Voluntary Activity Units.

Ceisteanna (50)

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

137 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in establishing voluntary activity units in all Departments involved with the community and voluntary sector as promised in the White Paper, Supporting Voluntary Activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3232/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The designation of voluntary activity support units, VAUs, in relevant Departments to support the relationship between the State and the community and voluntary sector is one of a number of recommendations in the White Paper, Supporting Voluntary Activity. The tasks envisaged by the White Paper for VAUs include monitoring the relationship between the State and the community and voluntary sector and liaison with the sector regarding policy development and service and programme delivery.

The question of designating VAUs in Departments and the monitoring of progress in that regard has been a frequent agenda item for the White Paper implementation and advisory group, IAG, at its monthly meetings, most recently on 26 January last.

My Department has been in ongoing contact with relevant Departments with a view to ensuring the establishment of supports which, having regard to the nature of the individual departmental relationship with the sector, can best meet the White Paper recommendation. Departments have diverse views on how this can be achieved and on the most appropriate arrangements for their particular circumstances, in light of the extent and nature of their relationship with the sector.

A number of Departments have designated certain units to function as VAUs. Such examples include the social policy unit in the Department of the Taoiseach, the voluntary and co-operative housing unit in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the voluntary and community services division in the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Department of Health and Children has designated a VAU on a cross-divisional basis with representation from the various divisions in the Department dealing with the community and voluntary sector.

I am aware of the importance that the sector attaches to the concept of VAUs and discussions are continuing between my officials and relevant Departments, and within the IAG, in relation to progressing arrangements for increased implementation of this recommendation.

Rural Social Scheme.

Ceisteanna (51, 52, 53, 54, 55)

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

138 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals for the rural social programme announced in the budget; when the scheme is expected to commence; the way in which it will operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3089/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Perry

Ceist:

140 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the new rural employment scheme will commence as announced in the budget to take 2,500 off farm assist and bring them into community type schemes; the way in which this scheme will operate and the person who will be in charge; if those on disability allowance or benefit will be eligible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3198/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

142 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the situation regarding funding for the new rural social economy programme; if the €10 million promised to this scheme, allocated from the dormant funds account programme, will come from the €30 million allocated to community development programmes in 2004 or will be additional to the latter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3224/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

155 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the savings which have been identified in social welfare to part fund the new rural social scheme in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3235/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

165 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the way in which the rural development jobs programme is proceeding. [3165/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 140, 142, 155 and 165 together.

The aim of the scheme, as outlined in the Budget Statement, is to provide directly improved rural services and at the same time to ensure an income for small farmers on long-term social welfare benefits with a working week compatible with farming. Based on the funding being made available it is planned to offer up to 2,500 places on the scheme.

Savings will be made in the social welfare budget when participants cease getting payments on social welfare schemes and join the scheme. The saving in each case will vary from person to person.

It is envisaged that to be eligible to participate on the scheme a person must be on farm assist or possess a herd number and be in receipt of unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit, if previously on community employment, or disability allowance.

Funding from the dormant accounts fund for the scheme is additional to the €30 million previously announced. Guidelines for the scheme, and practical administration arrangements are currently being developed by my Department in conjunction with the relevant public bodies. I intend to bring proposals to Government when the detailed guidelines have been finalised.

Stádas na Gaeilge.

Ceisteanna (56, 57, 58)

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

139 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dochar a dhéanfadh sé dá n-iarrfadh sé stádas oifigiúil don Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach. [3157/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

166 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é go díreach seasamh a Roinne i dtaobh stádas na Gaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil oibre den Aontas Eorpach; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [3107/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

188 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain a ghlac an Rialtas leis nach mbeadh an Ghaeilge oiriúnach mar theanga oifigiúil san Aontas Eorpach. [3158/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Tógfaigh mé Ceisteanna 139, 166 agus 188 le chéile.

Tógadh cinneadh gan stádas oibre a lorg don Ghaeilge i 1972.

Mar a thug mé le fios i mo fhreagra ar cheist tosaíochta uimhir 133 níos luaithe, tá sé leagtha síos mar ghníomh do mo Roinnse sa Ráiteas Straitéise don tréimhse 2003-2005 an cheist maidir le stádas níos fearr don Ghaeilge san AE a chur ar aghaidh.

Tuigfidh an Teachta go caithfear idirdhealú a dhéanamh idir stádas oifigiúil "sa chiall bunreachtúil" agus stádas mar theanga oibre chun críche na n-institiudí Eorpacha. Ní luaitear liosta teangacha ach in áit amháin sa dhréacht-bhunreacht Eorpach agus tá an Ghaeilge luaite ar chomhchéim sa gcomhthéacs sin. De réir na tagartha sin, atá ar aon dul leis an staid san conarthaí reatha leanfar le, leanfar le stádas bunreachtúil a bheith ag an nGaeilge san AE. De bharr an stádas bunreachtúil sin, tá ceart " mar shampla " ag an saoránach scríobh chuig aon cheann de na hinstitiúidí Eorpacha i nGaeilge agus freagra a fháil sa teanga céanna.

Anuas ar sin, ní luaitear aon teanga ar bith mar theanga oibre san dréacht bhun-chomhaontú nua. Mar sin, ní ceist í seo le réiteach sa Bhunreacht nua í fhéin, ach ceist a bheadh le réiteach le dlí go éifeachtúil, beidh gá le Rialachán na Comhairle 1/1958 a leasú d'aon ghuth i gComhairle na nAirí.

Mar a d'fhógair an Taoiseach le déanaí, tá an Rialtais ag bunú Grúpa Oibre chun anailís a dhéanamh ar an méid gur féidir a bhaint amach agus na féidearthachtaí atá ann chun dul chun cinn a dhéanamh. Tá cruinniú ard-léibhéal socraithe amárach chun dul chun cinn a dhéanamh. Tá súil agam go gcríochnófar an próiseas go luath agus go mbeifear in ann dul thar n-ais chuig an Rialtas le moltaí dea-bhreithnithe in am tráth. Ag an bpointe seo, ní fhéadfainn a rá go bhfuil mé cinnte go bhfuil an cheist seo chomh simplí agus a cheaptar agus tá sé ró-luath a rá fós cén toradh a bheidh ar na comhráití atá ar siúl.

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Countryside Access.

Ceisteanna (59, 60, 61)

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

141 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he intends to take to promote access to traditional walking routes, while also respecting the rights of landowners, in view of the economic benefit that hill walkers bring to the agri-tourism sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3031/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

157 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received the report of the consultation group established to consider the issue of access to waymarked ways; the main recommendations of the report; if he will publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3026/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

219 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will report on the talks he has held in relation to public access for walkers and hillwalkers. [3161/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141, 157 and 219 together.

I have decided to establish a countryside council to be called "Comhairle na Tuaithe" which will address issues relating to waymarked ways and access to land. This decision follows consideration by the Rural/Agri-Tourism Advisory Group of a report presented recently by the Consultation Group on Access to Waymarked Ways. The establishment of a countryside council was the key recommendation of the report. The report has been published on my Department's website,www.pobail.ie.

I will initiate Comhairle na Tuaithe by reconvening the Consultation Group on Access to Waymarked Ways directly. Subject to receipt of a valid application on behalf of the Rural/Agri-Tourism Advisory Group, to the rural development fund, up to €40,000 is available to enable the initial research, evaluation and pilot actions of Comhairle an Tuaithe to be undertaken by a research-development officer.

I also propose to make provision for maintenance of waymarked or approved locally agreed walks to be included as possible rural services for the purpose of the new rural social scheme.

The rights of farmers in relation to their land and their concerns on liability are critical issues. These and other relevant issues can be debated in Comhairle na Tuaithe.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Irish Language.

Ceisteanna (62, 63)

John Deasy

Ceist:

143 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the work that has been carried out by his Department to improve the status for the Irish language within the EU, as set out in his Department's Statement of Strategy for 2003-2005; and the future initiatives planned by his Department to achieve this aim. [3242/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

328 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will support the case of the Irish language to be included as a working language in the European Community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3410/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 328 together.

My Department has identified the question of enhancing the status of the Irish language in the EU as an issue in its statement of strategy for the period 2003-05.

The Deputy will appreciate the need to distinguish between official status, in the constitutional sense, and status as a working language for the purposes of the European institutions. There is a list of languages in only one place in the draft European constitution and the Irish language is mentioned on an equal footing with the other national languages of the existing and new member states in that context. By virtue of that reference, which is a reflection of the position in the current treaties, Irish will continue to have constitutional status within the EU. As a resultof this status, a citizen has, for example, the right to write to any of the European institutions in Irish and to receive a reply in the samelanguage.

No language is mentioned as a working language in the new draft constitutional treaty. This is not an issue therefore to be addressed in the new constitution itself, but would be an issue to be addressed by legislation — in effect, Council Regulation 1/1958 would have to be amended unanimously in the Council of Ministers.

As announced recently by the Taoiseach, the Government is establishing a working group to analyse what can be achieved on this issue and the possibilities that exist to make progress. A meeting on the matter of high-level officials has been arranged for tomorrow. I hope that the process will be completed quickly and that it will be possible to go back to Government with considered recommendations soon. At this point, I cannot say that I am certain that the issue is as simple as has sometimes been portrayed and it is too soon still to say what the outcome of these discussions might be.

National Drugs Strategy.

Ceisteanna (64)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

144 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date by the regional drug task forces; the budget which has been allocated to each; the needs identified by each task force; and the action his Department intends to take as a result. [3238/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As part of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, ten regional drug task forces have been established throughout the country. The RDTFs are made up of nominees from State agencies working in the region, the community and voluntary sector and elected public representatives. It is intended that all the RDTFs will work in a partnership manner, similar to the local drugs task forces.

All RDTFs are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas as well as the range and level of existing services with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision.

This work will feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the National Drugs Strategy Team and recommendations on funding will be made to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion in due course. Given the experience of the local drugs task forces, this work is likely to take up most of the current year.

As regards funding for the RDTFs in 2004, a sum of €500,000 is being set aside in my Department's drugs subhead for administrative and technical assistance expenditure incurred by the RDTFs in the preparation of their plans. It is also worth noting that my colleague the Minister for Health and Children has previously, through the relevant health authority, allocated ongoing funding of €50,000 to each RDTF to cover administration costs.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (65)

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

145 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which he intends to address the problem, as identified by community development groups, of the lack of access to information and to decision-makers at national level; the structures he envisages being created to overcome this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3227/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The national advisory committee of the community development programme, CDP, has been a valuable forum for exchange of views and information between projects and the Department for over a decade. The committee is composed of representatives of projects and agencies funded under the CDP and includes additional external representation, that is, the Combat Poverty Agency, Area Development Management and the Community Workers Co-operative. It meets on an ongoing basis and its key role is to discuss, agree and make recommendations on issues of national policy that affect or arise from the work of the programme.

In September 2000, the national advisory committee initiated a joint planning process involving all the projects in the CDP with a view to developing a strategic plan which would maximise the impact of the programme within the context of a range of new structures and policy initiatives. This plan included proposals concerning alternative representative structures for the programme. The Department has proposed an expanded structure, designed, in particular, to increase participation by volunteers.

As outlined to the House on previous occasions, a comprehensive consultation process was initiated by my Department with providers of schemes and programmes and the social partners, on improving local delivery structures. In order to ensure that any decisions arising out of the review will have been informed by the expertise of those engaged at a community and local level, all projects and support agencies funded under the CDP were invited to contribute to this process. The CDP projects were represented at a national seminar in June 2003.

Following proposals emerging from the projects in the CDP, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will examine the operation and membership of the social inclusion measures groups of the city and county development boards to ensure balanced representation and their enhanced operation.

The arrangements that I have outlined ensure that the key stakeholders in the CDP continue to have access to information in relation to programme developments and are included in any consultation process initiated with regard to proposals for policy change.

Rural Development.

Ceisteanna (66)

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

146 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the specific proposals he has for multi-dimensional policies to sustain the population of rural areas, in regard to his comments reported in a newspaper (details supplied) on 4 December 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3103/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The statement which the Deputy refers to followed my attendance at a conference on rural development in Salzburg from 12 to 14 November. The theme was, planting seeds for rural futures: building a policy that can deliver our ambitions. There were some 1,000 delegates from current and accession member states, including Ministers with responsibility for agriculture and rural development.

The conclusions of the conference outlined a number of principles to guide future rural development policy. The principles relate to the following areas: a living countryside being essential for farming, as agricultural activity is essential for a living countryside; preserving thediversity of Europe's countryside; the competitiveness of the farming sector; rural development policy to apply in all rural areas of the enlarged EU; rural development policy to serve the needs of broader society in rural areas; rural development policy to be implemented in partnership between public and private organisations and civil society in line with the principle of subsidiarity; more responsibility to be given to programme partnerships; and a significant simplification of EU rural development policy. Delivery must be based on one programming, financing and control system tailored to the needs of rural development.

By way of context to the Salzburg conference, I refer to the national rural development forum held in Cashel on 7 November 2003. At this event, I referred to the need for Ireland to take a proactive part in shaping the European agenda towards rural development.

I also said that such policies should, in my view, include: recognition that rural areas must have multi-dimensional development policies and that a total dependence on agriculture will not sustain the population in rural areas; clear spatial strategies, ensuring the continued maintenance and growth of rural populations; targeted funding for rural areas as a matter of urgency to ensure that infrastructure deficits in roads, telecommunications, water, public transport etc., do not inhibit rural growth, these funds in particular need to be targeted at declining and peripheral areas; provision that EU competition law does militate against the provision of essential services at reasonable cost in rural areas; and recognition that enterprise support mechanisms need to ensure that rural areas can compete for enterprise development. I am pleased with the broad convergence of many of the conclusions of Salzburg with these concerns.

The conclusions of the Salzburg conference will help shape EU policies in this area in the period post-2006 and will also help inform our policy agenda in a national context. In this context, the Commission will be bringing forward specific proposals on rural development later this year. My Department will be actively involved in contributing to subsequent deliberations arising from the Commission's proposals in this regard.

EU Presidency.

Ceisteanna (67)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

147 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans for the meeting of European Union drug co-ordinators in June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3086/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The EU Action Plan on Drugs 2000-2004 obliges each Presidency of the EU to facilitate a meeting of the national drugs co-ordinators from the different member states. Such meetings are usually attended by officials, although individual national co-ordinationstructures vary and a small number of Ministers may attend. The meeting under the Irish Presidency will be held in Clontarf Castle on 15 June 2004.

Although the agenda has not yet been finalised for the June meeting, the aim of these meetings in general is to provide an up-date on the various national drug situations, on developing drugs legislation and to exchange useful comparative data. The meetings also aims to foster exchanges of information and debate. The Deputy should note that the meeting in June will be the first meeting of national drug co-ordinators of the 25 member states.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Ceisteanna (68, 69, 70)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

148 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Naughten den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ag an Rialtas ó ritheadh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. [3253/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

216 D'fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cé mhéad airgid a bheidh ar fáil dó i 2004 leis an Acht Teanga a chur i bhfeidhm; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [3112/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Upton

Ceist:

218 D'fhiafraigh Dr. Upton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mó post nua a cruthaíodh ó tháinig an tAcht Teanga i bhfeidhm sna Ranna agus sna heagrais stáit éagsúla; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [3109/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimhir 148, 216 agus 218 le chéile.

Mar is eol do na Teachtaí, tá Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ina dhlíó mhí Iúil 2003. Is é príomhchuspóir an Achta ná soláthar níos mó de sheirbhísí i nGaeilge a chur ar fáil ón seirbhís poiblí ar chaighdeán níos airde. Tá freagracht ghinearálta orm mar Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta faoin Acht chun a chinntiú go gcuirfear na seirbhísí sin ar fáil.

Tá réamh-obair nach beag déanta nó idir lámha cheana féin ag mo Roinnse maidir le cur i bhfeidhm an Achta:

— Tá scríofa go dtí na comhlachtaí poiblí atá i gceist — thart ar 650 ina iomlán faoi láthair — le cóip den Acht agus achoimre ar na príomh-fhorálacha.

— Tá próiseas idir lámha faoina dtugann oifigigh de chuid mo Roinne-se cur i láthair do chomhlachtaí poiblí maidir le himpleachtaí an Achta dóibh, tráth a bhíonn deis chun tuilleadh eolais a thabhairt agus saincheisteanna a phlé.

— Tá feidhm tugtha do Chuid 5 den Acht a bhaineann le logainmneacha ó 30 Deireadh Fómhair 2003 agus tá seacht nOrdú déanta agam sa chomhthéacs sin go data.

— Tá leabhrán dhátheangach foilsithe — Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003: Osradharc — a thugann léargas ar phríomh-fhorálacha an Achta mar aon le freagraí ar roinnt ceisteanna a chuirtear go rialta faoin Acht.

— Tá soláthar €500,000 curtha ar fáil agam i Meastacháin mo Roinne don bhliain seo chun Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a bhunú.

— Tá plean gnímh maidir le cur i bhfeidhm fhorálacha an Achta ar bhonn céimiúil glanta ag an Rialtas agus fógraithe.

— Tá an tUasal Seán Ó Cuirreáin ainmnithe ag an Rialtas le bheith ceapaithe ag an Uachtarán mar An Coimisinéir Teanga, ach na rúin cuí a bheith aontaithe agus rite ag an Dáil agus an tSeanaid. Tá na rúin sin réidh le leagan os comhair Thithe an Oireachtais go han-luath agus tá súil agam go nglacfar leo.

— Tá ordú tosach feidhme déanta agam ar 19 Eanáir 2004 a thugann feidhm don chuid is mó d'fhorálacha an Achta le héifeacht ón lá sin agus ó 1 Bealtaine 2004 i gcás alt 10.

— Tá dhá grúpa oibre ar leith bunaithe le déanaí. Baineann ceann acu le Scéim mo Roinne féin faoi alt 11 don Acht a ullmhú agus beidh fógra maidir leis sin sna nuachtáin go luath. Is Meitheal Idir-rannach an ceann eile le chomhairle a chur ar mo Roinnse maidir le treoirlínte a ullmhú faoi alt 12 den Acht d'fhonn cabhrú le comhlachtaí poiblí scéimeanna a ullmhú.

— Tá réamh-obair ar súil i ndáil le rialacháin a dhéanamh faoi alt 9(1) maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge amháin, nó na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla le chéile, ar stáiseanóireacht ar chomharthaí agus ar fhógraí.

Anuas ar sin, tá sé i gceist go gcoimeádfear an liosta den na cuideachtaí atá clúdaithe faoin Acht faoi athbhreithniú agus go mbainfear úsáid rialta as an gcumhacht atá agam mar Aire faoi mhír 3 den Chead Sceideal chun cuideachtaí nua a thabhairt faoi fhorálacha an Achta.

Maidir leis an gceist faoin soláthar airgid atá ar fáil dom chun an tAcht a chur I bhfeidhm, táim lán-sásta go bhfuil an tsuim airgid atá ar fáil i Vóta mo Roinne do 2004 dóthaineach chun freastal ar riachtanais mo Roinne ó thaobh fheidhmiú an Achta i mbliana, ag cur san áireamh nach mbeidh forálacha uile an Achta i bhfeidhm go hiomlán sa bhliain reatha. Caithfear a thuiscint freisin gur beag an líon scéimeanna faoi alt 12 a bheidh i bhfeidhm i mbliana ó tharla go mbeidh treoirlínte le hullmhú agus go mbeidh tréimhse 6 mhí ag comhlachtaí poiblí chun dréacht-scéimeanna a ullmhú bunaithe ar na treoirlínte sin. Mar atá ráite agam roimhe seo, tá soláthar €500,000 curtha ar fáil chun Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a bhunú.

Maidir leis an lion post a cruthaíodh ó tháinig an tAcht i bhfeidhm, dírím aird na dTeachtaí ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Uimh 334 ar 1 Deireadh Fómhair 2003 maidir leis an ábhar sin.

Coimisiún na Gaeltachta.

Ceisteanna (71, 72)

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

149 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Kenny den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ag an gCoiste Comhairleach ar Thuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta ar 19 bpríomh-mholadh an Choimisiúin. [3252/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

162 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil aon dul chun cinn déanta i leith teorainn na Gaeltachta a aistriú; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [3108/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Tógfaigh mé Ceisteanna 149 agus 162 le chéile.

D'fhógair mé ar 31 Eanáir go raibh an conradh chun staidéar teangeolaíoch a dhéanamh ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht á bhronnadh ar Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, i gcomhar leis an Institiúid Náisiúnta um Anailís Réigiúnach agus Spásúil, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad.

Bainfear úsáid as torthaí an staidéir seo mar bhunús chun forbairt theangeolaíoch na Gaeltachta mar cheantar labhartha Gaeilge a threisiú agus chun athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar na limistéir oifigiúla Ghaeltachta, faoi mar a moladh i dTuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta 2002. Meastar go dtógfaidh an staidéar, a thosóidh i mí Aibreáin, 2 bhliain go leith nó mar sin le cur i gcrích. Cuirfear aon mholtaí maidir le hathruithe ar na limistéir faoi bhráid an Rialtais in am tráth.

Tabharfaidh cur i bhfeidhm Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 aghaidh ar go leor de na moltaí atá déanta i dTuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta agus chuige sin tá soláthar déanta agam sna meastacháin do 2004 i ndáil le bunú Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, rud a bheidh lárnach do chur i bhfeidhm an Achta.

Tá dul chun cinn suntasach déanta chomh maith maidir le cur i bhfeidhm moltaí eile atá déanta i dtuarascáil an Choimisiúin, eadhon:

— Tá beartas pleanála teanga á thionscnamh ag mo Roinnse faoi lathair i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta a chabhróidh le pobail Ghaeltachta straitéis bhuanaithe agus sealbhaithe teanga a chur chun cinn ina gceantair féin mar chuid dílís den phróiseas forbartha.

— Tá feachtas feasachta teanga a bheidh dírithe ar an nGaeltacht go príomha á ullmhú i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta. Beidh sé mar chuspóir ag an bhfeachtas seo cur ina luí ar thuismitheoirí, go háirithe iad siúd le páistíóga, na buntáistí a bhaineann le húsáid na Gaeilge mar phríomh-theanga teaghlaigh. Táthar ag súil go mbeidh an feachtas réidh le tosú sar i bhfad.

— Mar aitheantas ar an riachtanas le tuilleadh béime a chur ar thograí agus ar ghníomhaíochtaí atá tairbheach don teanga, tá soláthar breise de €890,000 curtha ar fáil agam sna meastacháin do 2004 chun tionscnaimh dá leithéid a mhaoiniú agus chun díriú tuilleadh ar ghníomhaíochtaí teanga-lárnaithe trí chéile.

— Chomh maith leis sin, tá€1m sa bhreis ceadaithe agam d'Údarás na Gaeltachta lena chumasú dóibh béim níos láidre a chur ar naíscolaíocht, ar sheirbhísí don óige, ar gníomhaíochtaí na gComharchumann agus ar sheirbhísí tacaíochta eile don Ghaeilge. Ní miste a rá chomh maith go bhfuil moladh faoi leith i dTuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta i ndáil le ról agus struchtúr an Údaráis á phlé ag mo Roinnse i gcomhar leis an Údarás féin faoi láthair.

I measc na mbeartas eile atá idir lámha nó bainte amach tá;

— athbhreithniú ar Scéim na gCúntóirí Teanga, ar Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge agus ar Scéim na gCampaí Samhraidh;

— aighneacht maidir le gnéithe criticiúla a mbíonn tionchar acu ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa chóras bunoideachais agus iarbhunoideachais sa Ghaeltacht curtha faoi bhráid na Comhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta chomh maith le cruinnithe rialta leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus lena Roinn;

— aighneachtaí curtha chuig na húdaráis áitiúla le ceantair Ghaeltachta iontu chun a n-aird a dhíriú ar an ngá atá le polasaithe dearfacha chun freastal ar riachtanais shainiúla na Gaeltachta;

— tacaíocht bhreise curtha ar fáil don oideachas tríú leibhéal trí mheán na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht;

— moltaí déanta i ndáil le hathstruchtúrú an chórais faoina gcuireann Údarás na Gaeltachta cúnamh ar fáil don earnáil réamhscolaíochta sa Ghaeltacht; agus

— struchtúr nua d'eagrais óige sa Ghaeltacht á dhíotáil ag an Údarás.

Tá rath na hoibre seo trí chéile ag brath cuid mhaith ar thacaíocht agus comhoibriúó phobal na Gaeltachta ach go háirithe, chomh maith leis na páirtithe leasmhara uile a bhfuil baint acu le ceist na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ceisteanna (73, 74, 75, 76)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

150 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on decentralisation within his Department; the number of staff in his Department who have indicated their intention not to move to decentralised locations; and his plans regarding the present buildings leased or owned by his Department which will become vacant as a result of decentralisation. [3233/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

159 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps which have been taken within his Department regarding decentralisation. [2990/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

167 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made on the transfer of his Department to Knock, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3156/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

198 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in regard to proposals for decentralisation, a survey has been undertaken to establish the number of persons employed in his Department, in boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department who are willing to move to the new locations announced by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech; the results of such a survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3106/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150, 159, 167 and 198 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions Nos. 1007, 1010, 1013 and 1017 of 27 January 2004. Deputies are aware that my Department will decentralise to two locations. The Irish language functions will go to Na Forbacha, Galway where my Department already has an office and the remaining functions to Knock Airport, County Mayo.

It is also intended to decentralise a section of ADM to Clifden County Galway and, subject to the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council, it is proposed to move 30 staff of Foras na Gaeilge to Gweedore in County Donegal.

To advance the decentralisation process in my Department, a decentralisation unit has been established comprising a higher executive officer and a clerical officer, reporting to the personnel officer. A departmental committee comprising members of senior management and staff has also been established. The first meeting of this committee was held on Wednesday, 14 January and a liaison officer has been appointed to maintain direct contact with the central implementation committee and the Department of Finance.

Two special meetings of the partnership committee have taken place to date to brief staff on issues arising from and relating to decentralisation. Appropriate contacts with union interests are also being maintained and a full briefing of information available to date has been given to the union representatives through our departmental council. Arrangements have also been put in place whereby I will meet with the decentralisation committee on a regular basis.

All staff have access to a special decentralisation corner on our computer network in which relevant information regarding decentralisation is being posted. A regular bulletin will be circulated where answers to questions raised by staff are answered. The first of these issued on 16 January 2004.

No survey to determine the interest of staff in participating in the decentralisation programme has taken place in my Department. However, officials working in the decentralisation unitare at present engaged in compiling an information pack relating to the locations to which the Department will be transferring. It is intended that this information will assist staff in making informed decisions about their future work locations. The Department's training unit will also have a key role in supporting effective communications throughout this challenging change process. Information seminars on the decentralised locations will be held in duecourse.

With regard to ADM, I understand that a survey has been conducted among its staff based throughout the country. All 129 staff members were asked if they would be interested in decentralising to Clifden and replied as follows: eight staff were interested; 79 staff were not interested; 14 did not know; and 28 gave no response. I understand that no survey has been carried out at Foras na Gaeilge.

The Deputies will appreciate that primary responsibility regarding issues relating to office accommodation rests with the Office of Public Works.

Departmental Programmes.

Ceisteanna (77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83)

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

151 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the strategy he intends to pursue in order to facilitate a more joined-up approach to community and rural development initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3228/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

153 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date with regard to the review of the programmes and activities that come within the remit of his Department, with a view to achieving optimal coherence across the various schemes; when the process is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3098/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Deasy

Ceist:

156 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the structures he intends to put in place at local level, as a result of the review of community development structures, to prioritise, integrate and co-ordinate funding and decision making at local level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3230/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

163 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he intends to publish the review of Government supports for community-based work here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3027/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Perry

Ceist:

172 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date regarding the review of the programmes and activities that are within the remit of his Department; when he expects to come to conclusions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3197/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Damien English

Ceist:

173 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the review of community development structures, first initiated in February 2003, will be completed; when he expects the recommendations to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3223/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

185 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in regard to the commitment given in Sustaining Progress, the form the proposed review of social inclusion programmes and initiatives will take; when it is expected that the process will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3095/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151, 153, 156, 163, 172, 173 and 185 together.

I refer the Deputy to earlier questions on this topic, in particular my reply to Question No. 76 on 21 October 2003, my reply to Question No. 108 and allied questions on 26 March 2003, and my reply to Questions No.s 330 and 331 on 28 January 2004.

As indicated in these replies, the Government recognises that local and community development measures are contributing significantly to tackling a range of challenges at local and community level. These range from drugs, unemployment and youth services to community and enterprise development. With their bottom-up approach and the active involvement of local communities, they are a key mechanism, not just for innovative local responses and for delivery of services, but also as critical input for public policy.

However, the structures employed to deliver these programmes vary considerably. The number and complexity of structures now involved is both extensive and complex. These arrangements can be confusing and present difficulties for the very communities they are designed to serve.

With this in mind, I undertook a review of the structures employed in the delivery of local and community development programmes with my colleagues' the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The review incorporated a comprehensive consultation process, as agreed with the social partners, and an independent review of Area Development Management Limited, ADM.

Our purpose is to ensure these structures best support communities in tackling disadvantage to the greatest extent possible.

Arising from the review, we brought forward proposals which Government has now agreed. These are designed to: improve delivery of services on the ground; improve arrangements under which community and local development initiatives are delivered; re-affirm Government's commitment to local and community development programmes; improve cohesion and focus across various measures; and enable communities to more readily access and make maximum use of the funding available.

The main features of the measures agreed by Government are community and local development groups across urban, rural and Gaeltacht areas are being requested to bring forward measures for improved alignment of structures in their respective areas by mid-year. This process will be co-ordinated by the local county and city development boards, CDBs.

Funding is being earmarked to support specific co-ordinated measures emerging from this process. This will continue over the next three years. The focus of this funding will be towards enhanced service provision. Except in exceptional circumstances Departments and public bodies will look to existing local or community development bodies and-or local authorities for delivery of any further initiatives in this area. In this way, additional expenditures can be prioritised towards services rather than administration.

Restructuring of ADM is to be undertaken to take account of changes since its inception. CDBs will be asked to consider and endorse plans prepared by community and local development agencies. This will help secure better co-ordination of services on the ground. The role of CDBs in overseeing and promoting an integrated approach to service provision at local and community level is also being underlined. I will continue to seek improvements in the alignment of community development structures falling within the remit of my Department. Our Departments, as appropriate, will be in contact directly with the agencies affected by the decisions in the near future.

Departmental Funding.

Ceisteanna (84)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

152 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the implementation of the Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Act 2003; when it is expected that the first transfer of funds will take place; if an estimate is available of the likely amount that will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3032/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Act 2003 provides for similar arrangements for unclaimed life assurance policies as apply to dormant accounts in banks, building societies and An Post. The Act requires insurance undertakings to take steps to identify and contact the owners of the unclaimed policies. If the owners cannot be traced, then the proceeds of the policies will be transferred to the dormant accounts fund and surplus funds disbursed by the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board for purposes of community and societal benefit.

The Act was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 13 February 2003 and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs signed the commencement order which gave formal effect to the Act on 10 March 2003.

Since March 2003, much has been done to ensure that the mechanisms provided for in the Act designed to notify account holders are effective. Section 9 of the Act obliges insurance undertakings to arrange for publication of a notice in two or more daily newspapers andIris Oifigiúil every year, advising the general public about unclaimed life assurance policies. The first such notice was published on 21 March 2003 and a further notice was published on 1 October. The Irish Insurance Federation, IIF, which is the representative body for insurance undertakings, published these notices on behalf of its members.

Insurance undertakings are obliged to write individually to each policy holder regarding policies with a value in excess of €500 advising them of the provisions of the Act. I understand from the IIF that this process is under way.

The Act provides that the transfer of moneys by insurance undertakings, from unclaimed life assurance policies, to the dormant accounts fund will take place at the end of April each year, beginning in April 2004. At this stage, the yield to the fund from life assurance policies is unknown and will only become clear following the first transfer of funds at the end of April.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Departmental Programmes.

Ceisteanna (85, 86, 87)

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

154 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if there are plans to integrate the national alcohol strategy into the national drugs strategy; and if his Department supports such a measure. [3245/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

177 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress made to date in implementing the new national drugs strategy launched in May 2001. [3102/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

180 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on his progress to date in tackling the increasing use of cocaine here; and the extra money and new strategies which he has put in place to meet the new and increasing needs of cocaine and poly-drug users. [3236/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154, 177 and 180 together.

As Deputies are aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The strategy contains 100 individual actions, under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies.

Since it was launched in May 2001, these Departments and agencies have made considerable progress in implementing the actions set out for them in the strategy. In particular, it should be noted that: guidelines to assist schools in the development of a drugs policy have also been developed and were issued to all primary and post-primary schools in May 2002; and the Department of Education and Science implemented substance misuse prevention programmes in all schools in the LDTF areas during the academic year 2001-02 and the social personal and health programme, SPHE, has been on the curricula of all primary and secondary schools since September 2003. This work is being supported by the SPHE support service, which has recruited additional trainers and support officers. Considerable progress is also being made as regards increasing the number of methadone treatment places. The number of places at the end of December 2003, the latest date for which confirmed figures are available, was 6,883. The equivalent figure at the end of 2000 was 5,032. Ten regional drugs task forces, RDTFs, have been established throughout the country. They are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas as well as range and level of existing services, with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision.

The Department of Health and Children launched a national awareness campaign in May 2003. The campaign featured television and radio advertising supported by an information brochure and website, all designed to promote greater awareness and communication about the drugs issue in Ireland. This first phase targeted the general population while the second phase, launched in October, is aimed at parents. A third set of television advertisements are currently being aired.

Customs and Excise has launched a coastal watch programme and implemented a number of measures to enhance drugs detection capability at points of entry; and over 1,120 recovering drug misusers are now on the special FÁS community employment scheme.

The strategy also provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by the end of this year. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary.

My Department also has responsibility for the work of the 14 LDTFs which were established in 1997 in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse. To date, the Government has allocated or spent: approximately €65 million to implement in the region of 500 projects contained in the two rounds of plans of the LDTFs. Over €11.5 million was allocated under the premises initiative, which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community-based drugs projects, the majority of which are in LDTF areas; and approximately €68 million to support some 350 facility and services under the young people's facilities and services fund, YPFSF. The main aim of the fund is to attract at-risk young people in disadvantaged areas into recreational facilities and activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance abuse.

As I informed the Dáil in previous replies on this topic, I am confident that through the implementation of the 100 actions in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 and through projects and initiatives operated through the LDTFs and the YPFSF, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. Each of the LDTFs has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in their area based on their own identified priorities.

These projects deal with supply reduction, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of drugs including cocaine. We have to be aware that most drug users engage in poly-drug use and, therefore, projects need to be able to address this pattern of usage rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others.

With regard to treatment, as the Deputies are probably aware, there is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services, such as counselling and behavioural therapy, are the best treatments available. The Deputies should note that the three area health boards of the Eastern Regional Health Authority have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years.

In addition, where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can be reflected in the measures proposed in the action plans of the RDTFs who, as I have outlined above, are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas.

I can assure the Deputies that I will be keeping the matter of cocaine use under review. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in the context of the mid-term evaluation of the strategy which, as I have outlined above, will be carried out by the end of this year.

