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 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Foreign Conflicts

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

9 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the further measures being considered at EU and UN level to address the ongoing crisis in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17171/12]

Niall Collins

Ceist:

15 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action he has taken in conjunction with his EU partners in relation to the humanitarian crisis in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17190/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

54 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the situation in Syria continues to be monitored by the international community with particular reference to on-going alleged human rights abuses; if his EU colleagues in conjunction with the UN or otherwise can offer persistent persuasion to bring about a resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17532/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 15 and 54 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 well over 8,000 lives since last March. I am particularly concerned about the urgent humanitarian needs of the civilian population in many areas of Syria.

Ireland and its EU partners have reacted to the violence in Syria with a series of robust economic, political and diplomatic measures to compel the Syrian regime to cease its appalling and unacceptable attacks on the Syrian people. Most recently, the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 23 March, which I attended, agreed forthright Conclusions which strongly condemn the violence by the Syrian regime, and urge immediate and full access for humanitarian organisations. I fully support these Conclusions, as well as the further sanctions adopted against members of President Assad's family and other senior regime figures and prominent Syrian businessmen and entities. Strong EU sanctions are an important way of putting additional pressure on the regime and I support the ongoing work to identify possible further EU restrictive measures.

Ireland and the EU have also been actively engaged at the UN to address the Syrian crisis. It is very welcome that the UN Security Council, in large part through the efforts of its EU members, was able last week to issue a strongly worded Presidential Statement expressing its gravest concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria and lending full support to the efforts of the UN-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan. The EU was also actively engaged in securing the adoption by a large majority of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on 23 March on the human rights situation in Syria and which also extended the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry.

The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to worsen, with fighting and violence ongoing in several cities around the country and reportedly spreading to new and previously unaffected areas. Thousands of Syrians have also fled into neighbouring countries and there are already reports of over 36,000 registered refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Turkey and Iraq. Meanwhile, aid agencies remain unable to carry out more than limited food, health and hygiene support activities inside Syria due to a combination of insecurity and severe restrictions on humanitarian access. Ireland together with our EU partners, has been insisting on the need for full, immediate and unimpeded access to aid organisations to all areas of the country.

While UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos visited Damascus on 8 March and staff from the United Nations and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) were allowed to join a recent Syrian Government-led assessment mission, it remains essential that a robust and regular arrangement is put in place, which allows humanitarian agencies to evacuate the wounded and deliver desperately needed supplies.

Given the increasingly difficult situation on the ground, EU Member States have also been mobilising substantial funding to help aid agencies respond to the crisis. In this regard, I recently approved €500,000 in emergency funding for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN refugee agency, UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP). These funds will be used to provide both immediate relief within Syria and help to those forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Taken collectively, total EU funding and assistance currently stands at €26 million, including €10 million from the European Commission. Further assistance will be made available in light of the situation on the ground and the ability of aid agencies to access those in need.

Ireland, together with its EU partners, remains determined to continue to exert political and economic pressure on the Syrian regime to secure a ceasefire and humanitarian access. It is abundantly clear that the time for tokenistic efforts — such as the referendum on a draft new Constitution on 26 February which took place as the Syrian army carried out heavy weaponry bombardment of civilian areas — has long passed. In the immediate future, I hope that the second meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People in Istanbul on 1 April will make progress in bringing together the Syrian opposition under a common platform of values and aims. The Tánaiste spoke strongly in support of the need for this at the Foreign Affairs Council last week.

In this regard, I regret that the main internal opposition grouping, the SNCC (Syrian National Co-ordinating Committee, which has committed itself to achieving democratic freedoms in Syrian through peaceful means), has decided not to attend the meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People on 1 April. I hope that the NCC will reconsider. Furthermore, Ireland and the EU continue to call on all members of the Security Council, particularly Russia and China, to work together in an effort to stop the violence and to support fully the work of UN-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan.

Human Rights Issues

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

10 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised concerns over the conduct of the March Presidential election in Russia and subsequent treatment of protesters with the Russian authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17202/12]

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

24 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on allegations of fraud in the recent presidential election in Russia; if he will raise this matter at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17173/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 24 together.

The Russian Federation Presidential Elections took place on 4 March and were the subject of an extensive monitoring mission conducted principally by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), together with partners from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The mission issued a preliminary report on 5 March which noted that the presidential election was marked by unequal campaign conditions but also that the campaign had seen significant civic engagement, including an increased focus on election observation. It was evident from this report that while steps had been taken to address some of the shortcomings identified in the State Duma elections late last year, more work by the Russian authorities needs to be done.

EU High Representative Ashton issued a statement on 5 March in which she noted the preliminary results of the presidential elections and the clear victory of Vladimir Putin. She commented that international election observers had noted the significant civic engagement in the campaign and that authorities allowed protests to take place without undue interference, but had also identified shortcomings and irregularities in the preparations and conduct of the elections and that voters' choice was limited. The EU encouraged Russia to address these shortcomings.

On the question of demonstrations that took place before the elections and since then, I welcome the engagement of the authorities with the opposition in authorising demonstrations and commend the peaceful manner in which they have been conducted. It is important that the right to peaceful protest is fully respected and that the authorities respond openly and quickly to allegations of improper treatment.

I have not been in direct communication with the Russian authorities on the conduct of the elections but I would encourage them to take full account of the concerns that have been aired both within Russia and by its partners.

Middle East Peace Process

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

11 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether, prior to the start of negotiations about a two-state solution, Israel is obliged under the roadmap to freeze all settlement activity including natural growth of settlements and dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001; and that, by failing to do so, Israel in breach of this agreement. [17225/12]

As I have repeatedly stated in this House, I regard the continued expansion of settlements as the major obstacle to peace. It is an attempt to create demographic facts on the ground that will dictate the contours of any future Palestinian State. Settlement outposts are illegal under international law, and also under Israeli law. There can be no doubt that settlement outposts erected since March 2001 must be dismantled, if there is to be a viable future Palestinian State.

The parties agreed to enter talks on the basis of the Quartet statement of 23 September 2011 which set out a timetable of not later than the end of 2012 to reach an agreement. A settlement freeze was not a pre-condition for the resumption of talks. The parties met for a number of rounds of direct negotiations in Jordan in January, which were the first direct talks since September 2010. While direct talks were a positive step, the talks failed to make any real progress and have been effectively halted since late January, largely due to Israel's failure to make comprehensive proposals on the issues of security and borders in line with the Quartet timetable.

As I made clear in my discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Liberman during my visit to the region in January, the long-term interests of both Israelis and Palestinians are best served by having stable and secure neighbours, which can only be achieved by a comprehensive peace deal. Both sides recognise that there is no alternative to dialogue. The challenge, as ever, for all concerned with promoting peace in the Middle East is how to fashion the appropriate environment and climate of confidence to allow serious peace negotiations to get underway.

What is now most urgently required are positive confidence-building measures, particularly on the part of Israel, to instil the necessary confidence that real progress could now be achieved, were substantive peace talks to resume. It is the prerogative of President Abbas to determine the conditions under which he would be prepared to resume direct peace talks. I believe a re-instatement of a settlement construction freeze would be a major confidence building measure but there are other forms of confidence building measures that would also demonstrate Israel's commitment to genuinely engage in substantive and meaningful peace talks.

Foreign Conflicts

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

12 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the assistance that the EU and the international community are currently providing for the restoration of democracy in Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17172/12]

The Government remains closely engaged at both European Union and international level in monitoring the situation in Burma and in supporting the Burmese people in their struggle for democracy and human rights. We have been encouraged by recent movements including the opening of dialogue between the Burmese Government and Aung San Suu Kyi as well as approval of the registration of her political party, the National League for Democracy. We also view positively the negotiation of a cease-fire deal between the Burmese Government and ethnic rebels, the recent visits to Burma of a number of EU Foreign Ministers as well as EU Commissioner Piebalgs and the release of a significant number of Burmese political prisoners.

Together with our EU colleagues, and as a signal of our hope for Burma's continuing process of political reform, the EU has begun to take steps to ease the sanctions on Burma by suspending the visa ban on certain individuals.

While the situation in Burma has improved, there is still much to achieve. We hope for continuing reform over coming months, including the unconditional release of all remaining political prisoners as well as further action from the Burmese Government in addressing the concerns of ethnic minority groups and towards the establishment of comprehensive human rights protection for the people of Burma. We remain optimistic that the April 1st by-election — in which Aung San Suu Kyi is due to stand — will be characterised by free and fair conduct.

Together with our EU colleagues, we want recent developments to indicate a lasting change for the people of Burma and hope that they herald the beginning of a new era of peace, democracy and respect for human rights.

Clare Daly

Ceist:

13 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade noting the recent report of the UN Human Rights Council, International Commission of Inquiry on Libya which concludes that all sides committed war crimes (details supplied), and that NATO has refused to fully cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, if he will withdraw Irish cooperation with NATO Partnership for Peace until NATO agrees to fully cooperate with the UN investigation of NATO war crimes during the attack on Libya. [17166/12]

The Human Rights Council, at a Special Session on 25 February 2011, established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. The mandate of the Commission was "to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and, where possible, to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures, all with a view to ensuring that those individuals responsible are held accountable”. The principal concern of the countries, including Ireland, that supported the establishment of the Commission, was to address the widespread and persistent reports of violent acts of repression being carried out by the Qadhafi regime against the Libyan people. The Commission’s report, issued on 2 March 2012, “concluded that international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes, were committed by Qadhafi forces in Libya ... The Commission further concluded that the thuwar (anti-Qadhafi forces) committed serious violations, including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law”.

The Commission also assessed the impact of measures taken by NATO-led forces between March and October 2011 to implement UN resolution 1973. The report states that "The Commission concluded that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties. On limited occasions, the Commission confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence of military utility. The Commission was unable to draw conclusions in such instances on the basis of the information provided by NATO and recommends further investigations.” There is no suggestion in the report that war crimes were committed by NATO but the Commission has called on NATO to conduct investigations to determine the level of civilian casualties.

The recommendations made in the report in relation to NATO are a matter for that organisation and its members to consider. Ireland is not a member of NATO and therefore does not have any role in this process.

Ireland's cooperation with NATO is conducted through our participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. The PfP is a voluntary and cooperative framework for regional cooperation. Our foremost reason for participation is co-operation in peacekeeping. The PfP has been an invaluable tool in developing the capabilities of our Defence Forces and enhancing inter-operability with other potential peacekeeping countries. This ensures that Ireland can most effectively contribute to UN-mandated missions as we have done for more than 50 years.

Human Rights Issues

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

14 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he has taken to date to highlight the detention of Bahrainian human rights activist, Abdulhadi Al- Khawaja who has been on hunger strike since the start of February in protest at his sentencing to life imprisonment; and the steps he will take as a matter of urgency to highlight his critical condition. [17230/12]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

27 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on Bahrain’s continued lack of political reform and ongoing repression of pro-democracy and human rights protesters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17229/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 27 together.

I have already made clear on a number of occasions, including in this House, my own deep concern and that of the Irish Government and people at the human rights situation in Bahrain. I am particularly concerned about the gravely deteriorating health of dual Danish-Bahrain citizen Mr Al-Khawaja, a leading Bahraini human rights activist and a former Frontline coordinator who was arrested in April 2011 for his alleged role in the unrest in Manama last year. Mr Al-Khawaja has now been on hunger strike for some 50 days and is reported to be refusing water and medical treatment.

Mr Al-Khawaja's hunger strike is in protest at his sentencing to life imprisonment on 22 June 2011, a verdict which I continue to regard as unjust and appalling. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report published last November has clearly described how Mr. Al-Khawaja was subject to violent abuse in detention which resulted in serious head injuries requiring urgent medical treatment. 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; civilians should be tried in ordinary civilian courts.

I raised Mr. Al-Khawaja's case with Danish Foreign Minister Sovndal at the Gymnich informal meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers in Copenhagen on 10 March. In addition, my officials have been in contact with the Danish, US and UK authorities in recent weeks with regard to this case, while my serious concerns have been relayed directly to the Bahraini Ambassador in London by officials in my Department. It is my understanding that Denmark has offered to accept Mr Al-Khawaja and to give him medical treatment. Our Ambassador in Riyadh has also been active in relaying my general concerns regarding the human rights situation and also the specific case of Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja to the Bahraini authorities and will continue to do so at every opportunity. I urge the Bahrain authorities to work earnestly with the Danish authorities to resolve this case as a matter of humanitarian urgency. I remain concerned at reports of ongoing repression against protestors in Bahrain as well as the unfair trials and continued detention of political detainees.

I welcomed the publication on 23 November 2011 of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry's report into the violent repression of protests earlier that year. I also welcome the fact that significant steps have been taken by the Bahraini authorities to implement the recommendations of the report, including the establishment of a follow-up commission. However, it is essential that the Bahraini authorities make further progress in a timely, transparent and thorough manner towards addressing the serious shortcomings identified in the report. I particularly urge the Bahraini authorities to release those detained for peacefully protesting and to hold accountable those who, according to the report, were responsible for serious violations of human rights.

Ireland has also been active in ensuring the EU remains focussed on the situation in Bahrain and strongly supported the EU démarche to the Bahraini authorities in January urging the authorities to release political detainees. I will continue to monitor closely developments in the case of Mr Al-Khawaja as well as the broader human rights situation in Bahrain, including the ongoing civilian retrial of a group of medical doctors and nurses, some of whom were Irish-trained.

Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 9

Irish Communities Abroad

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

16 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he brought up the status of the undocumented his visit to the United States for St. Patrick’s Day; the progress made in relation to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17209/12]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

31 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress made to date on resolving the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17167/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

55 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if it has been possible to engage with the US authorities with a view to regularisation of undocumented Irish in the United States having particular regard to the vulnerability of such persons and the potential hardship to them and their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17533/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 31 and 55 together.

The welfare of our young people who are working abroad is a very important priority for the Government. I made this clear during my visit to Canada over St Patrick's Day when I had an opportunity to meet many young Irish living and working there and where I opened a centre in Toronto which will help address their needs.

There are particular concerns in the United States where addressing the position of the undocumented Irish and reforming our migration arrangements are priorities for the Government in its contacts with the US Administration and Congress.

The Taoiseach and I have worked closely and continuously on this matter. We discussed immigration issues with President Obama on 23 May last year in Dublin and I have raised it in discussion with Secretary of State Clinton.

My assessment at this stage is that the Government's keen interest in a resolution of the situation for undocumented Irish migrants is well recognised and accepted by our friends within US Administration and Congress. Their advice to us remains that comprehensive reform of the US immigration system and procedures is likely to be the only manner by which this can be achieved.

With a view to helping some positive momentum around immigration issues insofar as they relate to Ireland, enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 temporary U.S. work visas has been a particular focus of our efforts. If passed this would make 10,000 E-3 visas available to Irish citizens each year.

During my visit to Washington in February, I reviewed progress on E-3 issues during meetings with Senators Leahy, Brown, & Schumer and the Friends of Ireland group in the House of Representatives and with Deputy Secretary Bill Burns.

I also discussed prospects for progress with the Congressional Delegation led by leader Nancy Pelosi in Dublin on 12 March.

During his recent visit to Washington, the Taoiseach raised immigration with President Obama and with Senators Leahy, Brown and Schumer and the Friends of Ireland Group.

While I am heartened by the advances that have been made so far towards bi-partisan consensus in the US Senate towards enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 visas, I am conscious that passing any immigration-related legislation in an election year in the US presents very significant challenges. Through our Embassy in Washington, the Government will continue to work closely with our friends in Congress and with Irish-American community representatives with a view to ensuring that every opportunity is taken to put an E-3 visa scheme in place.

Missing Persons

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

17 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he has taken to assist with tracing the whereabouts of a person (details supplied) who went missing in the Netherlands in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17168/12]

The person referred to by the Deputy first came to the attention of my Department in November 2008. The family were concerned that there had been no contact from the individual and requested assistance in locating him. My Department has been providing consular assistance to the family since that time.

In the weeks after the initial disappearance, the Embassy arranged a meeting, which was also attended by an Embassy official, between the family and the Dutch Police. At that meeting the Dutch Police gave assurances to the family that everything possible was being done to locate their missing relative. The Police Officer also provided his direct contact details to the family so that they could get in touch with him if any new information was received by them. Representatives of the family have been in regular contact with my Department and the Embassy has sought an update on the case from the Dutch police. A response has been received today indicating that the Public Prosecutor has decided that the investigation into the disappearance will be re-examined.

In addition to liaising with the police, the Embassy facilitated a report on the case being broadcast by a Dutch missing persons television programme. The programme generated a number of leads around the world and my Department assisted the family in following up on those reports.

While my Department cannot interfere in the legal process of another State, we will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to the family. I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal sympathy to the family and to assure them of my full appreciation of the distress the disappearance of their loved one has caused.

Foreign Conflicts

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

18 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he supports the statement that war crimes alleged in Sri Lanka in the final stages of the war are of such magnitude that if unchallenged risk undermining international justice mechanisms; and if he supports the international call on the UN to support an independent international investigation into these alleged crimes. [17227/12]

Ireland supports the promotion of national reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. It is Ireland's view and one shared by the other member States of the European Union that genuine reconciliation among all groups and communities in Sri Lanka is essential and requires justice and accountability for past events. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), appointed in May 2010 by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and which reported to him on 15 November 2011, stated that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in that country lay in failure to address the grievances of the Tamil people.

Last month, the High Representative and Vice President of the EU expressed regret that the questions raised in the report of the Expert Panel of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chaired by Marzuki Darusman, and delivered to the Secretary-General on 12 April, 2011 were not reflected in the LLRC report. Ireland supports the UN Panel of Experts' recommendation for the establishment of an independent international mechanism to investigate allegations of human rights violations by both the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the closing stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War which ended in 2009. Last week, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ireland together with the EU and others in a Resolution entitled Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka called on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the LLRC as well as to fulfil its legal obligations with regard to alleged violations of international law.

Further, we have called on the Sri Lankan Government to respect the rights of individuals and civil society that have cooperated with the UN mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council and to allow for their safe return to Sri Lanka.

The EU believes that accountability is an essential part of the process of national reconciliation and sustainable peace and encourages Sri Lanka to take the necessary measures.

Together with EU members at the Human Rights Council and other levels, Ireland will continue to convey concern over reports of intimidation and reprisals against civil society representatives in Sri Lanka. Free and unhindered contact and cooperation with individuals and civil society are indispensable for the UN to fulfil its mandates.

Human Rights Issues

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

19 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the arrest and detention of Hana Shalabi by the Israeli authorities under their administrative detention procedure, the fact that she is currently more than 34 days into a hunger strike and reportedly unable to move due to her weak condition; if he will call on the Israeli authorities to release her immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17181/12]

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

21 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he will take to apply pressure on Israel to seriously address the underlying reasons behind the growing protests of Palestinian political prisoners and to end the large scale practice of internment without charge or trial known as administrative detentions. [17220/12]

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

35 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will publicly call for the protection of the life of the 30 year old Palestinian woman, Hana Shalabi, resident of Burqin village near Jenin, who was re-arrested on 16 February 2012 and is being held in Hasharon Prison where she has been on hunger strike since that same date in protest of her violent arrest; and if he will call for her immediate transfer to a hospital, with adequate care that is uninterrupted by frequent and unnecessary transfers. [17219/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 21 and 35 together.

I am aware of the case referred to by the Deputies. Hana Shalabi was released last October as part of the prisoner exchange deal concluded between the Israeli government and Hamas for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She had spent over two years in administrative detention by the time of her release. She was re-arrested on 16 February and immediately commenced a hunger strike.

Ms Shalabi was transferred over a week ago to an Israeli civilian hospital due to her deteriorating health. I am very concerned that her hunger strike has reached the point that her health is being jeopardised. While visits by her lawyer and family were suspended following her transfer to the civilian hospital, I understand her lawyer has visited this week, and I urge that her family be allowed to visit her as soon as possible.

At my request, the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv has raised Ms. Shalabi's case with the Israeli authorities and has urged steps be taken to reach a resolution which would allow Ms. Shalabi to end her hunger strike. The EU Delegation in Tel Aviv will also raise and express concern regarding Ms. Shalabi's case with the Israeli authorities and urge a resolution which averts her continued hunger strike.

I have made my views regarding administrative detention very clear in this House. I recognise that States facing serious threat sometimes have to enact emergency powers. But such powers should be limited as much as possible, carefully safeguarded and in accordance with international law. I do not accept that it is compatible with international law to detain a person for a prolonged period, or repeatedly renew a detention order, without a case coming to trial.

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 Ms Shalabi.

International Agreements

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

20 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his response to recent comments made by Vital Moreira, chair of the European Parliament’s trade committee, stating that some African countries may have to start paying an 8.5% to 15.7% duty on their exports to Europe if they fail to sign Economic Partnership Agreement agreements by end 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17223/12]

I am aware of the reported comments of Professor Vital Moreira when he led a European Parliament delegation to Kenya and Zambia last week in order to discuss the ongoing negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States.

The EU has been engaged in the negotiation of a series of new trade and development agreements with the ACP States since 2002. The negotiations are being carried out by the European Commission, on behalf of the European Community and the Member States. They were necessitated by rulings by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that the unilateral trade preferences which the EU had previously granted to the ACP countries established unfair discrimination between developing countries.

The original aim had been to conclude comprehensive Agreements with six regional groupings of the ACP States by the end of 2007, the deadline set by the WTO. However, following a process of protracted and difficult negotiations, only one of the ACP regional groups, representing Caribbean States, was ready to initial an Economic Partnership Agreement by that date. In order to avoid trade disruption, interim Agreements were agreed and initialled at the end of 2007 with 21 other ACP States, either individually or in regional groupings. These interim Agreements provide for full duty and quota-free access to the European Union market but allow the ACP countries a flexible and asymmetric trade liberalisation schedule.

In recent years, there have been well-founded concerns that there was a need to restore momentum to the negotiations and revitalise the original shared commitment to the achievement of strong Agreements which serve the development needs of the ACP countries. Political leaders from both sides agreed at the EU-Africa Summit in November 2010 "to conclude Economic Partnership Agreements that support socio-economic development, regional integration and the integration of Africa into the global economy". As a result, the European Commission last year engaged actively and flexibly in renewed negotiations at the regional level. In tandem with this approach, at the end of September the Commission adopted the proposal, to which Professor Moreira referred, which would set a deadline of 1 January 2014 for the conclusion of the negotiations. This proposal will be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of EU Trade Ministers.

The Government accepts that the proposal seeks to put EU-ACP trade relations on a solid legal footing based on respect for WTO and EU law. I believe it is essential that the EU's negotiating approach is as flexible as possible under WTO law and underlines the importance of a strong partnership approach throughout the negotiations. It is encouraging that the EU Trade Ministers, at their most recent meeting on 16 March acknowledged the need for flexibility and pragmatism on both sides to find solutions to the outstanding issues. Ireland will continue in the coming months to work with our partners for Agreements which clearly support the development priorities and needs of the ACP countries. We will also work positively with the Commission on these issues during our Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013.

Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 19.

Diplomatic Representation

Derek Keating

Ceist:

22 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to alleged abuses by certain countries having Embassy services in Ireland particularly related to traffic violations and parking offences; the status of such Embassy staff and their families; the way in which disputes and complaints are addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17170/12]

There are currently 58 resident Embassies in Ireland. The operation of these Embassies is regulated by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 as transposed into Irish law by the Diplomatic and Immunities Act 1967. Privileges and immunities of accredited diplomatic agents in Ireland are governed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, as incorporated into Irish law, by the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act of 1967 and as amended by the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act of 1976.

Where traffic violations or other such issues concerning a resident Embassy or Embassy staff accredited here are brought to the attention of my Department by An Garda Síochána, the Department reminds resident Embassies about their obligations under Article 41.1 of the Vienna Convention 41.1 to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state and informs the Embassy concerned which generally operate in compliance with Irish law. My Department works to ensure that the law is upheld and will assist, as appropriate, in any investigation being undertaken by the relevant Irish authorities.

My Department expects all those diplomatic agents duly accredited here, who are entitled to privileges and immunities in accordance with Article 31 of the Vienna Convention, to respect Irish laws and regulations, as indeed, we expect our Embassies abroad to respect the laws and regulations of the host country. I would recall that the purpose of diplomatic privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the effective performance of the functions of diplomatic missions. In addition, Article 31(4) of the Vienna Convention provides that the immunity of a diplomatic agent from the jurisdiction of the receiving state does not exempt him from the jurisdiction of the sending state.

I would assure the Deputy that my Department will do everything it can consistent with its obligations under the Vienna Convention to ensure fair treatment for all.

Foreign Conflicts

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

23 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on his response to the recent massacre of 16 civilians in Afghanistan in view of the fact that Irish troops are serving in that country. [17182/12]

The killing of 16 Afghan civilians on 11 March this year was a shocking and tragic incident. On behalf of the Government, I extend my deepest condolences to the families of those killed and to the Afghan people. I welcome the commitment made by the US Secretary of Defence to quickly establish the facts surrounding this incident and to hold the person responsible to account. I understand that the US army and the Afghan authorities are cooperating in relation to the investigation of this incident and that charges have been formally brought against one member of the US Armed Forces.

This incident should not be allowed to jeopardise progress towards building a stable and democratic Afghanistan. Ireland will continue to support international efforts to develop Afghanistan as a peaceful, democratic nation, based on respect for fundamental human rights and for the rule of law.

Our support is demonstrated through our contribution to humanitarian programmes, participation in the EU Police Training mission and the deployment of members of the Defence Forces to the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Ireland has participated in ISAF since 2002 following a Government decision to authorise the provision of seven members of the Permanent Defence Forces for service with ISAF; these serve in non-combat roles at ISAF HQ in Kabul.

Ireland has also, since 2005, provided €35 million funding for humanitarian assistance, including mine clearance, civil society development programmes, and support to the Government of Afghanistan through the World Bank-managed Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) in Afghanistan.

Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 10.

Nuclear Proliferation

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

25 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action further to the oil embargo due to come into operation this summer, that he has taken in conjunction with his EU partners in relation to Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear arsenal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17199/12]

The most recent reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran, including those issued on 8 November 2011 and 24 February 2012, have 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 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 reports are credible and its conclusions must be taken very seriously.

