developments regarding the death penalty and to work for its worldwide abolition.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have focused on the ongoing issues of war, famine and starvation, genocide and ethnic cleansing at the various known flash points throughout the globe; the extent to which his EU and UN colleagues can co-operate to address such issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9982/12]

Unfortunately, many countries world-wide continue to face significant developmental and humanitarian challenges. Ongoing and protracted conflicts cause untold suffering for millions of people while global turbulence, such as the continuing financial and economic crisis and volatile food prices, have a major impact on food security. At the same time, millions more continue to live with the effects of natural disasters and their legacies. Responding to all of these challenges is not easy. Indeed, the situation in many countries remains fragile and some of those receiving help today will continue to require assistance in the years ahead. Meeting these demands requires not only an effective humanitarian and emergency response: it also means preparing for new crises, building resilience and working with development actors to address the underlying causes of conflict and disaster. It is tackling these challenges, comprehensively, coherently and effectively that has gained Ireland its international reputation in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian endeavour.

Ireland works close with international partners, including the EU and relevant UN organisations, in addressing the problems affecting individual countries and regions. We recognise the need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach in order to maximise the impact of international assistance. It is not sufficient to address the humanitarian and development aspects alone. Development programmes can only be effective if they have a secure environment in which to thrive.

I have regular discussions with my colleagues, at EU level, bilaterally and at UN fora, on issues relating to international peace and security. The meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council provide regular opportunities at which to consider such events and the response of the European Union and the wider international community to them. The Council is also the body which takes decisions in relation to the EU's crisis management actions, such as the launching of new EU missions or significant changes to the 13 existing Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions — 10 of which are civilian operations.

Officials of my Department and the Department of Defence also hold regular discussions with like-minded countries, including in relation to the 9 different UN-mandated peace-keeping and peace enforcement missions on which members of the Defence Forces are currently deployed.

We are interested in further developing cooperation with the UN in crisis management and peace-keeping. An initiative proposed by Ireland on enhancing the EU's contribution to UN peacekeeping was formally discussed within the EU institutions in 2011 and an action plan is currently being developed to take forward work in this area. Ireland will continue to work to ensure that all of these issues continue to be a focus of attention at EU and multilateral level.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the events in Syria have been the subject of discussion at EU and UN level; the degree to which opportunity for positive intervention has been identified in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9983/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the situation in Syria remains on the agenda at EU Council meetings; the action taken or proposed of a positive and restraining nature arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9984/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when it is expected that the combined influence of the international community will be brought to bear to bring to an end the ongoing conflict in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9985/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 to 133, inclusive, together.

I have on a number of occasions stated clearly my grave concerns at the deteriorating situation in Syria and condemned the unacceptable violence and repression which is now estimated to have claimed some 7,000 lives since last March. In my address to the Security Council in New York on 9 February, I described the current situation in Syria as completely intolerable and condemned the appalling suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of the Assad regime. I also discussed the situation with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and US Deputy Secretary of State Burns during the course of my recent visit to the United States.

Given the serious implications for regional peace and security, it is deeply regrettable that the Security Council has so far been unable to speak with a single voice on Syria, in failing to pass a Resolution on 4 February which otherwise commanded the full support of the Council. The ramifications of this failure have been made painfully clear in the weeks since as the violence in Syria, and in particular the appalling attacks on the civilian population in cities such as Homs, Bab Amr and Hama, has increased significantly. There is a desperate need for humanitarian access, including medical assistance, to citizens in these areas.

The international community can no longer continue to ignore the daily escalation of bloodshed and repression as the Assad regime seeks to extinguish the legitimate desire of ordinary Syrians for democracy and renewal. There is a clear onus on the international community to protect the people of Syria from further suffering and to promote a speedy resolution of this conflict through peaceful political dialogue. It is clear that President Assad will not begin this process without additional pressure from the international community.

I welcome the continued strong leadership of the Arab League as well as the UN Secretary General and others in the international community who are striving to end the violence in Syria. The initial meeting of the Friends of Syria Group in Tunisia on 24 February, which will be attended by Arab League Foreign Ministers as well as EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State Clinton amongst others, will provide a timely opportunity to consider next steps and to bring together representatives of Syria's fragmented peaceful opposition.

At UN level, Ireland and all EU partners voted in favour of a UN General Assembly Resolution on 16 February which was supported by an overwhelming majority of UN member states. The Resolution condemned human rights violations in Syria, called for an end to the violence in Syria, supported the Arab League peace plan and called on President Assad to resign in order to allow a political transition to begin. The UN General Assembly also received a briefing from High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay on 13 February which described the appalling and widespread human rights violations ongoing in Syria. The human rights situation in Syria is also likely to be addressed at the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month.

The EU is also playing its part, not least through the enactment of tough sanctions against Syria which include a ban on oil imports. Syria will also figure heavily on the agenda for the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 27 February which I will attend and where there is likely to be consideration of how to increase even further the already considerable international pressure on the Assad regime to change course. This may include additional restrictive measures.

Meanwhile, Arab League Ministers met in Cairo on 12 February and decided to increase sanctions against Syria, to support Syria's non-violent opposition, and to appoint former Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Khatib as Arab League envoy to Syria. The Arab League plan adopted last November and recently considered by the UN Security Council still represents the most credible basis for resolving the current crisis. All sides need to desist from further violence and to allow the main elements of the Arab League plan, including withdrawal of all military forces to barracks, release of all detainees and the stepping down of President Assad to allow the start of a political transition, to be implemented. In relation to the Arab League's proposal for a joint UN-Arab peace-keeping force to be established, this idea is under consideration but it is clear that a prior ceasefire would be essential.

Ireland and its EU partners, working with the UN, the Arab League and international partners such as the US and Turkey, are determined to maintain strong and united political pressure on the Syrian regime until it ends the violent repression against its own people and begins a process of transition.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which conflict in Africa remains an issue for discussion with his colleagues at EU and UN level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9986/12]

The issue of addressing conflict, including its causes and the resulting humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa, has been the subject of recent discussion and decisions at both the European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) levels. Addressing the many problems faced by the region remains a huge challenge given the issues of piracy off the coast of Somalia, the displacement of several hundred thousand people across the region, and an estimated 13 million people in need of emergency assistance. The centre of the crisis is in southern Somalia, where famine was declared last year in six areas of the country and where access for humanitarian aid agencies remains a major challenge, most especially in areas controlled by the Islamist group, Al-Shabaab.

In response to the fragile political and humanitarian situation, the EU in November 2011 adopted a Strategic Framework to guide the EU's engagement in the region. This renewed commitment to the Horn of Africa is rooted in the region's importance, the EU's desire to support the immediate welfare of the people of the Horn and the longer term need for economic development and human wellbeing there. The EU and its Member States recognised that instability in the region poses a growing challenge not only to the security of its peoples but also to the rest of the world.

EU engagement will be in support of both regional efforts, including through the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU), and national efforts to achieve lasting peace, security and justice, good governance based on the democratic principles of inclusion, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

To enhance the coherence, quality, impact and visibility of the EU's multifaceted action in the region, the EU last month appointed a Special Representative (EUSR) who, in close consultation with the EUSR for Sudan and South Sudan, will contribute to the EU's regional approach to the interrelated challenges facing the Horn. As Ireland recognises that a military and security approach can only have very limited success in addressing the crisis in Somalia and the wider region, we are strongly supportive of a comprehensive approach to tackling the problems of the region and we will support the EUSR in his work to ensure this.

The EU and Member States have supported African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) since its launch in March 2007 through the African Union's African Peace Facility (AFP). As a regional peace-keeping mission, it is mandated to support transitional governmental structures, implement a national security plan, train the Somali security forces, and to assist in creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Ireland has been directly involved in the EU Training Mission (EUTM) which is contributing to strengthening the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia as a functioning Government serving the Somali population and aims to build regional capacity in the medium term.

The mission operates in close co-operation and coordination with other international actors, in particular, the UN and AMISOM. Five members of the Irish Permanent Defence Forces were deployed to the mission in April 2010. In June 2011 the Government approved continued participation in the mission, for a further period of one year beyond August 2011. On 8 August 2011, Colonel Michael Beary of the Irish Permanent Defence Forces, took over as Mission Commander.

I can assure you that Ireland, in association with EU partners will continue to work with regional governments, the UN, international partners, and humanitarian organizations to meet short-term emergency needs, to establish regional food security, and to tackle the causes of conflict which have prevented stable government throughout the region.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues, directly or through the UN can make a positive intervention to address human rights, ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9987/12]

The current political and humanitarian situations in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, and their human toll in terms of suffering and displacement, particularly in Somalia and Syria, are of great concern. During 2011, countries in the Horn of Africa continued to face significant developmental and humanitarian challenges. Ongoing drought in the region has resulted in over 12 million people being in desperate need of assistance. Ongoing and protracted conflict, particularly in Somalia, has caused untold suffering for millions of people. Over 250,000 people there are estimated by the UN to be living in famine conditions. At the same time, millions more across the region continue to live with the effects of natural disasters and their legacies.

The EU and Member States have supported the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) since its launch in March 2007 through the African Union's African Peace Facility (AFP). As a regional peace-keeping mission, it is mandated to support transitional Governmental structures, implement a national security plan, train the Somali security forces, and to assist in creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Ireland, through the provision of Mission Commander and a number of Irish Permanent Defence Forces members has been directly involved in the EU Training Mission (EUTM) which is contributing to strengthening the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia as a functioning Government serving the Somali population and aims to build regional capacity in the medium term. This is a very practical expression of our commitment to peace and stability there.

A more positive picture is evident in Ethiopia and Kenya. In these two countries the authorities have worked hard over many years to build resilience and enhance the coping mechanisms of those vulnerable to external shocks or disasters. Due in part to support from Ireland and others, Kenya and Ethiopia have taken steps to protect their populations from the worst effects of the regional crisis.

The Government remains actively involved at the EU and UN levels in pushing for a strongly coordinated approach to address the many challenges in the region. In response to the fragile political and humanitarian situation, the EU in November 2011 adopted a Strategic Framework to guide the EU's engagement in the region. In order to ensure that the actions proposed in the framework are implemented, the EU recently appointed a Special Representative (EUSR) who, in close consultation with the EUSR for Sudan and South Sudan, will contribute to the EU's regional approach to the interrelated challenges facing the Horn. With regard the Middle East, I have on a number of occasions stated clearly my grave concerns at the deteriorating situation in Syria and condemned the unacceptable violence and repression which is now estimated to have claimed some 7,000 lives since last March. In my address to the Security Council in New York on 9 February, I described the current situation in Syria as completely intolerable and condemned the appalling suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of the Assad regime. I also discussed the situation with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and US Deputy Secretary of State Burns during the course of my visit to the United States.

Given the serious implications for regional peace and security, it is deeply regrettable that the Security Council has so far been unable to speak with a single voice on Syria, in failing to pass a Resolution on 4 February which otherwise commanded the full support of the Council. The ramifications of this failure have been made painfully clear in the weeks since, as the violence in Syria, and in particular the appalling attacks on the civilian population in cities such as Homs, Bab Amr and Hama, has increased significantly. There is a desperate need for humanitarian access, including medical assistance, to citizens in these areas.

I welcome the continued strong leadership of the Arab League as well as the UN Secretary General and others in the international community who are striving to end the violence in Syria. The initial meeting of the Friends of Syria Group in Tunisia on 24 February, which will be attended by Arab League Foreign Ministers as well as EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State Clinton amongst others, will provide a timely opportunity to consider next steps and to bring together representatives of Syria's fragmented peaceful opposition.

At UN level, Ireland and all EU partners voted in favour of a UN General Assembly Resolution on 16 February which was supported by an overwhelming majority of UN member states. The Resolution condemned human rights violations in Syria, called for an end to the violence in Syria, supported the Arab League peace plan and called on President Assad to resign in order to allow a political transition to begin. The EU is also playing its part, not least through the enactment of tough sanctions against Syria which include a ban on oil imports.

Overseas Development Aid

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which commitments entered into by the international community in the aftermath of such natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti have been honoured in full or in part; the degree to which it can be anticipated that such commitments will be delivered on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9988/12]

On 12 January 2010, Haiti was struck by one of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history, causing approximately 230,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries. The earthquake destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas, left about 1.5 million people homeless and caused losses and damage estimated at approximately €5.9 billion. Given the scale of the death and destruction inflicted, it is perhaps little surprise to learn that the country is still struggling to rebuild and recover.

In spite of the enormous challenges however, some two years on from the quake, a massive and sustained humanitarian operation has nevertheless yielded remarkable results. Almost a million people have moved from camps to homes. Under extremely challenging conditions, five million cubic metres of debris have been removed, 400,000 houses have been inspected for damage, and shelters have been provided for 420,000 people. Many schools and hospitals have been rebuilt, and more children are being educated today than before the earthquake.

While focusing on longer-term development, we should also remember that the humanitarian crisis in Haiti is far from over. More than 500,000 people still live in camps, and a cholera epidemic continues to claim lives. The underlying structural challenges, including under-development and governance, also need to be addressed as we move from crisis to recovery.

Large-scale investment will therefore continue to be required both in order to provide immediate relief and to help rebuild destroyed communities and infrastructure. While US $4.5 billion worth of assistance has been pledged by the international community, UN figures indicate that only US $2.38 billion of this has actually been disbursed to date. We will therefore continue to use all available opportunities in international fora, in Brussels, New York, Geneva and elsewhere, to urge other donors to keep their promises and to provide the kind of long-term, coordinated and predictable funding which will be required in order to move Haiti from crisis to recovery.

For our part, we in Ireland have worked hard to meet our own commitments to the people of Haiti. Some €11.5 million of the €13 million pledged at the Haiti Donor Conference in New York in March 2010 has now been committed. We intend to meet our entire pledge in the coming months.

Irish funding has prioritised the needs of the most vulnerable populations, including women and children as well as the basic humanitarian needs of the population more generally. Support has been provided to UNICEF, Concern, Goal, Plan, World Vision and Haven in 2010 and 2011 for the provision of clean water and sanitation, shelter and housing to the affected population. €1 million was also provided to the Haiti Reconstruction Trust Fund for projects managed by the World Bank in line with priorities agreed with the Haitian authorities. Ireland's assistance has made a great difference in the lives of thousands of Haitians.

Since the earthquake, there have also been 18 deployments of the Irish Aid-administered Rapid Response Corps to Haiti to assist in areas such as logistics, engineering and water and sanitation. Volunteers have deployed to work with organisations such as the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Concern Worldwide, Goal and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Foreign Conflicts

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he can influence and encourage positive stability measures in Libya; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9989/12]

One year after the Libyan uprising began, it is clear that the Libyan people supported by the international community are making progress towards establishing a democratic Libya, but that major challenges remain. I welcome the fact that, in an important step in Libya's democratic transition, Libyan officials on 8 February finalised the new electoral laws for the National Assembly elections which are due to take place by June. Once elected, the National Assembly will then draw up a new constitution.

At the same time, I am seriously concerned at reports that the armed militias in Libya are committing widespread human rights abuses with impunity, as documented in Amnesty International's report of 16 February. There is no doubt that such actions, if left unchallenged by the rule of law, will continue to fuel insecurity and hinder the rebuilding of state institutions.

The international community, including Ireland and its EU partners, are determined to continue supporting Libya in its journey towards democratisation. The High-level Meeting on Libya in New York on 20 September 2011 en marge of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, which I attended, made clear the international community's political support for the National Transitional Council as the interim authorities in Libya as well as providing for formal acceptance into the United Nations of the new Libya. The United Nations Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL) is leading the international community's practical assistance during the transition period to Libyan national efforts in a range of areas, including the restoration of public security and order, the promotion of rule of law, the restoration of public services and support for human rights.

Ireland, the EU and others in the international community will continue to seek ways to assist Libya in its nascent democratic transition, which it is hoped will foster a period of economic growth and stability for the Libyan people.

Human Rights Issues

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent, if any, to which he and his EU or UN colleagues have managed to highlight human rights abuses as identified by the OSCE special representatives on human rights defenders and to implement OSCE guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders with particular reference to cases (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9990/12]

Human Rights are, and have always been, a priority of successive Irish Governments and a central part of our foreign policy. Ireland attaches considerable importance to the vital work of human rights defenders and condemns all acts or threats of violence against organisations and individuals working to protect human rights. Ireland, along with our partners in the EU, is committed to promoting human rights and to eliminating torture and mistreatment of prisoners. The EU makes detailed representations regularly in response to executions, extrajudicial killings, arrests of human rights activists and restrictions on freedom of expression. In 2004, during Ireland's Presidency of the EU, a set of EU Guidelines for the protection of Human Rights Defenders were formulated. Our Presidency gave us the unique opportunity to bring the issue of Human Rights Defenders centre stage. The guidelines ensure that EU Missions outside the EU monitor, report, and assess the situation of Human Rights Defenders. They outline the steps required to ensure that pressure on the relevant authorities, where necessary, remains high. Ireland is also currently a member of the EU Human Rights Working Group's Task Force on Human Rights Defenders, which looks at practical ways of implementing the Guidelines and making them more effective. At the United Nations, Ireland has committed to support Human Rights Defenders in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. This Declaration was adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly in 1998, and it remains the normative basis for international efforts for human rights defenders. Ireland has consistently taken the lead in negotiating resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly to ensure human rights defenders can operate in an environment free from hindrance and insecurity. Ireland actively promotes the work of Human Rights Defenders at the Human Rights Council. We have acted as burden sharer on behalf of the European Union to secure the renewal of the special procedures mandate for Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders and on resolutions which ensure that the spirit of the 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is adhered to.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has accumulated a substantial body of commitments in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The participating States of the OSCE have long recognised the importance of Human Rights Defenders in helping states to meet the human rights standards to which they have committed. The recognition of civil society and the role NGOs play in promoting respect for human rights was first reflected in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and has been reaffirmed since then in many OSCE commitments. Specific commitments in relation to Human Rights Defenders were first made in 1994, when participating States emphasised the need for their protection.

In 2007, a "Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions" was created within the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The Focal Point runs training for human rights defenders aimed at developing monitoring and advocacy skills and supports the development of networks of human rights defenders. However, the OSCE does not have a Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, nor are there specific guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. In my capacity as Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE in 2012, I am committed to ensuring that the OSCE supports Human Rights Defenders in the most effective way, and will explore the opportunities for strengthening OSCE engagement, within the limitations imposed by consensus decision-making in the OSCE.

As regards the individual cases mentioned:

Mr. Dilmurod Saidov, an independent Uzbek journalist and member of the Ezgulik Human Rights Organisation, who has written about corruption and abuse of power by local officials, and about social and economic problems in the Samarkand region, was sentenced to twelve-and-a-half years imprisonment in a closed trial in 2009, on charges of extortion and forgery. At the time of the trial, the OSCE Representative of the Freedom of the Media wrote to the Uzbek Foreign Minister expressing alarm at the extremely harsh sentence, following a trial which did not meet international standards of fair procedure. At the 10th meeting of the Cooperation Council between the European Union and the Republic of Uzbekistan on 14 November 2011, the EU stressed its serious concern at the overall situation regarding human rights in Uzbekistan, calling on the Uzbek authorities to urgently undertake effective measures to make progress in this regard, in particular by releasing all imprisoned human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, allowing unimpeded operation of non-governmental organisations in the country and cooperating fully with all relevant UN Special Rapporteurs. I welcome Uzbekistan's commitment to pursue numerous reforms in the Universal Periodic Review procedure of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2009.

Mr. Azimjan Askarov, an ethic-Uzbek human rights activist in Kyrgyzstan, has received a life sentence in prison on charges of organizing mass disorder, inciting inter-ethnic hatred, hostage-taking, and incitement to murder during violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Concerns have been expressed regarding over-reliance on police evidence, and the failure of the authorities to adequately address the intimidation of defence witnesses and lawyers, to consider exculpatory evidence, and to effectively follow-up on indications of possible torture. Concerns have also been expressed about Mr. Askarov's health. On 20 December 2011, Ambassador Janez Lenarèiè, the Director of ODIHR, expressed dismay over a Supreme Court decision to uphold the life sentence imposed by lower courts, referring to the serious violations of Askarov's right to a fair trial. In a statement released on 22 December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, said it was particularly alarming that the Supreme Court judges had failed to consider claims that confessions had been extracted under duress. On 10 January 2012, the EU delegation in Kyrgyzstan issued a statement calling upon the Kyrgyz authorities to consider all possible ways to re-examine the case of Mr. Askarov and his co-defendant, noting reports of serious violations of legal procedures. I have been closely monitoring this case in recent weeks and we have communicated our concerns to the Government ofKyrgyzstan. I hope that the new Government will give the case the most careful consideration.

Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a leading Bahraini human rights activist and a former Frontline coordinator, was arrested in April 2011 for his alleged role in the unrest in Manama last year. On 22 June 2011, after violent abuse in detention which resulted in serious head injuries requiring urgent medical treatment, Mr Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life imprisonment. As I have stated previously, I do not believe that Mr Al-Khawaja received a trial meeting international standards. His trial was conducted in circumstances closely resembling a military trial, whereas civilians should be tried in ordinary civilian courts. I welcome the reforms that have been introduced in Bahrain since the 2011 uprising but I regret that Mr Al-Khawaja remains in detention. There is an urgent need for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Al-Khawaja's arrest, detention and subsequent trial. I will continue to monitor developments in this case closely.

Mr. Chen Guangchen, a blind rights defence lawyer, and his family, are being held under house arrest in Shandong Province in China. His case has been raised frequently with the Chinese authorities in EU human rights dialogues and in bilateral contacts. Human rights issues were discussed most recently during the visit of China's Vice President, Mr. Xi Jinping, to Ireland, from 18-20 February 2012. Human rights are included in regular political dialogues and are also raised during specific human rights dialogues with China which have taken place since 1995.

Departmental Agencies

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

139 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide the number of retired persons serving on State boards and commissions; and the amount it is costing the State. [10355/12]

There are no state boards under the aegis of my Department. The only commission that is under my Department's auspices is the Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange whichwas established on a statutory basis and enjoys autonomy of management and administration, in accordance with the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991. I have certain specific statutory responsibilities in respect of the Commission, including the appointment of four of its eight member board for a two-year period. None of the current members of the board is retired. Members of the board serve in a voluntary capacity and are not remunerated.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

140 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance his plans to increase the fines for those engaged in the illegal tobacco trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9229/12]

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

141 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance the penalties available to the courts in terms of tackling the illegal tobacco trade. [9230/12]

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

155 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he will quantify the loss to the State of the sale of illegal tobacco and if he will indicate the extent of that loss. [9228/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140, 141 and 155 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a survey commissioned by Revenue and the Office of Tobacco Control in 2009 estimated that 20% of cigarettes consumed in the State had not been taxed in this jurisdiction. This figure was further broken down as 14% illicit product and 6% legally imported by passengers arriving into the State from other jurisdictions. A similar survey in the last quarter of 2010 confirmed these estimates. Based on an estimate of 14%, the loss to the Exchequer from illicit cigarette consumption in 2011 would be in the region of €250m (excise duty + VAT). A further survey is currently underway.

Section 119, as amended, of the Finance Act 2001 contains penalties for offences in relation to cigarette smuggling. That section sets out the various actions that constitute offences of evasion or attempted evasion of excise duty, as well as the penalties, by way of a fine or imprisonment, for such offences.

Where a conviction for an offence under section 119 occurs following a summary prosecution, the fine that may be imposed is €5,000. A Court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, either instead of or in addition to the fine. For convictions following prosecution on indictment, the applicable fine is an amount not exceeding €126,970 or, where the value of the tobacco products concerned is greater than €250,000, not exceeding three times the value of the products. The Court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, as an alternative, or in addition, to the fine.

Section 78 of the Finance Act 2005 includes penalties for the illegal sale of tobacco products. A Court may, following a summary conviction, impose a fine of €5,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both. The penalty following conviction on indictment is a fine not exceeding €126,970 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or both a fine and imprisonment.

The specific penalty to be imposed in any particular case is a matter for the Courts. Section 130(2) of the Finance Act, 2001 permits a trial judge, in his or her discretion, to mitigate a fine incurred for an offence under excise law, provided that the amount so mitigated is not greater than 50% of the amount of the fine.

The fines for excise offences have been increased in the recent past: those that apply in the event of conviction on indictment were increased substantially by the Finance Act 2010. The need for further changes will be kept under review, taking account, among other considerations, of practical experience of the operation of the increased fines.

EU Directives

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

142 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the legal status of EU Regulation No. 1175/2011 of the European Parliament and European Council of 16 November 2011; if this regulation requires any transposition into Irish law before it takes legal effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9448/12]

The EU Regulation to which the Deputy refers is "Regulation (EU) No. 1175/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and coordination of economic policies". This Regulation is one of the five EU Regulations and one EU Directive that go to make up the so called Six-Pack of economic governance reform measures that were first announced in 2010. The five EU Regulations came into effect on December 13th, 2011.

The purpose of this Regulation is to contribute to the strengthening of budgetary surveillance within the EU through an amendment to the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact's preventive and corrective arms. At the core of this Regulation is a focus on the Stability and Growth Pact's preventive measures, and it sets out fiscal policy requirements for those Member States whose fiscal deficit is below the threshold tolerance of 3 per cent of GDP. The reference points remain the medium-term budgetary objectives, which themselves are to be updated regularly.

Under the terms of this Regulation, if a Member State deviates significantly from the adjustment path to the medium-term budgetary objective a warning will be addressed to it by the Commission and the Council will, within one month, examine the situation and make recommendations for adjustments, to be made within a maximum of five months. If the Member State fails to take sufficient corrective action within this period, the Commission shall recommend to the Council to adopt (by qualified majority) a decision to this effect, and also revised recommendations on policy measures to be taken by the Member State. If the Council rejects the Commission recommendation, and the Member State persists in not taking sufficient corrective action, a month later the Commission can put another proposal to council which can only be rejected by simple majority (only euro area countries can vote on a decision of non-compliance relating to another euro area country).

Regulations are the most direct form of EU law, in that as soon as they are passed, they have binding legal force throughout every EU Member State, on a par with national laws. National governments do not have to take any action themselves to implement EU regulations.

They are different from EU Directives, which are addressed to national authorities, who must then take action to make them part of national law.

Fiscal Policy

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

143 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the methodology used by him to calculate the State’s structural deficit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9455/12]

The structural deficit refers to the general government deficit adjusted for the economic cycle and one-off / temporary measures. Unlike the headline deficit, the structural deficit cannot be measured directly and must be estimated. This is difficult to do with any degree of accuracy, especially in a small open economy such as Ireland's, as acknowledged by the Fiscal Council in its recent report. As such, all estimates of the structural deficit are surrounded by considerable uncertainty. Budget 2012 provided estimates of the structural deficit for the period 2011-15. The starting point was identifying the cyclical position of the economy, which was estimated on the basis of the harmonised production function methodology developed jointly by the European Commission and Member States (further details can be found in European Economy, Economic Paper 420, July 2010, available on DG ECFIN's website). The idea is to estimate the difference between aggregate demand and aggregate supply. The latter — potential output — is determined on the basis of available quantities of capital and labour, along with estimates of trend total factor productivity (TFP). The difference between aggregate demand and supply, which is known as the output gap, establishes the cyclical position of the economy. The elasticity of the budget balance with respect to the economic cycle is estimated to be 0.4 in Ireland's case.

By adjusting the headline deficit projections set out in Budget 2012 for this cyclical component and for one-off measures, an estimate of the structural deficit for each of the years 2011 to 2015 was arrived at. Like all estimates, these will be updated periodically as we go forward. In terms of any assessment post 2015, while the same methodology would apply it must also be noted that even greater uncertainty would surround any such forecast.