With regard to the national alcohol policy, Deputies will be aware that this is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, who is pursuing a number of initiatives in this area. The national drugs strategy calls for increased links between both policies in terms of cross-representation on the relevant committees and working groups to ensure complementarity between the different measures being taken and this is being done. There are no plans at present to merge these two areas.

Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 138.
Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 151.
Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 141.

Irish Language.

Ceisteanna (88, 89)

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

158 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in implementing the report of the Gaeltacht Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3099/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

164 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals for a campaign to promote the greater use of the Irish language among Irish speaking parents in Gaeltacht areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3104/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 164 together.

The Deputies will be aware that in order to progress the full implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003, I have allocated €500,000 in my Department's Estimates for the current year to provide for the establishment of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga. This Act will address many of the recommendations contained in the report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta, particularly those on the provision of improved public services through Irish.

In order to provide for the implementation, where appropriate, of other recommendations contained in the report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta, an additional €890,000 has been set aside in 2004 to facilitate the implementation of a number of specific initiatives and measures. These include: the commissioning of a comprehensive linguistic study of Irish usage in the Gaeltacht, the contract for which is being awarded to Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, in partnership with An tInstitiúid Náisiúnta um Anailís Réigiúnach agus Spásúil, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad, this study will commence in early April; a community-based language planning initiative in the Gaeltacht, the details of which I will be announcing shortly; the further development of third level education and training through the medium of Irish in the Gaeltacht; and the implementation of changes in certain Departmental schemes in the Gaeltacht, namely Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge, Scéim na gCúntóirí Teanga agus Scéim na gCampaí Samhraidh, aimed at strengthening their effectiveness. My Department's various other activities in support of the maintenance and strengthening of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht, and the promotion of sustainable and culturally vibrant communities there, are being progressed continually.

A number of other issues and initiatives being progressed or under consideration at present and include: a submission from my Department to An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta regarding critical issues affecting the Irish language in primary and post-primary education in the Gaeltacht; the active support by my Department to the Department of Education and Science for the development of an education centre for the Irish language at Baile Bhúirne, County Cork; and submissions regarding the linguistic impact of planning policy in the Gaeltacht from my Department to local authorities responsible for Gaeltacht areas in the context of the preparation and implementation of county development plans and local area development plans.

These measures emphasise the importance of adopting language-centred initiatives and, in so far as Údarás na Gaeltachta is concerned, an additional €1 million has been allocated to further enable the Údarás to implement relevant recommendations contained in the commission's report, particularly in relation to pre-school education, youth services and the role of the Gaeltacht co-operatives. Recommendations contained in the report regarding the role and structure of the Údarás are also being discussed with that body.

A sum of €300,000 has also been allocated for the implementation of a language awareness campaign in Gaeltacht areas primarily aimed at informing prospective parents, as well as parents of children up to five years, of the advantages of choosing Irish as the main language of the household. While the campaign will focus on that target group, it is expected to generate an additional benefit of heightening awareness nationally regarding the advantages of possessing fluency in Irish. This approach is in line with the relevant proposals contained in the report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta. While television and radio advertisements will form part of the campaign, specific measures will also be undertaken to provide support and advice to parents who wish to raise their children with Irish, including the provision of suitably designed literature. Precise measures are currently in hand in association with Údarás na Gaeltachta with a view to launching the campaign in the near future.

The successful outcome of the overall process is of course largely dependent on the co-operation and commitment of the Gaeltacht communities themselves, as well as all who have a stake in the future of Irish as the chosen language in Gaeltacht areas.

Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 150.

Departmental Reviews.

Ceisteanna (90)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

160 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received the report of the review of enterprise in rural areas, which he told the Houses of the Oireachtas on 27 November 2003 was expected before Christmas 2003; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3093/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I anticipate that the report will be finalised this month. It is my intention that the report will subsequently be available on my Department's website atwww.pobail.ie.

Sócmhainní Ranna.

Ceisteanna (91)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

161 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén méid sócmhainní atá díolta ag Údarás na Gaeltachta i rith na bliana 2003 agus cén luach a bhí ar an acmhainn i ngach cás. [3190/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

De réir an eolais atá curtha ar fáil ag Údarás na Gaeltachta, is é€845,458 an méid a fuarthas ó dhíol sócmhainní i 2003, sin é, €724,900 ó dhíol maoine agus €120,558 ó scaireanna tosaíochta fuascailte, mar atá leirithe sa tábla seo a leanas:

Maoin Díolta 2003

Suíomh do Mhalartán Eircom, An Fháirche

8,000

Suíomh (0.26 acra), Corr na Rón

8,000

Árasan, Baile an Sceilg

170,000

Monarcha Cniotála, Inis Meáin

250,000

Suíomh, An Clochán Liath

63,500

Aonad agus Suíomh, Ráth Cairn

95,000

Monarcha, Páirc Ghnó Ghaoth Dobhair

128,900

Suíomh (211m2), Baile na nGall, Co. Phort Láirge

1,500

Scaireanna tosaíochta fuascailte 2003

EO Teo, An Spidéal

16,508

Gaelcniotáil, Na Doirí Beaga

15,237

Nemeton Teo, An Rinn

9,523

Bá Dhún na nGall, Cill Chartha

50,790

Óstán Loch Altan, Gort an Choirce

28,500

Mór-Iomlán

845,458

Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 149.
Question No. 163 answered with QuestionNo. 151.
Question No. 164 answered with QuestionNo. 158.
Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 138.
Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 150.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Ceisteanna (92)

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

168 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, prior to the announcement in the budget of the allocation of €10 million from the dormant accounts fund for the new rural social programme, the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board had been consulted regarding the proposal; if the board had approved the allocation of €10 million from the fund; if the board has approved the allocation since; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3088/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

In accordance with the terms of the Dormant Accounts Act 2001, as amended, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs wrote to the chairman of the Dormant Accounts Disbursements Board on 12 December 2003 to consult them on the provision of the additional €10 million for the rural social scheme.

The board discussed the matter at its December 2003 and January 2004 meetings and recently confirmed in writing that it noted the Minister's decision.

National Drugs Strategy.

Ceisteanna (93)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

169 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the total estimated number of heroin abusers at the latest date for which figures are available, in Dublin and the rest of the country for each of the past five years; the steps being taken to counter such extensive heroin use, especially in the context of the implementation of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3094/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs, for which my Department has responsibility, published a study on the prevalence of opiate misuse in Ireland in May 2003 and estimated that there are 14,452 opiate users in Ireland.

This estimate was based on statistics provided by three data sources for 2001 — the central drug treatment list, Garda data and the hospital in-patient data. This was the first formal estimate of the number of opiate users undertaken since 1996. However, it should be noted that the 1996 study, which arrived at an estimate of 13,461, estimated prevalence for Dublin only.

The latest study estimates that there are 12,456 opiate users in Dublin with a further 2,225 users outside the capital. The Deputy should note that the Dublin and outside Dublin figures do not add up to the national total as all three figures are the result of separate statistical calculations which are performed independently of each other.

I am sure that the Deputy will agree that the drop in prevalence figures in Dublin since 1996 is encouraging. Equally encouraging is the finding that the number of users in the 15 to 24 year old bracket has reduced substantially which may point to a lower rate of initiation into heroin misuse.

In this context, the Deputy should note that since 1996 the availability of treatment for opiate dependence has increased very significantly and this may be a factor in explaining the latest estimates. For example, in relation to methadone, there were 1,350 places available on the central methadone treatment list at the start of 1996, whereas currently there are approximately6,900.

While many of the study's findings are encouraging, I strongly believe that we cannot afford any degree of complacency. The Government is committed to working in partnership with communities most affected by drug misuse and the continued implementation of the 100 actions set out in the national drug strategy remains a priority. In broad terms, the strategy seeks to increase the seizures of heroin and other drugs, to expand the availability of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes while also putting in place more focused initiatives through the local drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund in areas where drug use, particularly heroin, is most prevalent.

I should point out to the Deputy, that the strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by end 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary.

Charities Legislation.

Ceisteanna (94)

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

170 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which the Government intends to establish a new body to regulate charities, according to media reports, when no charities Bill has been published. [3159/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The Deputy is correct in stating that no charities Bill has been published. However, as a first step towards preparation of draft legislation, a consultation paper entitled Establishing amodern statutory framework for charities was prepared within my Department during 2003and approved by the Government lastDecember.

Immediately following Government approval, the consultation paper was posted on my Department's website,www.pobail.ie. I draw the Deputy's attention to Part 5, entitled Accountability, which contains a proposal for positioning an independent statutory body as the centrepiece of a modern framework for charities and, in that connection sets out options for new institutional arrangements.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (95, 96, 97)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

171 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the plans he has to extend the CLÁR areas; if he has planned any further review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3196/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

182 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the CLÁR programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3101/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

207 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the type of projects that he will fund under the CLÁR programme in 2004; if he will have sufficient funds to cover existing programmes and new initiatives; if the CLÁR programme will benefit from funds from dormant accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3199/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171, 182 and 207 together.

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation as well as the decline and lack of services in rural areas. The Agreed Programme for Government contained a commitment to annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census data. The Government decided on the additional areas for inclusion in the CLÁR programme and I announced these on 17 January 2003. Areas in 18 counties are now included in the programme and there is no plan for a further review or to make any further changes to the boundary of CLÁR areas.

CLÁR funds, or co-funds, with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments. These measures support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects. The measures introduced under the programme reflect the priorities identified by the communities in these areas whom I consulted at the outset.

The measures were agreed with and are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments, State agencies or public utilities, as appropriate. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness and meets the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas. I intend to continue this practice for any new measures, depending on needs identified. Equally, I will keep under review the operation of existing measures.

The merits of this practice are reflected in the successful delivery of the programme. Expenditure amounted to €14.14 million in 2002 and to €8.613 million in 2003 which, it is estimated, levered a further €17 million in related public and private expenditure into the areas which otherwise would have been bottom of the list for infrastructure investment. The provision for 2004 is €10.74 million and will enable the continuation of investment under existing measures of the programme while providing the scope for the introduction of possible new measures as may be identified during the year.

Allocations from the dormant accounts fund will be targeted at programmes or projects within RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas. I strongly believe that a reasonable proportion of the moneys available should be directed towards projects in areas designated by Government as experiencing particular social and economic disadvantage. In the first 12 months 40% of the disbursement of the spend will be directed on programmes or projects within RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas. Every year after that, these areas will receive not less than half of the 40% annual allocation, with the balance available to all areas.

With the ongoing co-operation of other Departments, State agencies and public utilities, CLÁR will continue to deliver on the commitment of supporting rural communities.

Questions Nos. 172 and 173 answered with Question No. 151.

Charities Legislation.

Ceisteanna (98)

Liz McManus

Ceist:

174 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason for the delay in the publication of the promised consultation paper on proposed changes in the charities legislation which he told Dáil Éireann on 25 June 2003 he expected would be published during the summer of 2003; if he has brought proposals to Government on this issue; when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3091/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

In response to a similar question in November 2003, I assured the House that the proposed consultation paper would be submitted to Government very shortly.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Government approved the consultation paper on 16 December 2003, and it was posted on my Department's website —www.pobail.ie— the following day.

Foras na Gaeilge.

Ceisteanna (99)

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

175 D'fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta i leith Foras na Gaeilge a dhílárú; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [3111/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Mar is eol don Teachta, d'fhógair an tAire Airgeadais sa Cháinaisnéis go raibh cinneadh déanta ag an Rialtas clár leathan dílárnaithe a chur i bhfeidhm. I measc na Ranna agus na gcomhluchtaí poiblíéagsúla a bhí luaite sa chinneadh, fógraíodh go mbeadh Foras na Gaeilge ag dílarnú go Gaoth Dobhair, Co Dhún na nGall, faoi réir aontú na Comhairle Aireachta Thuas/Theas.

Tá réamh-chomhráití tosaithe ag mo Roinnse leis an Roinn urraíochta sa Tuaisceart — an Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta — agus tá scríofa agam le déanaí chuig Aire na Roinne sin, an tUasal Angela Smith, MP, chun an cheist a chur chun cinn.

EU Presidency.

Ceisteanna (100)

Joe Costello

Ceist:

176 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his planned programme for the period of the EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3084/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

In the month since the commencement of Ireland's EU Presidency, I have had bilateral meetings in Dublin Castle with the EU Commissioners with responsibility for rural affairs and regional policy. I also addressed the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament on 27 January 2004, and the text of my address canbe accessed on my Department's website,www.pobail.ie.

As regards my Department's planned programme, I informed the House in 2003, in response to similar questions from Deputies, and again last month, that our planned Presidency events are as follows: Conference on Territorial Cohesion, formerly Islands, Galway, 25 to 27 May 2004; Conference on Rural Development, Westport, 30 and 31 May and 1 June 2004;and Meeting of National Drugs Strategy Coordinators, Clontarf, 15 June 2004.

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 154.

Voluntary Sector.

Ceisteanna (101)

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

178 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the research funding scheme promised in the White Paper, Supporting Voluntary Activity, published by the Government in 2000, will be delivered upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3231/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The funding scheme for research into the voluntary sector described in the White Paper was deferred arising from the emerging financial situation in 2003. I currently have no plans to introduce proposals for such a scheme; however, the matter will be kept under review.

Departmental Strategy Statements.

Ceisteanna (102)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

179 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the initiatives that have been undertaken and are planned by his Department to increase the involvement by the corporate sector in supporting communities and in involvement in community development as set out in his Department's Statement of Strategy 2003-05. [3244/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No 92 of 21 October 2003.

Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 154.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Ceisteanna (103, 104, 105)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

181 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the total amount disbursed prior to the end of 2003 in regard to the Disbursement Plan 2003-2005 published by the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board; the likely amount for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3087/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Damien English

Ceist:

189 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress to date of the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board since the close of applications for funding under the scheme closed on 21 November 2003. [3234/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

192 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money he hopes to raise from the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board for 2004; the way in which he intends to use the funds; if there are application forms available for any purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3195/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181, 189 and 192 together.

The Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board published its first disbursement plan on 7 November 2003. The plan sets out the board's priorities and provides for the distribution of funds to assist programmes or projects targeting three broad categories of persons — those affected by economic and social disadvantage; those affected by educational disadvantage, and persons with a disability. A significant level of disbursements from the fund will be ring-fenced for programmes and projects within RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas.

The board has engaged Area Development Management Ltd., ADM, to administer the initial round of funding on its behalf. In this regard, an invitation to organisations, groups etc. to make applications for funding was advertised in the national press on Friday, 21 November. I understand that approximately 190 applications have been received to date which ADM is assessing on an ongoing basis.

At its meeting on 19 December 2003, the board approved three projects for funding totalling approximately €175,000. The board will next meet on 17 February 2004 and it is anticipated that a significant number of projects will be submitted to the board for decision at this meeting.

The current value of the fund is in the order of €175 million, including a reserve which must be maintained to meet claims for repayment and various costs associated with administering the scheme. A second transfer of funds from credit institutions, together with the first transfer of moneys from life assurance policies, will take place at the end of April 2004. However, at this stage I do not have an accurate estimate as to the likely yield from these sources in 2004 and this information will only become clearer at the end of April.

The Deputies should also note that at its meeting of 16 December, the Government reviewed arrangements in relation to dormant accounts. It decided to give the board key roles in relating to advising, monitoring and planning in the area of dormant accounts, with particular regard to the following: advising on priority areas to be considered annually for funding; preparation of the disbursement plan; reviewing, evaluating, and reporting on the effectiveness, additionality and impact of disbursements.

In the context of the need to ensure appropriate capacity to evaluate and process applications, and so as to secure maximum transparency on disbursements, the Government decided that the objectives of the disbursements scheme would remain unchanged but that it would make decisions on disbursements. Such decisions would be taken following a transparent application and evaluation process, and appropriate arrangements would be put in place so that spending from the dormant accounts fund is clearly separate to the Estimates provision.

Draft legislation is to be brought forward in 2004 with a view to giving effect to these decisions.

Question No. 182 answered with QuestionNo. 171.

Departmental Strategy Statements.

Ceisteanna (106)

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

183 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the decision making and financial control systems that have been put in place in his Department, as promised in his Department's Statement of Strategy 2003-05, to enable his Department to have in place a better structure to review financial and audit requirements of community development schemes. [3243/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As I stated in reply to a similar question from Deputy McCormack, Question No. 153 of 21 October 2003, the review of financial and audit requirements to which the Deputy refers is one of the outputs specified in my Department's Strategy Statement 2003-05. This underpins a strategic approach to achieve greater coherence across the range of structures, processes and schemes supporting local and community development. Effective decision-making and proper financial control are critical to advancing this agenda.

The first phase of the review, involving a survey of the criteria and processes used across a range of schemes operated by my Department, has been completed. The next phase, developing, as part of a number of wider processes going forward, best practice templates appropriate to the diverse programmes operated or funded by my Department is in progress. The Deputy will be aware, from my replies to earlier questions today, that the Government has taken a number of decisions arising from the review of local and community development structures.

As part of my Department's developing IT strategy, a number of projects have been identified which will facilitate more effective decision making and control.

The strengthened financial management controls over the schemes and programmes funded by my Department, as outlined in the previous reply, have continued to be implemented.Also, the evaluation of the systems of internal financial control in my Department, which was carried out in line with the recommendationsof the Working Group on the Accountabilityof Secretaries General and Accounting Officers — Mullarkey Report — has just been completed.

Further progress has also been made on the implementation of the management information framework, MIF, in line with the strategic management initiative, SMI, in the public service. Contracts have been placed for the project, which involves the installation of a new financial management system that will facilitate better financial and general management across the Department. The project is progressing on schedule, with full completion due by next November.

So as to deepen the ethos of financial control and value for money, a systems audit of the community development support programme, CDSP, has commenced and is nearing completion. A review of expenditure in relation to the local drugs task forces is also due to commence in the coming months.

In light of the progress to date I believe that the work under way will lead to best practices across the Department and deliver on the agenda for change as set out in the strategy statement.

Community and Local Development.

Ceisteanna (107, 108)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

184 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received the full report of the four regional seminars hosted by community workers co-operatives regarding the Government directive requiring community and local development bodies to have their plans endorsed by city and county development boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3028/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Burton

Ceist:

196 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends to issue guidelines or criteria to city and county development boards regarding the endorsement or non-endorsement of work plans of CDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3029/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 196 together.

My Department has received a copy of the report in question. The Deputy will be aware from my responses to earlier questions that, as part of the review of local and community development structures, the bodies involved were asked to submit their plans to county and city development boards, CDBs, for endorsement. These include area partnerships, ADM supported groups, community support programme groups, and county/city child care committees. Leader groups were also asked to provide their plans to the CDBs. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has required the county/city child care committees to have closer liaison with the CDBs.

The objective of the endorsement process is to enable the CDBs build up a picture of the range of services, activities and priorities of the various community and local development bodies within each of their areas. In this way improved coherence of the delivery of services and better use of resources to the benefit of local communities can be pursued.

Where issues of overlap or conflicting priorities emerge, I would hope that the CDB and local bodies will, acting in the interests of the community, succeed in resolving these. Where it is not possible to resolve matters, it will fall to be considered by the funding authority — the Department or ADM. In that regard, I should point out that the responsibility for funding decisions has not changed. As I mentioned in my response to questions earlier today, the Government has decided that the CDBs should continue the endorsement process.

Guidelines on the endorsement process, agreed between the three Departments involved in the review — my own Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform — were issued to CDBs by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government last July. These were also copied to the various local and community agencies involved. The guidelines are designed to assist and clarify the objectives of the process.

Question No. 185 answered with QuestionNo. 151.
Question No. 186 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

Irish Language.

Ceisteanna (109)

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

187 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the work that has been carried out by his Department to promote the issue of Irish-medium third level education, as set out in his Department's strategy statement for 2003-2005. [3241/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As the Deputy is aware, the progression of Irish-medium third level education is included as a cross-cutting issue in my Department's Strategy Statement 2003 — 2005. Although this is a matter that comes primarily within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, my Department continues to co-operate with his Department on this issue.

A high-level interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of Education and Science and including representatives from my Department, the Higher Education Authority and Údarás na Gaeltachta, was established to examine a plan prepared by certain third level institutions for the development of third level education in theGaeltacht. This group has had a number of meetings, as well as seeking submissions from various interested parties, and is preparing itsreport.

My Department continues to fund a number of third level initiatives in the Gaeltacht. The Deputy may also be aware that I recently sanctioned funding in excess of €1 million for the National University of Ireland, Galway, to facilitate the establishment of Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. This funding, aimed ultimately at assisting the university in further developing the comprehensive provision of courses through the medium of Irish, will in practical terms be used to assist the Acadamh, in which the university's Gaeltacht centres play an integral part in meeting staffing costs associated with the provision of such services.

As Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht and the Irish language, I believe that the provision of third level courses through Irish, which serve the needs of the Gaeltacht community and those who wish to pursue their education through the language, is central to the maintenance of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and on a national level. Addressing these needs will play no small part in empowering Gaeltacht communities and in supporting the survival of the language within these communities.

Question No. 188 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Question No. 189 answered with QuestionNo. 181.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (110)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

190 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress to date in his Department in advancing measures to support rural development through the provision of community focused schemes and in particular to support rural enterprise. [3254/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

My Department is committed to maintaining the maximum number of people in rural areas and to strengtheningrural communities economically, socially and culturally. Government policy on rural development is set out in the White Paper published in 1999. As an integral part of this process my Department operates a number of programmes, as set out below, designed to assist rural development, including support for rural enterprises.

The Leader programmes are EU programmes in place to encourage the implementation of integrated, high-quality and innovative strategies in rural communities, including a number of rural enterprise projects. Some 22 local action groups throughout the country deliver the EU Leader+ initiative. The allocation for Leader+ for the period 2000 to 2006 is €73.6 million which is co-funded by the EU. The Leader national rural development programme closely complements the Leader+ initiative and is operated by 13 local groups in areas of the country not covered by Leader+. It also provides nationwide coverage for rural and agricultural tourism and focuses more on mainstream activities. The allocation for 2000 to 2006 is €75.7 million which is also co-funded by the EU.

There is provision of €42.2 million in my Department's Vote to support local development social inclusion measures. Funding is allocated to area partnerships and community groups to deliver the local development social inclusion programme, LDSIP, under three measures — services for the unemployed, community based youth initiatives and community development. An element of this funding is provided to rural enterprises.

My Department's responsibilities also include the rural development aspects of the joint cross-Border programmes PEACE and INTERREG as well as the farm relief services measure of the national development plan. The rural measures under these programmes aim to foster the economic and social development of rural communities. Projects supported by the programmes are community based as well as focused on farm diversification.

Total funding of €7.351 million is being provided under the rural development measures of the PEACE II programme during the period 2000-2004. Support is available for cross-Border and cross-community development and the development of agri-diversification projects.

Under the INTERREG Ireland-Northern Ireland rural initiative measure support is available to rural businesses and communities to engage in developing the economic and social sustainability of the region and to promote the development and expansion of cross-Border businesses through integrated local area based projects with a strategic focus in geographically defined areas of rural disadvantage. Total funding of €18 million is being provided for the period 2000-2006.

Total funding of €10 million is being provided under the rural initiative measure of the joint INTERREG Ireland-Wales programme for the period 2000-2006. Under the programme support is being provided in the eligible area for joint projects promoting rural business skills, rural tourism, rural health and on and off-farm diversification to complement agricultural activities.

The development of Gaeltacht areas, which are mainly rural, is actively supported by the activities of Údarás na Gaeltachta. An tÚdarás promotes enterprise and community focused schemes and provides assistance to Gaeltacht community co-operatives.

The measures I have introduced under the CLÁR programme support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures. These measures reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas whom I consulted at the outset.

The measures with a community focus are group water schemes, group sewerage schemes, local improvement scheme roads, village enhancement schemes, local authority housing estate enhancement schemes, bi-lingual signage schemes, top-up schemes, sports capital grants and community initiatives schemes. Those with particular reference to rural enterprise are the single phase to three phase electricity conversion scheme, wireless based Internet service for selected projects in the Border, midland and regional assembly area, call for broadband proposals in 15 CLÁR locations and fibre optic network supply in Belmullet, County Mayo and Dungloe, County Donegal.

In September 2003 I announced that Fitzpatrick Associates, economic consultants, had been appointed to carry out a review of enterprise support in rural areas. This review aims to analyse official enterprise support, including tourism enterprise, already available in rural areas. The greater Dublin area, as well as gateways, hubs and their areas of influence, were excluded from the analysis to ensure that the focus remained on regions that have not benefited from urban-generated economic growth. I hope to receive the completed report later this month.

Cross-Border Projects.

Ceisteanna (111)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

191 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in developing a cross-Border approach to rural development. [3239/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

My Department and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland are the co-chairs of the Steering Committee on Cross-Border Rural Development. The committee also comprises representatives of the Special EU Programmes Body and the North-South Ministerial Council Secretariat.

The terms of reference of the committee are as follows: to promote the maximum co-operation in the implementation of rural development programmes, including EU programmes; to exchange information on experience and best practice in both jurisdictions in relation to rural development; and to examine the scope for a common approach to the feasibility of developing cross-Border area based strategies and rural development research. In support of its work the committee commissioned two studies in 2001 on co-operation between cross-Border rural communities and cross-Border education, training and research in rural development.

With regard to the co-operation study, the North-South Ministerial Council endorsed the main finding, namely, that an area based approach to cross-Border rural development should be adopted. The rural initiative measure of the INTERREG III programme was identified as the vehicle through which this approach could be implemented and the applications for funding under this initiative are currently being assessed.

The second study on cross-Border education, training and research identified the need for greater co-ordination, accessibility and practical application of information on current education, training and research provision. Its main recommendation is the setting up of a one-stop shop for collecting, holding and disseminating information on training and education provision in the Border region.

The steering committee agreed that the two lead Departments would write to all the universities, colleges and relevant organisations which had been included as part of the study for their views on how the main recommendation for the one-stop shop could best be implemented and a number of common suggestions for the format and functions of the one-stop shop were identified from the comments received. This has been done.

The committee is currently considering the establishment of a web-based one-stop shop for factual information and is exploring with the Centre for Cross Border Studies the possibility of amalgamating it with the centre's proposed websiteBorderIreland.info. The committee continues to meet regularly to discharge its terms of reference.

Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 181.

Job Creation.

Ceisteanna (112)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

193 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress that has been made with regard to the examination by his Department of the report of the working group on the creation of employment in the Gaeltacht; if the Government is committed to implementing the recommendations made by the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3097/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As outlined in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 56 of 27 November 2003, my Department, in partnership with Údarás na Gaeltachta, is continuing to actively progress the recommendations of the working group on the creation of employment in the Gaeltacht.

Arising from the working group's report, Údarás na Gaeltachta has formulated an action plan to tackle the significant unemployment problem in the north west Donegal Gaeltacht. A key objective of the plan is to approve 200 jobs per annum for the Gaoth Dobhair area, with the aim of achieving peak employment again in five years time.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, according to Údarás na Gaeltachta, 185 new jobs have been created and 274 new jobs have been approved for the Gaoth Dobhair business park since the action plan was launched over a year ago.

A further positive development is the provision by National University of Ireland, Galway, of third level educational courses through the medium of Irish in Gaoth Dobhair with Údarás support.

In progressing other recommendations contained in the report, an tÚdarás, in co-operation with my Department and other relevant agencies, is continuing to develop and upgrade the telecommunications and physical infrastructure of Gaeltacht areas. In addition, new training and educational initiatives are being promoted in order to assist up-skilling and retraining of the labour market.

A greater emphasis is also being placed on the natural resources of the Gaeltacht and, in this connection, I should mention the scheme Fiontraíocht Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht, which was introduced by an tÚdarás last year and supports the recommendations of the working group with regard to the Irish language.

EU Presidency.

Ceisteanna (113)

Joe Costello

Ceist:

194 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals for the planned conference on economic and social issues relating to economic and social cohesion policies for specific areas of the EU with recognised territorial handicaps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3085/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

In the context of Ireland's Presidency of the EU, my Department is organising a high-level official conference on territorial cohesion, in co-operation with the Directorate General for Regional Policy of the European Commission.

The third report on economic and social cohesion is expected to be published shortly by the European Commission. This conference will present an opportunity to debate the concept of territorial cohesion generally and, in this context, to exchange ideas and present proposals on the strategies necessary for sustainable development in an enlarged EU and on relevant national, regional and Community policies.

The Department hopes to finalise the draft programme for the conference shortly. It is anticipated that leading experts and interested stakeholders will present analyses and engage in debate on how specific areas of the EU with recognised territorial constraints can be developed in an inclusive way, consistent with the objectives of a uniform cohesion policy.

Question No. 195 answered with QuestionNo. 135
Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 184.

Irish Language.

Ceisteanna (114)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

197 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003; the role his Department will play in regard to monitoring the implementation of the provisions; if an assessment has been undertaken of the staffing implications for the public service generally of the provisions of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3092/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As the Deputy is aware, the Official Languages Act 2003 was signed into law in July 2003. The primary objective of the Act is to ensure better availability and a higher standard of public services through Irish. As Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, I have a general responsibility to ensure such services are made available.

My Department has carried out, or is currently engaged in, the necessary preparatory work to implement the Act. It has written to the approximately 650 public bodies concerned to provide them with a copy of the Act and a summary of its main provisions. A process is under way whereby officers of my Department are providing briefing sessions for public bodies on the implications of the Act. The process affords opportunities to make information available and discuss the Act's specific import for different people. Part 5 of the Act, which deals with place names was commenced on 30 October 2003 and I have made seven orders under that part to date.

A bilingual booklet, Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003: Osradharc/Official Languages Act 2003: Overview, has been published. It gives an insight into the main provisions of the Act and answers frequently asked questions. A sum of €500,000 has been provided in the Estimates of my Department for 2004 for the establishment of the Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. An action plan on the phased implementation of the provisions of the Act has been approved by the Government and announced.

Mr. Seán Ó Cuirreáin has been nominated by the Government for appointment by the President as An Coimisinéir Teanga, subject to the relevant resolutions being accepted and passed by the Dáil and the Seanad. These resolutions will be ready to be placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas very soon and I hope they will be approved. On 19 January 2004, I signed a commencement order to give effect to most of the provisions of the Act from that date and to section 10 from May 2004.

Recently, two working groups were established. One is responsible for preparing a draft scheme for my Department under section 11 of the Act and a notice in relation to this will be published in the national press soon. The other is an interdepartmental group whose function is to advise my Department in relation to the drawing up of guidelines under section 12 of the Act to assist public bodies in preparing draft schemes. Preparatory work is ongoing to make regulations under section 9(1) to deal with the use of Irish only, or of both Irish and English, in oral announcements, on stationery, on signage and on advertisements. It is intended that the list of public bodies to which the Act applies will be kept under review and that I will regularly exercise my powers, as Minister, under paragraph 3 of the First Schedule to bring additional bodies within the ambit of the Act.

I am fully satisfied that the moneys available in the Department's Vote for this year will be sufficient to meet the requirements of my Department to implement and operate the provisions of the Act in 2004. I am taking into account the fact that not all of provisions of the Act will be given full effect in the current year. It must be understood that the number of draft schemes to be agreed under section 11 will be limited since the statutory guidelines must be prepared in the first instance and public bodies will then have a period of up to six months to prepare a draft scheme based on these guidelines. As stated previously, a sum of €500,000 has been provided in the 2004 Estimates for the establishment of Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

With regard to the number of new posts created since the enactment of the OfficialLanguages Act, I direct the Deputy's attention to my response to Question No. 334 of 1 October 2003.

Question No. 198 answered with QuestionNo. 150

Grant Payments.

Ceisteanna (115)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

199 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the total amount of funding available to him in 2004 for the provision of grant aid to urban and rural community groups; the headings under which such sums are likely to be spent; the latest date by which applications should be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3188/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 54 of 27 November2003 in which I set out details of the many schemes and initiatives to be operated by my Department to assist rural and urban communities in 2004.

I can inform the Deputy that there is provision of €42.2 million in my Department's Vote for the local development social inclusion programme, LDSIP, to support local development social inclusion measures. Funding is allocated to partnerships-community groups to deliver the local development social inclusion programme under three measures; services for the unemployed, community-based youth initiatives and community development. A new dedicated fund of €4.5 million capital funding is being made available in 2004 to support small-scale localised actions in RAPID areas, through co-funding with the relevant Department or agency. I propose to announce full details of how this money will be spent shortly. Details of the areas covered by LDSIP and RAPID are available on my Department's websitewww.pobail.ie.

The Leader+ community initiative and the area-based rural development initiative are currently open for applications. Consistent with the bottom-up philosophy of rural development, decision-making with regard to applications for aid under the initiatives is devolved to 35 local action groups and three collective bodies nationwide. Details of application procedures, closing dates, etc., are established by the groups and collective bodies. The total amount of funding available in 2004 is €21.272 million.

Under the CLÁR programme, community groups can avail of assistance under the measures detailed in the following appendix. The closing dates, where applicable, are set by the body administering the scheme. The areas targeted under the CLÁR programme will continue to benefit from assistance in 2004. These areas are parts of counties Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath and all of County Leitrim.