Regrettably, Iran made no move to address the serious findings regarding its nuclear programme raised in the IAEA's 8 November 2011 report. Therefore, 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 an embargo of Iranian crude oil imports to the EU which will begin on 1 July. Notwithstanding the clear impact which this planned measure is having on global oil prices, Ireland, along with other EU Partners, has been prepared to accept the economic cost involved, given the gravity of compelling Iran to engage seriously with the international community in addressing the concerns over its nuclear programme.

It is my belief that the additional restrictive measures adopted by the EU, as well as tough bilateral sanctions implemented by US, Canada and the UK, have been of great influence in triggering Iran's belated agreement to accept an offer from EU High Representative Ashton to resume discussions with the E3 + 3 (UK, France, Germany, US, Russia, China). Arrangements are now being made for these resumed negotiations to commence next month. I hope that Iran will now address comprehensively the international concerns about the possible military dimension of its nuclear programme and 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.

Diplomatic Representation

Derek Keating

Ceist:

26 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in keeping with a complete review of all Government Departments and perhaps adopting the practices by other democracies, if he will consider reviewing the system of appointing Ambassadors from the ranks of the civil service and examine the possibility of appointing businessmen, businesswomen, academics and civic leaders who are well skilled in the area of diplomacy and representing Ireland’s mission abroad and taking into consideration the Department of Trade to be assigned to him, his views on whether this is beneficial based on our new drive to bring inward investment and developing new markets for our exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17169/12]

In my view the State has been very well served by the current system governing Ambassadorial appointments, which draws on the skills and professionalism of experienced, dedicated and impartial career civil servants. The maintenance of a non-politicised civil service is a principal of our system of government to which I attach considerable importance.

Ireland's diplomatic service is highly respected at home and internationally. Successive Governments have acknowledged its positive contribution, such as in advancing the peace process in Northern Ireland, in establishing and enhancing our bilateral relationships, in representing and protecting our interests in multilateral fora including the European Union and the United Nations, in promoting Irish business and economic interests and in managing the State's bilateral aid programme and in providing consular services to Irish citizens in difficulties abroad. Senior officers about to take up posts abroad attend special business-focussed training programmes and Embassy staff work hand-in-glove with local Irish State agency representatives in furthering Ireland's economic interests. I frequently receive expressions of appreciation for their efforts.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 14.

Overseas Development Aid

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

28 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which international aid commitments made by various donor countries throughout the world in the wake of various natural disasters over the past ten years have been honoured in part or in full; the main reason for failure to deliver in such circumstances; if he can take any steps to reactivate such issues with particular reference to Haiti and similar situations; his views on whether by agreement all such locations should be reviewed to reactivate interest and restore creditability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17234/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

49 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is satisfied that commitments entered into in the wake of numerous worldwide natural disasters have been fully honoured by the various prospective donors, whether on-going encouragement is offered to meet the commitments entered into; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17527/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

51 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if international aid promised to Haiti and other similar disaster locations worldwide has been met fully or in part to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17529/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 49 and 51 together.

Significant progress has been made in recent years to improve the scale and effectiveness of the response of the international community to major disasters and humanitarian crises. This has included the provision by Ireland and other donors of predictable emergency response funding. However, disasters on the scale of the earthquake in Haiti continue to challenge the humanitarian system. For such crises, international pledging conferences are often considered necessary in order to generate additional donor funding.

Two months after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, an international donor conference was held in New York, at which US $4.5 billion worth of assistance was pledged by the international community in response to the crisis. UN figures indicate that just $2.38 billion of this has actually been disbursed to date. Ireland has continued to use all available opportunities at international meetings, in Brussels, New York, Geneva and elsewhere, to urge donors to keep their promises and to provide the kind of long-term, coordinated and predictable funding which is required in order to move Haiti from crisis to recovery.

For our part, Irish Aid has worked hard to meet the Government's commitments to the people of Haiti. Some €11.5 million of the €13 million pledged by Ireland 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. In addition to financial support, Irish Aid has carried out 18 deployments to Haiti from the Rapid Response Corps and these experts have been able to assist UN and other agencies in vital areas such as logistics, engineering and water and sanitation.

More generally, the issue of implementation of donor aid pledges has been the focus of attention in the media and among civil society organisations in recent times. A recent OECD report highlighted a gap in international aid flows against pledges amounting to some $21 billion over a five year period. The shortfall is partly due to the difficult budgetary situation in developed countries over the past three years.

In order to promote the importance of ensuring that donor aid pledges are credible, achievable, and properly monitored, the OECD has published a ‘Recommendation on Good Pledging Practice'. This comprises a set of principles relating to pledging practice for financial undertakings to developing countries. The Recommendation is designed to serve as a benchmark to help OECD member States frame future aid pledges in terms that are clear, practical, realistic, and capable of being monitored. Ireland strongly supports this OECD initiative.

Foreign Conflicts

Clare Daly

Ceist:

29 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade noting the recent report of the UN Human Rights Council, International Commission of Inquiry on Libya which found no evidence of genocide or any organised civilian massacre by the pro-Ghadaffi forces in Benghazi or elsewhere in Libya from the beginning of the uprising until the fall of the regime, his views on whether UN resolution 1973 which was premised on the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya against the civilian population, was based on fraudulent information provided to secure authorisation for the NATO attacks on Libya to enable the overthrow of the Libyan Government. [17165/12]

The Human Rights Council, in emergency session on 25 February 2011, established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. The Commission's mandate is "to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and, where possible, to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures, all with a view to ensuring that those individuals responsible are held accountable". The International Commission of Inquiry on Libya issued its second and final report on 2 March 2012 which clearly states that "international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes, were committed by Gaddafi forces in Libya," prior to and after UN Resolution 1973. In particular, it found that "acts of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture were perpetrated within the context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population."

Of particular interest in relation to actions by the Gaddafi forces prior to UN Resolution 1973 was the Commission's finding that "Gaddafi forces engaged in excessive use of force against demonstrators in the early days of the protests, leading to significant deaths and injuries." The report continues: "the nature of the injuries indicates an intention to kill; the level of violence suggests a central policy of violent repression. These actions breach international human rights law as an arbitrary deprivation of life."

The report further finds "that the Gaddafi forces executed and tortured to death large numbers of prisoners in detention centres. Executions tended to occur immediately prior to retreats. During the armed conflict, this amounts to a war crime. Insofar as many of the detainees were part of the civilian population rather than captured fighters, the systematic and widespread executions constitute a crime against humanity."

In light of the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry, there is no reason to question the motives which underlay adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 on 17 March 2011 and, in particular, the clear need to authorise all necessary measures to protect the civilian population in Libya. Only hours before the vote, Gaddafi said in a speech broadcast on radio and television in Libya that his forces would "show no mercy and no pity" to those in Benghazi who opposed his rule. Resolution 1973 demanded an immediate and complete ceasefire, authorised all necessary measures to protect civilians as well as establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya. On that basis, Ireland fully supported Resolution 1973 and urged that military action to enforce Resolution 1973 be implemented in a manner that was proportionate, avoided civilian casualties and fully complied with its terms.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

30 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his colleagues at EU and on UN level have focused on the top ten worldwide primary locations of known acts of war, terror, human rights or other abuses resulting in starvation famine, genocide or murder by Governments of those attempting to overthrow such; if the international community has exerted sufficient positive influence in such situations particularly on the continent of Africa or in the context of the Arab Spring; if any new initiatives have been examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17235/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

58 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues continue to examine locations worldwide at which on-going war, famine, starvation, genocide, human rights abuses continue; the degree to which positive intervention can be arranged in such circumstances in the future having particular regard to past experience; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17536/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 58 together.

As far as I am aware neither the European Union nor the United Nations produces a top ten list of countries in regards to the violations outlined by the Deputy.

In our foreign policy, which is expressed in direct contact with other countries or multilaterally through the EU, the UN, and other international bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (which is chaired this year by Ireland), we are working to alleviate instances of war, terror, human rights or other abuses resulting in starvation famine, genocide or murder by Governments, and to enhance international peace and security.

Meetings of the EU Foreign Affairs Council provide regular opportunities at which to consider such events and the response of the EU and the wider international community to them. The EU has adopted Common Positions on certain countries, which attach priority to promoting human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. 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.

The EU, the UN and the OSCE act as co-chairs of the Geneva discussions, which is the forum to resolve issues following the 2008 conflict in Georgia. The OSCE chairs the so called 5+2 talks on the Transdniestrian settlement process, and the EU acts as an observer. These talks seek to reach agreement on the status of Transdniestria and the first session of the 5+2 talks this year was held successfully in Farmleigh on 28-29 February.

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.

In Africa, addressing the problems faced by people living in areas of conflict and instability remains a huge challenge. These include the issues of the Al-Shabaab insurgency in Somalia, piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa, the displacement of several hundred thousand people across the region, and an estimated 13 million people in need of emergency assistance. 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. EU and Member State 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.

The uprisings across the Arab world which started at the end of 2010 have been genuinely popular movements demanding reform, freedom and equality. These movements are promoting fundamental values such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial and freedom from torture. Ireland and its EU partners subscribe fully to what these movements are seeking to achieve. We will continue to provide them with both political and financial support.

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.

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.

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.

The Government is committed to the active promotion of full observance of universal human rights standards. 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.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 16.

Civil Aviation Regulation

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

32 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the specific measures he has taken to ensure that our civil aviation laws robustly guard against Irish airports and airspace being used for illegal activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17231/12]

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

34 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will detail the action he has taken to date and any action he plans to take in order to prevent Irish airports and airspace being used for illegal activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17232/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 34 together.

Under the Programme for Government 2011, as the Deputy will be aware, the Government undertook to enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law. The regulation of civil aviation is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. My Department has primary responsibility under Irish legislation for foreign military aircraft seeking to overfly or land in Ireland. Under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952 foreign military aircraft are not permitted to fly over or land in the State save on the express invitation or with the express permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In the event that permission is sought, my Department requires an undertaking from the relevant embassy that the aircraft in question will be unarmed; will not be carrying arms, ammunition or explosives; will not engage in intelligence gathering; and is not participating in military exercises or operations.

A number of bodies in Ireland play a role in ensuring compliance with civil and criminal legislation, including An Garda Síochána, and the customs authorities. However, none of these are under the aegis of my Department.

Foreign Conflicts

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

33 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his response to the recently leaked EU heads of mission report which notes that in an area where between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians used to live in the Jordan Valley, Area C, this number has dropped to 56,000 due to the demolition of Palestinian homes and prevention of new buildings, and that in a similar period, the Jewish population in that same Area C has grown from 120,000 to 310,00; and his views on whether the window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements such as these. [17224/12]

I am aware of the leaked internal EU report to which the Deputy refers. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the specific details of this internal report but it is one of a series prepared by EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem/Ramallah which have usefully helped to highlight the challenges and difficulties facing the Palestinian population in Area C as a result of the demolition of Palestinian homes and the expropriation of Palestinian lands. While the major Palestinian population centres are located in Area A and B, the viability of a future Palestinian State is dependent upon the state being contiguous and encompassing the major population centres with their natural hinterland. The continued expropriation of Palestinian lands for settlements and the declining Palestinian population in Area C is clearly a threat to the viability of any future Palestinian State. No one is under any doubt that expropriation of land for settlements is an effort to create demographic facts on the ground that will dictate the contours of any future Palestinian State. These actions are clearly contributing to fast diminishing prospects for achieving a two-State solution.

I am also deeply concerned by the upsurge in violent settler attacks against Palestinians and their land, which has been particularly prevalent in Area C. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported a 50% increase in settler attacks last year. These illegal and violent attacks have one goal — to frighten the Palestinian population into leaving their homes. I urge the Israeli authorities, as the occupying force, to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population and to ensure that those responsible for such attacks are held accountable and brought to justice.

There is no alternative to direct negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace deal but these developments inflame Palestinian public opinion, and destroy public support for their leaders to engage in serious negotiations with Israel. I remain determined to continue highlighting with EU and international partners all the pertinent issues relating to the ongoing Israeli occupation and to impress upon both sides the need for dramatic gestures and acts of political will which would help to substantially transform the current depressing situation on the ground.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 19.
Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 7.

Human Rights Issues

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

37 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will call on the Moroccan Government to immediately repeal Article 475 in Morocco’s penal code which allows a rapist to avoid prosecution and a long prison sentence by marrying his victim if she is a minor; and if he will also call for the passing of legislation in Morocco prohibiting violence against women. [17228/12]

The Government's deep concern and revulsion at the tragic case of Amina Falili has already been stated during the course of a debate in this House last week. She was raped and then forced to marry her assailant so as to prevent him from being prosecuted for his appalling and heinous crime. Amina also suffered appalling domestic violence at the hands of her husband which ultimately led her to take her own life.

Morocco has in recent years taken some steps to empower women in Moroccan society. The adoption of the Family Code in 2004 was a major milestone in improving the protection of women's right in Morocco, including by raising the age of marriage to 18 and prohibiting polygamy. The new Moroccan constitution, which was adopted by referendum last year, has for the first time recognised gender equality. While these are steps in the right direction but it remains clear further steps are needed to protect women who have been the victims of rape or domestic violence, including the repeal of Article 475 that permits such an appalling miscarriage of justice as was suffered by Amina.

Amina's death has resonated considerably within Moroccan society and prompted many Moroccans to seek changes to this draconian law. I fully support the demands of human rights defenders in Morocco for an immediate repeal of Article 475. I would also strongly urge the Moroccan authorities to launch a full investigation into the death of Amina and the important issues it raises.

Morocco will undergo the second review of its human rights obligations and commitments as part of the Universal Periodic Review Process at the next UN Human Rights Council session commencing in May this year. Ireland and its EU Partners will engage with Morocco in the course of the latter on the human rights situation in Morocco, including recommendations on necessary reforms to the penal code to ensure greater protection of women to provide for greater equality and empowerment of women in Moroccan society.

Foreign Conflicts

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

38 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will detail support which Ireland has given or is preparing to give to democratic movements in Arab countries. [16235/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

56 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the EU directly or through the UN continues to monitor the situation in countries the subject of the Arab spring political and or social military changes with particular reference to the need to encourage the establishment of democratic procedures and practices including free elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17534/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 56 together.

The uprisings across the Arab world which started at the end of 2010 have been genuinely popular movements demanding reform, freedom and equality. These movements are promoting fundamental values such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial and freedom from torture. Ireland and its EU partners subscribe fully to what these movements are seeking to achieve. We will continue to provide them with both political and financial support.

In terms of bilateral support to date, Ireland has contributed €150,000 to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' 2011 funding for North Africa appeal. We also provided €150,000 to UNDP in Egypt to strengthen democratic participation in the recent Egyptian elections, an essential part of increasing human rights and accountability.

Ireland has also contributed humanitarian aid to both Libya and Syria. In the case of Libya, €1.3 million was provided in 2011 to international agencies in response to the humanitarian needs within Libya and on its borders. In response to the Syrian crisis, Ireland has pledged to make up to €500,000 available to the Red Cross and UN agencies operating in Syria, as well as in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. In addition, the Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps and our emergency stockpiles in Dubai have been made available for immediate dispatch as required.

In terms of non-financial support, Ireland has already facilitated the entry of approximately 30 Libyans seriously injured during the war into Ireland for medical treatment in private hospitals and more are expected to follow.

As regards EU support in 2011, the EU launched the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility, which increases support and funding to Civil Society organisations in the region, and the EU SPRING package which will see an additional €350 million targeted at the region for democracy support programmes and to promote job creation. Funding for these initiatives comes from the European Neighbourhood Programme Instrument (ENPI) which for the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2008-2013 has a budget of €11.3 billion, Ireland's contribution being €132 million.

International Agreements

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

39 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will detail any proposals which the European Union Division of his Department are preparing concerning reform of the European treaties. [16231/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the European Union has experienced an unprecedented economic crisis in recent years. It has taken significant steps to address this, including through strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact; undertaking banking reform; putting the EFSF and the ESM in place; and, for most Member States, agreement on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. These steps will help to place European economies on a more sustainable footing, and will ensure that the mistakes that contributed to the crisis cannot not be repeated in the future. This process of reform will continue.

In addition, there is consensus that the Union must intensify its efforts to generate growth and job creation, so as to ensure that Europe recovers and moves beyond crisis. The Government has long argued that such an approach is required and is pleased that its analysis is now fully shared, including at the highest level in the European Council.

The Government believes that this work must remain the absolute priority in the period ahead, and it does not see a process of Treaty change as an essential part of this immediate effort. It is not, therefore, engaged in preparing specific proposals in that regard.

Human Rights Issues

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

40 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will detail any initiatives with which he has been involved at head of State or Government level concerning the promotion of respect for human rights. [16228/12]

The Government attaches a very high priority to the promotion and protection of human rights in both our domestic and our foreign policy. Ireland is currently involved in two major projects which are centred on human rights: our campaign for election to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2013 to 2015 term, and the review of our domestic human rights record by the Human Rights Council.

The Human Rights Council is the UN's principal human rights body. It is composed of forty-seven member States which are elected by the member States of the UN General Assembly. It is mandated to address violations of human rights; to make recommendations to the UN General Assembly in relation to international human rights law; to promote the full implementation of human rights obligations undertaken by States; and to undertake a Universal Periodic Review of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations.

Ireland has over many decades enjoyed a high profile and standing at the UN; we have had a particular emphasis on human rights issues in this context; and our candidature for Human Rights Council membership is an integral part of the Government's strategy for restoring Ireland's international profile and rebuilding our reputation abroad. This is our first time to seek election to the Council. If we succeed, we will able to play a much fuller role in safeguarding and advancing human rights around the world.

The first examination by the Human Rights Council, under its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, of Ireland's domestic human rights record took place in Geneva on 6 October 2011. The UPR process is an extremely valuable contribution to raising standards and increasing awareness of human rights on a global level. It is a unique process whereby the domestic human rights records of each of the UN's Member States are reviewed every four years.

Ireland's delegation to the UPR review was led by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, T.D. The Report of the Working Group on Ireland's Universal Periodic Review was formally adopted by the Human Rights Council on 15 March 2012. Of the 127 recommendations made by Member States, Ireland was able to fully accept 91 recommendations, to accept in part a, further 17, and was only unable to accept 19. Ireland's next review will take place in four years time when we will be asked to report on our implementation of the recommendations.

Human rights issues are also a central focus of Ireland's Chairmanship-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) during 2012. In OSCE terminology, the term human dimension is used to describe the set of norms and standards related to human rights, democracy and the rule of law that are regarded within the OSCE as one of three dimensions of a comprehensive approach to security. I have been active in promoting the OSCE’s human dimension commitments since assuming the Chairmanship-in-Office on 1 January 2012, including in addresses to OSCE participating States and to outside bodies such as the UN Security Council and the U.S. Helsinki Commission in Washington D.C. Ireland will oversee a series of human dimension events during 2012, including an event on Internet Freedom in Dublin on 18-19 June 2012.

In addition to our work in multilateral fora, the promotion of respect for human rights informs our approach to our bilateral relationships. In September 2011, I launched a new Africa Strategy which sets out our priorities for engagement with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa over the period ahead and emphasises our aim of strengthening political engagement between Ireland and the European Union and the countries of that region in the pursuit of a number of policy aims, including the promotion of human rights.

Northern Ireland Issues

Niall Collins

Ceist:

41 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has reviewed recent actions in the context of sustaining confidence building initiatives which have formed part of the peace process and have been coordinated by his Department. [16227/12]

Confidence building initiatives continue to be an important aspect of implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and related Agreements. Contacts at political and official level with both communities in Northern Ireland are important in this regard and the Oireachtas itself plays a vital role, through the work of the Joint Committee on the Good Friday Agreement and through interactions between other Oireachtas Joint Committees and their counterparts in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Reconciliation Fund established by the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1982 assists individuals and organisations involved in reconciliation work and encourages and facilitates better relations within and between the nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist traditions on the island of Ireland and also relations between Ireland and Britain.

The Anti-Sectarianism Fund established in 2008 provides financial assistance to projects in communities seeking new and more effective ways of addressing sectarianism and division in society. Since 1982, the two Funds have disbursed some €37 million to over 800 projects. Despite the difficult economic circumstances we face, I am happy to confirm that I will have up to €2.7m in funding available to the Reconciliation and Anti-Sectarianism funds this year. Applications are currently being accepted for funding and officials from my Department have this week conducted briefings for community and voluntary organisations in Derry and Belfast in order to brief potential applicants on how to apply for support from the Funds.

Since 2006, the Department of Foreign Affairs has hosted an annual "Reconciliation Networking Forum", bringing together up to 100 community groups and organisations engaged in reconciliation activities on both sides of the border, many of which do not ordinarily have the opportunity to meet with other groups and organisations active in the reconciliation sector. The annual Networking Forum is an important and valuable opportunity for a diverse range of groups from different places, engaged in similar work, to network, share learning and initiate collaboration in a supportive and friendly atmosphere.

This evening in Iveagh House, at my invitation, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson MLA, will give a lecture entitled "The Edward Carson lecture: Reflections on Irish Unionism". The invited audience will represent a range of political views and key individuals involved in commemorative activity. The content of this, and future lectures, will be made widely available. This lecture represents a key component in the Government's programme of commemorative activity over the coming years. The Government has decided that all initiatives under this programme, including this lecture, will be underpinned by the following principles: respect for historical accuracy, promotion of tolerance, respect and inclusiveness, and recognition of the All-Island and East-West dimension of our shared history.

Trade Missions

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

42 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding plans for his participation in trade missions during 2012. [16229/12]

Trade missions are a valuable support to Irish business in developing markets abroad and are particularly important in the context of the export-led growth which is crucial to our economic recovery. I can assure Deputy Martin that since becoming Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have been active in promoting opportunities for Irish companies overseas, both through targeted trade missions organised by Enterprise Ireland and in the course of broader working visits abroad. The Deputy will be aware that I have just returned from Canada, where my visit for St Patrick's Day provided the opportunity to meet with political and business leaders as well as members of the Irish Community based there. The programme for my visit was developed in close consultation with the Embassy of Ireland in Ottawa, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Tourism Ireland and supported the valuable work that they do in promoting Ireland as a place to do business and to visit.

My colleague, the Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello, is currently leading an Enterprise Ireland trade mission, comprising 25 Irish companies, to Turkey. There are plans for similar trade missions this year led by myself or Minister Costello to London, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa. I also hope to visit China this year. As the Deputy will be aware, I am undertaking a programme of travel related to Ireland's Chairmanship of the OSCE. Insofar as it is possible, I use all my overseas visits to enhance Ireland's reputation and promote our economic interests.

Proposals for trade missions to be led at Ministerial level are developed by Enterprise Ireland on the basis of the priority markets being targeted by their client companies. The programme of trade missions for 2012 was submitted by Enterprise Ireland simultaneously to both the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and myself, reflecting the close involvement of both our Departments in trade-related matters, and at the meeting of the Export Trade Council last month, which I Chair, we considered the overall programme of trade missions for 2012 as they relate to our priority markets.

Irish Communities Abroad

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

43 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the progress being made to address the matter of undocumented Irish citizens in the US; the level of dialogue taking place with all levels of the US political system and Government in support of these undocumented Irish in America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17439/12]

The welfare of our young people who are working abroad is a very important priority for the Government. I made this clear during my visit to Canada over St Patrick's Day when I had an opportunity to meet many young Irish living and working there and where I opened a centre in Toronto which will help address their needs. There are particular concerns in the United States where addressing the position of the undocumented Irish and reforming our migration arrangements are priorities for the Government in its contacts with the US Administration and Congress.

The Taoiseach and I have worked closely and continuously on this matter. We discussed immigration issues with President Obama on 23 May last year in Dublin and I have raised it in discussion with Secretary of State Clinton.

My assessment at this stage is that the Government's keen interest in a resolution of the situation for undocumented Irish migrants is well recognised and accepted by our friends within US Administration and Congress. Their advice to us remains that comprehensive reform of the US immigration system and procedures is likely to be the only manner by which this can be achieved.

With a view to helping some positive momentum around immigration issues insofar as they relate to Ireland, enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 temporary U.S. work visas has been a particular focus of our efforts. If passed this would make 10,000 E-3 visas available to Irish citizens each year.

During my visit to Washington in February, I reviewed progress on E-3 issues during meetings with Senators Leahy, Brown, & Schumer and the Friends of Ireland group in the House of Representatives and with Deputy Secretary Bill Burns. I also discussed prospects for progress with the Congressional Delegation led by leader Nancy Pelosi in Dublin on 12 March.

During his recent visit to Washington, the Taoiseach raised immigration with President Obama and with Senators Leahy, Brown and Schumer and the Friends of Ireland Group. While I am heartened by the advances that have been made so far towards bi-partisan consensus in the US Senate towards enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 visas, I am conscious that passing any immigration-related legislation in an election year in the US presents very significant challenges. Through our Embassy in Washington, the Government will continue to work closely with our friends in Congress and with Irish-American community representatives with a view to ensuring that every opportunity is taken to put an E-3 visa scheme in place.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

44 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17328/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, I travelled to Canada to promote Ireland's economic, political and community interests during St Patrick's Day celebrations. My programme was designed to achieve three key objectives: to outline our economic strategy and progress achieved to key Canadian political and business figures; to increase trade and investment between our two countries; and to engage with recently arrived Irish emigrants and more longstanding members of the Irish community.

I travelled to Canada on an economy class return ticket totalling €673. I was accompanied by four officials whose return flights amounted to €2,850.

Final costs for the full programme are not yet available. However, available other costs associated with the visit were: hotel accommodation for the delegation — CAN$2,480.35 (€1,867); internal flights for delegation — CAN $903.25 (€680); and car and driver hire (people carrier) — CAN $3,182.19 (€2,396).

My visit to Canada from 16-18 March was the most senior visit by a member of the Government to that country in almost 8 years. The visit included a series of engagements in Montreal and Toronto and formed an important part of our ongoing commitment to re-invigorate Ireland's relationship with Canada.

The key engagements of my visit included:

an investment breakfast at the Montreal Board of Trade with senior executives from leading companies in Montreal, targeted by the IDA;

an address to the St Patrick's Society of Montreal annual luncheon, attended by over 500 of the city's most influential political, business and community leaders;

a meeting with the members of the Global Irish Network and senior business contacts in Toronto;

an Enterprise Ireland business breakfast in Toronto, after which I participated in a number of product launches and announcements by Irish companies;

the official opening of the Ireland Canadian Immigration Centre, supported through my Department's Emigrant Support Programme;

meetings with the Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, James Kenney, and with the Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest. My meeting with Minister Kenney included a detailed discussion on proposals on immigration requirements which would be beneficial for Irish citizens;

the launch of the Government's Certificate of Irish Heritage programme, in Canada including a presentation to former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin;

meetings with the Orange Order, the GAA and other organisations.