Motor Imports

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

144 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the rationale behind the decision to register imported cars starting from the number 120,000, as there does not seem to be any reasonable administrative reason or any consumer information purpose, but it does serve to devalue imported cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9732/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a new vehicle registration computer system was introduced in December 2011. Because of budgetary constraints, it was not possible to carry forward all the registration details of vehicles registered in the previous 19 years to the new system. Accordingly, a simplified model that did not require the details of the registration number assigned to the last vehicle registered in each of the licensing authorities in each of the previous 19 years was adopted for issuing registration numbers for prior years. The simplified model assigns registration numbers starting from a particular number for each licensing authority regardless of year. The particular number chosen had to be sufficiently high to enable additional unique registrations to be added. The starting registration number for each licensing authority was selected to ensure that there is no possibility of a vehicle being assigned a number that was previously assigned to another vehicle under the old system. Accordingly, the number will be higher than would have been assigned in the normal course of events for some years.

This is a short-term phenomenon. Vehicles presented for registration that were first registered in 2011 and subsequent years (in another State) will not be affected by this change and will be assigned the next available number in the sequence for that licensing authority and year of registration.

Tax Clearance Certificates

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

145 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding taxation in respect of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [9135/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that following receipt of updated pension figures from the Department of Social Protection, it transpires that the person in question is in receipt of a Department of Social Protection Old Age Pension with an Increase for a Qualified Adult. In the circumstances the person concerned is entitled to one PAYE Tax Credit in respect of the pension. He is not entitled to an additional PAYE Tax Credit or an additional Standard Rate Band in respect of the Qualified Adult portion of this pension. Accordingly his Tax Credit Certificate for 2012 is correct.

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

146 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance if a review will be carried out in a case (details supplied). [9136/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a claim for medical expenses of €5,384 was received from the person named for 2009 and a net refund of €177.65 issued on 14th December 2011, €88.99 to the person named and €88.66 to his spouse. In processing the refund, an apparent under deduction of PAYE for 2009 of €897.74 came to light from the P35 forms submitted by the employers. A copy of the P60s for 2009 has been requested from the person named to establish the reason for the under deduction, and should any additional refund arise, it will be duly processed.

Tax Collection

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if a refund of income tax is payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9171/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have written to the person concerned requesting the details necessary to establish if he is entitled to a refund of income tax.

Mortgage Arrears

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

148 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will review a matter (details supplied) [9183/12]

Subject to the provisions of the Central Bank Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears and the wider legal framework, the banks in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, are independent commercial entities and decisions on the handling of their loans, including mortgages, are, in the first instance, a commercial matter for the individual institutions. However, the Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing arising from difficulty in meeting their mortgage commitments. The Government, therefore, has established a Steering Group to oversee and drive the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Mortgage Arrears across Government. The Inter-Departmental Group concluded that those people who can meet their mortgage obligations should do so but that appropriate measures need to be developed to assist those mortgage holders who are experiencing real difficulty in meeting their repayments. Significant progress has already been achieved in implementing the Group's recommendations. For example, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has published a draft Personal Insolvency Bill to provide a framework for the resolution of unsustainable personal debt, including mortgage debt, in a non judicial framework. In addition, the Central Bank, as regulator, has required mortgage lenders to develop strategies and implementation plans to deal with their individual mortgage arrears situations. The Central Bank is currently reviewing these strategies and examining the plans of lenders to offer appropriate longer term solutions, such as those recommended in the Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group report and other options that banks may develop themselves, for their customers who may have unsustainable mortgages. The Central Bank will continue to engage with lenders on the further development and implementation of these plans.

Tax Code

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

149 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the rate of VAT which will be imposed on admissions to open farms according to the amendment of schedule, section 83(1)(c) of the Finance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9201/12]

Under Section 83 of the Finance Bill 2012 I am proposing to apply the 9% reduced VAT rate to admissions to open farms with effect from 1 January 2012.

Currency Exchange

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

150 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the outstanding amount of punts remaining to be exchanged for euro at the Central Bank of Ireland at the end of January 2011; if he will detail the legislation or regulations under which this exchange is currently regulated by and taking place under; if he will confirm that the Central Bank of Ireland must under Irish law continue to exchange punts to euro indefinitely; if he will consider introducing a final date for transfer after which the outstanding punts will no longer be exchanged; the annual cost of providing such an exchange service and facilitating the disposal of used punts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9211/12]

I am informed by the Central Bank that the outstanding amount of punts remaining to be exchanged for euros at the Central Bank of Ireland at the end of January 2011 was as follows:

Irish £ banknotes €237.4 million,

Irish £ coin €125.1 million.

Section 121 of the Central Bank Act 1989, as inserted by Section 18 of the Economic and Monetary Union Act 1998, provides that the Central Bank of Ireland may continue to redeem Irish pound notes, or any other notes that were previously legal tender. The Government does not intend to introduce a final date for exchange of outstanding punts at this time, but the process will be kept under review in consultation with the Central Bank.

Based on 2010 figures, the annual cost of providing such an exchange service and facilitating the disposal of used punts is estimated at €368,600.

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

151 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an average of more than €10,000 is exchanged from punts to euro at the Central Bank of Ireland on a daily basis; if he monitors this exchange process; if any examination or explanation process is required to ascertain the location from whence such large sums are coming from more than a decade since the introduction of the euro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9212/12]

I have been informed by the Central Bank that some €2.6m was exchanged from punts to euros at the Central Bank of Ireland in 2011, with some variation in the daily amounts. The Central Bank is satisfied of the legitimacy of the level of exchange, which is derived from various sources. The Central Bank does not have details of the profile of larger exchanges, but I am advised that it intends to undertake an analysis of this. The Central Bank also intends to consult with other National Central Banks about whether the total outstanding amount of Irish currency is typical. However, the Central Bank continuously monitors the currency exchange process to ensure the provision of a secure public service including appropriate audit trails and procedures to notify the authorities of any suspicious transactions.

Tax Yield

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

152 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the total revenue to be raised in 2012 from the imposition of a 5% surcharge on persons with gross incomes of more than €100,000 on the amount of income sheltered by property reliefs, including section 23 reliefs and accelerated capital allowance schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9215/12]

As the Deputy will be aware Finance Bill 2012 contains two proposed measures aimed at reducing the cost to the State of the "legacy" property-based tax incentive schemes and bringing it to an end in a shorter time period. These measures consist of a property relief surcharge, which will take effect from 1 January 2012 and a cap on property-based Accelerated Capital Allowance Schemes to be introduced from 1 January 2015. The Exchequer yield from the property relief surcharge will depend on the level of use of the "legacy" reliefs by individuals falling within the ambit of the measure thus it is difficult to be certain on the amount that it will generate. However, I have no reason at this stage to change the figure of €15m savings in a full year, which I announced at Budget time.

The property relief surcharge and the 2015 cap on accelerated capital allowances, which limit property tax reliefs that benefit high income earners, demonstrate this Government's commitment to developing a fairer tax code.

These provisions reflect the findings of the Economic Impact Assessment on the measures proposed by the previous Government for restricting the property-based "legacy" tax relief schemes. The Impact Assessment, which was published with the Finance Bill, considered the impacts of these proposals and highlighted, in particular, the vulnerability of small investors to insolvency if they lost these reliefs. The Economic Impact Assessment report concludes that relief to small scale investors should not be restricted in the current climate but that there is scope for larger investors to contribute more.

This Government believes that large scale investors in property that attracts tax reliefs can and should make more of a contribution. The property relief surcharge will therefore be imposed on investors with an annual gross income of €100,000 and over. It is also estimated that the change to the high earners restriction in 2010 will yield additional taxes from high earners who benefit from tax reliefs.

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

153 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the total lost tax revenue in 2011 arising from income sheltered from taxation by section 23 reliefs and accelerated capital allowance schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9216/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant information available as to the cost to the Exchequer of all property related tax schemes (Section 23 type reliefs and accelerated capital allowances) is for the year 2009, based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers and corporation tax returns filed by companies for that year. On that basis the estimated cost is €342 million. This figure includes owner-occupier relief. It should be noted that any corresponding data returned by PAYE taxpayers in the income tax return (Form 12) is not captured in the Revenue computer system. However, any PAYE taxpayer with non-PAYE income greater than €3,174 is required to complete an income tax return (Form 11).

The estimated relief claimed has assumed tax forgone at the 41% rate in the case of individuals and 12.5% in the case of companies. The figures shown correspond to the maximum Exchequer cost in terms of income tax and corporation tax.

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

154 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance with respect to the standard rate VAT increase to 23%, if any assessment has been carried out by him on the impact of this tax increase on the domestic economy, retail sales and or employment levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9217/12]

At Budget time, the Government carefully considered the various options open to it in terms of taxation. One of the key objectives of the Government is to get people back to work. Indirect taxes have a less adverse impact on economic activity and employment, which is why Budget 2012 focused on indirect taxes, such as VAT, rather than on income tax. As we have very little actual data for 2012 as of yet, it is too early to assess the impact of the increase in the standard VAT rate.

Question No. 155 answered with Question No. 140.

Financial Services Regulation

Clare Daly

Ceist:

156 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance the number of charitable trusts registered at the International Financial Services Centre; the total funds channelled through these trusts during the years 2007 to 2011, inclusive, and the tax foregone by exempting these trusts from Irish corporation tax. [9296/12]

The 6 charities listed below are eligible charities for the purposes of a tax exemption and have their addresses at the IFSC.

Charities

CHY8877

Treoir, The National Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents

14 Gandon House Custom House Square IFSC Dublin 1

CHY12414

HEAnet Ltd

5 Georges Dock IFSC Dublin 1

CHY9928

National College of Ireland

Mayor Street IFSC Dublin 1

CHY15929

National College of Ireland Foundation Limited

National College of Ireland Mayor Street IFSC Dublin 1

CHY17364

RD 8 Dollymount Charitable Trust

C/o Eureko Reinsurance Ireland Limited Georges Dock House IFSC Dublin 1

CHY17960

Clowns Without Borders — Ireland

C/o 14 Gandon House IFSC Dublin 1

Revenue is not aware that any of these charities has any involvement in the business of the IFSC itself.

As the deputy may be aware, however, in certain financial transactions it is common practice for the shares in special purpose companies (SPCs) to be owned by a public charity. This ensures that, firstly, the SPC is not consolidated into the balance sheet of the financial institution ("the originator") that has transferred loans to the SPC thereby ensuring that the originator is in a position to make further loans and, secondly, that the originator will not be liable for any non-performing loans included in the assets transferred to the SPC. The use of a charitable trust for these purposes is a common occurrence internationally in certain financial transactions.

As a general rule, special purpose companies are established as "orphan" companies. A typical structure for an orphan company would consist of an Irish private limited company (i.e. the SPC), the entire issued share capital of which is held on trust for charitable purposes. The trustee holders of the share capital can be individuals or nominee shareholder companies (charitable trust companies), all of whom hold their shareholding under declaration of trust executed in favour of Irish charities. Charitable trusts are used internationally in special purpose company structures.

It is important to note that the charity is a shareholder in the company and does not hold any assets or liabilities. All assets and liabilities are held by the SPC. It is the company, not the charity, which carries on the business — and funds are not channelled through the charity. Instead, any residual profits left in the SPC after its business is completed are paid by way of dividend to the charitable trust. SPCs are not entitled to any tax deduction for the payment of such dividends.

The number of such charitable trusts cannot be readily determined or estimated by reference to any identifying feature. It is likely that the total amount of residual dividends they receive, being incidental to the main business, is relatively small.

Insurance Premiums

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

157 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the measures being put in place to ensure that car, life and health insurance companies will not use the European Court of Justice ruling on gender which will come into effect on the 21 December 2012 to effect a mass increase in premiums as opposed to a pricing structure based on the average risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9312/12]

The Deputy should note at the outset that neither the Central Bank, nor I have powers to direct an insurance company as to how it should price its insurance policies. This is a commercial decision for the company in question. However in relation to the European Court of Justice ruling in the Test Achats case, the EU Commission has brought out guidelines on the application of the court judgement because it centres on an interpretation Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 which implements the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services. These guidelines cover the impact of the Test Achats ruling including the contracts concerned.

The EU Commission also indicate in their guidelines that they would like to encourage a competitive and innovative industry such as the insurance sector to make the necessary adjustments and offer attractive unisex products to consumers without an unjustified impact on overall price levels. The Commission further indicate that they will remain vigilant in following the evolution of the insurance market in order to detect any unjustified rise in prices attributable to the Test Achats ruling, including the use of the tools that are available under competition law in the event of alleged anti-competitive conduct.

Finally, the Deputy might wish to note that the Commission will report on the implementation of the Test Achats ruling in national law and in insurance practice in 2014 in the context of a more general report on the implementation of the Directive.

Pension Provisions

Simon Harris

Ceist:

158 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the number of public sector workers currently required to make payments under both the pension related deduction for their public pensions and the pension fund levy in respect of any interest they may have in a funded pension scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9316/12]

Not all of the information sought by the Deputy is available. This is because members of pension schemes are not charged with paying the 0.6% stamp duty levy on pension fund assets which was introduced last year. The levy is a charge on the trustees of pension schemes and on the insurers and administrators who manage the assets of pension schemes and it is they who are liable to pay the levy. It is up to those trustees and administrators to decide in each case whether and how the levy should be passed on and who should be impacted and to what extent, given the particular circumstances of the pension funds or pension plans for which they are responsible. I have no general information on the decisions taken by trustees and administrators in this regard.

With regard to the numbers of public servants paying the pension-related deduction (PRD) which was first introduced in March 2009, I am advised by my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that the latest figure for the number of whole-time equivalent public servants is 296,870. The vast majority of these would be members of public service pension schemes and would be liable for the PRD.

Credit Availability

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance if any of the banks in which the State has an investment have applied to take part in the European progress microfinance facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9326/12]

The European Progress Microfinance Facility is a facility which enables selected microcredit providers in the EU to increase lending, by issuing guarantees, thereby sharing the providers' potential risk of loss and by providing funding to increase microcredit lending. The microcredit providers may be private or public banks, non-bank microfinance institutions and not-for-profit microcredit providers.

The question of whether or not individual banks should decide to make use of this facility is an operational matter for the individual banks concerned. I can confirm that neither of the pillar banks has applied for the facility.

As the Deputy may be aware and in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, a Microfinance Fund to provide loans to small businesses is being developed by my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for establishment early this year. It is anticipated the Micro Finance Loan Fund will generate up to €100million in additional micro-enterprise lending which will benefit over 5,000 businesses over a ten year period.

Tax Reliefs

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

160 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of research and development tax credits granted in each of the past four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9342/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total amounts of research and development tax credits allowed from 2006 to 2009, the latest year available, are shown in the following table:

Year

Research and Development Tax Credit

€m

2006

74.7

2007

165.6

2008

146.0

2009

216.1

The credits shown above are derived from the corporation tax returns for accounting periods ending in 2006 to 2009.

State Banking Sector

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

161 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation’s plans for the disposal or management of its remaining loan book; the value of the loan book and details of the locations to which it relates; the current estimated timeframe for winding up the bank; and if he will provide an update on the current estimate of the final cost of rescuing the institution. [9376/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that much of the information requested in his question is subject to external factors and that it is not practical to be definitive in terms timelines or costs at this point. Suffice to say that the Board of the bank is charged with the work-out of the Bank's assets in a manner that will best protect the interests of the State. However, the framework within which the bank is operating is set out in the EU Commission Decision on the restructuring plan which issued on 29.6.2011. The link below provides access the redacted version of the Decision.

IBRC is working to generate options for the efficient work out of its loan books in accordance with the Bank's approved mandate. This includes examining accelerated disposal where this makes economic sense. Following the timely sale of the majority of the Bank's US loan portfolios, the bank now continues with further detailed analysis of the remaining loans in Ireland and the UK. This analysis will further inform the Board and management team of IBRC on the timing of the next phases of deleveraging. The exact value of its remaining loans will be reported in the Bank's annual report and accounts which are due for release next month. The final cost of rescuing the institution is estimated to be within the current capital provided by the State and will predominately be a function of the property markets in Ireland and the UK together with the availability of counterparty liquidity to enable further disposals by way of recoveries, repayments and sales. It will also depend on the outcome of any negotiations on the promissory note between the Government and the EU that are still underway. The estimated timeframe for the resolution of the institution is currently nine years as detailed in the Bank's approved restructuring plans.http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases/ 239466/239466_1251121_21_3.pdf.

Departmental Reports

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

162 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the current status of the internal report requested by the Secretary General of his Department into the €3.6 billion accounting error in the reported figure for Ireland’s general Government debt for end 2010; the person who is preparing this report; when it is expected to be completed and given to him; if he will give a progress report into the external review of the systems in the Department, the National Treasury Management Agency and the Central Statistics Office which was promised by him when the mistake came to light on 1 November 2011; the person who is conducting this external review; when it is expected to be completed; if he intends to publish in full the internal report and the external review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9379/12]

A draft of the internal report has been prepared by management in my Department with the professional support of the Department's Internal Audit Unit. Following advice from the Attorney General's Office, it is being circulated to some of the parties involved who will be allowed sufficient time to provide their final comments on it. Thereafter, the report will be finalised and submitted to me and then to the Government. Deloitte Consultants have been appointed to undertake the external review which is now under way. I expect the external report to be finalised by the end of the first quarter of this year.

My intention is, subject to legal advice and in a timely manner, to submit both reports to the Committee of Public Accounts and make them public.

Although this error was most regrettable, it was a statistical reporting discrepancy where our debt level was mistakenly stated as being higher than it actually was, but which had no impact on the 2011 budgetary deficit.

Financial Services Regulation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

163 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the application of the Central Bank of Ireland’s fitness and probity regime to current executives working in the banking industry; the details of the number and employment details of those currently being assessed under the new standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9380/12]

The Central Bank Reform Act 2010 Act provides for new powers to be exercised by the Bank to ensure the fitness and probity of nominees to key positions within financial service providers and of key office-holders within those providers. The new fitness and probity regime is being rolled out by the Central Bank through a code and regulations that were published on 1 September 2011. The regulations apply to Pre-Approval Controlled Functions and Controlled Functions.

The Fitness and Probity Standards are being implemented on a phased basis as follows: from 1 December 2011, the standards applied to persons performing Pre-Approval Controlled Functions; from 1 March 2012, they will apply to persons appointed to Controlled Functions (other than Pre-Approval Controlled Functions). This is to include new offers of employment and internal transfers/promotions which may involve a Controlled Function role after that date; and they will apply to all persons occupying Controlled Functions as at 1 December 2012.

The Central Bank may refuse to approve a proposed appointment to a Pre-Approval Controlled Function where it is of the opinion that the proposed appointee is not of such fitness and probity as is appropriate to perform the relevant function. Where the Central Bank refuses to approve a proposed appointment, then a regulated financial service provider may not appoint the person to the role.

The Central Bank, as part of its role in the on-going supervision of the financial services sector, may from time to time consider that there is reason to suspect the fitness and probity of any person performing a controlled function and may commence an investigation into that person. All assessments of fitness and probity of persons being proposed to Pre-Approval Controlled Function roles, and of persons performing controlled functions are made with respect to the criteria set out in Section 25(3) of the Act and a Code issued by the Central Bank under Section 50 of the Act entitled "Fitness and Probity Standards (Code issued under Section 50 of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010)". The existence and progress of such investigations are confidential and details of such investigations may not be disclosed by the Central Bank. The Central Bank does not comment on individual cases

The Central Bank regulations identify 41 senior positions as Pre-Approval Controlled Functions such as Chief Executive Officer, Director or Heads of Compliance, Risk, and Internal Audit. The regulations also prescribe specific categories as Controlled Functions and persons performing these functions include the staff who exercise a significant influence on conduct of the affairs of the financial service provider, monitor compliance or perform functions in a customer-facing role.

The Central Bank have informed me that they are reviewing the position of executive and non-executive directors of covered institutions that received state support and who are remaining in director posts after 1 January 2012 to decide whether or not an investigation into any of those persons might be appropriate. This process provides opportunities for persons to make representations to independent decision makers appointed by the Central Bank. The Central Bank does not comment on individual cases.

National Asset Management Agency

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

164 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number of individual cases that comprise the €160 million of asset transfers by National Asset Management Agency debtors to family members which have been now reversed by the agency; if all of these reversals have been achieved without the necessity for court action; the number of individual cases in which NAMA is pursuing similar reversals; and if any court action is planned or under way to achieve this objective. [9381/12]

NAMA advises me that in the case of 31 of the 188 debtors under its direct management, it has secured agreement to reverse asset transfers with an aggregate value of €160m. In another 17 cases, assets transfers have been identified and NAMA is confident that its current discussions with debtors will conclude with additional transfer reversals or the granting of charges to it over unencumbered assets. In 5 other cases to date, NAMA has initiated legal action to reverse asset transfers. NAMA also advises me that in the case of 32 of those debtors, no asset transfers to relatives appear to have taken place in the past five years.

A number of directly-managed debtors have borrowings with no recourse other than the secured asset and in those instances debtors have no legal obligation to reverse asset transfers or offer additional unencumbered assets. Finally as regards the other debtors under its direct management, NAMA has either already enforced against the debtors concerned or is engaged in further investigation and legal review of possible asset transfers. Some of these cases will ultimately lead to additional reversals or the granting to NAMA of additional charges over assets which are currently unencumbered.

In the case of the 598 debtors whose debt is managed by the participating institutions on NAMA's behalf (par debt of €13 billion), the business plan cycle is approaching completion. It is expected that the current engagement with these debtors will yield additional reversals of asset transfers to relatives by the time the process has completed.

NAMA has already stated that the maximum amount it expects to recover as additional security is of the order of €500 million.

Financial Services Regulation

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

165 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance his plans to regulate high interest pay day loan companies, and other financial institutions that charge exorbitant annual percentage rates for short term loans given out through the Internet including a company (details supplied) which has an APR of approximately 4,400%; if he will consider introducing an upper limit on the APR chargeable; if he will outline the regulations that currently apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9395/12]

The Central Bank have advised me that the company referred to in the Deputy's question is not regulated by them and that there are no authorised providers of pay day loans in the State at present. If a company wishes to offer a pay day loan service in the State it would have to seek a money lender's licence from the Central Bank to do so. Moneylenders have to apply to the Central Bank annually to have their licences renewed. A money lender's licence granted by the Central Bank is specific to that moneylender in that each individual moneylender's licence outlines the specific products that the moneylender offers, the APR for each product and the total cost of credit for each product.

Moneylenders often lend small value loans for short periods and hence such loans tend to be more expensive than other forms of credit. I have no plans at present to introduce an interest rate cap on moneylending.

In addition to the licensing system, the Central Bank has in place a Consumer Protection Code for Licensed Moneylenders (the Code). The Central Bank has power to impose sanctions on moneylenders for a contravention of the Code. The Code sets out General Principles with which a moneylender must comply. For example, a moneylender must act honestly and professionally, with due skill, care and diligence in the best interest of consumers. The Code also places requirements on moneylenders in relation to the provision of information to the consumer, preservation of a consumer's rights, knowing the consumer, suitability, unsolicited contact (cold calling), disclosure, errors, handling complaints, consumer records, unsolicited credit facilities, arrears and guarantees, debt collection and the contents and presentation of advertisements.

Banks Capitalisation

Shane Ross

Ceist:

166 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 122 of 22 November 2011, if he will confirm that all amendments to methodologies and changes to formulas applied by the Central Bank of Ireland in the period between receipt of initial instructions from the EBA and submission of final results to the EBA were fully disclosed to and approved by the peer review team appointed by the EBA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9429/12]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to recent Parliamentary Questions (ref: 35901/11 of 22 November 2011 and 38796/11 of 6 December 2011), which address the query raised in his latest question. The position as regards this matter has not changed. I am advised by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI), that they assisted the European Banking Authority (EBA) in carrying out a European-wide bank solvency stress test in July 2011. The test was applied to three Irish banks in accordance with a methodology that was pre-agreed with the EBA. As a result of the significant restructuring underway in the Irish banking system at the time, the methodology applied by the EBA to the Irish banks differed in some respects to that prescribed to the other European banks participating in the exercise.

The differences in methodology were introduced to fully account for the Irish banks requirement to deleverage their balance sheets in the coming years and also to consider the detailed loan loss forecasts produced by BlackRock Solutions on behalf of the CBI earlier in 2011 as part of the Irish PCAR stress tests. By taking account of the negative impact of the asset disposals and the losses forecast by BlackRock, the Irish banks were subject to a much tougher stress test than other banks participating in the European stress test. In addition, Irish, Greek and Portuguese banks were issued with separate cost of funds instructions to account for the impact of the sovereign spreads and external support programmes.

In order to assure quality in the process and the outputs in the European stress test, the EBA assigned a team of independent peer reviewers to verify that methodologies were applied consistently and correctly. This team, which comprised of senior European stress testing experts, worked with the CBI to validate and verify the submissions made by the Irish banks. This iterative process resulted in many clarifications leading to instructions to each of the Irish banks. Once updated submissions were received from the banks, the CBI checked and subsequently forwarded them on to the EBA for further validation and review. The results/submissions made by the Irish Banks were not amended in any way before being forwarded on to the EBA peer review team.

I am further advised by the CBI, that one of their employees expressed a concern over the way in which the EBA stress testing procedure was applied in Ireland. In response, CBI management commissioned an investigation. This investigation was conducted by the CBI's Internal Audit Department under the CBI's ‘speak-up' policy. Based on the report of this investigation, which has been accepted by the employee, CBI Management are satisfied that, while the complaint was made in good faith, there is no reason for concern with the figures provided to the EBA.

Despite the additional conservatism applied to the Irish banks, all three Irish banks passed the European stress test. This is a direct result of applying a much tougher PCAR stress test earlier in 2011, as part of the Irish Financial Measures Programme, and requiring the banks to recapitalise based on the results of that stress test. The PCAR stress test was overseen by a series of independent observers, including the Troika, and was widely regarded by market participants as being credible and a benchmark on information disclosure that other supervisory authorities should follow.

Tax Reliefs

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

167 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the cost of tax foregone to the Exchequer through tax reliefs for the development of private nursing homes since 2007; if he will provide a breakdown of the amount of tax foregone to the Exchequer from such schemes in County Louth since 2007. [9431/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost of tax foregone to the Exchequer in terms of income tax and corporation tax for the development of nursing homes for each of the years 2007 to 2009, the latest year available, is set out in the table below:

Year

Exchequer Cost

€m

2007

18.3

2008

19.8

2009

21.6

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information provided in tax returns in relation to claims for tax relief in respect of investment in private nursing homes is not sufficiently detailed to provide a basis for deriving the number of private nursing homes that have qualified on a county by county basis. I am not therefore in a position to provide the information requested by the Deputy on a geographical basis.

Mortgage Arrears

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

168 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of households currently in mortgage distress, that is in arrears of more than 90 days or in restructured payment agreements with their lender, who will be eligible for the increased rate of mortgage interest relief announced in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9437/12]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Central Bank published, on 17 February last, the latest data in relation to mortgage arrears. This shows that at end December 2011, 70,911 private residential mortgage accounts were in arrears of 90 days or more. A further 74,379 accounts were categorised as restructured at the end of December 2011, of which, 37,582 had arrears of varying categories.

The increased rate of mortgage interest relief that I announced in Budget 2012 applies to first time buyers who purchased between 2004 and 2008. Mortgage interest relief is available on the interest paid on a qualifying loan. This measure is intended to assist in preventing mortgage holders from going into arrears on their mortgages. It will benefit some 189,000 mortgages relating to some 270,000 individuals.