APPENDIX.
Group Water Scheme and Group Sewerage
Scheme.
CLÁR provides funding to householders in the group schemes by way of limited top up grants. Applicants contact their local authority which administers the schemes. As these schemes are demand led, there is no specific allocation.
Local Improvement Scheme, LIS.
CLÁR funds LIS roads to provide support for better road access to homes in remoter areas. Applicants contact their local authority which administers the scheme. The allocation is determined by the level of investment by the local authority from its county LIS allocation. The 2004 allocations to local authorities have not been made yet by the Department ofthe Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
Village Enhancement Scheme.
CLÁR supports the joint village enhancement scheme operated by the Leader companies and the local authorities covering small-scale infrastructural projects. Applicant villages which also contribute to the scheme should contact their local Leader group. The total funding for the scheme in 2004 is €500,000.
Local Authority Housing Estate
Enhancement Scheme.
CLÁR and the local authorities co-fund a local authority housing estate enhancement scheme with a local contribution per project. The projects are selected by the local authority and the total funding for the scheme in 2003-04 is €600,000.
Bi-lingual Signage Scheme.
CLÁR and Foras na Gaeilge jointly fund a bilingual signage scheme for community projects in villages selected by Leader under the village enhancement scheme. A bilingual townland signage scheme also operates with funding from the local community. As this scheme is demand led, there is no specific allocation.
Top Up Scheme Sports Capital Grants.
CLÁR provides limited top up funding to projects that are selected under the sports capital grants scheme run by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and recommended for CLÁR support by that Department. The allocation for 2004 will not be finalised until the projects under the 2004 scheme are selected by Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.
Community Initiatives.
Community based projects attracting less than 50% public funding under Leader may qualify for CLÁR top-up funding subject to the certain conditions. As this scheme is demand led, there is no specific allocation. Applicant villages should contact their local Leader group. The rural development fund also assists community groups nationwide. The 2004 provision is €950,000. Applications may be submitted for consideration at any time throughout the year. My Department operates a range of once-off grant schemes which concentrate on a wide range of support for local self-help groups and community development and on the provision of seed money to enable community groups to pilot initiatives identified as meeting new and emerging community needs.
Community Development.
Grants for Locally Based Community and
Voluntary Groups.
These once off-grant schemes are in respect of: renovation or acquisition of premises; the purchase of equipment or transport; once off publications or research; training and education initiatives for local community and voluntary groups; personal development training designed to tackle poverty and disadvantage and improve family life.
Community Support for Older People.
My Department also has responsibility for the scheme of community support to older people which aims to support initiatives which improve the security and social support of older people. The schemes cover the cost of pendant alarms, security locks and emergency lighting. The above schemes are operated nationally on an annual basis. All regions of the country benefit from the schemes. The extent to which any one region or another will benefit will depend on the number and quality of applications received. The 2004 grant schemes will be advertised in the national press later in the year. Details of the application and assessment process will be provided when the grant schemes are advertised.
White Paper Grants for the Community and
Voluntary Sector.
Under the provisions of the White Paper on supporting the voluntary sector funding is provided under the following schemes: programme for support for national anti-poverty networks; scheme of support for federations, networks and umbrella groups in the community and voluntary sector; scheme for training and supports in the community and voluntary sector; and funding to support volunteering community development programmes. Under this programme, long-term funding is provided to locally-based voluntary and community groups involved in anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives through the community development programme. Two projects in County Kildare, based in Newbridge and Athy, are currently funded under this programme. A total of €30.6 million has been allocated to these community development schemes in the 2004 Estimates. The precise allocation of funding to the different schemes budgets will be finalised when the revised Estimates are published later this month.
Drugs.
A sum of €33.5 million is available in the current year. The ongoing costs associated with the operations of the national advisory committee on drugs, NACD, and the national drugs strategy team, NDST, together with the continued funding of local drug task force, LDTF, plans and the operation of the young persons facilities and services fund will be met from that sum, as will certain administrative costs in relation to the regional drugs task forces, RDTF. Imposition of closing dates for funding the above programme costs does not generally arise. The local drugs task forces areas are in Dublin, Cork, and Bray as well as Carlow, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.
In 2004, an amount of €21.5 million is available for schemes to benefit communities in Gaeltacht areas, including road improvement, marine works, group water schemes, leisure facilities and cultural initiatives. There is an allocation of €10 million for islands in 2004. This funding is being made available in order to provide essential transport services for island communities and to improve the infrastructure of the islands. The Department will also provide funding of €32 million to Údarás na Gaeltachta to assist in developing industries, services and employment opportunities, in addition to fostering and strengthening the Irish language, in the Gaeltacht.
My Department has also allocated €688,000 to the INTERREG Ireland-Wales and Ireland-Northern Ireland programmes in 2004 and €1.5 million to the PEACE II programme. The relevant counties are Sligo, Monaghan, Leitrim, Louth, Donegal and Cavan. Calls for application for both programmes are advertised in the national press. PEACE II — priority 5, measure 6b — is currently open for applications with a closing date for receipt of applications of the 13 February 2004. There is an amount of €10.615 million provided for the programme for peace and reconciliation. This is aimed at addressing the legacy of conflict and taking opportunities arising from peace by developing measures which focus, from this Departments' perspective, on economic renewal, social integration, inclusion and reconciliation and cross-Border co-operation. The programme operates in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland, Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo, and is managed by ADM-CPA on behalf of the Department. Details of opening-closing dates for applications can be found atwww.eugrants.org.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (116)

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

200 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of ESB grants made under the CLÁR scheme on a county by county basis; if he has satisfied himself that all groups or individuals in need of three-phase power can qualify under the present scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3154/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Since the introduction of the single to three-phase electricity conversion scheme in August 2002, a total of 72 businesses in 14 counties in CLÁR have been assisted.

Cavan

3

Clare

3

Cork

10

Donegal

23

Galway

1

Kerry

2

Leitrim

8

Longford

2

Louth

1

Mayo

7

Monaghan

1

Roscommon

6

Sligo

4

Tipperary

1

There is no fixed allocation to counties included in the programme for this funding as it is a demand-led measure. However, the success of the measure is reflected in the high level of uptake with 12 businesses availing of the assistance in 2002, 53 in 2003 and seven to date in 2004. It is also reflected in the range of counties involved. I am currently reviewing the conditions of the scheme.

Job Creation.

Ceisteanna (117)

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

201 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps that are being implemented to date to enact the task force report at Gweedore Industrial Estate, County Donegal. [29943/03]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Following the report of the working group on the creation of employment in the Gaeltacht, an action plan was launched in December 2002 by Údarás na Gaeltachta to tackle the significant unemployment problem in the Gaoth Dobhair area. An implementation committee was established to direct and implement the plan and an employment target of 200 new jobs a year was set for the Gaoth Dobhair business park. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that already, arising from this plan, 185 new jobs have been created and 274 new jobs have been approved.

As part of the continuing implementation of the action plan, an energetic marketing campaign has been initiated to attract investment from the services sector to the Gaoth Dobhair area and Údarás na Gaeltachta has to date hosted 20 site visits from various companies who were examining investment opportunities in European countries. These site visits have yielded two project approvals, while others are still in negotiation. A further positive development is the joint venture between Údarás and National University of Ireland, Galway, to invest €2 million to develop a third level educational facility and a resource for a modern internationally traded services company.

In progressing other recommendations contained in the report, Údarás na Gaeltachta, in co-operation with my Department and other relevant agencies, is continuing to develop and upgrade the telecommunications and physical infrastructure of Gaeltacht areas. In addition, new training and educational initiatives are being promoted in order to assist upskilling and retraining of the labour market. A greater emphasis is also being placed on the natural resources of the Gaeltacht and, in this connection, I should mention the scheme Fiontraíocht Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht, which was introduced by an tÚdarás last year and supports the recommendations of the working group in regard to the Irish language.

Voluntary Sector.

Ceisteanna (118)

Liz McManus

Ceist:

202 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the recent report from the NESF, The Policy Implications of Social Capital, showing that high levels of volunteering and community spirit can boost economic performance, help reduce crime and tackle anti-social behaviour; if, in view of the report, he has plans to boost volunteering and participation in community groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3090/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Questions Nos. 30 and 33 of 27 November 2003.

Fire Services.

Ceisteanna (119, 120)

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

203 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has plans for the provision of trained fire-fighters on offshore islands, especially in view of the recent fire on Clare Island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3105/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

210 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if emergency plans are in place for the islands in view of a recent fire incident. [3166/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 210 together.

Deputies will be aware that I have no statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of fire services. Deputies may wish to note the Fire Services Act 1981, section 9 of which states that the local authorities shall be the fire authorities for the purpose of the Act. Section 10 states that a fire authority shall establish and maintain a fire brigade, provide premises and make such other provision as it considers necessary or desirable for such a purpose.

Notwithstanding the statutory responsibility of local authorities and other public bodies, my Department continues to seek ways of promoting and maintaining living and working populations on the islands by helping to foster sustainable vibrant communities there. In this context, my Department has provided limited financial assistance for the provision of smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in island houses and I understand that this equipment was of invaluable assistance during the recent fire on Clare Island. In addition, my Department has received applications from Donegal and Galway County Councils for 50% of the cost of providing new fire tenders on Árainn Mhór and Inis Mór respectively. A decision on these applications will be made upon confirmation that the local authorities will receive the balance of funding from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Question No. 204 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (121)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

205 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the proposals he has regarding the regional support groups to the community and voluntary sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3030/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No. 151 and other associated questions of today regarding the review of local and community structures.

My Department has, in the past, contracted with 13 regional support agencies to deliver training and support to projects funded under the community development support programme, CDSP. In 2003, the cost of providing this support came to some €3.4 million. That represents almost 17% of the total amount spent on the programme last year. In order to maximise the spend for communities themselves and to bring investment on training and administrative supports for the CDSP more into line with the costs of other programmes under the remit of my Department, I embarked on a process last year of restructuring arrangement involving regional support agencies.

One of the key issues identified in the review of local and community development structures undertaken by my Department is the complexity and multiplicity of structures and programmes for the provision of local and community services. In this context, the Government has decided to streamline arrangements involving regional support agencies and to reduce the number of such agencies with which the Department has a contract under the CDSP. Accordingly, I will shortly be inviting tender proposals from agencies to provide training and administrative supports to projects funded under the CDSP in six regions, that is, Dublin South, Dublin North, South East, South West, West-Midlands, and the Northern region.

The measures I have outlined will achieve the objective of refocusing investment on community development activity and improve coherence between local and community development programmes.

Question No. 206 answered with QuestionNo. 135.
Question No. 207 answered with QuestionNo. 171.

Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Ceisteanna (122)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

208 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na sócmhainní i ngach ceantar Gaeltachta atá socair ag Údarás na Gaeltachta a dhíol, an ndéanfar fógra poiblí i ngach cás agus cad é an luach measta i ngach cás. [3191/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Is ar bhonn luacháil neamhspleách ó luachálaí/cheantalaí gairmiúil a dhíoltar maoin de chuid an údaráis. I gcás díolachán ar an margadh oscailte, is gá na cúinsí a bhaineann leis an díolachán, ar a n-áiritear coinníollacha maidir le húsáid na maoine, a chur san áireamh agus tairiscintíá meas. Cuirtear gach díolachán faoi bhráid bhord an údaráis le cinneadh a fháil. Tuigfidh an Teachta nach mbeadh sé críonna meastachán a thabhairt ag an bpointe seo faoi chásanna sonracha. De réir an eolais atá curtha ar fáil ag Údarás na Gaeltachta, áfach, faoina chlár díolacháin maoine, tá trí chatagóir i gceist le holl-mheastachán teacht isteach mar a leanas: (i) maoin a bhfuil praghas/conradh réidh nóá réiteach ina leith —€4.2m; (ii) suíomhanna atá aontaithe le díol —€0.43m; agus (iii) díolacháin faoi idirbheartaíocht —€7.0m.

Leagtar amach sonraí faoi na cásanna ar leith sna táblaí thíos.

(i) Praghas/conradh réidh nóá réiteach

Monarcha Cuan Tamhnaigh Teo, Cill Charthaigh, Condae Dhún na nGall le Cuan Tamhnaigh Teo.

Monarcha Troscán Ó Dochartaigh, Doirí Beaga, Condae Dhún na nGall le Troscán Ó Dochartaigh

Bád Árainn Mhór Teo, Condae Dhún na nGall le Maoin na Farraige Teo

Monarcha CTL Teoranta, Baile an tSagairt, An Spidéal, Condae na Gaillimhe le CTL Teoranta

Ionad Gnó Eo Teo, An Spidéal, Condae na Gaillimhe le grúpa Eo Teo

Ionad Gnó Comhar Creidmheasa Cholm Cille Teo, Coill Rua le Comhar Creidmheasa Cholm Cille Teo

Monarcha Bioniche Teo., Coill Rua, Condae na Gaillimhe le Bioniche Teo.

Suíomh 2.25 acra ag Tamhlach, Condae Mhaigh Eo le Co. Co. Mhaigh Eo

Monarcha Turmec Teo, Rath Cairn, Condae na Mí, le Turmec Teo.

Teach 1, An Choill, An Daingean, Condae Chiarraí, le Éamonn Ó Neachtain

Monarcha i gCúige Mumhan

Meastachán ar an luach iomlán — c. €4,200,000

(ii) Suímh atá aontaithe le díol

Le Innealtóireacht Cathal Seibhleáin Teo. ag Béal an Mhuirthead, Condae Mhaigh Eo

Le Irish Rope and Safety Consultants Ltd, ag Baile na Buaile, an Daingean, Condae Chiarraí

Le Flesk Meats Ltd, ag Baile Bhuirne, Condae Chorcaí

Meastachán ar an luach iomlán — c. €430,000

(iii) Díolachán faoi idirbheartaíocht

Monarcha PCL Teo., An Clochán Liath, Condae Dhún na nGall leis an tionónta

Monarcha Snáth Chill Charta Teo, Cill Chartaigh , Condae Dhún na nGall leis an tionónta

Eastát Bhaile Chonaill, An Fál Carrach, Condae Dhún na nGall fógartha go poiblí

Tithe Saoire na n-Oileán, Eanach Mheáin, Condae na Gaillimhe fógartha go poiblí

Iarmhonarcha Earraí Spóirt Uí Chonghaile, Baile Chláir, Condae na Gaillimhe

Tithe in mBéal an Mhuirthead, Condae Mhaigh Eo (4 cinn)

Teach, Sáile, Acaill, Condae Mhaigh Eo leis an duine i seilbh

Tithe sa Choill, An Daingean, Condae Chiarraí (3 cinn)

Monarcha Fíor Uisce Chiarraí, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh, Condae Chiarraí, leis an tionónta

Monarcha Eurofoil Teo, Baile Bhuirne, Condae Chorcaí, leis an tionónta

Monarcha Dexgreen Teo, Béal Átha an Ghaorthaigh, Condae Chorcaí, leis an tionónta

Monarcha De Brún Iasc Teo, An Daingean, Condae Chiarraí leis an tionónta

Monarcha Leictreachas Charna Teo., Carna, Condae na Gaillimhe, leis an tionónta

An Leabharlann, An Cheathrú Rua, Condae na Gaillimhe

Iar-oifig an údaráis sa Daingean, Condae Chiarraí

Coláiste Lurgan, Indreabhán, Condae na Gaillimhe

Teach/Ionad gnó i mBaile na Finne, Condae Dhún na nGall, leis an Tionónta

Teach/Ionad i gCorr na Móna, Condae na Gaillimhe, leis an tionónta

Meastachán ar an luach iomlán — c. €7.0m

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (123)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

209 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the structures in place at Government level, which facilitate interdepartmental co-operation between those Departments with a responsibility for community development issues; the recommendations and research publications in the public domain which show the presence of joined up Government on this issue [3229/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

While I and my colleagues in Government are always interested in facilitating interdepartmental co-operation, the establishment and maintenance of formal structures at Government level is a matter for Government rather than individual Ministers.

For the Deputy's information the main formal structure of the nature referred to in the question, apart from the Cabinet itself, is the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion.

For my own part, I always encourage my Department to take every opportunity to workin close co-operation with other Departmentsand agencies. In this context, I refer the Deputy to the cross-ministerial review of schemes which I have initiated with my colleagues, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Decisions arising from this review have been set out by me in this Housetoday.

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 203.

Charities Legislation.

Ceisteanna (124)

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

211 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in relation to the reform of the law on charities; and his proposals in this regard. [2989/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

At the end of last year, the Government approved a proposed consultation paper on establishing a modern statutory framework for charities which had been prepared within my Department.

The electronic version of the consultation paper, together with the related press release, have been posted on my Department's website,www.pobail.ie, since 17 December 2003, in anticipation of the public consultation which I expect to be announcing in the very near future. The charities regulation webpage is currently being redesigned, and my plan is that it will go live at the same time as the public consultation is launched.

The consultation paper is intended to serve as a reference document for the public consultation. The outcome of the public consultation will, in turn, inform the development of the draft legislation.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (125)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

212 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date under the young peoples facilities and services fund in identifying the recreational needs and facilities required in disadvantaged areas; the action and funding which has been provided for these facilities to date; and if the fund can now be used by communities identified as being in need by the regional drugs task forces which were recently established. [3237/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As the Deputy is aware, the young people's facilities and services fund, YPFSF, was established in 1998 to assist in the development of facilities — including sport and recreational facilities — and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to develop.

To date, the main focus of the fund has been in the 14 local drugs task force, LDTF, areas, which were established in 1997 in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse. However, recognising that the drug problem is not confined to the LDTF areas, funding was also allocated to a number of urban areas, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Carlow. To date, just over €68 million has been allocated or spent to fund almost 350 projects in the areasidentified.

Proposals submitted as part of a second round of allocations in LDTF areas are currently being examined by the national assessment committee, which is chaired by my Department. I hope to make announcements in this regard in the near future. There are no plans at present to extend the YPFSF to regional drugs task force areas.

Calafoirt agus Céanna.

Ceisteanna (126)

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

213 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Timmins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an gcuirfidh sé airgead ar fáil chun cur le cé Bhaile an Sceilg i gContae Chiarraí.. [3192/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Tá an ché seo aitheanta mar ché strátéiseach ag mo Roinnse faoi scéim na gcéibheanna stráteiseacha sa Ghaeltacht.Tá roghanna éagsúla maidir le forbairt na céá bplé faoi láthair idir oifigigh ón Roinn, an túdarás áitiúil agus lucht úsáid na céibhe.

Drug Abuse.

Ceisteanna (127)

John Gormley

Ceist:

214 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the views of his Department on the findings on ecstasy use by the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction on behalf of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. [3163/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I believe the Deputy is referring to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA, Annual Report for 2003 on the State of the Drugs Problem in the European Union and Norway which was released a couple of months ago.

That report found that after cannabis, the most commonly used drug in EU countries is usually either amphetamines and or ecstasy, which are the second most commonly used illicit drugs in Europe. In this context, recent use of ecstasy, that is, use at any point in a given previous 12 month period, in Ireland was reported as high and being just under 5% in the 15-34 age group in the EMCDDA report. However, the Deputy should note that the data reported in relation to ecstasy use in Ireland was primarily based on data which is six years old — taken from the 1998 SLÁN survey.

In this context, I draw the Deputy's attention to the results of the first drug prevalence survey in Ireland, which I launched in October 2003. This survey was undertaken jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, for which my Department has responsibility, the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, for which my Department has responsibility, and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit, DAIRU, in Northern Ireland, and it provides solid statistical information and more up-to to-date figures on drug use in Ireland.

As part of the survey, a total of 8,442 people were interviewed on a face-to-face basis between October 2002 and April 2003 in line with EMCDDA guidelines. With regard to ecstasy, the survey reported usage in the last year prior to the study in the 15 to 34 year old age bracket at 2.2% and at 1.1% for the 15 to 64 year old group. In relation to last month use, the levels are 0.3% of 15 to 64 year olds and 0.6% of 15 to 34 year olds. Although this level of usage is still of concern, it shows Ireland to be more in line with European norms.

In general, the drug prevalence survey found that the vast majority of the general population have never used any illegal drugs and that a relatively small percentage are currently using illegal drugs. However, we are aware that drug use — including the use of ecstasy — continues to do much harm in society and the Government is determined to continue tackling it through the ongoing implementation of the 100 actions set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008.

Prescription Drugs.

Ceisteanna (128)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

215 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the strategy he has in place to deal specifically with the use of benzodiazepines and the trade in prescribed drugs which is becoming a major problem. [3249/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As the Deputy is aware, I have responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy which contains 100 actions for the relevant Departments and agencies to carry out. However, I regret to inform the Deputy that I have no responsibility for the specific matter in question.

In relation to the use of benzodiazepines, my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, has responsibility for matters pertaining to the prescription of these drugs and my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, has responsibility for matters relating to the illegal trade of prescribed drugs.

Question No. 216 answered with QuestionNo. 148.

Volunteer Centres.

Ceisteanna (129)

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

217 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the measures his Department has put in place to help develop and maintain volunteer bureaux in the country. [3155/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I informed the Deputy in a previous reply that my Department is considering the recommendations contained in the report of the National Committee on Volunteering in respect of a wide range of volunteering related issues, including volunteer bureaux, and I indicated that the matters raised by him would be considered in that context. This remains the current position. However, the Deputy may be interested to know that on 1 January 2004 my Department assumed responsibility from Comhairle for the provision of certain volunteering supports to Focus Ireland, Tallaght Volunteer Bureau and Volunteering Ireland.

Question No. 218 answered with QuestionNo. 148.
Question No. 219 answered with QuestionNo. 141.
Question No. 220 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

Company Expansion.

Ceisteanna (38, 39)

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

130 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has established the new rural social scheme as announced by the Minister for Finance on budget day which he suggested would help improve rural services; if new structures will be put in place to administer this new scheme; the person who will be in charge; if persons other than those on farm assist will be allowed to participate in the scheme; when the scheme will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3278/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

131 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when it is proposed to commence the rural social scheme; the length of time that it is proposed to keep the scheme in operation; the person by whom the scheme will be administered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3282/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (13 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.

The aim of the scheme, as outlined in the Budget Statement, is to provide directly improved rural services at a reasonable cost to the Exchequer and, at the same time, to ensure an income and employment support for certain small farmers who can no longer make a viable living on the land. Based on the funding being made available, it is planned to offer up to 2,500 places on the scheme. To contribute to the costs of wages, insurance and materials, €10 million will be allocated from the dormant accountsfund.

The scheme is aimed at those on long-term social welfare benefits. It is envisaged that to be eligible to participate, a person must be on farm assist or possess a herd number and be in receipt of unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit, if previously on community employment or disability allowance.

The rural social scheme will be designed specifically for rural people and its operations and structures will operate in a farmer-friendly manner. The scheme will recognise that these small farmers have a wealth of experience and talents that need to be preserved for future generations. It is my intention that the scheme will be operated so that the talents of both farming men and women will be harnessed for the good of the community. As a result, this scheme is a community programme, with a focus on the provision of direct services in the community.

It is proposed that participants on the scheme will receive a payment, which will provide a weekly amount in excess of what they currently receive from the Department of Social and Family Affairs and will receive a rate comparable to what they would currently receive on schemes such as the community employment scheme. It is planned that participants will remain on the scheme for one year, with priority being given to new applicants. In the event that there are no new applicants, participants may continue on the scheme.

FÁS has advised my Department that it has approximately 1,300 participants on community employment who would qualify for the new scheme. It is anticipated that the vast majority of these people on community employment will opt for the new scheme, thus freeing up additional places on the community employment scheme. Detailed guidelines for the scheme and the administrative arrangements are currently being developed by my Department in consultation with other public bodies.

It is clear that the rural social scheme is still at an early stage of development but who will run it? Will it be operated under the Leader programme or some other group? How will the Minister co-ordinate it with the existing community employment schemes? For instance, if a few people in a parish are working under the scheme will they be supervised by the same supervisor who deals with the community employment scheme? The Minister should ensure that the new scheme will not become a bureaucracy to override existing community groups and schemes.

The Minister referred to the disability allowance. If a farmer's son or daughter does not have a herd number — I have a specific case in mind — will such a person be eligible? There is such a limited involvement in FÁS now that the opportunities for people in rural areas are scarce. The Minister should take that type of situation into account. Farmers or their children should be eligible for the scheme.

Will people on farm assist be forced to take jobs under this scheme? As the Minister has said, of the 8,600 who are currently on farm assist, roughly 1,300 are working on FÁS schemes. Therefore, approximately 1,200 extra must be found to fill the new scheme. Will the Minister assure the House that the scheme is not being proposed just to make sure that fewer farmers will be able to avail of the farm assist scheme? When farm assist was introduced it was supposed to be for 20,000 people but because of red tape and a lack of interest by farmers, 8,600 is the maximum number who participated in it.

The Deputy has asked a series of pertinent questions. First, nobody will be forced into the scheme. I accept, however, that there may be farmers who are entitled to farm assist but are not claiming it for one reason or other. During the past week, I attended an IFA meeting at which I made clear my attitude to theseissues. I am glad to hear the Deputy's comments because I concur with him that it is important, particularly with the changes in relative agricultural incomes, that people should claim their due entitlements.

The Deputy referred to the issue of eligibility for farmers' sons and daughters. As things stand currently, they will not be eligible for the scheme. However, we are examining a situation whereby a farmer's dependent spouse could go on the scheme but, in return, the person in receipt of farm assist would have to give it up. It is important to achieve a balance of men and women participating in the scheme in rural communities.

The situation is clear. At the moment, there are approximately 20,000 community employment places, with a further 5,000 between the job initiative and the social economy schemes. The new rural social scheme will add another 2,500 to the current total of 25,000. FÁS has provided us with an estimate because it did not register whether people who came from the unemployment benefit system had a herd number. Those figures therefore represent our best guess at the moment. We will allow for a minimum of 1,300, or maybe up to 2,000, to come off community employment and on to the new scheme.

The minimum is 1,300.

It will leave 2,000 more community employment scheme places to be spread around rural and urban areas. That should accommodate some of the people to whom the Deputy has referred, farmers' sons and daughters on the scheme. As regards when the scheme will commence, we have done quite a bit of work and we are having discussions with the various agencies. We hope to have local sponsors as well as some intermediary body, although not FÁS in this case because it is not a training scheme. We are talking to Leader personnel because that programme operates throughout rural Ireland. We need some intermediate body and currently there are discussions and negotiations going on about that. FÁS, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Leader programme and Údarás na Gaeltachta have great experience with such schemes and have been helpful in sharing their knowledge with my Department. I hope to finish the process of designing the scheme quickly. While we will have to discuss it with FÁS, there is merit in the Deputy's suggestion to share resources in certain cases.

Who will administer the new scheme or will its administration be spread over a number of agencies? With regard to the €10 million from the dormant accounts fund, would it not be more prudent to get Exchequer money because the fund cannot be raided in perpetuity? What kind of sponsors does the Minister envisage in terms of employment of participants on the scheme?

What is the last question?

What kind of sponsors will administer the scheme at local level?

I will answer the question of sponsors first. It will be like the community employment scheme. I am a great believer in rural Ireland and in what I call the parish scheme which, rather than a special scheme, gets all the bodies in a rural parish together. This could include the soccer club, the GAA club, community councils, the tidy towns committee, the day care committee, etc. This amalgam of the bodies — the parish scheme — then becomes the sponsor. I have seen this work well and successfully in my parish. When the parish gets its pool of people, they are divided out based on the needs of each organisation and according to their skills and talents. The sponsors must be local.

There must also be an intermediate tier responsible for recruitment and organisation. We are considering Leader for that. No decision has been made but we are discussing the matter with Leader because when we look at the review of structures, we see that although we have State-sponsored community groups, Leader is the only one covering all of rural Ireland, which is what we need.

Another issue we are considering is whether we should tell each sponsor and each local committee to set up a wages system or whether this should be done centrally because of the complications involved. We are examining a number of technical issues some of which are very mechanical. We will obtain quick answers to those.

On the dormant accounts, whatever the money is spent on, if it is not all capital spending, the fund will run out at some stage. That is the reason we have been prudent with regard to spending. Allowing that some money must still come from dormant life insurance policies, at the present rate of going there are ten years of life left in the fund. Dormant accounts funding should not all be capital spending because we would then wind up with many buildings and not many services. If the fund runs out, it will have to be substituted by something else. If people stopped buying lottery tickets, schemes funded by the lottery would have to funded by something else.

This scheme is here for the long term. At the rate of spending we are talking about, and we have been careful not to be tempted to spend it all in one go, the dormant accounts fund will have a fairly long shelf life, even if no new dormant accounts appear.

We all welcome this scheme but it is time that groups interested in it were able to contact somebody in the Department about it. To date, nobody is able to answer the questions people ask about it. Will the Minister ensure that somebody who knows something about the future of the scheme is available to answer questions? I do not doubt the money in the dormant accounts will last, because the scheme is so slow getting off the ground. Significant funding will be available. My concern is where and when we can get answers and information.

I thought the person who could answer the question about where we are going was myself and that I would leave the privilege of asking the question to the Deputy. There is a tendency nowadays to require an answer before something has been worked out and then to blame the person if matters do not work out as planned and one needs to change tack slightly. I have been as open and frank as I can be today about the direction I am taking.

I appreciate that.

I have indicated where we are going on this matter. However, until the deal is done and I have it cemented in place and the arrangements made, I do not want, nor is it fair to ask, a member of staff to postulate on what might or might not be done, although it is all right for me to do this in the Dáil. We would like to move forward quickly on this and to be able to say soon how it will be done. We can then build on the scheme and get it up and running for the people. It is a scheme for 2004 and nobody should doubt that. It will be done as quickly as possible, but some technical details must be worked out.

Community Employment Schemes.

Ceisteanna (38, 39)

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

130 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has established the new rural social scheme as announced by the Minister for Finance on budget day which he suggested would help improve rural services; if new structures will be put in place to administer this new scheme; the person who will be in charge; if persons other than those on farm assist will be allowed to participate in the scheme; when the scheme will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3278/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

131 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when it is proposed to commence the rural social scheme; the length of time that it is proposed to keep the scheme in operation; the person by whom the scheme will be administered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3282/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (13 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.

The aim of the scheme, as outlined in the Budget Statement, is to provide directly improved rural services at a reasonable cost to the Exchequer and, at the same time, to ensure an income and employment support for certain small farmers who can no longer make a viable living on the land. Based on the funding being made available, it is planned to offer up to 2,500 places on the scheme. To contribute to the costs of wages, insurance and materials, €10 million will be allocated from the dormant accountsfund.

The scheme is aimed at those on long-term social welfare benefits. It is envisaged that to be eligible to participate, a person must be on farm assist or possess a herd number and be in receipt of unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit, if previously on community employment or disability allowance.

The rural social scheme will be designed specifically for rural people and its operations and structures will operate in a farmer-friendly manner. The scheme will recognise that these small farmers have a wealth of experience and talents that need to be preserved for future generations. It is my intention that the scheme will be operated so that the talents of both farming men and women will be harnessed for the good of the community. As a result, this scheme is a community programme, with a focus on the provision of direct services in the community.

It is proposed that participants on the scheme will receive a payment, which will provide a weekly amount in excess of what they currently receive from the Department of Social and Family Affairs and will receive a rate comparable to what they would currently receive on schemes such as the community employment scheme. It is planned that participants will remain on the scheme for one year, with priority being given to new applicants. In the event that there are no new applicants, participants may continue on the scheme.

FÁS has advised my Department that it has approximately 1,300 participants on community employment who would qualify for the new scheme. It is anticipated that the vast majority of these people on community employment will opt for the new scheme, thus freeing up additional places on the community employment scheme. Detailed guidelines for the scheme and the administrative arrangements are currently being developed by my Department in consultation with other public bodies.

It is clear that the rural social scheme is still at an early stage of development but who will run it? Will it be operated under the Leader programme or some other group? How will the Minister co-ordinate it with the existing community employment schemes? For instance, if a few people in a parish are working under the scheme will they be supervised by the same supervisor who deals with the community employment scheme? The Minister should ensure that the new scheme will not become a bureaucracy to override existing community groups and schemes.

The Minister referred to the disability allowance. If a farmer's son or daughter does not have a herd number — I have a specific case in mind — will such a person be eligible? There is such a limited involvement in FÁS now that the opportunities for people in rural areas are scarce. The Minister should take that type of situation into account. Farmers or their children should be eligible for the scheme.

Will people on farm assist be forced to take jobs under this scheme? As the Minister has said, of the 8,600 who are currently on farm assist, roughly 1,300 are working on FÁS schemes. Therefore, approximately 1,200 extra must be found to fill the new scheme. Will the Minister assure the House that the scheme is not being proposed just to make sure that fewer farmers will be able to avail of the farm assist scheme? When farm assist was introduced it was supposed to be for 20,000 people but because of red tape and a lack of interest by farmers, 8,600 is the maximum number who participated in it.

The Deputy has asked a series of pertinent questions. First, nobody will be forced into the scheme. I accept, however, that there may be farmers who are entitled to farm assist but are not claiming it for one reason or other. During the past week, I attended an IFA meeting at which I made clear my attitude to theseissues. I am glad to hear the Deputy's comments because I concur with him that it is important, particularly with the changes in relative agricultural incomes, that people should claim their due entitlements.

The Deputy referred to the issue of eligibility for farmers' sons and daughters. As things stand currently, they will not be eligible for the scheme. However, we are examining a situation whereby a farmer's dependent spouse could go on the scheme but, in return, the person in receipt of farm assist would have to give it up. It is important to achieve a balance of men and women participating in the scheme in rural communities.

The situation is clear. At the moment, there are approximately 20,000 community employment places, with a further 5,000 between the job initiative and the social economy schemes. The new rural social scheme will add another 2,500 to the current total of 25,000. FÁS has provided us with an estimate because it did not register whether people who came from the unemployment benefit system had a herd number. Those figures therefore represent our best guess at the moment. We will allow for a minimum of 1,300, or maybe up to 2,000, to come off community employment and on to the new scheme.

The minimum is 1,300.

It will leave 2,000 more community employment scheme places to be spread around rural and urban areas. That should accommodate some of the people to whom the Deputy has referred, farmers' sons and daughters on the scheme. As regards when the scheme will commence, we have done quite a bit of work and we are having discussions with the various agencies. We hope to have local sponsors as well as some intermediary body, although not FÁS in this case because it is not a training scheme. We are talking to Leader personnel because that programme operates throughout rural Ireland. We need some intermediate body and currently there are discussions and negotiations going on about that. FÁS, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Leader programme and Údarás na Gaeltachta have great experience with such schemes and have been helpful in sharing their knowledge with my Department. I hope to finish the process of designing the scheme quickly. While we will have to discuss it with FÁS, there is merit in the Deputy's suggestion to share resources in certain cases.

Who will administer the new scheme or will its administration be spread over a number of agencies? With regard to the €10 million from the dormant accounts fund, would it not be more prudent to get Exchequer money because the fund cannot be raided in perpetuity? What kind of sponsors does the Minister envisage in terms of employment of participants on the scheme?

What is the last question?

What kind of sponsors will administer the scheme at local level?

I will answer the question of sponsors first. It will be like the community employment scheme. I am a great believer in rural Ireland and in what I call the parish scheme which, rather than a special scheme, gets all the bodies in a rural parish together. This could include the soccer club, the GAA club, community councils, the tidy towns committee, the day care committee, etc. This amalgam of the bodies — the parish scheme — then becomes the sponsor. I have seen this work well and successfully in my parish. When the parish gets its pool of people, they are divided out based on the needs of each organisation and according to their skills and talents. The sponsors must be local.

There must also be an intermediate tier responsible for recruitment and organisation. We are considering Leader for that. No decision has been made but we are discussing the matter with Leader because when we look at the review of structures, we see that although we have State-sponsored community groups, Leader is the only one covering all of rural Ireland, which is what we need.

Another issue we are considering is whether we should tell each sponsor and each local committee to set up a wages system or whether this should be done centrally because of the complications involved. We are examining a number of technical issues some of which are very mechanical. We will obtain quick answers to those.

On the dormant accounts, whatever the money is spent on, if it is not all capital spending, the fund will run out at some stage. That is the reason we have been prudent with regard to spending. Allowing that some money must still come from dormant life insurance policies, at the present rate of going there are ten years of life left in the fund. Dormant accounts funding should not all be capital spending because we would then wind up with many buildings and not many services. If the fund runs out, it will have to be substituted by something else. If people stopped buying lottery tickets, schemes funded by the lottery would have to funded by something else.

This scheme is here for the long term. At the rate of spending we are talking about, and we have been careful not to be tempted to spend it all in one go, the dormant accounts fund will have a fairly long shelf life, even if no new dormant accounts appear.

We all welcome this scheme but it is time that groups interested in it were able to contact somebody in the Department about it. To date, nobody is able to answer the questions people ask about it. Will the Minister ensure that somebody who knows something about the future of the scheme is available to answer questions? I do not doubt the money in the dormant accounts will last, because the scheme is so slow getting off the ground. Significant funding will be available. My concern is where and when we can get answers and information.

I thought the person who could answer the question about where we are going was myself and that I would leave the privilege of asking the question to the Deputy. There is a tendency nowadays to require an answer before something has been worked out and then to blame the person if matters do not work out as planned and one needs to change tack slightly. I have been as open and frank as I can be today about the direction I am taking.