Nuclear Proliferation

Eoghan Murphy

Ceist:

45 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he endorses the international joint parliamentary statement for a Middle East free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, which, inter alia, supports the goal of a Middle East zone free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, affirms the role of the United Nations in assisting in the development of such a zone, emphasises the importance of comprehensive peace negotiations in the Middle East; commends the leadership of the United Nations Secretary General in advancing a five point proposal for nuclear disarmament, and calls on all Governments, especially those in the Middle East and the nuclear weapons States, to collaborate in good faith with the UN facilitator tasked to conduct consultations with the States of the region and undertake preparations for the convening of a conference to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17370/12]

Nuclear weapons pose an existential challenge to humanity and achieving their elimination is a fundamental global challenge. Nuclear non-proliferation and implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have been priorities of Irish Governments for over 50 years. We have a proud record of engagement and achievement in this critically important field and I am committed to maintaining this tradition.

The NPT, the primary international mechanism for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons, is reviewed every five years. The 2010 review conference adopted forward-looking action plans across all three pillars of the Treaty, disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Full implementation of these plans would considerably reinforce the non-proliferation regime and I intend to promote this, bilaterally and multilaterally, in the period ahead.

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 will participate in the Conference and in the process going forward.

The position of the Government has been clear and consistent. The Middle East is an area of high tension which contains many regional conflicts and has seen many wars. The escalation of military capabilities to new heights in such a volatile region can only make the situation more dangerous. We support the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, to include all states in the region.

Overseas Development Aid

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

46 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that are being taken to ensure that Irish aid to Malawi is effectively spent; if he has raised any concerns in the context of aid given to Malawi in respect of reported human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17456/12]

Malawi is among the world's poorest countries, ranked 171 out of 187 on the 2011 UN Human Development Index. It has suffered two major famines in the last decade and over half of the population live below the national poverty line. More than 40% of children under five years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition and almost 12% of the population are living with HIV and AIDS. Malawi was designated the ninth Programme Country for Ireland's aid programme in 2006, and an Embassy was established in 2007, which manages the delivery of our programme of assistance. Funding for the programme amounted to just over €11 million in 2011. It is focused on increasing the supply of food, improving nutrition, strengthening agricultural research and smallholder farming and enhancing good governance, and is concentrated on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Malawi.

I visited Malawi last month in order to see the impact of our assistance on poor communities. Ireland's support is delivered through targeted programmes implemented by a variety of partners including Government institutions, NGOs and international organisations. I am satisfied that there is a high degree of accountability and that we are seeing clear results for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Irish Aid funding is protected by rigorous external and internal monitoring, accounting and audit controls, which are in place in all countries where we provide development assistance. These measures ensure that funding is directed effectively to those areas most in need and is used for the purposes intended.

I believe we can be satisfied that Ireland's assistance is making a strong contribution to the attainment of positive development results. During my visit, I saw that our support of the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme, for example, has provided subsidised seeds and fertiliser to 1.4 million poor farmers. This has resulted in the production of a significant national maize surplus in recent years and a dramatic reduction in the number of families who do not have enough food. I also saw how Irish Aid's partnership with the NGO, Concern Universal, has helped 135,000 people in two districts to access nutritious food, reduce malaria and improve access to anti-retroviral treatment for HIV infection. I was pleased to see that this effective programme is now being successfully rolled out across other districts.

Ireland's aid programme has been highly praised by international bodies such as the OECD for its effectiveness and its impact on the lives of the poorest communities. However, I was particularly impressed by the reactions I encountered among the people and the authorities I met with during my visit to Malawi. Their views on the effectiveness of our assistance and on the spirit of partnership with which it is being delivered left me with a strong appreciation of the importance of maintaining Ireland's programme of overseas aid, even in times of economic difficulty.

During my visit, I also discussed the human rights situation in Malawi with the Foreign Minister, other Government representatives and civil society groups. Our Embassy in Lilongwe monitors the situation in Malawi closely and maintains an open dialogue on human rights issues with Government and civil society, in cooperation with our EU partners. We have clear differences of view with the Government of Malawi on some issues, including the pressure which has been put on civil society organisations in the country in recent times. In my discussions with the Government, I emphasised our commitment to cooperating closely with Malawi but also emphasised our concern, and that of our EU partners, about human rights issues. We have told the Government frankly that they need to demonstrate clearly their respect for human rights and for the principles of democratic accountability.

Human Rights Issues

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

47 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues continue to exert pressure to bring about an improvement in the human rights situation in the horn of Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17525/12]

The need to address effectively and comprehensively the problems in the Horn of Africa remains a high priority for the Government, together with our EU partners, and is the subject of regular discussion by EU Foreign Ministers and Development Ministers and in the United Nations. The challenges faced in the region are immense, given the context of international and ethnic conflict, the issues of terrorism and piracy, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and the plight of an estimated 13 million people in need of emergency assistance. We are particularly focused on the ongoing crisis 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.

The overall EU approach to the region is guided by the Strategic Framework on the Horn of Africa, which was adopted in November 2011. This comprehensive commitment to the Horn of Africa recognises the importance of a stable peace and respect for human rights, and the longer term need for economic and social development across the region. The EU and its Member States recognise 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.

The EU is continuing to play a major role in support of the strengthening of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia, increased regional and international efforts on the political transition process, and the combating of piracy and terrorism. The EU has appointed a Special Representative who, in close consultation with the EU Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan, will help ensure coherence, impact and visibility for the Union's regional approach to the interrelated challenges facing the people of the Horn of Africa. Ireland recognises that a military and security approach can only have limited success in addressing the crisis in Somalia and the wider region, and we are strongly supportive of a comprehensive regional approach by the EU and the wider international community.

Ireland is also continuing to make a direct and practical contribution to the response to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. We have recently announced a further €2 million in funding for humanitarian agencies responding to the situation in Somalia, through the UN Common Humanitarian Fund. Ireland is also contributing personnel to the EU Training Mission working with the Transitional Federal Government for Somalia, including the Mission's Commander, who is an Irish Army Officer.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

48 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which specific attention has been given to the various locations on the continent of Africa that have heretofore been the subject of violations of human rights abuses, genocide and war crimes; the degree to which on-going persuasion continues to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17526/12]

The Government, along with our EU partners, attach high importance to the development of relations with the countries of Africa. Our national approach is guided by the Africa Strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which I launched in September 2011. It sets out a framework for our policies in the political, development and economic areas in order to ensure that our engagement is as coherent and effective as possible. A fundamental principle of our approach is an emphasis on the promotion of political progress including the resolution of conflict, the strengthening of democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to work with African Governments, African regional organisations, communities in the priority countries for our aid programme, the UN, and humanitarian organisations to address the causes of conflict and instability in Africa. We are also active in responding the consequences of such instability, including the displacement of civilians and the humanitarian needs of affected people.

The EU has recently adopted comprehensive strategies to address the complex problems in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions. The EU and its Member States are also playing a significant role in addressing fragility, post-conflict rehabilitation, support for electoral processes, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, capacity-strengthening in the areas of justice and human rights, humanitarian response, and economic and social development, including through support for civil society, in a wide range of African countries.

Africa is the geographic focus for Ireland's development aid programme, with 80% of the aid budget devoted to the objective of ending extreme poverty and hunger, especially in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Our missions in Africa monitor developments, report to the Government, and manage our political and economic relations and humanitarian and development programmes. Ireland is also contributing personnel to EU and UN missions in Africa including the Training Mission for the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. We also regularly support and contribute personnel for EU Election Observer Missions, including recent missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal.

Ireland also strongly supports international human rights institutions focusing on Africa, including the International Criminal Court, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 28.

Overseas Development Aid

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

50 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the international community monitors the aid programme with the on-going responsibility to ensure that international aid reaches its original targets in terms of the extent and the need to ensure that funds go directly to the persons for whom they were intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17528/12]

As Minister with responsibility for Ireland's Official Development Assistance, I am very conscious of the need to ensure that development aid reaches its intended beneficiaries and that it makes a real difference in the lives of the poorest people. The overarching objective of the aid programme is to contribute to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger in the world. To ensure that our assistance is effectively delivered to those most in need in developing countries, we work in partnership with Governments, local communities, NGOs, and key multilateral partners such as the United Nations and European Union. Our aid programme is strongly concentrated on some of the poorest countries and communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Of Ireland's total Official Development Assistance, about 70% is delivered bilaterally through partnerships with Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations, and global funds and programmes. The remaining 30% is delivered through multilateral systems. The multilateral system, in particular the UN, has a number of key strengths, not least its global mandate and global representation. It is uniquely positioned to provide rapid response to emergencies, such as conflict and natural disasters, and operates in some 150 countries. Channelling assistance through a multilateral organisation such as the UN can also help to avoid duplication of effort by donors and to avoid overwhelming already stretched national systems.

Where we have a bilateral programme such as in our nine Programme Countries, we have a strong long term, strategic relationship with the host country and are in a position to engage directly with the Government and local communities. This allows us to have a much greater impact in a more focused area, such as agriculture, health or education.

All proposals for funding, whether through multilateral or bilateral channels, are rigorously appraised by Irish Aid staff using clear criteria, including quality of intended impact, sustainability, cost effectiveness and efficiency in the use of resources. An independent external Programme Appraisal and Evaluation Group is tasked to evaluate all major funding proposals for the bilateral aid programme. Programmes in receipt of funding are subject to regular internal and external monitoring to ensure that the intended objectives and goals are being accomplished. Irish Aid programmes are evaluated and audited by independent experts as well as by the Evaluation and Audit Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Unit's work is regularly reviewed by the independent Audit Committee of the Department.

The quality of our aid programme has been recognised in many independent international reports. The OECD has found that "improvements in the quality and accountability of public financial management together with rigorous oversight ensure that Irish funds are correctly used". A recent international report on development assistance, the 2010 Survey of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, which was published last September, ranked Ireland highest among EU Member States for the delivery of our commitments on aid quality.

I believe that this focus on appraisal, regular monitoring, independent evaluations and audit provides assurance that all Irish Aid funds are very closely monitored and used for the purposes intended.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 28.

Foreign Conflicts

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

52 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues continue to give positive encouragement to the various communities throughout the western Balkans with particular reference to the need to ensure that the stabilisation and monitoring of peace structures put in place in the aftermath of the war in Bosnia; if due regard has been given to the various opinions expressed by the EU and international observers in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17530/12]

The Thessaloniki European Council of June 2003 reaffirmed the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries. The overarching policy of the European Union in the Western Balkans is to see all the countries of the region become EU member states. Recent activity by the EU confirms the ongoing commitment to the region. Croatia has come the furthest on that path since 2003 and is due to become an EU member state in 2013. The March European Council confirmed Serbia as an official candidate for EU accession. It joins Montenegro and Macedonia in that regard. I was pleased to see the attendance by the Foreign Ministers of all three countries at a dinner with EU Foreign Ministers on the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council last week.

Albania has submitted an application for EU membership. The government is currently working on addressing a number of key issues in the hopes of securing candidate status in the near future.

While Bosnia-Herzegovina has yet to apply for membership, the recent formation of a State-level government, and its rapid moves to implement reforms required to ratify the Stabilisation and Association Agreement are encouraging. I gave details of the recent progress in my response to PQ 44 on 21 March 2012. Most recently Bakir Izetbegovic, the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, met with Herman Van Rompuy and High Representative Ashton in Brussels last week. At those meetings he underlined that despite a number of divisions within the country, Bosnia-Herzegovina is fully united behind its European future. He also confirmed that the Bosnian government is aiming to present a membership application to the EU by the end of June 2012, after implementing the Sejdic-Finci ruling.

The EU perspective of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the most powerful tool at the disposal of the international community to help build and maintain stability in the country. The EU Special Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina was in Dublin this week and, among others, met with Minister of State Creighton to brief her on role being played by the EU Delegation in ensuring that Bosnia-Herzegovina can continue to make progress on its European path.

While Kosovo, at the present time, has a lot of catching-up to do with its neighbours, the EU also remains committed to its European future. The EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue saw agreement in February on a number of issues that should lead to improvements in the everyday lives of people from both countries. Commissioner Stefan Fule is in Kosovo this week to launch a feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The feasibility study will provide a comprehensive exploration of Kosovo's further integration into the EU's policy framework for the Western Balkans.

The EU's enlargement policy remains the EU's most effective tool in supporting reform and transformation in the region. The adoption by the Western Balkans countries of the EU's values ensures stability and irreversible political reform. Ultimately the policy contributes to both our security and our prosperity. My Department closely follows developments in the region including opinions by EU and international observers there.

Diplomatic Representation

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

53 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which all the necessary facilities required are made available to Irish embassies, consuls and or trade delegations involved in the pursuit of trade and commercial activity worldwide having particular regard to the current economic situation and the need to maximise all such opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17531/12]

As a small open economy, export-led growth has been crucial for Ireland's economic development, and will continue to be an essential element in ensuring Ireland's return to growth and economic prosperity. Our Ambassadors and the staff in the Embassy network are in no doubt about the priority which the Government attaches to the active promotion of Ireland's economic interests abroad. They work closely with the State Agencies and other relevant Departments in assisting Irish companies to overcome barriers to export and to identify new opportunities for selling their products and services. In this context, overseas Missions would regularly offer support to a range of business-related visits.

The Deputy will be aware that I established the Export Trade Council last year to oversee the progressive implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015. The Ministers, State Agencies and Departments with responsibility for these areas participate in the Council, as do representatives of the private sector. As Chairman, I see the Council as an important mechanism for cooperation and coordination with a view to ensuring that the relevant bodies work in the most joined up way possible, at home and in the field, so that the resources deployed by the State achieve the maximum impact. In priority markets, local market teams led by Ambassadors and including State Agency representatives have an important role to play in this.

The Diplomatic Network is also very active in promoting Ireland's economic profile abroad. By virtue of their status, Missions overseas can gain access to high levels within Government, media and business circles. To ensure the best use is made of this access, a dedicated unit in my Department works with other Government Departments and State Agencies to ensure our Embassies and Consulates have at their disposal, comprehensive and up to date information on economic developments in Ireland.

In relation to trade delegations, the Deputy may be aware that Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello is currently leading an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Turkey, and that the Taoiseach and Minister Bruton are on the way home from a major visit to China. Several other Enterprise Ireland trade missions are scheduled to take place this year to a variety of locations. Each one will be fully supported by Departments and State Agencies at home, and by Embassies and representatives of State Agencies working abroad.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 9.
Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 16.
Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 38.

Human Rights Issues

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

57 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the international community has expressed concern at alleged and or reported human rights abuses in Iran; the number of such documented incidents reported internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17535/12]

As I have previously stated, the human rights situation in Iran is profoundly disturbing, and the period since the Presidential election of 2009 has been characterised by an intensification of human rights abuses on many fronts. Although it is difficult to gain reliable statistics and information on human rights abuses in Iran, there are a number of reputable and thorough sources and reports such as the reports of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran through which governments can monitor the human rights situation in Iran.

I am particularly concerned by the overall high level of executions and the widespread practice of executions after unfair trials, without the right of appeal, and for offences which according to international standards should not result in capital punishment. I am also concerned about the continuing imposition of the death penalty against minors in violation of Iran's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the practice of secret executions in Iran which has been highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

In addition, the Iranian authorities continue to deny civil and political rights in Iran, including in relation to freedom of expression and assembly, arbitrary arrest and torture in detention. This highly targeted repression has been particularly stringent against not only academics but also members of Iran's religious and ethnic minorities, political activists, journalists and bloggers, human rights defenders and members of the legal profession in Iran who represent clients detained by the authorities. These actions are in clear violation of Iran's international obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, of which Iran is a signatory.

The international community continues to speak out against such abuses. EU High Representative Ashton, in a statement issued on 5 January, expressed her concern regarding the worrying increase in executions in Iran last year contrary to the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. I fully support her call on Iran to halt the execution of Sakineh Ashtiani and Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and all pending executions and introduce a moratorium on the death penalty.

The EU has also repeatedly raised human rights issues in contacts with the Iranian authorities and adopted a travel ban and asset freeze against those responsible for grave human rights violations in April last year, further extended to additional persons last October. This sends an important political signal to those in the judicial system and elsewhere in the Iranian regime who perpetrate human rights abuses. I fully support the strong Conclusions on human rights in Iran issued by the Foreign Affairs Council on 10 October last year. Ireland will continue to be active at EU level in pressing for stronger EU action in relation to the human rights situation in Iran.

At UN level, Ireland co-sponsored a General Assembly resolution in October last year expressing the international community's deep concern at the human rights situation in Iran, and calling upon the Government of Iran to take a number of specific and urgent steps to improve the situation, including providing unfettered access to the Special Rapporteur appointed last year to examine Iran's human rights situation. On March 22, Ireland co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council's Resolution on Iran which welcomed the report and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran and expressed serious concern at the developments noted in that report as well as the lack of access permitted to the Special Rapporteur. The Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for one year and called upon Iran to cooperate fully and permit access to the country.

At a bilateral level, my Department engages in ongoing dialogue with the Iranian Ambassador and his Embassy on these issues. My officials regularly hold meetings with the Ambassador to convey our grave concerns at the human rights situation in Iran. Ireland will continue to raise human rights in Iran, bilaterally and at the EU and UN, at all appropriate occasions.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 30.

Strategic Investment Fund

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

59 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the work of the strategic investment fund established by him last year; the amount of funding currently in the fund; the investments that have been made by the fund to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17473/12]

The establishment of the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) was announced by the Government in September 2011. The SIF will channel commercial investment from the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) towards productive investment in the Irish economy. As well as money from the NPRF, the SIF will seek matching commercial investment from private investors and target investment in areas of strategic significance to the future of the Irish economy. It will comprise a series of sub-funds targeted at commercial investment in critical areas of the Irish economy, including infrastructure, venture capital and provision of long-term capital for SMEs. The NPRF will take a lead role in the development and implementation of each sub-fund.

I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency, as Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund, that the NPRF announced in November 2011 a commitment of €250 million to a new Irish infrastructure investment fund which is seeking up to €1 billion from institutional investors in Ireland and overseas and which will invest in infrastructure assets in Ireland, including assets designated for disposal by the Government and commercial State enterprises and also new infrastructure projects. The NPRF has also committed €450 million to finance the national roll out of domestic water meters. In addition, the NPRF is actively supporting the development of the market for venture capital in Ireland through its continued participation in Innovation Fund Ireland in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland. On 15 March 2012, the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation announced the commencement of the second call for expressions of interest from appropriately qualified international venture capital managers. The further involvement of the NPRF in the SIF is expected to require the amendment of the investment policy of the NPRF, which is set out in the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. Officials of my Department are liaising with the National Treasury Management Agency, which is the Manager of the NPRF, in identifying and drafting the necessary amendments to the legislation and I expect to bring forward proposals for amending legislation as soon as possible once that work is completed. In preparation for this, the NPRF is currently working on assembling a pipeline of commercial opportunities for the SIF. This exercise includes developing new initiatives in relation to long-term SME financing.

Tax Code

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

60 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Finance his plans to exempt those with up to date tax clearance certificates receiving back dated bills for VAT on taxi base fees. [16859/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a tax clearance certificate will normally be issued to a person if he/she has made all of the required tax returns to Revenue and has paid all tax known to be due or agreed a payment schedule in respect of such tax debts. If and when a further tax liability is identified or arises, there is no provision to exempt taxpayers from such liabilities and collection proceeds in the normal way.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

61 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Finance the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17327/12]

The only cost incurred by my Department in respect of the visit to Paris was the cost of the flights for myself and the official who accompanied me, which amounted to €978 including taxes and charges. In order to reduce the costs of the visit the official and I stayed in the Ambassador's residence in Paris. The costs arising in Paris in relation to the trip were met from the existing budget of the Irish Embassy in Paris.

Tax Clearance Certificates

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

62 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a delay in the processing of a tax return in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17336/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there has been ongoing correspondence with the tax agent representing the person concerned about this matter. The position is that credit for foreign tax paid is granted at the end of the relevant tax year, following receipt of the appropriate documentation from the foreign tax authority. However, as the person in question is suffering financial hardship due to being taxed in Ireland and Denmark on the same income, it has been agreed, on a concessional basis, that a mutually agreed tax credit will be granted in the current tax year in an effort to alleviate this hardship. This will also facilitate her in filing Tax Returns for the years 2010 and 2011.

In order to resolve this matter without further delay, Revenue will contact the person in question directly to arrange a meeting for her with the officer dealing with the case.

Tax Yield

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

63 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the amount that has been collected from charging the universal social charge to Deeds of Covenants in relation to permanently incapacitated minors; if he will break the figures down on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17343/12]

The position is that both income tax and Universal Social Charge (USC) are chargeable where a permanently incapacitated minor child is in receipt of income by virtue of a deed of covenant from a person who is not his or her parent. The income is chargeable to tax and USC in the hands of the recipient. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that information on the yield of USC from the income source mentioned in the question is not separately identified in Revenue statistics. There is, therefore, no statistical basis on which the information requested by the Deputy could be provided.

Sectoral Incomes

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

64 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide overall gross income figures for the restaurant industry sector here in 2008, 2009, 2010 in tabular form as well as figures for the number of persons employed in the restaurant industry sector in 2008, 2009, 2010 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17347/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available on the amount of gross income earned by the restaurant sector is based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers and information on profits derived from corporation tax returns for the years 2008 and 2009. The tax year 2009 is the latest year for which the necessary detailed information is available. The gross income from all sources returned by self-employed individuals engaged in restaurant activity for these years was as follows:

Tax Year

Gross Income of Restaurant Sector

2008

€98m

2009

€95m

Figures are rounded to the nearest million.

The corresponding trading income returned by companies engaged in restaurant activity for these years was as follows:

Tax Year

Trading Income of Restaurant Sector

2008

€96m

2009

€89m

Figures are rounded to the nearest million.

The latest relevant information available in relation to the number of persons employed in the restaurant sector and taxed under the PAYE system is derived from income tax returns filed for the income tax years 2008 and 2009. These represent about 96 per cent of all returns expected at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes. The figures include PAYE taxpayers who are required to return an income tax return Form 11 where non-PAYE income is greater than €3,174, and do not segregate earnings from the restaurant sector from any earnings they may have from any other source. The number of taxpayers on the relevant tax records for the tax years 2008 and 2009 was as follows:

Tax Year

Number of Employees In the Restaurant Sector

2008

50,800

2009

47,000

Numbers are rounded to the nearest hundred.

The sector identifier used on the tax records is based on the 4 digit "NACE code (Rev. 1)" which is an internationally recognised economic activity code system. The NACE codes are not essential for the assessment and collection of taxes and duties and the correct allocation and maintenance of these codes is subject to the limit of available resources. NACE code classifications on tax records are compiled by reference to the primary area of economic activity reported by individual and corporate taxpayers on their own behalf and the taxes collected are allocated to those codes without reference to the precise economic activity which generated them.

While the accuracy of the NACE codes on tax records is sufficient to underpin broad sector-based analyses there will undoubtedly be some inaccuracies at individual level. This should be borne in mind when considering the information provided. The sectors identified for this reply represent the closest equivalents in the NACE code system to the sectors mentioned in the question.

Banking Sector Regulation

Eoghan Murphy

Ceist:

65 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Bank of Ireland does not allow customers to make international payments in Chinese Yuan; and if he believes this to be a hindrance to competition. [17369/12]

Notwithstanding the State's shareholding in the bank, Bank of Ireland operates in an arm's length capacity from the State in relation to commercial issues. It is a matter for the board and management to determine and implement operational policy in their organisation. Therefore, commercial decisions in relation to Bank of Ireland are solely a decision for the bank.

State Banking Sector

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

66 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance in relation to Allied Irish Bank, in view of the large number of job losses announced, the amount being spent on their renovation programme of the bank’s headquarters in Ballsbridge, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17389/12]

The Bank has informed me that AIB is relocating operations from across Dublin to its Bankcentre in Ballsbridge in order to reduce costs. In anticipation of becoming a smaller organisation, in August 2011 AIB commenced a programme to withdraw from five leased locations and is currently adapting its Bankcentre in Ballsbridge to cater for the centralised functions.

The bank has adopted a tighter space management policy to optimise the use of its headoffices. This, too, will contribute to a more efficient and less expensive operation.

As a result of this programme, there will be an approximately 20% reduction in the space occupied by the head office functions and a consequent reduction in costs. The forecast reduction in the cost of operating premises is €60m in the 2012-2016 period and €18m per annum thereafter (2011 values).

The adaptation of the Bankcentre premises does require investment and the construction required has been procured on a competitive basis and carried out by Irish construction firms. The value of the contracts is commercially sensitive and privy to the Contractors and the Bank.

Tax Clearance Certificate

Jack Wall

Ceist:

67 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is deducted PAYE on their pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17393/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that based on the details supplied the person is not liable to tax on her pensions. An amended tax credit certificate will issue to the person concerned and to their spouse's former employer over the next few days. All tax paid to date in 2012 will be refunded on the next pay date after receipt of the revised certificate.

Tax Code

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

68 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the position of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is over 65 years but had DIRT deducted from 2003-2006 when they were in fact exempt from this tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17450/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) deducted for the years 2003 to 2006 inclusive has already been refunded to the person concerned during the years 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Revenue Commissioners will write to the person concerned shortly with full details.

Government Bonds

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

69 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the interest rate that would apply if a Government bond was issued in lieu of the payment due in respect of the 31 March IBRC promissory note payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17380/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Government is committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory Notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State. The Troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish Officials to produce a common paper which will consider all options for restructuring the notes in terms of the source of funding, the duration of the notes, the interest rate etc. In tandem with this review, the European authorities have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to improve the position of the banks in which the State has a major investment.

Under the terms of the Promissory Note the State to make cash payments of €3.06 billion each year to IBRC. The discussions with the European authorities on the general issue continue but we are now negotiating with the EU authorities on the basis that the €3.06 billion cash instalment due from the Minister to IBRC on 31 March 2012 could be settled by the delivery of a long term Irish Government Bond.

Current yields on Irish bonds are under 7%.