State Banking Sector

James Bannon

Ceist:

169 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the reason there is such a variance in mortgage rates between the State owned lending institutions, which is causing anguish and financial hardship to the borrower; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9519/12]

The lending institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, are independent commercial entities. Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each lending institution, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each lending institution, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

Tax Reliefs

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

170 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance when the mortgage interest relief measures for those who were first-time buyers between 2004 to 2008 announced in budget 2012 will come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9529/12]

As announced in the Budget, the proposed new 30% rate of tax relief in respect of interest paid on qualifying homes for first time buyers who took out their first qualifying home loan in the period between 2004 and 2008, both dates inclusive, comes into effect as regards the 2012 tax year and subsequent tax years. As with many of the reliefs announced in the Budget, this comes into effect when the Finance Bill is enacted. I should point out that mortgage interest tax relief, including the proposed new 30% rate of relief, in respect of interest paid on qualifying home loans is given by qualifying lending agencies, including local authorities, through the tax relief at source (TRS) system. This requires the various lending agencies to make the adjustments in their computer systems.

In advance of the passing of the Finance Act, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have been in ongoing contact with all qualifying lenders, some 132 in total, to ensure that the necessary software changes to the lenders' tax relief at source (TRS) systems are made to cater for the new 30% rate of tax relief so that, when the Finance Bill is passed into law, the relief, which will be retrospective to 1 January 2012, can be passed onto the borrowers by qualifying lenders without undue delay. The speed with which the software changes can be developed and implemented by lenders may vary from lender to lender. Revenue is currently engaging with all of the lenders in arranging to have the new rate tested and implemented as soon as possible.

As an interim relieving measure Revenue has already informed lenders that they may grant tax relief at an existing rate of 25% to those who will be entitled to the 30% rate of relief. When the necessary software necessary to implement the 30% rate of tax relief is in place, the lenders will grant the additional 5% relief retrospectively. The reason the 25% rate can apply now is simply because that rate is already in the software systems as part of the existing first time buyer tax relief regime.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

171 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a geographical analysis of the National Asset Management Agency’s advances to developers, both approved advances and actual cash advances, to include Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9536/12]

The details requested by the Deputy are set out hereunder. New Advance Approvals of €980 million are split between:

Ireland (41%),

Northern Ireland (1%),

Great Britain (50%),

Other locations (8%).

Actual drawdown payments of €740 million are split between:

Ireland (39%),

Northern Ireland (1%),

Great Britain (52%),

Other locations (8%).

The €385 million in advances drawn down in respect of assets in Britain must be seen in the context of a total portfolio acquisition value of close to €11 billion, as well as asset sales of about €3 billion of loan and property assets, in that country.

Tax Code

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

172 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a table outlining the projected net tax effect for each individual proposal of each section of the Finance Bill 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9537/12]

The expected cost or yield of those measures referred to in the Bill which were also included in the Budget was set out on pages B.5 to B.12 of the Summary of Budget Measures document published on Budget Day. Many of the individual proposals contained in the Bill, which were not specifically referred to in the Budget, are technical in nature and do not involve significant revenue changes. Information in relation to measures which do have significant revenue implications can be made available in the context of discussions on Committee Stage of the Bill.

Tax Reliefs

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

173 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the projected cost of tax relief available to those benefiting from the special assignee relief programme to send their children to fee paying schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9649/12]

Section 14 of Finance Bill 2012 provides for the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP). This programme will reduce the cost to employers of assigning key individuals in their companies from abroad to take up positions in the Irish based operations of their employer. In recognition of differences in curriculums taught and primary languages that may be spoken by the assignee and/or their children being brought to Ireland, vouched primary and secondary school fees of up to €5,000 per annum per child, where paid for by the employer on behalf of an employee will be allowed free of benefit-in-kind taxation.

The cost of this benefit-in-kind relief will ultimately depend on demand, the number of assignees that transfer children to Ireland and whether the employer is willing to pay the relevant fees. The overall estimated cost of SARP provided at the time of the Budget was based on 100 individuals qualifying for the maximum relief available under the scheme. If half of these assignees placed one child in a fee paying school at a cost of €5,000 per annum and the employer paid the relevant fees, the cost of the exemption from benefit-in-kind taxation on such fees would be just over €100,000.

Budget Submissions

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

174 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if he will supply details of the organisations or groups who made contact with him to lobby on the Finance Bill 2012; if he will confirm if there was contact between his Department and companies (details supplied); if he will confirm the details of the contacts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9650/12]

As part of the Budget and Finance Bill 2012 process I received submissions from in the order of 700 organisations, companies and individuals and I would of course have been in touch also with my Ministerial colleagues. Before the Budget I personally met with various groups including the Irish Farmers' Association, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association, the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Construction Industry Federation and the Community and Voluntary pillar. Following Budget Day some additional submissions were received by my Department and, after publication of Finance Bill 2012, meetings were held with a number of organisations. These included one of those on the list supplied by the Deputy, namely KPMG. My officials also had e-mail and telephone contact with another of the organisations listed by the Deputy, Financial Services Ireland.

I would advise the Deputy that such contacts are a normal part of the Finance Bill process as various groups seek clarification of the measures being proposed.

Tax Code

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

175 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who benefited from the special assignment relief programme in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9651/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Special Assignment Relief Programme (SARP) announced in the Budget was not in force for the tax years 2008 to 2011. The relief will come into force for the tax years 2012 and subsequent tax years when the current Finance Bill passes all Stages in both Houses of the Oireachtas and is signed into law by the President.

Tax Reliefs

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

176 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide full details of the tax reliefs available to the companies involved in aircraft leasing here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9652/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there are no tax reliefs available which are specific to aircraft lessors. In general, however, a company carrying on a trade of aircraft leasing would, similar to any other company carrying on a trade, be charged to corporation tax, in respect of its trading income at a rate of 12.5%.

In addition, when computing its profits for an accounting period, a company would be entitled to claim capital allowances in respect of the wear and tear on plant and machinery owned by it and in use for the purposes of its trade at the end of that accounting period. In the case of an aircraft leasing company, this means that the company could claim a capital allowance in respect of the cost of acquiring an aircraft. The allowance is granted over a period of 8 years at a rate of 12.5% per annum.

Tax Code

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

177 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance the potential gain for the Exchequer of the provision to tax illness benefit and occupational injury benefit, as provided for in the Finance Bill 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9653/12]

The yield from removing the tax exemption for the first 36 days of Illness Benefit and Occupational Injury is estimated at €13 million in a full year which was stated in the Budget 2012 Booklet. This information is available, along with all other Budget 2012 taxation measures, on my Department's website atwww.finance.gov.ie.

Tax Reliefs

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

178 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of increasing mortgage interest relief for persons who bought a house for the first time between the years 2004 and 2008 in the Finance Bill 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9654/12]

The cost of increasing mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first-time buyers who took out their first mortgage in the period 2004 to 2008 is estimated at €52 million in a full year which was stated in the Budget 2012 Booklet. This information is available, along with all other Budget 2012 taxation measures, on my Department's website atwww.finance.gov.ie.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Ceist:

179 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the total photography costs for his Department since coming to office; the list of occasions for which photographers were booked over the past year; the breakdown of costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used; if there is a policy around the booking of photographers within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9663/12]

In response to the Deputy's question details of the occasions on which photographers were used since coming to office are contained in the following table:

Use of Photographer

Company used

Details

Cost €

Maxwell Photography Ltd

Brian Lenihan — photo required for Minster’s Conference — Engaged on 30th March 2011

€424.41

Maxwell Photography Ltd

Signing of Taxation agreement with Germany —Engaged on 31st March 2011

€400.21

Maxwell Photography Ltd

Signing ceremony for Double Taxation Agreement with Switzerland — Minister of State Hayes and Swiss Ambassador — Engaged 26th January 2012

€285.05

Banks Recapitalisation

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

180 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will detail all ELA loans currently held by IBRC detailing the amount of the loans, the interest being charged on the loans, the maturity dates of the loans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9673/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is commercially sensitive and is not specifically disclosed by the Central Bank. However, details of Anglo Irish Bank's primary sources of funding are disclosed in the former bank's interim report for the six months ended 30 June 2011which are accessible at the following link. These accounts will be updated in the IBRC Annual Report and Accounts for 2011 due for publication at the end of March of this year. The Deputy will be aware that while there is an implicit link between the current repayment schedule on the Promissory Note and ELA there is no specific repayment schedule, as such, in relation to ELA. Any discussions in relation to ELA would of necessity have to include the ECB.

As I have indicated I am committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State of correcting the banking system.

http://www.ibrc.ie/About_us/Financial_information/Latest_interim_report/Interim_ Report_2011.pdf

Consultancy Contracts

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

181 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 146 of 14 February 2012, if he is satisfied that no conflict of interest arises between IBRC retaining the services of the strategic advisory arm of a company (details supplied) to advise on asset sales while the investment arm of the company bids to purchase these same assets; from whom IBRC received independent advice on the appointment; if this advice will be made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9690/12]

I have been assured by the bank that no conflict of interest arises from the retention by IBRC of the advisors referred to in the Deputy's question.

I can confirm that FTI Consulting provided independent advice to the Bank in relation to the appointment of the strategic advisory arm of the company referred to in the question. Specifically FTI advised the bank in relation to the absence of any conflict of interest between the engagement of the advisory arm of the company and the possibility of the investment arm of that company bidding for assets. FTI consulting were similarly engaged for the Bank's successful sale of its US loan portfolios in 2011 to ensure that the sale process was open, fair and transparent and that established procedures were followed.

Customs and Excise Seizures

Seán Kenny

Ceist:

182 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount of cigarettes, tobacco products, illegal tablets, offensive weapons and so on that have been seized by Customs and Excise for the years 2008 to 2011 inclusive; the number of successful convictions obtained in each of these years for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9705/12]

The Revenue Commissioners are the State agency with primary responsibility for the control of imports and exports. They are also responsible for the collection of all taxes and duties, including tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products and for prosecuting those involved. The Commissioners also enforce import and export prohibitions and restrictions on other commodities, including those relating to controlled drugs and medicines and firearms and other offensive weapons. The following table lists the quantities of cigarettes and tobacco products seized by Revenue for the years 2008 to 2011 and the convictions obtained in these years for both the smuggling and sale of illicit tobacco products:

Year

Cigarettes (million)

Tobacco (kgs)

Convictions

2008

135.2

3,083

86

2009

218.5

10,451

164

2010

178.4

3,367

137

2011

109.1

11,159

160

The following table lists the quantities of controlled drugs and medicines and firearms and other offensive weapons seized by Revenue for the years 2008 to 2011. Under agreed protocol the prosecution of individuals for import offences involving these commodities is primarily a matter for An Garda Síochána.

Year

Controlled Drugs (kgs)

Controlled Medicines

Firearms and other offensive weapons (No.)

2008

5,397.94

515,971 tablets and 2.9 litres

186 firearms and 9kg explosives and 5,000 rounds ammunition

2009

3,936.88

639,997 tablets and 3.75 litres

301 firearms

2010

531.25

1,248,031 tablets and 0.6 litres

201 firearms

2011

2,588.40

1,258,580 tablets and 5.7 litres

419 firearms

Ministerial Appointments

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

183 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) has been appointed to the National Asset Management Agency advisory group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9707/12]

I have appointed Mr. Michael Geoghegan to chair a small group of advisors to advise me on the future strategic direction of NAMA. Mr. Geoghegan has agreed to carry out his role on a pro bono basis. I am currently considering the names of potential candidates who have the appropriate experience and background to work effectively on the group of advisors with Mr. Geoghegan. I expect to announce the other members shortly. At that stage, I will also announce the group's terms of reference, as well as its reporting framework and arrangements in relation to costs.

Departmental Agencies

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

184 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 153 of 14 February 2012, if he will provide the names of the 16 firms empanelled to advise National Asset Management Agency on loan sales in Europe and the US; the way this panel was put together; the number of officers in NAMA who have previously worked for firms on that list including a breakdown of the number of staff that worked for each firm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9708/12]

The names of the 16 firms on the Loan Sale Advisory Services Panels are set out as follows:

Table

Panel 1 — Europe

Brookland Partners

Cantor Fitzgerald

CB Richard Ellis

Cushman and Wakefield

Cushman and Wakefield

The Debt Exchange

Eastdil Secured

Ernst and Young

Goldman Sachs

Jones Lang LaSalle

KPMG

Lazard

Savills

UBS

Panel 2 — USA

CB Richard Ellis

Credit Suisse

The Debt Exchange

Eastdil Secured

Ernst and Young

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler (HFF)

Houlihan Lokey

Jones Lang LaSalle

KPMG

Lazard

The Deputy should note that NAMA as a contracting authority is subject to EU Directive 2004/18/EC, as implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 (the "Regulations"), in respect of the procurement of goods, works and services above certain values (the "EU Thresholds"). The principles underpinning the Regulations are equal treatment, non-discrimination, mutual recognition, proportionality and transparency.

In certain cases, NAMA has established panels of service providers who have demonstrated, through a tendering process, that they are best placed to provide a particular service. NAMA advises me that it may then hold mini-tenders among suitably-qualified members of a panel to obtain the most competitive price for any particular assignment. This will apply to the Loan Sale Advisory Services Panels

Compiling information about the number of NAMA officers who previously worked for any of the firms above would add very little clarity to the matter of conflicts of interest since it would not cover all situations where potential conflicts could arise. More importantly, the key issue is that NAMA takes steps to ensure conflicts of interest do not occur. Under Section 42 of the NAMA Act, before he or she is assigned to NAMA, each officer is required to provide a statement of his or her interests, assets and liabilities to the Chief Executive Officer of NAMA and the Chief Executive of NTMA. Furthermore, a key item for any NAMA evaluation group for procurement of services is a declaration by each member that they have no conflict of interest in the outcome of the process. NAMA advises me that this enables the Agency to ensure:

that potential conflicts of interest in the management of the loan portfolios are managed effectively; and

that staff do not participate in decisions which may involve the allocation of work to companies for which they worked previously.

Ministerial Transport

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

185 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance if he uses a State car; the type of car that is used; how often he has used it since coming to office; the cost of the person employed to drive the car; the cost of their salary; the cost of their vehicle expenses; if the person employed as driver was previously a State employee; if that person is also in receipt of a State pension; the total cost of the service to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9716/12]

Since 1 May 2011 Cabinet Ministers with the exception of An Taoiseach, An Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice and Law Reform now use their own cars on official business. All Ministers are now paid for official mileage up to 96,540 kilometres [or 60,000 miles] per annum. Ministers of State have used their own cars on official business since 1984. The travel rates payable depend on the car engine size.

There is no payment for the cost of a car used on official business and there are no fixed payments towards changing a vehicle.

The travel rates are designed to compensate for the use of an individuals car on official business. The expenses that are covered by the motor travel formula can be broken into two categories; the overhead and the running costs. The overhead costs include depreciation, insurance costs, AA/RAC membership, driving licence and car tax. The running costs include the cost of maintenance, tyres, oil and petrol. This is the same basis used within the Civil Service and Revenue.

The salaries of the drivers (2) are paid separately and are not integrated within the rates. The salary of each driver is €631.75 per week and they work week on week off.

The current Ministerial travel rates are set out below. My mileage claims to date are €17,911.07.

Ministerial Travel Rates

Effective from 5 March 2009

Rate per Miles

Official Motor Travel in a calendar year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity 1201cc to 1500cc

Engine Capacity 1501cc to 2000cc

Engine Capacity 2001cc and over

0-4,000 miles

62.94 cent

74.42 cent

95.05 cent

114.06 cent

4,001 miles and over

34.13 cent

38.00 cent

45.79 cent

54.95 cent

Rates per Kilometres

Official Motor Travel in a calendar year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity 1201cc to 1500cc

Engine Capacity 1501cc to 2000cc

Engine Capacity 2001cc and over

Up to 6,437km

39.12 cent

46.25 cent

59.07 cent

70.89 cent

6,438km and over

21.22 cent

23.62 cent

28.46 cent

34.15 cent

Tax Reliefs

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

186 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Finance the reason the non-principal private residence charge cannot be added to the list of allowable items specified in section 97 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 by an amendment in the Finance Bill currently before Dáil Éireann, in view of the fact that the NPPR was not in existence when the Act was passed; the reason he believes the charge is not a business expense incurred solely because a person has liability to the NPPR, given that the Revenue Commissioners assess rental income on the net amount of rent received, that is, the gross rent less allowable expenses incurred in earning the rent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9753/12]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, provides the legislative basis for the charge on non-principal private residences. Policy relating to this charge is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. A person in receipt of rental income is assessed to income tax on the net amount of the rents received, i.e. the gross rents less allowable expenses incurred in earning those rents. In computing the net amount of the rents received, only those deductions that are specified in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 are allowable. The legislation is quite clear in this matter and section 97 of that Act sets out the allowable deductions in computing taxable rental income. As the Deputy notes the Non-Principal Private Residence charge is not included on the list of allowable items, and therefore it is not an allowable expense in computing taxable rental income.

The main deductible expenses are:

Any rent payable by the landlord in the case of a sub-lease.

The cost to the landlord of any goods provided or services rendered to a tenant.

The cost of maintenance, repairs, insurance and management of the property.

Interest on borrowed money used to purchase, improve or repair the property.

Payment of local authority rates in the case of rateable properties used for commercial purposes.

The range of allowable deductions available to residential property investors represents a significant cost to the State. The Revenue Commissioners estimate that the amount of tax foregone in 2009 (the most recent year available) by allowing a deduction for interest on borrowings to be offset against all rental income assessible under Case V, Schedule D for both residential and commercial property was estimated at €745 million.

In the current difficult financial circumstances it is imperative that we stabilise public expenditure and tax expenditures in many areas are being reduced in order to broaden the tax base. In this context, I have no plans to introduce further tax reliefs for residential landlords.

Mortgage Interest Rates

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding ECB interest rate cuts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9781/12]

Neither the Central Bank nor I have any responsibility for the variable mortgage interest rate charged by financial institutions. I have no powers to compel mortgage lenders to reduce their variable mortgage interest rates. However the Central Bank has advised me that within its existing powers it will continue to engage with specific lenders which appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds.

Social Welfare Code

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

188 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the anomaly that exists in the way the universal social charge is deducted from pensions (details supplied) depending on who is paying the pension; and his views that the universal social charge deduction (details supplied) is fair and justifiable. [9808/12]

The position is that the Universal Social Charge, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, is a tax payable on all gross income. However, there are a number of exemptions and reliefs from the USC. There is a lower exemption limit, which from 1 January 2012 is €10,036 per annum, €193 per week. In addition, individuals aged 70 years and over are not liable to the top rates of USC. Furthermore, payments from the Department of Social Protection including the contributory and non-contributory social welfare pensions are exempt from the USC. Accordingly, payments from the Department of Social Protection are not reckonable in computing liability to the USC. As the Deputy may be aware, the USC was reviewed by my Department in the lead up to Budget 2012 and the report can be obtained atwww.finance.gov.ie.

State Banking Sector

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

189 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he believes that it is acceptable that the EBS intends to charge a fee of €7,000 to a family seeking to pay off the balance of their fixed rate mortgage. [9840/12]

I am advised by the Central Bank that when credit institutions provide fixed rate mortgages to customers, they utilise wholesale funding at a fixed rate to match the fixed credit they provide to customers. If interest rates fall, credit providers may be locked into accessing wholesale market credit at a higher rate than they can charge customers in the current retail market. As a result, a cost arises which is covered through the charging of a break cost. In the current environment, interest rates have fallen, and as a result there may be a differential between the interest rate that the credit provider has locked into, some time in the past, for the funds supplied to customers and what they can charge to customers, for the remaining period of the fixed rate loan.

Section 121 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 permits a mortgage lender to apply an early redemption fee in certain circumstances, which includes breaking a fixed rate contract.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

190 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the pillar banks have met their lending targets in 2011; if he will provide details, for each bank, of the amount of new credit sanctioned and new credit actually drawn down in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9842/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has imposed lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Both banks were required to sanction lending of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion this year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. The details for each individual bank in relation to new credit sanctioned and new credit drawn down in 2011 are commercially sensitive and for this reason I cannot provide the information to the Deputy. However I can confirm to the Deputy that both banks have reported to me that they have achieved their 2011 targets. This information is currently being independently assessed by Mr. John Trethowan of the Credit Review Office and will be dealt with in his quarterly report for end December 2011 which is due to be published shortly.

Tax Code

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

191 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance if he will reconsider his decision to apply the health levy to the salary of frontier workers in view of the fact that they do not avail of health facilities in this State. [9843/12]

The Health Levy was abolished in Budget 2011 along with the Income Levy. They were replaced by the Universal Social Charge which has few, if any, special exemptions.

Tax Yield

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

192 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the amount of VAT refunded on below-cost selling of alcohol for each of the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; if he will address this issue immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9864/12]

Separate figures are not available for input VAT on goods that were subsequently sold at a discount because traders' VAT returns show only the total input VAT and the total output VAT for the period covered by the return. VAT is a tax on the value added to a supply and the collection and recovery of VAT takes place at each stage of the chain of supply from manufacturing to retailer. Under EU and domestic VAT rules traders who are registered for VAT collect VAT on the goods and services that they sell. In turn such traders are entitled to recover the VAT they incur on their business inputs used in the purchase or production of goods or delivery of services. Consequently, if there is a decrease in value at any stage in the process the trader is entitled to a refund of the excess of VAT incurred over that collected.

In this regard, where a retailer is in a situation of net VAT gain as a result of below cost selling, this is not a loss to the Exchequer or an additional benefit to the retailer, it is merely how VAT is charged.

Economic Growth

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that his estimated projection level of growth in the Irish economy will actually occur in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9933/12]

The Budget forecast is for real GDP growth of 1.3 per cent in 2012. Given the highly uncertain environment, the Budget documentation also pointed to a number of risks to this forecast — some to the downside and some to the upside. These risks are all still valid. The Budget forecast was prepared on the basis of economic information (domestic and international) available up to end-November 2011, and was mid-range at that time. There have been a number of developments since then — some negative, but some positive. Obviously, the euro-area sovereign debt crisis and the possibility of a more prolonged global slowdown are of concern. On the other hand, recent exchange rate developments will benefit the exporting sector, while what looks to be a more benign path for ECB interest rates will help households.

At this stage of the year, there is very little actual economic data relating to 2012. Of the domestic and international data that are available, some of these have not been as poor as some were assuming. In addition, we have seen concerted policy action at European level and I am confident that this will help restore confidence in the euro area.

As more information becomes available over the coming months, my Department will take it on board and, as is the norm, will present updated economic forecasts in the April Stability Programme Update.

Tax Code

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

194 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the reason the tax anomaly for employer contributions to PRSAs and occupational pension schemes has not been addressed. [9993/12]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the Universal Social Charge (USC) treatment of employer contributions to PRSAs and occupational pension schemes. The position is that the amount contributed by an employer to a PRSA is treated as a benefit-in-kind (BIK) in the income tax system and, therefore, is seen as the employee's own contribution and is subject to the USC in the same way as any other income of an employee. In contrast, an employer's contribution to a non-PRSA occupational pension scheme is not treated as the employee's own contribution and is therefore not taxed as a BIK.

The different tax treatment of employer contributions to occupational pensions and PRSAs has been in existence since the introduction of the PRSAs. The tax treatment of PRSAs is an integral part of the PRSA and was devised as part of the design of PRSAs. Exempting employers' contributions to PRSAs from the USC may provide an opportunity for tax avoidance where, by agreement between employer and employee, the employer makes the majority or all of the contribution to ensure that the employee would avoid the charge of the USC.

I should point out this particular issue was included in the recent review of the USC. This review was published on my Department's website in January of this year. In view of the foregoing and taking everything into consideration, I have decided not to make any changes to the treatment of PRSAs in respect of the USC at this time. However, as with all taxes I will keep the matter under review.

State Aid

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

195 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 14 February 2012, to list the persons who are the members of the Allied Irish Banks, AIB, non-core team in place to manage AIB’s de-leveraging. [10007/12]

As indicated in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 70 of 9 November 2011, Peter Spratt is part of the AIB executive management team and Head of the Non-Core Unit at AIB. The Board of AIB have ultimate responsibility for AIB's de-leveraging.

Job Creation

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

196 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if there has been an assessment done by him on the number of jobs that will be created by the tax break proposal in the Finance Bill 2012. [9366/12]

Finance Bill 2012 contains a number of measures designed to support investment, stimulate research and, ultimately, create jobs. As I said in my Second Stage speech last Tuesday, the Bill should be viewed as one element of a wider strategy to support economic activity. In relation to the Special Assignee Relief Programme and the Foreign Earnings Deduction, it is not possible to estimate the number of jobs that might be created by SARP and FED. This will ultimately be decided by a myriad of factors and not solely on the availability of the relevant tax reliefs. It is worth noting that job retention is also a valid policy objective of the Government and it is hoped that the above mentioned tax reliefs will also contribute towards the achievement of that objective.

As regards financial services, the Strategy for the International Financial Services Industry in Ireland, which was launched by the Taoiseach in July of last year, identifies a competitive and internationally respected tax framework as one of the key foundations for success and Finance Bill 2012 contains a package of measures to support this industry in meeting the ambitious strategy target of creating 10,000 jobs in the next five years. The elimination of double taxation is central to the competitiveness of the sector and is the driver for a number of the measures in this Bill. None of the measures being introduced have a significant cost element. In general, the measures are primarily focused on removing barriers to investment.

The various changes to the R&D tax credit scheme announced in Budget 2012 and being provided for in the Finance Bill are being introduced to help make the scheme more beneficial to small and medium sized companies and to help companies generally to encourage and reward those employees directly involved in the R&D process on a cost neutral basis from the Exchequer's perspective. It is not possible to assess with any degree of certainty what the direct or indirect employment impact of these measures will be.

Sovereign Debt Markets

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

197 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if Ireland will be re-entering the markets during 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9365/12]

It has been stated repeatedly that the intention of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) is to return to sovereign debt markets as soon as market conditions permit. On 25th January 2012 it re-engaged with the bond market and extended the maturity of some €3.5 billion of debt which was due for repayment just after the end of the EU/IMF Programme. This is a significant first step in terms of managing Ireland's post-Programme funding requirements. The steps necessary to position the NTMA for such a return include continued progress in the reduction of the budget deficit in line with the targets agreed in the EU/IMF Programme, together with the implementation of policies that will see Ireland return to sustainable economic growth. Of course, resolution of the wider euro area sovereign debt and banking crisis is also a critical factor. The NTMA is in ongoing contact with market participants and will advise me when it feels that the time is right to re-enter the markets.

EU Treaties

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

198 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance his views regarding the weakening position of the economy in Spain and the challenges it will pose to the new EU treaty rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7782/12]

I am conscious of recent economic developments in Spain and, in particular, the recent announcement that the deficit target for last year was missed. I note, however, that the new government has been proactive in addressing this shortfall, which is a positive development. In terms of the EU Treaty rules, it is also worthwhile noting that the latest European Commission figures (November 20011) put Spanish public debt at around 70 per cent at present, which is well below that of other large euro area countries. Finally, I have noted that yields on Spanish government debt have fallen noticeably since the end of last year. So market sentiment has improved and this is to be welcomed.