I appreciate that.

I have indicated where we are going on this matter. However, until the deal is done and I have it cemented in place and the arrangements made, I do not want, nor is it fair to ask, a member of staff to postulate on what might or might not be done, although it is all right for me to do this in the Dáil. We would like to move forward quickly on this and to be able to say soon how it will be done. We can then build on the scheme and get it up and running for the people. It is a scheme for 2004 and nobody should doubt that. It will be done as quickly as possible, but some technical details must be worked out.

Grocery Industry.

Ceisteanna (40)

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

132 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which he proposes to use the Western Development Commission report, Jobs for Towns, to bring about the stated aim of balanced regional development; his views on the report; and ifhe will make a statement on the matter. [3280/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (3 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

In July 2003, when I launched the 2002 annual report of the Western Development Commission, I asked the commission to co-ordinate a strategy to develop towns on radial routes in the seven counties that comprise the western region. A critical objective is to maximise the benefit to the west of the national spatial strategy, major roads investment, the strategic rail review and decentralisation. At that time I said that it was vital that infrastructure and development go together — that each should make the other happen — and I felt that the commission was ideally placed to spearhead such an initiative. The overriding objective has been to enable local and regional authorities in these counties to plan a co-ordinated approach to maximise the development potential of the region.

I view the Jobs for Towns report as a detailed and valuable report in such a relatively short time. The commission consulted the various local and regional authorities to compile and assemble this report. It has identified 20 towns with populations in excess of 1,500 and analysed their potential for development by reference to a wide range of criteria such as road, rail and air access, remoteness and physical and social infrastructure. I was especially pleased that account was also taken of towns' proximity to a CLÁR area. The need for an emphasis on smaller towns as part of the strategic development of the western region has been consistently pointed out in commission reports.

In addition to the findings of the recent report, the commission intends to continue research into the development of small towns in the region. The national spatial strategy also reiterated the Government's commitment to balanced regional development, including the development of towns outside gateways and hubs, and rural regeneration. It will be noted that many of the findings of this report are relevant to the recent Government decision on decentralisation, the implementation of which will be greatly assisted by the data and analysis contained in the report.

The report also deals with the issue of rail links and infrastructural development. I am aware the commission wrote to the four local authorities on the route of the western rail corridor to establish if towns in each county have been prioritised for growth, in part because of their positioning on the western rail corridor. Each local authority responded that it has made reference to this in its draft or current development plan.

I have not doubt that the research undertaken for this report will be immensely valuable not only to local and regional authorities but also to national organisations, including Departments such as mine. I intend to use the findings in promoting development in the west in co-operation with my colleagues in Government. In this context, the decentralisation programme, coupled with infrastructural development, will contribute significantly to enhancing economic and social activity across towns in the west.

I thank the Minister for his reply and acknowledge his interest in and knowledge of rural Ireland. Does he agree that the Western Development Commission report is one of a series of reports, strategies and reviews which have been produced with the express aim of achieving balanced regional development?

I was in Knock Airport on the day the Minister requested the commission to prepare this report. My reaction at the time was to wonder why we needed another report, because we all knew the problems and ought to have been resolving them. Does the Minister agree that, at the time, he also said the report would inform thinking on the locations in the western region suitable for decentralisation?

My scepticism was confirmed when the decentralisation programme was announced before the official launch of the commission report. It was further confirmed when a town designated in the national spatial strategy and also included in the Western Development Commission report did not qualify for decentralisation. The Minister knows that town is Tuam. Does the Minister agree that we have had enough reports? We should co-ordinate and dovetail them to move forward. The rejuvenation of the western region is dependent on the reopening of the western rail corridor. As the Minister will be aware, the Minister for Transport has said that for this to happen it is necessary to create a critical mass. Local authorities should take that into account in the development of their policies. What are we to make of the fact that on the one occasion the Government had to contribute directly to the creation of this critical mass in Tuam, it ignored its own national spatial strategy? The Government also ignored the public pronouncements of Ministers. When decisions are made on the final IT and health sector jobs to be decentralised, will the Minister ensure that some are moved to Tuam in support of the statements and policies in which we have been asked to believe?

The Deputy should be clear that there was a set purpose behind the request to the Western Development Commission to prepare this report. Decentralisation, the western rail corridor and development in the west are all linked and we wish to position ourselves on them. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, made clear in the statement he made following publication of the report that we could create the circumstances in the west which would ensure the western rail corridor was opened. I discussed the matter with him and we agreed it would be a good idea to ask the Western Development Commission to produce a report in conjunction with local authorities, which would push the process forward.

The report is useful. It promotes the concept that local authorities should prioritise for development towns along the western rail corridor and outlines the strengths and possibilities of each urban centre. The decentralisation model developed in the report was overtaken by a decision which was made faster than anybody in this House expected. I welcome that. There were a great many issues which had to be taken into account in the selection of towns. One of the problems with previous decentralisation programmes was that above principal officer level, a civil servant could not pursue a career without returning to Dublin. Therefore, the creation in the regions of a critical mass of Civil Service jobs is very important.

Deputy McHugh spoke about Tuam and I understand that we all have to look after the home patch. However, the idea that if one places an industry in a town everyone working there will live in the immediate vicinity is incorrect. They will live in any town within a 15 to 20 mile radius. If a Department were situated in Claremorris, Tuam would benefit hugely. When the new road is completed, the distance between the two towns will be very short. My Department has used the Western Development Commission report to outline for people considering decentralisation the travel times between various locations in the west. In the case of my Department's decentralisation to Knock, travel times to Ballina, Tuam and Claremorris are outlined. That is what people consider when they are examining decentralisation. They ask what their choices are if they decide to live 20 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour from work. The report in question has proved its worth in the creation of an atmosphere in which we can move forward.

Price Regulations.

Ceisteanna (41)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

133 D'fhiafraigh Mr. O'Dowd den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé chun tacaíocht a thabhairt don fheachtas chun an Ghaeilge a aithint mar theanga oifigiúil san Aontas Eorpach agus cad iad na céimeanna atáá dtógáil aige chun an aidhm seo a bhaint amach. [3332/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá sé leagtha síos mar ghníomh do mo Roinnse sa ráiteas straitéise don tréimhse 2003-2005 an cheist maidir le stádas níos fearr don Ghaeilge san AE a chur ar aghaidh.

Tuigfidh an Teachta go caithfear idirdhealú a dhéanamh idir stádas oifigiúil sa chiall bhunreachtúil agus stádas mar theanga oibre chun críche na n-institiudí Eorpacha. Ní luaitear liosta teangacha ach in áit amháin sa dhréacht-bhunreacht Eorpach agus tá an Ghaeilge luaite ar chomhchéim sa gcomhthéacs sin. De réir na tagartha sin, atá ar aon dul leis an staid sna conarthaí reatha, leanfar le stádas bunreachtúil a bheith ag an nGaeilge san AE. De bharr an stádais bhunreachtúil sin, tá ceart, mar shampla, ag an saoránach scríobh chuig aon cheann de na hinstitiúidí Eorpacha i nGaeilge agus freagra a fháil sa teanga céanna. Anuas ar sin, ní luaitear aon teanga ar bith mar theanga oibre san dréacht bhun-chomhaontú nua. Mar sin, ní cheist í seo le réiteach sa bhunreacht nua í fhéin, ach ceist a bheadh le réiteach le dlí. Go héifeachtúil, beidh gá le Rialachán na Comhairle 1/1958 a leasú d'aon ghuth i gComhairle na nAirí.

Mar a d'fhógair an Taoiseach le déanaí, tá an Rialtais ag bunú grúpa oibre chun anailís a dhéanamh ar an méid gur féidir a bhaint amach agus na féidearthachtaí atá ann chun dul chun cinn a dhéanamh. Tá cruinniú ard-léibhéal socraithe amárach chun dul chun cinn a dhéanamh. Tá súil agam go gcríochnófar an próiséas go luath agus go mbeifear in ann dul thar n-ais chuig an Rialtas le moltaí dea-bhreithnithe in am tráth. Ag an bpointe seo, níl fhéadfainn a rá go bhfuil mé cinnte go bhfuil an cheist seo chomh simplí agus a cheaptar agus tá sé ró-luath a rá fós cén toradh a bheidh ar na comhráití atá arsiúl.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as ucht an freagra sin ach caithfidh mé a rá gur thug an tAire an fhreagra céanna dom le déanaí. Is é atá scríofa i ráiteas straitéise na Roinne go bhfuil ceist stádas níos fearr a fháil don Ghaeilge san AE á chur ar aghaidh. Is é atá in intinn an fheachtais seo ná go mbeadh an Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil.

Má léitear moladh uimhir a trí de phríomh-mholtaí Choimisiúin na Gaeltachta feictear gurb é tuairim láidir lucht na Gaeilge ar fud na tíre go mbainfear amach stádas mar theanga oifigiúil oibre don Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach. Níor fhreagair an tAire an cheist sin ach cuirfidh mé arís í. An bhfuil an tAire sásta tacaíocht a thabhairt don fheachtas sin?

Is cinneadh é seo a dhéanfaidh an Rialtas nuair a bheas an staidéar déanta. Cloisim go leor daoine ag plé na ceiste seo agus cinnteacht iontach acu faoi gach rud, cé gur léir nach bhfuil na cáipéisí ar fad a bhaineann leis an gceist feicthe acu agus nach bhfuil anailís iomlán déanta acu ar na himpleachtaí a bhainfeadh le stádas iomlán oibre.

Chomh maith leis sin, thar 30 bliain tá athrú mór tagtha ar céard a chiallaíonn stádas oibre sa Chomhaontas. Mar shampla, ar phaipéar beidh an stádas céanna ag an Mháltais agus an Liotuáinis agus atá ag an mBéarla, ach níl éinne sa Teach seo a bhi thall ariamh san mBruiséal a cheapann go bhfuil stádas na Máltaise, go praiticiúil mar theanga oibre, ioncurtha le stádas an Bhéarla ar aon bhealach. Mar sin, caithfimid anailís a dhéanamh ar céard faoi atáimid ag caint agus féachaint cén bealach is fearr a dhul ar aghaidh.

Tá daoine tar éis a rá go bhfaighimid 100% cinnte é dá n-iarrfaimís é. Is léir nach bhfaca siad an cháipéis a réitigh an tAontas nuair a bhíothas ag breithniú chás na Máltaise. Nuair a bhí an cás sin á bhreithniú rinneadh soiléir é gurb é an fáth gur tugadh stádas oifigiúil don Mháltais, ní hamháin go bhfuil sí ina theanga bhunreachtúil mar atá sa tír seo agus go bhfuil sé mar cheart í a labhairt sna cúirteanna agus ins an bparlaimint, ach gurb í a labhartar go coitianta. Ar an mbunús sin bhí an Coimisiún sásta moladh a dhéanamh go dtabharfaí an stádas sin don Mháltais. Mar sin, níl an rud atáá rá ag cuid des na daoine san bhfeachtas seo cruinn, is é sin go mbeadh an rud seo cinnte le fáil dá n-iarrfaíé. Tá cruthú le fáil gur a mhalairt ar fad a bheadh fíor.

Dá mbeadh stádas níos fearr ag an Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach bheadh sé mar theanga shásúil chun postanna a fháil san Aontas Eorpach. Nuair a bhí an Taoiseach ag tabhairt an fhreagra do Enda Kenny, d'admháil sé go raibh sé an-tábhachtach ar fad. Más rud é go bhfuil Gaelainn ag duine, ba cheart go mbeadh sé sin sásúil chun post a fháil san Aontas Eorpach. Is rud an-bhunúsach ar fad é sin. Is é an t-ainm atá ar a ráiteas straitéise ná"Éist"— listen. An bhfuil an tAire ag éisteacht le muintir na Gaelainne? Nach bhfuil sé sásta obair? Cuirfidh mé ceist air sa ngrúpa oibre atá bunaithe aige an mbeadh sé sásta Conradh na Gaeilge agus muintir an fheachtais a thógaint isteach sa ngrúpa sin ionas go mbeimis go léir ar aon aigne faoi seo? Caithfear an Ghaelainn a chur chun cinn. Le comhoibriú, b'fhéidir gur féidir linn an réiteach is fearr a fháil. Níl a fhios agam an raibh an tAire ag léamhThe Irish Times inniu. Bhí scéal faoi phlean B ann. An féidir linn comhoibriú le chéile chun an Ghaelainn a chur chun cinn? An bhfuil an tAire sásta éisteacht leis an Dr. Pádraig Ó Laighin, Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge agus gach duine? Tá mé ag fáil litreacha ó dhaoine ó gach cearn den tír agus as Sasana fiú. Tá an-suím ar fad ag muintir na Gaeilge sa cheist seo.

Tá muid ag plé lena chéile trasna na Dála anseo le tamall fada anois. Creidim gur duine thar a bheith réasúnta, tuisceanach é an Teachta, agus oibríonn sé ar bhealach stuama ciallmhar i gcónaí. Dúirt mé ag an am go raibh muid ag plé cheist an Bhille teanga. Tá mise sásta éisteacht; tá mé ag éisteacht le dhá mhí. Is beag a dúirt mé faoin ábhar seo le cúpla mí anuas. Ar ndóigh, sa gcéad áit, tá freagracht ag an Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha faoin gceist. D'fhreagair an Teachta a cheist féin ar bhealach. Céard atá i gceist go praiticiúil leis an stádas oibre don Mháltais? Tá ceithre nó cúig rud i gceist. Tá an cheist ann maidir le ceart a bheith ag duine post a fháil san Aontas Eorpach. Tá ceist na hateangaireachta ann. Tá ceist an chomhfhreagrais ann. Tá an cheist ann maidir le cáipéisíocht a aistriú— mar shampla, dlíthe na hEorpa — go dtí na teangacha éagsúla. Is dóiche gur stádas an chúigiú ceist — rud éigin san aer. Maidir le postanna, thiocfainn leis an Teachta go hiomlán gurbh fhearr i bhfad a bheadh duine le Gaeilge agus Béarla cáilithe le haghaidh oibre san AE ná mar a bheadh duine a mbeadh péire de na mionteangacha aige nó aici. Tá cás an-láidir le scrúdú ansin.

Maidir le hateangaireacht, níl an cás, fiú mar atá sé, simplí anois, mar ní dhéantar ateangaireacht go dtí na teangacha beaga i ngach cás níos mó— fiú na teangacha beaga oibre. Ba cheart dúinn tuilleadh stáidéir a dhéanamh ar an gceist áirithe sin. Tá comhfhreagras ceart go leor de thoradh stádas bunreachtúil na Gaeilge. Is é an ceathrú rud ná an cháipéisíocht, agus tá daoine ag obair le fáil amach go díreach cad é an cháipéisíocht.

Ba cheart don Aire dul ar aghaidh go dtí an chéad cheist eile.

Leathnóiméad eile, le do thoil. Tá sé tábhachtach. Éinne a bhí ariamh ag cruinniú de Chomhairle na nAirí, beidh a fhios aige go gcuirtear na dréacht-doiciméid ar fad thart i mBéarla nó, b'fhéidir, i mBéarla agus i bhFraincis. Ní chuirtear thart i ngach teanga iad. Mar sin, tá an t-aistriú ar an gcaipéisíocht teoranta. Ba cheart dúinn, ní amháin breathnú ar an gceist seo i líon amháin, ach breathnú air píosa ar phíosa le fáil amach cén bealach is féarr dul chun cinn leis an gceist.

Tar éis dom mo shaol a chaitheamh leis an nGaeilge, go pearsanta agus go poiblí, agus bheith ag obair ar a son i ngach uile phost a bhí agam ariamh ar bhealach amháin nó bealach eile, ní gá do dhaoine léachtaí a thabhairt domsa faoi mo dhícheall a dhéanamh ar son na Gaeilge.

Defence Forces Accommodation.

Ceisteanna (42)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

134 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether the current planning regulations need to be revised to meet the pressing need for housing in rural communities. [3368/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (3 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Overall Government policy on housing in rural communities is set out in the national spatial strategy, NSS, which was published in November 2002. The rural settlement policy framework contained in the NSS aims to sustain and renew established rural communities while strengthening the structure of villages and smaller settlements to support local economies. In that way, key assets in rural areas are protected to support quality of life, and rural settlement policies are responsive to differing local circumstances.

My colleague in Government, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, accepts that it is vitally important that there is certainty and consistency in the implementation by planning authorities of Government policy regarding rural housing through their own development plans and in the operation of the development control system under planning legislation. That is the purpose of the guidelines under the Planning and Development Act 2000 which the Minister, Deputy Cullen, intends to bring forward to deal with this issue.

I gather that those are at an advanced stage of preparation and following ministerial consultation the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government hopes to issue them as soon as possible.

The decline in rural Ireland in recent years, particularly in the west and south-west, has been alarming. Does the Minister agree that contributing to that decline are the difficulties in some areas for local people in getting planning permission? Does he agree that another contributing factor is that when there is a shortage of supply and an increase in demand, it is almost impossible for local people or working-class people in rural areas to compete in the market? I speak in particular of scenic areas, where the number of holiday homes is increasing. Does the Minister agree it is of enormous importance that he come up with some form of imaginative scheme to help working-class rural people and those who were born into single-room rural cottages and do not have land of their own? Owing to the escalating cost of sites, effectively any couple trying to build their own home needs two mortgages, and in many instances the price of the site can exceed the cost of the building. Is some form of imaginative scheme — perhaps an interest-free loan over 25 years towards the purchase of the site, administered through local government — not needed urgently to reverse the decline?

It is well known that I believe that in rural areas outside those areas subject to major urban pressure, those with a connection with the place or who live there permanently should be accommodated. All that is clearly spelt out in the spatial strategy. The spatial strategy is there, and we do not need any housing guidelines to lay down the basic rules. Let us be clear about it. It states that near the big towns and cities where there is urban influence, people with a connection with the place, either through background or employment, full-time or part-time, should be accommodated with rural sites. It goes on to state that in the BMW region, away from areas of urban influence, anyone who will live permanently in a house should be accommodated. It therefore rules out overspill from the towns and cities into areas adjacent, as well as second homes.

We must all be up-front about this. By designing the spatial strategy as we have, particularly in the scenic areas that the Deputy mentioned, we have excluded the very wealthy person who wants to build a second home from competing in the market. According to the spatial strategy, they should not be at the races. That was done for two reasons, the first being the obvious one of preserving the countryside, since one wants to ensure that those houses that are granted permission go to locals. The second one was the social reason that the Deputy has just propounded, the market for young local people buying sites whose parents do not have farms and have no connection with planning, and their right to planning permission. Those people should not be wrongfully priced out of the market by having to compete with holiday home owners.

From the point of view of the person selling, we have limited the market, but for a local buyer we have ensured that he or she does not have to compete with holiday home owners. I am glad the Deputy has raised this matter because at many meetings throughout the country people on the one hand want to get top dollar and to be able to sell to the outsider while on the other they complain that those same outsiders are pricing their children out of the market. We can have it one way or the other.

I was part of a council which adopted this policy long before the spatial strategy. Priority to build houses in rural areas and in scenic areas should be given to local people or to people who have moved to an area, live in it permanently and have a job in it, and not to people to have second homes. That is the best social policy we can follow.

Defence Acts.

Ceisteanna (139)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

230 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence his plans to amend Defence Acts to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. [3347/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

The opportunity to amend the Defence Acts is availed of when legislation sponsored by other Departments and which has a bearing on the Defence Forces is being formulated. This is particularly so in the area of amendments to civil and criminal law relating to the provisions prescribing the punishment for certain civil offences which are also offences against military law as prescribed in the Defence Acts. Generally speaking, the punishments for offences against military law, whether awarded by court martial or otherwise, are in line with punishments prescribed under civil law for similar civil offences.

The most recent amendment of the Defence Act 1954, which was sponsored by my Department, was in 1998. The Defence (Amendment) Act, 1998 provided for the re-organisation of the headquarters of the Defence Forces and for the appointments of Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, and Deputy Chief of Staff, Support, and related matters. The Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Bill 2002, which was published in January 2002 and which is sponsored by my Department, contains a proposal to amend section 114 of the Defence Act in relation to redress of wrongs-complaints submitted by serving members of the Defence Forces.

In the circumstances, the Deputy will appreciate that amending the Defence Acts is a continuous and ongoing process in endeavouring to keep them up to date as far as is possible. My Department is in the process of preparing a draft Restatement of the Defence Acts 1954 — 98, which includes the Courts Martial Appeals Act 1983, and it is hoped this will be completed in the near future.

In July 2001, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Support, convened a Military Law Review Board to review the current provisions of the Defence Act 1954, as amended, to ensure that the military law justice system is both expeditious and fair to the individual, contributes significantly to the maintenance of discipline within the Defence Forces and complies with the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The board report, together with legal advice from the Attorney General's office, is now under consideration within my Department with a view to deciding upon the most suitable approach to be taken to the recommendations, in light of the general legislative programme of the Government. As the Deputy will understand, in advance of a decision being taken with regard to these recommendations, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.

Afforestation Programme.

Ceisteanna (140)

Johnny Brady

Ceist:

231 Mr. J. Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the area of new forestry planting he envisages in 2004 and the number of approvals his Department has processed to date; and if he has satisfied himself that there was a satisfactory uptake of the scheme. [3257/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture and Food)

I am confident that a target of between 10,000 and 12,000 hectares of planting for 2004 will be achieved.

My Department currently has applications for planting in respect of some 17,000 hectares in the system of which the majority have been processed. The remainder are being processed as quickly as possible.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government Estimate for forestry in 2004 has been increased by some 30% above the 2003 Estimate, a clear indication of strong commitment by Government to the sector.

Departmental Properties.

Ceisteanna (141)

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

232 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the Department will authorise the purchase of the site for the district veterinary office in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim. [3258/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The Department of Agriculture and Food is in contact with the Office of Public Works about the purchase by that office of the site referred to by the Deputy.

Milk Quota.

Ceisteanna (142)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

233 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford was not eligible for additional milk quota; the options now available to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3259/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture and Food)

In 2002 the father of the person named applied for additional milk quota under the 32 million litre scheme in the animal disease category. Applicants in this category were required to prove that more than 10% of the dairy herd was lost due to certain diseases in 1978, 1979 or 1980 and that milk deliveries in any of the years 1978, 1979 or 1980 were higher than the sum of initial 1984 quota allocation plus any allocations from the national reserve. As there was no evidence in this case that the deliveries exceeded that level in any of the years concerned, the applicant was not eligible for an allocation. In 2003, an appeal was received in this case but it did not provide sufficient additional evidence to show that the relevant conditions for an allocation were met and therefore it was not successful.

Allocations of milk quota from the national reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system. While it is now too late to make an application in respect of the current quota year an application may be made for the 2004-05 quota year when the application forms become available in the autumn.

Departmental Offices.

Ceisteanna (143)

John Cregan

Ceist:

234 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when his Department will be in a position to provide directional signage indicating the location of the new Department of Agriculture and Food offices at Raheen, Limerick. [3306/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture and Food)

My Departments offices remain for the time being in St. Munchin's House, Dock Road, Limerick. Any move from that location will be publicised in due course.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Ceisteanna (144)

John Ellis

Ceist:

235 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his Department will make a REP scheme payment to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [3308/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The person named submitted an amended plan in October last. There are issues that he must address, relating to the disposal of certain lands and to land parcel identification numbers, before payment can issue. My Department will be in touch with him directly within the next few days to explain what the issues are. Once they have been addressed, the processing of his application can be completed.

Milk Quota.

Ceisteanna (145)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

236 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has applied for additional milk quota. [3309/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Allocations of milk quota from the national reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the milk quota appeals tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The person named submitted an application for additional quota on the grounds of hardship in the current 2003-04 milk quota year. The tribunal examined his application in November 2003 but, unfortunately, it did not recommend making an allocation on that occasion. While every application to the tribunal is treated in a fair and sympathetic manner it has not been possible, within the constraints of the limited amount of quota available and the sizeable number of applications received, to meet the demands for quota from all applicants. The person named may apply again to the tribunal in the coming 2004-05 quota year when the application forms become available next autumn.

Suckler Cow Quota.

Ceisteanna (146)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

237 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has applied for the suckler cow quota from the 2004 national reserve. [3310/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The person named applied for an allocation of suckler cow quota from the 2004 suckler cow national reserve under category D, which catered for regular applicants under the suckler cow premium scheme who required extra quota to ensure the viability of their holdings.

However, applicants under category A, first time applicants in 2004, category B, farmers with holdings on off shore islands, and category C, organic farmers registered with the Department, all have priority over category D applicants and this has resulted in only a relatively small amount of quota being available for category D applicants.

In deciding how this limited quota should be allocated, the quota review group recommended, and I accepted their recommendation, that the quota under category D should be allocated to applicants with 60 LUS or under and commencing with those farmers with the lowest number of livestock units first, and then to continue to allocate, increasing the reference livestock unit by one, until all the quota was distributed.

Livestock units are calculated with reference to the number of animals applied on under the suckler cow premium scheme 2003, ewe premium scheme 2003, special beef premium scheme 2002. The milk quota, off-farm income, every €270 equals one livestock unit, and any acreage used to produce cereal crops are also converted to livestock units.

Using this criteria, all the available quota for category D applicants has been distributed to those applicants who have 22 or fewer livestock units. As the livestock units in respect of the person named are calculated at 67.86, I regret to say that he exceeded the 60 unit limit to enable him to qualify for an allocation and even if he had not exceeded this limit, there is insufficient quota available to allow an allocation to be made to him.

He may consider buying or leasing quota in 2004 — the trading period runs from 2 January 2004 to 30 June 2004. As 2004 will be the final year during which suckler cow quotas will operate, it is expected that the trading value ofquotas will not be as high in 2004 as in previous years.

Disabled Drivers.

Ceisteanna (147)

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

238 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to change the current guidelines which qualify physically disabled persons to obtain vehicles without paying VRT but does not qualify the parents, minders or guardians of mentally disabled persons to the same, even though these people need contact transport; and if he does not intend to change this, the reason therefor. [3265/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

An interdepartmental group was established to review the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' tax concessions scheme. The group examined all aspects of the scheme including the qualifying medical criteria.

I have received the report of the interdepartmental review group on the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' tax concessions scheme and it is currently being considered. Any recommendations contained in this report in relation to the medical criteria and other conditions of the scheme will receive full consideration.

The cost of existing reliefs, excluding annual road tax costs, is substantial and is estimated to be in the region of €35 million in 2003, as compared to €5.1 million in 1994.

Civil Service Remuneration.

Ceisteanna (148)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

239 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the maximum salary payable in respect of the positions of clerical officer (higher scale), higher executive officer (higher scale), administrative officer (higher scale), assistant principal (higher scale), principal (higher), assistant secretary, deputy secretary, second secretary, secretary general in the civil service (details supplied) in the years 1953, 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 and 2003. [3339/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The requested payscales are in the following table. All rates are those applying on 31 December of each year and are shown in euro terms. Higher scales were introduced for the clerical officer, higher executive officer and administrative officer grades as part of PCW restructuring in the 1995-97 period. Prior to 1977 separate lower scales called "A scales" existed for single men and women, the scales shown here are the "B scales" which applied to married men. The grade of second secretary has the same payscale as Secretary General, standard scale, so separate scales are not listed. The scales for deputy secretary in 1953 are not available. This grade does not exist in most Departments.

I would take the opportunity to advise the Deputy that current payscales for main Civil Service grades are published on my Department's website.

31-Dec-53

31-Dec-63

31-Dec-73

31-Dec-83

31-Dec-93

31-Dec-03

Secretary General (standard)

3,067.69

4,285.37

9,881.10

41,376.95

78,142.22

157,413.00

Deputy Secretary

3,929.84

8,988.48

36,708.13

68,407.14

125,930.00

Assistant Secretary

2,606.77

3,644.15

8,102.20

32,040.57

58,678.41

106,441.00

Principal (Higher)

2,369.33

3,256.88

7,113.07

27,375.55

52,868.08

84,371.00

Principal (standard)

2,139.51

2,964.84

6,501.06

25,507.77

49,279.80

78,627.00

Assistant Principal (Higher)

1,908.42

2,647.40

5,856.03

22,148.04

41,216.97

66,144.00

Assistant Principal (standard)

1,670.98

2,368.06

5,287.19

20,093.61

37,421.72

60,057.00

Administrative Officer (Higher)

45,508.00

Administrative Officer (standard)

1,441.15

2,006.19

4,538.04

17,229.08

27,708.22

44,029.00

Higher Executive Officer (Higher)

45,508.00

Higher Executive Officer (standard)

1,441.15

2,006.19

4,538.04

17,229.08

27,708.22

44,029.00

Clerical Officer (Higher)

28,935.00

Clerical Officer (standard)

718.67

1,033.58

2,741.63

11,860.51

17,690.59

28,321.00

Tax Code.

Ceisteanna (149)

Mary Upton

Ceist:

240 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes to review the practice whereby documentation in respect of persons who have their tax assessed jointly is addressed to one of them only; if he will amend this so that documentation is addressed to both parties concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3340/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that married persons may choose from a number of options — joint assessment, separate assessment or separate treatment — the method of taxation that best suits their circumstances. Under joint assessment, tax law provides that one of the spouses is responsible for fulfilling the legal tax obligations of the couple and this is why tax documentation relating to the couple's tax obligations issues to that spouse. This spouse is known as the "assessable spouse". The other spouse is known as the "non-assessable spouse".

A married couple jointly assessed for tax purposes may, subject to certain time limits in relation to a tax year, jointly elect as to which spouse is to be the "assessable spouse". In the absence of any such election, one spouse is deemed to be the "assessable spouse".

However, not all tax documentation issues to the "assessable spouse". An example of where tax documentation may issue to the "non-assessable spouse" is the issue of a PAYE certificate of tax credits relating to that spouse. A further example is the issue of a tax refund cheque where that refund belongs clearly to the "non-assessable spouse".

The current system has the advantage that the main tax correspondence issues to just one person. In addition, it provides clarity as to who is responsible for fulfilling the legal tax obligations of the couple.

I am reluctant to put in place any legislative changes that might run the risk of weakening, or introducing ambiguity into, the legal tax obligations of married couples under joint assessment. That said, I am asking the Revenue Commissioners to consider whether it would be feasible to put administrative arrangements in place which recognise the position of both spouses in joint assessment cases.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ceisteanna (150)

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

241 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Finance, further to Question No. 198 of 16 December 2003, the reason for the discrepancy between the figure of 300 OSI jobs being decentralised to Dungarvan as stated in his budget speech, and the figure of 200 jobs given in the above Dáil reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3341/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

As I announced in my Budget Statement, Ordnance Survey Ireland, OSI, will be transferred to Dungarvan. Budget 2004 indicated that this would involve the transfer of 300 jobs but the figure of 300 was included in error. In fact, OSI has approximately 210 staff based in Dublin with a further 95 jobs approximately located in six regional centres. As I have already indicated, the relocation of the OSI to Dungarvan will not affect its existing regional offices. It is inevitable that some adjustments to the detailed provisions of the decentralisation programme will arise as part of the implementation process and the implementation committee will be addressing these in preparing its implementation plan.

Home Ownership.

Ceisteanna (151)

John Cregan

Ceist:

242 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the procedure and approximate costs involved for married persons with a house in the name of one spouse who wish to have the house in joint names; if it can be done directly with the land registry office or other statutory agency; if stamp duty or other costs of significance apply; the rights of a spouse married for 40 years, living in the house but without his or her name on the ownership deeds; if such a spouse's rights are protected during his or her lifetime; and if he or she have any legal say in the passing on of the property. [3372/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

In relation to stamp duty, I should explain that transfers of property between spouses, as provided for in section 96 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999, are generally exempt from stamp duty. Accordingly, there is no stamp duty liability for a married couple who wish to have ownership of the house transferred into their joint names where the title to the house has been held in the name of one of the spouses only.

In regard to the other issues raised by the Deputy, I understand that a similar question has been submitted for reply to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Flood Relief.

Ceisteanna (152)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

243 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date on discussions to alleviate flooding in the Shannon basin; the future action he intends to take on the issue; when his Minister of State last held a meeting with farming organisations on the issue; the progress made at such a meeting; if other meetings have taken place on the issue; the progress made at such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3394/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I received a report from the Commissioners of Public Works on the Shannon flooding problem in January 2003. This report outlined the background and status of the River Shannon flood problem. The report noted that the last significant investigative work carried out for the River Shannon was the joint Electricity Supply Board, ESB, and OPW initiative in 1961. To assess the potential for flood relief under current conditions the 2003 report noted that a new study would be required, to reflect the changes that had occurred in the catchment in the intervening 40 years. Such a study would need to consider a variety of issues, for example conditions in, and competing uses of the river, perceived changed climate patterns, changed agricultural regulations and practices, different economic circumstances for agriculture and other industries, the higher values being placed on environmental and heritage assets, and tourism opportunities. The January 2003 report provided a basis for further study to pre-feasibility levelin order to provide an updated picture of the options for flood relief on the RiverShannon.

Following consideration of this report, on 10 February 2003 I met with the IFA and a group of landowners affected by flooding from the Shannon. I decided to proceed with the pre-feasibility report so that accurate, up to date information is available on which to base decisions. A pre-feasibility report is an assessment of the flood risk at a particular location, potential mitigation options, and the potential economic viability of a flood relief scheme. In preparing this report, the OPW has engaged in extensive consultation with landowners and other stakeholders in the Shannon. I expect that the report will be complete in April 2004 and can assure the Deputy that it will be made available to all interested parties. Further action must await the findings of the report and the views of relevant stakeholders.

Tax Code.

Ceisteanna (153)

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

244 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the proposals made by the Revenue Commissioners' large case division to put in place procedures for wealthy taxpayers which would involve no surprises on either side. [3419/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their large case division has responsibility for ensuring that there is the highest possible level of tax and duty compliance by some 320 of the largest business enterprises, those with annual turnover in excess of €125 million, and some 250 of the wealthiest individual taxpayers, those with estimated net worth in excess of €50 million. The division also deals with the financial services sector in its entirety.

As well as monitoring compliance by these cases through audit and debt management programmes, the division is engaging directly with the companies and individuals concerned to encourage their commitment to observe an agreed framework of good tax compliance standards, supported by open lines of communication with Revenue.

The idea of no surprises simply reflects the desirable objective of reaching a situation where taxpayers who are prepared to commit to, and maintain, these good compliance standards will be unlikely to be surprised by unforeseen tax liabilities when their tax returns are audited.

Non-Resident Accounts.

Ceisteanna (154)

John Deasy

Ceist:

245 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if persons who have been subject to penalties for holding bogus non-resident accounts were interviewed by members of the Revenue Commissioners to determine the role of the financial institution in the promotion and presentation of these accounts; his views on whether, in the interests of fair play, such an undertaking should be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3420/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their staff have interviewed holders of bogus non-resident accounts on many occasions in regard to their incorrect returns and undeclared tax liabilities. No evidence has emerged from these meetings to date that financial institutions presented or promoted bogus non-resident accounts to their customers. The Revenue Commissioners will evaluate any evidence made available to them which might indicate that financial institutions presented or promoted bogus non-resident accounts.