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

70 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance in view of current negotiations with the Troika on the promissory note due to IBRC, if he will consider the issue of a recovery bond as a replacement bond, the repayment of which could be dependent on recovery and growth and linked to Ireland’s successful turnaround in the coming years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17461/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Government is committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory Notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State. The Troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish Officials to produce a common paper which will consider all options for restructuring the notes in terms of the source of funding, the duration of the notes, the interest, rate etc. In tandem with this review, the European authorities have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to improve the position of the banks in which the State has a major investment.

Under the terms of the Promissory Note the State to make cash payments of €3.06 billion each year to IBRC. The discussions with the European authorities on the general issue continue but we are now negotiating with the EU authorities, and principally with the ECB, on the basis that the €3.06 billion cash instalment due from the Minister to IBRC on 31 March 2012 could be settled by the delivery of a long term Irish Government Bond The current long term Irish Government bond yields are just under 7%. The Deputy will appreciate that the details of the arrangement have still to be worked out.

In terms of a recovery bond, there has been no indication in any of our discussions with our Troika partners that a bond the repayment of which is dependent on recovery and growth would be acceptable to them. While the objective in restructuring the promissory notes is to defer a repayment schedule until the economy is better placed in terms of growth and employment the obligation on and commitment of the State to meet a defined repayment schedule is an essential element of any restructured arrangement. This essential element not only provides comfort to our external partners but also acts as a focus for ourselves as a nation in our commitment to regaining economic independence.

Departmental Reports

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

71 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the status of the internal report requested by the Secretary General of his Department of Finance 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 provide a progress report into the external review of the systems in his 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; if he will confirm the person who is conducting this external review and when it is expected to be completed; if he will further confirm if he intends to publish in full the internal report and the external review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17465/12]

In regard to the Internal Report, this is being prepared by management in my Department with the professional support of the Department's Internal Audit Unit. It is my understanding that this work is near completion following its circulation to relevant parties involved, who were given sufficient time to provide their final comments on it. Deloitte Consultants have been appointed to undertake the External Review. At this stage, this work is well underway and I understand that the consultants are likely to complete their work in the course of next week.

Following consideration by the Government, it is my intention, subject to legal advice and in a timely manner, to send the Internal Report and the External Review to the Committee of Public Accounts. It is also my intention to publish them.

As previously highlighted in questions on this matter, it has to be recognised that, while this matter was most regrettable, it was a statistical reporting discrepancy where our debt level was mistakenly stated as being higher than it actually was. This discrepancy had no impact on the 2011 budgetary deficit and the State is no better or worse off as a result of it.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

72 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fact that EBS, as a wholly owned subsidiary of AIB, is charging a standard variable rate of interest on residential mortgages significantly in excess of AIB; if he intends to take any action in this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17466/12]

Notwithstanding the State's significant shareholding in the bank, AIB operates at arm's length from the State in relation to commercial issues. It is a matter for the individual board and management to determine and implement operational policy in their organisation. Therefore, such commercial matters are solely a decision for the bank. However, I would note that the merger of AIB and EBS was formally completed on 1 July 2011. Prior to the completion of the merger, each of the banks set their variable mortgage rates according to the levels, calculated by the respective management teams and boards, that was required for each of the institutions to operate as a commercially viable entity in light of the challenging market conditions, the expected cost of funds, future impairments and on-going operational costs.

Irrespective of the merger of the two banks, EBS continues to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of AIB with its own individual banking license, brand and cost structure. This arrangement has been determined by the Board of AIB as being the most effective method of integrating the EBS business whilst retaining the core strengths of each individual entity which should return the greatest value to the State over time as shareholder. While this operational position exists it is likely that AIB and EBS will continue to offer different products to customers and as such, the banks can be expected, in the short to medium term, to price their mortgages and deposits differently from each other in the marketplace. I would also point out that EBS have reduced their SVR mortgage rates by 0.60% since the beginning of November 2011 while AIB have decreased their SVR rates by 0.25% in the same time period.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

73 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No 81 of 19 January 2012 his plans to publish the findings to date of the review; when he expects the review to be completed; if he intends to publish the review once it has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17467/12]

I provided the answers to the questions raised by the Deputy in my replies to Parliamentary Questions (refs: 7364/12 and 9897/12) of 9 and 22 February 2012 respectively. I would not consider it appropriate to publish incomplete interim data at this stage.

I am not in a position to specify when the review will be completed. However, as I have stated previously, I fully recognise that there is a real public interest in the levels of remuneration at the covered institutions and have committed to placing the details underpinning the review into the public domain.

EU Funding

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

74 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the reduction in the interest rate being charged to Ireland from funds paid out of the EFSF and EFSM took effect; if he will provide a schedule of the current interest rates being charged to Ireland on all sources of funding under the EU IMF Programme of Assistance, including bilateral loans. [17468/12]

The Euro Area Heads of State or Government (HoSG) agreed on 21 July 2011 to reduce the cost of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to lending rates equivalent to those of the Balance of Payments facility close to, without going below, the EFSF funding cost.

In addition, further amendments to the EFSF framework have removed the interest rate margin on EFSF funds and were incorporated into a new legal agreement on the 27th of October in which the interest rate margin is now defined as zero. This reduction applies from the date of the HoSG decision i.e 21 July 2011. The agreement incorporates a guarantee commitment fee of 0.1% per annum and a service fee to cover the cost of operations of the EFSF. It should be noted that the EFSF's cost of funds depends on the interest rate it pays for its market issuance when raising funds for programme countries.

In October 2011, the EU Council of Ministers approved an EU Commission proposal to eliminate the margin of 2.925% on the EFSM facility. This change was incorporated into an amendment to the existing legal agreement on 28th October 2011 and the margin is now defined as zero. This now applies to EFSM borrowings back to the date upon which they were issued. For both the EFSF and the EFSM as for the programme loans, the actual cost of funding depends on the prevailing market rates at the time of each drawdown. The structure of the interest rates on the UK bilateral loan will change when it is incorporated into the loan agreement and will be fully retrospective.

In relation to the schedule of the current interest rate being charged to Ireland on all forms of funding under the EU/IMF Programme of financial support, the following table supplied by the NTMA, provides the information for all amounts outstanding as at 28 March 2012.

EFSF

Drawdown Date

Maturity Date

Interest Rate

Currency Code

Currency Principal Billion

01/02/2011

18/07/2016

2.750%

EUR

4.194

14/11/2011

04/02/2022

3.600%

EUR

3.000

12/01/2012

04/02/2015

1.725%

EUR

1.270

19/01/2012

19/07/2012

0.366%

EUR

0.480

15/03/2012

23/08/2012

0.291%

EUR

0.995

Total European Financial Stability Facility

9.939

EFSM

12/01/2011

04/12/2015

2.500%

EUR

5.000

24/03/2011

04/04/2018

3.250%

EUR

3.400

31/05/2011

04/06/2021

3.500%

EUR

3.000

29/09/2011

04/09/2026

3.000%

EUR

2.000

06/10/2011

04/10/2018

2.375%

EUR

0.500

16/01/2012

04/04/2042

3.750%

EUR

1.500

05/03/2012

04/04/2032

3.375%

EUR

3.000

Total European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism

18.400

IMF

18/01/2011

Amortising: 18 Jul 2015-18 Jan 2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

5.012

18/05/2011

Amortising: 18 Nov 2015-18 May 2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

1.410

07/09/2011

Amortising: 07 Mar 2016-07 Sep 2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

1.319

16/12/2011

Amortising: 16 Jun 2016-16 Dec 2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

3.309

29/02/2012

Amortising: 31 Aug 2016-28 Feb 2022

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

2.786

Total International Monetary Fund

13.836

UK

14/10/2011

15/04/2019

4.72%

GBP

0.403

30/01/2012

30/07/2019

4.29%

GBP

0.403

28/03/2012

30/09/2019

4.44%

GBP

0.403

Total UK Bilateral Loan

1.209

Notes

XDR is the currency code used to denote the IMF's Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an international reserve asset which is composed of a basket of currencies consisting of the euro, Japanese yen, pound sterling, and U.S. dollar.

The interest rate on IMF loans is variable. It is composed of a weekly setting of the IMF SDR interest rate and surcharges which are volume and time dependent. As of 26 March 2012 the SDR interest rate accruing on Ireland's IMF loans is 0.15% and the surcharges are 2.45% making a total of 2.60%.

The interest rate for the UK bilateral facility is an annualised rate.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

75 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed update on the Revenue’s initiative launched in January 2012 to target a compliance campaign at persons in receipt of a State pension and a private occupational pension; the number of such persons that are now estimated to have an additional tax liability; the estimate of the amount of money expected to be raised in 2012 from this initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17469/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that deductions of income tax for 2012 continue to be made by relevant employers/pension providers in accordance with instructions issued to them in late December 2011 which would have taken account of up-to-date DSP pensions information supplied to the Commissioners by the DSP. In addition, the Commissioners advise that they have issued tax exemption certificates to the employers/pension providers of some 16,000 taxpayers who they believe will be exempt from tax for 2012 even with the full DSP pension taken into account and more work is going on in that regard to identify any other DSP recipients who may be exempt from tax in 2012. Furthermore, the Commissioners state that where they have the full information for 2011 required to enable them review the tax affairs of as many of the 20,000 taxpayers that they specifically wrote to on 30 December 2011, who it appeared had been over-deducted tax, they will do so shortly and will refund any monies due.

The Commissioners further advise that in the past number of weeks they have published additional "Frequently Asked Questions" material on their website which provides further clarity on the DSP pensions issue. Also, very recently published on their website and soon to be available in paper form, is a shortened version of the annual return of income form for 2011 that is completed by PAYE employees and pensioners, known as the Form 12S. This re-designed form should make it easier for PAYE taxpayers to comply with their tax obligations.

In addition, at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform on 11 January 2012, the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners indicated that additional analysis had to be carried out on those cases where it appeared the risk of tax loss was greatest. This work is still ongoing and will continue during April 2012. The Commissioners, therefore, are not yet in a position to state the number of persons who will have additional liabilities.

Lastly, regarding the question of the amount of money to be raised in 2012 from the DSP pensions initiative, I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are satisfied that the published Budget day estimate of €45 million will be met.

Banks Recapitalisation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

76 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the gross cost to date of the bank recapitalisations, the breakdown of this between cash injections from the Exchequer and the National Pensions Reserve Fund to date and the outstanding balance on the promissory notes; the amount received to date by the Exchequer under the financial support scheme and the eligible institutions guarantee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17470/12]

The bank recapitalisation commitments made by the State to date are set out in the following table:

€bn

AIB/EBS

BoI

IL&P

IBRC (Anglo/INBS)

Total

Government preference Shares (2009) — NPRF

3.5

3.5*

7.0

Capital contributions (with Promissory Notes as consideration) /Special Investment Shares (2010) — Exchequer **

0.9

30.7

31.6

Ordinary Share Capital (2009) — Exchequer

4.0

4.0

Ordinary Share Capital (2010) — NPRF

3.7

3.7

Total pre-PCAR 2011 (A)

8.1

3.5

0

34.7

46.3

PCAR 2011:

Capital from Exchequer***

3.9

2.7

6.5

NPRF Capital

8.8

1.2

10.0

Total PCAR (B)

12.7

1.2

2.7

16.5

Total Cost of Recap for State (A) + (B)

20.7

4.7

2.7

34.7

62.8

* €1.7bn of BoI's government preference shares were converted to equity in May/June 2010 (€1.8bn still left in existence). The government also received €0.5bn from the warrants relating to BoI's preference shares (excluded from table above).

** The IBRC amount is made up of a total capital contribution for Anglo / INBS of €30.6bn and a special investment share of €0.1bn (INBS). The Anglo / INBS capital contribution impacted in full on the GGB in 2010. The consideration for the Anglo / INBS capital contribution was €30.6bn of promissory notes. These Promissory Notes are an amount due from the State to IBRC. Each year, on 31 March, €3.06bn is paid by the Exchequer to Anglo / INBS as part of the scheduled repayments of the promissory notes. The first such repayment was made on 31 March 2010.

*** The Exchequer cost of the 2011 BoI recap is shown net of share sale to private investors (Completed in October, 2011).

Please note that these figures only represent the capital committed to recapitalising these institutions and they do not take account of revenues received directly or indirectly from the banks.

It should also be noted that the total cost of the recapitalisations would have been significantly higher were it not for the burden sharing achieved with holders of subordinated debt in each of the institutions.

The outstanding balance on the Promissory Notes as of today, 29 March 2012, is €28,093,970,591 of which €4,851,774,452 relates to the former INBS.

A total of €2,855.9 million has been received into the Exchequer to date in fees and interest accrued from the covered banks. This is made up of €763.7 million in respect of the Credit Institutions Financial Support Scheme (CIFS) which operated from 30 September 2008 to 29 September 2010, and €2,092.2 million in respect of the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme (ELG) which covers the period the participating institutions signed up to the scheme typically since February 2010 to end December 2011.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

77 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the total amount of income received by the State from the covered institutions in respect of the various bank guarantees in place since 2008; and the amount expected to be received during the remainder of 2012. [17471/12]

The bank guarantee schemes to which the Deputy refers that have been in place since 2008 are the Credit Institutions Financial Support Scheme 2008 (CIFS Scheme), which was in operation between 30 September, 2008, and 29 September, 2010, and the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme (ELG Scheme) which came into operation on 9 December, 2009, and has a current issuance end date of 30 June, 2012, subject to review by the EU Commission. The total amount of income received to date from the banks covered by both schemes amounts to €2,861.04m.

This amount breaks down as follows:

Fees and interest accrued paid into the Exchequer

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Amount €m

CIFS

763.7

ELG

2092.2

Total

2855.9

Recoupment of Administrative and Legal Costs

Covered Institutions have signed up to agreements under both Schemes involving an undertaking to pay my Department on demand all legal and administrative costs from time to time incurred in any way in connection with the making of the Schemes and the giving of the guarantees. A total of €5.14m. has been received to date for recoupment of administrative and legal costs in support of both the CIFS and ELG Schemes.

Budget Profiles for 2012

The Deputy will be aware of this year's budget forecast for income from fees under the ELG Scheme which is estimated to be €800m.

A further €150,000 is expected in receipts for recoupment of administrative and legal costs for support of the ELG Scheme in 2012.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

78 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the application of the Central Bank’s fitness and probity regime to current executives working in the banking industry; the number and employment details of those currently being assessed under the new standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17474/12]

The Central Bank advise me that there has been no further developments of significance since this question was last responded to on 21st February, 2012. The Central Bank Reform Act 2010 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 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.

Credit Availability

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

79 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance in respect of the two pillar banks, the amount of new lending actually extended, as opposed to approved, to small and medium enterprises in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17475/12]

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. I can confirm to the Deputy that both banks have achieved their 2011 targets. I should stress that the targets are for approvals of credit. Targets have not been imposed for drawdowns and I have no plans to introduce such targets at this time. I would point out that the drawdown of funding is at the discretion of the borrower. There are many factors affecting whether or not funding is drawn down, such as changes in market conditions or company restructuring. The recent Mazars Survey of SME Lending, conducted on behalf of my Department, found that the most frequently cited reason for not availing of approved credit was ‘not needed at present time'.

The two pillar banks have provided me with the relevant data on drawdowns but as this material is commercially sensitive I cannot share it with the Deputy. However, the Deputy may wish to note that the Central Bank gathers and collates statistics on a wide range of Financial Services Sector activities on an on-going basis. As a general rule, my Department does not engage in a separate exercise to collect such statistics, but has access to and relies on statistics provided and published by the Central Bank.

Data provided by the Central Bank indicates that the drawdown of new lending by non-financial SMEs from credit institutions in Ireland was €3.1 billion in 2011. Figures for the equivalent period in 2010 show drawdowns of €3 billion. Excluding SMEs in the property related sectors these figures show drawdowns of new lending of €2.2 billion in 2011, roughly equal to amounts drawn down in 2010. For the Deputy's information, the relevant statistics for credit made available to small business are accessible at: http://www.centralbank.ie/polstats/stats/ cmab/Documents/ie_table_a.14.1_credit_advanced_to_irish_resident_small_and_ medium_sized_enterprises.xls

Mortgage Arrears

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

80 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the total value of the buy-to-let mortgage book here; the percentage that are estimated to be in arrears of 90 days or more; the percentage that are on interest only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17476/12]

I am advised by the Central Bank that the total outstanding balance of buy-to-let mortgages advanced to Irish resident private households (including securitised loans serviced by Irish resident institutions) at end December 2011 was €28.8bn (€31.5bn at end December 2010). While the Central Bank publishes a detailed data series on the arrears position of primary residential mortgages, it does not publish comparable data on buy to let mortgages. However, the Bank has published some data on this subject. In a conference the Bank hosted in October 2011 on the Irish mortgage market, it estimated that, at end December 2010, 10.9% of buy-to let mortgage balances were in arrears of 90 days or more (the comparable statistic for residential mortgages at that time was 7.4%). Separately, in a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform in October 2011, the Central Bank indicated that, at end December 2010, 57% of buy to let loans of the four banks included in the 2011 Central Bank Financial Measures Programme Report were interest only.

European Stability Programmes

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

81 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the 2012 stability programme update will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17479/12]

As part of the European Semester, Member States are required to submit updated Stability Programmes in April of each year. My Department is currently working on the 2012 update for Ireland, which will be published at the end of April.

Banks Recapitalisation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

82 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the transfer of loss making tracker mortgages in State owned financial institutions to IBRC could give rise to a need for additional capital for IBRC in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17480/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Government is committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory Notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State. The Troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish Officials to produce a common paper which will consider all options for restructuring the notes in terms of the source of funding, the duration of the notes, the interest rate etc. In tandem with this review, the European authorities have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to improve the position of the banks in which the State has a major investment. We must therefore consider the recent developments as an initial step in a project where, if we are successful, it will be in the medium term rather than immediately. As a result the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate at this stage in the process to comment on any specific implications, including any capital implications, for the institutions involved.

Fiscal Policy

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

83 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the implications, if any, of the decline in GDP and GNP recorded in the fourth quarter of 2011 on his budgetary projections for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17481/12]

The forthcoming Stability Programme Update will contain updated economic and budgetary forecasts for this year and for the period 2013-15. Officials from my Department are currently assessing the implications of the quarterly national accounts data, published last week by the CSO, for the 2012 budgetary projections. This, along with other information that has become available since Budget time and the economic and fiscal data to be published in the next few weeks, will inform the Department's forecasts. The Stability Programme Update will be published at the end of April.

Local Authority Charges

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

84 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has discussed with the Department for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current low rate of payment of the household charge and the impact of any potential shortfall in the revenue raised on his budgetary projections for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17482/12]

The latest available information as at 4 p.m. yesterday Wednesday March 28th indicates that €42,659,900 has been paid under the household charge so far. A further €5.5m in postal applications were on hand to be processed. The Budget Day arithmetic allowed for €160 million to be collected under this charge. As has been stated several times, any persons who are liable for the charge and have not registered will incur fines and penalties and payment of the charge will continue to be sought. As we approach the payment deadline I am confident that the numbers paying the charge will rise.

The Revised Estimates for Public Services, published by my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, last month shows that the revenues from the charge are to be paid directly into the Local Government Fund and used to fund Local Government services. With revenues going directly to the Local Government Fund, this means the Exchequer is no longer required to make a subvention to the fund. There will be no additional Exchequer funding available for the Local Government sector should there be a shortfall in revenues.

Our budgetary targets are challenging and Government's primary objective is to ensure that Ireland meets the 8.6% General Government Deficit target set for 2012. Ireland has greatly enhanced its reputation by consistently meeting all targets and commitments agreed under the Programme of External Assistance and this has been reflected in positive media commentary and improved financial market sentiment. It is vital that this continues.

Bank Debt Restructuring

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

85 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made recently in relation to restructuring the banking debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17483/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Government is committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory Notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State. The Troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish Officials to produce a common paper which will consider all options for restructuring the notes in terms of the source of funding, the duration of the notes, the interest rate etc. In tandem with this review, the European authorities have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to improve the position of the banks in which the State has a major investment.

Under the terms of the Promissory Note the State to make cash payments of €3.06 billion each year to IBRC. The discussions with the European authorities on the general issue continue but we are now negotiating with the EU authorities on the basis that the €3.06 billion cash instalment due from the Minister to IBRC on 31 March 2012 could be settled by the delivery of a long term Irish Government Bond. The details of the arrangements are still being worked on.

National Treasury Management Agency

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

86 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 73 of 1 March 2012, if this information is yet available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17490/12]

I have been informed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) that all members of the NTMA senior management team — ten people including the Chief Executives of the NTMA, NDFA and NAMA — have agreed to my request that NTMA employees whose salaries exceed €200,000 waive 15% of salary or such amount of salary as exceeds €200,000 if application of the full 15% reduction would bring their salary to below €200,000. Four of the five other specialist staff whose salaries exceed €200,000 have also agreed to the reduction. I would like to acknowledge the positive response to my request of those NTMA staff who waived part of their salary.

I have also been informed by the NTMA that the members of the NTMA senior management team also waived any consideration for performance-related pay in respect of 2011 (as they did previously in respect of 2010). The NTMA made performance-related payments to five key staff in respect of 2011. These payments in aggregate totalled €62,610. This compares with payments totalling €1,981,760 to 258 staff members in respect of 2010.

Banking Sector Regulation

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

87 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the future of a bank (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17492/12]

The Deputy will be aware that AIB, as part of its announcement of 8th March 2012 of a voluntary severance programme, stated "as required under the bank's partnership principles with IBOA, a consultation process will begin immediately with trade union representatives." It went on to state that "AIB will not be making any further public comment until the consultation process with staff representatives is concluded." Accordingly, the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment directly on some of the issues raised by him in his question.

It is deeply regrettable, for all concerned, that the proposed action of shedding some 2,500 jobs has had to be taken but it is an inevitable consequence of the necessary restructuring of the banking system to render it fit to better serve personal and business customers throughout the economy. I have been at pains to point out, in any public pronouncements on the issue, that all parties involved in this most sensitive of issues for individuals need to be treated with utmost consideration and respect and this most certainly includes the State.

As for any group of workers whose positions are being made redundant, the services of the State will be available to assist them across a range of issues including employment support services, education and training interventions and income maintenance and money advice. Any such supports will supplement the facilities being put in place by the employer. The exact nature of the supports will be determined by the particular circumstances.

Tax Collection

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

88 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if any tax has been collected under the windfall tax provisions of the National Assets Management Agency Act 2009; the potential tax take that can be estimated for this provision; if he is satisfied that the definites in this provision are clear as to what is taxable under these provisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17505/12]

The windfall tax rate of 80% applies to the portion of the profit or gain on a disposal of land which is attributable to a "relevant planning decision": that is, a rezoning, where both the rezoning and the disposal of land giving rise to the windfall happen after 30 October 2009; or a "material contravention" decision by a local authority, where both the decision and the disposal happen after 4 February 2010. I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that on the basis of the available 2009 data, the latest year for which the necessary detailed information is to hand, there is no record of any such profits or gains having been returned.

As respects the tax year 2010, while tax returns have been received, the relevant data has not yet been processed to the extent to allow for the full identification of any profits or gains to which this measure applies. However, I understand from indications to date that the level of such profits or gains received in 2010 was extremely small. The legal provisions underpinning this measure accurately reflect Government policy at the time of its enactment and I have no reason to doubt that the provision is, or will be, effective in taxing any such profits or gains which might arise.

Schools Building Projects

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

89 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the building project of a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17307/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced earlier this month is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. School building projects currently in or commencing architectural planning, including the project for the school referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

The Department is currently in the process of acquiring a new site for this school. This acquisition is subject to the appropriate planning permission being obtained and a planning application has been submitted to the Local Authority. The Local Authority has submitted a request to the Department for further information and a response is being prepared. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible, at this time, to give an indicative timeframe for the progression to tender and construction of the project at this school.

Bullying in Schools

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

90 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the implementation of a forum to help address bullying in schools; if he will give details of a timetable for when this initiative will be implemented; the plans his senior Department officials have to meet with their counterparts in the North to progress this initiative; his views on developing an all-Ireland anti-bullying strategy that incorporates and builds upon the best practises currently operating in both jurisdictions. [17312/12]

My Department is at the early stages of planning an Anti-Bullying Forum. It is envisaged at this stage that it will be held in May 2012. If possible, it will be held on 17 May which is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The objective of the Forum will be to explore with all the relevant stakeholders how best to tackle all aspects of bullying in schools and to consider what changes or updating of existing practices and procedures are required to achieve this having regard to what is feasible to implement in the current financial climate. As part of this process my Department's officials can engage with their counterparts in the North in order to share experience and perspectives on how to improve how schools can respond to bullying.

Special Educational Needs

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

91 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the home tuition programme will continue in July 2012, and if not, if he will specify the way in which it will be replaced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17315/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the Home Tuition Scheme provides funding to parents to provide for education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement including eligible pre-school children with an autistic spectrum disorder. Separately my Department provides for the July Education Programme that is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides for a July Programme for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability.

Children in receipt of home tuition who are eligible for an extended school year have their allocation extended for four weeks in July. This cohort includes eligible pre-school children with an autism spectrum disorder. Letters extending home tuition for July 2012 issued to parents of eligible children earlier this week.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

92 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17325/12]

The Minister of State at my Department, Mr Ciaran Cannon TD, represented the Government in China for the St. Patrick's Day period and led an education mission, organised by Enterprise Ireland, which comprised senior representatives of Irish universities, institutes of technology and other higher education institutions. The cost to date to my Department is €11,449.50, which represents the flight costs and official gifts. Further costs, which have not yet been charged to my Department, will include hotel costs, travel & subsistence, internal flights and car hire.

School Accommodation

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

93 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there has been any analysis conducted to ascertain the long term demand for secondary school education in Balbriggan, County Dublin, once the promised Gaelcholaiste is built as part of the five year building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17342/12]

As the Deputy is aware, in June of last year I announced that 20 new post-primary schools are to be established up to 2017 across a number of locations to cater for increasing demographics. This announcement included a proposal to establish a new post-primary school in the area referred to by the Deputy. Forward Planning Section of my Department will continue its analysis of enrolments and demographics in the area concerned to ensure that there is sufficient school accommodation to meet any projected future demands.

Higher Education Grants

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

94 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding plans to implement changes made following Budget 2012 in respect of fee-supports for post-graduate applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17377/12]

The Deputy will be aware that, in the context of the necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures announced in Budget 2012, new students entering postgraduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will not be entitled to maintenance payments under the Student Grant Scheme. However, those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.