EU-IMF Programme

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

199 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the reason the EU treaty will not lead to further austerity given the capping of annual structural deficits at 0.5% of GDP when the present EU rules limit annual deficits at 3% of GDP and that the Minister’s estimation is 3.7% by 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7780/12]

The Stability and Growth Pact consists of two regulations (two "arms"), a corrective arm and a preventive arm, both of which have been recently amended as part of the ‘six pack' of legislative reforms. Ireland is currently subject to the corrective arm of the Pact — we are required to correct our excessive (i.e. greater than 3 per cent of GDP) headline deficit by end-2015. The fiscal component of Ireland's joint EU/IMF programme of financial assistance is built upon correcting the public finances. Putting the public finances on a more sustainable footing involves, in the first instance, a correction of our excessive deficit. In this regard, the decision of the Ecofin Council requires that Ireland correct its excessive deficit by end-2015, and a consolidation path towards correction (involving annual targets for the deficit) has been agreed. Therefore, it is our existing fiscal consolidation adjustment path that is valid until 2015. During the negotiation of the fiscal compact Ireland sought and received assurances that none of the provisions of the fiscal compact are to be interpreted as altering in any way the economic policy conditions under which financial assistance has been granted to Ireland in the Stabilisation Programme involving the European Union, its Member States and the International Monetary Fund. This is now clarified in the Preamble.

Once the excessive deficit is corrected, Ireland will be subject to the preventive arm of the Pact. From 2016 onwards, we will be required to meet, or be making sufficient progress towards our medium term (budgetary) objective — the so-called MTO. In terms of the speed of consolidation towards the MTO, it is expected that the Commission will provide clarity on the time-frame for convergence, taking into consideration country-specific sustainability risks, that participating Member States will be required to respect. The MTO is set in structural terms, but as has been outlined before, there are considerable uncertainties surrounding estimates of this in Ireland. Leaving aside the methodological considerations, it should be remembered that estimates of the structural balance in 2015 are not fixed — policies that may be implemented by Government in the intervening period can be expected to have a bearing on the figure.

For instance, micro-economic reforms that help to address some of the skills mismatch in the labour market could help lower the "equilibrium" unemployment rate with a structurally beneficial impact on the public finances (on both the revenue and expenditure sides) — in other words, the structural fiscal position could improve with reforms. In this context, the Government's recently announced action plan for jobs, which is designed to significantly improve employment over the next number of years, will alter the outlook for the labour market. This will impact positively on the amount of fiscal adjustment that may be required.

So, in summary, there are lots of moving parts and so the speed and scale of additional consolidation post-2015 must be seen in this context. However, what is clear is that in order to continue to restore sustainability to our public finances, Ireland's budgetary position will — for the foreseeable future — have to be in balance or in surplus in structural terms.

Economic and Monetary Union

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

200 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to publish a paper on the implications for domestic economic policy of an EU common economic policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6587/12]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

202 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he has undertaken or commissioned any economic analysis of the proposals agreed at the December European Union Council. [6195/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 202 together.

The Deputy will be aware that there is already provision in the EU Treaties that Member States regard their economic policies as a matter of common concern. In practice, this means that Member States policies should adhere to certain guiding principles as set out in various processes, including National Reform Plans, the EU2020 and the Integrated Guidelines. In relation to the proposals agreed in the December European Council, I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to the fiscal compact element of the proposals agreed at the December European Council, which is now embedded in theTreaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union agreed by participating Heads of State or Government at end-January.

Recent legislative reforms (the so-called "six-pack") together with additional legislative proposals (the "two-pack") are designed tointer alia improve surveillance and monitoring of Member States economic and fiscal policies. I see this as a positive development, as it will ensure an earlier detection of harmful imbalances as well as ensure their timely correction. Greater economic and fiscal discipline within the EU is in all of our interests and is to be welcomed.

Financial Transactions Tax

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

201 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance his response to the recent announcement by President Sarkozy to introduce a transaction tax from 1 August; if he has discussed this issue directly with him, or at the EU Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6384/12]

The French Government is proposing to introduce a tax on financial transactions from August this year, although at first glance the French proposal does not seem to be as wide as the EU Commission's proposed Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). It is more akin to our existing Stamp Duty on share transactions. The French proposal does not cover trading in sovereign and private sector bonds and derivatives, which would be taxable under the Commission's FTT. I have no plans to introduce such a tax on a unilateral basis. I have stated clearly in the past my view that any tax on financial transactions would be best applied on a wide international basis to include the major financial centres. If such a tax cannot be introduced on a global basis, I think it would be better if it were introduced on an EU-wide basis, as this would prevent any distortion of activity within the Union. Our major concern is that, if an FTT is introduced, it could affect the financial services industry, especially in the IFSC, and lead to some activities moving abroad. If, as some countries have proposed, the tax was to be brought in under enhanced co-operation arrangements, we fear we could lose business to London, since the UK is strongly opposed to this initiative. In the past, certain financial activities moved to London when other countries enacted similar taxes.

The current draft proposal in relation to a FTT is still being discussed at EU Council Working Party level and will be considered again by the Council of Ministers later this year. I have made clear our views, as has the Taoiseach, in discussion with our European colleagues.

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 200.

EU Treaties

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

203 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance his views that the recent EU treaty will actually deal with the substantive debt crisis in the EU, particularly with the most recent developments in Greece; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6386/12]

One of the key objectives of theTreaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union is to ensure that the public finances in participating Member States remain on a sustainable path in order to safeguard the stability of the euro area and the EU as a whole. Within a monetary union, the scope for spillovers from inappropriate policies in one participating Member State to another Member State is not insignificant, as is clearly evident from the current crisis. In this regard, Member States agreeing to run a balanced budgetary position over the economic cycle and to reduce public indebtedness over time, are, broadly speaking, appropriate instruments for public policy.

Respecting the requirements of the Treaty together with full implementation of the previously agreed five-point action plan will undoubtedly result in greater stability in the monetary union. A key action point in the five-point plan is resolving the Greek situation; the other measures involve recapitalising the European banking system, building of firewalls to prevent contagion, addressing the situation of vulnerable Member States and improved governance.

In relation to Greece, clearly the situation is difficult. However, on Monday night, taking account of the significant efforts made by Greece, euro area Finance Ministers reached agreement on a policy package that constitutes the basis for a successor Programme. Furthermore, euro area Ministers reiterated their commitment to provide adequate support to Greece during the life of the Programme and beyond until it has regained market access, provided that Greece fully complies with the requirements and objectives of the adjustment programme.

Banking Sector Regulation

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

204 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance his plans in respect of restructuring the Anglo Irish Bank promissory note and lowering the annual payment burden; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5154/12]

As I have indicated I am committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State of correcting the banking system. The Troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish officials to produce a common paper which will consider options for re-engineering the notes in terms of the maturity of the notes, the interest rate, the cash flows etc. In tandem with this technical review the Government has commenced a campaign at political level to garner support for an approach which is more beneficial to the Irish State. Additional detail on such proposals will be available when the on-going work is further advanced.

EU Treaties

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

205 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if the linking of accessing the European Stability Mechanism to the new fiscal compact treaty was discussed at the EU Council meeting on 30 January 2012; and the position he took on this issue. [6589/12]

The preamble to the Inter-Governmental Treaty agreed by Heads of State or Government on 30 January stresses the importance of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty as an element of strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union. It also states that the granting of new assistance from the ESM will be conditional, from 1 March 2013, on ratification of the Inter-Governmental Treaty. The ESM Treaty contains a similar provision. The ESM Treaty states that both Treaties are complementary in fostering fiscal responsibility and solidarity within the Economic and Monetary Union.

It has been clarified that the linkage of both the ESM and the Inter-Governmental Treaties refers to new applications for assistance under the ESM and will not affect the transfer to the ESM of undisbursed amounts promised to Ireland (and other programme countries) under the EFSF. Ireland is in favour of seeing responsible fiscal management put in place across the EU to ensure that future growth and prosperity is assured. It is only through growth that we can overcome the unemployment challenge which we face.

Departmental Agencies

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

206 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the number of retired persons serving on State boards and commissions; and the amount it is costing the State. [10354/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the following state boards and commissions fall under the remit of my Department. The National Treasury Management Advisory Committee, National Pension Reserve Fund Commission, National Asset Management Agency, National Development Finance Agency, State Claims Agency, Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, Credit Union Advisory Committee and Commission on Credit Unions. In relation to the boards associated with these bodies no records of employment status of the members are held by my Department.

Institutional Abuse

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is still determined to set up a trust fund for the survivors of institutional abuse; when the trust fund will be put in place; if his attention has been drawn to the survivors’ objection to the trust fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9339/12]

I am committed to establishing the proposed Statutory Fund for survivors of institutional abuse and as work on the drafting of the Bill is at an advanced stage, I hope to be in a position to publish the Bill in the coming weeks.

I am aware that some former residents advocated a simple distribution of the available money rather than the establishment of the Statutory Fund. However, as I outlined when I published the legislative proposals, I believe that the Fund should target resources at services to support former residents' needs. The General Scheme provides for approved services to include, counselling, psychological support services and mental health services together with such health and personal social services, educational services and housing services as the Fund may determine.

FÁS Training Programmes

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

208 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports available for persons who are not on the live register or in receipt of any social protection payment to access training programmes, job supports and any other initiative that is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9949/12]

In 2011 the further education and training sectors provided almost 300,000 places. In addition, enrolments in the third level sector reached 161,000 and 5,900 places were offered through the Springboard initiative. The Department of Education and Skills will maintain this general level of provision in 2012. There is a wide variety of training programmes available through FÁS Training Services for the unemployed. Individuals who are not on the Live Register or in receipt of any social protection payment can apply to access FÁS Training Programmes. However, they will not be entitled to a FÁS Training Allowance whilst participating on the FÁS Training Programme.

There is a range of full-time and part-time further education programmes available to those not in receipt of a welfare payment. Part-time courses, mainly at NFQ Levels 1-4, and targeted at adults with less than upper second level education, are available under the Adult literacy and Community Education Scheme and the Back to Education Initiative. Full-time courses at NFQ Levels 5 and 6 or equivalent are available under the Post Leaving Certificate programme. Early school leavers aged between 15 and 20 are eligible for the Youthreach programme.

In addition, it is open to any individual to apply for a place on an undergraduate or post graduate higher education programme in the publicly funded higher education sector and depending on their previous level of educational attainment and personal circumstances they may be eligible for support under the Free Fees Scheme or the Student Grant Scheme. In general, students who previously pursued a course of study are not eligible for free fees support or grant assistance for a second period of study at the same level. Such students may, however, be eligible for tax relief for their tuition fees, as are students who undertake courses of study on a part time basis. Full details of all supports available to students who wish to return to education are available atwww.studentfinance.ie. Information on available tax reliefs for tuition fees can be accessed on www.revenue.ie. In addition, as part of the joint industry-government ICT Action Plan, which I launched at the end of January, 750 places have been made available on new ICT skills conversion programmes which are being rolled out in higher education institutions across the country. Access is free of charge to participants who will obtain a postgraduate qualification in core computing skills at honours degree level. Further details are available at www.bluebrick.ie.

Individuals who are not on the live register or in receipt of any social protection payment can access Skillnets (www.skillnets.com) Training Programmes in two ways: Training Networks Programme (TNP) or Job-seekers Support Programme (JSSP). Under the Training Networks Programme (TNP) each network has a limited number of free places for job-seekers on its main programme of courses that are run for member companies of networks. There are many courses whereby no specific educational requirement is needed in order to take part in training but in some instances a background in the discipline or related discipline would be required. The Job Seekers Support Programme is aimed solely at unemployed people and includes free training in skills in demand by companies combined with direct access to employers through meaningful work placements.

The creation of a new further education and training authority, SOLAS, will facilitate a coherent integrated strategic national response across the Irish further education and training sectors. SOLAS will also help to facilitate the development of a strong further education and training sector within the Irish educational system which will effectively meet the needs of those who leave traditional second level schooling and those availing of ‘second chance' education. The new SOLAS mandate will be to ensure the provision of 21st century high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners. These programmes will be integrated, flexible, value-for-money and responsive to the needs of learners and the requirements of a changed and changing economy.

Social Welfare Code

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

209 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he retains a record of employment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9141/12]

Prior to 1 April 1974 an insurable income limit was laid down by the then Department of Social Welfare and if an individuals earnings exceeded these limits a Social Welfare contribution was not payable by the employee. From 1 January 1973 the earnings of the person mentioned were in excess of the insurable limit of £1,600 and therefore she was not liable to pay a social welfare contribution. My Department has confirmed from our records that a Health Contribution was deducted from the remuneration of the person referred to by the Deputy during the period in question.

School Staffing

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

210 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to make changes in the provision of guidance counsellors to schools; his plans to reduce the current provision of guidance counsellors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9148/12]

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

246 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the guidance allocation for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9635/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 and 246 together.

My Department has just recently published Circular 0009/2012 to inform all post primary school management and staff of the staffing arrangements for post-primary schools for the 2012/13 school year, including in particular, the requirements to manage guidance from within the standard allocation. The circular is available on the Department's website.

Schools will have autonomy on how best to prioritise its available resources to meet its requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to its students. Decisions on how this is done will be taken at school level and I am confident that schools will act in the best interest of students when determining precisely how to use the teaching resources available to them.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

211 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the decision to remove the Master’s degree allowance for teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9149/12]

Clare Daly

Ceist:

233 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse the decision to suspend all allowances to new entrant teachers, which will see them earning 30% less than their peers. [9409/12]

Shane Ross

Ceist:

236 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse the decision to cut allowances to new teachers in recognition of the fact that it expects new teachers to carry out the same amount of duties for substantially less pay than their counterparts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9428/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

265 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding new teaching graduates. [9883/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211, 233, 236 and 265 together.

A public service-wide review of allowances, announced by the Government as part of Budget 2012, is currently being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Under Circular 70/2011 teachers who had been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the allowances they were entitled to be in receipt of on that date. Such teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011. The position of teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the review.

Teachers who were new entrants to teaching between 5 December 2011 and 31 January 2012 are eligible for allowances on the basis of their qualifications at entry to the profession to a maximum of the allowance applicable to an honours primary degree/pass masters degree at that time.

Circular 3/2012 provides that allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries; i.e. those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. Examples of such allowances include any form of qualification allowance or the supervision and substitution payment paid to teachers, and the secretary to the Board of Management allowance paid to school principals. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances. These decisions were taken pending the outcome of the public service-wide review of allowances and due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. Without immediate action, this upward pressure would have cancelled out the savings made elsewhere in the education system and would bring about even harsher adjustments to schools and services than has been seen in the recent budgets. I am not in a position to comment further on the position in relation to teacher allowances until the outcome of the public service-wide review of allowances is known.

Special Educational Needs

John Deasy

Ceist:

212 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills to identify the person who determines the allocation of resource hours to individual children with additional educational needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9174/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teaching hours to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All mainstream Primary schools have been allocated permanent additional teaching resources under the General Allocation Model to cater for the learning support/resource teaching needs of children with high incidence special educational needs, such as mild/ borderline mild learning difficulties or for specific learning disability. Allocations in respect of all other applications by schools for resource teaching hours for children with special educational needs are determined by NCSE Special Educational Needs Organisers, in the context of my Departments criteria for the allocation of such support.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

213 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will support an urgent family case (details supplied). [9192/12]

I have previously advised the Deputy of the role of the appropriate state agencies in providing support to the child to whom he refers. I am advised that the relevant agencies including the National Educational Welfare Board and the National Council for Special Education continue to be positively engaged with the family of the child in question.

School Staffing

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

214 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which the school by school review for each school in County Meath will take place with regard to the loss or retention of legacy posts. [9218/12]

The announcement I made on the 11th January in relation to my Department reporting to me within four weeks refers only to the impact of the withdrawal of certain posts allocated under previous disadvantaged schemes in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools.

The School to which the Deputy refers is not included as part of this report as the school in question is not included in the DEIS programme but retained, on a concessionary basis, teaching posts from previous disadvantged schemes.

My Department is finalising the staffing allocations for schools for 2012/13 and is not in a position at the moment to give details as to how this measure affects individual schools. In addition to the budget measures, consideration must be given to the effect of increases and decreases in enrolment on schools' staffing entitlements annually.

Schools will be notified in the coming weeks of their staffing entitlements under the new arrangement for 2012/13.

Schools Building Projects

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

215 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider the building of a new campus for a school (details supplied) in Navan, County Meath, or the amalgamation of the school with another for the purpose of sharing a new campus; and if he or one of his senior staff will meet this Deputy to discuss the matter further. [9219/12]

As the Deputy is aware, a campus development for Navan is already in train which will provide for a primary, post primary and special school to cater for the projected pupil growth in the area over the coming years. My Department has no plans to develop a second campus for the school to which the Deputy refers.

The school concerned recently applied to my Department for funding to replace temporary accommodation. The application is currently being considered and my Department will be in contact with the school authorities as soon as this process has been completed. In the circumstances, a meeting with the Deputy is not considered necessary at this time.

Third Level Access

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

216 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the requirement for a foreign language at leaving certificate level for a degree course at National University Ireland colleges; and if there are plans to change this criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9220/12]

Under the Universities Act 1997 the universities are autonomous and academically independent institutions. The establishment of entry requirements for third level programmes is therefore entirely a matter for the institutions themselves. While a third language has been a standard requirement for entry to NUI colleges, I understand that in recent years the universities have dropped this requirement for some courses, including science and engineering related courses, in order to encourage greater uptake.

Special Educational Needs

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

217 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students with dyslexia who were deemed in 2011 to have a degree of learning disability specific to basic reading, writing or mathematics which places them at or below the second percentile; the number of laptop computers that were provided to students in this category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9232/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. SENOs also make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology is required.

All mainstream Primary schools have been allocated additional teaching resources under the General Allocation Model (GAM) to cater for children with high incidence special educational needs, including Specific Learning Disability (SLD), of which dyslexia is one such SLD. It is a matter for the individual school to use its professional judgement to identify pupils that will receive this support and to use the resources available to the school to intervene at the appropriate level with such pupils. As support for Specific Learning Disability in Primary schools is provided for through the GAM, my Department does not have details of the number of students with dyslexia receiving such support locally through general allocation, at Primary level.

My Department also provides funding for a number of special schools and special classes attached to mainstream primary schools which have been sanctioned to meet the needs of children with SLD, including dyslexia. There are 4 Special Schools and approximately 16 Special Classes attached to mainstream Primary schools catering for pupils with SLD.

In relation to second level pupils with Specific Learning Disability attending mainstream schools, it is open to schools to apply to their local SENO for additional teaching support for such pupils who are assessed as being of average intelligence or higher and having a degree of learning disability specific to basic skills in reading, writing or mathematics which places them at or below the 2nd percentile on suitable, standardised, norm referenced tests. The latest data available from the NCSE show that there were 3,417 pupils in receipt of support for SLD in 2010, at post primary level.

Schools may apply to the NCSE for the provision of assistive technology to support pupils who have been assessed as having a special educational need which requires specific assistive technology support. 108 grants were sanctioned in 2011 in respect of pupils with SLD in Primary and special schools. However, as the applications were sanctioned on the basis of the disability category of SLD, as opposed to specifically for dyslexia, it is not possible to advise how many of these grants were made for students with dyslexia.

Schools who wish to apply for assistive technology support for pupils with special educational needs should contact their local SENO. The list of SENO contact details is available at the NCSE websitewww.ncse.ie.

Vocational Education Committees

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

218 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of executives and administrative staff in each of the 33 vocational education committee head offices; if he will list these by grade, that is CEO, EO, AEO, PO, APO, VII and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9237/12]

My Department monitors the total number of executive and administrative staff posts in vocational education committees, where such posts are funded from my Department's pay funding allocation. These figures are used for the purposes of the public sector number returns and to monitor the employment control framework in the VEC sector.

The table below outlines the executive and administrative staffing numbers for each VEC as of 30th September 2011, the most recent date for which full figures for the sector are available.

There is a total of 824 whole time equivalent (WTE) staff for this category. This figure includes administrative staff employed in Further Education programmes (e.g. VTOS, Youthreach), who may be located either in VEC head offices or centres for education. Of the 824 WTE staff, 163 WTEs are employed in such Further Education programmes. Administrative staff located in VEC post-primary schools are not included in the figures:

(as at 30-9-11)

(ref: PQ 9237 21-2-12)

VEC

WTE staff

City of Cork

30.1

City of Dublin

94.1

City of Limerick

20.6

City of Waterford

16.5

Dún Laoghaire

18.6

City of Galway

19.1

Co Carlow

17.3

Co Cavan

15.8

Co Clare

26.8

Co Cork

41.3

Co Donegal

38.0

Co Dublin

63.5

Co Galway

38.2

Co Kerry

32.3

Co Kildare

22.6

Co Kilkenny

17.3

Co Laois

14.9

Co Leitrim

7.6

Co Limerick

27.0

Co Longford

14.5

Co Louth

20.1

Co Mayo

20.0

Co Meath

21.1

Co Monaghan

16.6

Co Offaly

17.4

Co Roscommon

10.2

Co Sligo

13.9

Co Tipperary (NR)

19.1

Co Tipperary (SR)

15.0

Co Waterford

12.6

Co Westmeath

22.8

Co Wexford

31.4

Co Wicklow

28.5

Total

824.4

Proposed Legislation

Joan Collins

Ceist:

219 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm the status of the Residential Institutions Statutory fund of €110 million; if he will confirm the purpose of the fund and the persons who may access it; and the criteria there will be for survivors to access the fund. [9238/12]

Work on the drafting of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill is at an advanced stage and I hope to be in a position to publish the Bill in the coming weeks.

The Fund will focus on victims of residential institutional abuse, with eligibility being confined to those who received an award from the Redress Board or those who received awards pursuant to court actions and who would otherwise have received awards from the Board. While the Fund will target resources at approved services to support survivors' needs, including counselling, psychological support services and mental health services together such health and personal social services, educational services and housing services as the Fund may determine, the Fund will determine the extent of, and conditions attaching to, the provision of these approved services.

The Fund will also promote understanding of the effects of abuse on former residents among service providers and will evaluate the effectiveness of the approved services in meeting the needs of former residents.

To date, €21.05 million of the cash contributions offered have been received and placed in a special interest bearing account in the Central Bank pending the establishment of the Statutory Fund.

Múineadh Teangacha Eachtracha

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

220 D’fhiafraigh Peadar Tóibín den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an dtabharfaidh sé eolas faoin líon Múinteoirí Cuairte atá ag múineadh teangacha Eorpacha (Fraincis, Iodáilis, Gearmáinis, Spáinnis) i dTionscnamh na Nua-Theangacha sa Bhunscoil (MLPSI-450); cén líon daoine a chaillfidh a gcuid post de bharr chinneadh an Rialtais; agus cé mhéid airgid a shábhálfaidh an Rialtas. [9251/12]

Mar chuid de chinntí Buiséid 2012 atáthar tar éis a fhógairt, tiocfaidh deireadh le Tionscnamh na Nuatheangacha i mBunscoileanna ag deireadh na scoilbhliana 2011/2012.

Caithfear an €2.5 milliún de choigiltí a bheidh ann de bharr an bhirt seo ar chostas feidhmithe na Straitéise Náisiúnta Litearthachta agus Uimhearthachta, atá ina thiomantas lárnach i gClár an Rialtais.

Ó ceapadh im Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna mé, táim tar éis labhairt arís agus arís eile faoin ngá le caighdeáin oideachasúla a ardú. Chomh fada is a bhaineann le leasú an churaclaim, is iad na tosaíochtaí sa tréimhse atá amach romhainn ná an ghnóthachtáil sa litearthacht agus san uimhearthacht a neartú, leasuithe a chur i bhfeidhm sa mhatamaitic, sa Ghaeilge agus san eolaíocht, agus leasuithe sa Teastas Sóisearach a chur chun cinn.

Faoi Thionscnamh na Nuatheangacha fostaíonn tuairim is 270 bunscoil teagascóirí páirtaimseartha chun teagasc teanga a sholáthar. Íocann Boird Bhainistíochta scoileanna na teagascóirí seo as deontais a eisíonn mo Roinnse. Tiocfaidh deireadh le fostú teagascóirí ag na scoileanna seo faoi Thionscnamh na Nuatheangacha ag deireadh na scoilbhliana reatha.

State Bodies

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

221 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and names of the State bodies under the aegis of his Department which are subject to the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9263/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

222 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received the annual report on corporate governance from all State bodies under the aegis of his Department which are subject to the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies for 2010 as required under section 13.1 of the code; if not, if he will outline which State bodies have not done so and if having reviewed the reports he is satisfied that all State bodies are complying with the provisions of the code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9269/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 222 together.

Below for the Deputy's information is a list of the 20 bodies currently under the aegis of my Department.

Some 17 of these agencies are required to provide corporate returns to my Department. The two Irish Research Councils are included in the Higher Education Authority's return for the purposes of corporate governance while the National Council for Guidance in Education operates under the aegis of Léargas Ltd.

I can confirm to the Deputy that all of the bodies that are required to provide a comprehensive report under Section 13.1 of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies have done so in respect of 2010.

The requirement to provide a comprehensive report is not applicable to the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the Residential Institution Review Committee and the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse due to the arrangements in place and the nature and scale of their activities.

In addition the Education Finance Board has adopted the Code of Practice. The Board is subject to specific statutory provisions in relation to providing an annual report and annual accounts to the Minister. It should be noted that the General Scheme of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill includes provisions to dissolve the Education Finance board with the new Fund assuming the functions of the Board in relation to the remainder of moneys available to it.

Bodies under aegis of Department of Education and Skills (February 2012)

An Chomhairle um Oideachais Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG)

Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse (CICA)

Education Finance Board (EFB)

FÁS

Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC)

Grangegorman Development Authority (GDA)

Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC)

Higher Education Authority (HEA)

Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET)

Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Léargas Ltd. — The Exchange Bureau

National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE)

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)

National Council for Special Education (NCSE)

National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI)

Residential Institutions Review Board (RIRB)

Residential Institutions Review Committee RIRC)

Skillnets Ltd.

State Examinations Commission

The Teaching Council

Education and Training Authority

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

223 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to publish the findings of the recent consultation on SOLAS; the timeframe for the establishment of SOLAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9273/12]

The SOLAS Implementation Group, which I chair, initiated a stakeholder consultation process towards the end of last year concerning the establishment of SOLAS — the new further education and training authority. It published a consultation paper to assist in that process and submissions were received from a wide range of interested parties. I intend to hold an information seminar for stakeholders shortly as part of the ongoing consultation. Following this seminar it is my intention to publish a summary of the outcomes of the consultation process.

Given the complex elements involved, including enacting appropriate legislation, it is expected that the process of establishing SOLAS will be completed by the end of 2012.

Vocational Education Committees

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

224 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason there is no reference in the general scheme for the Education and Training Boards Bill 2011 to the existing role and responsibilities of vocational education committees to co-ordinate youth work activities as required under the Youth Work Act; if there will be provision in the draft Bill for this work to be transferred to the new education and training boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9274/12]

In October 2011 the General Scheme of an Education and Training Boards Bill was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education. The General Scheme was also published at that time. Following discussions with my Department and relevant stakeholders, the committee prepared a report which I responded to at a meeting of the committee on 25 January 2012. The General Scheme has now been referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government for formal drafting. The General Scheme does not incorporate the provisions of the Youth Work Act 2001 which is a substantive piece of legislation in its own right. Rather, it is likely that amendments will be made to that Act to reflect the establishment of education and training boards and the dissolution of vocational education committees. This is something which my officials will pursue with the Parliamentary Counsel's Office as part of the drafting process.