In 1999 and 2000 Revenue conducted and concluded on-site look back audits on 37 financial institutions. Payments amounting to €220 million, including penalties, were made to Revenue at the conclusion of this audit programme by the deposit taking financial institutions. Revenue made a report on the matter to the Committee of Public Accounts. This committee commented on the outcome of these audits, including the approach taken by Revenue in relation to dealing with deposit taking institutions, in its final report on the DIRT inquiry in April 2001.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Ceisteanna (155)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

246 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will introduce regulations adding to the list of institutions included under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3262/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

At present 128 institutions are listed on the Schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule.

My Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions that may be eligible for inclusion in the Schedule. Discussions have taken place between my Department and other Departments that may have provided a regulatory function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain whether these institutions are in fact eligible for inclusion.

It is my intention that a list of additional institutions will be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as the verification process is completed.

Linguistics Institute of Ireland.

Ceisteanna (156, 157, 158, 159)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

247 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which he proposes to ensure that the work currently carried out by the Linguistics Institute of Ireland will be continued in view of the imminent closure of the Institute. [3263/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

250 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if a meeting between representatives of his Department and staff at the Linguistics Institute of Ireland will take place during the first week of February 2004; if such a meeting is not planned, when such a meeting might take place; if his Department is now in a position to advise staff at the Linguistics Institute of Ireland on their possible deployment options following the liquidation of the Institute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3315/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

251 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the arrangements being made to ensure the continuation of the work of the Linguistics Institute of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3316/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

252 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his Department's future proposals for the management of the library resource currently held by the Linguistics Institute of Ireland; the measures to be put in place to ensure access to the library from members of the teaching profession and other interested members of the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3317/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 250 to 252, inclusive, together.

At an extraordinary general meeting of ITE, held on 18 July 2003, the company agreed to initiate a process of voluntary liquidation. This decision was a matter for the members in accordance with their memorandum and articles of association and relevant company law. I understand that a meeting of the executive committee of ITE on 5 December agreed a timetable for the appointment of a liquidator, who was subsequently appointed on 9 January 2004, and agreed to issue redundancy notices to staff in advance of this. I understand from the liquidator that he has now further extended the period of notice of redundancy for the staff to 27 February 2004. Officials from my Department met with all members of staff of ITE in December 2003. At the request of SIPTU, a further meeting was held on 28 January 2004 with that union and its staff representatives.

My Department has given a commitment to provide every assistance to the company in giving effect to its decision, in partnership with the staff of the institute, and is now working closely with the liquidator in this regard. This includes exploring possible arrangements for the continuation of certain research activities previously carried out by the institute and, in the interests of assisting with an orderly wind-up, facilitating appropriate redeployment or other appropriate arrangements for staff in line with general public service policy in these matters and subject to agreement with the Department of Finance.

Options that may be available in this context continue to be explored by my Department. In this regard staff will be kept appraised as developments occur. The entitlements of those employees for whom appropriate re-deployment arrangements are not made will be determined in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

My Department is committed to ensuring that any arrangements for the future of the ITE library are made in a manner that recognises its wider academic and national policy importance. The Director of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna has agreed to assist the liquidator in this regard and is consulting widely with interested parties in forming recommendations for the future of the library. I have asked to be kept informed of progress in these matters.

Education Schemes.

Ceisteanna (160)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

248 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the actions which have been taken to implement the commitment in Sustaining Progress to establish a workplace basic education strategy; if it is intended to establish a basic education fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3264/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Paragraph 2.8 of Sustaining Progress states that "a workplace basic educationand literacy/numeracy/ information and communication technologies programme will be implemented, building on the recommendations of the National Adult Literacy Agency report on a workplace basic education strategy and the report of the Task Force on Lifelong Learning. Pilot initiatives will be implemented in targeted sectors where there are vulnerable workers, in partnership with trades unions."

The adult literacy service is organised and delivered through the VEC adult literacy schemes throughout the country. The service is resourced and managed by the VECs through funding from my Department. The National Adult Literacy Agency receives funding from my Department to support policy initiatives, tutor training, development of materials etc. in the area of adult literacy. Specific funding has been provided for a course in workplace basic skills training for experienced group literacy tutors. This course is designed to familiarise literacy tutors with the key issues in basic skills training in the workplace and also identifies strategies for introducing and implementing programmes in this context. Joint initiatives are developed at local level through co-operation between VECs, FÁS, NALA and local employers.

Programmes under way at national level include the return to education programme, a joint initiative between FÁS, VECs and NALA which provides an intensive literacy programme for community employment workers on FÁS community employment schemes. A focused workplace literacy programme is available nationwide for local authority outdoor staff. There are also successful workplace literacy programmes in two hospitals and in a trade union.

The commitment and support of employers is a fundamental requirement for the successful implementation of workplace literacy programmes. In seeking to support and encourage employers to participate in such programmes, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has approved a project proposal from NALA to design and deliver a workplace basic education programme for SMEs. A pilot programme for the development of a certificate in workplace skills has also been approved by that Department under the ESF aided in-company training measure of the human resources development operational programme.

There are no plans at present to establish a dedicated fund for workplace basic education. The matter will be considered jointly by my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the context of a review of the recommendations outlined in the NALA report, Workplace Basic Education Programmes in Ireland: Approaches and Models for Implementation.

Further developments in this area are likely to be influenced by the recommendations of the adult basic skills initiative working group, which comprised representatives of six EU countries, including Ireland. The final report of this group is expected shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Ceisteanna (161)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

249 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the financial costs incurred by a school (details supplied) in providing a classroom and facilities for autistic pupils; if an application for funding has been received in his Department; and if he will sanction a refund of costs to the aforementioned school. [3314/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The school referred to by the Deputy received €1.3 million in capital investment towards a major building project in 2001-02, which included the provision of an extension to provide facilitates to accommodate special needs pupils including an autistic unit.

The local contribution paid by the management authorities of the school in question was €12,500. Local contributions in this type of project are of general application and it not open to me to depart from them in individual cases.

Questions Nos. 250 to 252, inclusive, answered with Question No. 247.

Departmental Properties.

Ceisteanna (162)

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

253 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will decide to provide a right of way to Kerry County Council and a portion of land to a child care group from their lands at the Grove, Dingle in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3318/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The Department is currently considering the issue of ceding a portion of land to a local group for the purpose of building a child care centre in Dingle. As soon as a decision is made on the matter, the Department will be in contact with the local authority and the child care group.

School Placement.

Ceisteanna (163, 164)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

254 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Carlow for funding towards their placement at a special school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3319/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

I have made arrangements for my officials to investigate the matter referred to by the Deputy and contact will be made with the family in question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

255 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be offered a school placement with the Saplings school group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3366/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I am most anxious that all children, including children with autistic spectrum disorders, receive education appropriate to their needs. I understand from my officials that the pupil in question is currently enrolled in a special class for autism in a mainstream school in north Dublin. This class has a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 and has the support of two special needs assistants. I further understand that ten hours home tuition per week has been sanctioned for the pupil in question until the end of the current school year.

My Department is actively considering an application from Saplings in Kildare for autistic provision in south County Dublin. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational PsychologicalService, NEPS, in this regard. A response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible. I understand the pupil referred to by the Deputy is on a waiting list for the Saplings facility. Applications for enrolment in the Saplings project are a matter for the management of the facility.

School Insurance.

Ceisteanna (165)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

256 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he is taking to address the spiralling cost of insurance in both primary and second level schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3401/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Responsibility for arranging insurance cover on school property and against public liability is a matter for the managerial authorities of primary and secondary schools, which are privately owned. Funding is provided to primary and secondary schools by way ofper capita grants which afford schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. This is a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items such as insurance. I also hold the view that moving to a position where the Government covers the insurance costs of primary and secondary schools may encourage the insurance sector to keep increasing premia on the basis that the State would meet the cost and reduce the incentive for school management to reduce risks. It also would reduce the incentive for school managements to actively review and tender for insurance cover on an ongoing basis.

I am committed to improving the funding position of primary and secondary schools in light of available resources. At a time of increased financial constraints, the recent announcement of further significant increases in the funding of primary and secondary schools is a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools. In the case of primary schools, the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57 in 1997 to €121.58 per pupil from 1 January last, an increase of almost 113%. A measure of the increase in overall funding for secondary schools is that by comparison with 1997 a secondary school with 500 pupils now receives extra annual funding of up to €108,000 per annum.

School Transport.

Ceisteanna (166)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

257 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 203 of 21 October 2003, if there is a school bus service available for pupils to the nearest school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3405/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The position in this case is that the child referred to by the Deputy in Question No. 203 of 21 October 2003 is not attending hisnearest national school and is availing of concessionary fare paying transport. Under the terms of the primary school transport scheme, children are eligible, subject to conditions, for free transport to their nearest national school or school of amalgamation. Pupils not attending their nearest national school may, subject to conditions, avail of concessionary fare paying transport to another school, subject to spare accommodation being available on the bus and provided that no extra State cost is incurred by extending or re-routing the service. The present service is the most that can be offered to the pupil concerned.

Schools Building Projects.

Ceisteanna (167)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

258 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Mayo is still only atsection 8, band 3 of the school building programme, when the authorities fully expected the school to progress to band 1 or 2 at this stage, in view of the fact that this process started in 1999; and the reason this project has not made further advancement since the end of 2003. [3406/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter during the year. The school referred to by the Deputy will be considered in that regard.

Special Educational Needs.

Ceisteanna (168)

David Stanton

Ceist:

259 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to an application for a special needs assistant for a person attending St. Killian's Special School in Cork which has been awaiting decision since October 2003; if a decision will be made regarding this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3407/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

My Department expects to be in a position to respond to the correspondence referred to by the Deputy shortly. My officials have discussed the matter with the school recently.

School Accommodation.

Ceisteanna (169)

David Stanton

Ceist:

260 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation regarding St. Killian's Special School in Cork and the urgent need for the school to be accommodated in a new building; the assistance that his Department will make available in this regard; the timescales for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3408/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The property management section of the OPW, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions, is exploring the possibility of acquiring a site for the provision of a new primary school for St Killian's Special School in Cork. Due to commercial sensitivities, it is not proposed to identify the specific site to be acquired at this stage. However, this information will be placed on my Department's website when the relevant acquisitions have been completed.

As regards the delivery of a new school building, the position is that when publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programmefrom 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter during the year.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Ceisteanna (170)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

261 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the total amount of grants paid to each angling club in the Northern Fishery Board region since 1 January 1997 to date. [3266/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

I am advised by the Northern Regional Fisheries Board that the following funds were granted to angling clubs or spent on fisheries with a resident angling club in the period from January 1997 to December 2003:

Direct Grants to Angling Clubs

Creeslough and District Anglers

28,575

Swilly and District Anglers (work carried out by NRFB)

62,500

Kilmacrenan Anglers

1,000

L. Bawn Rural Development Assoc.

25,400

Belturbet Coarse Angling Club

5,080

Butlersbridge Trout Angling Co-operative

10,160

Belturbet Trout Angling Club

10,160

Cootehill Tourist & Angling Development Assoc.

5,080

Total

147,955

I am also advised that the Northern Regional Fisheries Board drew down grants from the Tourism Operational Programme 1994-99, the tourism angling measure, the NDP tourism and recreational angling measure and catchment management funding made available through my Department to carry out work on behalf of clubs on the following fisheries:

Rosses Fishery

20,000

Owenea River

267,500

Eske Fishery

345,485

Pettigo Lakes

60,547

Eany River

63,500

Total

757,032

Port Development.

Ceisteanna (171, 172, 173)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

262 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of funding from his Department which has been invested into any part of Waterford Port, New Ross Port and Rosslare Euro Port in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3362/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

In the five year period, 1999 to date, funding of €18.165 million, comprising both Exchequer and EU funding, has been provided by my Department for investment in port infrastructure, facilities and equipment at the ports of New Ross, Waterford and Rosslare. Included in this figure is €7.5 million Exchequer funding to the Port of Waterford Company in respect of its European Investment Bank loan repayments. The following table sets out the breakdown of the funding by port and programme.

Port

Cohesion Fund €'000

Operational Programme for Transport 1994-1999 €'000

Ireland/Wales INTERREG Programme €'000

Seaports Measure of the National Development Plan €'000

European Investment Bank Repayments

Total €'000

New Ross

1.488

2.666

4.154

Rosslare

0.403

1.234

1.637

Waterford

0.933

0.893

3.048

7.500

12.374

Total

1.336

2.381

3.900

3.048

7.500

18.165

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

263 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to sell off part of Waterford Port; the plans he has for the existing fishing boats docked at any part of the port which might be sold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3363/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Deasy

Ceist:

264 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the efforts being made to provide alternative accommodation for large trawlers which have used the north wharf and Frank Cassin wharf in Waterford on a regular basis over many years during inclement weather; if provision will be made for the fishermen concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3404/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 263 and 264 together.

The Port of Waterford Company operates under the Harbours Acts 1996 and 2000. Under the Acts, the primary function of the company is the management, control, operation and development of its harbour, while ensuring that its revenues are sufficient to meet its expenditures. In light of this statutory requirement, the company informs me that it has been conducting a review of its non-core assets to determine the appropriateness of their retention in present circumstances.

The company now provides its core facilities for ships and goods at Belview in County Kilkenny. Accordingly, the property at the north quays is one of the company's principal non-core assets. I am informed that the company is taking the preparatory steps necessary in order to be in a position to offer the property for sale. I understand that discussions are ongoing between the port company and the fishermen regarding alternative facilities within the harbour for the fishing vessels currently docking at the north quay. This is a matter for the port company and the fishermen.

Smoking Cessation Services.

Ceisteanna (174)

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

265 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if he envisages a widening of the locations where smoking cessation support products will be available in the context of the forthcoming ban on smoking in public places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3261/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

In January 2003 I announced my intention to prohibit smoking in all places of work, including licensed premises. These new arrangements presented a major challenge to the health system in terms of the likely increase in the demand for smoking cessation services. My Department's health promotion unit recognised that it needed to ensure that there was an effective and consistent national response to smokers wishing toquit.

A national steering committee with representatives from the health boards, the Health Boards Executive, the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation, ASH Ireland, the Office of Tobacco Control, the Irish College of General Practice, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the Irish Dental Federation were charged with adopting a strategic and co-ordinated approach to supporting and delivering smoking cessation services nationally in the form of a national smoking cessation action plan.

The specific objectives included developing a national network of partners in the area of smoking cessation, agreeing an approach that reflects evidence of best practice in the delivery of smoking cessation services and co-ordinating activity and materials by all partners in the area of smoking cessation.

The Every Cigarette is Doing you Damage advertisement campaign, developed in Australia and now used by more than 50 countries worldwide, including Northern Ireland. The advertisement while graphic in its detail is factual in its approach. It serves as a reminder of the dangers from smoking and the actual affect smoking has on a smoker's body.

The advertising campaign is hard hitting and had a high profile when it was transmitted on television, radio, print media and outdoor poster sites. It brought home the stark realities of smoking in a memorable and meaningful way. Balanced with this, the campaign advised people of the support they can access to quit smoking through the new national smokers quitline.

I launched the national smokers quitline together with the media campaign on 30 October 2003. The service can be accessed every day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Smokers who ring the call save number have the option of availing of on-line counselling by trained staff, being referred for professional help in their own local area or simply having an information pack sent to them by post.

Regionally smoking cessation services were streamlined and co-ordinated to ensure that no matter where a client was calling from they could expect to access a smoking cessation service locally if required. To date the capacity in the boards has been more than adequate to cope with the demand. It is envisaged that when I announce the date of the ban a greater demand will be placed on smoking cessation services. I am confident that the enhanced services will cope with the increased demand.

To date over 11,000 callers have used the quitline. Half of the callers have received a booklet that contains tips and information to encourage them to quit.

An evaluation of the campaign established that 83% of the population have seen the advertisements. As much as 64% stated that they felt that they were very or extremely effective and 65% of the sample said the advertisements would prompt them to consider quitting.

Dunne Inquiry.

Ceisteanna (175, 176)

Liz McManus

Ceist:

266 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the Dunne inquiry; when it is expected to publish a report; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the inquiry is in difficulty because it continues to miss its own deadlines for reporting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3320/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

275 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the Dunne inquiry; and when it is expected to report because it continues to miss its own deadlines for reporting. [3330/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 275 together.

The post mortem inquiry is non-statutory and is chaired by Ms Anne Dunne SC. Since the beginning of 2003 it has concentrated on the investigation of the post mortem policy, practice and procedure of the three main paediatric hospitals, such as the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght, the Children's University Hospital, Temple Street and Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin. Up to mid-October the inquiry had heard 56 hospital and non-hospital witnesses at oral hearings and had accumulated almost 3,500 pages of transcripts of oral evidence.

The chairman has informed me that the inquiry has received considerable co-operation from the hospitals and its non-statutory nature has not thus far significantly hampered its substantive work. The chairman is mindful of the need to haveher report completed as soon as is reasonably practicable following the completion of oralevidence.

Departmental Correspondence.

Ceisteanna (177)

Liz McManus

Ceist:

267 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will provide the text of his Department's letter of determination to the North Western Health Board for the years 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3321/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The text is as follows:

Letter of Determination 2003

Mr Pat Harvey

Chief Executive Officer

North-Western Health Board

Manorhamilton

Co Leitrim

5th December 2002

Determination of Health Expenditure for 2003

Dear Mr Harvey

1. Introduction

I am writing to advise you of the Minister's determination of health expenditure for your Board for 2003 underSection 5 of the Health (Amendment) (No. 3) Act, 1996 (referred to in this letter as the Act) and your Board's revised determination for 2002.

2. Funding Arrangements 2003

The Minister wishes to advise you that, as agreed by Government, there will be no consideration given to a Supplementary Estimate for Health and Children in 2003, without exception.

Therefore, the funding advised to you in this letter, together with any additional funding which may be advised to you for specific issues during the year, will represent the total funding available for services in 2003. Your Board should provide an appropriate contingency sum to cover unexpected issues or pressures, which may arise during the year.

It is essential that you inform agencies funded by your Board of these revised arrangements.

3. Basic Funding for 2003

It has been decided by Government that funding of the Health and Children services within 2003 Estimates reflects anExisting Level of Service (ELS) principle and not, as in the past, a No Policy Change principle.

Under the ELS arrangement, funding will reflect the cost in 2003 of approved services put in place for 2002. It follows, therefore, that where the Board is operating in excess of approved levels or where higher levels of services cannot be sustained through efficiency measures, the ELS funding will not be capable of maintaining such service levels in 2003. It is essential that this factor is fully taken into account when developing your Board's service plan.

Equally important is the need to align your Board's payroll and employment numbers with the ELS funding principle. Any corrective action required here should be put in train immediately in order to secure the proper base for 2003. These issues apply equally to agencies funded by your Board.

4. Approved Expenditure Level for 2003

The level of non-capital expenditure for 2003 (i.e. gross expenditure less minor income) determined for your Board is €431.037 million.

When comparing this figure with your Board's net expenditure in 2002, account should be taken of the once-off expenditure in 2002.

Your Board's revised level of non-capital expenditure for 2002 is €418.987 million (including the 2002 Supplementary Estimate).

Outline details of the funding for services are set out at Appendix One. The approved expenditure level for 2003 notified to you above includes provision for technical adjustments of:

Non-Pay inflation factor of 2.8%

The full year cost of 4% final phase of PPF

A reduction for the 1% lump sum

Your Board's service plan should be drawn up within the parameters above for the year 2003.

5. Funding of Initiatives Under Health StrategyQuality and Fairness

It is clear that the system faces a year which requires a co-operative approach across all professions and disciplines to maintain services and service quality. Nevertheless, there will be opportunities to continue to advance the Health Strategy in the context of the funding now available. Specifically, the Government has provided funding to commission the 709 beds announced in 2002, continue to respond to pressures in cancer services and fund the National Treatment Purchase Fund initiative at the 2002 original level of €30m. The Minister is confident that the ELS funding base for 2003 will continue to advance the Strategy objectives of a patient focused service, deliver greater equity in service provision and secure efficiency gains in the use of resources. In developing the service plan, your Board is requested to seek opportunities to advance the Strategy objectives as appropriate.

6. Control of Expenditure and Management of Service Plan

Given the task facing Departments and their agencies in 2003 in managing the Exchequer spending and the uncertain economic climate, the Minister wishes to emphasise the critical importance of control on spending and in the management of the delivery of services. While the Minister is acutely aware of the responsibility of both the Board members and the Chief Executive Officer in this regard, he is equally conscious of the contribution to this vital task made by local budget holders and wishes that they too are made fully aware of the task ahead.

Therefore, you are asked to ensure that throughout 2003 appropriate arrangements and structures are in place to ensure:

—local accountability for and control of financial budgets, linked to realistic service delivery plans, with delegated authority to amend service operational plans and thereby spending when and where necessary;

—that, in regard to acute hospitals, a monthly profile is provided in the Operational Plan setting down projected costs and activity by specialty in each hospital or by Department in hospitals if breakdown by specialty is not available

—that this also be set down for care groups and the main programmes in the non-acute area; monthly reporting to the Board and to the Minister on the progress of spending, service plan delivery, employment controls, the impact of actions taken to address emerging difficulties and the affect of these actions on the service plan;

—continuous controls on spending, including capital spending, cash and working capital;

—similar controls and management arrangements are operated by agencies funded by the Board.

7. Reporting on Expenditure and Service Plan

The Minister for Finance has introduced more stringent reporting arrangements on Ministers for 2003, in order that Government can be fully informed on the progress of spending, the issues giving rise to emerging pressures within the system and, in particular, the remedial action taken to correct the situation. In addition, the Minister for Finance intends to publish cash and expenditure profiles of Departments, as submitted, and to monitor these against actual results.

In order to allow the Minister of Health and Children to be in a position to comply with the revised reporting arrangements, the following information sets and timeframes are to be put in place by your Board;

—Cash Profile; you are requested to prepare a monthly cash profile, aligned to your service plan expenditure, taking fully into account the trends in expenditure and service delivery across the 12 months, consistent with the overall total cash advised. You should note that this profile will form the basis on which cash will be made available to you on a monthly basis throughout 2003. The profile must provide for the full release of funding included in your Board's determination for the GMS, including funding due in relation to 2002, if any. In addition, funding of voluntary and other agencies providing services to your Board must be fully included within the monthly profile.

The cash profile must be submitted by 3rd January 2003 for review by the Department before submission to the Minister for Finance.

—IMR; having regard to the circumstance facing the system in 2003 and the absolute necessity to support budget holders, the CEO and his management team with information to allow the system to respond speedily and effectively to emerging events, the provision of timely and accurate information, both financial and non-financial will be crucial to the successful management of resources throughout the year.

In the first instance the IMR will allow the CEO and his management team and local management to take advantage of opportunities arising and where necessary provide the capability to address emerging difficulties at the earliest possible time.

The IMR, together with the CEO's commentary and the quarterly PI reports, are equally important within the Department in that they inform service and support units on the progress of the service delivery and the specific pressures within the system as experienced by individual Boards/Authority. In turn, they allow the Minister to be informed regarding the services and to appraise his colleagues in Government regarding progress within the system overall. This is vitally important in the context of accountability for resources secured and to support the case for continued investment.

In order to accelerate the use of the IMR at all levels as a management tool, it is essential that your Board make the necessary arrangements to provide the IMR with commentary to the Department by the 20th of the following month.

8. Accountability of Chief Executive Officer

You will be aware that section 9, Health (Amendment) No. 3 Act, [1996.] places specific responsibilities on a chief executive officer in regard to service plans and financial accountability. In that context it is important that the chief executive officer takes personal responsibility in regard to the reporting arrangements set out in this Letter of Determination on activity, personnel and financial information. It is critical that the process of reporting to the Department includes a clear statement by the chief executive officer of the immediate steps he is taking to manage emerging difficulties in these areas.

Where a CEO delegates to an identified officer of the health board the authority, responsibility and accountability for specific services, the officer must be made explicitly aware by the CEO of what is being delegated. The CEO must take personal responsibility for ensuring that this is the case. However, this does not dilute, in any way, the CEO's functions under the 1996 Act, including those under Section 9. The parameters of control and reporting described in this Letter of Determination apply equally to the CEO and those other officers of the Board to whom authority, responsibility and accountability have been delegated. That delegation must ensure that the officers have the authority to act immediately to address problems which could adversely affect the budgetary position, including unfunded activity increases and unapproved increases in staffing numbers.

9. Indebtedness Level

Section 8 of the Act requires the notification of the approved level of indebtedness, arising from this determination. This figure is €34.483 million for your Board in 2003. A more detailed letter on indebtedness and working capital requirements will issue shortly. The provisions of the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act, 1997 should be strictly adhered to.

10. Service Plans

10.1 Submission of Service Plan

Under the provisions of Section 6 of the Act, each health board must adopt and submit a service plan to the Minister. The service plan is the benchmark against which your Board's expenditure, output and progress will be assessed during the year. In accordance with sub-section (6) of this section of the Act, health boards are required to take account of the policies and objectives of the Minister, and of the Government.

It will be necessary to complete all matters relating to your Board's service plan as a matter of urgency and, in any event, not later than 42 days after receipt of this letter.

Under the provisions of Section 9 of the Act, the CEO is responsible for the implementation and where necessary, the amendment, of the Service Plan on behalf of the Board. In this regard, the Minister is anxious that this process is seen to be driven by each CEO and their management team, and where difficulties arise during the year, that immediate corrective action is taken to bring the Service Plan back into line.

The Board service plan should be submitted in hard copy to the Minister. In addition, the plan should be e-mailed as one document (in PDF format) to the e-mail address:serviceplan@health.irlgov.ie.

10.2 Format of Service Plan

The structure and format for the 2003 service plan should follow a similar template as in 2002. While referencing Strategy actions, the primary structure of the Service Plan should, as far as possible, deal with services on the basis of the care group structure used in the National set of Performance Indicators.

The format of the Service Plan (in particular the associated financial tables) should lend itself to being reported on in the context of the monthly IMRs and the quarterly Performance Indicator reports. This is essential to allow for ongoing assessment of the service plan delivery

10.3 Content of Service Plan

It is essential that your Service Plan is realistic and achievable. It should reflect and be grounded in the Strategy, referencing all relevant Strategy actions. If the body of the Service Plan is not stated in terms that address Strategy actions, a comprehensive appendix linking the Plan's contents to Strategy actions should form part of the Service Plan. You will be aware that the Minister will be required to report progress to the Cabinet Committee on the Health Strategy and the Service Plans and the above appendix will form the basis of this report in advance of the streamlining process outlined in 10.6.

The available budget must clearly form the basis for the service plan submitted to the Minister. There must be a comprehensive match between resources available to the Boardover the course of the year and the performance/activity levels specified in the service plan to be delivered. This is essential if resources are to be effectively managed at corporate and operational level. However, within the broad policy objectives set by the Minister, your Board has the flexibility to determine its priorities in the Service Plan so as to ensure the optimal delivery of services commensurate with resource availability. It is on this basis that your Board's performance will be monitored and evaluated.

In drawing up the Service Plan, emphasis should be placed on the planned service delivery from the core funding across care groups, programmes and sub-programmes.

In accordance with section 10 of the Act, if your Board anticipates, on the basis of the information now available, incurring any excess or credit on expenditure in 2002, your Board's service plan must clearly include provision for charging the full amount of such excess or credit to the service plan for 2003. An excess expenditure in 2002 must be a first charge on the resources available for 2003. In the case of an excess, your Board should detail, as part of its service plan, how it proposes to recover the excess expenditure in full and bring current expenditure back into line. Any significant excess being brought to account at this stage will,inter alia, raise questions regarding the reliability of your Board's regulatory and reporting systems.

10.4 Documents to accompany your Service Plan

When your Board is submitting its Service Plan to the Minister, please also send a report to the Department setting out your Board's expected performance by reference to the agreed national set of PIs with appropriate commentary to put the PI-based information in the context of the Board's overall service plan. Targets should be stated in terms of the PIs where these are already set in existing policies (e.g. immunisation etc. and for all other PIs where such targeting is possible. This is essential for good monitoring and Plan evaluation.

Please also submit whatever operational details you feel would be helpful in assessing your service plan together with an estimated position for the end of 2002 for your Board in relation to IMR information and also (where possible) PIs. Budgetary statements by care group should accompany or be part of the Service Plan as far as is practicable at this stage.

10.5 Review of Service Plan

Whilst it is intended that the Service Plan be used throughout the year along with IMR and PI reports as a basis to guide the monitoring and evaluation of service plan delivery (and help to identify emerging trends so that action can be taken at the earliest possible time), there will also be periodic formal Service Plan reviews as in 2002. For each review of 2003, a specific report will be required (to complement the IMR and PI returns) elaborating on the position and focusing in particular on bed capacity funding and core service delivery targeted in the Service Plan.

10.6 Development of the Service Planning Process during 2003

The Health Strategy recognises the Service Plan as one of the vital tools in the planning process at regional and national level. Its potential as a sophisticated tool for planning based on strategic objectives shared by all boards is identified. While some work has been usefully carried out in this area through HeBe during the summer, nevertheless a considerable body of work remains to be completed. In order to progress the Health Strategy actions on service planning, a joint Health Board/Department group has been established. During 2003, it is intended that this group will

—Specify an agreed format, content and approach for Service Plans as per Health Strategy Action 70 ensuring most appropriate linkages to unite health strategy information requirements with service planning formats and performance indicators;

—Specify an agreed format, content and approach for 3-5 year Implementation Plans as per Health Strategy Action 71 ensuring most appropriate linkages to service plans, strategies, other policy documents and annual reports;

—Consider how the varied reporting mechanisms (including IMRs, Strategy Stocktaking Reports, PI Reports and New Development Reports) currently in place might best be best developed and streamlined to produce a seamless evidenced based process for monitoring services linking strategy through service plan to delivery.

This conjoint effort will result in a revised service plan model for 2004.

11. Performance Indicators

The Health Strategy emphasises the necessity for service planning and delivery to be based on high quality, reliable and timely information. In this context it is critical that as complete a PI report is submitted by the 20th of the month following on from each quarter together with the IMRs all signed off by the CEOs. The PI Reports should be sent in hard copy to the Secretary General of the Department and electronically toserviceplan@health.irlgov.ie using the agreed template. The PI data together with the IMRs will better enable monitoring and evaluation of the on-going position in relation to your Board's Service Plan. In addition, the commentary (which is essential and vital for plan monitoring) should cover areas where hard quantitative PI information is not available in full or where the quality of the information may not be optimal.

The Department recognises the excellent work that has been carried out in developing and reporting on the national set of PIs and is conscious that these developments are still at a relatively early evolutionary phase and that much further work needs to be done in this regard. The PI reports will be used as an indicative picture of the Board's position in relation to the delivery of its Service Plan. This is to enable both the Department and the Board reach a better shared understanding of the position in monitoring and evaluating the attainment of service plan objectives by the Board in the light of the underlying position taken together with the IMR returns.

12. VFM strategies

12.1 New Technology Assessment

New Technology Assessment has an increasingly central role to play in the use of VFM strategies. This is a complex area, particularly in relation to new drugs and new treatments incorporating new combinations of drugs where assessment information may not be readily accessible. You are asked that every effort be made to seek out assessments of new technologies to guide their introduction so that tighter targeting of the use of technologies, combined with appropriate protocols, will ensure that new technology is employed only for those cases where clear demonstrable benefits exist and resultant costs are justified. In this regard, it is proposed that the health boards and agencies, pending the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority, now commence the development of a common approach to the assessment of new technology under the auspices of HeBE.

12.2 VFM Targets

The attainment of better value-for-money through effective and efficient use of resources continues to be a critical objective for all health agencies. The draft IBM health sector procurement strategy report being considered by the CEOs should become central to the delivery of VFM in the non-pay area.

The Government have decided that health boards and agencies must continue to pursue VFM during 2003 and your determination reflects an appropriate amount of a VFM target which is to apply across the boards to both pay and non-pay areas. In developing your approach to achieving that target, you should also take into account possibilities that will emerge from the Procurement Strategy for health services, which is being completed under the aegis of HeBE.

The outcome of VFM initiatives will continue to be enhanced, by the extent to which health agencies work together to share best practice, to maximise joint procurement and materials management. It is critical that all health agencies use the skills and structures now in place to maximise co-operation and actively pursue value-for-money in materials management, particularly in the development of national protocols and contracts. Co-operation in this area is critical. The level of co-operation between boards to achieve greater VFM will be closely monitored by the Department throughout 2003.

In addition, a separate PI report in relation to 2002 using the PIs already in use in this area should be submitted to the Department with the Service plan and quarterly thereafter (signed off and submitted as part of the IMRs for the relevant months). It is intended that the five most important PIs from the draft IBM report when signed off, will replace the existing PIs in this area during 2003. However, both sets of PIs are to be reported on up to and including the second quarterly 2003 Service Plan Review so as to provide continuity.

13. Employment Control 2003

There will be no addition to the employment ceiling currently approved for your Board, given the ELS allocation. In the context of the ELS allocation, your service plan should therefore confirm that employment levels associated with the activity levels set out in the Service Plan for your Board conform to this ceiling.

A series of meetings have taken place with your Board since mid-year, following the results of the 2001 census, to strengthen arrangements for employment control in order to ensure compliance with the approved employment ceiling for 2002, taking account of the Government Decision last June and the review of service plans. The review of the census is now being concluded with the Department of Finance and you will be advised accordingly.

You will be aware that the Minister for Finance indicated in his Budget Statement that a reduction of 5,000 is planned in the numbers employed in the public service over the next three years. Further information is awaited from the Department of Finance regarding the implications of this measure for the Health Service and details will be conveyed to you as soon as they are available. In the interim, the preparation of your Service Plan should be undertaken on the basis of the current authorised employment level.

In 2003, no posts above the authorised ceiling may be filled. In these circumstances, the employment requirements of specific services, consistent with planned activity levels, should be met through the management of your approved employment complement. In order to expedite financial clearance, your service plan should clearly indicate and list medical consultant posts (new, replacement and / or restructured) for which you intend to seek financial clearance during 2003, before making application to Comhairle na nOspidéal.

Revised arrangements are also being introduced in 2003 to strengthen overall central monitoring and control of employment levels. Yours Board's adherence throughout the year to its approved employment ceiling will require to be confirmed on a monthly basis through information furnished in the IMRs. Compliance by your Board with the employment control measures will be monitored by this Department through the IMRs and also by means of quarterly census returns.

Arrangements for formally validating at CEO level the employment information supplied by your Board are those as set out in section 8 above.

Your Board should also make adequate provision for pay costs in 2003, to be met within the existing allocation, having regard to:

—the present numbers employed;

—the appropriate balance between pay and non-pay costs;

—the projected cost of minor claims expected to arise during the year.

14. Development of Human Resource Management and Implementation of the Action Plan for People Management

The Service Plan for your Board should include details of the full range of measures which it is intended will be undertaken by your Board in 2003 to implement the specific actions detailed in the Action Plan for People Management (APPM) and to strengthen the capacity for more effective human resource management in the health service, in line with the objectives set out in the Health Strategy.

15. Social Inclusion

You will be aware of the importance accorded in the National Health Strategy to social inclusion, in particular to Action 18 which has deliverables relating to reducing health inequalities in line with the key targets set out by Government in its review of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy (Building an Inclusive Society Review of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness).