Existing postgraduate students will not be affected. In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. My Department estimates that this will help an additional 4,000 postgraduate students. There will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year.

School Staffing

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

95 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the staffing allocation to a DEIS 2 school (details supplied) in County Cork for the school year 2012/2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17415/12]

The staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012 which is available on my Department's website. This includes details of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. Applying the new staffing schedule for Band 1 DEIS schools to this school and the Government's decision to retain posts from previous disadvantage schemes, there is no change to the number of mainstream class teachers for the 2012/13 school year over 2011/12 school year. The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model (GAM) combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner. The allocation processes also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circular referred to above. For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable some limited phasing arrangements for schools where the combination of budget and reform measures impact in a particularly adverse manner on a school's overall allocation. The closing date for submission of appeal was 23 March, 2012. The school to which the Deputy refers has submitted an appeal.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

96 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that further consideration will be given to the views of a number of groups who are concerned about the provision of services and assistance under the proposed statutory trust fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17419/12]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

97 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that further consideration will be given to the views of representative groups who are concerned that victims who did not receive assistance or support under the redress scheme will be denied access to the proposed statutory trust fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17420/12]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

98 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which he proposes to publish the legislation in respect of the establishment of the statutory trust fund; the proposed timescale he has for the establishment of the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17421/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 to 98, inclusive, together.

Work on the drafting of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill which will provide for the establishment of the Statutory Fund, is currently being finalised and I expect to be in a position to publish it very shortly.

As set out in the General Scheme of the Bill, the Statutory Fund will focus solely on victims of residential institutional abuse, with eligibility being confined to those who received an award from the Redress Board or an award or settlement in court proceedings and who would otherwise have received an award from the Redress Board. While I am aware of concerns regarding the proposed eligibility provisions for the Fund, it is likely that in the region of 15,000 former residents will successfully complete the redress process. If eligibility were significantly widened to include, for example, all former residents of scheduled institutions, then the amounts available to fund services for individuals could be greatly reduced and the effectiveness of the Statutory Fund could be put at risk. Having considered this matter carefully I am satisfied that it is the correct approach, at this stage, to focus the Statutory Fund on those former residents who have successfully completed the redress process. Recipients of redress awards have been through a fair but thorough process. Provision is included in the General Scheme to allow Redress Board advise the Statutory Fund of the name, address and date of birth of award recipients. Such a provision will allow the Fund to confirm applicants' eligibility and minimise the administration associated with the Fund. Some former residents may, as was their right, have chosen not to make an application to the Redress Board but every encouragement was given to them to apply: there was extensive advertising of the Redress Scheme which has operated for some nine years. Of course, those former residents who will not eligible for assistance from the Fund can continue to avail of the National Counselling Service and the Family Tracing Service.

I would suggest that the issue of who is eligible to apply for assistance could be reviewed following the establishment of the Statutory Fund in the event of the applications to the Fund not resulting in a significant expenditure of the Fund. 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 a wide range of services to be approved for the Fund including counselling, psychological support services and mental health services, health and personal social services, educational services and housing services.

State Examinations

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

99 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an appeal of a student (details supplied) in County Cork for a scribe to be provided for their leaving certificate examinations. [17422/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations. I can inform the Deputy that the Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students. In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Teaching Contracts

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

100 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary, post primary and third level teachers who were on fixed term contracts and contracts of indefinite duration in May 2011; if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown of the numbers in each category of contract that were employed in schools under the control of his Department and the numbers in each category of contract employed in each vocational education committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17425/12]

The information sought by the Deputy in respect of primary and post primary teachers is not readily available. A reply will issue direct to the Deputy. The recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill vacancies in an individual school is a matter for the management authority of the school concerned. The number of fixed-term contract and contract of indefinite duration teaching posts in individual schools is therefore a matter for the school authorities subject to remaining within their approved teacher allocation. The information sought in respect of each vocational education committee and in respect of lecturers employed in the higher education sector is not available in the Department.

School Enrolments

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

101 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a re-assessment can be carried out in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who cannot secure a place in a school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17441/12]

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 on www.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.

School Staffing

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

102 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any primary school in County Cavan will lose staff next September as a result of the staffing schedule changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17444/12]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

103 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any primary school in County Monaghan will lose staff next September as a result of the staffing schedule changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17445/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 103 together.

Teacher allocations are approved annually in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. My Department has published the staffing arrangements at primary level for the coming school year, 2012/13. The relevant circular, 0007/2012 is available on my Department's website. The allocation process at primary level also includes an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circular referred to above. For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria has been extended to enable some limited phasing arrangements for schools where the combination of budget and reform measures impact on a particularly adverse manner on a school's overall allocation. The Appeal Board operate independently of the Department and its decision is final. The final staffing position for all schools at primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Special Educational Needs

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

104 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address the concerns regarding the special class provision and special needs assistant staffing at a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary [17484/12]

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. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support, which now includes a requirement for them to have regard to an overall cap on the number of posts available.

The NCSE is responsible for the allocation of resource teaching hours and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs, as well as the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas, as required, and the discontinuation of such classes where the need no longer exists.

I have therefore arranged for the Deputy's question in relation to the special class provision at a particular school to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

In relation to the allocation of SNAs, I wish to clarify for the Deputy that 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 16 March, 2012. Schools will subsequently be advised by the NCSE 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.

School Accommodation

John McGuinness

Ceist:

105 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to respond to the need for increased accommodation at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17486/12]

I can confirm to the Deputy that an application for capital funding for additional accommodation is currently awaited from the school to which he refers. The completed application when received will be assessed and a decision on the matter conveyed to the school authority.

Third Level Fees

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

106 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the possible increase in third level fees (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17491/12]

In order for this country to adhere to its agreed economic recovery programme and to reduce the budget deficit to 3% of GDP by 2015 it is necessary to seek to reduce expenditure across all areas of my Department.

Unfortunately this involves difficult decisions including the decision in Budget 2012 to increase the Student Contribution to €2,250 for the 2012/13 academic year. While the Government considered a range of saving options for the 2012-2015 period as part of the budget process last year, final decisions have not been made in respect of student contribution increases for 2013 and beyond.

It should be noted that the student contribution is paid by the Exchequer in respect of students who qualify under my Department's third level grant schemes. Tax relief is also available for second and subsequent siblings to help alleviate the cost for families.

Schools Enrolments

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

107 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school placement in respect of a child (details supplied) [17495/12]

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 on www.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.

Flood Relief

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

108 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding a flood relief project (details supplied); and if he will confirm when a decision on funding is expected. [17366/12]

On foot of a meeting between the Office of Public Works and Cork County Council on the proposed works at this location, the council have prepared a draft revised application, which they have forwarded to the OPW. This will be reviewed in the near future and OPW will respond to the council with comments before the formal submission of the application.

Any application then received will be assessed in accordance with the scheme eligibility criteria, in conjunction with other applications received and having regard to the overall availability of finances.

National Lottery Funding

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

109 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if steps have been take to ensure that National Lottery funds are allocated on a fair and transparent basis and that there are no questions arising as to whether of not any political influence was brought to bear on those decisions or any bias towards constituencies with Ministers, in view of studies that have suggested otherwise (details supplied); if he will ensure that the manner in which grants are announced is also on the basis of fair and transparent system of allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17506/12]

The surplus generated by the National Lottery is transferred annually to the Exchequer and is applied to part-fund the Exchequer allocations to a specified range of expenditure subheads across various Votes.

The amount transferred to the Exchequer from the National Lottery surplus, together with details of the total Exchequer allocations to the relevant Lottery supported subheads, are published each year in Appendix 1 of the annual Revised Estimates for Public Services (REV) which gives a breakdown of allocations by programme. It is important to note that these programmes are only part-funded by the Lottery and that the remaining expenditure comes from general Exchequer funding. In 2012, for example, total expenditure under subheads that are part-funded by the National Lottery is estimated at 339 million euro. It is estimated that this expenditure will be part-funded by 220 million euro from the National Lottery with the balance coming from the Exchequer.

While as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I have responsibility both for overall public expenditure and for regulating the National Lottery, neither I or my Department has a role in assessing applications for grants that are provided by other Departments and Agencies from subheads part-funded by the surplus from the National Lottery. However, I would stress that expenditure from such subheads is subject to the same controls and procedures that apply to voted expenditure generally, for example the requirements for the sanction of my Department and the availability of accounts for inspection by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

110 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17332/12]

The only cost incurred by my Department in respect of the visit to Singapore was the cost of the flights for myself and the two officials accompanying me, which amounted to €7,035 including taxes and charges.

In order to reduce the costs of the visit my officials and I stayed in the Ambassador's residence in Singapore. The costs arising in Singapore in relation to the trip were met from the existing budget of the Irish Embassy in Singapore.

State Property

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

111 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of buildings owned by the Office of Public Works that are being rented out; the address of each building; the annual rent being paid for each building; the length of time each lease is for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17385/12]

The Office of Public Works receives rent on both commercial and non-commercial properties. Exclusive of properties which attract an annual rent of less than €200 per annum and those occupied in the course of employment, rents accrue on part or all of thirteen State-owned properties. The following table schedules the buildings involved; the address of each; the total annual rent arising; and the nature of each lease:

Name

Annual Rent

Lease Duration

Crofton House, Crofton Road, Dun Laoire, Co. Dublin

€697,225.00

Annual Tenancy

Castlebar Gov Offices, Michael Davitt Hse, Castlebar, Co Mayo

€40,377.68

Annual Tenancy

Sligo Gov Offices, Cranmore Rd, Sligo

€27,959.64

Annual Tenancy

5 Merrion Sq, Dublin 2

€5,021.80

Annual Tenancy

Dunsink Observatory, Dunsink Lane, Finglas, Dublin 11

€330.12

Annual Tenancy

10 Burlington Rd, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

€50,167.36

Annual Tenancy

31 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2

€58,090.52

Annual Tenancy

Waterford Gov Office, The Glen, Waterford

€3,719.08

Annual Tenancy

Tallaght Social Welfare Office, The Square, Tallaght

€54,102.00

Annual Tenancy

7 Merrion Square, Dublin 2

€350,000.00

Annual Tenancy

Inch Howth Sandpit

€400.00

Annual Tenancy

14 Upper O Connell St

€1,650.66

Annual Tenancy

14 Upper O Connell St

€1,650.64

Annual Tenancy

State Bodies

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

112 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of money which will be saved from current expenditure in 2012 from the announced closure and or amalgamation of certain State bodies; if he will specify the quangos that have been abolished to date and those which he intends to abolish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17472/12]

The radical streamlining of State Bodies is a key deliverable of the Public Service Reform Plan, which was published in November 2011. This streamlining includes the rationalisation of 48 bodies by the end of 2012, as well as the critical review of a further 46 bodies to take place by end June 2012. Details of the bodies involved are set out in Appendices IIa and IIb of the Plan which can be found at: http://reformplan.per.gov.ie/files/2012/01/Public-Service-Reform-28112011.pdf.

While these rationalisations will deliver savings to the taxpayer, the real benefits lie in the simplification of the administrative landscape, thereby ensuring greater democratic accountability, less duplication of effort and more transparent lines of responsibility of public servants. As outlined in the Public Service Reform Plan, savings of 20 million euro in enhanced service efficiencies and value-for-money are envisaged from the rationalisation programme.

With regard to the progress made to date, I refer the Deputy to my answer to Deputy Shane Ross (PQ Ref No: 7802/12) on 14 February 2012. The associated administrative savings from these measures have been taken into consideration in the context of the Revised Estimates for 2012.

Redundancy Payments

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

113 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the pressure he can bring to bear, to ensure the Labour Court recommendation that a company (details supplied) pay an ex-gratia payment of four week’s per year to the former workers is actually implemented in view of the fact that they apparently have declined to observe it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17314/12]

I understand that the Deputy's question concerns a dispute between the company and twenty employees in relation to a claim for enhanced redundancy terms in excess of the employees' statutory redundancy entitlement.

The Labour Court conducts hearings on trade disputes and issues recommendations setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it should be settled. The Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, and it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the Court's recommendation.

However, the system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature and recommendations of the Labour Court are not legally binding. Neither the Labour Court, nor I, can compel a company to comply with such recommendations. Ultimately, responsibility for the settlement of a trade dispute rests with the parties to the dispute.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

114 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17330/12]

The following is the information requested by the Deputy.

(1) Minister Richard Bruton T.D., Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation represented Ireland at EI and IDA engagements in San Francisco, USA, 13 to 15 March 2012.

Costs incurred by the Department in respect of economy class flights to San Francisco for Minister Bruton and Private Secretary are as follows:

€1,108.26 x 2 = €2,216.52.

Other related costs including accommodation for the period 13 to 15 March 2012 were borne directly by the organising agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA.

The cost of accommodation for Minister Bruton and his Private Secretary in San Francisco on 16 March 2012 was paid for by the Department of Foreign Affairs and will fall due to be reimbursed by this Department in due course.

Subsistence for the Minister and Private Secretary is claimed and paid by the Department in arrears. Subsistence is paid in accordance with Department of Finance rates and regulations and once claimed, will be reimbursed in due course.

(2) Minister John Perry T.D., Minister for Small Business represented Ireland on an EI Trade Mission to Finland and Sweden 14 to 16 March 2012.

The Minister and Private Secretary were accommodated overnight in the Ambassador's residence in Stockholm on the 15th March 2012 so no hotel costs were incurred in respect of this element of the trip. Other related costs including travel and accommodation for the Minister and Private Secretary were borne by the organising agency, Enterprise Ireland.

Subsistence for the Minister and Private Secretary is claimed and paid by the Department in arrears. Subsistence is paid in accordance with Department of Finance rates and regulations and once claimed, will be reimbursed in due course.

(3) The Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Sean Sherlock T.D., did not travel abroad for St Patrick's Day events.

Proposed Legislation

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

115 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an update on the Copyright Review Committee review of Ireland’s copyright legislation; if he will outline the terms of reference of the review and how citizens can contribute to the review; if the review will ensure that internet freedom is protected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17374/12]

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton T.D established the Copyright Review Committee on 9th May, 2011 to examine the current Copyright legislative framework to identify any areas of the legislation that might be deemed to create barriers to innovation and to make recommendations to resolve any problems identified. The Review will ultimately present a Report with a set of recommendations for legislative change.

The Copyright Review Committee was established with the following terms of reference:

1. Examine the present national Copyright legislation and identify any areas that are perceived to create barriers to innovation.

2. Identify solutions for removing these barriers and make recommendations as to how these solutions might be implemented through changes to national legislation.

3. Examine the US style ‘fair use' doctrine to see if it would be appropriate in an Irish/EU context.

4. If it transpires that national copyright legislation requires to be amended but cannot be amended, (bearing in mind that Irish copyright legislation is bound by the European Communities Directives on Copyright and Related Rights and other international obligations) make recommendations for changes to the EU Directives that will eliminate the barriers to innovation and optimise the balance between protecting creativity and promoting and facilitating innovation.

The membership of the independent Committee is Dr. Eoin O’Dell (Trinity College Dublin), (Chair), Patricia McGovern (DFMG Solicitors, Dublin) and Prof. Steve Hedley (University College, Cork).

The Committee conducted an initial consultation process during the summer of 2011 and received over 100 submissions from interested parties. The Committee held a well-attended and particularly fruitful public meeting on 4th July 2011 in Trinity College Dublin.

The Committee issued a Consultation Paper on 29th February, 2012 which sets out the issues and concerns which were expressed to the Committee in the aforementioned submissions from a broad spectrum of interested parties. The Committee explores various options to address these concerns in the light of the Terms of Reference and the Paper also poses questions on these matters.

The Committee has established a further consultation process based on the issues and concerns addressed in the Consultation Paper and are inviting further submissions from all affected or concerned by the issues raised in the Paper including information providers and ISPs, innovators, rightsholders, consumers and end-users. The Committee also held a further public meeting on 24th March, 2012 for the purpose of facilitating discussion in relation to the issues raised in the Consultation Paper. The closing date for the receipt of submissions is 5.00 pm on Thursday 31st May 2012. The Committee will then evaluate the further submissions and prepare a Final Report.

The Committee now has a dedicated website at http://www.djei.ie/science/ipr/crc.htm and it will be directly linked from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation’s homepage until the Review process is complete. The Committee’s site provides information regarding the various ways to participate in the consultation process. As well as by post and email, the Committee has prepared an online questionnaire [https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CRC12] to reply to the questions they pose in the Consultation Paper. It is available from the Committee’s website.

The Irish Internet Association have also provided a mechanism for online submissions to collate its members' views and to gather the views of others on the Paper, using a structured mechanism for feedback. All stakeholders are welcome to complete the questionnaire and responses will be sent directly to the department upon closing of the survey. The questionnaire is available on the Irish Internet Association website at [http://www.iia.ie/feedback/].

The Minister wishes to inform the Deputy that the Copyright Review Committee are an independent body and therefore, it would not be appropriate for him to comment at this juncture on any issues which are being considered by the Committee in the context of their ongoing review of the legislation.

However, the Minister would like to call on all interested parties to engage fully with the ongoing work of the Copyright Review Committee and strongly encourages all those interested in these matters to give careful study to the Consultation Paper and to put forward their views to the Copyright Review Committee.

Employment Rights

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

116 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on reports that a company (details supplied) will no longer be employing any staff in the Republic of Ireland to provide services for their Irish customer base; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17387/12]

The position is that Vodafone tendered for its Mobile Customer Service work in 2012. Rigney Dolphin was the incumbent provider with 290 full-time-equivalent positions at Vodafone's offices in Dundalk and Dublin. A French company, Teleperformance (also Vodafone's UK provider) won the new tender. Teleperformance has operations in Newry, Co Down. I understand that this change has arisen out of Vodafone's on-going review of customer care and the necessity for the company to provide services as cost effectively as possible. As I'm sure you can appreciate the market for these types of contract is extremely competitive.

Vodafone Ireland has advised that it envisages that all of Rigney Dolphin staff based in Vodafone will transfer as employees to Teleperformance and that the transfer will observe the Transfer of Undertakings — Protection of Employees (European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003) Regulations.

The Regulations require that in a transfer situation, both the original employer and the new employer inform employee representatives of the reasons for the transfer and the date on which it will take effect. There is also a requirement to advise employees of the legal, economic and social implications for them of the transfer. This information is required to be given no later than 30 days in advance of the intended date of the transfer.

I understand that Vodafone Ireland and Rigney Dolphin are entering a six-week consultation process with employee representatives, prior to the new arrangements taking effect and therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this point.

As always, the State's industrial relations machinery, including the Labour Relations Commission, is available to assist in this process, if requested and it goes without saying that the State enterprise agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, and Louth County Enterprise Board will continue to make every effort that they can to develop new employment opportunities for Dundalk.

Recent developments such as the announcement last month by PayPal to create 1,000 jobs in Dundalk, which is being supported by the Government through IDA Ireland, demonstrates that Dundalk provides the key skills and business infrastructure required by global leaders such as PayPal and is an encouraging sign for the future.

Social Welfare Appeals

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

117 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision in respect of their carer’s allowance appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17305/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15 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 in due course 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

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

118 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when the report on family and child income supports by the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare will be published; if she will provide an update on the work of the group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17306/12]

Creating jobs and tackling poverty are two of the key challenges that we face. It is essential that our tax and social protection systems play their part in addressing these issues and ensuring work is worthwhile. To this end, last year I established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare with the aim of harnessing expert opinion and experience in order to address a number of specific issues. These include making cost-effective proposals for improving employment incentives and achieving better poverty outcomes, particularly child poverty outcomes. The Group has been asked to examine a number of specific issues and make recommendations on them, including child and family income supports, working age income supports, the appropriate unit of assessment in both the tax and social welfare codes, the interaction of the tax and social welfare codes and issues concerning social insurance for self-employed people. Following Budget 2012, the terms of reference of the Advisory Group were extended with the group being asked to examine and report on the policy objectives underpinning the Budget 2012 proposals regarding changes in the eligibility criteria and rates of payment for Disability Allowance and the increase in the age threshold for payment of Domiciliary Care Allowance.

The group's overall method of working is based on producing modular reports on the priority areas identified in the terms of reference. Where possible, the aim is to provide recommendations that can be acted upon in time for the annual budget, Estimates and legislative cycle and to allow the Government to best address its commitments under the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support. Decisions in respect of publishing reports of the Group will be made at the appropriate time. The Group has recently concluded its examination of child and family income support and the Group's report has been submitted to me. I am considering the report in some detail and following this will be reverting to the group seeking clarification on any relevant issues. It is my intention to publish the report in due course. I understand the Group will now progress to addressing the other issues provided for in its work programme.

Social Welfare Appeals

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

119 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for a carer’s 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. [17308/12]

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Ceist:

120 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reasons a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received their entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17309/12]

There are two claims in respect of this individual. A redundancy lump sum claim was awarded and payment issued directly to the person concerned in November 2011. An insolvency claim in respect of this individual was received on 13 October 2011 and this will be processed in due course.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

121 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection the cost incurred by her Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17333/12]

The cost to my Department for airfares for the official visit to New York for St Patricks Day 2012 was €1,623.64. This includes the airfare costs for one official from the Department who accompanied the Minister. Details of other expenditure such as accommodation and ancillary costs are not yet available.

Departmental Reports

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

122 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the date on which she expects the community employment review to be completed; and when she expects to publish its findings and recommendations. [17340/12]

The financial review of Community Employment Schemes has proved to be a valuable exercise for both the schemes themselves and for my Department. The examination that is being carried out has yielded details of expenditure which at this early stage suggest that savings can be made in the administrative costs of schemes.

Given the volume and breadth of the data being returned, the financial review of CE schemes will take longer than originally envisaged to complete. This will allow more time for schemes to engage with local officials in the finalisation of their respective budgets and for my Department to bring forward improvements to the overall operation of Community Employment which will improve the budgetary situation for schemes. The existing commitment in relation to the financial support of schemes will continue to apply.

Social Welfare Code

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

123 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will publish a list of levels of attainment for children between four and 16 years diagnosed within the autism spectrum and applying for carer’s allowance; if she will review the procedures currently being used to evaluate eligibility for carer’s allowance in relation to children with autism diagnosis; the reason those diagnosed within the autism spectrum are listed as less likely to require substantial care and attention as part of the application procedure for carer’s allowance and if she will address the incremental differences between children with autism and healthy children between the ages of four and 16; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17349/12]

I understand this question is intended to refer to domiciliary care allowance and not carer's allowance.

Domiciliary care allowance is a monthly payment to the carer of a child with a disability so severe that the child requires care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be provided to allow the child to deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months.

Autism spectrum disorders are included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) as: autism F84 — F84.9 as classified by the World Health Organisation. The Department recognises autism spectrum disorders as disabilities.

Applications for domiciliary care allowance are assessed on a case by case basis by one of the Department's medical assessors all of whom are fully qualified medical practitioners who have training/experience in human disability evaluation. The medical assessor's opinion is based on the information furnished as part of the application process. This information includes personal details supplied on the application form by the child's parent / guardian; details of the additional care and attention required by the child as outlined by the parent / guardian and medical details provided by the child's GP. Any additional information the parent / guardian considers relevant to the application is also reviewed (this could include consultant's reports, reports from a community health doctor, a copy of the needs assessment carried out by the HSE, etc.).

Eligibility is determined primarily by reference to the degree of additional care and attention required by the child rather than to the type of disability involved. It is important to note that the normal ages of attainment data for children up to 4 years are provided to assist the medical assessor in his/her assessment. It is not a scale which determines eligibility or otherwise. Reports from child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists or occupational therapists, usually provide information on the child's individual developmental status on a percentile basis.

Whereas, no normal age of attainment data for children over 4 years of age or adolescents is provided by the Department, should a medical assessor consider it helpful, there is a wealth of reference material available in the medical literature e.g. Centres for Disease Control Development Milestones / Queensland Government Development Milestones.

Categories of conditions, which are more likely or less likely to result in a child requiring continual or continuous care and attention substantially in excess of that required by a child of the same age, were developed to assist the medical assessor in the assessment process. It is important to note that inclusion in either category does not, of itself, determine eligibility or otherwise to domiciliary care allowance.

Social Welfare Appeals

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

124 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection the way a person who is having an operation on their knee on 17 April is considered suitable for work and not entitled to Illness benefit when months of physiotherapy will be required after the surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17355/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 19th January 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments on or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course 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

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

125 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide an update on the current number of applications for carers’ allowance awaiting processing; the measures being taken to reduce the backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17378/12]

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. In the interests of fairness applications are processed, as far as possible, in order of the date on which they were received.

There were c 53,000 people in receipt of carer's payments as at the end of February 2012 this represents an increase of c 60% over the past five years. In addition there are, at present, c. 7,800 applications registered and awaiting a decision. I acknowledge that this is unsatisfactory but I am satisfied that the department is taking all steps available to it to resolve the issue.

A major service delivery modernisation project is underway to address the large increase in the claim-load and to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer's allowance scheme. This involves the development of information technology functions and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department. This has had a short-term negative impact on claim processing times. This essential focus of certain staff resources will continue until the completion of the modernisation project in June of this year when all existing carer's allowance claims will be transferred onto the new processing system.

In addition to the deployment of new systems which should address service levels in the medium term the Department is allocating additional resources in the form of overtime working to help reduce backlogs that have built up.

In the meantime, if a person's means are insufficient to meet their needs while awaiting a decision on an application, they may apply for a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance payment from their local community welfare officer.

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

126 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for back to school allowance and also for funding through the drug repayment scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [17398/12]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year. The spouse of the person concerned was awarded this allowance for two children and a payment of €505 was made into her bank account in September, 2011.

My Department has no responsibility in the area of the drug repayment scheme. The person concerned should pursue this matter through the Health Service Executive.

Question No. 127 withdrawn.

Rural Social Scheme

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

128 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection when she intends to increase the numbers on the rural social scheme in view of the benefits this scheme has had on rural communities around the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17405/12]

The purpose of the rural social scheme is to provide income support for farmers and fisherpersons who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff. I have no plans to increase the number of places available on this scheme. The funds allocated for 2012 amount to €45.66m, which should enable the scheme to continue as in previous years but does not allow for the recruitment of additional participants above the numbers stated above. These funds meet the pay costs of participants and supervisors, provision of materials, insurance, health and safety, training and related operational costs.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Ceist:

129 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an alternative date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17406/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the Appeals Officer has decided to re-schedule a further oral hearing. However, it is not possible to give a date when this hearing will be heard, but the person concerned will be informed when the new 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.