School Curriculum

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

225 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made towards introducing a digital media component to the transition year programme as committed to in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9275/12]

Having Fun with Computer Programming and Games is a module on the NCCA website which has been developed for Transition Year by LERO, the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre. LERO brings together leading software engineering teams from universities and institutes of technology in a centre of excellence with a strong industry focus. Students learn to write their own programmes, animations and stories and develop computer programming and games skills using Scratch software. The lesson plans and materials needed to teach the module are available from LERO. Whether the module is offered is a matter for decision locally by schools. To date the programme is being implemented in 50 schools and 150 have registered their interest in providing it in the future. Professional development for teachers is being provided by LERO with the support of the National Centre for Technology in Education.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

226 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the new teacher-pupil ratio to enable small rural schools to retain their current complement of teachers, thus ensuring that our children receive the high standard of education that they deserve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9298/12]

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

228 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Kerry may be regarded as a special case in relation to the teacher-pupil ratio thus ensuring that the children attending this school may continue to receive the highest standard of education, as this will not be the case in the event that they are losing a teacher; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9314/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

241 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding staff quotas; if he will once again look at what is being proposed and bearing in mind that little if any funding will actually be saved by these measures, reconsider the position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9507/12]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

245 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in making the decisions regarding the number of teachers allocated to small primary schools, a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8 can be considered a special case in view of the particular purpose for which the school was set up, its historic association with the Cathedral; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9582/12]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

263 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the appeals process will be open for small schools affected by the reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio. [9860/12]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

264 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider applying the new pupil-teacher ratio to all schools seeking an additional teacher and let the current system stand for existing schools. [9861/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226, 228, 241, 245, 263 and 264 together.

My Department will be notifying schools shortly of the new staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year. It will include details of the staffing appeals process and appeal criterion for those small schools that are projecting increased enrolments that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term. As part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented, the threshold for small schools will still be significantly lower than the minimum of 28 pupils that was required for the appointment of a second teacher in schools prior to the mid-1990s. All schools are being treated equally irrespective of the type of patronage.

The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible. If amalgamations take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.

Departmental Property

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

227 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to surrender a lease it has in place regarding a building formerly used as a primary school (details supplied). [9313/12]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of a request to divest my interest in the property to which he refers, which has very recently been vacated by the school. My officials have been in contact with the Patron's office in relation to this request and a response to the request will issue in due course.

Question No. 228 answered with Question No. 226.

Departmental Staff

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

229 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the extra resources provided to the Redundancy Unit of his Department succeeded in tackling the backlog in processing redundancy payments; the length of this backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9332/12]

Extra resources were assigned to the Redundancy Unit at the end of October 2011 to ensure that Special Needs Assistants that have been made redundant would have their claims for payment processed as quickly as possible. At that time, there was a backlog of applications of approximately 10 months. The Redundancy Unit is currently processing claims received in August/September 2011. My Department continues to prioritise the processing of redundancy applications from those SNAs who have not obtained alternative employment in a non teaching capacity in primary, secondary or community/comprehensive schools in the current school year.

Teaching Bodies

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

230 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the role the Teacher’s Council of Ireland plays in the improvement of education in Ireland; if he will confirm if membership of the TCI is mandatory; if so, the reason for same; if he will give further details of what each member receives in return for their annual subscription; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9337/12]

The Teaching Council is the professional standards body for the teaching profession. The Council seeks to set and uphold high professional standards for teaching and teachers. It does this in the interests of pupils and the public good but equally for the reputation and status of the profession. Quality of teaching has been determined as the single most influential factor towards achieving good educational outcomes for students. The work of the Council is focused towards the maintenance and improvement of the standards of teaching and includes: Developing and implementing a ‘Continuum of Education' which links the professional education and training needs throughout all phases of a teachers career*. Restructuring and extending the programmes of initial teacher education in order that newly qualified teachers are better equipped for the needs of the modern day classroom*. Reviewing and accrediting teacher education programmes. Putting in place higher qualification and teacher education standards for teachers in the three sectors — Primary, Post-Primary and Further Education. Putting in place strict good character and Garda vetting requirements. Publishing a Code of Professional Conduct for teachers (which is currently being revised). Putting in place induction procedures for newly qualified teachers and a probation process applicable to all newly registered teachers. Preparing for Fitness to Teach procedures and processes when the Council's powers in this area are commenced by the Minister. Developing a Continued Professional Development framework for teachers.

The individual teacher benefits from being a member of a fully regulated profession. The work of the Council supports teachers in the following key areas: Protecting standards of entry to the profession, promoting induction processes and fostering best practice in continuing professional development. Reviewing and accrediting programmes of teacher education. Promoting research and engaging in debate and discussion on policy issues related to education. Dealing with complaints as to alleged professional misconduct made against teachers (when Part 5 of the TCA is commenced). Advising Government on teaching supply and other professional issues. Enhancing the teacher's individual status and identity by his or her being part of a recognised, collective professional entity, with statutory authority and recognition. Enhancing the status of the profession and use every opportunity to promote teaching as a career.

Through all of the above the Teaching Council will help teachers to set and maintain the standards for the profession. It is the policy of my Department that all teachers paid from State funds should be registered by the Teaching Council and suitably qualified. The Education (Amendment) Bill paves the way for the commencement of Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act which is part of the progression towards a fully regulated profession, while also providing for the employment, in certain exceptional and limited circumstances, of persons who are not registered teachers under the Teaching Council Act 2001.

Special Educational Needs

Jack Wall

Ceist:

231 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a submission (details supplied) will be considered in relation to the request for a primary school place for a person; the mechanism the family should follow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9382/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the enrolment of a child in a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools.

The policy of my Department is to secure the maximum possible level of inclusion of students with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, in order to ensure that as many children as possible can be educated with their peers within their own community.

My Department therefore provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs in order to ensure that, wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education. Children with special educational needs may be enrolled in a mainstream school and attend all mainstream classes and receive additional teaching support through the learning support and/or resource teacher. Or they may enrol in a mainstream school and attend a special class, or they may enrol in a special school.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB will try to help parents to find a school placement if their child has been unable to secure a school placement to date. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

In addition, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) can assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs.

Parents may contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs and to seek assistance in identifying placement options, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, may the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

232 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to any reported difficulties in the use of interactive whiteboard technologies for children with autism spectrum disorders and related sensory difficulties; if his attention has been drawn to any problems caused by the flickering effect in the operation of whiteboards; if so, the remedial measures that will be taken to solve such problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9392/12]

I am not aware of any reported difficulties in the use of interactive whiteboard technologies for children with autism spectrum disorders and related sensory difficulties. If the Deputy is aware of any specific problems in this regard I would be very grateful if she could forward me the relevant details as soon as possible.

As the Deputy may be aware, under the terms of the 2009/2010 ICT infrastructure grant my Department did not prescribe any specific ICT configuration in the context of teaching and learning for pupils with special educational needs. Given the range of individual needs, a single central technical recommendation would not be appropriate. School boards of management have full autonomy therefore in choosing equipment which best supports local needs, subject of course to appropriate provision in relation to health and safety. In that regard, in accordance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, individual school authorities are responsible in the first instance for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care.

Question No. 233 answered with Question No. 211.

Higher Education Grants

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

234 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that students eligible for a maintenance grant are unable to avail of it if they are attending a private college; if he will review this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9412/12]

Under my Department's student grant scheme, eligible candidates may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at an approved institution as defined in the scheme. Private colleges operated on a for-profit basis are not listed as approved institutions for student grant purposes. The Deputy will appreciate that, in the current economic climate, I am not in a position to consider any such extension of the list of approved institutions. However, tax relief on tuition fees may be available for students attending courses in private colleges. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners.

School Transport

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

235 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a minimum age for children to use the post primary school transport service who are going into first year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9424/12]

There is no stipulation in my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme regarding a minimum age requirement for eligible children who wish to avail of school transport services. However, conditions are set down in the "Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools", regarding the criteria for the recognition of pupils at second level. One of these rules states that a recognised pupil means a pupil who is not less than 12 years of age on the 1st day of January of the school year.

Question No. 236 answered with Question No. 211.

Schools Refurbishment

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

237 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are grants or assistance available for a school (details supplied) in County Cork to install or replace a water filter for its water supply as county council grants are only available to private domestic premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9461/12]

The Deputy will be aware that a Minor Works Grant issued to primary schools last November for the school year 2011/2012 at a cost of €28m. As part of this scheme, the school in question received a grant of €7,664 and it is open to the school to prioritise the use of these funds to address such issues as those to which the Deputy refers.

School Staffing

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

238 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Louth which is a DEIS Band 2 school will retain its legacy post which predates DEIS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9466/12]

The report on the Impact in Terms of Posts of Budget Measures in relation to The Withdrawal from DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 Urban Primary Schools of Posts from Disadvantaged Schemes pre-dating DEIS has been completed and submitted for my consideration. The report details the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, and applies the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report takes account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year. I will make an announcement shortly regarding the final outcome for the schools concerned, including the school referred to by the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

239 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the school building programme in respect of a school (details supplied); when construction will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9490/12]

The schedule of accommodation for the school building project referred to by the Deputy is being developed. Officials from my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities in that regard. The current position of all projects on the school building programme, including this project, may be viewed on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. Details in relation to projects are updated regularly during the year.

As the Deputy is aware, the Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which was published on 10th November 2011, sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system in the coming years. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. I have previously committed to publishing shortly a five year plan outlining the school building projects that will commence construction in that time.

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

240 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of, and an update on the school building programme in respect of a school (details supplied); when construction will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9493/12]

The schedule of accommodation for the proposed school building project referred to by the Deputy is currently being finalised. As the Deputy is aware, the existing school site has certain constraints in terms of size, access and the fact that there is a protected structure and associated conservation issues that requires a sympathetic design solution. The next step in the architectural process will involve the arrangements for the appointment of a design team. The current position of all projects on the school building programme, including this project, may be viewed on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. As the Deputy is aware, I have already indicated in the context of the announcement on the 10th November 2011 last of the Government’s Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system in the coming years, that I intend to publish shortly a five year plan outlining the projects that will commence construction in that time.

Question No. 241 answered with Question No. 226.

Ciara Conway

Ceist:

242 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the design team will be appointed for a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9532/12]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the tender process for the appointment of a design team for the school building project to which she refers is nearing completion. The members of the design team have been selected following a tender competition and are currently being assessed by the Project Supervisor Design Process (PSDP) as is required under Health and Safety regulations. Once this is complete, assuming no issues arise, the contracts of appointment will issue to the design team.

Ciara Conway

Ceist:

243 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the application of a school (details supplied) in County Waterford for an extension to its current school building to deal with growth in numbers and the special needs of the pupils that attend same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9533/12]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that in November 2011, my Department sanctioned a devolved grant to the school to which she refers to provide for improved facilities for special needs pupils. I understand that this grant has not yet been drawn down by the school authority. During the period 2006-2007, a major building project was completed at the school to provide for a 24 classroom facility. The total cost of the project was in excess of €3m. My Department is satisfied that the level of accommodation already provided, together with the special needs facilities to be provided with the devolved grant, is sufficient to meet the school's essential accommodation needs.

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years.

Preschool Services

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

244 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options for free preschool education available to the parents of a child (details supplied) who currently avails of the early childhood care and education scheme five days a week. [9581/12]

As the Deputy may be aware, the vast majority of supports for child care, including preschool education, are not provided by my Department, but by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The principal vehicle for the delivery of preschool education is the free preschool year under the Early Childhood Care and Education programme, which was introduced in January 2010 and provides early learning to children in the year before they commence primary school. Children with special needs can avail of their free pre-school year over a two-year period. My Department provides for some targeted initiatives for preschool children. In the main, these are delivered through the primary school system. For children under the age of five who are enrolled in primary schools, the National Council for Special Education, through its network of Special Educational Needs Organisers, liaises with assessment officers in the HSE in respect of the assessment of need process under the Disability Act 2005. Pupils with Down's syndrome may receive additional teaching support in primary schools, either under the terms of the General Allocation Model of teaching supports if the pupil's educational psychological assessment places the pupil in the mild general learning disability or high incidence disability category, or through an allocation of individual additional resource teaching hours if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's Circular Sp Ed 02/05. Pupils with Down's syndrome who have care needs may also receive access to special needs assistant support. It is open to schools to apply to the school's assigned Special Educational Needs Organiser for additional teaching and/or care supports, in line with my Department's criteria in this regard.

Question No. 245 answered with Question No. 226.
Question No. 246 answered with Question No. 210.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Ceist:

247 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total photography costs for his Department since coming to office; the list of occasions for which photographers were booked in the past year; the breakdown of costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used; if there is a policy around the booking of photographers within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9661/12]

The total photography costs for my Department since 9 March 2011 are €381.15 (€315 + €66.15 VAT). This cost relates to copies of photographs taken of a school project and their use on an A1 display board which was submitted to the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland for the joint RIAI/Department colloquium on school design which was held on 30 June 2011 in Dublin.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

248 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills to provide an update on an application for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; if he will provide a timeline for when he expects a decision to be made on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9672/12]

An application for major school capital funding has recently being received from the school referred to by the Deputy. This application is under consideration and officials from my Department will be in contact with the school shortly.

School Enrolments

Simon Harris

Ceist:

249 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify specifically if he is empowered to order primary schools to review their catchment areas and policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9676/12]

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act 1998. In this regard, a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. The Deputy will be aware that last June, I launched a discussion paper on school enrolment. The document, Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment, contains suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent. I have made it clear that the paper was not meant to be prescriptive, nor have any decisions been made as to what elements will be contained in any final regulations or legislation. The purpose of the paper was to lead and provoke debate on enrolment policies and practices. I invited education partners and interested parties to submit their views to my Department by 28 October last. My officials are now co-ordinating the submissions received. The feedback from this consultation will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment.

Teaching Qualifications

Brian Walsh

Ceist:

250 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the registration of untrained substitute primary teachers with the Teaching Council; if there are any supports in place to enable these untrained teachers to become formally qualified teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9692/12]

It is desirable that there be a fully qualified professional body of teachers. The Teaching Council aims to promote and maintain the highest standards of teaching, learning and professional conduct in our schools. People who were not qualified but were employed as a teacher in a recognised school, and paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, or eligible to be so employed on establishment of the Teaching Council in March 2006 were allowed to become registered under sections 31(2) and 31(3) of the Teaching Council Act 2001. In March 2006, the details of 998 substitute teachers (at primary level) were transferred to the Council of which 298 were not deemed qualified at the time of transfer. Out of this figure, some 204 did not apply for registration under section 31(3) within the specified period or have since let their registration lapse, 55 people completed the qualifications required in order to be deemed qualified and 39 people remain registered without the required qualifications. For people who did not register under sections 31(2) and 31(3), the Teaching Council requires that the requirements as set out under Regulation 2 of the Teaching Council Registration Regulations, which were approved in November 2009 are met for registration as a primary teacher. It is possible to become formally qualified through a Postgraduate Diploma in Education held in the four publicly funded Colleges of Education, and a private college, Hibernia College, for the purpose of enabling third level graduates to qualify as primary teachers. People who successfully complete this course may be registered by the Teaching Council as qualified for service in the State's primary schools.

Ministerial Travel

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

251 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he uses a State car; the type of car that is used; how often he has used it since coming to office; the cost of the person employed to drive the car; the cost of their salary; the cost of their vehicle expenses; if the person employed as their driver was previously a State employee; if that person is also in receipt of a State pension; the total cost of the service to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9714/12]

In March 2011, the Government agreed new measures for Cabinet Ministers in relation to the provision of official transport to take effect from 1 May 2011. On my appointment as Minister from 9 March 2011 until 30 April 2011, I was provided with a State car. Since 1 May 2011, in line with the revised procedures, I have used my own car. I am provided with the services of two civilian drivers who are retired members of An Garda Síochána and are in receipt of a Garda pension. They are paid a wage of €631.75 per week and any appropriate subsistence allowances in respect of their official duties. The total subsistence payments for the two drivers for 2011 amounted to €1,468.11. Up to 31 December 2011, I claimed €10,966 in respect of travel expenses. It should be noted that the travel arrangements for Ministers in the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government cost the taxpayer an average of approximately €280,000 per annum per Minister.

Redundancy Payments

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

252 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for a redundancy payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reasons for the delay in processing same; if his attention has been drawn to the hardship being caused in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9727/12]

A redundancy application from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on 9 August 2011 and has now been reached for processing. Some outstanding documentation is being requested from the school concerned. As soon as this has been received, the application will be processed and payment will issue as quickly as possible. Every effort is being made to process SNA redundancy applications as quickly as possible.

Institutes of Technology

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

253 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will support the combined efforts of the Institute of Technology Tralee, Cork Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology in obtaining university status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9737/12]

On Monday, 13 February last, the Higher Education Authority published a number of documents intended to provide a broad framework for future system development in Irish higher education, including a clear four-stage process and criteria for designation as a technological university. Groups of institutions proposing to merge and apply for designation as technological universities will need to submit a formal expression of interest within six months. They will be advised within a further six months whether they can proceed to the second stage for designation. Decisions on the success or otherwise of applications in the final stages will be made on the advice of a fully independent international expert panel, having regard to the transparent criteria that have now been published.

Special Educational Needs

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

254 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) will retain all of its special needs assistant posts this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9749/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the position in relation to this matter is as set out to him in my reply of 31st January, 2012. 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, 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.

The Deputy will also be aware that Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities in an educational context. SNA allocations are not permanent as the level of SNA support allocated to a school may be increased or decreased as pupils who qualify for SNA support enrol or leave a school or where a child's care needs may have diminished over time. The allocation of SNAs in each school can therefore alter from year to year.

Schools have been invited to make applications to the NCSE for SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012. They will then subsequently be advised of their allocation for the next school year, based on the number of valid applications received and the extent of the care needs of qualifying children.

Third Level Education

Robert Troy

Ceist:

255 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give a commitment that no decision will be made on the future of third level institutes by him or the Higher Education Authority prior to consultation and all submissions being received and acknowledged. [9763/12]

On Monday 13th February, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) published a number of documents intended to provide a broad framework for future system development in Irish higher education. All institutions have now been invited to identify their key strengths and their future strategic fit within the system and submit a realistic plan to the HEA on that basis. Each higher education institution has been given six months in which to make a submission to the HEA setting out its strategic intentions.

By the end of this year HEA will have considered these strategic proposals and will advise me on a "blueprint" or outline structure for the higher education system over the next 10-20 years. The future development direction of individual higher education institutions will be agreed within this context and there will be full engagement with institutions in relation to their strategic plans and future funding arrangements.

Schools Building Projects

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

256 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the process for a school to make a case to be included on the school building list under the Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16; if there will be a mid-term review of the school building list that a school can seek to be included on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9764/12]

As the Deputy is aware, I will shortly publish a five year plan outlining the school building projects that will commence construction in that time.

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet future projected demographic demands will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. School building projects currently in the architectural planning process will be considered in the context of the plan. In addition, my Department will also be prepared to consider applications by schools for capital funding for additional classrooms where an immediate enrolment need in an area has been identified and where school's existing accommodation cannot provide for this growth.

In addition to the five year plan, my Department is committed to publishing a detailed plan on an annual basis in relation to planned expenditure on individual major school projects commencing construction. The first of these in relation to 2012 expenditure was published in December 2011 last. Information in respect of the plan for 2012 is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie.

Industrial Relations

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

257 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the board of management of a school (details supplied) has not engaged with the TUI on the matter of the grievance procedure invoked on behalf of their member as per the agreed procedures between the TUI, ASTI and ACCS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9774/12]

It is a matter for the Board of Management as the employer, in consultation with the relevant school management body and trade union, to conduct grievance procedures in respect of a teacher. My Department has no function in this area.

Higher Education Grants

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

258 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay with a higher education grant appeal submitted to the Central Appeals Board in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [9782/12]

The independent Student Grant Appeals Board was established in September 2011.The Appeals Board sits at regular intervals to consider appeals submitted under Section 21 of the Student Support Act 2011.

The appeal of the person referred to by the Deputy is one of thirty six appeals to be considered at the February sitting of the Appeals Board which takes place on Tuesday 21st February. The decision of the Appeals Board will be notified in writing to the appellant, the awarding authority and the appeals officer concerned.

Departmental Reports

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

259 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills when is it estimated that the value for money review of small primary schools, which is currently being drawn up, will be finished and ready for publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9827/12]

Work is well advanced on the value for money review of small primary schools. I expect that the report of the review should be available to me shortly. I will then have to consider its outcomes and proposals. When this process is complete, publication will be arranged.

Vocational Education Committees

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

260 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form the annual allowance and expenses each vocational education committee chief executive receives for VEC board membership. [9834/12]

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Vocational Education Committees (VECs) are paid directly by the Committees which employ them. The Deputy should note that the CEO is not a member of the VEC.

Apart from basic salary, CEOs may qualify for payment of allowances in respect of the discharge of the role of Transport Liaison Officer and/or as Secretary to a Board of Management of a Comprehensive School.

CEOs do not receive expenses for attendance at VEC meetings. However, travel and subsistence is payable in accordance with public sector norms to CEOs for their attendance at meetings away from the VEC's headquarters and where the attendance of the CEO is necessary for the discharge of their role.

The table sets out the allowances paid in 2011 in respect of each CEO in addition to the amount paid in respect of travel and subsistence to each CEO for the same year:

Allowances and Expenses of VEC CEOs 2011

(Ref: PQ 9834 21-2-12)

CEO Allowances

CEO Expenses

City of Cork

€5,493.00

€7,190.41

City of Dublin

€0.00

€4,083.12

City of Limerick

€5,493.00

€5,447.56

City of Waterford

€5,493.00

€3,041.00

Dún Laoghaire

€5,493.00

€2,724.53

City of Galway

€7,760.00

€4,779.70

Co. Carlow

€5,493.00

€5,107.28

Co. Cavan

€7,787.00

€9,437.00

Co. Clare

€12,939.00

€12,149.58

Co. Cork

€15,645.00

€12,191.00

Co. Donegal

€16,155.00

€7,265.03

Co. Dublin

€5,493.00

€5,645.42

Co. Galway

€16,099.00

€11,636.00

Co. Kerry

€8,552.06

€5,168.94

Co. Kildare

€10,373.78

€11,589.01

Co. Kilkenny

€7,954.23

€3,228.20

Co. Laois

€6,028.01

€7,118.81

Co. Leitrim

€11,349.00

€3,244.48

Co. Limerick

€11,032.00

€0.00

Co. Longford

€7,787.00

€3,906.85

Co. Louth

€9,385.00

€6,910.00

Co. Mayo

€10,994.36

€11,495.68

Co. Meath

€9,615.56

€7,699.69

Co. Monaghan

€9,388.86

€9,538.12

Co. Offaly

€7,462.58

€3,230.12

Co. Roscommon

€5,474.00

€4,207.00

Co. Sligo

€7,760.22

€8,370.13

Co. Tipperary (NR)

€7,760.24

€5,963.32

Co. Tipperary (SR)

€8,494.46

€9,590.95

Co. Waterford

€7,787.00

€5,460.00

Co. Westmeath

€7,760.22

€2,835.84

Co. Wexford

€11,032.00

€5,315.58

Co. Wicklow

€7,760.22

€5,732.25

Total

€283,093.80

€211,302.60

The following revised Table was received from the Department on 5 July 2012.

Allowances and Expenses of VEC CEOs 2011

(Ref: PQ 260 (ref no 9834) 21-2-12, amended 5-7-12)

Allowances (€)

Expenses (€)

City of Cork

5,493

7,190

City of Dublin

0

4,083

City of Limerick

5,493

5,448

City of Waterford

5,493

3,041

Dun Laoghaire

5,493

2,725

City of Galway

7,760

4,780

Co. Carlow

5,493

5,107

Co. Cavan

7,787

9,437

Co. Clare

12,939

12,150

Co. Cork

15,645

12,191

Co. Donegal

16,155

7,265

Co. Dublin

5,493

5,645

Co. Galway

16,099

11,636

Co. Kerry

8,552

5,169

Co. Kildare

10,374

11,589

Co. Kilkenny

7,767

3,228

Co. Laois

5,443

7,119

Co. Leitrim

11,349

3,244

Co. Limerick

11,032

0

Co. Longford

7,787

3,907

Co. Louth

9,385

6,910

Co. Mayo

10,994

11,496

Co. Meath

9,421

7,700

Co. Monaghan

9,389

9,538

Co. Offaly

7,463

3,230

Co. Roscommon

5,474

4,207

Co. Sligo

7,760

8,370

Co. Tipperary (NR)

7,760

5,963

Co. Tipperary (SR)

7,791

9,591

Co. Waterford

7,787

5,460

Co. Westmeath

7,760

2,836

Co. Wexford

11,032

5,316

Co. Wicklow

7,760

5,732

Total

281,424

211,303

School Closures

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

261 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of 29 November 2011, if there is any further update on the matter raised. [9835/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Diocesan Office recently facilitated a visit by my Department to the property in question. My Officials will be in further communication with the Diocesan Office shortly.

School Transport

Robert Troy

Ceist:

262 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if two discretionary pupils paying the extra charge will be calculated in compiling the necessary numbers at the start of term in order to secure the continuation of a particular school bus service. [9859/12]

Under the terms of my Department's School Transport Schemes a minimum number of 10 eligible children residing in a distinct locality, as determined by Bus Éireann, are required before consideration may be given to the establishment or retention of school transport services, provided this can be done within reasonable cost limits.

This minimum number requirement refers to eligible children only.

Questions Nos. 263 and 264 answered with Question No. 226.
Question No. 265 answered with Question No. 211.

Departmental Agencies

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

266 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the number of retired persons serving on State boards and commissions; and the amount it is costing the State. [10351/12]

There are currently seven retired public servants serving on boards of bodies under the aegis of my Department where annual remuneration fees apply.

In addition the Chairpersons of both the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) and the Residential Institutions Review Committee (RIRC) are both retired public servants and are paid salaries subject to pension abatement. Two other members of the RIRC are retired public servants who are paid a per diem rate subject to pension abatement.

A summary of fees paid to retired public servants relating to Bodies under the aegis of my Department is provided for the Deputy's information. Details relating to private pensions in respect of board members of bodies are not held by either my Department or individual bodies.

Summary of Fees paid to retired public servants relating to Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills

Board Name

Number Retired Public Servants

Fees Applicable

FÁS

1

€11,790 per annum (Ordinary Member)

Grangegorman Development Authority

1

€8,978 per annum (Chairperson)

Higher Education Authority

1

€7,695 per annum (Ordinary Member)

Skillnets Ltd.

1

€5,985 per annum (Ordinary Member)

State Examinations Commission

3

€11,970 per annum (Chairperson)€7,695 per annum (Ordinary Member)

Residential Institutions Redress Board

1

The Chairperson of the RIRB has recently retired from the Judiciary and the salary payable will be the difference between the pension payable and the approved annual remuneration rate of €212,005.

Residential Institutions Review Committee

3

The Chairperson of the RIRC is paid an annual salary for a Supreme Court judge subject to abatement to take account of his pension. Since October 2011 the Chairperson has taken a 50% voluntary reduction in salary. Two other board members of the RIRC are paid a per diem rate subject to pension abatement. The per diem rate from 1st January 2011 is €668 per day.

Total Retired Public Servants in receipt of payments:

11

Regulatory Impact Analysis

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

267 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress made towards the implementation of the commitment in the programme for Government requiring Government Departments to carry out regulatory impact assessments before Government decisions are taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9288/12]

Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) is a tool used by Departments to assess the costs, benefits and qualitative impacts of regulatory proposals. The use of this tool has been mandatory in relation to proposals for primary legislation as well as significant secondary and EU regulations since 2005, although, in general the practice to date has been that RIAs were only published once a Bill or Statutory Instrument was published.