Social inclusion should be a major consideration in framing the Service Plan and the Plan should set out the way in which the various actions in it address this. Actions to develop services in line with RAPID and CLÁR proposals need to be seen to take effect in 2003. The Service Plan should therefore clearly indicate the actions which further the implementation of these programmes as well as the wider social inclusion agenda wherever possible.

16. Conclusion

To assist your Board to complete the matters addressed in this letter quickly, senior officers of the Department will be available if there are any matters requiring clarification. These queries should, in the first instance, be referred to Dermot Magan, Helen Minogue and Paula Monks, Finance Unit, (01-6354254, 6354293, 6354513) who will co-ordinate the Department's response to all health boards/ERHA. However, it is essential that the cash profile is submitted by the date advised.

The Minister would like to thank you, your Board, and all your Board's staff, for your contribution to the delivery of health care during 2002. He also asked me to acknowledge your co-operation and that of your management team in working closely with the Department, other health boards and other agencies in providing improved health and personal social services. In particular, the Minister would like to thank you and your staff for the support given to the Department during 2002 regarding the work carried out on the Health Strategy. The Minister looks forward to the further progress, which will be made in developing the health services during 2003.

Yours sincerely

Michael Kelly

Secretary General

Appendix to letter

North Western Health Board

Revised 2002 Determination

The revised non-capital Determination for your Board for 2002 is €418.987 million.

2003 Non-Capital Determination

The non-capital Determination for your Board for 2003 is€431.037 million.

Acute Hospitals

Additional revenue funding of €1.725m is being made available in 2003 to support the consolidation of acute hospital services in accordance with the principles outlined in the letter of Determination regarding the provision of existing levels of service.

The detailed application and consequences of this funding should be clearly set out in your Board's Service Plan for 2003.

Bed Capacity

Additional revenue funding (ongoing) of €0.737m is being provided to meet the additional cost in 2003 of 38 beds commissioned by end 2002 in the North Western Region under the Bed Capacity Initiative.

Hospital / Laboratory Accreditation

A sum of €0.033m is being provided to support the development of hospital and laboratory accreditation programmes in your Board's area.

Renal Services

As part of a structured programme of investment in the development of renal services, additional funding of €0.100m is being made available to your Board in 2003.

Pre-hospital/Ambulance Services

Revenue funding of €0.900m is being allocated to the Health Board Executive (HEBE) in respect of the continuing provision by health agencies of pre-hospital emergency care/ambulance services. The application of this funding will be the subject of discussions between HEBE and this Department.

Cancer Services

Additional revenue funding of €1.870m is being allocated to your Board from National Cancer Strategy funding to address service pressures as follows: €1.310m in relation to oncology/haematology services, including oncology drug treatments and €0.560m to ensure adherence to quality standards asset out in the Report of the Sub-Group of the National Cancer Forum on the Development of Services for Symptomatic BreastDisease.

Waiting List Initiative

A sum of €1.800m has been allocated to your board to support the continuation of the Waiting List Initiative. The detailed application of this funding, including the proposed areas to be targeted and the net reductions in waiting lists and waiting times by specialty to be achieved, should be clearly set out in your Boards 2003 Service Plan and will be the subject of further discussion in this context. Particular emphasis should be placed on achieving the target reductions in waiting times for those patients waiting longest for treatment as set out in the Health Strategy. Your Board's plans in relation to the National Treatment Purchase Fund should be included in this context. Further Waiting List Initiative funding may be made available to those agencies who demonstrate the ability to significantly reduce waiting times.

HIPE & Casemix

Casemix

Casemix analysis of costs and activity relating to the hospitals in your Board's area, which are participating in the National Casemix Programme, has resulted in an overall once off positive adjustment of €0.293m as follows:

Hospitals

€m

Letterkenny

0.566

Sligo

(0.273)

TOTAL Once off

0.293

The Casemix Unit of the department will be writing directly to you shortly with full details of the adjustment.

Adjustments should be applied to the hospitals from which the adjustment arises and these details should be clearly identified in your Service Plan.

HIPE/Casemix Staffing

No resources for HIPE/Casemix staffing are being allocated to hospitals within your Board this year, as Boards who gain funding within Casemix may reallocate a portion of that funding, as appropriate, for Casemix Staffing. Casemix Unit will be writing to you directly in this matter.

Letterkenny General Hospital

Exceptional Casemix (base funding) Adjustment

An exceptional negative adjustment in relation to the base allocation for Letterkenny General Hospital, in the amount of (€0.242m) has been agreed by the Casemix Technical Group. The adjustment is in order to regularise the hospital's base funding going forward, following audit. Casemix Unit will be writing to you directly with full details of the adjustment.

Health (Amendment) Act, 1996 (Services for Persons with Hepatitis C)

A sum of €0.102m is being made available to your Board in 2003 in respect of the cost of providing primary healthcare services to those persons who hold a health service card under the Health (Amendment) Act, 1996, including provision for increased activity, services and costs.

Services for Older People

A Total of €1.614m is being provided as follows:

Service

Amount€m

Nursing Home Subvention Scheme

0.400

Increased Demands/Contract rates

0.050

Meals — Increase in grants

0.040

Community Hospital, Killybegs

0.140

Rehabilitation Unit, Letterkenny

0.200

Consultant in Geriatric Medicine

0.160

Home Care Services

0.360

Day Centres/Day Hospitals

0.075

Residential Service Centre, Gweedore

0.045

EMI Services

0.069

To Commence Elder Abuse Programme

0.075

Total

1.614

Palliative Care

The allocation for Palliative Care Services is being made subject to the following:

1. Agreement should be reached with Services for Older People and Palliative Care Division both on the detailed use of this allocation and also the use of previous funding made available in conjunction with the launch of the Report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care. The Regional Consultative and Development Committees for Palliative Care should be consulted, where appropriate, on your Board's plans for the use of this allocation in line with the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee Report on Palliative Care. It is intended that these details be incorporated in your Health Board's Service Plan. It will be necessary to agree in advance with Services for Older People and Palliative Care Division any departure from the aforementioned agreement during the financial year.

2. Your Board will be required to provide Services for Older People and Palliative Care Division with regular updates in advance of the quarterly Service Plan meetings on progress made or expected to be made in the use of the allocation.

3. Where grants are being provided under Section 65 the principles guiding such grants as outlined under Grants to Voluntary/Other Organisations as detailed in the section of this letter dealing with Services for Older People should be applied.

A total of €0.290m is being provided for enhanced medical cover in the North West Hospice (€0.075m), home care services in Donegal (€0.040m) and Sligo/Leitrim (€0.085m) and palliative care nurses in Donegal & Sligo/Leitrim (€0.090m).

Mental Health Services

A sum of€0.650m is being allocated to your Board in 2003 for the continuation of on-going services.

Services to Persons with an Intellectual Disability and Those with Autism

National Intellectual Disability Database

The National Intellectual Disability Database has a vital role in the planning and monitoring of service provision. The timetable for the provision of updated information in 2003 has been notified to each Health Board/Authority. It is vital that this timetable is complied with in order to enable the Health Research Board to complete the necessary validation work and have data available for the Department in the autumn of 2003. It should be noted that there will be no extension of the timeframe in relation to the export of data to the Department and that the Boards / Authority should take whatever measures are required to ensure that this deadline is met.

Additional funding of €0.800m is being provided as follows :

€0.200m is being provided to enhance the health related support services for children with an intellectual disability or autism

€0.600m to meet the full year costs of the 2002 development programme.

Services for People with Physical / Sensory Disabilities

A sum of €0.877m is being made available to your board in 2003 towards core funding of these services as follows:

Agency/Service

Amount €m

Priority service pressures as identified at local level (to include respite, home supports, services for people with significant disabilities, support services for children with disabilities, Aids & Appliances etc.

0.574

Regional Co-ordinator for the Disability Federation of Ireland

0.046

Continued roll-out of the NPSDD (including the possibility of the introduction of a management structure for the NPSDD and the NIDD) once off

0.257

Total

0.877

The sum of €0.260m allocated in 2002 for the purpose of the alleviation of the under-resourcing of the RehabCare organisation is to be distributed in 2003, according to the findings of the Review carried out by the board in respect of voluntary sector service providers in the region.

In 2002 a figure of €0.076m was allocated to your board for the mainstreaming of the FÁS CE scheme. As the future of the CE scheme is currently being reviewed, pending the outcome of this review, monies allocated for this purpose should be used for priority service pressure as identified by your Board.

Rehabilitative Training and Sheltered Occupational Services

Additional revenue funding of €0.308m is being made available to your Board in 2003 for the provision of services for people with disabilities in Rehabilitative Training and Sheltered Occupational Services.

Adult Homelessness

Additional funding of €0.100m is being made available to your Board in 2003 to provide funding for the implementation ofHomelessness An IntegratedStrategy.

Traveller Health

An additional €0.054m has been included in the Board's allocation for 2003 to fund developments under Traveller Health A National Strategy 2002- 2005. The detailed application of this expenditure will require prior discussion with the Board's Traveller Health Unit and the Department's Traveller

Health Policy Unit.

Child Care Services

Additional funding of €0.146m is being provided for the Child Care Services. The details are outlined in the table below.

Service

Amount €m

Special Arrangements

0.050

Youth Homelessness

0.096

Total

0.146

Dental Services

A sum of €0.064m is being allocated to your Board in 2003 to complete the training of 1 dentist for Specialist in Orthodontics qualifications.

Community Audiology Services

Devolution of Community Audiology Service (€0.234m)

Consequent to the devolution of the Community Audiology Service from the Northern Area Health Board of the ERHA to each individual board from the 1st of January 2003, core funding of €0.234m is being transferred to your board for this service. The Northern Area Health Board will therefore cease to administer the national core budget of this service at the end of 2002.

Community Health Services

A total of €0.362m is being provided as follows :

Service

Amount €m

Cervical Cytology Laboratory and Colposcopy Services

0.105

Child Health — Best Health for Children

0.176

Community Ophthalmic Services (Adult) (once off)

0.081

Total

0.362

In addition to the above, funding will be available at a national level for the following:

Influenza and Pneumococcal Immunisation

Up to a maximum of €1m is available (on a once-off basis) at national level in respect of fees payable to General Practitioners for the administration of influenza and pneumococcal vaccine to GMS patients in the "at-risk" category in the event that uptake for the 2002/03 programme exceeds uptake recorded for the 2001/02 campaign. Applications for funding with appropriate supporting documentation should be submitted by 28 March 2003 to Mr Brian Mullen, Principal Officer, Community Health Division.

Childhood Immunisation

In respect of childhood immunisation €2.116m is being made available at national level on a once off basis in respect of specific projects and measures which are designed to improve immunisation uptake particularly in areas of low uptake. Proposed projects / measures should be submitted by the Immunisation Implementation Group chaired by Ms P. Gilheany — HeBE no later thatFriday 31 January 2003.

Strategy for control of Antimicrobial Resistance (SARI)

An additional sum of €0.584m is being provided to fund national initiatives and / or measures recommended by the National SARI Committee in order to facilitate the continued implementation of this strategy. This funding will be allocated in March/April 2003.

Food Safety Control

A sum of €0.193m has been included in your Board's Determination in respect of the Food Control Service.

Tobacco Control

A sum of €0.060m has been allocated for tobacco control. This allocation provides for compliance building and community based tobacco free initiatives by the environmental health service (once off).

General Practice Development Fund

Your board's allocation includes a sum of €0.354m in respect of the full year costs of ongoing developments in general practice. The precise details are as follows:

Service

Amount €m

Primary Care Units

0.156

Service Developments

0.105

GPIT Training

0.028

Vocational Training

0.065

Total

0.354

€0.020m of the monies allotted under the GPIT Training heading should be forwarded to the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) as your Boards contribution to the continuing National GPIT training programme, the balance being in respect of internal support costs which may arise in your Board. Accordingly, I would ask that your Board make arrangements to forward, as soon as possible, the necessary amount to the ICGP.

General Practice Co-operatives funding

A sum of €2.362m is also being provided in 2003 to facilitate out of hours primary care developments. The GMS Division of the Department will be in touch with your Board early in 2003 to discuss the funding of general practice out of hours co-operatives.

Primary Care Strategy

A sum of €0.390m is being provided for the continued development of your Board's implementation project under the Primary Care Strategy. This funding will be released on receipt of confirmation that the additional staff necessary to make up the primary care team have been appointed and that satisfactory progress has been made with the establishment of the project.

A sum of €0.010m is being provided on a once-off basis in respect of administrative support for the sub-group of the Primary Care Steering Group chaired by Mr Tom Kelly, Assistant CEO. The continuation of this allocation in future years will be reviewed in the light of the support requirements of the group involved.

Nursing Issues

A sum of €1.070m once off is included in your Board's 2003 allocation as follows:

Service

Amount €m

Transition to Degree Programme (once-off)

0.060

Pre-registration Nursing Programme (Sponsorship Scheme)(once-off)

0.110

Fees Initiative for Part-Time Nursing Degrees (once-off)

0.200

Fee Support for Specialist Nursing Courses Circ 150/00 and 47/01 (once-of)

0.200

Nurses Pay — Accident & Emergency Circ 25/02 and 34/02 (once-off)

0.500

Total

1.070

Risk Management

A sum of €0.300m has been included in your allocation for the development of the Board's risk management programme. Expenditure under this heading should not be incurred without the specific prior approval of Mr Brendan Phelan of the Department's Medical Indemnity Project Office. With the launch of the Clinical Indemnity Scheme in 2002 the Department attaches a high priority to the development of comprehensive risk management programmes in Health Boards. It is essential, therefore, that the additional funds made available under the heading are applied to risk management. Funds not applied to risk management will berecovered and made available to other agencies.

Development of Human Resource Management and Implementation of the Action Plan for People Management

The Service Plan for your Board should include details of the full range of measures which it is intended will be undertaken by your Board in 2003 to implement the specific actions detailed in the Action Plan for People Management (APPM) and to strengthen the capacity for more effective human resource management in the health service, in line with the objectives set out in the Health Strategy.

In addition to the resources already in place, an allocation of €0.140m is also being provided to your Board in 2003 to support the development of human resources and for the implementation of the Action Plan. The National APPM Implementation Monitoring Committee will identify priorities for the application of this funding in the course of the year.

Expert Group on Medical Laboratory Technicians / Technologists

€0.277m is allocated on an ongoing basis for the continued implementation of the recommendations contained in the Expert Group on Medical Technician/Technologist Grades, including implementation arrangements not yet notified to agencies.

Expert Group on Radiography Grades

€0.209m is allocated on an ongoing basis for the continued implementation of the recommendations contained in the Expert Group on Radiography Grades, including implementation arrangements not yet notified to agencies.

Clinicians in Management

Please submit a report on developments resulting from the funding provided in recent years for the Clinicians in Management Programme. Funding in 2003 will be dependent on progress to date and your agency's proposals for 2003 under this programme. Your submission must also indicate the estimated costs for 2003 and the additional benefits of this programme for service delivery. Your submission must be received by the Personnel Management and Development Unit in this Department no later than 28th February, 2003 for consideration.

Travel and Subsistence

I refer to circular 67/2002 issued on 27 November 2002. Any additional costs involved in the implementation of this circular must be met from within your current approved allocation.

Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare

Funding for occupational health safety and welfare in 2003 for your board's region will be considered in the context of the process being commenced under action 2.1 of the Action Plan for People Management. Any additional allocations in 2003 will also take account of the submissions received from your board.

Revenue Cost of IT

€0.052m has been included in the Determination as a contribution towards ongoing revenue costs arising from information and Communications Technology investments within your Board. Where appropriate, this should be distributed to voluntary agencies on a pro rata basis to the amount of Capital ICT Funding provided in 2002.

GRO Modernisation Programme

The implementation of the new GRO I.T. system to support the registration of life events and the issue of birth, marriage and death certificates will proceed from early 2003. The roll-out programme for this system has yet to be finalised. Funding will be provided to meet the approved additional costs incurred by your Board during 2003 to implement this system. As the level of funding required is agreed with the General Register Office, arrangements will be put in place for draw down of the approved funding.

Health Promotion

A sum of €0.148m is included in your 2003 Determination on a once off basis for projects undertaken by the Health Promotion Department of your Health Board.

Cardiovascular Health Strategy

A sum of €0.800m is being allocated to your Board towards the continued implementation of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy.

Violence Against Women

The sum of €0.020m is included in your Determination for the further development of services for women victims of violence.

Letter of Determination 2004

Mr Pat Harvey

Chief Executive Officer

North Western Health Board

Manorhamilton

Co Leitrim

4th December 2003

Determination of Health Expenditure for 2004

Dear Mr Harvey

1. Introduction

I am writing to advise you of the Minister's determination of health expenditure for your Board for 2004 underSection 5 of the Health (Amendment) (No. 3) Act, 1996 (referred to in this letter as the Act) and your Board's revised determination for 2003.

As you are aware, following on the Government decision of 17 June last, preparations are underway for the introduction of new structures and governance arrangements for the health system. Transition to the new structures will require the enactment of new legislation. The planned date of transfer of responsibility to the new Health Service Executive is January 2005. The health boards and ERHA will therefore retain formal responsibility for managing the system within the existing legislative framework during 2004.

2. 2004 Funding

The funding provided by Government for 2004 includes the Estimate for Health and Children as contained in the Abridged Estimates Volume 2004, together with the funding contained in the 2004 Budget figures. This funding should in overall terms support the broad range of services currently delivered, taking into account the impact of the increased charges and value for money targets as outlined. It is clear, therefore, that the task of managing services within approved parameters in 2004 will again be a challenging one. The experience of your Board during 2003 should provide a strong indication of the areas where pressures can be anticipated in 2004. In preparing the Service Plan and budget, all areas of activity and spend will need critical evaluation so that available resources are targeted at national priority areas and emerging needs as far as possible. Given the dominance of pay cost in overall spend, all staffing allocations and, in particular, premium pay elements should be critically reviewed in this process.

The Minister, conscious of the extra demand placed on particular services in 2003, has taken the deliberate step of prioritising specific services so as to provide some additional protection in the Service Plan. Such services include cancer, renal and services for older people in the main and, together with the additional funding in the Budget for disability services, should add a measurable impact to the planned service provision in these areas in 2004. You are requested to indicate in your Service Plan the specific service volumes planned in these areas in 2004.

3 Planning for 2004 Spending

As in 2003, your Board is advised to set aside a contingency provision to deal with unexpected issues and service pressures arising in 2004. The Minister for Finance has again advised that Supplementary Estimates cannot be anticipated, and your Board will again be expected to manage items such as minor pay, pay related issues and demand-led services from within the notified determination.

4. Approved Expenditure Level for 2004

The level of non-capital expenditure for 2004 (i.e. gross expenditure less minor income) determined for your Board is €495.674m.

When comparing this figure with your Board's net expenditure in 2003, account should be taken of the once-off expenditure in 2003.

Your Board's revised level of non-capital expenditure for 2003 is €470.840m (including the 2003 Supplementary Estimate).

Outline details of the funding for services are set out at Appendix One. The approved expenditure level for 2004 notified to you above includes provision for technical and other adjustments of:

Non-Pay inflation factor of 2.8%

Sustaining Progress agreement in 2004

Benchmarking, 50% of the award

Parallel Benchmarking full year cost

Patient charges, including A & E

Drugs Payment Scheme increase in threshold

VFM Targets

Budget Day funding

Your Board's service plan should be drawn up within the parameters above for the year 2004.

5. Funding of Initiatives Under Health Strategy — Quality and Fairness

Reference has already been made to the need to review all programme spending to secure efficiencies and improve effectiveness. Apart from the specific service priorities identified above, the overall policy framework which health boards/ERHA are asked to address in preparing Service Plans for 2004 is that set out in the Health Strategy. By continuing to shape services along the lines advocated in the Strategy, it should be possible in the context of an overall investment in excess of €10 billion in 2004 to make further progress towards the goals and objectives outlined in the Strategy. Further mention is made in paragraph 10.2 regarding reporting of Health Strategy actions by way of regular returns.

6. Control of Expenditure and Management of Service Plan

The Minister, as in 2003, wishes to emphasise the critical need for and importance of an effective expenditure control framework and active management of Service Plan delivery. Both requirements put a particular onus on the role of local managers delivering services efficiently and within agreed budgets. Therefore, the structures operating in 2003 should be reviewed and, where appropriate, strengthened in order that the system is fully responsive and effective across all programmes and care groups. Similar systems should be in operation within agencies funded by your Board.

7. Reporting on Expenditure and Service Plan

The arrangements introduced by the Minister for Finance in 2003 for reporting progress on expenditure will continue in 2004. The Minister for Finance will again publish cash and expenditure profiles as submitted by Departments, and monitor these against actualresults.

To enable the Minister for Health and Children to comply with the Government reporting arrangements, the following information sets and timeframes will again be required from your Board:

·Cash Profile: you are requested to prepare a monthly cash profile, aligned to your service plan expenditure, taking fully into account the trends in expenditure and the impact of delivery month by month, including the contingency element, consistent with the overall total cash advised. You should note that this profile will form the basis on which cash will be made available to you on a monthly basis throughout 2004. The profile must provide for the full release of funding included in your Board determination for the GMS, including funding due in relation to 2003, if any. In addition, funding of voluntary and other agencies providing services to your Board must be fully included within the monthly profile.

The cash profile must be submitted by 5th January 2004 for review by the Department before submission to the Minister forFinance.

· IMR: having regard to the circumstance facing the system in 2004 and the absolute necessity to support budget holders, the CEO and his management team, with information to allow the system to respond speedily and effectively to emerging events. The provision of timely and accurate information, both financial and non-financial will be crucial to the successful management of resources throughout the year.

In the first instance the IMR will allow the CEO and his management team and local management to take advantage of opportunities arising and where necessary provide the capability to address emerging difficulties at the earliest possible time.

The IMR, together with the CEO's commentary and the quarterly PI reports, are equally important within the Department in that they inform service and support units on trends in service delivery and specific pressures within the system experienced by individual Boards/Authority. In turn, they allow the Minister to be fully briefed and to appraise his colleagues in Government on performance overall. This is vitally important in the context of demonstrating accountability for resources secured and in supporting the case for continued investment.

To accelerate the use of the IMR at all levels as a management tool you are requested to make the necessary arrangements to provide the IMR, with commentary, to the Department by the 20th of the following month. I appreciate that this places additional pressure on senior management but believe it is justified by the need for timely and accurate information if managers are to be successful in managing their budgets. Your Board and agencies under your direction are therefore asked to put arrangements in place immediately in order to comply with the revised timescales.

8. Accountability of Chief Executive Officer

You will be aware that section 9 of the Act places specific responsibilities on a chief executive officer in regard to service plans and financial accountability. In that context it is important that the chief executive officer takes personal responsibility in regard to the reporting arrangements set out in this Letter of Determination on activity, personnel and financial information. It is critical that the process of reporting to the Department includes a clear statement by the chief executive officer of the immediate steps he is taking to manage emerging difficulties in these areas.

Where a CEO delegates to an identified officer of the Board the authority, accountability and responsibility for specific services, the officer must be made explicitly aware by the CEO of what is being delegated. The CEO must take personal responsibility for ensuring that this is the case. However, this does not dilute, in any way, the CEO's functions under the Act, including Section 9, and those functions therefore remain fully in place. The parameters of control and reporting described in this Letter of Determination apply equally to the CEO and those other officers of the Board to whom authority, accountability and responsibility have been delegated. That delegation must ensure that the officers have the authority to act immediately to address problems which could adversely affect the budgetary position, including any unfunded activity increases or unapproved increases in staffing numbers.

9. Indebtedness Level

Section 8 of the Act requires the notification of the approved level of indebtedness, arising from this determination. This figure is €39.654m for your Board in 2004. A more detailed letter on indebtedness and working capital requirements will issue shortly. The provisions of the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act, 1997 should be strictly adhered to.

10. Service Plans

10.1 Submission of Service Plan

Under the provisions of Section 6 of the Act, each Board must adopt and submit a Service Plan to the Minister. The Service Plan is the benchmark against which your Board's expenditure, output and progress will be assessed during the year. In accordance with sub-section (6) of this section of the Act, the Board is required to take account of the policies and objectives of the Minister, and of the Government.

It will be necessary to complete all matters relating to your Board's Service Plan as a matter of urgency and, in any event, not later than 42 days after receipt of this letter.

The Department will be working with the HeBe project team to further develop the service planning process during 2004. In this context a standardised quarterly progress report format will be agreed to be used in 2004 in conjunction with PIs and IMRs to monitor Service Plan delivery in 2004.

The Board's Service Plan should be submitted in hard copy to the Minister. In addition, the plan should be e-mailed as one document (in PDF format) to the e-mail address:serviceplan@health.irlgov.ie.

10.2 Format and Content of Service Plan

The Department welcomes the CEOs' decision to adopt the standardised National Service Plan Template for the 2004 Service Plan. The template, which is based on best practice, will assist in the monitoring and evaluating of Service Plan delivery and is in keeping with the Government's Programme of Reform.

It is essential that your Service Plan is realistic and achievable. It should reflect and be grounded in the Strategy, referencing all relevant Strategy actions. You will be aware that the Minister is required to report to the Cabinet Committee on the Health Strategy on a quarterly basis regarding ongoing progress in the implementation of the Strategy and the Health Service Reform Programme. The Service Plan and its associated periodic review reports and meetings are the primary reporting mechanism which facilitate the monitoring of progress in the implementation of the Strategy.

In accordance with section 10 of the Act, if your Board anticipates, on the basis of the information now available, incurring any excess or credit on expenditure in 2003, your service plan must clearly include provision for charging the full amount of such excess or credit to the Service Plan for 2004. An excess expenditure in 2003 must be a first charge on the resources available for 2004. In the case of an excess, your Board should detail, as part of its service plan, how it proposes to recover the excess expenditure in full and bring current expenditure back into line. Any significant excess being brought to account at this stage will,inter alia, raise questions regarding the reliability of your Board's regulatory and reporting systems.

10.3 Documents to accompany your Service Plan

When your Board is submitting its Service Plan to the Minister, please also submit whatever operational details you feel would be helpful in assessing your Service Plan, together with an estimated position at the end of 2003 for your Board in relation to IMR information, the completed Health Strategy PI reporting template referred to in paragraph 11, and also (where possible) PIs. Budgetary statements by care group should accompany or be part of the Service Plan as far as is practicable at thisstage.

10.4 Review of Service Plan

Whilst it is intended that the Service Plan be used throughout the year along with IMR and PI reports as a basis to guide the monitoring and evaluation of Service Plan delivery (and help to identify emerging trends so that action can be taken at the earliest possible time), there will also be periodic formal Service Plan reviews during 2004. For each review of 2004, a specific report will be required (to complement the IMR and PI returns) elaborating on the position regarding the implementation of new developments as well as on core service delivery targeted in the Service Plan.

11. Performance Indicators

The Health Strategy emphasises the necessity for service planning and delivery to be based on high quality, reliable and timely information. In this context it is critical that PI reports are submitted by the 20th of the month following on from each quarter. The PI Reports should be sent in hard copy to the Secretary General of the Department and electronically toserviceplan@health.irlgov.ie using the agreed template. The PI data together with the IMRs will better enable monitoring and evaluation of the on-going position in relation to your Board's Service Plan. Commentary should cover areas where hard quantitative PI information is not available in full or where the quality of the information may not be optimal. With regard to PIs for Materials Management, you should note that as for 2003, the five most important PIs from the IBM report should be reported on during 2004.

The Minister wishes to acknowledge the good work that has been achieved to date in developing and reporting on the national set of PIs and welcomes the CEOs' decision to share PI data. You will be aware that the PI reports will assist in monitoring progress of the Health Strategy and in reporting on progress to the Cabinet Committee. It is critical that the quarterly reports are as complete as possible and that the quality of the data is maintained.

A number of Strategy actions fall outside the National PI set as they do not readily adapt to this form of measurement. A separate reporting template, which was forwarded to your Board on 17th November 2003, has been devised to facilitate the monitoring of progress in the implementation of these actions. Your Board is required to submit the completed template for 2004 with your Service Plan.

12. VFM strategies

12.1 New Technology Assessment

New Technology Assessment has an increasingly central role to play in the use of VFM strategies and you are asked that every effort continues to be made to seek out assessments of new technologies to guide their introduction so that tighter targeting of the use of technologies, combined with appropriate protocols, will ensure that new technology is employed only for those cases where clear demonstrable benefits exist and resultant costs are justified. In this regard, it is proposed that the health boards and agencies, pending the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority, should continue the development of a common approach to the assessment of new technology under the auspices of HeBE.

12.2 VFM Targets

The attainment of better value-for-money through effective and efficient use of resources continues to be a critical objective for all health agencies. The Government have decided that health boards and agencies must continue to pursue VFM during 2004 andyour determination reflects an appropriate amount of a VFM target which is to apply across the boards to both pay and non-pay areas. In developing your approach to achieving that target, you should also take into account possibilities that will emerge from the Procurement Strategy for health services, which is being completed under the aegis of HeBE.

It is critical that all health agencies use the skills and structures now in place to maximise co-operation and actively pursue value-for-money in materials management, particularly in the development of national protocols and contracts. The level of co-operation between boards to achieve greater VFM will be closely monitored by the Department throughout 2004.

13. Health Service Modernisation Programme under Sustaining Progress

The Department is concerned to ensure that the many positive results now being achieved at pilot stage in addressing the specific modernisation objectives set for the health services under Sustaining Progress will be translated into a more positive general impact on the health system overall. At a recent meeting of the Health Service National Joint Council, the trade union side gave a commitment to maintaining the momentum for change and modernisation and to moving the changes being piloted towards more widespread adoption. Both sides accepted the need for a more readily transparent assessment and verification process.

It is essential that clearly defined targets, against which further progress can be incrementally measured, be set over the remaining phases of the agreement. Accordingly, your Board should include in its service plan, specific targets in relation to Sustaining Progress under the following fiveheadings:

— Customer Service;

— Industrial Relations Stability;

— Performance Management;

— Reform; and

— Value for Money.

These are the five priority areas in which the Health Service Performance Verification Group (PVG) requires health agencies to achieve real and verifiable progress between now and 1 June 2005.

The Health Service National Partnership Forum will provide guidance to health boards in relation to this matter.

14. Pay Recommendations of the Public Service Benchmarking Body

Funding is being allocated to your Board in respect of the second (50%) phase of the of the pay awards recommended by the Public Service Benchmarking Body (PSBB) and due for payment under Sustaining Progress for payment from 1 January 2004. Consistent with standard practice, this funding is inclusive of the general pay round increases agreed in Sustaining Progress.

The allocation for benchmarking is based strictly on the funding allocated to your Board for payment of the first phase of the PSBB's recommendations earlier this year. In line with the recommendations of the Commission on Financial Management and Control Systems in the Health Service, the Department will in 2004 be updating the costing model for the Health Service developed collaboratively with the health boards for benchmarking. The information requirements arising in this context will be communicated to your Board in due course.

As you are aware, payment of the benchmarking awards is strictly conditional on the successful completion of the performance verification process detailed in Sustaining Progress. In accordance with section 26.5 (x) of the agreement, the Health Service Performance Verification Group has recently informed me of its conclusions in relation to whether the level of progress achieved since 1 July 2003 in relation to the commitments set out in Sustaining Progress warrants the payment of the relevant pay increase(s). Sanction arrangements arising in respect of payments due from 1 January next will be communicated to your Board very shortly.

15. Parallel Benchmarking

Funding is being allocated to your Board on an ongoing basis in respect of the pay awards from the first two phases of the parallel benchmarking process for craft and non-nursing grades (including pensioners) employed in the health service (and alsoeligible personnel employed in Section 65 agencies. The funding is also inclusive of general round increases agreed under Sustaining Progress for 2004.

The allocation is based on: the costings recently submitted to the Department by your Board; the increases in basic pay set out in the revised pay scales for the grades; information on gross pay (i.e. overtime/premiums) supplied for the benchmarking costing model; and employment levels in wholetime equivalent (WTE) terms recorded in the Health Service Personnel Census. Arising from this process, a number of issues remain to be clarified with some agencies.

A letter of sanction will issue to you very shortly in respect of the first (25%) phase of the awards due for payment with effect from 1 December 2001.

I understand that the implementation protocol setting out the conduct of the performance verification process for these grades in respect of the second (50%) phase of the awards was recently furnished to your Board by the Health Service Employers Agency.

16. Employment Control 2004

Continued strict adherence is required to the current framework for employment control in your Board as detailed in the Department of Health and Children Circular No. 6/2003 issued in January 2003.

You will be aware that the Minister for Finance indicated in his Budget Statement in December 2002 that a reduction of 5,000 is planned in the numbers employed in the public service over the period to end-2005. In this regard, you have already been notified of the contribution of your Board to the overall reduction in numbers to be achieved in the health service by end-2003. A further reduction of 200 posts in the national employment ceiling is to be achieved by end 2004, in respect of which the contribution of your Board will be on the same basis as the 2003 adjustment. Your service plan should take into account this further reduction in the authorised ceiling.

The reduction in the regional employment level in 2004 is to be achieved by maximising the benefit of natural wastage, through detailed scrutiny of replacement recruitment in the health service and non-filling of any non-essential posts with specific emphasis on posts that are not directly involved in the delivery of front-line services. It is intended that this approach will, as much as possible, minimise any adverse impact on existing levels of service to the public in key areas.

It is essential that the implementation of the arrangements outlined above are undertaken in a manner consistent with agreed protocols for consultation with staff representatives at local level, and in conformity with the provisions set out in Sustaining Progress for the maintenance of a stable industrial relations environment.

The implementation of the reduction in public service employment levels in the health service will be monitored on a quarterly basis. Accordingly, the quarterly employment report submitted to the Department should also identify the specific posts and the location of those posts that have not been filled in order to accommodate the required adjustment in the regional employment ceiling.

In the context of the Determination for 2004, your Service Plan should therefore confirm that employment levels associated with the activity levels set out in the Service Plan for your Board will conform to ceiling requirements.

In 2004, no posts above the authorised ceiling may be filled. In these circumstances, the employment requirements of specific services, consistent with planned activity levels, should be met through the management of your approved employment complement, including the appropriate staffing mix and the precise grades of staff employed in the approved workforce.

To expedite financial clearance, your service plan should clearly indicate and list medical consultant posts (new, replacement and/or restructured) for which you intend to seek financial clearance during 2004, before making application to Comhairle na nOspidéal.

Your Board's adherence throughout the year to its approved employment ceiling will require to be confirmed on a monthly basis through information furnished in the IMR. The Department through the IMR and also by means of the quarterly employment reports will monitor compliance by your Board with the employment control measures. Hence, it is essential that the quarterly employment report is comprehensive and accurate and submitted to the Department on a timely basis.

Arrangements for formally validating at CEO level the employment information supplied by your Board continue to be those as set out in [section 8] above.

17. Pay Costs

Your Board should also, having regard to the totality of pay resources available, make adequate provision for pay costs in 2004, to be met within the existing allocation, having regard to:

— the present numbers employed;

— the appropriate balance between pay and non-pay costs;

— the projected cost of minor claims expected to arise during the year.