Question No. 130 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ann Phelan

Ceist:

131 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who has been refused domiciliary care allowance; if she would be prepared to review legislation in respect of this payment to allow parents of children with a physical disability to claim until the child reaches an age that may be deemed applicable to living an independent life; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17426/12]

An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received on 24th February 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for DCA. A letter issued on 22nd April 2010 refusing the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision.

She was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 8th November 2010 that the appeal had been disallowed. The decision/appeal process for this application is now complete. If the person concerned has additional information which was not made available to the deciding officer and appeals officer when they made their decisions, it is open to her to re-apply for the payment.

DCA is a monthly payment to the parent or guardian of a child under the age of 16 with a disability so severe that the child requires care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age.

Live Register

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

132 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons currently signing on for credits and if these persons are included in unemployment figures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17437/12]

At the end of February 2012 there were 31,485 persons signing for credits. This group are included in the live register and represented approximately 7% of the total number of persons on the register at that date.

Community Employment Schemes

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

133 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection the alternative scheme being devised, to accommodate persons who are on community employment schemes at present and which are shortly coming to a conclusion, are in receipt of disability allowance and if she will further indicate the type of scheme that is going to be devised to facilitate these persons whose terms on community employment schemes are now about to end in the next few months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17449/12]

There are no plans for devising an alternative scheme for disability clients who have completed their maximum time on Community Employment (CE). Persons in receipt of any of the four CE-qualifying disability payments (disability allowance, illness benefit, invalidity pension or blind pension) can currently avail of one additional year on CE compared to other qualifying clients, i.e. the cumulative lifetime participation limits are normally 3 years on the programme for those under 55 years of age and 6 years for those between 55 and 65 years of age. The named disability categories above have 4 year and 7 year limits respectively.

Persons who are near the end of their CE participation period avail of an exit planning process with their Supervisor whereby all their progression options are identified and supports and information are provided.

Social Welfare Benefits

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

134 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some families have their family income payment stopped pending annual review of the payment and that this review can take several weeks leaving those families in financial hardship pending their being put back on the payment with any arrears paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17462/12]

The Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

An integral part of the family income supplement (FIS) scheme is that once the level of payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that rate for a period of 52 weeks, provided that the person remains in full time employment. The rate of payment may be increased if an additional child is born in the course of the 52 weeks. On the other hand, the rate of payment will not change if there is an increase or decrease in the recipient's earnings. A key advantage of this approach, which is unique to the FIS scheme, is that claimants can be certain that they will receive a guaranteed level of income support throughout the period. This certainty is important to the success of the scheme in providing a real incentive to workers with families to avail of employment opportunities. For these reasons, rather than for reasons of administrative convenience, this measure is specifically provided for in legislation.

Claimants must apply to have their payment renewed if they wish to receive payment for a further 52 weeks. At present, application forms for renewal of the payment of FIS for a further 52 weeks are issued one month in advance of the expiry of the current payment and are processed in order of the date of expiry of the current payment and not by the date of receipt of a completed renewal form. This is designed to facilitate the collection of the most up-to-date customer information to ensure the fairest calculation of entitlement for the next 52 week payment period of FIS.

The waiting time for renewal FIS claims is currently between 8-9 weeks. The delays in processing are a consequence of continued strong claim intake.

The Department has introduced a number of measures to address the efficiency of claim processing for FIS in light of the current waiting times:

Existing processes and procedures are reviewed on an ongoing basis with the explicit objective of reducing delays in claim processing;

Priority is being given to renewal claims to preserve continuity of payment;

The ongoing staffing requirement is being kept under review in light of the continued strong claim intake;

Additional temporary staff have been recruited to help reduce the backlog;

Overtime working is being applied where feasible;

These measures are aimed at reducing the number of claims on hand and the average waiting time for a decision. The position is being closely monitored and kept under review by the Department.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

135 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on reports that up to €1 billion in private sector pension assets are effectively unclaimed; her plans to simplify the pensions system to ensure that beneficiaries receive their full entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17477/12]

Traditional employment practices where an employee works with the same organisation for their entire career through to retirement are no longer the norm and employees are more likely to accrue pension rights through a number of different employments during their working life.

The introduction of the personal retirement savings account (PRSA) in the Pensions Act 2002 was designed to enable people, especially those with no pension provision, to save for retirement in a long-term personal account that supports flexible employment. Employers who do not provide an occupational pension scheme for their employees are obliged to provide access to at least one standard PRSA.

Pension schemes are obliged to make every effort to trace all members of a scheme when their entitlements become due. My Department supports this by providing a mail hosting service for pension schemes that are unable to locate scheme members. This service operates by sending a letter to a person's last known address asking them to make contact with their pension company.

A group chaired by my Department and comprising of representatives from the Pensions Board and the Revenue Commissioners has considered ways of facilitating a more enhanced pension tracing facility and as a result my Department is working closely with the Revenue Commissioners to put in place an automated solution to capture the required data which will facilitate a person to trace his or her accrued pension rights in former employment.

There is no data available to support the claims that there are substantial unclaimed pension funds. However, the establishment of a dormant accounts type fund into which the accrued benefits of untraceable scheme members would be lodged will also be considered.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

136 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will introduce a requirement for all pension holders to receive a single annual consolidated statement of their accrued benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17478/12]

The trustees of a defined benefit (DB) or a defined contribution (DC) scheme are required to issue an annual benefits statement to each member of the scheme.

The Pensions Act 1990 sets out the terms under which the trustees of occupational pension schemes must give information to schemes members and others about their personal entitlements. Information about the running of the scheme and about its financial situation must also be made available. Employers are also required to provide certain information.

The information in the annual benefits statement includes the amount of contributions paid to date including any pensions rights transferred to the scheme. The trustees are also required to issue a statement of reasonable projection for members of DC schemes and in respect of any DC element of a DB scheme. The statement specifies the level of benefit which could be reasonably be expected as a specified date or dates to be payable by the scheme and advises the member of the importance of making adequate financial provisions for retirement. The benefit statement also includes a statement as to whether the scheme takes account of the State pension or whether the State pension is payable in addition (subject to qualifying).

Holders of Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) also receive a statement of reasonable projection annually. In addition, a statement of account and an investment report is issued every six months.

I understand that these requirements do not apply to personal pension schemes under the remit of the Central Bank.

Social Welfare Appeals

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

137 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made on an appeal for mortgage interest supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17497/12]

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 summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer decision on 27th March 2012.

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

138 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if disability allowance will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny following an oral hearing on 21 March 2012; if carer’s payment will be made to a person at the same address; if she will confirm the positive decision reached on 20 April 2011 regarding the habitual residency condition relative to both cases. [17502/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that in reference to the oral hearing of the disability allowance appeal of the person concerned which took place on 21 March 2012, the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person has been deemed to habitually resident for social welfare purposes since March 2011. The only issue, therefore, to be decided with regard to the disability allowance appeal, is whether she satisfies the medical conditions for the scheme. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

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

A carer's allowance was awarded to a care provider at the address of the person concerned, with effect from 23 June 2011, the first payment of which reached his bank account on Thursday, 22nd March 2012. Any arrears due for the intervening period will be paid in due course.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision to refuse basic supplementary welfare allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare on the grounds that they were not absent from the country in the period in 2009 which can be verified by their doctor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17508/12]

A review of the decision to disallow basic supplementary welfare allowance to the person concerned will be carried out.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the entitlement to old age pension or other payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17510/12]

A State pension (contributory) is payable to applicants, aged 66 years or over, who satisfy certain social insurance contribution conditions.

A person aged 65 years who has retired from insurable employment, and who satisfies certain qualifying conditions, may be eligible for a State pension (transition), where the person concerned:

has entered into insurable employment before reaching age 55,

has at least 260 weeks full-rate contributions paid (520 contributions minimum after 6th April 2012), and

has a yearly average of at least 48 paid and/or credited full-rate contributions from 1979 to the end of the tax year preceding their 65th birthday, or

has a yearly average of at least 24 paid/credited full-rate contributions from the date of their entry into insurable employment to the end of the tax year preceding their 65th birthday (to qualify for the maximum rate pension, a yearly average of 48 is required).

The person concerned has reached the age of eligibility for State pension (transition). A claim form has been sent to him. If he has retired from insurable employment, he should complete and return the form to the Department. On receipt of the completed claim form, his entitlement to pension will be fully examined and he will be notified of the outcome without delay.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the on-going entitlement to disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17512/12]

The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 24 January 2011. The medical evidence supplied was referred to a medical assessor who was of the opinion that the person was not deemed to be medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and refused the claim and the person was notified in writing of this decision on 13 April 2011.

If the person's circumstances have changed since his last application it is open to him to make a new application for disability allowance and his entitlement will be examined.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which it is proposed to discontinue basic social welfare entitlement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17513/12]

The person concerned has been asked to submit documentation as part of a review of his entitlement to basic supplementary welfare allowance. He has been advised that payment will discontinue if he fails to submit the documentation requested.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which it is deemed overpayment has occurred in respect of jobseeker’s allowance and back to education allowance in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare, when they acted in compliance with the requests from her Department to separate their claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17514/12]

No overpayment has been assessed on the jobseeker's allowance or the back to education allowance claims of the persons concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the correct amount of rent support payable in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17515/12]

Following a review, the rent allowance payable to the persons concerned has been reduced to €255.79 per calendar month to take account of an increase in their household income.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when one parent family allowance will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17516/12]

An application for a one-parent family payment from the person concerned has been disallowed as she failed to show that her means do not exceed the statutory limit. She has lodged an appeal against the decision and her file has been referred to an inspector for review as part of the appeal process.

Question No. 146 withdrawn.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the current and expected position in respect of eligibility for disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has serious health problems having particular regard to the medical evidence submitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17518/12]

We have no record of an application for disability allowance having been received from the person concerned. An application form and information booklet for disability allowance has been issued directly to him today. He should complete and return this from in the freepost envelope provided and his entitlement will be examined.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the current position in respect of an application for jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17519/12]

The jobseeker's allowance application from the person concerned has been awarded for payment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection having regard to previous Parliamentary Questions and the necessity to clarify entitlement to rent support in cases such as that outlined in respect of a person (details supplied), if he will accept this reference as an appeal for oral hearing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17520/12]

The person concerned made an application for rent supplement on the 25th of January 2012. He has submitted information to the Department stating that he is a joint guardian to one of his children. However, this order also states that the mother is the sole custodian and primary carer of the relevant child. Hence, the person concerned is only entitled to the single limit as the needs of the child have already been accommodated for. The Department has received no information to date in relation to access in respect of his second child. No decision has been made by the Deciding Officer in relation to the payment of the person concerned. If the person concerned is unhappy with a Deciding Officer's decision, they should appeal within 21 days of receiving it to the Chief Appeals Officer, D'Olier House, D'Olier St, Dublin 2.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when mortgage interest relief will be offered in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17537/12]

The Department does not have a current pending application for mortgage interest supplement in respect of the persons concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when jobseeker’s allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17538/12]

An application for jobseeker's benefit dated 23 March 2012 from the person concerned is currently being processed. As a non-EU national he has been requested to provide details of his current immigration status in this country.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if disability allowance was payable in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17547/12]

The person concerned was paid disability allowance from 17 March 1999 to 21 February 2012. His last payment was on 15 February 2012 the date of his death. There are no arrears of disability allowance due. As the person was not receiving a dependent allowance in respect of a qualified adult at the time of his death the question of whether entitlement exists to the six weeks after death payment will have to be examined and the Deputy will be informed of the outcome.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when payment of one parent family allowance will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17548/12]

The person concerned applied for one-parent family payment in January 2012 and her application was closed as she failed to make herself available for interview. She re-applied with effect from the 15 March 2012 and an inspector will contact her as soon as possible regarding an assessment of her means.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when carer’s allowance will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17549/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on grounds that the Department's medical assessor expressed the opinion that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review/appeal within 21 days. Additional medical evidence was received and forwarded to the Department's Medical Assessor for consideration.

However, this information did not alter the opinion of the Medical Assessor and the decision remained unchanged. Accordingly, on the 9 February 2012, the person in question was notified of the outcome of the review and of his right of appeal within 21 days.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17321/12]

I travelled to New Orleans and Atlanta on behalf of the Government for a schedule of events around St. Patrick's Day, arriving on 13 March 2012 and departing on 18 March 2012. The Minister of State at my Department attended events in Glasgow and Edinburgh from 14 March 2012 to 18 March 2012. The full cost of these trips is not yet available in my Department.

Special Protection Areas

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

156 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the success rate over the past two years of appeals to designation of lands as special protection areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17446/12]

I am advised that some 11% of appeals decided in 2011 were either successful or partly successful, compared to 12% in 2010.

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

157 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the grant assistance available to assist landowners who wish to appeal an special protection area designation (details supplied) to allow them to employ environmental professionals in order to put together the scientific evidence necessary to support their appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17447/12]

Ordinarily, a contribution by my Department, up to a maximum of €1,350, is available towards an appellant's costs for the expert engaged in the production of his/her scientific report and to comment on the focused scientific report which is produced by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This would apply irrespective of the size of the site.

For the purposes of efficiency and the prudent use of public funds, the Designated Areas Appeals Advisory Board often considers a number of appeals together, where they relate to land that is in close proximity, such as in the case referred to by the Deputy. In those circumstances, it is not necessary for appellants to commission separate ecological reports where a single one covering the entire area of the land under appeal would suffice. My Department does not provide funding for separate reports when one would be sufficient to meet the needs of all appellants.

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

158 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 315 of 6 March 2012, if a copy of the survey notes created in relation to the designation of the Moycullen bog complex as a natural heritage area can be supplied. [17464/12]

I have made arrangements to supply copies of the material requested to the Deputy within the next week.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17323/12]

I was abroad on official business in Italy over the period 14th of March to 18th of March. I was accompanied by my Private Secretary and my Special Adviser. The Programme was an intensive one aimed primarily at promoting Ireland as a location for investment.

The cost incurred by my Department to date amounts to €1,390.

Energy Prices

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

160 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the legal price by which a landlord can sell electricity to a tenant per watt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17350/12]

I do not have a statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or unregulated market. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Prices in the retail electricity market are now fully deregulated from 4th April 2011 and are wholly a commercial and operational matter for suppliers.

The CER has the statutory function to licence the supply of electricity pursuant to Section 14 of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999. Supply is defined in the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 as "supply, in relation to electricity means supply through electric lines to final customers for consumption". Supply is further defined in Regulation 2 of European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2005 as "the sale, including resale, of electricity to consumers."

Where a supplier of electricity does not hold a supply licence, the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2000 provides that it is an offence to supply electricity without being duly authorised to do so. This provision provides that the supply of electricity without a licence is a summary offence summary proceedings for which may be brought and prosecuted by the Commission for Energy Regulation. The penalty is a fine up to €1,500 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months.

Electricity customers can choose to pay their bills for electricity supplied to them and they consume in a number of ways. In most cases the electricity customer enters into a supply contract directly with a licensed supplier. In a landlord and tenant relationship, various contractual arrangements exist to practically manage the supply of electricity to the tenant and payment for same.

While it is impossible to cover every private arrangement between landlords and tenants, the CER has considered the legal implications, if any, of different situations brought to its attention to date. Each case brought to the Commission's attention will be considered on its own merits. The most common arrangements are set out as follows.

The Commission recognises that in some cases it may be agreed between the landlord and the tenant that the rental charged by the landlord will be inclusive of electricity bills. In this case, it is between the landlord and the tenant as to the inclusive figure agreed. The Commission does not view "all inclusive" rental agreements of this nature to constitute the supply of electricity.

Where the rent paid by the tenant is exclusive of utility bills but the landlord agrees that he or she will pay the bills on behalf of the tenant for convenience (for example in situations where it is a relatively short term let in order to avoid over-payment or under-payment by the tenant) then the landlord can re-charge the amount attributable to the tenant's stay to the tenant. In this instance the landlord is merely acting as an agent for the tenant for the purchase of electricity rather than as a supplier of electricity.

Another arrangement can be where the electricity is supplied by the landlord. In this situation, where the tenant obtains electricity from the landlord either through a payment meter installed by the landlord (such as a pre-payment meter or a meter which is not an official ESB Networks meter (Distribution Systems Operator) or by the imposition of charges that are unrelated to the charges paid by the landlord to the electricity company then the Commission is of the view this constitutes the sale of electricity, which is a licensed activity under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999. As highlighted above, the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2000 provides that it is an offence to supply electricity without being duly authorised to do so.

In this context it is also important to note the provisions of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2012.The 2012 Act amends the provisions of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995 regarding the theft of electricity and gas to reflect the current structure and regulation of the energy sector.

Section 5 of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2012 creates the offence of manufacturing, importing, selling, offering for sale, supplying, installing or causing to be installed or having in possession any thing designed or adapted, without lawful excuse, inter alia, for the purpose of imposing charges on persons for the use of electricity or gas in the absence of a contract of supply or a deemed contract being in place which allows for such charges. A person who commits an offence is liable on summary conviction to a Class A fine or for imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both, or on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €150,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.

This section has yet to come into operation, subject to finalisation of a Commencement Order by the Office of the Attorney General. I expect to be in a position to bring the provision into operation in the coming weeks. The distribution or transmission system operators are empowered to take summary proceedings for such an offence.

Energy Conservation

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

161 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of persons who have qualified for Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grants to improve their home insulation in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17413/12]

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

162 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of money in Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grants that has been awarded to persons to improve their home insulation in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17414/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 162 together.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers the Better Energy Programme. I am informed by SEAI that almost 118,200 homes have received energy efficiency upgrades since the scheme was launched in May 2009.

The total number of applications for home insulation measures only are as follows:

Year

Number of homes who have applied for insulation grants

Number of homes who have subsequently carried out insulation measures

Value of grants paid out for insulation measures €m

2009

28,974

13,575

11.464

2010

53,657

37,169

33.936

2011

45,972

40,507

44.539

Total

128,603

91,251

89.939

Insulation measures installed in these homes comprises attic insulation and/or one of three wall insulation options (internal dry lining, external or cavity wall insulation).

Local Authority Charges

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

163 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the fact that charging the €100 household charge on self-catering accommodation is giving an unfair competitive advantage to other businesses in the hospitality sector specifically the loss making hotels owned by the National Assets Management Agency; his further views that this charge on top if the non principal private residence charge is going against his policy to support tourism specifically the self catering tourism model; his further views that owners of self catering accommodation should be exempt from this charge in an effort to continue to promote tourism; the steps he will take to support the self catering industry who are struggling to compete as a result of these charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17418/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge.

The Act places the household charge under the care and management of the local authorities, and application in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. Interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts.

Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Section 2 of the Act sets out the meaning of "residential property" for the purposes of the Act. In particular, section 2(2)(d) of the Act provides that a building that is wholly used as a dwelling (other than a dwelling that forms part of a mixed hereditament within the meaning of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1978), and in respect of which local authority rates are payable, is not a residential property for the purposes of the household charge.

Social and Affordable Housing

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

164 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends to permit those in voluntary housing to purchase their homes; if he has had discussions in relation to this with the Irish Council for Social Housing or other associations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17457/12]

There is no provision at present in the voluntary housing schemes for the purchase of individual houses by tenants. My Department is currently in consultation with the voluntary housing sector, through the Irish Council for Social Housing, with regard to the development of an enabling regulatory framework that will support the expanded role for the sector foreseen in the Government's housing policy statement of June 2011.

In developing this framework, my Department will, inter alia, examine a range of issues around making best use of the significant equity inherent in the voluntary housing stock, including how some of this equity might be released to leverage additional new supply, including through the sale of voluntary houses to tenants.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Creed

Ceist:

165 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason a portion of an estate (details supplied) in County Cork deemed to be eligible for a waiver under the household charge, is excluded from the waiver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17303/12]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

170 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if waivers for the household charge will be considered not only for listed unfinished housing estates, but also for private streets with housing (details supplied) which are surrounded by unfinished buildings now in the National Asset Management Agency receivership, due to the fact that private residents in the area are undergoing environmental, health and safety and anti-social behaviour problems associated with the abandoned buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17351/12]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

174 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will furnish a reply to correspondence (details supplied) regarding the misnaming of a housing estate which is exempted from the household charge; if he will confirm that the residents of the estate are not liable to pay the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17375/12]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

180 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding payment of the household charge for houses in housing estates not taken over by the local authority because they are unfinished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17442/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165, 170, 174 and 180 together.

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows:

Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist;

Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;

Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and

Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process include, inter alia:

the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development;

the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission;

the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007;

the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act;

the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned; and

where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.

This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge. Only households in developments in categories three and four are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. The list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012. The prescribed list of estates to which the waiver applies is the final and complete list for 2012. A revised list of estates will be prescribed for 2013 after which time the waiver for unfinished housing developments will end.

Throughout this period it is anticipated that the numbers of categories 3 and 4 developments will decrease significantly as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative. In some cases a local authority may have found that conditions in respect of a certain phase of a development were relatively good and that, for example, no serious public safety issues could be identified. This phase of the development may have been categorised under category 1 or 2. Conversely, safety issues may have been identified in another phase of the same overall development, or development in that second phase may have been abandoned altogether, implying a category 3 or 4 identification for that phase.

I am arranging for a reply to issue to the recent correspondence referred to.

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

166 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17304/12]

The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January, 2012 to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, that person is required to declare that liability and pay the household charge by 31 March, 2012. Significant efforts are being made to ensure that property owners are aware of the household charge and the requirements to make a declaration of liability and to pay the charge by 31 March, 2012.

There is a range of options available for persons to pay the household charge. An online system www.householdcharge.ie is in place in the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) to enable homeowners to pay the household charge by credit/debit card. In addition, homeowners can make payment by cheque, postal order or by credit/debit card by completing the relevant payment details on the declaration form and posting it to Household Charge, PO Box 12168, Dublin 1. Instalment payments were available by direct debit only and persons opting to pay in this way had to register their details before 1 March, 2012. A bureau is in place in the LGMA to administer the charge on a shared service/agency basis for all local authorities. In addition, all county/city councils have been requested to have arrangements in place for persons to attend their principal offices to facilitate payment of the household charge up to 31 March, 2012.

I am satisfied that there is a comprehensive suite of payment options available to persons to pay the household charge.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

167 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the application of the household charge to properties that are not deemed to be habitable; if he will provide details of the assessment of whether a property is habitable or not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17310/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. The household charge is on a self assessment basis and interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts.

The definition of "residential property" in section 2(1) of the Act is relevant when considering whether a property that is not used or lived in is liable to the charge. Under the Act "residential property" is defined as a "...building that is situated in the State and that is occupied, or suitable for occupation, as a separate dwelling...".

There are a number of indicators as to what makes a property suitable for occupation for the purposes of determining a liability to the household charge. The indicators include the structure of the property, whether or not it has a roof, whether or not it is so affected by dampness as to render it unsuitable for habitation, and whether or not it has sanitary facilities, including a water closet and water supply. A property that is not suitable for occupation should not be regarded as a residential property within the meaning of the Act.

Water Services

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

168 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a programme management office has been established for the Irish water initiative in his Department as per the recommendations of the November 2011 PWC Phase 1 report on Irish Water; when he expects the Phase 2 report from PWC to be submitted; when he expects this report to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17317/12]

Phase I of the independent assessment proposed an initial transition strategy based on a staged approach involving:

Appointment of an interim board and Project Management Office in 2012 pending the establishment of Irish Water under its own statute by mid 2013;

Irish Water would acquire statutory responsibility for water services in mid 2013, with ownership of assets transferring from local authorities from that date;

Local authorities would be agents of Irish Water for a period with Irish Water taking over their operations on a phased basis from January 2015;

The full transfer of operations would be completed by end 2017.

Phase 1 of the independent assessment on the establishment of a water utility and a paper setting out the proposed reforms in the water sector were published by my Department at the initiation of a public consultation in January 2012. Phase II of the assessment involves the development of an implementation plan which will address transformation planning in more detail. It is anticipated that this stage will be completed over the next month or so. Following the development and finalisation of a detailed implementation plan, the necessary programme management and governance arrangements will be established to drive the various activities required to set up the public water utility.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

169 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17326/12]

My Department did not incur any costs associated with overseas travel for St Patrick's Day this year as neither I nor any Minister of State in my Department were part of the Ministerial travel programme organised for this occasion.

Question No. 170 answered with Question No. 165.

Local Authority Charges

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

171 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government of those who have registered for the household charge, the number that are exempt from paying the tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17356/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides for a number of exemptions and waivers from payment of the household charge. The exemptions from payment of the household charge are—

Residential properties that are part of the trading stock of a business and have not been sold or been the source of any income since construction,

Residential property owned by a Minister of the Government, a housing authority or the Health Service Executive,

Voluntary and co-operative housing,

Residential property subject to commercial rates and wholly used as a dwelling,

Residential property owned by certain charities or discretionary trusts, and

Residential property which an owner has vacated due to long-term mental or physical infirmity (e.g. elderly person that has moved into a nursing home).

The waivers which apply concern—

Owners of residential property entitled to mortgage interest supplement, and

Owners of houses in certain unfinished housing estates.

The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) is administering the household charge system on a shared service/agency basis for all county and city councils. I understand, from data provided by the LGMA, that as of noon on 28 March, 2012, a total of 428,299 property declarations had been processed by the household charge bureau. 418,708 have registered for payment of the charge equating to some €41.8m. 9,591 residential property owners have registered for a waiver from payment of the charge. In addition, a further 55,000 postal applications have been received in the household charge bureau which are yet to be processed which equates to a further €5.5m.

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

172 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason some households are exempt from paying the household charge but not the non principal private residence charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17357/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, set out the legislation underpinning the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences respectively. Application of the legislation in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. Interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts.

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides for a number of exemptions from payment of the household charge. The exemptions from payment of the household charge are—

Residential properties that are part of the trading stock of a business and have not been sold or been the source of any income since construction,

Residential property owned by a Minister of the Government, a housing authority or the Health Service Executive,

Voluntary and co-operative housing,

Residential property subject to commercial rates and wholly used as a dwelling,

Residential property owned by certain charities or discretionary trusts, and

Residential property which an owner has vacated due to long-term mental or physical infirmity (e.g. elderly person that has moved into a nursing home).