The Better Regulation function has historically been shared between the Departments of the Taoiseach and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. In this context, the Department of the Taoiseach previously offered advice and support to Departments undertaking Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIAs) including through the preparation and updating of guidelines on the use of RIA in an Irish regulatory context. During the re-configuration of Departments following the appointment of this Government, the staff previously assigned to the Better Regulation Unit within the Department of the Taoiseach transferred to my Department but have been assigned to other duties.

There is no specific Better Regulation Unit within my Department at present. The locus of responsibility for the Regulatory Impact Analysis support aspect of the Better Regulation agenda has yet to be finalised and is the subject of ongoing discussion at senior official level. However, while there may be a need to update guidelines and related supports, the production and publication of RIAs remains a matter for the individual Departments concerned.

Flood Relief

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

268 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the Office of Public Works will begin work on putting back the bridge that was removed and placed in the field behind an estate (details supplied); their plans for the bridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9299/12]

The bridge in question was removed during flood relief works undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in the Dunboyne area on behalf of Meath County Council following the major flood events in 2000 and 2002. The bridge was no longer used for traffic.

The cast iron sections of the bridge were sent to the OPW's Central Engineering Workshop for restoration and repainting. This work has been completed and the restored sections remain in storage by the OPW.

It is a matter for Meath County Council to decide as to the future of the bridge. The OPW has contacted the Council with a view to progressing the matter.

EU Funding

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

269 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the actions he will take to draw down the unallocated European social funds as proposed by the European Commission to address youth unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9484/12]

Following the informal European Council meeting on 30 January 2012, Commission President Barroso launched an initiative to boost growth and tackle the problem of youth unemployment. He indicated his intention to work with Member States, particularly those where the situation of young people is most difficult, using structural funds among other instruments, to strengthen national efforts to combat youth unemployment and accelerate and strengthen support to SMEs as a key source of jobs in the EU. No new funds are being made available at present, however.

I strongly welcome President Barroso's initiative and I and other members of the Government will be working closely with the European Commission on its implementation. A Commission team will be in Dublin on 21 February 2012 for meetings with a team lead by the Department of the Taoiseach, which will include representatives from my Department. Dealing with unemployment is the major priority for the Government and this is an initiative which must be utilized to maximum effect.

At present, however, Ireland has no unallocated structural funds. Indeed I am pleased to report that recent Commission figures show that Ireland has the highest absorption rate of structural funds in the EU at 48% for the current 2007-2013 funding round, and it is estimated that the remaining 52% allocated to Ireland will be drawn down.

Ireland has been allocated a total of €901m in EU Structural Funding for the period 2007-13. Of this, €750 million is assigned to the Regional Competitiveness and Employment (RCE) objective, and the balance to Territorial Co-operation programmes, including the PEACE III, INTERREG IVA and Ireland Wales programmes. The RCE objective is being delivered through three operational programmes — the National ESF Human Capital Investment OP (managed by the Department of Education and Skills) and the Border Midland and Western (BMW) and Southern and Eastern Regional ERDF (S&E) OPs (managed by the BMW and S&E Regional Assemblies).

The general programme priorities in Ireland, which were agreed with the Commission, are the promotion and encouragement of innovation, the knowledge economy, enterprise, research and development, up-skilling the workforce and increasing the participation of groups outside the workforce. It is expected that the overall objectives of each programme will be achieved and that Ireland will drawdown the funding we have been allocated.

In the absence of unused structural funds in Ireland or new funding from other EU sources we will, in the first instance, be looking at whether existing employment programmes might be re-focused to better effect. If, at a later stage, additional EU funding becomes available, Ireland will make the necessary applications and will use the resources to meet key economic and social objectives.

Pension Provisions

Simon Harris

Ceist:

270 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the situation facing some former university lecturers who retired far in advance of 2010 who have had their pension payments cut as against the guarantee issued by him in budget 2010 to public servants that any person taking retirement would have their pension and lump sum entitlements based on their pre-pay cut salary, his views on this dichotomous situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9495/12]

As the Deputy may know, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 introduced a pay cut with effect from 1 January 2010 for serving public servants. Section 3 of that Act provided that the pay cut did not affect pensions until a future date to be set by the Minister for Finance. That date was set as 29 February 2012 after which public service pensions coming into payment will be affected by the pay reduction.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010 provides that with effect from 1 January 2011 a former university lecturer or indeed any former public servant with a pension in payment or coming into payment on or before 29 February 2012 is subject to the Public Service Pension Reduction which applies on a progressive basis to public service pensions of over €12,000 per annum and is estimated to save €100 million in a full year.

In short, in a case such as the Deputy describes, where a public servant retired or retires before 29 February 2012 their pension was or is reduced, but was or is calculated on the pre-pay cut pay rate.

The PSPR is part of the budgetary targets contained in the joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support. Continued access to funding under the Programme is conditional upon the delivery of the budgetary adjustments agreed under the terms of the Programme and outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding.

Public Service Staff

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

271 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if all Government offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9191/12]

As part of its Reform Agenda, the Government is committed to reducing public service numbers to 282,500 by the end of 2015 with the aim of producing a more customer focused, leaner, more efficient, better integrated public service which delivers maximum value for money. Details of Public Service staff numbers and Government Offices are not held centrally on a county by county basis. The Deputy is advised to contact the relevant Ministers directly for such information. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform does not have any Offices in Co. Kerry.

Departmental Bodies

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

272 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number and names of the State bodies under the aegis of his Department which are subject to the revised code of practice for the governance of State Bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9261/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

273 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has received the annual report on corporate governance from all State bodies under the aegis of his Department which are subject to the revised code of practice for the governance of State bodies for 2010 as required under section 13.1 of the code, if not, if he will outline which State bodies have not done so and if having reviewed the reports he is satisfied that all State bodies are complying with the provisions of the code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9267/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 and 273 together.

In relation to my own Department the only state body under my aegis that is subject to the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies is An Post National Lottery Company.

An Post National Lottery Company will submit its annual report on corporate governance as part of its overall annual report for 2011 to me as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform no later than 31 December 2012. The latest completed report for 2010 was submitted to the Minister for Finance in 2011.

Departmental Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

274 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress towards implementation of the commitment in the programme for Government to amend the rules to ensure that no senior public servant including political appointees or Minister may work in the private sector in any area involving a potential conflict of interest with their former area of public employment, until at least two years have elapsed after they have left the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9289/12]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to "amend the rules to ensure that no senior public servant (including political appointees) or Minister can work in the private sector in any area involving a potential conflict of interest with their former area of public employment, until at least two years have elapsed after they have left public office”.

This commitment is being progressed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as part of its work to introduce a legislative framework for the regulation of lobbyists.

A consultation process is underway since shortly before Christmas 2011 in respect of the regulation of lobbying. The closing date for submissions is 29 February 2012. The main issues in respect of which information and views have been requested are based on 10 Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying developed and approved by all OECD countries in the form of a Recommendation by the OECD Council in February 2010. The issue of conflict of interest is included in this process.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

275 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress towards implementation of the commitment in the programme for Government to open up all appointments at principal officer level and above to external competition and the commitment that at least one-third of such appointments will be reserved for candidates from outside the civil service for a five year period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9291/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

276 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of appointments made at principal officer level or above since 5 March 2011; the number of such appointments of candidates from outside the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9292/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 275 and 276 together.

As part of the reform of the public service, the Government is committed to the introduction of new skills and talent across all Departments. In the Programme for Government we have said that appointments at Principal Officer level and above will be open to external competition.

Since the introduction of the moratorium on recruitment and promotion in March 2009 no general open recruitment campaigns at principal officer level and above have taken place for positions in the civil service. Some specialised recruitment has taken place where there is a clear and targeted identification of specific skills needs.

Decisions in respect of future recruitment campaigns will be taken in the context of the business needs of the relevant organisation, the moratorium on recruitment and promotion and any redeployment arrangements agreed for the civil and public service.

Since 5 March 2011 there have been 5 appointments at PO1 level to posts in the civil service. One appointee came from the private sector, two from the civil service and the other 2 from the wider public sector.

In relation to appointments above Principal Officer level, the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC) holds competitions for and advises Ministers/ Government, as appropriate, on appointments to civil service posts at Secretary General, Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary and equivalent levels. Since early 2007 the policy has been that open competitions are held for Assistant Secretary and Deputy Secretary and equivalent posts. More recently this policy has been extended to Secretary General posts. In the past TLAC did not make recommendations in relation to the filling of a small number of Secretary General posts including that of Secretary General in the Department of Finance. That post was recently advertised openly as was the Comptroller and Auditor General post.

Since 5 March, 2011 there have been 22 appointments made at Assistant Secretary level and upwards. Out of the 22 appointments 3 were from outside the civil service and were at Assistant Secretary level.

Members’ Allowances

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

277 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount paid to each qualifying party leader and each independent TD and Senator under section 1 of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Office) (Amendment) Act 2001 for the period of time between the commencement of the 31st Dáil and 24th Seanad in 2011 and 31 December 2011; the specific number of payments made to each qualifying party leader and to each independent TD and Senator under the terms of section 1 of the aforementioned Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9441/12]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

282 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a mechanism exists whereby an independent TD or Senator may voluntarily furnish to the Standards in Public Office Commission a detailed account of expenditure of funds received under the terms of the Party Leader’s Allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9472/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 282 together.

The Party Leader's Allowance is provided for in the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) Act, 1938, as amended by the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act, 2001. The allowance is paid to the parliamentary leader of a qualifying party in relation to expenses arising from the parliamentary activities, including research, of the party. Payments are made in respect of members of the party elected to Dáil Éireann and members elected/nominated to Seanad Éireann at the last preceding general election, or a subsequent bye-election or, in the case of Seanad Éireann, nominated to it after the last preceding general election. The conditions governing entitlement to payment of the allowance are set out in the Act. The primary restriction in the Act on the use of the allowance is that it may not be used in respect of election expenses.

Under the legislation, the amounts paid to the parliamentary leader of a qualifying party are calculated on the following basis:

TDs

Government Parties* €

First 10 members

71,520

47,680

11 members to 30

57,214

38,143

More than 30 members

28,616

19,077

Senators

First 5 members

46,766

Over 5 members

23,383

*The legislation provides that, in the case of a qualifying party forming part of the Government, the combined allowances due in respect of TDs of that party are reduced by one third.

The legislation also provides that payments may be made to a member of Dáil Éireann, who at the last preceding general election or at a subsequent bye-election was elected as a member other than as a member of a qualifying party. Such qualifying Independent TDs are entitled to an annual rate of €41,152. A similar provision in the Act provides for an annual payment of €23,383 for Independent Senators.

The total amounts of the allowances paid to 31 December 2011 and number of payments made in respect of each party and each Independent TD and Senator is at Appendix I. Payments specified in respect of qualifying members of Dáil Éireann are for the period 25 February 2011 to 31 December 2011. Having regard to members of Seanad Éireann, in the case of elected members, the allowance was payable from 26 April 2011. In the case of members nominated by the Taoiseach, the allowance was payable from 20 May 2011. The allowances are generally payable monthly in arrears into a bank account specified by the beneficiary of the allowance.

The 2001 Act gives a statutory oversight role in relation to the Party Leader's Allowance to the Standards in Public Office (SIPO) Commission. This requires each party leader to prepare a statement of expenditure for the allowance, to have it audited by an independent auditor and furnish it with the auditor's report to the Commission. Based on the accounts submitted, the Commission is required to make a report to the Minister in relation to the use of the Party Leader's Allowance and cause a copy of the report to be laid before the Oireachtas. Allowances paid to Independent members are not subject to these oversight provisions and there is no legislative provision under the 2001 Act whereby voluntary statements of expenditure can be submitted. Any changes to the matters prescribed in the Act require primary legislation.

As previously indicated, I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly in relation to the allowance.

Party Leader's Allowance — amounts paid to December 2011*

Party

Total €

Number of payments

Fine Gael

2,250,522.74

10

Fianna Fáil

1,462,769,98

10

Labour

1,462,570.11

10

Sinn Fein

893,432.68

10

Socialist Party

120,902.86

10

People Before Profit

120,902.86

10

Independent TDs

F McGrath

34,783.20

10

M Lowry

34,783.20

10

M O Sullivan

34,783.20

10

S Ross

34,783.20

10

Michael Wallace

0.00

Nil

Michael Healy Rae

34,783.20

10

Noel Grealish

34,783.20

10

Stephen Donnelly

34,783.20

6

Luke Flanagan

34,783.20

10

John Halligan

34,783.20

10

Mattie McGrath

34,783.20

8

Catherine Murphy

34,783.20

10

Thomas Pringle

34,783.20

10

Tom Fleming

34,293.30

9

Seamus Healy

34,783.20

10

Independent Senators

D Norris

15,913.41

8

F Quinn

15,913.40

8

R Mullen

15,913.40

8

John Crown

15,913.40

8

Sean Barrett

15,913.40

7

Martin McAleese

3,247.63

1

Fiach Mac Conghaill

14,394.35

6

Eamon Coghlan

14,394.35

7

Dr. Katherine Zappone

14,394.35

7

Mary Ann O Brien

14,394.35

7

Marie-Louise O’Donnell

14,394.35

7

Jillian van Turnhaut

14,394.35

7

*Members of Dáil Éireann — Total amount paid for the period 25 February 2011 to 31 December 2011.

Members of Seanad Éireann — Total amount paid for the period 26 April 2011 to 31 December 2011 in the case of elected members and from 20 May 2011 to 31 December in the case of members nominated by the Taoiseach.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

278 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual amount paid to each qualifying party under the Electoral Acts, and not section 1 of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act, 2001, for the period of time between the commencement of the 31st Dáil and 24th Seanad in 2011 and 31 December 2011; the specific number of such payments made to each qualifying party under the terms of the aforementioned Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9442/12]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

281 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the mechanism there is to ensure that the Exchequer funds received by a political party under the terms of the Party Leader’s Allowance that are accounted for under the heading expenditure applied to the purchase of support services for a parliamentary party from the party are not paid to a party in respect of support services which are already funded through Exchequer funds allocated to that political party under the terms of section 50 (c) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2011; if no such mechanism exists, his plans to review the use and existence of this category by political parties to vouch for spending under the terms of the Party Leader’s Allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9471/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 281 together.

Section 50(c)(ii)(I)(a) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001, provides for an annual sum of €4.948 million to be shared among qualified political parties. Payments are calculated on the basis of the share of first preference votes obtained by an individual qualified party at the previous general election.

Section 50(c)(i)(a) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 also provides for an annual payment in each period of 12 months to each qualified party of €126,973.81.

Details of payments made to qualifying parties during the period 9th March 2011, the date of commencement of the 31st Dáil, to 31st December 2011, are set out in Appendix I. Payments in respect of both the first preference and flat rate amounts are generally made quarterly in arrears. Consequently, details of payments made to qualifying parties during the period of commencement of the 31st Dáil to 31st December 2011, include payments made to qualifying parties in respect of a period of the 30th Dáil. Four payments were made in the specified period to each of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Fein. One payment was made to the Green Party.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has an important oversight role in relation to the Party Leader's Allowance paid to qualifying party leaders under the Party Leader's Allowance legislation. SIPO has a similar statutory oversight role in relation to Exchequer funding received by political parties under the Electoral Acts.

The Deputy will be aware that I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly in relation to the Party Leader's Allowance. It is open to the Deputy to bring forward any proposals she may wish on the nature and scope of the activities that may be funded by political parties under the terms of this legislation and activities that may be funded under the Electoral Acts, as part of the review of the allowance.

Payments made under section 50(c) of the Electoral Amendment) Act 2011 during the period 9th March 2011 to 31st December 2011

Qualifying Party

Details of payment

23/03/2011

04/04/2011

13/07/2011

03/10/2011

Grand Total

Fianna Fail

Sum of Flat rate

€19,398.78

€12,344.68

€31,743.45

€31,743.45

€95,230.36

Sum of 1ST Preference

€336,484.59

€101,196.90

€260,220.61

€260,220.61

€958,122.71

Fine Gael

Sum of Flat rate

€19,398.78

€12,344.68

€31,743.45

€31,743.45

€95,230.36

Sum of 1ST Preference

€221,213.48

€209,424.53

€538,520.21

€538,520.21

€1,507,678.43

Labour Party

Sum of Flat rate

€19,398.78

€12,344.68

€31,743.45

€31,743.45

€95,230.36

Sum of 1ST Preference

€81,977.96

€112,806.26

€290,073.23

€290,073.23

€774,930.68

Sinn Fein

Sum of Flat rate

€19,398.78

€12,344.68

€31,743.45

€31,743.45

€95,230.36

Sum of 1ST Preference

€56,206.76

€57,647.48

€148,236.37

€148,236.37

€410,326.98

The Green Party

Sum of Flat rate

€19,398.78

€19,398.78

Sum of 1ST Preference

€37,987.76

€37,987.76

Total Sum of Flat rate

€96,993.90

€49,378.72

€126,973.80

€126,973.80

€400,320.22

Total Sum of Ist Preference

€733,870.55

€481,075.17

€1,237,050.42

€1,237,050.42

€3,689,046.56

Question No. 279 withdrawn.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

280 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to reform the mechanism for party political funding provided for in the Electoral Acts and or the Oireachtas staff and resources provisions made available to parliamentary parties under the terms of section 9 of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Secretarial Facilities) Regulations 2008 (S.I. No. 36 of 2008) as distinct from his proposals to reform the system of funding known as the Party Leader’s Allowance which is administered subject to the provisions of section 1 of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act, 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9464/12]

It is understood that the Deputy is referring to funding for Members of the Oireachtas who are not representatives of the main political parties. This matter would be a subject for discussion between the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission and my Department in the context of the preparation of a Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Bill which requires to be enacted before the end of the current year.

Question No. 281 answered with Question No. 278.
Question No. 282 answered with Question No. 277.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Ceist:

283 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total photography costs for his Department since coming to office; the list of occasions for which photographers were booked over the past year; the breakdown of costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used; if there is a policy around the booking of photographers within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9668/12]

In the period in question there were no occasions for which photographers were booked. In relation to my Department there is no official policy set out around the booking of photographers. However as with all procurement, value for money would be a key factor in procuring photographic services should the need arise.

Ministerial Transport

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

284 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he uses a State car; the type of car that is used; how often he has used it since coming to office; the cost of the person employed to drive the car; the cost of their salary; the cost of their vehicle expenses; if the person employed as their driver was previously a State employee; if that person is also in receipt of a State pension; the total cost of the service to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9721/12]

The Deputy may be aware that since 1 May 2011 all Cabinet Minister with the exception of Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Law Reform now use their own cars on official business. All Ministers are now paid for official mileage up to 96,540 kilometres [or 60,000 miles] per annum. Ministers of State have used their own cars on official business since 1984.

The travel rates payable depend on the car engine size.

There is no payment for the cost of a car used on official business and there are no fixed payments towards changing a vehicle.

The travel rates are designed to compensate for the use of an individual's car on official business. The expenses that are covered by the motor travel formula can be broken into two categories; the overhead and the running costs. The overhead costs include depreciation, insurance costs, AA/RAC membership, driving licence and car tax. The running costs include the cost of maintenance, tyres, oil and petrol. This is the same basis used within the civil service and revenue.

There are two civilan drivers employed to drive my car. The salary of each driver is €631.75 per week and they work week on week off.

In relation to milage expenses I have claimed a total of €8,799 since taking office.

For information purposes I have included details of the current Ministerial travel rates effective as from 5th March 2009.

Ministerial Travel Rates

Effective from 5 March 2009

Rate per Miles

Official Motor Travel in a calendar year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity 1201cc to 1500cc

Engine Capacity 1501cc to 2000cc

Engine Capacity 2001cc and over

0-4,000 miles

62.94 cent

74.42 cent

95.05 cent

114.06 cent

4,001 miles and over

34.13 cent

38.00 cent

45.79 cent

54.95 cent

Rates per Kilometres

Official Motor Travel in a calendar year

Engine Capacity up to 1200cc

Engine Capacity 1201cc to 1500cc

Engine Capacity 1501cc to 2000cc

Engine Capacity 2001cc and over

Up to 6,437km

39.12 cent

46.25 cent

59.07 cent

70.89 cent

6,438km and over

21.22 cent

23.62 cent

28.46 cent

34.15 cent

Public Service Staff

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

285 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will explain the process for a person in the public sector hoping to transfer to another Government Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9784/12]

The Public Service Agreement 2010-14 (Croke Park Agreement) provides for agreed redeployment arrangements to apply in the Civil Service and in other parts of the public service. Under the Agreement, redeployment generally takes precedence over all other methods of filling a vacancy and supersedes any existing agreements on the deployment of staff. It sets out the agreed redeployment arrangements within the Health, Education, and Local Authority sectors; and within and between the Civil Service and Non-Commercial State Sponsored Bodies (NCSSB). It also provides that cross sectoral redeployments will follow the arrangements agreed for the NCSSBs.

The redeployment arrangements allow staff to be moved from activities which are of lesser priority, or which have been rationalised, reconfigured, or restructured, to areas of greater need. In general redeployment opportunities are to be sought in the first instance within each sector (e.g. health, education, local authority, etc.). The arrangements are not intended to be a staff mobility scheme and in practical terms represent a means of facilitating the targeted reduction in public service numbers in the period 2010 to 2014 while sustaining the ongoing delivery of services.

The Public Appointments Service (PAS) has put in place a system of Resource Panels of Civil Service and State Agency staff to support the redeployment processes in those sectors agreed under the Croke Park Agreement. It is a matter for the employer to identify the number and grades of posts to be redeployed in the first instance and to upload the posts onto the PAS panels. Posts to be filled by redeployment are offered in the first instance to the relevant panel or panels.

Where staff are not available for redeployment in a particular location, the post, if approved for filling by my Department, may be offered to staff who had already indicated an interest in transferring there, whether directly to the Department concerned or through the Central Applications Facility (CAF), which was set up to facilitate the implementation of the Decentralisation Programme. However, the possibilities to facilitate requests for such transfers are now more limited due to ongoing reductions in public service numbers, the necessity for redeployment to take precedence and the cancellation of the decentralisation programme.

The Senior Public Service (SPS) provides mobility opportunities for Assistant Secretaries to move to posts at equivalent level within the civil service. As the SPS is extended to the wider public service, mobility will be extended on an incremental basis.

Departmental Agencies

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

286 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide the number of retired persons serving on State boards and commissions; and the amount it is costing the State. [10361/12]

In response to the Deputy's question details in relation to the number of retired persons serving on State Boards or commissions under the aegis of my Department are as follows:

An Post National Lottery have two retirees sitting on their board. The total annual fees for these two members is €25,000.

The Public Appointments Service have three retirees sitting on their board. The total annual fees for these three members is €27,360.

Company Law

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

287 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress made towards the implementation of the commitment in the programme for Government to enact legislation to provide for binding code of practice for corporate governance, which will be obligatory for companies wishing to be listed on Irish Stock Exchange; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9290/12]

Any company that wishes to list on the Irish Stock Exchange's main market must implement the Corporate Governance Code.

While the legal obligation to comply with the Code only applies to companies listed on the main market, the Irish Stock Exchange's own Listing Rules require companies on the secondary market to report on how they have applied the principles of the Code or, where they have not applied those principles, to explain why.

The Corporate Governance Code is subject to regular review and updating. It was last reviewed in 2010 and new principles on gender diversity on boards are expected to be incorporated this year. At the same time, the European Commission is examining the need for EU wide measures and this may yield proposals later this year. Clearly, if these proposals are for legislation, we will be implementing them in Irish law.

Meanwhile, work is progressing on the Companies Bill, which will consolidate and reform the existing canon of company law. One novel feature of the Bill is that it will bring together into one statutory provision all the existing fiduciary duties of directors, to make them more accessible and comprehensible to all.

County Enterprise Boards

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

288 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the location at which the local enterprise office in County Meath will be located; if there will be multiple offices in the county or one central office; if only one central, will there be outreach days or events in other parts of the county so an awareness is built about the new office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9317/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the recently launched Action Plan for Jobs, I propose to establish a new "one-stop-shop" small and micro-enterprise support structure. These "One Stop Shops" will be called "Local Enterprise Offices" and will build on the significant work done by the CEBs to date. The new structure will be achieved through the dissolution of the existing CEBs and the creation of a new Micro Enterprise and Small Business Unit within Enterprise Ireland that will work with the Local Authorities to establish a Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in each Local Authority.

In conjunction with the dissolution of the CEB legal structure, Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities will be tasked with the practicalities of setting-up and rolling-out a LEO structure. In this regard there is clearly a lot of detailed developmental work to be done over the coming months to effect these changes, and to put appropriate new structures in place.

Job Creation

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

289 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consult with youth organisations and the representative body for the youth sector, the National Youth Council of Ireland, to discuss actions to address youth unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9485/12]

The Government published its Action Plan for Jobs earlier this month. The objective of the Action Plan for Jobs is to transform the operating environment for business in order to support enterprise growth and enable job creation. The Government will achieve this objective by systematically removing obstacles to competitiveness, promoting innovation and trade, supporting new and existing businesses to develop and expand, and by deepening the impact of foreign direct investment in Ireland. The Government has also identified a number of key sectors where Ireland can gain competitive advantage in global markets and benefit from employment growth. The Actions which we take through this plan are expected to reform Government and the wider economy in order to make it easier for businesses to establish and thrive, which will, in itself, result in job creation potential across all sectors and for all cohorts of Irish society, including young people.

Policy responsibility for matters including job seeker supports and activation, and training and education, rest respectively with my colleagues, the Minister for Social Protection, Ms. Joan Burton, T.D. and the Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Ruairi Quinn, T.D. The Government will shortly be launching a new programme — Pathways to Work — to help ensure that each unemployed person is assessed and offered opportunities for training to learn new skills and improve their employment prospects.

Research Funding

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

290 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has considered the proposal, by a person (details supplied) of the European Science Foundation, that Ireland establish a European institute of mathematics and innovation to create a new European infrastructure focused on mathematics for innovation following recommendations of a Forward Look managed by the European Science Foundation in collaboration with the European Mathematical Society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9511/12]

One of the recommendations arising from the European Science Foundation "Forward Look, Mathematics and Industry" publication which I launched in October 2011, was that EU and National funding agencies should coordinate clusters of excellence in industrial mathematics to create a European Institute of Mathematics for Innovation (EIMI).

The European Institute, given the complexity with so many groups involved, would be primarily a virtual institute bringing together the wide variety of mathematical expertise across Europe and act as a single point for industry, collaboration and education.

Ireland would welcome the opportunity to be part of the EIMI initiative given that, primarily through efforts supported by Science Foundation Ireland and the Higher Education Authority, we have worked hard to develop several groups of scale and top-class quality working in the area of industrial mathematics and computation for industry. Examples of these groups are:

MACSI — the Mathematical Applications Consortium for Science and Industry at the University of Limerick,

ICHEC — Irish Centre for High-End Computing at NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin;

The 4C group (the Cork Constraint Computation Centre) at UCC; and

The Hamilton Institute at NUI Maynooth.

Each of these groups has already an excellent track record of success in working with multiple industry partners. Now as part of the evolution of our national research effort and for further enterprise development needs SFI are looking at ways to consolidate our own mathematics groups in this area to fully realise the potential for Irish industry and beyond.

Ireland must, if we are to reach our full potential and compete on a global stage, ensure that we foster the development of mathematicians and bring them together with industry to generate progress and innovation. Working in conjunction with a European Institute of Mathematics and Innovation is very much aligned with our policy thinking.