18. National Projects PPARS/FISP

Significant resources, both capital and revenue, have been made available to allow for the development and full implementation of the National PPARS projects and for the commencement of the FISP project. The Minister recognises the importance of these projects in the effective management of resources across the healthcare system. You are asked to ensure that the projects are given the full commitment required in terms of funding and appropriate staffing to ensure that the implementation timescales are met and that the full benefit of this significant investment is achieved. A significant increase in the Capital IT funding is available for rollout of both of these major projects.

19. Development of Human Resource Management and Implementation of the Action Plan for People Management

The Service Plan for your Board should include details of the full range of measures which it is intended will be undertaken by your Board in 2004 to implement the specific actions detailed in the Action Plan for People Management (APPM) and to strengthen the capacity for more effective human resource management in the health service, in line with the objectives set out in the Health Strategy.

20. Social Inclusion

You will be aware of the importance accorded in the National Health Strategy to social inclusion, in particular to Action 18 which has deliverables relating to reducing health inequalities in line with the key targets set out by Government in its review of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy(Building an Inclusive Society: Review of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness).

Social inclusion should be a major consideration in framing the Service Plan and the Plan should set out the way in which the various actions in it address this. Actions to develop services in line with RAPID and CLÁR proposals must continue to be prioritised in 2004. The Service Plan should therefore clearly indicate the actions which further the implementation of these programmes as well as the wider social inclusion agenda wherever possible. RAPID and CLÁR projects should be clearly described as such. The boards should include clear statements as to the arrangements being put in place to ensure maximum coordination with other public service agencies involved and details of health agency participation in relevant management structures (for example in relation to City/County Development Boards and related bodies).

21. Conclusion

To assist your Board to complete the matters addressed in this letter quickly, senior officers of the Department will be available if there are any matters requiring clarification. These queries should, in the first instance, be referred to Dermot Magan, Helen Minogue and Paula Monks, Finance Unit, (01-6354254, 6354293, 6354513) who will co-ordinate the Department's response to all health boards/ERHA. You are reminded to submit the cash profile by the date advised.

I wish to acknowledge the significant effort and commitment given by Chief Executive Officers and all other levels of management to the successful delivery of services and budget plans in 2003. I recognise that the management of Service Plans within approved parameters has proved challenging and has demanded consistent effort and commitment over the course of the year. Given the transitional nature of the period we are going through and the equally challenging budgetary position in 2004, I look forward to your continuing support and co-operation in providing leadership and managing the system to an equally successful outcome in the coming year.

Yours sincerely

Michael Kelly

Secretary-General

Appendix to letter

North Western Health Board

Revised 2003 Determination

The revised non-capital Determination for your Board for 2003 is €470.840 million.

2004 Non-Capital Determination

The non-capital Determination for your Board for 2004 is €495.674 million.

Acute Hospitals

Waiting Lists:

The Minister has decided to give a significant lead role to the National Treatment Purchase Fund in targeting reductions in waiting times for patients. In this regard Waiting List Initiative funding will no longer be allocated to health agencies on a once-off basis each year as previously had been the custom.

Over the period of the WLI the Department has given financial clearance to individual health boards to convert some long-term temporary consultant posts to permanent status which have been funded on a continuing basis through the WLI. The Minister has decided to put this element of WLI funding into base funding for the health agencies concerned beginning in 2004.

In this regard, the sum of €1.750m has been allocated to your board in 2004 in respect of those permanent consultant posts and associated support costs which are in place and will now become part of your base funding for 2004 and subsequent years.

Health agencies have identified staff and services which have been in place to support WLI activity and which have been funded by the WLI. The Department will be critically examining the information supplied by health agencies and a further communication will issue early in 2004 in this regard.

Health agencies should work closely with the National Treatment Purchase Fund in 2004 to ensure that waiting times for elective treatment are reduced.

Cost of Blood and Blood Products

There has been a significant reduction in the cost of clotting factor concentrate products used in the treatment of haemophilia. This, together with a projected decrease in the use of blood and blood products and the application in 2004 of the non-pay inflator to base allocations, should offset the proposed increase by the IBTS in the cost of platelets and red blood cells. Any board with net savings from these price adjustments should prioritise these savings to meet costs that may arise in implementing the EU Directive on setting standards of quality and safety for blood and blood products (2002/98/EC).

Civil Registration Modernisation

Additional funding of€0.069m is being made available on an ongoing basis to meet additional costs associated with your Board's revised Civil Registration staffing structure, as provisionally agreed and subject to the submission of a satisfactory service development plan, acceptable to An tArd-Chláraitheoir.

Winter Initiative

Additional funding of€0.660m is being set aside to meet the cost of recruiting the remaining 2 A and E consultants approved in your area under the Winter Initiative. This funding is based on your Board's estimate of the likely costs to be incurred in 2004 under this initiative. Drawdown of funding will be approved by the Department on receipt of confirmation from your Board that the additional consultants have been appointed.

Renal Dialysis Services

As part of a structured programme of investment in the development of renal services, additional funding of€0.250m is being made available to your Board in 2004.

Cancer Services

Additional revenue funding of€0.600m is being allocated to your Board from National Cancer Strategy funding to address service pressures in oncology/haematology, including oncology drug treatments.

HIPE & Casemix

Casemix:

Casemix analsis of costs and activity relating to the hospitals in your Board's area, which are participating in the National Casemix Programme, has resulted in an overall once-off positive adjustment of €1.065m as follows:

Hospitals

€m

Letterkenny

0.999

Sligo

0.066

TOTAL Once-off

1.065

The Casemix Unit of the department will be writing directly to you shortly with full details of the adjustment.

Adjustments should be applied to the hospitals from which the adjustment arises and these details should be clearly identified in your Service Plan.

HIPE/Casemix Staffing:

No resources for HIPE/Casemix staffing are being allocated to hospitals within your Board this year, as Boards who gain funding within Casemix may reallocate a portion of that funding, as appropriate, for Casemix Staffing. Casemix Unit will be writing to you directly in this matter.

Health (Amendment) Act, 1996 (Services for Persons with Hepatitis C)

A sum of €0.105m is being made available to your Board in 2004, on a once-off basis, in respect of the cost of providing primary healthcare services to those persons who hold a health service card under the Health (Amendment) Act, 1996, including provision for increased activity, services and costs.

Services for Older People

A sum of €0.833m will be available to your Board as follows:

Nursing Home Subvention Scheme

0.238

Personal Care Packages

0.125

Home Help Service

0.250

Elder Abuse Programme

0.075

Palliative Care Services

0.145

Mental Health Services

Funding in the amount of €0.050m is being allocated on a once-of basis to your Board in 2004, to:

S.T.E.E.R Ireland,

Community House,

2 Errigal Road,

Woodlawn,

Leterkenny,

Co Donegal.

Services to Persons with an Intellectual Disability and Those with Autism

The work of your Board to date in the detailed examination of the financial and governance arrangements of the major voluntary service providers in the physical/sensory disability sector is greatly appreciated. The review of outstanding issues relating to deficit funding claims by these organisations will be concluded in 2004. In the interest of greater equity and accountability, it is expected that your Board will exercise similar diligence in relation to the funding of voluntary organisations in the intellectual disability sector. Where significant funding is being made available to a voluntary organisation providing intellectual, physical or sensory disability services, this should be subject to the signing of an appropriate service agreement.

National Intellectual Disability Database

The National Intellectual Disability Database has a vital role in the planning and monitoring of service provision. The timetable for the provision of updated information in 2004 has been notified to each Health Board/Authority and it is vital, as stated in 2003, that this timetable is complied with in order to enable the Health Research Board to complete the necessary validation work and have data available for the Department in the autumn of 2004.

In addition to the need to adhere to the timetable as outlined above, health boards are requested to emphasise to the services responsible for the provision of information forthe database at local level the necessity to ensure that the information provided is accurate and reflects current service provision and where appropriate, future needs for each individual.

Total additional funding of €0.787m is being made available in 2004 for services to persons with intellectual disability and those with autism as follows:

€0.677m to meet the full year cost of the provision of residential services for emergency cases which arose during 2003 and day places;

€0.110m to meet the full year cost of residential and day services as per this Department's letter of 9th September 2003.

Budget Day Package

Additional funding as set out below is being provided to your Board in 2004 in respect of the provision of services to people with intellectual disability and those with autism.

Additional revenue funding amounting to €0.883m is being provided as follows;

€0.550m to meet costs associated with the provision of emergency placements in 2004;

€0.333m to provide additional day services, with particular reference to the provision of day places, including rehabilitative training places, for those young adults who will be leaving school in June 2004.

A detailed account of the expenditure of this funding, including the National Intellectual Disability Database Personal Identification Number of each person placed in these services and the costs associated with each placement, must be submitted to this Department.

The Department will be in contact with your Board in relation to the full year cost implications of these services.

Services for People with Physical / Sensory Disabilities

A sum of €0.603m is being made available to your Board in 2004 towards core funding of these services as follows:

Agency/Service

€m

Priority service pressures as identified at local level (to include respite, home supports, services for people with significant disabilities, support services for children with disabilities, aids & appliances etc)

0.170

Alleviation of the under resourcing of the voluntary organisations

0.156

Continued roll-out of the NPSDD (including the introduction of a management structure for the NPSDD and the NIDD) — once-off funding

0.257

Cheshire Ireland Sick Pay Scheme

0.020

Total

0.603

Child Care Services

Additional funding of €0.478m is being provided for the Child Care Services. The details are outlined in the table below.

€m

Foster Care Allowance

0.250

Child Care Services — Legal Costs

0.228

Total

0.478

Dental Treatment Services Scheme

An additional €0.348m revenue funding is provided as a consequence of fee increases of 5.2% and 4.8% from the 1st of January 2003 and the 1st of January 2004 respectively. Your Board's core DTSS budget has also been increased by a non-pay inflator of 2.8%.

Community Health Services

Community Optometric Services (Adult)

€0.081m is being provided on a once-off basis in 2004 in respect of the Adult Community Optometric Schemes. This sum is provided to assist your Board in providing services under the Schemes.

A further €0.195m is being provided on a once-off basis in respect of the increased costs/demands on the Adult Community Optometric Schemes arising from the dual eligibility agreement with the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

€0.110m is being provided on an ongoing basis in 2004 to meet the full year costs of the Pilot Mobile Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Service. Progress reports should continue to be submitted to Community Health Division at three — monthly intervals. Community Health Division will write to the Board separately regarding arrangements for evaluating this pilot scheme.

Food Control

A sum of €0.020m has been included in your Board's Determination in respect of the Food Control Service on a once-off basis.

Primary Care Strategy

An additional sum of €0.110m is being provided on an ongoing basis in respect of implementation of the Primary Care Strategy.

This may, if necessary, be used in the first instance to meet revenue costs associated with the primary care team which is being established in Lifford, Co. Donegal.

In line with previous correspondence on this issue, the additional funding may also be used to support initiatives to give effect to multidisciplinary teamworking on a more widespread basis. This may include: reorganisation of resources within primary care and community services, mapping locations for primary care teams and networks, and facilitating the development of collaboration/co-ordination initiatives between providers of primary care services and also with providers and users within the wider health system.

A sum of €0.015m is being provided on a once-off basis in respect of administrative support for the sub-group of the Primary Care Steering Group chaired by Mr Tom Kelly, Assistant CEO. The continuation of this allocation in future years will be reviewed in the light of the support requirements of the group involved.

Public Health Doctors

A sum of €0.244m is included in your Board's 2004 determination to cover the full year cost of the pay increases awarded as part of the Public Health Doctors' 2003 Agreement. A further letter will issue in 2004 regarding implementation of the remaining aspects of the Agreement including upgrading posts and filling the new Principal Medical Officer posts.

Nursing Issues

A sum of €1.126m (of which €0.626m is once-off) is included in your Board's 2004 allocation as follows:

Service

Amount €m

Nurses Pay — Accident and Emergency Circ 25/02 and 34/02 (ongoing)

0.500

Transition of Pre-Registration Nursing Education to a Degree Programme Project Manager Posts (once-off)

0.060

Sponsorship Scheme for Public Health Service Employees wishing to train as Nurses (once-off)

0.135

Maintenance Grants for Pre-registration Nursing Diploma Students (once-off)

0.031

Fees Initiative for Part-Time Nursing Degrees (once-off)

0.200

Fee Support for Specialist Nursing Courses (Circs 150/2000 and 47/2001) (once-off)

0.200

Total

1.126

Revenue Cost of IT

The Department has adopted a policy of enterprise wide ICT systems with a view to achieving best value for money from all ICT related expenditure. All health agencies are expected to comply with this policy. A further communication will issue in relation to this policy and its implementation early in 2004.

Health Promotion

A sum of €0.040m is included in your 2004 determination on a once-off basis towards the Community Development Project to be undertaken by the Health Promotion Department of your Health Board.

Cardiovascular Health Strategy

An allocation of funding under the Cardiovascular Health Strategy will be made during 2004 in relation to the National Heartwatch Programme in General Practice having regard to board's requirements and the evaluation of this programme during 2004.

Health Board Staff.

Ceisteanna (178)

John Cregan

Ceist:

268 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a third geriatrician will be appointed to the Mid-Western Health Board region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3322/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of health services in the Limerick area rests with the board. It is a matter for the board, in consultation with my Department, to determine the priority that should be accorded to service developments, taking into account available funding.

The need for an additional consultant geriatrician post for the Limerick area was identified by the board in 2002. Originally my Department allocated €89,000 for the development of a consultant-led team for Limerick. Unfortunately, the board has been unable to further advance the filling of the post from within its allocation. The appointment must also have regard to the board's employment control ceiling. My Department will continue to liaise with it to fill the post.

Cancer Treatment Services.

Ceisteanna (179, 180)

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

269 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the new dedicated measures for the provision of transport and accommodation for cancer patients from the south east region; the resources that will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3323/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

271 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals he has to meet the needs of terminally ill patients from the south east region who require radiotherapy for pain relief, bearing in mind that patients with advanced cancers cannot travel long distances for radiotherapy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3325/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 269 and 271 together.

Last October I launched a report entitled The Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland. It provides a detailed plan for the further development of radiation oncology services here. The Government accepted its recommendations.

The report recommends that patients be treated at Cork University Hospital and in the "Eastern Region (South)." To date I have approved the purchase of two additional linear accelerators for the Cork centre and the necessary capital investment amounting to €4 million to commission the service as rapidly as possible. In 2004 a sum of €1 million in ongoing revenue will be made available for the development of these services at Cork University Hospital. I will also provide for the appointment of two additional consultant radiation oncologists in the Cork unit. This means a doubling of the consultant manpower at that unit. At present discussions are taking place between Cork University Hospital and representatives of the SEHB to finalise sessional commitments to the board of the additional consultant radiation oncologists.

I have also approved the appointment of a project team to prepare a brief for the rapid expansion of the current capacity at Cork University Hospital from four to eight linear accelerators. Next week the project team will meet for the first time. These developments will have significant benefits for patients from the region.

With regard to the eastern region, the report recommended that there should be two treatment centres, one serving the southern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas and one serving the northern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas. I have asked my Department's chief medical officer to advise on the optimum location of radiation treatment facilities in Dublin. A request for proposals will issue shortly in this regard.

I intend to develop a national integrated network of radiation oncology. The twin objectives of equitable access regardless of location and an effective national quality assurance programme need to be supported by a co-ordinating mechanism, as recommended in the report. I have established a national radiation oncology co-ordinating group. Recently it held its first meeting. It is comprised of clinical, technical, managerial, academic and nursing expertise from different geographic regions. The group's remit encompasses measures to facilitate improved access to existing and planned services, including transport and accommodation. I expect it will develop proposals in these important areas.

The Government has also decided that in the future development of services consideration should be given to developing satellite centres at Waterford, Limerick and the north-west. Such consideration will take into account the international evaluation of satellite centres, the efficacy of providing this model and the need to ensure quality standards of care.

Health Board Services.

Ceisteanna (181)

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

270 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are no designated palliative care beds in the south east regional cancer centre at Waterford Regional Hospital; the priority proposals he has in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3324/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of palliative care services in the Waterford area is the responsibility of the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and to reply directly to him, as a matter of urgency.

Question No. 271 answered with QuestionNo. 269.

Inquiry into Death.

Ceisteanna (182)

Dan Neville

Ceist:

272 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when an independent report on the death of a person (details supplied) will be available. [3327/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The independent clinical review and audit regarding the care and treatment of the person concerned is a matter for the Mid-Western Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to reply to the Deputy directly.

Health Board Allowances.

Ceisteanna (183)

Dan Neville

Ceist:

273 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason domicilary care allowance has not been paid to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [3328/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the allowance is a matter for the relevant health board. A copy of this question has been forwarded to the CEO of the Mid-Western Health Board with a request that he examine the issues raised and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Health Board Services.

Ceisteanna (184)

Dan Neville

Ceist:

274 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when patients with severity rating C will be prioritised for treatment by the orthodontic service of the Mid-Western Health Board. [3329/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of orthodontic services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards-authority.

My Department aims to develop the treatment capacity of orthodontics — both nationally and in the MWHB — in a sustainable way in the long term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, their provision will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need — as happens under the existing guidelines.

The guidelines are intended to enable health boards to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them. Patients in category A require immediate treatment. They include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws. Patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients and are placed on the orthodontic treatment waiting list. The number of cases treated by the board is dependent on the level of resources available, in terms of qualified staff, in the area and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list. At present the provision of orthodontic services is severely restricted due to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients and accordingly boards do not normally maintain category C waiting lists. I have taken a number of measures to address the shortage of specialists and so increase the treatment capacity of the orthodontic service.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003 my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for the qualification in Ireland. They were trained here and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. They are trainees for the public orthodontic service and are additional to the six dentists that commenced training in 2001. There is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will compliment the other structural changes being introduced into the service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. The appointment will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to a specialist qualification in orthodontics. The SHB's chief executive officer has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December. In recognition of the importance of the post my Department has approved, in principle, a proposal from the school to further improve its training facilities for orthodontics. The project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities. It will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region, including the MWHB, under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

In June 2002 my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. It enabled boards to provide additional sessions for existing staff and to purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The MWHB was allocated an additional €0.451 million from the fund for the treatment of cases in this way.

The chief executive officer of the MWHB has informed my Department that at the end of the September quarter 2003 there were 1,863 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the board's region. The CEOs of the health boards-authority have also informed my Department that at the end of the September quarter 2003 there were 20,784 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. Therefore, over twice as many children receive orthodontic treatment as are waiting for treatment and nearly 3,500 extra children have received treatment from the health boards since the end of 2001.

Question No. 275 answered with QuestionNo. 266.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ceisteanna (185)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

276 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Carlow for funding towards their placement at a special school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3331/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of funding for services to people with an intellectual disability and those with autism in the Carlow area lies, in the first instance, with the South Eastern Area Health Board. My Department, therefore, has asked the chief executive officer of the health board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Child Care Services.

Ceisteanna (46, 47, 48, 49)

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

136 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date on the RAPID programme; the amount of funding which will be spent in 2004 and the groups that will benefit; and if he intends to extend the RAPID programme to new areas in 2004. [3246/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

186 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the RAPID programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3100/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Bruton

Ceist:

204 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which he intends to distribute the fourth measure of the LDSIP in RAPID areas; when the guidelines for this distribution will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3225/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

220 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the specific steps his Department intends to take to ensure that actions targeted at disadvantaged areas, such as the RAPID and CLÁR programmes, operate effectively, in regard to the commitment given to Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3096/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136, 186, 204 and 220 together. My Department, supported by ADM Limited, co-ordinates the implementation of the RAPID programme. It is, therefore, a matter for each of the other Departments to report on progress on the implementation of RAPID and details of funding for the proposals that fall within the remit of their own Department.

In the case of my Department, proposals from RAPID plans fall to be considered under the community development programme, CDP, funding for local drugs task forces, LDTF and the young peoples' facilities and services fund, YPFSF. Allocations of funding have been made to a LDTF project and a number of CDPs. I refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions Nos. 102, 103, 106, 108, 127 and 131 on 21 October 2003, for details of these allocations and general progress on the RAPID programme. There are no plans at present to extend the RAPIDareas.

As I have stated previously, many of the proposals from RAPID plans have been sent unnecessarily to Departments for consideration, when it would be more efficient for them to be dealt with at local level. To this end, a dedicated fund of €4.5 million has been set aside for capital expenditure for the RAPID programme to support such small-scale projects. These projects will be co-funded by the relevant Department or local agency with levels of co-funding agreed at national level. Projects will be co-funded under a number of categories and I am in the process of conducting a series of meetings with my ministerial colleagues to agree such arrangements. Once these measures have been agreed, it is envisaged that an allocation will be made to each RAPID area based on size and population, for example. Area implementation teams will then select projects to be supported in this manner. I intend to make a formal announcement shortly regarding the precise details of the operation of this fund.

My Department also provides the sum of €1.3 million to ADM Limited to meet administration expenses and to provide support to area implementation teams. The dormant accounts disbursement plan also gives priority to RAPID and CLÁR areas.

As regards CLÁR, the measures introduced under the programme were decided after consultation with the communities in the areas concerned. They are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments or agencies, as appropriate, thus ensuring coherence and effectiveness by public bodies in delivery of such measures in CLÁR areas.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I welcome the fact that money is finally being allocated to RAPID. In today's edition ofThe Irish Times it states that €1 billion was promised when it was launched, not €4.5 million. I ask the Minister to produce the goods and to say where the money is.

There are many bodies involved, such as local authority employees who work for the RAPID programme, partnerships and ADM Limited. What are the Minister's plans for these funding bodies? Is there a case for having one organisation in charge of these schemes on a county basis?

I question the non-involvement of elected public representatives in RAPID at the district level when projects are being developed. They are involved at county level but not in the decision making or the nomination of projects at local level. Will the Minister give the House his views and will he ensure that local representatives would be part of that partnership because they are excluded from it at present?

The irony of RAPID is that the big money was spent. The figure being spent on housing renewal runs to approximately €900 million or €1 billion. Much of that money is concentrated in a small number of RAPID areas. Many things happen and I accept it has been difficult to define whether they would have happened anyway or whether RAPID has made a difference. It was one of the weaknesses in the scheme. There are new schools and new health centres in these areas but many people say that would have happened anyway and it is also happening outside the RAPID areas.

This time last year I said there were weaknesses, even though the concept is very sensible and good. I have set about redressing those weaknesses. I see the operation on four levels. The fund is in place to deal with small issues — it is not intended to deal with the big issues.

It seems ridiculous that one has to call the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to deal with a small area of a housing estate, for example, that needs some landscape management but is not receiving it. Similarly, if minor changes are needed to a health centre or a school — for example, if a few ramps or CCTV cameras are needed, one should not need to process the matter through the whole system. My idea was to put in place a fund to match it with other things so that, as is the case with the CLÁR programme, the small issues can be dealt with on the ground. The advantage of this approach is that by separating the small issues from the thousand other issues that exist, we are left with a much smaller number of big issues that need to be dealt with in RAPID areas. We will focus on such issues on a Department-to-Department basis. The reprioritisation element of the big things has not been removed from the scheme. It clears the way to focus on them to a much better extent.

One of the weaknesses of the RAPID scheme since its beginning is that there has not been a report at a worthwhile level into what happened under the scheme. It was suggested that projects in the RAPID areas would be front-loaded, but there is no measure of that. There has been no effective monitoring of it. I agree with the Minister's idea of taking micro-decisions at local level and macro-decisions in Dublin. Nobody at central level is responsible for the implementation of the RAPID programme, however. I went through this in more detail on the last occasion the Minister took questions in the House. Nothing the Minister has said today leads me to believe that there will be a real coherence to improve on what is an awful situation.

The Deputy asked about a report. I have a fairly simple view of life. The country is full of reports, each of which is glossier than the next. People in the CLÁR areas, for example, are aware of things happening there. I receive feedback from those on the ground. The compilation of a big, glossy report will not necessarily change very much, but it will take up a great deal of time and staff resources. Although it might give some glory to the Minister, that is not what it should be about. Our approach should be about making people's lives better.

Many things have happened. If I trawl through the Departments and ask them to list everything they have done in RAPID areas in the past four years, I will find that many things have been done. In such circumstances, we would have a big debate in the House about whether such things would have happened in any event. My concern is to make more things happen. As I have said, I am trying to deal with the micro-matters at local level and, based on the IT plans, then deal with the big issues that remain. Individual Ministers will be responsible for trying to make progress in that regard. Those of us who understand the nature of the system accept that it is much easier to progress three, four, five or ten issues at interdepartmental level than try to progress hundreds of big and small issues.

Deputy O'Shea asked who is responsible for the implementation of the RAPID programme at central level. I wish to make it absolutely clear that I will take central responsibility for this. I have put a great deal of time and effort intotrying to advance this matter in a way that will work and I will take responsibility for it. I am taking a hands-on approach. Some people have accused me of adopting too much of a hands-on approach, but if one is elected to do a job, the greater the hands-on approach one takes the better if that is the way to get the job done. I will answer to any committee of this House at any time in respect of any of the actions under the RAPID programme.

I would like the Minister to give me a simple answer if possible. The RAPID programme is available in the progressiveCavan town area, but it is not in place in the Monaghan town area. Is there any possibility of the programme being extended in that direction or is there any reason it is not being so extended?

The answer to the Deputy's penultimate question is "No". One of the mistakes we made in pursuing previous programmes was that we could not resist the temptation to extend the boundaries. The effect of this policy was that too large an area of the country was covered. We did a disservice to those suffering the greatest levels of disadvantage by diluting the programme's effect. The boundaries of the CLÁR and RAPID programmes are fixed for the foreseeable future. I would like to make something happen within those lines.

One of the good aspects of the CLÁR programme is that one receives letters from people outside its area who say they would love to be included. I think that is a great measure of the success of the programme. I will be happy when people start to ask for their areas to be included in the RAPID programme because I will know I am making a difference and that it is better to be in rather than out. We have not mentioned the transfer of moneys from dormant accounts, under the terms of which funds spent on social and economic matters had to be distributed in RAPID and CLÁR areas.

We said that a large proportion of the funds allocated to combat educational disadvantage should be ring-fenced for RAPID areas. Let us be honest, rural Ireland does not suffer from educational disadvantage in the same way as the areas covered by the RAPID programme. Our decision led to the provision of an amount of money, over and above the sum of €4.5 million which I believe I can double following discussions in my Department. The funds from dormant accounts will be provided on top of that. These provisions will make a difference in advancing many smaller issues. They will allow us to deal with the big issues at Department-to-Department level. I do not intend to extend any borders, however.

I asked my original question because I am concerned about educational disadvantage, particularly as it relates to the Monaghan Collegiate School.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ceisteanna (187)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

278 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the matter of repayment to persons who were liable for payment of their relatives nursing home expenses prior to the changes in the regulations; the criteria persons must meet in order to reclaim the expenses; and if they are liable for outlay on their claim for repayment. [3367/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy may be aware, articles 9.1 and 9.2 of the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993 allowed health boards to assess the ability of the adult sons and-or daughters of older people who applied for nursing home subvention to contribute towards the cost of their parent(s) nursing home care. The assessment of the capacity of sons and-or daughters to contribute towards the cost of nursing home care for their parent(s) was discontinued on 1 January 1999.

Although legal advice received from the Office of the Attorney General indicated that there was no legal liability on the State to make retrospective payments, the Minister decided that moneys should be paid, without prejudice, to those who were adversely affected by these provisions. Payments have been made on anex gratia basis and, consequently, costs associated with the taking out of letters of administration or a grant of probate cannot be refunded.

The health boards have endeavoured to identify cases, which would warrant reimbursement as a result of the discontinuance of articles 9.1 and 9.2. To date the vast majority of those involved have been paid. In a small number of cases the boards have been unable to make anex gratia payment because they have been unable to contact the next-of-kin or some people have refused to take out letters of administration or a grant of probate.

Hospital Services.

Ceisteanna (188)

John Cregan

Ceist:

279 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if laser treatment for eyes is available to public patients; if so, the hospitals in which; if there is special criteria; the numbers currently on waiting lists; the reason some patients are being told that treatment is only available for private patients; and if this is the case, the reason it is allowed to take place in public hospitals. [3370/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of ophthalmology services is, in the first instance, a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards.

My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the chief executive officer of each health board to respond directly to the Deputy with the information requested.

The total number of adults and children waiting for ophthalmology procedures either as an in-patient or as a day case, as at 30 September 2003, the latest date for which figures are available, was 3,837.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ceisteanna (189)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

280 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children , further to Question No. 230 of 2 December 2003, if he will report on the meeting of 21 October 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3386/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

Additional funding amounting to €643 million has been invested in health funded support services for people with disabilities since 1997. A sum of €370 million has been provided for services to people with intellectual disability and those with autism.

This includes an additional €25 million in current expenditure which was made available by the Minister for Finance in the 2004 budget for services for people with disabilities.

Some €18 million is being used to provide additional emergency placements and extra day services, especially for school leavers and to enhance the health related support service for children with an intellectual disability and those with autism.

The balance of the €25 million is being used to enhance the delivery of health and personal social services to people with a physical and sensory disability and for service enhancement at the Central Mental Hospital.

Smoking Ban.

Ceisteanna (190)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

281 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children , further to Question No. 174 of 11 December 2003, the progress made on the issue; when he intends to introduce the ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3396/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

Enforcement of regulations prohibiting smoking in specified places, including decisions to prosecute a person for an alleged breach of the regulations, is a matter for the authorised officers from the appropriate enforcement agencies, such as the health boards and the Office of Tobacco Control.

Guidelines to assist staff employed in licensed premises in complying with regulations prohibiting smoking are being finalised by the Office of Tobacco Control, which is in contact with representatives from the licensed trade.

In the event of a prosecution being taken, it would be a matter for the court to decide if the defendant had taken reasonable efforts to comply.

I will make a decision on the new date for commencement of the smoke-free workplaces regulations in the near future.

Hospital Services.

Ceisteanna (191, 192, 193, 194)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

282 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the planned hospital activity statistics for each acute hospital in 2004; the percentage variance with the 2003 outturn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3400/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the chief executive officer of each health board to respond directly to the Deputy with the information requested.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

283 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the SWAHB will immediately provide an occupational therapy service, by private sources, if necessary, to assess urgently the needs of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [3421/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 8 area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

284 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason he did not reply to letters sent to him by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and the further reason an inaccurate reply issued to this Deputy from the ERHA dated 7 September 2001 regarding the same person. [3422/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority.

The Deputy will be aware from previous responses to him that my Department requested the regional chief executive of the authorityto investigate this matter. The authority has completed its investigation and I understand that a response has subsequently issued to the Deputy. Officials from my Department recently met the individual referred to by the Deputy regarding a number of issues arising from the authority's investigation. These issues are being progressed in conjunction with the individual concerned.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

285 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a knee replacement operation. [3423/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The provision of medical services to residents of County Mayo is the responsibility of the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Ceisteanna (43, 44, 45)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

135 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to ensure the survival of rural populations with particular reference to the right of family members of rural dwellers to live in the countryside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3187/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

195 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date on the rural aspects of the national spatial strategy; and if he will report on the follow up discussions initiated by him between his Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the issue. [3240/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

206 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the involvement he has in the new proposals being brought forward by the Government for once-off rural housing; his views on development charges on homes in the CLÁR areas where it is clear there is great difficulty in holding populations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3194/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (28 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135, 195 and 206 together.

My Department is committed to maintaining the maximum number of people in rural areas and to strengthening rural communities economically, socially and culturally. Rural development policy is set out in the White Paper on Rural Development which is being implemented primarily through the national development plan.

As pointed out in the national spatial strategy, in many rural areas the combination of a high dependency on a changing agricultural base, a scarcity of employment opportunities and resultant outward migration, has weakened their demographic, economic, social and physical structure.

My Department is represented on the interdepartmental committee on implementation of the national spatial strategy. During 2003, my Department contributed to implementing the strategy, through, for example, the CLÁRprogramme which is targeted at particularlydisadvantaged rural areas and supports the national spatial strategy objectives. In addition, I asked the Western Development Commission to co-ordinate a strategy for towns on radial routes in the west so as to maximise the benefit to the west of the NSS in regard to major roads investment, the strategic rail review and decentralisation. In addition, I commissioned a review of support for enterprise in rural areas, the report on which I expect to have later this month.

The national spatial strategy addresses many of my concerns in regard to such issues as rural housing. The rural settlement policy framework contained in the NSS, which represents overall Government policy on rural housing, aims to sustain and renew established rural communities, while strengthening the structure of villages and smaller settlements to support local economies. In this way, it seeks to ensure the key assets in rural areas are protected to support quality of life and that rural settlement policies are responsive to the differing local circumstances in different areas.

My colleague in Government, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, accepts that it is vitally important that there is clarity and consistency in the implementation by planning authorities of Government policy in regard to rural housing through their own development plans and in the operation of the development control system under planning legislation. This is the purpose of the guidelines on rural housing which the Minister, DeputyCullen, intends to bring forward to deal with this issue. These are at an advanced stage of preparation.

I understand from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that under the Planning and Development Act 2000, all planning authorities must draw up a development contribution scheme in respect of public infrastructure and facilities provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority that benefit development in the area. These schemes must be adopted by 10 March 2004. It is the elected members of each local authority who decide on the level of contributions, the types of development to which they will apply and exemptions from the scheme, if any, for their own functional area. I am advised that all planning authorities have drafted development contribution schemes and as at 21 January 2004, 14 city and county councils had adopted their schemes.

Having listened to the Minister's reply to this and a previous question, many aspects of which I identify and agree with, will he indicate when he intends to take steps to ensure the right of a person born and raised in a rural community to live there and ensure he or she is not informed by the local authority that he or she should live in a settlement in some town and in a house he or she cannot afford to buy when he or she could quite conveniently avail of a site readily available from his or her family? I agree with the sentiments the Minister expressed but the time has come to make decisions. When will those decisions be made? I ask the Minister not to push them into the future because nothing is happening.

If nothing is happening, it is not because the Government is not taking action. There was a difficulty with the 1997 sustainable development guidelines which, at the very least, led to obfuscation as to what urban generated development was. Planning authorities defined urban generated development as anything other than people functionally engaged in agriculture, which was nonsense. The majority of people living in rural areas are not functionally engaged in agriculture. Chapter 5 of the national spatial strategy, which is Government policy for the next 20 years, clearly lays down the ground rules for rural housing. It states that anybody with a connection with a place, either by way of background or by employment, full-time or part-time, is entitled, subject to good planning and design, to build in the countryside. Maybe we are missing the next step in the building block. It is now up to each local authority to write that clearly into its county plan. If it does not do that, we should not blame the planners but councillors from all parties. There is now no way a planner can state it is contrary to Government policy, which was the mantra we heard until then. This was clearly supported in a High Court action. There is an absolute obligation under the law for the planner to put the plan into force as written. The planner cannot rewrite the plan as she or he does not have that legal authority.

We have, therefore, put all the blocks in place and in some counties it is working well because the councils put the second block in place and made sure their planners adhered to the law. It would appear that has not happened in other counties and Deputies should not blame the Government for that.