The other exemptions provided in the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 are particular to circumstances where ownership of a property in which the owner does not reside is unavoidable and were made in the interest of fairness. Such exemptions include circumstances where a property is temporarily in a person's ownership because of moving house, where parties to a separation or divorce reside separately, where a property is occupied rent-free by a relative of the owner and is within two kilometres of the owner's home, and properties with aesthetic, heritage or artistic merit approved as such by the Revenue Commissioners under the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

Local Authority Staff

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

173 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the qualifications and experience necessary to be appointed an assistant chief fire officer in the fire services; the person who makes these appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17371/12]

Under the qualifications declared for the post of Assistant Chief Fire Officer each candidate must:

(a) Hold a degree at Level 8 in the National Framework of Qualifications in:

(i) engineering, architecture, or other building construction related discipline, or

(ii) a degree at the same level in a science or technology related discipline including, physics, chemistry, environmental or computer science, information communications technology,

or

(iii) a professional qualification equivalent to any of the foregoing.

(b) Have a satisfactory knowledge of one or more of the following:

principles of fire safety,

fire service operations,

major emergency management,

technological and industrial processes,

telecommunications and information technology.

(c) Have at least five years satisfactory relevant experience, including adequate experience in at least one of the areas specified at (b) above.

(d) Have a high standard of training in one or more of the areas specified in (b) above.

(e) Be competent to perform efficiently the duties of the office.

Recruitment to senior posts in local authorities, including Assistant Chief Fire Officer is carried out by the Public Appointments Service in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004.

Question No. 174 answered with Question No. 165.

Building Regulations

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

175 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he expects to publish draft proposals regarding proposed changes to the building regulations and in particular part B — fire safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17390/12]

My Department, in conjunction with the Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB), has commenced a full review of Part B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations and the accompanying Technical Guidance Document B — Fire Safety (2006). An initial public consultation process, which commenced in November 2011 and closed in February 2012, gave rise to a total of 44 submissions from a wide variety of stakeholders. A workshop for stakeholders was also held last January. Officials from my Department are currently examining the comments received from both of these pre-consultation processes to ensure that all relevant matters are addressed in the full review.

It is anticipated that a full public consultation will be announced before the end of this year to seek comments on draft regulations and the associated draft technical guidance document. The draft proposals will be accompanied by a regulatory impact assessment. In addition, my Department is currently finalising new draft Building Control Regulations which will require the provision of mandatory certification and the submission of drawings by builders and the developers of buildings. These measures will have the capacity to improve the quality of buildings and will lead to a further strengthening of the building control system. The draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations will be the subject of a public consultation to be announced in mid-April 2012.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

176 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will explain to the public what exactly they are getting in return for the payment of the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17402/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Revenues from the household charge are supporting the provision of essential local services. Internationally, local services are administered by local authorities and financed by local service charges. In Ireland, local authorities are responsible for, among other services, public parks; libraries; open spaces and leisure amenities; planning and development; fire and emergency services; roads; maintenance and cleaning of streets and street lighting. These facilities benefit everyone.

Departmental Funding

Pat Breen

Ceist:

177 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when funding will be allocated for a scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17404/12]

The group in question has been fully paid in respect of all applications received by my Department.

Planning Issues

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

178 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will review his decision to cancel the independent planning inquiries set up by the previous Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, TD, into alleged planning irregularities in six local authorities, namely Dublin and Cork city councils and Carlow, Cork, Galway and Meath County councils; if he will reinstate the six independent planning consultants who were appointed in January 2011 to carry out these inquiries; if he will take into account the concerns raised by An Taisce and others in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17433/12]

At no stage did I cancel or stand down the investigations concerned. My predecessor as Minister for Housing and Planning decided that, instead of incurring significant costs to the Exchequer by securing outsourced expertise, the Department would carry out an examination of the cases involved in the first instance. This examination would then inform the public statement which I will be making in the coming weeks, setting out the results and the appropriate next steps in each case. While I do not want to prejudge the outcome of the process, if it is warranted I will be prepared to instigate further investigation of any matters requiring this. While a panel of prospective consultants was prepared by the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government no contract was awarded in respect of any of the areas concerned.

Social and Affordable Housing

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

179 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends to permit those on affordable council mortgages to switch to annuity loans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17440/12]

There are two types of local authority mortgages. Home Choice Loan, which is available to credit worthy households earning in excess of €35,000 as a single applicant and over €45,000 combined income as joint applicants, and a standard annuity mortgage. This is the only loan type made available to prospective purchasers under any of the affordable housing schemes and any other paths to home ownership by social housing tenants.

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 165.

Illegal Dumping

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

181 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on his decision announced on RTÉ news in November 2011 that he will meet the costs of remediating illegal dumps in County Wicklow; the funds he has committed to this; if any have already been deployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17451/12]

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

182 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will respond to a claim in the High Court that his intervention in the matter of the payment for remediation of illegal dumps in County Wicklow would mean the abandonment of court proceedings related to responsibility for the remediation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17452/12]

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

183 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends to recoup the costs of remediation of illegal dumps in County Wicklow when the companies which might be liable are gone out of business.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17453/12]

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

184 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has received correspondence from the Department of Social Protection in the past number of years requesting an investigation into the council’s handling of illegal dumping in County Wicklow and the way the remediation process was handled by the county council and for a full investigation into the matter; and the action he has taken regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17454/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 to 184, inclusive, together.

The Whitestown site was cited in the European Court of Justice judgment in Case C 494/01 as an example of Ireland's failure to comply with the 1975 Waste Framework Directive. My Department, on behalf of the State, has been liaising with the European Commission to ensure that the requirements of the judgment are fully met. The Commission is concerned, as I am, to secure the urgent remediation of the site, a concern underlined by an additional letter of formal notice issued on 30 September 2010, which indicated that the Commission might refer the case back to the Court of Justice for financial penalties to be imposed against the Irish State for failure to comply with the judgement.

It is in these circumstances that my Department, in June 2011, requested Wicklow County Council to remediate the site, pursuant to its powers under section 56 of the Waste Management Act 1996. On foot of this, the Council, working with the EPA, has established a technical working group to oversee a programme of detailed investigation of the areas of illegal waste at the site. The purpose of this programme, which I understand is now complete, is to gain a greater understanding of the nature, character and distribution of the waste, and to assist in determining the requirements for the site's remediation. I understand that a procurement process for the remediation will be initiated by the Council later this year, with a view to work commencing in the Autumn. The cost of remediation will be dependent on the technical approach taken to remediation and on the outcome of the tendering process. The costs involved will be funded by the State, with Wicklow County Council seeking cost recovery through the Courts. As the matter is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings, I do not propose to comment further.

As regards correspondence from the Department of Social Protection in the past number of years, I have asked my Department to examine the relevant files for such a request from that Department, and will revert to the Deputy with the results of this examination.

Social and Affordable Housing

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

185 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the number of local authority mortgages that are in arrears, if there are any planned changes for the way in which the rent subsidy side of the affordable mortgage is dealt with; the number of local authorities that strictly apply the rule that it can only be based on the previous year’s income; the flexibility there is in the current system; when any changes might be forthcoming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17463/12]

The review of Part V of the Planning and Development Acts, announced in the context of the standing down of affordable housing schemes as part of the Government's housing policy statement, will include an examination of the operational aspects of the shared ownership scheme. Any future changes to legislation governing affordable housing schemes will be informed by that review which will shortly commence.

Circular HPS4/2009 gave local authorities flexibility in applying the mortgage subsidy and states "where a purchaser suffers a reduction in income during the year the appropriate subsidy calculated on the reduced income may be applied, pro rata, from a current date and the mortgage payment reduced accordingly.”

Local Authority Funding

Joan Collins

Ceist:

186 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it has been brought to his attention that Sligo County Council has had the highest overall deficit balance of all county and city councils as outlined in their respective annual financial statements (details supplied); if it has been brought to his attention that the members of Sligo County Council were informed at their monthly meeting on 5 March 2012 that the council’s overall revenue account debt at the end of 2011 increased to €12.9 million and that the capital debt is now €73 million; if it has been brought to his attention that a majority of the members of the council approved an increase in the council’s overdraft facility from €11 million to €14 million for the period April 2012 to September 2012; if he intends to sanction the increased overdraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17494/12]

It is a matter for each local authority, including Sligo County Council, to manage its own day-to-day finances in a prudent and sustainable manner. At the request of Sligo County Council, I met with a delegation from the Council on 31 January 2012 to discuss its financial position, including its adopted 2012 budget. My Department continues to be in ongoing consultation with the Council in relation to these matters.

A request from Sligo County Council for an overdraft sanction of €14 million was received on 26 March 2012 and is currently being considered by my Department.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17331/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, I recently travelled to Australia and New Zealand with my Private Secretary as part of the Government's St. Patrick's Day Travel Programme from Tuesday, 13 March 2012 to Saturday, 24 March 2012. Over the course of this Programme, I travelled over 40,000 kilometres, engaged in 40 separate events which focused on:

Promoting trade and investment in Ireland;

Reaching out to the Irish communities and diaspora across Australia and New Zealand;

Strengthening high-level political links; and

Highlighting the Government's message that now is the time to invest in Ireland's recovery.

I met with both the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key. In addition, I also availed of this unique opportunity to meet with my Government counterparts in both countries to engage in discussions regarding a wide range of issues relevant to the work of both my Departments including meetings with:

Mr. Greg Smith, New South Wales Minster for Justice and Attorney General;

Dr. Jonathan Coleman, Minister for Defence (New Zealand);

Mr. Andrew Phelan, Chief Executive and Principal Registrar of the Australian High Court (equivalent of the Supreme Court);

Mr. Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration Australia;

Mr. Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs Australia;

Commissioner Andrew Scipione, New South Wales Police Commissioner;

Mr. Steve Mark, Legal Services Commissioner of New South Wales and I visited both a large and small size multi-disciplinary practice; and

Justice Stuart Fowler, Co Chair of the Family Court of Australia.

Every possible attempt was made to keep costs to a minimum. To this end, flights to and from Australia were booked early in the planning stage. I travelled between engagements by the Ambassador's and Honorary Consulate's car, which were provided at no cost. When these cars were unavailable I travelled by taxi or, where possible, by foot instead of incurring a further cost by hiring a car on a daily basis. The total cost of the trip to my Department was €11,367.60, a breakdown of which is set out in the tables below.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that the importance of these visits, which are aimed at promoting Ireland and enhancing the existing relationships between our countries, cannot be underestimated given the current economic climate.

Flights (Minister and Private Secretary)

Flights

Class

Cost

Dublin — Sydney — Dublin

Business

€5,274.56

Sydney — Auckland — Sydney

Economy

€1,194.78

Sydney — Melbourne — Canberra — Sydney (single flights each)

Economy

€1,258.56

Total

7,727.90

Accommodation (Minister and Private Secretary)

Date

Hotel

Cost

Thursday 15 March, Sunday 18 March, Tuesday 20 March, Wednesday 21 March, Thursday 22 March

Four Seasons, Sydney

€2,504.87

Friday 16 March, Saturday 17 March

Pullman, Auckland

€683.18

Monday 19 March

Ambassador’s Residence

n/a

Total

€3,188.05

Transport

Taxis

Total

€451.65

Garda Deployment

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

188 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda juvenile liaison officers stationed at each Garda station in the Dublin region; the number of JLO’s that retired in 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17379/12]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda Commissioner. I will be in touch with the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Garda Operations

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

189 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the budget allocated to the Garda witness protection programme for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17381/12]

The budget allocated to the Witness Security Programme as reflected in the Appropriation Accounts for the years in question is set out in the table below:

Year

Estimate Provision

2008

€0.900 million

2009

€0.498 million

2010

€0.700 million

2011

€0.700 million

2012

€1.198 million

The Deputy will be aware that the Witness Security Programme is a vital part of the Garda response to tackling gangland crime and terrorism and has been important in securing convictions in a number of cases. For obvious reasons, it is not the practice to comment on the detail of its operation.

Closed Circuit Television Systems

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will increase the number of Garda CCTV cameras in Dublin city centre and in the north central electoral areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17382/12]

Garda CCTV systems are planned and implemented on the basis of operational needs identified by An Garda Síochána and any proposals for the extension of the current Garda CCTV Programme would be a matter for the Garda Commissioner in the first instance.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that there are 44 Garda CCTV cameras in the DMR North Central Division and 33 Garda cameras in the DMR South Central Division. In addition I understand that, while there are currently no plans to increase the number of Garda cameras in operation in these Divisions, the situation is being kept under ongoing review in the light of overall policing requirements.

Residency Permits

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

191 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications he has received seeking leave to remain as a result of the Zambrano ruling; the number of decisions that have issued in such cases; the number of those that were granted leave to remain; the progress he is making on processing such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17391/12]

To date 1,680 persons have applied to the Immigration Service of my Department (INIS) to have their case to remain in the State examined in accordance with the principles set out in the Zambrano Judgment. All of these cases require careful consideration in advance of any decision being made on whether they are comprehended by this judgment. To date, decisions have been made in 925 cases with permission to remain in the State having been granted in respect of 791 of these cases. The majority of the remaining outstanding applications are cases where all of the required documentation and information has not yet been submitted and where this is the case, the persons involved have been advised in writing as to what further documentation or information is required to be submitted.

A number of other third country nationals who already have been given permission to remain in the State, for example as students or as dependants, have also sought to have the terms of the Zambrano Judgment applied to them on the basis of being a parent of an Irish citizen child. Persons in this category are being advised to attend at their local Garda Registration Office, with certain items of documentation such as birth certificates, proof of residency etc., at which point, all other things being equal, their immigration status adjusted accordingly. These cases do not require substantive processing in my Department (primarily because the question of the person's immigration status in the State is not an issue) and, as such, they are not being recorded in a manner to calculate how many such cases are involved.

In addition there were a further body of some 193 cases subject to judicial review proceedings where a link to the Zambrano Judgment had been identified. To date 148 of these cases have been granted permission to remain in the State under the terms of the Zambrano Judgment.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in the case of a request for permission to change nationality in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17539/12]

In the absence of more specific information I can only give the general position with regard to naturalisation.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question. It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

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

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of entitlement to update of stamp 4 in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17540/12]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 30 April 2007, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted, including those relating to the possible relevance of the Zambrano Judgement to the case, will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made in the matter of the updating of stamp 4 status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17541/12]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 458 of Tuesday, 27th March 2012 and the written Reply to that Question below. The position is unchanged since then.

The person concerned has been granted Leave to Remain in the State for a two year period to 29 March 2012. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 29 March 2010. They were also informed that they are required to apply in writing one month before the end of the expiry period for the renewal of this permission.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if and when stamp 4 will be updated or naturalisation progressed in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17542/12]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 18th February, 2002, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. Representations have been received from and on behalf of the person concerned.

The person concerned applied for permission to remain in the State on the basis of being a parent of an Irish born citizen child, born before 1st January, 2005, in accordance with the revised arrangements announced by the then Minister on 15th January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. His application was refused as he did not meet the Scheme's good character requirements. He was notified of this decision by letter dated 8th September, 2005.

By letter dated 26th January, 2010, the person concerned was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of residency or naturalisation entitlement in the case of a person (details supplied); when it is expected to finalise the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17543/12]

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 30th March, 2010, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the then Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in respect of the issue of stamp 4 update in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17544/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 386 of 22 November, 2011 which is set out below. The position in respect of the issue of the stamp 4 is unchanged since then. However, I am advised that her permission to remain has expired since 22nd December, 2011 and in the circumstances, she should write to the IBC Unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service as soon as possible to regularise her status in the State.

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy is a dependant of non-EEA national parents of a child born in Ireland before 1 January, 2005 who were granted permission to remain in the State under the provisions of the IBC/05 Scheme. I am further advised that she was registered by the Garda National Immigration Bureau on stamp 2A conditions on 22 June, 2011 for a 6 month period. I should add that it is open to dependants at age 16 to seek permission to remain in the State on Stamp 4 conditions in line with that granted to their parents. In the circumstances, I would advise that the person concerned write to the IBC Unit of the INIS at PO Box 10003 to seek such permission.

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when it is expected to conclude the naturalisation process in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17545/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in April, 2011. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

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

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17550/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in August, 2011. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

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

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

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of residency or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17551/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply below to Parliamentary Question No. 19438 of 7th July, 2011. The position is unchanged since then.

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person (69/316/06) referred to by the Deputy has no application pending for residency or naturalisation. The person concerned is the subject of a Deportation Order, signed on 20 April 2010, following a comprehensive and thorough examination of his asylum claim and his application for subsidiary protection, and a detailed examination of the representations he submitted for consideration under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended).

However, if new information or circumstances have come to light, which have a direct bearing on their case and which have arisen since the original Deportation Orders was made, there remains the option of applying to me for revocation of the Deportation Orders pursuant to the provisions of Section 3 (11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended. However I wish to make clear that such an application would require substantial grounds to be successful.

The Deportation Order against the individual concerned requires him to remove himself from the State and remain outside the State thereafter. His continuing presence in the State is in breach of the Deportation Order against him.

I shouldremind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Garda Investigations

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the protection that can be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17552/12]

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

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Defence the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17324/12]

As I did not travel abroad for St. Patrick's Day in my capacity as Minister for Defence no costs were incurred by the Department of Defence. The Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe T.D., visited Irish troops serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon from 15 March — 19 March. He was accompanied by two officials from my Department. The final costs cannot be confirmed until the final invoices are received in respect of this visit. The costs incurred to date are set out in the table below:

Nature of Expense

Amount

Flights & Luggage Charges

€2,609

Accommodation: Lebanon

€361

Accommodation: Beirut

€392

Entertainment

€383

The Taoiseach availed of the Ministerial Air Transport Service provided by the Air Corps for his trip to the U.S.A. for St Patrick's Day as follows:

Date

Return Date

Aircraft

Time on board

15/03/2012

21/03/2012

Gulfstream IV

17 hours 30 minutes

My Department follows the normal practice in the aviation business of costing aircraft by reference to the cost per flying hour under either of two headings:

The direct cost which includes costs which are additional to those associated with having the aircraft and which only arise when the aircraft is flown including maintenance, fuel and support services such as catering costs, cleaning services and airport handling charges.

The total cost which is the direct cost plus the costs associated with having the aircraft and includes depreciation and personnel costs.

The average direct cost per hour for the Gulfstream is €3,270. The average total cost per hour for the Gulfstream is €3,790. These are average costs which take a number of variables into account. It is not possible to assign an exact cost to any particular mission

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

203 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17320/12]

I participated in St Patrick's Day activities in Luxembourg and The Netherlands before travelling on to Brussels. I was accompanied by my Private Secretary. The 3 day itinerary included 15 separate engagements across a broad spectrum of activities including State agency related events, media briefings, Irish Community engagements and a bilateral engagement with an EU counterpart. Total costs of €2,070 were incurred in respect of flights and hotel accommodation. This amount does not include any subsistence costs which have not yet been processed. All local transport was provided by the respective embassies using embassy vehicles.

Grant Payments

Jim Daly

Ceist:

204 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application for a single farm payment for 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17335/12]

The application for 2011 Single Farm Payment Scheme was not was not submitted by the person named by the deadline of 17 May 2011. In fact, a completed application form was received from the person named in February 2012. The application form was accompanied by a letter of explanation and a medical certificate to support his appeal. Further medical evidence was sought and was received recently. Having considered the position it has been agreed to accept the position on the grounds of force majeure/exceptional circumstances. Payment will issue to the person named shortly.

Food Labelling

Ann Phelan

Ceist:

205 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will introduce legislation that would provide a legal definition in relation to the system of grass fed beef here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17354/12]

Food labelling, for which the Department of Health has lead responsibility, is governed by EU legislation. Beef labelling in particular is subject to comprehensive regulations concerning the identification of bovines and the labelling of their meat. These provisions were introduced in the wake of the BSE crisis to improve traceability and food security throughout the sector. In addition to establishing a cattle identification and registration system, EU meat labelling rules provide for compulsory and voluntary labelling systems which collectively cover labelling indications on origin, production methods and characteristics.

The compulsory labelling system imposes a legal obligation on food business operators (FBOs) to label beef with specific information at all stages of marketing up to and including the point of sale to the consumer, in order to support effective traceability back to the point of origin. These rules are intended to provide consumers with clear, reliable information about the provenance of fresh, chilled and frozen beef (including veal) sold in the EU. FBOs engaged in marketing beef may also include on their labels additional information complementary to that required under the compulsory labelling system. To this end, Irish FBOs must first submit a specification to my Department for approval. All such applications are examined to ensure that the FBO's traceability control system is capable of verifying the accuracy of the information on the label. Labelling indications approved by my Department include those for beef produced from grass-fed animals.

Given that current legislation permits FBOs to highlight labelling claims related to product characteristics and productions methods, I have no plans to bring forward new statutory rules in this area pending the development of further proposals at EU level.

Grant Payments

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

206 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) will receive their suckler cow welfare payment; the reason for the delay in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17362/12]

The person named joined the Suckler Welfare Scheme in 2008. He registered twelve animals in the Scheme that year and payment amounting to €880 was made for eleven of these animals during November and December 2008. Nine animals were registered in 2009 and payment issued for two of the animals in January 2010. A further six animals were registered in 2010 and eight in 2011 for which no payment has issued.

Payment has not issued in respect of the animals due to a combination of errors, which were identified during the payment validation process in respect of some of the animals. In addition, the participant has not submitted the required information for the remainder of the registered animals. A letter regarding the errors issued to the person named on 7 June 2011 but no response has been received by my Department to date. A further letter has been issued by my Department in recent days seeking to resolve the situation. However payment cannot issue on the animals in question until all of the information has been received and errors resolved.

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the outstanding agri environment options scheme payment due to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17365/12]

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

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. During these checks a query arose in respect of land parcels declared which require digitisation. This is being dealt with by my Department at present and once the digitisation process is completed, the application will be processed with a view to making payment in respect of 2010 at the earliest opportunity.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

208 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will review the retrospective stocking rate threshold for the area based compensation scheme for farmers on small holdings who are restricted to seasonal stocking due to poor land quality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17368/12]

As the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is co-funded by the EU under the Rural Development Programme 2007/2013, it is necessary to obtain the agreement of the EU Commission to any proposed changes; my officials are involved in ongoing discussions with Commission officials in this regard and a decision is awaited.

The proposals as submitted to the Commission regarding changes to the minimum stocking density require applicants in 2012 to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011. Where applicants do not meet this requirement, it is intended that provision will be made for exceptional circumstances, including recognised Force Majeure. Provision will also be made for those restricted by Environmental Plans.

It should be noted that the proposed criteria may be subject to some changes following the conclusion of the discussions with the EU Commission.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

209 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry regarding their single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17394/12]

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

This application was selected for a ground eligibility/cross compliance inspection. During the course of this inspection discrepancies were found that resulted in a claimed area of 15.14ha being reduced to 7.4ha. If the total area found is not sufficient to support the number of entitlements held penalties will be applied per the Terms and Conditions of the scheme. In this case the number of entitlements held by the person named is 15.45. As the difference between the area declared and the area found was more than 50%, under EU Regulations no payment was due in respect of the for 2011 scheme and an administrative fine was also applied.

The person named was informed of this decision and of his right to seek a review. He was also informed of his right to appeal the outcome of any such review to the Independent Agriculture Appeals Office. Following the submission of a previous Parliamentary Question a review was initiated. This review is now at an advanced stage and a decision will be forwarded to the person named shortly.

Harbours and Piers

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

210 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the allocations will be made to local authorities for pier and other marine works for 2012; the total amount of the allocation to be made nationally; the criteria that will be used to select projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17396/12]

My Department administers the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. In addition to funding for Department owned harbours the programme provides funding for Local Authority owned piers and harbours subject to available funding.

My Department is currently assessing all applications received from Coastal Local Authorities for funding under the 2012 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. Individual applications are being assessed in the context of the available exchequer funding, the priority ranking assigned by the relevant Local Authority and national priorities.

I expect to be in a position to announce the detail of the programme in the near future.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

211 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when an agri environment options scheme payment for 2010 and 2011 will issue to persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17416/12]

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

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. During these checks queries arose in respect of land parcels declared which required digitisation. The person named submitted amendment forms to rectify this but discrepancies remained. The person named has again submitted an amendment form requesting digitisation and this request is being dealt with by my Department at present. As soon as the digitisation process is completed, the application will be processed with a view to making payment in respect of 2010 at the earliest opportunity.

Harbours and Piers

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

212 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a decision will be made on applications for funding towards works on piers in County Galway in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17417/12]

My Department administers the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme.

Applications for funding under the 2012 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme are currently under consideration. I can confirm that my Department received detailed applications from Galway County Council in respect of 5 projects. These applications from Galway County Council will be considered in the context of available Exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

I expect to be in a position to announce details of the 2012 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme in the near future.

Stocking Densities

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

213 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will allow some flexibility in the implementation of the new commonage framework plan in order that farmers who are allowed to increase numbers are given enough time to meet the new minimum stocking levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17424/12]

The Commonage Framework Plans which were drawn up between 2000 and 2004, are currently under review and it is expected that this review will be completed by June of 2012. The review is being carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and my Department is co-operating with the process. The review will determine the minimum and maximum number of sheep each farmer will be allowed to have in relation to share(s) of commonage farmed. Discussions are ongoing as to how this review is to be implemented including consideration of the need for a lead in time.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

214 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will review the decision to allow Teagasc to carry out the planning of genetically modified potato crops in County Carlow; if he will take into account the very serious concerns raised about these trials; if he will consider having the crop trials suspended pending a full public and political debate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17434/12]

Teagasc operates as a separate non-commercial semi state body under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with their own management structure and governing Authority. The Act establishing Teagasc confers on it principal functions in relation to the provision of education, advisory and research services to the agriculture sector. It is a matter for Teagasc to prioritise activities in the delivery of these services and to allocate its resources in accordance with these priorities. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and I have no function with regard to the day-to-day operations of Teagasc.

Responsibility for issues relating to the cultivation of genetically modified crops, including GM trials, in Ireland rests with my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan.

Grant Payments

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

215 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the reason for the delay in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17443/12]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in June 2008 and received payments for the first two years of their contract.

REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payment can issue. Following an inspection in July 2010 deficiencies were found in the Agri-environmental Plan which necessitated the preparation of an adjusted plan. The adjusted plan was received in November 2011 and my officials felt that the deficiencies identified at the July inspection were not addressed adequately in the adjusted plan. A letter dated 12 January 2012 has issued to the person named outlining this situation and seeking a further adjusted plan. Payment cannot proceed until an adjusted plan is received and the deficiencies adequately addressed.

Import Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which steps can be taken to alleviate the effect of higher import costs such as fuel costs in the agricultural and fishing sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17546/12]

I am aware of the continued high cost of inputs for several farming sectors. Feed prices and fuel costs have been high for well over a year, although feed costs are now lower than in early 2011. The Government is seeking to alleviate the burden on farmers through applying an additional allowance for farmers in relation to green diesel, as announced in the budget in December.

High Commodity prices are a worldwide phenomenon. This is due to a number of factors, such as increased demand in developing countries, severe drought in some cereal growing regions, increased biofuel production and increased speculation in commodity markets. I am hopeful that measures implemented as a result of proposals from the G20 group of countries, such as the Agriculture Markets Information System, will provide more accurate information as to the causes of continued high prices. This in turn will facilitate more effective interventions to counter market volatility and stabilise commodity prices in the future.

Foreign Adoptions

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

217 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding Irish citizens adopting children from Florida in the USA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17313/12]

The Adoption Authority of Ireland inform me that discussions regarding administrative arrangements under the Hague Convention are ongoing. A delegation from the Authority is travelling to the US on 29-30 March 2012 with a view to progressing matters. Further updates following this visit will be posted on the Authority website.

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

218 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the cost incurred by her Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17322/12]

The costs incurred by my Department for flights to Boston for St. Patrick's Day celebrations was €1,415.12. At this point in time no other expenses have been paid by my Department. A final figure will not be available until all invoices have been received and processed.

Adoption Legislation

Clare Daly

Ceist:

219 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 104 of 14 February 2012 and Priority Question No. 3 of 22 March 2012, in which she commented on the pre-1952 records of fostering and de facto adoptions and her written response regarding the post 1952 records of adoptions, if she will list the former adoption societies holding records which have not sought registration under the Adoption Act 2010; the request that has been made by the Adoption Authority of Ireland to each such former adoption society to transfer records to an accredited body or the Health Service Executive in order to provide for their safeguarding; the reply that has been received and the number of such records that have been so transferred. [17553/12]

Clare Daly

Ceist:

220 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 104 of 14 February 2012 and Priority Question No. 3 of 22 March 2012, in which she commented on the pre-1952 records of fostering and de facto adoptions and her written response re the post 1952 records of adoptions (details supplied); the number of illegal birth registrations of which the Adoption Authority is aware; the number post 1952; the years and counties in which the illegal birth registrations were recorded and the action that has been taken in each case regarding the contravention of the laws of the State. [17554/12]

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

I wish to thank the Deputy for her questions. I have asked the Adoption Authority of Ireland for a response to the issues raised and I will make this response available to the Deputy when it is received.

Clare Daly

Ceist:

221 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 104 of 14 February 2012 and Priority Question No. 3 of 22 March 2012, in which her written response regarding information and tracing noted that work is underway in relation to the preparation of the Bill, in consultation with the Adoption Authority to provide for a structured and regulated providing of access to information and contact for those affected by adoption, if she will, in the preparation of the Bill, meet with and take note of the views of the Natural Parents Network of Ireland and other such organisations representing persons searching for their natural parents and natural parents searching for their children. [17555/12]

My Department and I have had meeting with numerous organisations regarding the issues to be addressed in the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and will continue to do so.

Primary Care Strategy

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

222 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will publish an update in respect of primary care centre proposals for the Laois/Offaly area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17316/12]

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

Ministerial Travel

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

223 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health the cost incurred by his Department, for this year’s overseas travel programme for St Patrick’s Day, which saw the Taoiseach and eight Ministers heading abroad for the holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17329/12]

None of the Ministers in my Department travelled overseas for St Patrick's Day.

Health Service Staff

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

224 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if and when the Health Service Executive will issue a new tender for recruitment services for the provision of short term or temporary medical agency placements in order to replace existing contracts with employment agencies in order to bring them into line with the new Temporary Agency Workers Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17337/12]

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

225 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if the new tender process for the provision of short term or temporary medical agency placements will be open to any agency to tender for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17338/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 and 225 together.

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

Grant Payments

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

226 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health the reason a mobility allowance application was refused in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; if the decision will be urgently reviewed and the claim put into payment; if they will be eligible for any other similar payment if not this one; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17344/12]

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

Hospital Services

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

227 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the progress made to date in relation to the proposal to establish a medical assessment unit at Monaghan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17352/12]

The HSE established a representative group to undertake a feasibility study on the development of a Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) in Monaghan and that this report was submitted to the Cavan and Monaghan Hospital group manager in February 2012. I have seen the report prepared by the group and I have asked Dr. Barry White, National Director for Clinical Strategy and Programmes to review the report. My concern is, of course, to ensure that patients in the Monaghan area have a safe, high quality and effective service. In order to meet these criteria, the review of the National Director against Clinical Strategy and Programmes requirements and the determination of the resources which may be required are key considerations which will determine what additional services may be introduced to the Monaghan Hospital site.

Monaghan Hospital will continue to play a key role in the delivery of health services in that area.

Medical Cards

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

228 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health the numbers of medical card holders across the State on a county basis. [17358/12]

The figures are representative of the number of eligible persons that hold medical cards as of 1st March 2012, broken down by each Local Health Office area.

TABLE

DUBLIN SOUTH

24,969

DUBLIN SOUTH EAST

20,331

DUBLIN SOUTH CITY

34,040

DUBLIN SOUTH WEST

62,185

DUBLIN WEST

55,423

NORTH WEST DUBLIN

67,662

DUBLIN NORTH CENTRAL

43,138

NORTH DUBLIN

76,906

KILDARE/WEST WICKLOW

68,851

WICKLOW

42,385

LAOIS/OFFALY

64,662

LONGFORD/WESTMEATH

52,209

CAVAN/MONAGHAN

56,821

LOUTH

58,237

MEATH

63,619

GALWAY

98,696

MAYO

65,199

ROSCOMMON

30,078

DONEGAL

88,810

SLIGO/LEITRIM

41,935

CLARE

48,751

NORTH TIPPERARY/EAST LIMERICK

30,382

LIMERICK

75,438

CORK-SOUTH LEE

58,039

CORK-NORTH LEE

75,332

WEST CORK

22,043

KERRY

56,903

NORTH CORK

37,153

CARLOW/KILKENNY

56,376

WATERFORD

54,918

SOUTH TIPPERARY

40,001

WEXFORD

65,466

NATIONAL TOTAL

1,736,958

Hospital Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

229 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health the numbers of throughput and the level of acute funding to each hospital across the State. [17359/12]

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

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

230 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that the budget provided to each hospital in the State reflects the level of health problems in the communities those hospitals serve and if he is satisfied that the comparative data he holds demonstrates a fair and equitable allocation to each hospital. [17360/12]

Hospital budgets are based on the historical development of services. Some services were developed as ‘national specialties' because it would not be appropriate to develop them throughout the country — an example is the Neurological service at Beaumont hospital in Dublin.

In the latter years of the former health boards, there was a drive towards regional development of services, however, in the circumstance of cancer services, the Deputy will be aware that such an approach was not appropriate and cancer centres of excellence have now been designated.

Accordingly, hospital services and associated budgets are not explicitly intended to support the health needs of each specific community where they are located. Instead, a broad range of services are available locally, and where necessary, more complex and specialised care is delivered through larger regional hospitals, centres of excellence and national specialty services.

The HSE does not have comparative data as requested by the deputy. However the Deputy may be aware that the HSE operates a National Casemix System of resource distribution. In this model, the cost of hospital cases is compared using relative indices for case-complexity and resources are diverted away from the least efficient hospitals to the more efficient hospitals. This system does attempt to address any inequitable resource allocation.

It is also the case that the planned move to Universal Health Insurance will drive efficiency in the delivery of hospital services and assist in the ‘money follows the patient' approach.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

231 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that the budget provided for medical equipment replacement such as x-rays, cat scan machines, MRI scanners, ultra sound machines is satisfactory and if he has carried out an audit of what need to be replaced across the State. [17361/12]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

232 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the funding crisis currently facing St. Christopher’s services for persons with an intellectual disability in County Longford; the steps he intends to take to address the threat to front line services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17367/12]

As the Deputy is aware the disability budget nationally was cut by 3.7% in 2012. The Health Service Executive (HSE) National Service Plan states that at least 2% of this should not impact on services and needs to be generated from other savings and increased efficiencies. The HSE is in discussions with the National Consultative Forum on Disability, which includes representative organisations and agencies from the Disability Sector to identify and agree a framework to address the 2% savings required, with minimal impact on frontline services.

The HSE has assured me that it will endeavour to ensure that residential, day, respite and personal assistant services are protected where possible from reductions in front line services. However, some reductions in services will be unavoidable even with such efficiencies. The aim will be to tailor such reductions in a way which minimises the impact on service users and their families as much as possible.

Initiatives under consideration to generate savings include shared services, transport amalgamation, restructuring of agencies, measures to address absenteeism and the promotion of innovative models of service delivery. As a first step, the HSE has indicated a general reduction of 3.7% from the budget of disability agencies, pending the outcome of its discussions at a local level with individual agencies.

The HSE recognises the valuable contribution St. Christopher's Services makes to the provision of services to people with intellectual disabilities in the Longford area. The HSE is very much aware of the challenges service providers including St. Christopher's Services are experiencing, and the particular difficulties facing all health services in 2012.

My Department has been advised by the HSE that it will work with St. Christopher's Services to agree where these savings will be made.

Departmental Reports

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

233 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Health when the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children report 2010 which, for the first time, is to include data on young person’s sexual health, will be launched; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17372/12]

I anticipate that the survey concerned will be launched next month.

Hospital Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

234 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of patients treated in the accidents and emergency department at Beaumont hospital for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17383/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

235 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of consultant cardiologists in the public health service here; the hospitals in which they work; his view that this is an adequate number per capita; his plans to deal with this shortfall and a timeline for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17384/12]

The latest figures available from the HSE's health service personnel census (29 February 2012) show that there are 45.32 WTE consultant cardiologists working in the public health service. I have asked the Executive to address the other matters raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Departmental Funding

Jack Wall

Ceist:

236 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health under his Health Promotion/Health Protection portfolio, if consideration will be given to the provision of funding for a group (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17392/12]

My Department administers a National Lottery Discretionary Fund from which once-off grants are paid to community and voluntary organisations, providing a range of health related services. If an organisation wishes to make an application for National Lottery Funding they should send in a formal application. Detailed procedures, along with the application form are set out on the Department's website —www.doh.ie.

Mental Health Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

237 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that a psychiatric appointment is secured as a matter of urgency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford [17395/12]

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

Medical Cards

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

238 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health the reason a medical card will not be renewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if he is satisfied with the stress that is being unduly caused to this patient who is unable to provide further documentary evidence; if he will ensure that this card is renewed as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17407/12]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Brian Walsh

Ceist:

239 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the consideration of the report of the Expert Reference Group on Disability Policy; when proposals arising from the report pertaining to the future of disability services will be brought to Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17410/12]

The Value for Money and Policy Review (VFM&PR) of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Disability Services in Ireland is being undertaken in the context of the Government's Value for Money & Policy Review Initiative 2009-2011. The Review is well advanced and it is anticipated that it will be published in the first half of 2012 if accepted by Government.

The review is made up of two strands:

1. A examination of the effectiveness and efficiency of the current disability services programme; and

2. A review of current policy in relation to HSE-funded disability services The Expert Reference Group on Disability Policy was established to look specifically at existing disability policy and whether it needs to be changed to better meet the expectations and objectives of people with disabilities. The Group's final report has been the subject of internal consultation within the Department of Health and with other Government Departments. During November 2011 it was released for public consultation and submissions received on foot of this are now being considered.

The Steering Group is currently drafting its final report, taking into consideration the recommendations made by the Policy Review Group and the results of the public consultation. On completion, it is my intention to look at both reports together and in conjunction with Minister Reilly to ensure that proposals for the future of our disability services are brought to Government for its consideration and publication in due course.

Pension Provisions

John Browne

Ceist:

240 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health the amount of superannuation contributions, pensions levy, PRSI contributions paid by serving nurses of all disciplines in 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17423/12]

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

Health Services

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

241 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health in view of the March 2012 decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in relation to the execution of the judgement in the case of A, B and C versus Ireland, which noted that, given the current status of execution of the judgement, the question is raised of how whilst waiting form measures to execute the judgement to be adopted, the situation of women who find themselves in a similar position to the third applicant is addressed and which expressed concern regarding the situation of such women: the interim measures that are in place to ensure that women in circumstances similar to those experienced by Applicant C have access to the services to which they are entitled under the Irish constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17435/12]

If a case similar to Ms C were to arise, it would be the responsibility of her doctor to determine whether there is a real and substantial risk to her life, as distinct from her health, and if such risk can only be avoided by terminating the pregnancy, i.e. the X case criteria. A termination can lawfully occur if these criteria are met. If the patient does not agree with her doctor's assessment, she is free to seek a second or subsequent medical opinion under Medical Council Guidelines, or could apply to the High Court for orders directing the necessary treatment to be provided.

If a doctor refuses to give necessary life-saving treatment, the applicant could in the first instance seek a second opinion for immediate management of her concerns and as follow up bring a complaint against that doctor to the Medical Council.

The law of tort also exists to vindicate the rights of any person who is given negligent or substandard medical advice. I would also point out that the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 would apply and be of relevance. First, in general terms, the legislation imposes obligations on organs of the State to perform their functions in a manner compatible with the State's obligations under the Convention. Secondly, it requires that judicial notice shall be taken of, inter alia, any judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While the Government understands that the scenarios described above were not deemed satisfactory or appropriate by the ECtHR, they do provide an interim process until the Expert Group on the A,B and C v Ireland judgment of the ECtHR issues its recommendations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

242 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will intervene immediately to secure appropriate care for this patient in the County Meath or surrounding area. [17455/12]

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

Hospital Services

David Stanton

Ceist:

243 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health if he will provide the number of patients by county treated for stroke, each year from 2005 to 2010 respectively; the number of those patients who had diabetes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17458/12]

David Stanton

Ceist:

244 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health if he will provide the number of patients by county treated for kidney failure each year from 2005 to 2010 respectively; the number of those patients who had diabetes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17459/12]

David Stanton

Ceist:

245 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health if he will provide the number of patients by county diagnosed with gestational diabetes each year from 2005 to 2010 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17460/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 to 245, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables:

County of Residence

Number of discharges with diagnosis of stroke (ICD-10-AM I60 — I64)

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Total Discharges With Stroke

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Stroke

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Stroke

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Stroke

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Stroke

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Stroke

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Carlow

123

26

95

10

114

15

90

10

111

24

103

20

Cavan

140

9

180

20

169

22

155

15

168

12

150

10

Clare

241

30

221

32

219

25

223

18

204

26

178

28

Cork

770

96

898

112

993

114

1,027

112

866

134

899

98

Donegal

384

44

363

38

321

40

340

42

320

40

342

48

Dublin

1,945

217

2,062

229

2,016

248

2,115

263

2,298

318

2,174

295

Galway

514

53

422

48

410

53

469

36

443

43

464

52

Kerry

220

14

253

25

254

34

262

27

322

43

292

39

Kildare

214

18

279

27

228

22

281

35

307

40

299

32

Kilkenny

181

28

168

30

158

23

146

24

176

31

173

25

Laois

101

13

151

16

129

13

140

22

142

24

110

22

Leitrim

73

10

134

13

64

10

63

8

77

16

69

9

Limerick

309

36

315

48

316

48

306

47

345

47

311

47

Longford

66

8

63

9

78

7

83

11

78

11

91

16

Louth

239

32

208

16

249

27

230

32

232

33

249

43

Mayo

253

30

233

31

289

34

273

28

250

31

253

27

Meath

226

28

236

20

261

26

293

49

295

48

284

44

Monaghan

103

6

116

11

121

14

120

11

129

21

105

11

Offaly

137

23

129

14

130

16

129

17

168

20

195

30

Roscommon

169

22

139

15

126

20

148

24

148

24

103

15

Sligo

139

17

139

16

145

20

147

19

182

30

151

21

Tipperary North

143

15

126

15

156

18

126

19

161

14

133

20

Tipperary South

186

24

178

30

156

35

186

31

183

34

174

29

Waterford

201

33

228

45

196

30

215

41

212

38

201

26

Westmeath

146

17

137

20

178

26

191

33

196

26

191

35

Wexford

269

43

267

38

235

38

251

47

239

35

269

53

Wicklow

227

18

208

23

234

23

196

25

212

37

291

31

Non-resident

70

11

77

9

74

17

82

10

76

11

73

8

No fixed abode

<5

0

<5

0

<5

<5

<5

<5

<5

0

0

0

Total for All Counties

7,791

921

8,027

960

8,021

1,019

8,290

1,057

8,544

1,211

8,327

1,134

Source: Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HIPE)

Notes:

Data refer to discharges from publicly funded acute hospitals

For reasons of confidentiality, cells with between 1 and 4 cases are displayed as <5

Data refer to discharges with any diagnosis (principal or secondary) of the following ICD-10-AM codes:

Stroke: I60 (Subarachnoid haemorrhage), I61 (Intracerebral haemorrhage), I62 (Other nontraumatic intracranial haemorrhage), I63 (Cerebral infarction), I64 (Stroke, not specified as haemorrhage or infarction)

Diabetes: E10 (Type 1 diabetes mellitus), E11 (Type 2 diabetes mellitus), E13 (Other specified diabetes mellitus), E14 (Unspecified diabetes mellitus)

County of Residence

Number of discharges with diagnosis of kidney failure (ICD-10-AM N17 — N19)

2005*

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Total Discharges With Kidney Failure

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Kidney Failure

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Kidney Failure

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Kidney Failure

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Kidney Failure

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Total Discharges With Kidney Failure

Number of These Discharges with Diabetes

Carlow

338

81

1,159

230

926

277

768

282

848

313

895

202

Cavan

207

31

2,015

335

2,295

411

2,734

301

4,309

90

4,312

103

Clare

285

42

2,678

410

2,270

323

2,633

325

778

308

663

216

Cork

1455

164

19,110

480

22,587

1244

23,552

2,066

23,996

5,087

24,967

6,181

Donegal

523

74

8,997

1,390

8,636

1,379

9,347

1,251

10,467

481

10,460

419

Dublin

3,848

686

20,350

3,927

22,568

4,684

22,589

4,282

26,403

3,723

27,565

4,351

Galway

1,024

146

4,789

1,357

7,842

2,931

9,459

2,790

11,580

3,057

11,905

2,941

Kerry

302

28

5,020

370

5,001

472

5,096

372

5,035

736

4,543

783

Kildare

524

47

2,854

703

3,335

747

3,216

549

3,789

511

3,598

536

Kilkenny

544

166

774

206

731

248

603

201

699

275

771

302

Laois

224

35

1,856

286

2,205

844

2,610

857

2,351

646

3,022

1,038

Leitrim

125

18

1,900

615

1,792

458

1,887

266

1,990

394

1,702

477

Limerick

450

67

5,158

948

4,756

997

5,581

575

1,581

505

1,578

546

Longford

162

30

498

52

920

189

1,166

212

2,009

349

1,880

480

Louth

370

49

914

169

1,095

194

1,134

310

1,190

194

1,239

222

Mayo

482

63

1,410

277

1,178

302

1,094

296

1,664

500

1,694

494

Meath

607

79

960

277

1,322

468

1,508

326

2221

252

2,373

516

Monaghan

172

28

557

154

774

52

1,760

225

2,389

73

2,395

77

Offaly

263

32

2,450

146

3,302

620

3,920

736

5,208

973

5,693

1,522

Roscommon

190

35

1,250

297

2,011

456

1,993

711

1,884

526

1,918

748

Sligo

314

59

3,476

700

3,607

855

3,811

1,167

3,931

971

4,231

1,060

Tipperary North

324

39

3,248

827

2,736

753

2,841

175

503

206

1,015

294

Tipperary South

587

131

891

320

986

336

1,320

300

1090

378

963

353

Waterford

705

184

1,038

315

1,009

301

1,079

328

1,290

331

1,203

334

Westmeath

294

60

2,120

799

3,344

1,076

3,614

1,281

4,650

1,464

5,312

1,726

Wexford

758

186

1,311

285

1,561

565

1,632

489

1,279

371

1,450

375

Wicklow

337

68

2,863

750

3,275

483

3,967

330

5,127

732

4,228

793

No fixed abode

<5

0

5

<5

5

<5

7

<5

5

<5

<5

<5

Non-resident

54

12

256

26

235

32

111

27

109

18

139

44

Total for All Counties

15,470

2,640

99,907

16,652

112,304

21,698

121,032

21,032

128,375

23,465

131,716

27,134

Source: Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HIPE)

Notes:

Data refer to discharges from publicly funded acute hospitals.

For reasons of confidentiality, cells with between 1 and 4 cases are displayed as <5

Data refer to discharges with any diagnosis (principal or secondary) of the following ICD-10-AM codes:

Kidney Failure: N17 (Acute kidney failure), N18 (Chronic kidney disease), N19 (Unspecified kidney failure)

Diabetes: E10 (Type 1 diabetes mellitus), E11 (Type 2 diabetes mellitus), E13 (Other specified diabetes mellitus), E14 (Unspecified diabetes mellitus)

* Note that since 2006, daycase admissions for dialysis have been included in HIPE. This activity was previously excluded from HIPE. As the data above are based on both inpatient and daycase discharges with any diagnosis (principal or secondary diagnosis) of kidney failure, the figures from 2006 to 2010 include dialysis episodes. Therefore the data for 2005 are not directly comparable with the data from 2006-2010.

County of Residence

Number of discharges with diagnosis of gestational diabetes (ICD-10-AM O24.4)

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Total Discharges With Gestational Diabetes

Total Discharges With Gestational Diabetes

Total Discharges With Gestational Diabetes

Total Discharges With Gestational Diabetes

Total Discharges With Gestational Diabetes

Total Discharges With Gestational Diabetes

Carlow

11

14

22

10

35

34

Cavan

15

12

19

17

31

13

Clare

<5

30

38

27

42

41

Cork

44

64

110

170

231

270

Donegal

8

12

29

42

26

48

Dublin

869

943

839

1,012

1,159

1,350

Galway

71

54

119

198

234

189

Kerry

20

13

19

28

27

43

Kildare

124

146

110

140

136

187

Kilkenny

14

17

6

13

26

24

Laois

14

28

14

7

33

44

Leitrim

5

5

6

6

14

10

Limerick

<5

32

50

46

79

95

Longford

<5

7

11

13

11

12

Louth

76

75

45

43

60

70

Mayo

15

38

32

53

36

27

Meath

119

104

128

108

96

151

Monaghan

18

6

8

12

12

6

Offaly

16

14

33

29

17

45

Roscommon

<5

<5

9

14

17

6

Sligo

<5

6

15

17

34

38

Tipperary North

5

5

15

16

17

25

Tipperary South

8

15

20

29

52

39

Waterford

18

10

25

54

42

50

Westmeath

26

18

41

46

24

66

Wexford

16

16

28

23

49

99

Wicklow

60

53

48

49

78

78

No fixed abode

0

<5

0

<5

0

0

Non-resident

0

<5

<5

0

0

<5

Total for All Counties

1,589

1,740

1,842

2,223

2,618

3,061

Source: Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HIPE)

Notes:

Data refer to discharges from publicly funded acute hospitals.

For reasons of confidentiality, cells with between 1 and 4 cases are displayed as <5

Data refer to discharges with any diagnosis (principal or secondary) of the following ICD-10-AM code:

Gestational Diabetes: O24.4 [Diabetes mellitus arising during pregnancy (Gestational diabetes mellitus Not Otherwise Specified)]

Hospitals Building Programme

Colm Keaveney

Ceist:

246 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Health following the rejection of planning permission for the Children’s Hospital on the Mater Site, Dublin, and the setting up of a review group to examine all options and to produce recommendations, if he will clarify that the issues of accessibility will be given due weight in the considerations of the review group; if any member of the review group have expertise in the area of spatial planning, and geographic and logistical matters; if due regard be given to the accommodation needs of parents staying with their child and of the challenges facing the second parent who may have to travel frequently to the site, in view of the fact that the presence of parents can be critical to the quality of care of the child. [17493/12]

I am committed to ensuring the delivery of a world class hospital for the children of Ireland providing the highest quality treatment they deserve. This project is one of the main priorities for the Government and is a commitment under the Programme for Government.

I recently announced the establishment of a Review Group to consider the decision of An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for the National Paediatric Hospital. The Government has agreed the Terms of Reference for the Review Group. The Terms of Reference are as follows:—

"To inform itself about the planning considerations and processes affecting this project.

To consider the different options which now exist for progressing the construction of a national children's hospital having regard to:

Government policy on the delivery of health services, including accessibility and paediatric services in particular and best clinical practice considerations,

the cost and value for money considerations of the different options,

the likely timelines associated with the different options,

the implementation risks associated with the different options.

To advise him, in the light of these considerations, on the appropriate next steps to take with a view to ensuring that a national paediatric hospital can be constructed with minimal delay.

To report to the Minister within 56 days of the first meeting of the group."

I can confirm that the plans for the hospital at the Mater site provided for parental accommodation to be available within the hospital for parents of children in the neonatal intensive care unit and children admitted to the other critical care units. This accommodation was to be provided within a family overnight unit which would provide en-suite bedrooms with suitable support accommodation. This feature will no doubt be an important part of any children's hospital, wherever sited.

The aim of this Review is to consider all the possible options for the earliest possible delivery of a new children's hospital. The Review Group will present their findings on each of the possible options for my consideration. The Group will not be undertaking a site selection process.

I have appointed Dr Frank Dolphin to Chair the Review Group. There is a wealth of expertise on the group. The membership is composed of senior planners, an architect, the CEO of a major UK Paediatric hospital and senior clinicians in the field of paediatrics. Dr Dolphin is currently in contact with the other Group members and expects to hold the first meeting of the Group within days. I will await the completion of the work of the Review Group and do not wish to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Health Service Executive Funding

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

247 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will arrange to reconcile the difference between the figures shown in the Health Service Executive annual accounts for 2009 and 2010 and the Teach Tearmainn, Newbridge, County Kildare accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17496/12]

As this is a service matter it has