Ensuring enhanced mathematical capacity at national level is also underpinned by policy initiatives being delivered through the Department of Education and Skills such as the establishment of the National Centre of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching and Learning, based in the University of Limerick; the introduction of curricula changes such as Project Maths; and the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020, "Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life".

County Enterprise Boards

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

291 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the role of local authority members in relation to the establishment and oversight of the new local enterprise offices as proposed in the Action Plan for Jobs; in view of the fact that the county enterprise boards had local authority members alongside business people and local authority executive members on the boards will there be a similar role envisaged in the establishment of LEOs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9531/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the recently launched Action Plan for Jobs, I propose to establish a new "one-stop-shop" small and micro-enterprise support structure. These "One Stop Shops" will be called "Local Enterprise Offices" and will build on the significant work done by the CEBs to date. The new structure will be achieved through the dissolution of the existing CEBs and the creation of a new Micro Enterprise and Small Business Unit within Enterprise Ireland that will work with the Local Authorities to establish a Local Enterprise Office in each Local Authority.

With the dissolution of the CEBs as thirty-five individual legal entities the statutory, and corporate governance role, carried out to date by existing CEB Board members will cease to be required. However there is clearly a lot of detailed developmental work to be done over the coming months to effect these changes, and to put appropriate new structures in place, and I look forward to a positive engagement with all relevant Parties, including existing CEB Board members, who can assist and advise on the roll-out of the new structure.

Competition Authority

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

292 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will ask the Competition Authority under section 30(2) of the Competition Act 2002 to carry out a market study or analysis of the cement, concrete and aggregates industry considering the vast amount of local authority money spent on those products including cement, concrete, asphalt, tarmac, bitumen, sand, gravel and so on; the recent findings by the Office of Fair Trading in the UK; the fact that proceedings have been initiated by the European Commission against the main operators in the industry in ten EU countries including a participant in the Irish market and two players in the Irish market who have previously been fined on a number of occasions for anti-competitive practices in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9773/12]

I am aware that the Competition Authority, as the statutory independent body responsible for enforcing competition law in the State, has received information relating to alleged anti-competitive behaviour in the concrete industry. Section 29(3) of the Competition Act 2002 provides that the Authority is independent in the performance of its functions. Under section 30(1)(b) of that Act, the Competition Authority is responsible for investigating breaches of the Act. It is the Authority’s policy not to comment on investigations. As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the Authority, I have no direct function in the matter.

In light of this, I do not believe that it is appropriate to comment further.

Proposed Legislation

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

293 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011. [9997/12]

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011 was published on 22 December 2011. The Bill has completed Second Stage in the Dáil and is currently awaiting Committee Stage.

The main purpose of the Bill is to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to reform the Joint Labour Committee system. The reform of the legal framework for our statutory wage setting mechanisms is aimed at increasing employers' ability to retain and employ workers, particularly in sectors hard hit by the prevailing economic circumstances, such as the hospitality sector, and to facilitate necessary cross-sector adjustment.

In addition, the Bill provides for the more comprehensive measures required to strengthen the legal framework for the Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreement sectoral wage setting mechanisms, under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004, in the light of deficiencies in the original legislation identified in the July 2011 High Court judgment in the John Grace Fried Chicken case.

The fact that the process of making EROs has been found by the High Court to be unconstitutional, together with the identified lack of adequate Oireachtas scrutiny of this process, only underscores some of the main features of the recommendations for reform that were put forward by the Independent Review Report on these statutory wage setting mechanisms — the Duffy/ Walsh report. The commissioning of the independent review of the ERO and REA systems was one of the undertakings given by the last Government in the context of the EU and IMF-supported financial assistance programme for Ireland.

When enacted, this Bill, will implement the programme of reforms to the JLC/REA systems agreed by Government in July 2011. It will radically overhaul the system so as to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions. It will also reinstate a robust system of protection for workers in these sectors in the aftermath of the High Court ruling in the John Grace Fried Chicken case.

The principal measures in the legislation include:

JLCs will have the power to set a basic adult rate and two additional higher rates, based on length of service in the sector or enterprise concerned as well as the standards and skills recognised for the sector concerned.

JLCs will no longer set Sunday premium rates. In order to recognise the special status of Sunday working a statutory Code of Practice will be prepared by the LRC following submissions from employers and trade unions. This Code will provide guidance to both parties in the sectors covering EROs on the compensatory arrangements, including such additional amounts as are reasonable, for Sunday working and on the procedure to apply in the event of disputes concerning the varying entitlements to Sunday working.

Companies will be able to derogate from EROs and REAs in cases of financial difficulty. For this to occur, the Labour Court must satisfy itself that specified criteria have been met. Such derogation will be granted, for a limited period, in cases of proven economic difficulty, following consultation with the employees.

In setting rates, JLCs will have to take into account a series of economic and industrial relations factors.

The burden of compliance and record-keeping requirements for employers in these sectors will be reduced.

Providing for Ministerial involvement in the supervision of JLCs and in the making of orders to vary or revoke EROs.

Providing for use of civil remedies rather than an exclusive reliance on criminal sanctions.

The constitutionality of EROs and REAs will be restored through inclusion of robust principles and policies.

I am also proceeding with a series of complementary reforms to the JLC/REA systems which can be implemented without the need for legislative change, including:

Reducing the number of JLCs from 13 to 6;

Standardising benefits such as overtime through a nationally agreed protocol or Code of Practice, through the normal process of consultation with the employers and trade union interests.

From the beginning of this process I have been determined to strike a balance between protecting vulnerable workers and providing reforms that would make the systems more competitive and more flexible so as to allow the creation of jobs in these sectors.

From an employer's perspective, the overall effect of these reforms will be to substantially reduce the burden of record-keeping and compliance. This Bill will make the long-established minimum wage setting mechanisms fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and will eliminate rigidities that are considered to have had a negative impact on competitiveness and jobs in the affected sector.

Departmental Funding

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Ceist:

294 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if, under sections 39 and 43 of the Competition Act 2002, he will increase the funding of the Competition Authority in view of the recent debate in Dáil Éireann whereby it emerged that due to lack of funding, the Competition Authority’s ability to carry out its statutory and other functions is compromised; his views on the matter considering the fact that according to a previous head of the Competition Authority, anti-competitive practices are costing the economy 2% to 3% of GDP annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9184/12]

Competition policy in a small open economy is vital for all sectors of the economy but particularly so in the locally traded sector, including services, since it is the locally traded sector that determines Ireland's competitiveness. Studies have shown the link between competition and productivity growth with evidence coming from the comparison of the economic performance of countries with competitive as opposed to restricted market systems.

Ensuring competition within Ireland's domestic economy is, therefore, vital to improving our overall competitiveness. If sheltered elements of the locally traded sector are not exposed to greater competition, services inflation will continue to outpace the Eurozone average and the cost competitiveness of Irish firms will worsen.

My Department is currently undertaking a review of the resources of the Competition Authority. I expect this review to be completed by the end of March 2012. This review will have to take account of Government policy to reduce the size and cost of the public sector through the Employment Control Framework. Until that review has been finalised, I am not in a position to comment further in the matter.

Simon Harris

Ceist:

295 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline the range of business start-up grants offered by him for those persons seeking support who have not been claiming jobseeker’s allowance or benefit payments; the way a person may apply for these schemes; the average time it takes to process new applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9245/12]

State assistance for micro and small businesses and services in Ireland is currently delivered principally by the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland (EI), operating as agencies under the aegis of my Department. Enquiries and applications for the range of financial and non-financial supports available are made direct to the relevant Agency and each application is dealt with on an individual basis in line with the identified business need and in the context of the Agency's eligibility criteria. Further information and contact details for each of the CEBs can be obtained through their national websitewww.enterpriseboards.ie. Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential StartUp (HPSU) Team is located at The Plaza, Eastpoint Business Park, Dublin 3. Early Stage Start-Up enquiries to EI should be directed to Phone No. 01 7272885, Fax No: 01 7272020 or e-mail: client.service@enterprise-ireland.com; Website: www.enterprise-ireland.com.

In addition, I have been reviewing the structure of enterprise supports in recent months and, in particular, the role of the CEBs. As the Deputy will be aware, under the Action Plan for Jobs it is proposed that a new "one-stop-shop" micro enterprise support structure be established through the dissolution of the existing CEB structures and the creation of a new Micro Enterprise and Small Business Unit in EI. EI will work with the Local Authorities to establish a new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). The LEOs will combine the enterprise support service of the previous CEBs and the business support work of the Business Support Units in the Local Authorities, offering an enhanced service because of their seamless access to both EI expertise and the broader business services of the Local Authority.

The intention is that the new LEOs will act as a focal point for a series of important new policy initiatives aimed at small businesses. The Deputy may wish to access the full details of the Action Plan for Jobs on my Department's websitewww.djei.ie. With regard to the crucial micro and small business sectors — from which many of our new jobs will come — my objective is to ensure that there is a continued clear focus of Government policy and supports.

State Bodies

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

296 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number and names of the State bodies under the aegis of his Department which are subject to the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9266/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

297 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has received the annual report on corporate governance from all State bodies under the aegis of his Department which are subject to the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies for 2010 as required under section 13.1 of the code, if not, if he will outline which State bodies have not done so and if having reviewed the reports he is satisfied that all State bodies are complying with the provisions of the code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9272/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

There are 13 State Bodies (1 of which comprises the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards) under the aegis of my Department which are subject to the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. These are:

1. Forfás,

2. Enterprise Ireland,

3. National Standards Authority of Ireland,

4. 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs),

5. Science Foundation Ireland,

6. IDA Ireland,

7. Shannon Development,

8. Competition Authority,

9. National Consumer Agency,

10. Irish Accounting and Auditing Standards Authority,

11. Personal Injuries Assessment Board,

12. Labour Relation Commission, and

13. Health and Safety Authority.

I have received annual reports under Section 13.1 of the Code for 2010 for all these State Bodies, with the exception of the following CEBs: South Cork, South Dublin, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Waterford City, and Waterford County, whose reports are currently being finalised. In relation to all other reports received to date, I am assured that they are in compliance with the provisions of the Code.

Pricing Orders

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

298 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will support the re-introduction of a ban on below cost selling of alcohol products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9282/12]

Since the repeal of the Restrictive Practices legislation, no statutory basis exists for me, as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, to make a minimum pricing order.

I am aware of concerns raised about the high level of consumption of alcohol and the consequential detrimental effects caused to individuals and to society in general. In that regard, I note the recent publication of the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy. Government will consider, in due course, how best to respond to that report.

Proposed Legislation

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

299 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he plans to publish the competition and consumer Bill; the plans he has for consultation with stakeholders on the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9283/12]

I intend publishing the Consumer and Competition Bill later this year. I look forward to the active and constructive engagement of Members of this House during its consideration of the Bill.

Wide-ranging public consultations have already taken place on most of the constituent parts of the proposed Bill. A public consultation on possible changes to the Competition Act 2002 was previously undertaken while the Advisory Group on Media Mergers, whose recommendations will form part of the Bill, also engaged in a consultation process before they submitted their report. Finally, two separate public consultations were undertaken by my Department in respect of the proposed code of practice for the grocery goods sector: the Bill will include enabling provisions for such a code of practice.

Consumer Protection

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

300 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will ensure that consumer protection actions and activities are not watered down as a result of the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency in view of his decision to appoint the chair of the Competition Authority as the chairperson-designate of the new merged agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9284/12]

I do not accept the Deputy's concerns that the consumer protection actions and activities will be watered down as a result of the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. The decision to merge the two bodies is aimed at ensuring improved co-ordination of these two policy areas. Enforcing both competition and consumer law will give the newly merged body synergies and efficiencies in carrying out its functions. This will have benefits for consumers due to the existence of a stronger and more co-ordinated body dealing with consumer and competition issues.

On the issue of the appointment of the Chairperson of the Competition Authority, who will also act as the Chairperson-designate of the proposed new merged agency, the role of the Chairperson-designate is focussed on helping shape the administrative structure of the merged body, leading its development in the early years thus providing valuable continuity during the transitional period to the formal establishment and functioning of the body. In that context I am happy to note that the two bodies are working closely together under the Chairperson-designate in advance of the formal merger to ensure that there is a seamless transition to the new merged body when it is formally established.

Proposed Legislation

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

301 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he plans to publish legislation to provide for the transposition of the Consumer Rights Directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9285/12]

Member States are required to adopt legislative measures giving effect to the Consumer Rights Directive by 13 December 2013 and to apply those measures by 13 June 2014.

As I indicated on the launch of the report of the Sales Law Review Group on 18 October 2011, I have decided to use the opportunity presented by the requirement to transpose the Directive to update and consolidate the primary and secondary legislation relating to consumer contracts for which my Department has responsibility. A comprehensive Consumer Rights Act of this kind will bring about substantial improvements for consumers, will create clearer rules for businesses, and will be simpler to understand for both consumers and businesses.

The preparation of consolidated primary legislation along these lines will be more demanding and time-consuming than the implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive on a stand-alone basis by means of secondary legislation. My aim is to have the general scheme of such a Bill ready by early 2013. I intend to implement the provisions of Articles 19 and 22 of the Directive on payment charges and additional charges in 2012, a year ahead of the deadline for the adoption of legislative measures to give effect to the Directive.

Consumer Protection

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

302 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the ban on credit and debit card surcharges required under the Consumer Credit Directive, the date on which he plans to commence section 48 and 49 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9286/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

303 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has been in contact with Minister Hoban in the British Government who indicated he wished to work with the Irish Government with a view to implementing a ban on credit and debit card surcharges by the end of 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9287/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 302 and 303 together.

I am assuming that the Deputy's question refers to the provision of fees for the use of means of payment at Article 19 of the recently adopted Consumer Rights Directive. This provides that:

Member States shall prohibit traders from charging consumers, in respect of the use of a given means of payment, fees that exceed the cost borne by the trader for the use of such means.

Article 19 does not ban credit or debit card surcharges, but provides instead that such charges shall not exceed the cost to the trader of the means of payment in question. As such, it differs materially from section 48 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 which contains a prohibition on surcharges where one method of payment is chosen in preference to another. Sections 48 and 49 of the Act clearly go beyond the provisions of Article 19 of the Consumer Rights Directive and, as the Directive is a maximum harmonisation instrument, it is not open to Member States to exceed its provisions. The commencement of sections 48 and 49 of the Consumer Protection Act is therefore not an option available to me in the context of the implementation of the Directive.

As I have previously indicated, it is my intention to implement the provisions of Articles 19 and 22 of the Consumer Rights Directive on payment charges and additional charges in 2012, a year ahead of the deadline of December 2013 set by the Directive.

I have not been in contact with the Financial Secretary to the UK Treasury, Mark Hoban M.P., or with any other Minister in the UK Government, regarding the implementation of Article 19 of the Consumer Rights Directive. There have been contacts at official level about the implementation of the Directive. While co-operation is advantageous in these matters, particularly between Member States with close economic and social ties, all Member States must obviously give full effect to the provisions of European Union legislation.

Copyright Law

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

304 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to address the concerns that have been expressed regarding the proposed statutory instrument on copyright law. [9323/12]

The proposed Statutory Instrument is intended to ensure the return to the legal position that was considered to pertain, in relation to injunctions against intermediaries, prior to a High Court judgment in October 2010. This judgment also stated that Ireland was not in compliance with its obligations under EU law.

Several concerns were expressed after the judgment by interested parties. Accordingly a public consultation was held on the wording of the proposed Statutory Instrument. This consultation was widely publicised at the time and more than 50 submissions were received. I am extremely grateful to those interested parties, groups and individuals who responded. Their submissions have proved very valuable in providing a comprehensive understanding of the differing views on the many issues involved. There was also liaison with the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The submissions were carefully considered and legal opinion contained therein was referred to the Office of the Attorney General. I also met with several organisations with specific interests. The matter was debated in the Dáil on 31st January 2012. I made it clear then that any injunction under the proposed amendment of the Copyright Act 2000 would have to be considered in the context of the pronouncements of the Court of Justice of the European Union in judgments connected with this area.

These judgments (particularly Sabam v Scarlet and Sabam v Netlog) held that the protection of the fundamental right to intellectual property must be balanced against the protection of the fundamental rights of others who would be affected by the granting of an injunction. These rights include the right to conduct a business, to privacy, to freedom to receive and impart information. In addition, any measures proposed should not be unnecessarily complicated or costly.

Since the Lisbon Treaty, any legislation upholding EU law is bound by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

As the nature of injunctions which may be sought is infinitely varied, I consider that the best protection for balancing all the rights involved will be obtained by a careful scrutiny on a case-by-case basis of the competing interests by means of judicial process.

EU Funding

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

305 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if any microfinance intermediary has applied to administer the European progress microfinance facility here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9328/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

306 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if any Irish company may access the European progress microfinance facility through a different country’s intermediary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9329/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

307 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made on the microfinance start up fund; the date on which it will be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9330/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305 to 307, inclusive, together.

The European Progress Microfinance Facility is a European Investment Fund (EIF) initiative to support entrepreneurship and employment through microfinance activities. It was established by the EU Commission in 2010.

It does not directly provide microfinance to either Member States' Governments or entrepreneurs. Instead, following a rigorous due diligence process, selected microfinance providers across the EU who fulfil the requirements are accredited by the EIF and can avail of supports designed to increase lending, into the Microenterprise sector.

Specifically, capped guarantees may be provided to eligible intermediaries partially covering their portfolios of micro-loans, or loan facilities may be availed of to increase lending to micro-enterprises. The guarantees provided are intended to mitigate bad debts incurred in the lending operations. Microfinance providers may apply for the guarantee, or for the loan facility, but may not avail of both. Eligible intermediaries are any public and private institutions that provide microfinance loans and/or guarantees to individuals, or micro-enterprises established in the EU Member States. To apply to become an intermediary, interested institutions must submit a formal application for Progress Microfinance micro-credit guarantee directly to the EIF. Each agreement is negotiated individually and is subject to approval by the European Commission, following due diligence.

Any EU microfinance institution may apply to the EIF under this Facility and State involvement is not a prerequisite. Information on the EU Progress Microfinance Facility is available on the EIF website.

I understand that an existing intermediary in Ireland, First Step, has availed of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme guarantee scheme under the EIF, which preceded the EU Progress facility.

I am currently finalising the delivery structures for a State-backed Microfinance Loan Fund to provide loans to the microenterprise sector. This Fund is designed to stimulate lending to sustainable microenterprises and is targeted at start-up, newly established, or growing micro enterprises across all industry sectors, employing not more than 10 people. It will provide loans of up to €25,000 for commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks.

The Government recently approved the allocation of €10 million as seed capital for the Fund. It is anticipated that the Fund will supplement this seed capital by leveraging further funding from private sources, including the banks.

My Department has had discussions with the EIF to explore the possibilities of access to the Progress Microfinance Facility for the Fund when established. Following establishment of the Microfinance lending facility, application will be made for the EIF guarantee facility. A rigorous due diligence process is required to secure EIF accreditation. Following EIF approval of the guarantee facility, and subject to completion of all administrative and corporate governance requirements, it is anticipated that the Loan Fund will become operational by mid-year.

Job Creation

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

308 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the growth projections for the domestic economy that underpins his jobs action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9338/12]

The objective of the Action Plan for Jobs is to transform the operating environment for business in order to support enterprise growth and enable job creation. The Government will achieve this objective by systematically removing obstacles to competitiveness, promoting innovation and trade, supporting new and existing businesses to develop and expand, and by deepening the impact of foreign direct investment in Ireland. The Government has also identified a number of key sectors where Ireland can gain competitive advantage in global markets and benefit from employment growth.

Delivery of the Action Plan is not predicated on domestic growth projections. Rather, by adopting the right policy decisions, we will influence growth in the economy through increased trade, productivity, innovation and competitiveness.

Downward pressure on business costs, improving access to finance for business, maximising procurement opportunities for SMEs and targeted infrastructural investment are just some examples of actions which will specifically boost growth in the domestic economy. Increased export activity — which is a key objective of the Action Plan — will also promote economic growth and will support employment in both exporting companies and in their domestic sub-supply enterprises.

In addition, the individual sectors which have been targeted for attention all hold potential for high growth globally, as outlined in the relevant sections of the Action Plan. Maximising the emerging opportunities in these sectors will have a positive effect on employment in the domestic economy, including in areas such as Tourism, Agri-food production, Retail and Wholesale and Construction.

Criminal Prosecutions

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

309 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of criminal cases on an annual basis that have been brought forward to the courts by the Office of Corporate Enforcement whether with or without the gardaí, since it was established in 2001; if he will indicate on an annual basis the number of the cases that have resulted in convictions; the broad reason for each; the length of time the current director has been in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9415/12]

The Director of Corporate Enforcement is independent in carrying out his statutory functions and is subject to strict confidentiality conditions in relation to those functions. The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement publishes an Annual Report in relation to the work of the Office including statistics on the number of civil and criminal enforcement cases brought forward by the Director. Those Reports are available atwww.odce.ie. The current Director has been in place since the establishment of the Office on 28 November 2001.

Business Regulation

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

310 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is taking any initiatives to facilitate and encourage the development of the co-operative business model here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9418/12]

Last year, I secured the agreement of Government to draft legislation to ease the regulatory burden on co-operative societies and to make it easier to start up and run a co-operative as an alternative form of enterprise organisation. I hope to publish this Draft Bill during 2012. I expect that the amendments I am proposing will make the co-operative model more attractive for those wishing to use it.

My responsibility lies in the legislative provision for co-operatives in general. Any initiatives to facilitate or promote the development of co-operatives in particular sectors, for example child care, education or housing, would be a matter for my colleagues in the respective Government Departments.

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

311 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 483 of 14 February 2012, if he accepts that the lack of fee regulation for receivers and liquidators appointed to companies is to the detriment of unsecured creditors and other creditors further down the preferential chain; if he will consider introducing legislation to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9634/12]

The Companies Acts contain provisions governing the activities of receivers and liquidators, including provisions in relation to fees. In a members voluntary winding up, the members in general meeting, appoint the liquidator and fix his or her remuneration. If the company does not fix the liquidator's remuneration, it may be fixed by the High Court. In a creditors' voluntary winding up, the committee of inspection, or if there is no such committee, the creditors, fix the remuneration to be paid to the liquidator. Within 28 days after the remuneration has been fixed by the committee of inspection or by the creditors, any creditor or contributory who alleges that such remuneration is excessive may apply to the Court to fix the remuneration to be paid to the liquidator.

In addition, in the case of a court ordered liquidation, the Rules of the Superior Court contain provisions in relation to liquidator fees. Where a receiver is appointed on foot of a debenture, his or her remuneration will generally be agreed by the debenture holder. However the Court may, on application to it, fix the amount to be paid by way of remuneration to a person appointed as receiver notwithstanding that the remuneration has already been fixed. The remuneration of a liquidator or receiver appointed by the Court is a matter for Court. In light of the legislative provisions already in place I have no plans for further legislation in this matter.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Ceist:

312 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total photography costs for his Department since coming to office; the list of occasions for which photographers were booked over the past year; the breakdown of costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used; if there is a policy around the booking of photographers within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9666/12]

I can advise the Deputy that the total cost of photography incurred by my Department since coming into office is €2,031. The list of occasions for which photographers were booked and the breakdown of invoiced costs to date associated with each occasion that a photographer was used are as follows:

Small Business Advisory Group Launch

€409

Irish Ambassadors for Female Entrepreneurship

€223

One Millionth Document Filed Online at the Companies Registration Office

€484

Ministerial image shot for Repeat use

€245

Launch of the Final Report of the Sales Law Review Group

€386

Launch of the Report of “The Voice of Small Business”

€284

The Department uses external photographers sparingly and selects from a number of photographic agencies on file. In addition and with a view to keeping costs to a minimum, the Department uses its own facilities and staff to take photographs in-house.

Trade Data

Seán Kenny

Ceist:

313 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the balance of trade between the Republic of Ireland and its top 40 trading countries for 2010 and 2011 in order of financial importance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9693/12]

Trade data for the full year 2011 is not yet available from the Central Statistics Office. The requested data in respect of 2010 is set out in the table with the top 40 countries ranked in order of our total trade (exports plus imports) and showing the relevant surplus (or deficit) in each case.

For the calendar year 2010, Ireland's total exports (Merchandise and Services) were €163.03bn with total imports of €126.70bn, giving an overall surplus of €36.33bn, the highest annual figure on record.

Country

Services Exports 2010(€m)

Total Exports 2010(€m)

Merchandise Imports 2010(€m)

Total Imports 2010(€m)

Total Trade (Merchandise and Services) 2010(€m)

Total Trade Balance 2010 (€m)

1

USA

20,761

5,234

25,995

6,427

24,644

31,071

57,066

-5,076

2

Great Britain and NI

13,752

14,395

28,147

14,813

10,466

25,279

53,426

2,868

3

Germany

6,354

7,760

14,114

3,493

3,482

6,975

21,089

7,139

4

Netherlands

3,091

3,422

6,513

2,226

10,243

12,469

18,982

-5,955

5

Belgium

13,531

1,342

14,873

1,084

1,123

2,207

17,080

12,667

6

France

4,482

5,109

9,591

1,842

3,364

5,206

14,797

4,386

7

Italy

2,709

4,204

6,913

780

2,335

3,115

10,028

3,798

8

Spain

3,359

2,350

5,709

666

1,834

2,500

8,209

3,209

9

Switzerland

3,557

1,752

5,309

847

1,575

2,422

7,731

2,888

10

Luxembourg

76

1,081

1,157

28

5,818

5,846

7,003

-4,689

11

China

1,672

1,790

3,462

2,517

302

2,819

6,280

643

12

Japan

1,754

1,323

3,077

798

615

1,413

4,490

1,664

13

Bermuda

0

960

960

0

3,131

3,131

4,092

-2,171

14

Norway

419

738

1,157

1,291

220

1,511

2,668

-354

15

Sweden

672

1,252

1,924

341

369

710

2,634

1,214

16

Denmark

413

805

1,218

779

301

1,080

2,297

138

17

Australia

775

941

1,716

119

405

524

2,240

1,192

18

Russia

373

1,300

1,673

160

196

356

2,029

1,317

19

Poland

592

702

1,294

320

275

595

1,889

699

20

Canada

571

555

1,126

242

494

736

1,861

390

21

Singapore

550

579

1,129

508

148

656

1,785

473

22

Portugal

425

570

995

99

452

551

1,546

444

23

India

162

788

950

301

113

414

1,364

536

24

Finland

291

683

974

190

176

366

1,340

608

25

Hong Kong

819

140

959

235

112

347

1,306

613

26

Austria

312

497

809

165

315

480

1,289

328

27

South Africa

283

654

937

87

209

296

1,233

642

28

Turkey

430

374

804

256

156

412

1,216

392

29

UAE

270

514

784

110

179

289

1,072

495

30

Czech Republic

436

303

739

194

142

336

1,074

403

31

Hungary

162

490

652

202

90

292

944

360

32

*Malaysia

693

*

*

205

*

*

*898

*488

33

South Korea

357

210

567

244

40

284

851

282

34

Mexico

466

64

530

231

27

258

789

272

35

Saudi Arabia

499

235

734

11

42

53

787

681

36

Israel

251

360

611

71

96

167

778

444

37

Taiwan

190

323

513

163

64

227

740

286

38

Greece

307

203

510

29

128

157

667

352

39

Brazil

260

180

440

166

49

215

655

224

40

*Cayman Islands

1

627

628

0

*

*

*628

*628

*Country-specific Services trade data in respect of some countries is suppressed on confidentiality grounds by the CSO and these are marked with an *. Relevant totals in those cases are, accordingly, incomplete.

Ministerial Transport

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

314 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he uses a State car; the type of car that is used; how often he has used it since coming to office; the cost of the person employed to drive the car; the cost of their salary; the cost of their vehicle expenses; if the person employed as their driver was previously a State employee; if that person is also in receipt of a State pension; the total cost of the service to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9719/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I do not have the use of a State car but instead I use my private car for official business. This arrangement is in accordance with the Government Decision of the 15th March 2011 which in effect extended to Cabinet Ministers the arrangements which have been in place for Ministers of State with regard to the use of private cars in place of State cars.

Under this Government Decision, I may claim mileage expenses in accordance with rates and regulations set down by the Department of Finance. The mileage rates payable include capital costs as well as depreciation, comprehensive insurance (Class 1), maintenance and petrol. Please see below details of mileage expenses which I have received to date:

Details of mileage expenses paid to Minister Bruton 1st May 2011 to 17th February 2012

Date

Purpose of Expenditure

Amount

May 2011 to Feb 2012

Mileage expenses in respect of use of private car for official business

€5,446.73

This arrangement with regard to the use of my private car for official business also makes provision for the employment of two civilian drivers. The salary for a Civilian Driver is €631.75 per week.

Civilian drivers may claim subsistence on the same basis as civil servants with the exception of certain drivers who live more than 24.14kms or more from the G.P.O. Details of subsistence expenses paid to the Civilian drivers are set out below:

Details of subsistence expenses paid to Civilian drivers (Minister Bruton): 1st May 2011 to 17th February 2012.

Driver

Purpose of Expenditure

Amount

Driver 1

Subsistence

€224.86

Driver 2

Subsistence

€398.47

Both of my drivers are former public servants and both are in receipt of a pension from their former employment. However, in accordance with the relevant legislation governing the respective pension schemes of which they were members, their pensions are not subject to abatement.

The total cost of the service to date, covering all of the above elements including employer PRSI contributions in respect of the civilian drivers, is €67,056.

FÁS Training Programmes

Robert Troy

Ceist:

315 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if an employer is required under legislation to pay the prescribed rates of pay by FÁS for an apprentice or can they decide to pay a reduced amount; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9846/12]

An apprentice within the meaning of or under the Industrial Training Act 1967 or the Labour Services Act 1987 is paid by the employer during the on-the-job phase of apprenticeship training. Outside of those sectors covered by a Registered Employment Agreement, apprenticeship wage rates are not legally enforceable. The actual rate paid to such apprentices may vary depending on the occupation and employer. Generally, rates are based on the year of apprenticeship training and increase over the course of the apprenticeship.

Pay rates and other terms and conditions of workers, including apprentices, in the Construction, Electrical Contracting and Printing sectors are set out in Registered Employment Agreements that govern those sectors. When registered with the Labour Court, these agreements are legally binding, not only of the parties to the agreement, but also to others who are in the class, type or group to which the agreements are expressed to apply.

Enforcement of the provisions of a Registered Employment Agreement may be effected by direct complaint to the Labour Court. A trade union may complain to the Labour Court that a particular employer is not complying with a Registered Employment Agreement. If, after investigating a complaint, the Court is satisfied that an employer is in breach of a Registered Employment Agreement the Court may by order direct compliance with the agreement. Failure to comply with such an order is an offence punishable by a fine.

Alternatively, REAs can be enforced by Inspectors of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). These inspectors have power to enter premises, inspect wage sheets and other records, interview the employers and workers concerned, recover arrears and, if necessary, take legal proceedings against an employer who is in breach of an REA.

Under the Payment of Wages Act, 1991 an employer may not reduce a worker's pay without his or her agreement.

That Act provides that non-payment of wages or any deficiency in the amount of wages properly payable by an employer to an employee is regarded as an unlawful deduction from wages unless the deficiency or non-payment is attributable to an error of computation.

If an employee considers a reduction in their wages to be an improper deduction from wages or non-payment of wages, the employee can refer a complaint to a Rights Commissioner under the Payment of Wages Act.

Pension Provisions

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

316 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans regarding the introduction of a pension scheme for community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors. [9151/12]

I would refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions Nos. 99, 89 and 102 on 1 December 2011. The position remains unchanged.

Community Development

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

317 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will appoint a senior officer from her Department to negotiate a resolution of a recurring issue between an organisation (details supplied) and the Revenue Commissioners; if she will confirm that an operational grant will be paid to the same organisation for the years 2012 and 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9679/12]

It was my understanding that the matters raised in correspondence received from the Deputy in regard to Lehanmore Community Co-operative Society had been resolved and that a solution acceptable to the management board had been agreed and sanctioned in the latter months of 2010.

Under the Community Service Programme (CSP), a three year contract is in place until 31 December 2013. Under the terms of the contract, operational funding of €4,000 annually has been awarded to Lehanmore Community Co-operative Society. CSP funding is primarily intended to fund wages however, operational funding is only awarded on an exceptional, hardship basis to relatively few grantees. CSP funding is expressed as a fixed annual contribution towards the costs of employing full time equivalent workers and in many cases a manager. In general, contract holders are responsible for generating sufficient income from trading and other sources to cover all their costs and financial requirements including working capital/cash flow between grant instalments, to supplement wages, to build financial reserves, and to meet other contingencies.

Social Welfare Code

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

318 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider a medical review in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9133/12]

Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions. An invalidity pension claim in respect of the person concerned was disallowed on the grounds that she is not considered to be permanently incapable of work. She was notified of this decision on 1st December 2010.

The person concerned appealed the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. Having considered the available information and medical evidence in this case, including that presented at an oral appeal hearing, the appeals officer upheld the decision and disallowed the appeal. The person concerned was notified of the appeals officer's decision on 26th January 2012. An appeals officer's decision is final and conclusive in the absence of fresh facts or evidence.

It is open to the person concerned to make a new claim for invalidity pension by completing a claim form and forwarding any additional medical evidence she may have which has not previously been submitted to the department. In this event, the claim will be investigated, a decision will be made and she will be notified directly of the outcome.

Departmental Offices

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

319 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if all staff at Kilbarrack and Coolock social welfare offices, Dublin, have access to the Internet and e-mail; the state of access for all social welfare offices throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9146/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that all Departmental staff have access to the internet and e-mail to support them in carrying out their work.

Social Welfare Code

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

320 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection if any derogation from the reduced employers’ redundancy rebate will be introduced for small and medium sized enterprises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9150/12]

The primary purpose of the redundancy payments scheme is to compensate workers, under the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967 to 2011, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy. Compensation is based on the worker's length of reckonable service and reckonable weekly remuneration, subject to a ceiling of €600 per week.

It is the responsibility of the employers to pay statutory redundancy to all their eligible employees. An employer who pays statutory redundancy payments to the employees is then entitled to a rebate from the State. Rebates to employers and lump sums paid directly to employees are paid from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF). Significant and increasing amounts have been paid out in redundancy rebates to employers from the SIF in recent years. While the SIF is constituted primarily from employer contributions, the taxpayers' contribution is also significant. One of the factors which influenced the Government's decision to revise the rebate rate was the increasing costs of rebates in recent years.

The deficit in the Social Insurance Fund is a matter of concern. Prior to the implementation of the revised rebate, the Social Insurance Fund refunded employers 60 per cent of the cost of making people redundant. €152.2 million was paid out in rebates to employers in 2006; €167.4 million was paid in 2007; €161.8 million was paid in 2008; €247.9 million in 2009; €373.2 million in 2010 and €188.2 million in 2011. The amounts paid out in lump sums to employees have also increased.

As part of the deliberations on Budget 2012 it was decided that the 60% level of rebate is not sustainable in the current economic climate. While I acknowledge that this may cause difficulties for employers it should be noted that redundancy rebate payments to employers are not common in many EU and other jurisdictions.

Community Employment Schemes

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

321 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection further to her commitment to community employment schemes that in the event that the changes in the training and material grant announced in the budget create financial difficulties for schemes, that her Department will continue to provide funding for those schemes until the completion of the financial review and that the internal guidance to officials is that up to €1,000 may be available to a scheme in respect of the training and materials grant for this year, subject to demonstration of need; the additional funding she has put in place to enable officials award up to €1,000. [9162/12]

As indicated, my Department will continue to provide funding for all Community Employment schemes while the financial review is underway. This review will be completed at the end of March 2012.

Department officials are meeting with projects on an individual basis and making the necessary arrangements in relation to short term funding issues. This funding is being met from within the Department's allocation. As this process is on-going and the funding requirement varies from project to project, the full details of the funding arrangements for each project will not be available until the review process is completed.

Social Welfare Benefits

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

322 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection if arrears for the period December 2008 and September 2009 will be forwarded to a person (details supplied); and if not, the reason therefor; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this person was refused the one parent family allowance in view of the fact that they took up an offer of a VTOS course, however, the person believes that social protection guidelines at the time were contrary to this and actually allowed for a payment of one parent family allowance to someone if they took up a VTOS course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9163/12]

The person concerned was paid jobseeker's benefit from 15 December 2008 to 30 September 2009 when she commenced a VTOS course. While on the VTOS course she received a weekly training allowance equivalent to the maximum personal rate of jobseeker's benefit plus an increase in respect of a qualified child.

The person concerned applied for one parent family payment from 17 September 2009. Her application was disallowed as she had secured a position on a VTOS course and this decision was upheld on appeal. Persons in receipt of one parent family payments are also eligible for VTOS courses provided they are in receipt of payment prior to commencement of the VTOS course.

Social Welfare Appeals

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

323 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for mortgage interest supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9165/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3rd December 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 10th February 2012 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Social Welfare Code

Clare Daly

Ceist:

324 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason persons in receipt of disability payments are ineligible for the JobBridge scheme. [9169/12]

The National Internship Scheme is currently limited to individuals who are currently on the Live Register and have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit or are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months.

Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, it is important that as employment opportunities become available they are taken up by those on the Live Register. The key objective of labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register close to the Labour Market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will ensure that Live Register members availing of activation measures such as the National Internship Scheme will, while retaining social welfare unemployment payments and a top up allowance of €50, get an opportunity to engage in the workplace, get work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves.

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of unemployment payments or signing for credits for 3 of the last 6 months. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time.

Individuals who are in receipt of a disability allowance however can access the 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. Our Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme including its eligibility criteria on an ongoing basis. The extension of JobBridge to those in receipt of Disability Allowance forms part of this broader review process.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

325 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in awarding of rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9172/12]

The person concerned made an application for rent supplement on the 25th of January 2012. He was required to reduce his rent to the limit applicable to a single person. The person concerned is not the primary carer of the child and is not in receipt of a child dependant allowance on his current FÁS payment. The person concerned has no history of providing rental accommodation at the higher rate and hence must reduce his rent accordingly.

Social Welfare Code

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

326 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the definition of light work as in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9173/12]

Light category work involves a mix of sitting, standing and walking. It may also involve some occasional exertion. The following are examples of light categories of work: assembly, packing, sorting, systems surveillance, security, stocking, office work, and sales assistant. Light work may be defined as follows: "Physical demand requirements are in excess of those for sedentary work. Light work usually requires walking or standing to a significant degree. However, if the use of the arm and/or leg controls requires exertion of forces greater than that for sedentary work and the worker sits most of the time, the job is rated light work. Exerting up to 20 pounds of force occasionally and or up to 10 pounds of force frequently, and/or negligible amount of force constantly to move objects." (Reed P. 1997. The Medical Disability Advisor. Reed Group, CO. USA.)

Evidence based medicine suggests that a return to work, where possible, offers the best outcome for most patients. Of course, further medical evidence can always be submitted if there is a change in circumstances and the case will be re-considered.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

327 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9179/12]

Further to my response to PQ 39097/11 on 7th December 2011, I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there is no update to the information given previously. 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.

Redundancy Payments

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

328 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection If she has received an RP50 within the past year in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the redundancy is paid directly to the former employee in all cases; if not, the arrangements in place to ensure that the eligible recipient receives the statutory redundancy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9199/12]

The time limit for making a claim for a redundancy lump sum payment is 52 weeks after the date of termination of employment. A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was manually submitted on 30 November 2011. The date of termination of employment detailed on the application form is 5 July 2009 and therefore the time limit for making a claim for a redundancy lump payment has expired.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

329 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to institute an income supplement scheme similar to family income supplement that can be availed of by citizens who are childless; if she will consider such a measure in view of the fact that many childless persons have onerous financial commitments incurred during the boom years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9223/12]

The Family Income Supplement (FIS) provides income support for employees with families on low earnings. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might otherwise only be marginally better off than if he or she were in receipt of other social welfare payments. The question of introducing a similar scheme for persons of working age without children would have to have regard to a number of factors including the arrangements already in place to provide income support to people of working age on low incomes, through schemes such as jobseeker's allowance and the part-time job incentive scheme which is available to those who were previously on a jobseekers payment for 15 months or more and are now working under 24 hours per week while seeking full time employment; and the cost of introducing such a measure in the context of the need to prioritise the use of the limited resources available for the development of the wider social welfare system. There are no plans to introduce a scheme of the nature suggested. The introduction of such a scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

330 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a domiciliary care allowance appeal will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9234/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that following the submission of additional evidence, in this case, the Appeals Officer has revised his decision and has allowed the appeal. The person concerned has been notified of the revised decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

331 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; in view of the time elapsed since the original application, can the appellant be granted an oral hearing as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9235/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of his appeal has been finalised.

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

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

332 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a cut to disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16; if she will provide a timeframe for when this appeal will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9246/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was assessed by a Medical Assessor of the Social Welfare Services who was of the opinion that he was capable of work. He appealed this decision and in that context the appeal was assessed by another Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was capable of work.

In the light of this, it was decided to afford the person concerned an opportunity of setting out the complete and up to date grounds of his appeal and to furnish any further medical evidence that he wished to submit in support of his appeal. These have been received and the disability allowance section of the Department has been requested to submit relevant documents to this office on his case. On receipt of their response his appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

State Bodies

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

333 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number and names of the State bodies under the aegis of her Department which are subject to the revised code of practice for the governance of State bodies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9264/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

334 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has received the annual report on corporate governance from all State bodies under the aegis of her Department which are subject to the revised code of practice for the governance of State bodies for 2010 as required under section 13.1 of the code, if not, if she will outline which State bodies have not done so and if having reviewed the reports she is satisfied that all State bodies are complying with the provisions of the code; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9270/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 333 and 334 together.

The three statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Social Welfare Tribunal, the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department but it does not have a Board.

Social Welfare Tribunal

The revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies does not apply to the Social Welfare Tribunal due to its structure and purpose. The Tribunal deals with cases where entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit or Assistance is refused due to an involvement in a trade dispute. All Tribunal decisions are recorded in a Register of Adjudications and a copy of the decision is sent to the Minister, the applicant, the employer and to any other interested person. The Tribunal does not produce an annual report.

Citizens Information Board

The Citizens Information Board operates in accordance with the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and has complied with all requirements of Section 13.1 of the Code. The Statement on Internal Financial Control reflects the Board's compliance with the Code. The Board's Financial Statements have been audited and certified by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The Annual Report for 2010 was received by me in December 2011.

Pensions Board and Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

The Pensions Board and the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman both operate in accordance with the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. This is reflected in the Statements on Internal Financial Control contained in the Annual Reports of these bodies. The Comptroller and Auditor General has reviewed these Statements on Internal Financial Control and confirmed compliance.

The Annual Report of the Pensions Board for 2010 was accepted by the Department in May 2011 and launched by me in June 2011.

The Annual Report of the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman for 2010 was accepted by the Department in November 2011.

National Employment and Entitlement Service

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

335 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to consult stakeholders regarding the establishment of the National Employment and Entitlements Service; the timeframe for the establishment of the NEES; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9276/12]

The establishment of the National Employment and Entitlement Service (NEES) was approved by the Government in July 2011 and subsequently the NEES project plan was published by me in August 2011. As outlined in the published plan, the development and implementation of the NEES is a four year project spanning 2011-2014. Detailed implementation and delivery targets and key milestones are set out covering each area of the implementation process.

In the establishment and development of the NEES, the Department has already engaged on a bilateral basis with a number of stakeholders and has also held a number of briefings and consultations with customer representative groups on the implementation of the new integrated service. In addition an external Advisory Group is being established to advise on the implementation of the new service and I expect to announce the membership of this group shortly.

Employment Support Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

336 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures she will undertake to monitor compliance by employers with the requirements of the JobBridge scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9277/12]

The National Internship Scheme provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors. The scheme is limited to individuals who are currently on the Live Register and have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit or are signing on for credits for at least 78 days in the last 6 months. Participation on the Scheme is voluntary.

The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals bridge the gap between unemployment and the world of work. JobBridge aims to offer individuals of all skill levels, ranging from those who left school early to highly qualified graduates, a unique opportunity to develop new skills and earn valuable experience. JobBridge can offer a diverse range of jobseekers a chance that will at the very least improve their prospects of securing employment in the future. In this regard, you should note that the scheme is not designed solely for graduates, it is open to all individuals who meet the eligibility criteria irrespective of their skill levels. Low skilled individuals have a right to access an activation measure that is specifically designed to improve their skills, enhance their experience and improve their chances of securing employment.

Postings on the JobBridge website are monitored in accordance with the criteria governing the scheme. Internships not in accordance with the intent of the scheme are removed.

Control mechanisms and conditions have been put in place to protect the integrity of the scheme and to ensure that the intern and host organisation both benefit from the arrangement.

To ensure compliance, DSP are monitoring internships to ensure that they are of sufficient quality and that both host organisations and interns are abiding by the spirit and the rules of the scheme. Host Organisations must also complete monthly online compliance returns.

A ‘whistle blowing' feature has been introduced where any individual who suspects that an internship may be in breach of the scheme's criteria may contact the JobBridge team. All such claims will be investigated.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

337 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 193 of 6 December 2011, if she has awarded the contract for the evaluation of the JobBridge scheme and to whom; if so, when she expects the evaluation to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9278/12]

JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, came into operation on 1st July 2011. As of 17th February, a total of 4,791 internships have commenced.

My Department has invited tenders for consultancy for the evaluation of JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme for the Department. Progression rates from JobBridge into employment will feature as part of this evaluation. It is anticipated that the successful vendor will be selected shortly.

My Department requires this Project to be undertaken to assess the design, delivery and impact of the JobBridge scheme on the unemployed. It should also assist the Department in making further policy decisions on the benefit of work placement programmes in the overall context of the Government's activation policy which is to engage with every unemployed individual to provide them with a pathway to employment and to prevent and reduce long term unemployment

It is anticipated that the evaluation will be completed by the end of the first quarter 2013.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

338 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an illness benefit appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9300/12]

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

An appeal was registered on 14th December 2011 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The person concerned will be notified when arrangements for the examination have been completed.

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

Social Welfare Code

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

339 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a review of the social welfare system whereby those self-employed may gain jobseeker’s assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9307/12]

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

347 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to extend full welfare benefits to self-employed persons on a par with PAYE employees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9349/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 and 347 together.

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social insurance benefits pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

Any changes to the PRSI system to extend the full range of social insurance benefits, including jobseeker's benefit, to self-employed persons would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable. I established the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare last year to meet the commitment made in the Programme for Government. The Advisory Group will,inter alia, examine and report on issues involved in providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable. In addition, the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, which is due to be completed in mid-2012, will examine this matter.

Self-employed workers may establish eligibility to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker's allowance. They can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year and, in the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. As in the case of a non-self-employed unemployed claimant of jobseeker's allowance, the means of husband/wife, civil partner or co-habitant will be taken into account in deciding on entitlement to a payment.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

340 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9315/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 8th February 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

341 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) will have their weekly payments reduced by €50. [9319/12]

The person referred to was deemed eligible for participation on Community Employment (CE) on the basis of his duration in receipt of Unemployment Assistance. His weekly CE payment is calculated on this basis and with reference to previous UA and child dependent payments received from the Department. I can confirm that no payment reduction will be applied to those participating on CE and falling in to this category.

Social Welfare Appeals

Simon Harris

Ceist:

342 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against a refusal to grant domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if she will provide a time frame for when this appeal will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9340/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1st February 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Simon Harris

Ceist:

343 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the refusal to grant carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if she will provide a time frame for when this appeal will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9341/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23rd January 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

344 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) has been refused a clothing allowance despite having been in receipt of this allowance for many years and also has been refused an orthopaedic bed despite it being recommended by their general practitioner. [9344/12]

The person concerned was refused a clothing allowance on 11 August 2010 and the decision was upheld on appeal on the grounds that no medical evidence was submitted that he suffers from a chronic ailment or serious illness that gives rise to a need for extra clothing.

The person concerned was awarded an orthopaedic mattress in August 2006. His request for assistance with an orthopaedic mattress in March 2009 was refused as he was assisted with the same request less than three years previously.

Brian Walsh

Ceist:

345 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9346/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Appeals

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

346 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the position in regarding an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [9347/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 12th January 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Question No. 347 answered with Question No. 339.

Social Welfare Code

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

348 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will support a proposal (details supplied) on the habitual residence condition in the Social Welfare Bill. [9353/12]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

353 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection in relation to carer’s allowance applications for family carers returning to Ireland for caring duties, if she is in favour of removing the habitual residence condition for such applications. [9397/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 348 and 353 together.

Carers allowance is a means tested social assistance payment made to persons who are unable to work because they are providing full time care and attention to older people or people with disabilities. The provisional outturn for carers in 2011, including carer's allowance, carer's benefit and respite care grant was approximately €658 million. This does not include the cost of the household benefits package or free travel which carers also receive. In 2011, there were almost 52,000 people in receipt of carers allowance from my Department; 22,000 of whom were getting half-rate carers allowance in addition to another social welfare payment, an increase of almost 40% since 2008.

The habitual residence condition, as provided for in section 246 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 (as amended), applies to claims for jobseeker's allowance, non-contributory State pension, blind pension, non-contributory widow's and widower's pensions, guardian's payment, one-parent family payment, carer's allowance, disability allowance, supplementary welfare allowance including rent supplement, and child benefit. The effect of the condition is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not qualified for these payments in Ireland. The purpose of this condition is to safeguard the social welfare system from abuse by restricting access for people who are not economically active and who have little or no established connection with Ireland.

The legislation directs the deciding officer to take into consideration all the circumstances of the case, including, in particular, the following factors specified by the European Court of Justice:

1. The length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

2. The length and purpose of any absence from the State;

3. The nature and pattern of the person's employment;

4. The person's main centre of interest; and

5. The future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.

I have no plans to change this requirement for carer's allowance. The operation of the scheme is kept under review to ensure it operates fairly and that applicants are not being refused without full and appropriate consideration. There are a number of issues which contribute to rejection on HRC grounds. These include:

The applicant's main centre of interest clearly being outside Ireland, including Irish nationals returning home who clearly indicate that their homes, lives and future intentions are out of this State and that their stay in Ireland is of a short duration;

Failure to provide relevant documentation (such as proof that they have terminated their employment, residency, closed bank accounts abroad etc.) or no documentation at all;

Clear evidence that an applicant is continuing to receive welfare from another jurisdiction based on their residency there, for example a person receiving disability living allowance based on their residency in Northern Ireland;

Persons who make multiple applications in a very short time for different allowances such as jobseekers, disability and carers.

The Deputies should be aware that the number of applications for carer's allowance refused on grounds of habitual residency is small. In 2011, 13,888 applications for carer's allowance were processed. Of these, 223 were refused on the basis of habitual residency, of which 42 were Irish nationals. This means that, in 2011, approximately 1.6% of all applications were refused on habitual residency grounds.

Employment Support Services

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

349 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are plans to allow college and university students unemployed during summer months to gain experience in their area through JobBridge, although they have not been claiming the required three months of jobseeker’s benefit or allowance in order to avail of such opportunities; if long-term college or university students may be exempt from the three month social welfare claim criteria needed to access JobBridge support in order to help students gain sufficient experience to compete in the market by the time they graduate and avoid emigration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9374/12]

The National Internship Scheme provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors. The scheme is limited to individuals who are currently on the Live Register and have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit or are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months.

The eligibility to access the National Internship Scheme is based on the overall objective of labour market policy in ensuring a pathway to appropriate employment, training and education opportunities for those on the Live Register. It is important that as employment opportunities become available they are taken up by those on the Live Register. The structure for achieving this objective is through a reinvigorated National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) which currently provides the framework for engaging with the unemployed.

Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy and of the NEAP will be to keep those on the Live Register close to the Labour Market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will ensure that Live Register members availing of activation measures such as the National Internship Scheme will, while retaining social welfare unemployment payments and a top up allowance of €50, get an opportunity to engage in the workplace, get work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves.

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of unemployment payments or signing for credits for 3 of the last 6 months. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time.

My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme including its eligibility criteria on an ongoing basis. However, currently there are no plans to exempt any categories or individuals from the three month social welfare claim criteria.

Social Insurance

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

350 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to levy PRSI on the rental income earned by landlords; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9377/12]

Employees who do not have additional earned income, other than earnings from employment, do not currently pay PRSI on unearned income, such as rental income.

One of my key goals in the Department is to reform the system of social protection to put it on a sounder financial footing in the future. One of the matters I am most concerned about is the deficit in the Social Insurance Fund. It is my intention to widen the PRSI income base to make certain types of unearned income, such as rental income, liable to PRSI. Any proposal to bring additional sources of income within the base on which PRSI is charged would have to be considered taking account of all of the implications, including the potential for providing access to additional social insurance entitlements.

Data Protection

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

351 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide details of the number and nature of cases that she has referred to the Data Protection Commissioner relating to the possible access to and use of confidential, personal information held on its IT systems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9378/12]

My Department, because of the nature of its work, holds extensive and detailed personal information about our customers. It takes its obligations to its customers under the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 very seriously and takes the strongest line in relation to the misuse of customer information. Any breach of trust by staff with regard to the confidentiality of information is treated as serious misconduct under the Civil Service Disciplinary Code.

Since 2008, two data breach incidents have been brought to the attention of the Data Protection Commissioner's Office. One case involved the theft of laptop computer from an office used by staff from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. This contained records of some 380,000 DSP customers. The second case led to recent court action taken by the Data Protection Commissioner against three insurance companies and is currently the subject of a continuing Garda investigation.

Over the last number of years the Department has strengthened security and data protection protocols. The security of systems and processes is regularly reviewed and there is password protection on all accounts. A dedicated unit has been established to oversee business information protection across the Department and has developed and communicated policies and procedures covering the use of systems and data. Staff are regularly reminded of their obligations under data protection and security policies and the penalties applied to such misuse.

Social Welfare Appeals

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

352 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for domiciliary care allowance appeal will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9394/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1st February 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Question No. 353 answered with Question No. 348.
Question No. 354 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

355 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if persons who are constantly involved in crime may claim benefits all of the time, for example, if a drug dealer out on bail can claim social welfare benefits. [9402/12]

As my department has outlined in previous correspondence to the deputy, persons awaiting trial may generally continue to satisfy the scheme conditions pertaining to the working age schemes, such as jobseeker's allowance, disability allowance and one-parent family payment. Disallowances under social welfare legislation apply in respect of periods of imprisonment but, as it is not the role of my department to presuppose the outcome of a trial, no specific restrictions apply in respect of persons on bail. There are no plans to change policy in this area.

Question No. 356 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brian Walsh

Ceist:

357 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a scope application appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9417/12]

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

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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

Brian Walsh

Ceist:

358 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a disability allowance appeal application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9420/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of his appeal has been finalised.

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

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

359 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for disability allowance appeal will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9457/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 19 November 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 12 January 2012 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.

Question No. 360 withdrawn.