What is Government policy on rural housing? The Taoiseach made a speech in Sligo and when I queried him on it, he said he meant a farmer's son or daughter could get permission. It is time we cleared this matter up. Does the Minister accept it is logical, in an area he has designated for CLÁR and which is clearly identified as one that has suffered serious depopulation, to ask somebody who wants to live in it to pay significant development charges? Is there no Government thinking on this matter to ensure those areas are allowed to develop and to maintain their populations? Has the Minister been involved in this matter to ensure the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not bring forward a single regulation, clause or otherwise on an all-Ireland basis because the situation is different in various areas? There is no village in my parish of Aghabog which the Minister visited; it is totally rural. I wish to make sure a common sense approach is taken and not a global one which will be all things but which will mean nothing.

We are straying very much into questions to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. We all have a duty not to get involved in obfuscation. Any Deputy who wants to know the Government policy on rural housing would be well advised to go back to his or her office, to look up the national spatial strategy on the web and read chapter 5. I have outlined it twice today but there is a little more detail in it. I have, however, given Deputies the essence of what is in it and it is quite clear. Anybody with a connection with a rural area by way of background or employment, part-time or full-time, is entitled, subject to good planning and design, to get planning permission.

That is not happening.

That is Government policy. I explained how one would make sure that policy is delivered on the ground. If some local authorities are not doing that, they are not using the implement they have been given. In fairness to my county council, with which I have arguments on some issues, it is, a bheag nó a mhór, adhering to it.

The issue of development charges is clear. Under the law, one cannot be charged for that with which one is not provided. In rural areas, for example, one must pay for public water if one is provided with it, which is not unreasonable. If, however, one is not provided with a sewerage service, one cannot be charged a development fee. If a local authority charged a person for seven years for a service it had not provided, the law provides that the local authority must return the money, with interest, to the person in question. Similarly with amenities——

Local authorities never return money to anyone.

The law is clear in this regard; one could take a local authority to court for not returning money. Amenity charges are an issue for local authorities to decide. The level of charges and the way in which they are structured is a matter for each local authority rather than central government. The original intention of this measure was to ensure that those who benefited from amenities paid for by the State, namely, the taxpayer, having bought land at agricultural rates which was later rezoned, made their contribution to the costs of the provision of necessary services on their sites.

As a former member of Kerry County Council, I am an expert on this issue because it is one of the difficulties we have on my local authority, as demonstrated by the widespread use of section 4 motions. Deputies share the Minister's opinion on once-off rural housing. Planners interpret county development plans in their own way in many cases. The Minister may shake his head but it is the reality.

The Minister's argument, if I have interpreted correctly, is that the only way to ensure that people in rural areas will be able to obtain a site at an affordable price is to require persons selling sites to sell to local people only. How can anyone implement such a measure without coming into conflict with the provision on private property in the Constitution, which, I presume, allows property owners to do as they wish with private land? How can local authorities or the Government prevent someone from selling a site to whom they want?

A planner has no legal right or power, provided the plan is legal, to do other than apply the plan as written. If a planner proves that the words a person has written meant something else, the simple course of action for that person is to change the plan to make it mean what he or she intended. I am fed up listening to the argument that certain planners defy the law. If that is the case, they should be made amenable to it. Perhaps the reason the problem arises is that, when push came to shove in the cases in question, some people were not willing to do the hard work or read the small print to ensure the plan was watertight.

I am surprised at a Labour Party Deputy framing a question on property rights in the terms used. The Constitution is clear on the issue of private property rights. All private property rights are subject to the exigencies of the common good. If that were not the case, we could not have planning law. We all know one cannot build a 50 storey office block or make hundreds of other changes on one's private property. The only matter the Constitution makes absolute in private property is that it is not within the power of the State to abolish it. It has, however, a right to delimit its use, which the House does regularly in the laws it passes — for example, on special areas of conservation and so forth. I do not accept the argument that we cannot impose restrictions on those who may obtain planning in certain areas.

The reason I asked the question is that I do not want people to be misled or conclude that they may be able to take certain courses of action as a result of what may appear in print on this issue. The term "common good" needs to be defined, not only, as is usually the case, in the construction of roads and so on. It is not defined in planning.

It is clear from the Minister's reply that the Government must govern in this issue. Planners are not delivering Government policy in their planning decisions. It is time the Minister and his colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government issued a directive to county councils stating that Government policy, as outlined in the spatial strategy, is the way forward. While I acknowledge the Minister's commitment to this issue, it is unreasonable that nothing has happened in this area. The Government has been talking about the issue since it came into office but there is no finality about it.

Will the Minister ensure that, when the planning guidelines are issued, positive discrimination takes place in favour of rural areas in which the population is stagnating or declining? If possible, we should discriminate to make it easier for people to live in disadvantaged and distant communities rather than communities nearer to large towns. Deputy Crawford made the important point that one cannot have one rule for all but must discriminate positively and selectively in favour of rural areas.

The Government has defined the common good, which is what the spatial strategy is about. We have stated that the bias must be in favour of local people or people working locally. I do not know how often we have to repeat this before others accept that this is laid down in black and white in cold print.

Some local authorities have listened carefully and use the clear statement in the spatial strategy to ensure their county plans are specific on this subject. I congratulate, in particular, councillors in Galway who wrote the relevant sections of the spatial strategy into the county plan to reinforce the sub-rules they made. This was done to ensure that, if any planner argued that the rules were contrary to Government policy, councillors could point to the relevant section of the spatial strategy. Is Deputy O'Dowd indicating that county councillors are not including Government policy in their plans?

Yes, planning applications are being refused on the basis of the national spatial strategy. The Minster should now govern and insist that Government policy in this regard is paramount in all councils, not only in those such as Galway that he acknowledged.

It is paramount but we must——

As the Minister responsible, he must make this happen.

We have laid out the national policy. What appears to be happening according to the Deputy, and it surprises me, is that some councillors and councils, as opposed to council officials, are not implementing the spatial strategy, despite all the shouting. If they write the strategy into their plan, a planner has no choice but to implement it. If we can persuade everybody to stay calm and follow a three step process, we will get there. We could shout forever about the issue, but most politics is about slow, step-by-step work.

Will the Minister issue a directive giving effect to it?

A directive has been issued. It is the spatial strategy.

In that case, it is being ignored and the Minister will have to use his authority.

As the Minister outlined, the national spatial strategy is being implemented, and certainly in Kerry County Council's development plan. There are, however, problems. For instance, on one side of the road from Castleisland to Tralee, a national primary route which the Minister knows well, 40 or 50 trucks per hour access the road from the John A. Woods quarry company, while on the other side, where there are three agricultural entrances, a person who owns eight acres of land cannot obtain planning permission. This is an example of the anomalies in the system.

From a rural point of view, nothing is being done to facilitate local working class people who want to live in their area but cannot afford sites. The knock-on effect of this is that they join the housing list and the Government must pay €140,000 to build a council house to accommodate them. If the Government could provide a mechanism to offer such people an interest-free loan, they could buy a site and live in their own area.

The reason I tabled a question on this issue was that the Minister has specific responsibility for rural affairs.

That is the reason I asked the Minister to state his involvement with this Government proposal which comes from the Taoiseach down. I ask the Minister to assure the House that he will continue to have an involvement. He has demonstrated clearly that he is committed to this. I am very worried that there will be a single policy for all.

I ask the Minister for his advice on how I should deal with the cases of three young people in my county who want to build on their own family property but are being refused on technicalities by Monaghan County Council.

Despite the fact that most people would consider Cork city to be an urban constituency, there is a deal of the rural in it also. As Deputies O'Shea and Moynihan-Cronin stated, the Minister needs to clarify the issue of the interpretation of the development plan and that needs to be done urgently. It is far wider than the interest of the common good because the common good is very difficult to define——

A question, please.

I have a question. It is very difficult to define when it comes to the single, one-off dwelling; it is much easier when dealing with a road, for instance. In Cork County Council's development plan, a farmer's son who has no connection with the land other than he was born in a particular area, has no difficulty getting planning permission but the farm labourer's son who may have the county council acre is refused point blank. That is an issue of discrimination. In order to ensure rural areas continue to be populated, is the Minister prepared to issue clarification to county councils who are implementing this policy before someone takes them to court and they are found guilty of discrimination?

On the issue raised by Deputy Ferris, we must ensure that lives are not unnecessarily endangered. In County Galway, planning permission for such a case as outlined by the Deputy will not be granted for land opening on to a national primary route if there is an alternative opening on to a secondary or smaller road. This is purely for safety reasons. Some years ago, An Foras Forbartha proved quite conclusively that the more openings on a road to accommodate houses, the greater the risk of accidents. We must always look at the big picture and be honest with ourselves.

In reply to Deputy Crawford, as I have not seen the applications in question, I cannot say why they were refused on technicalities. I reiterate that as far as Government policy is concerned, in the BMW region such as the Deputy's constituency, in an area of non-urban influence and where the person wishes to live permanently, that person should get planning permission, subject to good planning and design and as long as he or she does not build in a bog hole, for instance.

I was very involved in the spatial strategy and in the wording of this section. The words "farmer's son or daughter" or any other, do not appear. The phrase used is, "those with a connection with the place by way of background." That word is crucial. I am tired of this argument about the farmer's son when I know that more and more young people growing up in the countryside are not going to be the sons of farmers but the sons of somebody with a half-acre site. The spatial strategy is clear on that issue and I advise the Deputy to study it.

There also seems to be a problem in the case quoted by Deputy Lynch in that even though the spatial strategy is not the interpretation wished for by either of us, the county plan, which is not the prerogative of the manager, but 100% the prerogative of the councillors, has not yet aligned itself with the spatial strategy. I do not know when the Cork county plan is due for review but I suggest the Deputy line up the county plan to exactly reflect the spatial strategy. Her problem is then solved in one go and the county manager has no option but to apply the plan as written.

There was a court case which tested the issue of whether they had a right to rewrite the plan in their own head contrary to what the council had done and the answer was clearly given in the High Court case, as I interpret it, that they had to comply with the plan as long as it was legal.

As the following are oral questions, not more than 18 minutes is allotted to them.

Health Board Allowances.

Ceisteanna (196)

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

287 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if a domiciliary care allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 without delay. [3431/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance in any individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the regional chief executive, Eastern Regional Health Authority, with a request that he examine the issues raised and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Air Services.

Ceisteanna (197, 198)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

288 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the financial difficulties at a company (details supplied); the action taken to ensure that passengers would not be stranded abroad and employment would be secured at the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3390/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

294 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the financial difficulties at a company (details supplied); the action taken to ensure that passengers would not be stranded abroad; if he is satisfied there was no unfair competition on the particular routes; the plans he has to ensure that as part of the current review of the EU third aviation package a bonding scheme will be put in place to protect passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3389/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 and 294 together.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation, which is responsible for the economic regulation of Irish airlines, became aware towards the end of last year that Jetmagic was facing financial difficulty. The Commission for Aviation Regulation contacted the company regarding concerns it had about the financial situation and asked the company to improve its balance sheet position. Jetmagic subsequently confirmed to the Commission for Aviation Regulation that it had received additional investment from some of its shareholders. However, it is now clear that those additional funds were not sufficient for the ongoing viability of the company.

As soon as Jetmagic took the decision to suspend operations, it immediately put a comprehensive action plan into place. It made every effort to contact its passengers abroad by telephone or by e-mail, to inform them of the situation and to give them information about alternative ways to get home. The airline put emergency helplines in place, which provided full information about all available flight options back to Ireland from the airports that Jetmagic serves. That information was also available at each airport for passengers as they arrived. Those helplines have received more than 3,000 calls since they opened on Wednesday of last week, mostly from people who had advance bookings. Jetmagic has advised that no one has called in serious distress.

Aer Lingus immediately offered to take any Jetmagic passengers home for a flat fee of €50 plus taxes, from any airport that Aer Lingus serves in Europe. Jetmagic also contacted other airlines, and British Airways, CSA Czech Airlines, and Aer Arann all offered help. I am satisfied that Jetmagic has done all it can in its difficult circumstances to get people home.

FÁS, the national training and employment authority, has contacted Jetmagic, and will make available its full range of support services including skills analysis, jobs placement, guidance and counselling interviews, identification of training needs and suitable training courses to assist the staff of Jetmagic to find suitable alternative employment, should the company actually close down.

European airlines operate under a package of European law, known as the "third air package", dating from 1992. Under that legislation, airlines are free to commence operations as long as they meet economic and safety criteria, and to compete on any routes they wish without recourse to any authorities for approval. While Jetmagic has stated that there was strong competition on its routes, there have been no allegations of unfair competition.

Regarding the third air package, the European Commission is currently reviewing that package of legislation, but has not yet put forward any proposals for change. I am satisfied that the unfortunate collapse of Jetmagic is not due to any deficiency in the licensing arrangements. Moreover, I am not convinced that it would be necessary or appropriate to provide for a bonding mechanism in respect of the purchase of airline tickets.

Rural Transport.

Ceisteanna (199)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he can facilitate travel facilities for the elderly in rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3417/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

My Department is currently funding a rural transport initiative, RTI, under which 34 rural community groups are being financed to operate pilot rural transport projects in their areas. The purpose of the initiative is to provide as wide a range of experience as possible in the provision of transport services in rural Ireland, including services for older people.

The RTI is now operational in almost all counties and some 2,500 transport services are being provided on approximately 380 new rural routes established under the initiative with 20,000 people now using the RTI transport services every month. The free travel scheme of the Department of Social and Family Affairs was extended to the RTI in July 2003.

State Aid.

Ceisteanna (200)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

290 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the funds provided by the Exchequer to a company (details supplied); when these funds were allocated and the purpose; the funds which have been returned to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3342/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

My Department has not provided this company with any Exchequer funds.

Driving Tests.

Ceisteanna (201, 202)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

291 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Transport the number of driving test applications each year for the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3343/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

The number of driving test applications received each year for the past ten years is set out in the following table.

Year

Applications Received

1994

109,759

1995

107,840

1996

129,053

1997

118,144

1998

146,506

1999

153,389

2000

166,908

2001

181,370

2002

192,016

2003

234,000

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

292 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Transport the number of applications for driving tests classified as urgent each year for the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3344/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Where possible my Department facilitates applicants who indicate on their application form that an early driving test is required. However, statistics on the number of persons seeking an early test are not compiled.

Dublin Port Tunnel.

Ceisteanna (203)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

293 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, further to Question No. 156 of 27 November 2003, the status of the request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3385/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

My Department engaged Atkins to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port Tunnel. It was requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

The final report was received from Atkins on 8 December 2003. I am currently reviewing the findings of the report and have sought further information from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions. No decision has been taken on publication of the report.

Question No. 294 answered with QuestionNo. 288.

Road Network.

Ceisteanna (46, 47, 48, 49)

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

136 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date on the RAPID programme; the amount of funding which will be spent in 2004 and the groups that will benefit; and if he intends to extend the RAPID programme to new areas in 2004. [3246/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

186 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the RAPID programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3100/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Bruton

Ceist:

204 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which he intends to distribute the fourth measure of the LDSIP in RAPID areas; when the guidelines for this distribution will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3225/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

220 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the specific steps his Department intends to take to ensure that actions targeted at disadvantaged areas, such as the RAPID and CLÁR programmes, operate effectively, in regard to the commitment given to Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3096/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136, 186, 204 and 220 together. My Department, supported by ADM Limited, co-ordinates the implementation of the RAPID programme. It is, therefore, a matter for each of the other Departments to report on progress on the implementation of RAPID and details of funding for the proposals that fall within the remit of their own Department.

In the case of my Department, proposals from RAPID plans fall to be considered under the community development programme, CDP, funding for local drugs task forces, LDTF and the young peoples' facilities and services fund, YPFSF. Allocations of funding have been made to a LDTF project and a number of CDPs. I refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions Nos. 102, 103, 106, 108, 127 and 131 on 21 October 2003, for details of these allocations and general progress on the RAPID programme. There are no plans at present to extend the RAPIDareas.

As I have stated previously, many of the proposals from RAPID plans have been sent unnecessarily to Departments for consideration, when it would be more efficient for them to be dealt with at local level. To this end, a dedicated fund of €4.5 million has been set aside for capital expenditure for the RAPID programme to support such small-scale projects. These projects will be co-funded by the relevant Department or local agency with levels of co-funding agreed at national level. Projects will be co-funded under a number of categories and I am in the process of conducting a series of meetings with my ministerial colleagues to agree such arrangements. Once these measures have been agreed, it is envisaged that an allocation will be made to each RAPID area based on size and population, for example. Area implementation teams will then select projects to be supported in this manner. I intend to make a formal announcement shortly regarding the precise details of the operation of this fund.

My Department also provides the sum of €1.3 million to ADM Limited to meet administration expenses and to provide support to area implementation teams. The dormant accounts disbursement plan also gives priority to RAPID and CLÁR areas.

As regards CLÁR, the measures introduced under the programme were decided after consultation with the communities in the areas concerned. They are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments or agencies, as appropriate, thus ensuring coherence and effectiveness by public bodies in delivery of such measures in CLÁR areas.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I welcome the fact that money is finally being allocated to RAPID. In today's edition ofThe Irish Times it states that €1 billion was promised when it was launched, not €4.5 million. I ask the Minister to produce the goods and to say where the money is.

There are many bodies involved, such as local authority employees who work for the RAPID programme, partnerships and ADM Limited. What are the Minister's plans for these funding bodies? Is there a case for having one organisation in charge of these schemes on a county basis?

I question the non-involvement of elected public representatives in RAPID at the district level when projects are being developed. They are involved at county level but not in the decision making or the nomination of projects at local level. Will the Minister give the House his views and will he ensure that local representatives would be part of that partnership because they are excluded from it at present?

The irony of RAPID is that the big money was spent. The figure being spent on housing renewal runs to approximately €900 million or €1 billion. Much of that money is concentrated in a small number of RAPID areas. Many things happen and I accept it has been difficult to define whether they would have happened anyway or whether RAPID has made a difference. It was one of the weaknesses in the scheme. There are new schools and new health centres in these areas but many people say that would have happened anyway and it is also happening outside the RAPID areas.

This time last year I said there were weaknesses, even though the concept is very sensible and good. I have set about redressing those weaknesses. I see the operation on four levels. The fund is in place to deal with small issues — it is not intended to deal with the big issues.

It seems ridiculous that one has to call the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to deal with a small area of a housing estate, for example, that needs some landscape management but is not receiving it. Similarly, if minor changes are needed to a health centre or a school — for example, if a few ramps or CCTV cameras are needed, one should not need to process the matter through the whole system. My idea was to put in place a fund to match it with other things so that, as is the case with the CLÁR programme, the small issues can be dealt with on the ground. The advantage of this approach is that by separating the small issues from the thousand other issues that exist, we are left with a much smaller number of big issues that need to be dealt with in RAPID areas. We will focus on such issues on a Department-to-Department basis. The reprioritisation element of the big things has not been removed from the scheme. It clears the way to focus on them to a much better extent.

One of the weaknesses of the RAPID scheme since its beginning is that there has not been a report at a worthwhile level into what happened under the scheme. It was suggested that projects in the RAPID areas would be front-loaded, but there is no measure of that. There has been no effective monitoring of it. I agree with the Minister's idea of taking micro-decisions at local level and macro-decisions in Dublin. Nobody at central level is responsible for the implementation of the RAPID programme, however. I went through this in more detail on the last occasion the Minister took questions in the House. Nothing the Minister has said today leads me to believe that there will be a real coherence to improve on what is an awful situation.

The Deputy asked about a report. I have a fairly simple view of life. The country is full of reports, each of which is glossier than the next. People in the CLÁR areas, for example, are aware of things happening there. I receive feedback from those on the ground. The compilation of a big, glossy report will not necessarily change very much, but it will take up a great deal of time and staff resources. Although it might give some glory to the Minister, that is not what it should be about. Our approach should be about making people's lives better.

Many things have happened. If I trawl through the Departments and ask them to list everything they have done in RAPID areas in the past four years, I will find that many things have been done. In such circumstances, we would have a big debate in the House about whether such things would have happened in any event. My concern is to make more things happen. As I have said, I am trying to deal with the micro-matters at local level and, based on the IT plans, then deal with the big issues that remain. Individual Ministers will be responsible for trying to make progress in that regard. Those of us who understand the nature of the system accept that it is much easier to progress three, four, five or ten issues at interdepartmental level than try to progress hundreds of big and small issues.

Deputy O'Shea asked who is responsible for the implementation of the RAPID programme at central level. I wish to make it absolutely clear that I will take central responsibility for this. I have put a great deal of time and effort intotrying to advance this matter in a way that will work and I will take responsibility for it. I am taking a hands-on approach. Some people have accused me of adopting too much of a hands-on approach, but if one is elected to do a job, the greater the hands-on approach one takes the better if that is the way to get the job done. I will answer to any committee of this House at any time in respect of any of the actions under the RAPID programme.

I would like the Minister to give me a simple answer if possible. The RAPID programme is available in the progressiveCavan town area, but it is not in place in the Monaghan town area. Is there any possibility of the programme being extended in that direction or is there any reason it is not being so extended?

The answer to the Deputy's penultimate question is "No". One of the mistakes we made in pursuing previous programmes was that we could not resist the temptation to extend the boundaries. The effect of this policy was that too large an area of the country was covered. We did a disservice to those suffering the greatest levels of disadvantage by diluting the programme's effect. The boundaries of the CLÁR and RAPID programmes are fixed for the foreseeable future. I would like to make something happen within those lines.

One of the good aspects of the CLÁR programme is that one receives letters from people outside its area who say they would love to be included. I think that is a great measure of the success of the programme. I will be happy when people start to ask for their areas to be included in the RAPID programme because I will know I am making a difference and that it is better to be in rather than out. We have not mentioned the transfer of moneys from dormant accounts, under the terms of which funds spent on social and economic matters had to be distributed in RAPID and CLÁR areas.

We said that a large proportion of the funds allocated to combat educational disadvantage should be ring-fenced for RAPID areas. Let us be honest, rural Ireland does not suffer from educational disadvantage in the same way as the areas covered by the RAPID programme. Our decision led to the provision of an amount of money, over and above the sum of €4.5 million which I believe I can double following discussions in my Department. The funds from dormant accounts will be provided on top of that. These provisions will make a difference in advancing many smaller issues. They will allow us to deal with the big issues at Department-to-Department level. I do not intend to extend any borders, however.

I asked my original question because I am concerned about educational disadvantage, particularly as it relates to the Monaghan Collegiate School.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

Public Transport.

Ceisteanna (205)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

296 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if a company (details supplied) has applied to his Department for a licence to operate a daily coach service from Galway to Shannon; the status of this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3429/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

My Department recently finalised consideration of the licence application for a proposed daily Galway-Shannon Airport bus service and has contacted the company to advise it of the decision.

Driving Tests.

Ceisteanna (43, 44, 45)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

135 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to ensure the survival of rural populations with particular reference to the right of family members of rural dwellers to live in the countryside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3187/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

195 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date on the rural aspects of the national spatial strategy; and if he will report on the follow up discussions initiated by him between his Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the issue. [3240/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

206 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the involvement he has in the new proposals being brought forward by the Government for once-off rural housing; his views on development charges on homes in the CLÁR areas where it is clear there is great difficulty in holding populations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3194/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (28 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135, 195 and 206 together.

My Department is committed to maintaining the maximum number of people in rural areas and to strengthening rural communities economically, socially and culturally. Rural development policy is set out in the White Paper on Rural Development which is being implemented primarily through the national development plan.

As pointed out in the national spatial strategy, in many rural areas the combination of a high dependency on a changing agricultural base, a scarcity of employment opportunities and resultant outward migration, has weakened their demographic, economic, social and physical structure.

My Department is represented on the interdepartmental committee on implementation of the national spatial strategy. During 2003, my Department contributed to implementing the strategy, through, for example, the CLÁRprogramme which is targeted at particularlydisadvantaged rural areas and supports the national spatial strategy objectives. In addition, I asked the Western Development Commission to co-ordinate a strategy for towns on radial routes in the west so as to maximise the benefit to the west of the NSS in regard to major roads investment, the strategic rail review and decentralisation. In addition, I commissioned a review of support for enterprise in rural areas, the report on which I expect to have later this month.

The national spatial strategy addresses many of my concerns in regard to such issues as rural housing. The rural settlement policy framework contained in the NSS, which represents overall Government policy on rural housing, aims to sustain and renew established rural communities, while strengthening the structure of villages and smaller settlements to support local economies. In this way, it seeks to ensure the key assets in rural areas are protected to support quality of life and that rural settlement policies are responsive to the differing local circumstances in different areas.

My colleague in Government, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, accepts that it is vitally important that there is clarity and consistency in the implementation by planning authorities of Government policy in regard to rural housing through their own development plans and in the operation of the development control system under planning legislation. This is the purpose of the guidelines on rural housing which the Minister, DeputyCullen, intends to bring forward to deal with this issue. These are at an advanced stage of preparation.

I understand from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that under the Planning and Development Act 2000, all planning authorities must draw up a development contribution scheme in respect of public infrastructure and facilities provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority that benefit development in the area. These schemes must be adopted by 10 March 2004. It is the elected members of each local authority who decide on the level of contributions, the types of development to which they will apply and exemptions from the scheme, if any, for their own functional area. I am advised that all planning authorities have drafted development contribution schemes and as at 21 January 2004, 14 city and county councils had adopted their schemes.

Having listened to the Minister's reply to this and a previous question, many aspects of which I identify and agree with, will he indicate when he intends to take steps to ensure the right of a person born and raised in a rural community to live there and ensure he or she is not informed by the local authority that he or she should live in a settlement in some town and in a house he or she cannot afford to buy when he or she could quite conveniently avail of a site readily available from his or her family? I agree with the sentiments the Minister expressed but the time has come to make decisions. When will those decisions be made? I ask the Minister not to push them into the future because nothing is happening.

If nothing is happening, it is not because the Government is not taking action. There was a difficulty with the 1997 sustainable development guidelines which, at the very least, led to obfuscation as to what urban generated development was. Planning authorities defined urban generated development as anything other than people functionally engaged in agriculture, which was nonsense. The majority of people living in rural areas are not functionally engaged in agriculture. Chapter 5 of the national spatial strategy, which is Government policy for the next 20 years, clearly lays down the ground rules for rural housing. It states that anybody with a connection with a place, either by way of background or by employment, full-time or part-time, is entitled, subject to good planning and design, to build in the countryside. Maybe we are missing the next step in the building block. It is now up to each local authority to write that clearly into its county plan. If it does not do that, we should not blame the planners but councillors from all parties. There is now no way a planner can state it is contrary to Government policy, which was the mantra we heard until then. This was clearly supported in a High Court action. There is an absolute obligation under the law for the planner to put the plan into force as written. The planner cannot rewrite the plan as she or he does not have that legal authority.

We have, therefore, put all the blocks in place and in some counties it is working well because the councils put the second block in place and made sure their planners adhered to the law. It would appear that has not happened in other counties and Deputies should not blame the Government for that.

What is Government policy on rural housing? The Taoiseach made a speech in Sligo and when I queried him on it, he said he meant a farmer's son or daughter could get permission. It is time we cleared this matter up. Does the Minister accept it is logical, in an area he has designated for CLÁR and which is clearly identified as one that has suffered serious depopulation, to ask somebody who wants to live in it to pay significant development charges? Is there no Government thinking on this matter to ensure those areas are allowed to develop and to maintain their populations? Has the Minister been involved in this matter to ensure the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not bring forward a single regulation, clause or otherwise on an all-Ireland basis because the situation is different in various areas? There is no village in my parish of Aghabog which the Minister visited; it is totally rural. I wish to make sure a common sense approach is taken and not a global one which will be all things but which will mean nothing.

We are straying very much into questions to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. We all have a duty not to get involved in obfuscation. Any Deputy who wants to know the Government policy on rural housing would be well advised to go back to his or her office, to look up the national spatial strategy on the web and read chapter 5. I have outlined it twice today but there is a little more detail in it. I have, however, given Deputies the essence of what is in it and it is quite clear. Anybody with a connection with a rural area by way of background or employment, part-time or full-time, is entitled, subject to good planning and design, to get planning permission.

That is not happening.

That is Government policy. I explained how one would make sure that policy is delivered on the ground. If some local authorities are not doing that, they are not using the implement they have been given. In fairness to my county council, with which I have arguments on some issues, it is, a bheag nó a mhór, adhering to it.

The issue of development charges is clear. Under the law, one cannot be charged for that with which one is not provided. In rural areas, for example, one must pay for public water if one is provided with it, which is not unreasonable. If, however, one is not provided with a sewerage service, one cannot be charged a development fee. If a local authority charged a person for seven years for a service it had not provided, the law provides that the local authority must return the money, with interest, to the person in question. Similarly with amenities——

Local authorities never return money to anyone.

The law is clear in this regard; one could take a local authority to court for not returning money. Amenity charges are an issue for local authorities to decide. The level of charges and the way in which they are structured is a matter for each local authority rather than central government. The original intention of this measure was to ensure that those who benefited from amenities paid for by the State, namely, the taxpayer, having bought land at agricultural rates which was later rezoned, made their contribution to the costs of the provision of necessary services on their sites.

As a former member of Kerry County Council, I am an expert on this issue because it is one of the difficulties we have on my local authority, as demonstrated by the widespread use of section 4 motions. Deputies share the Minister's opinion on once-off rural housing. Planners interpret county development plans in their own way in many cases. The Minister may shake his head but it is the reality.

The Minister's argument, if I have interpreted correctly, is that the only way to ensure that people in rural areas will be able to obtain a site at an affordable price is to require persons selling sites to sell to local people only. How can anyone implement such a measure without coming into conflict with the provision on private property in the Constitution, which, I presume, allows property owners to do as they wish with private land? How can local authorities or the Government prevent someone from selling a site to whom they want?

A planner has no legal right or power, provided the plan is legal, to do other than apply the plan as written. If a planner proves that the words a person has written meant something else, the simple course of action for that person is to change the plan to make it mean what he or she intended. I am fed up listening to the argument that certain planners defy the law. If that is the case, they should be made amenable to it. Perhaps the reason the problem arises is that, when push came to shove in the cases in question, some people were not willing to do the hard work or read the small print to ensure the plan was watertight.

I am surprised at a Labour Party Deputy framing a question on property rights in the terms used. The Constitution is clear on the issue of private property rights. All private property rights are subject to the exigencies of the common good. If that were not the case, we could not have planning law. We all know one cannot build a 50 storey office block or make hundreds of other changes on one's private property. The only matter the Constitution makes absolute in private property is that it is not within the power of the State to abolish it. It has, however, a right to delimit its use, which the House does regularly in the laws it passes — for example, on special areas of conservation and so forth. I do not accept the argument that we cannot impose restrictions on those who may obtain planning in certain areas.

The reason I asked the question is that I do not want people to be misled or conclude that they may be able to take certain courses of action as a result of what may appear in print on this issue. The term "common good" needs to be defined, not only, as is usually the case, in the construction of roads and so on. It is not defined in planning.

It is clear from the Minister's reply that the Government must govern in this issue. Planners are not delivering Government policy in their planning decisions. It is time the Minister and his colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government issued a directive to county councils stating that Government policy, as outlined in the spatial strategy, is the way forward. While I acknowledge the Minister's commitment to this issue, it is unreasonable that nothing has happened in this area. The Government has been talking about the issue since it came into office but there is no finality about it.

Will the Minister ensure that, when the planning guidelines are issued, positive discrimination takes place in favour of rural areas in which the population is stagnating or declining? If possible, we should discriminate to make it easier for people to live in disadvantaged and distant communities rather than communities nearer to large towns. Deputy Crawford made the important point that one cannot have one rule for all but must discriminate positively and selectively in favour of rural areas.

The Government has defined the common good, which is what the spatial strategy is about. We have stated that the bias must be in favour of local people or people working locally. I do not know how often we have to repeat this before others accept that this is laid down in black and white in cold print.

Some local authorities have listened carefully and use the clear statement in the spatial strategy to ensure their county plans are specific on this subject. I congratulate, in particular, councillors in Galway who wrote the relevant sections of the spatial strategy into the county plan to reinforce the sub-rules they made. This was done to ensure that, if any planner argued that the rules were contrary to Government policy, councillors could point to the relevant section of the spatial strategy. Is Deputy O'Dowd indicating that county councillors are not including Government policy in their plans?

Yes, planning applications are being refused on the basis of the national spatial strategy. The Minster should now govern and insist that Government policy in this regard is paramount in all councils, not only in those such as Galway that he acknowledged.

It is paramount but we must——

As the Minister responsible, he must make this happen.

We have laid out the national policy. What appears to be happening according to the Deputy, and it surprises me, is that some councillors and councils, as opposed to council officials, are not implementing the spatial strategy, despite all the shouting. If they write the strategy into their plan, a planner has no choice but to implement it. If we can persuade everybody to stay calm and follow a three step process, we will get there. We could shout forever about the issue, but most politics is about slow, step-by-step work.

Will the Minister issue a directive giving effect to it?

A directive has been issued. It is the spatial strategy.

In that case, it is being ignored and the Minister will have to use his authority.

As the Minister outlined, the national spatial strategy is being implemented, and certainly in Kerry County Council's development plan. There are, however, problems. For instance, on one side of the road from Castleisland to Tralee, a national primary route which the Minister knows well, 40 or 50 trucks per hour access the road from the John A. Woods quarry company, while on the other side, where there are three agricultural entrances, a person who owns eight acres of land cannot obtain planning permission. This is an example of the anomalies in the system.

From a rural point of view, nothing is being done to facilitate local working class people who want to live in their area but cannot afford sites. The knock-on effect of this is that they join the housing list and the Government must pay €140,000 to build a council house to accommodate them. If the Government could provide a mechanism to offer such people an interest-free loan, they could buy a site and live in their own area.

The reason I tabled a question on this issue was that the Minister has specific responsibility for rural affairs.

That is the reason I asked the Minister to state his involvement with this Government proposal which comes from the Taoiseach down. I ask the Minister to assure the House that he will continue to have an involvement. He has demonstrated clearly that he is committed to this. I am very worried that there will be a single policy for all.

I ask the Minister for his advice on how I should deal with the cases of three young people in my county who want to build on their own family property but are being refused on technicalities by Monaghan County Council.

Despite the fact that most people would consider Cork city to be an urban constituency, there is a deal of the rural in it also. As Deputies O'Shea and Moynihan-Cronin stated, the Minister needs to clarify the issue of the interpretation of the development plan and that needs to be done urgently. It is far wider than the interest of the common good because the common good is very difficult to define——

A question, please.

I have a question. It is very difficult to define when it comes to the single, one-off dwelling; it is much easier when dealing with a road, for instance. In Cork County Council's development plan, a farmer's son who has no connection with the land other than he was born in a particular area, has no difficulty getting planning permission but the farm labourer's son who may have the county council acre is refused point blank. That is an issue of discrimination. In order to ensure rural areas continue to be populated, is the Minister prepared to issue clarification to county councils who are implementing this policy before someone takes them to court and they are found guilty of discrimination?

On the issue raised by Deputy Ferris, we must ensure that lives are not unnecessarily endangered. In County Galway, planning permission for such a case as outlined by the Deputy will not be granted for land opening on to a national primary route if there is an alternative opening on to a secondary or smaller road. This is purely for safety reasons. Some years ago, An Foras Forbartha proved quite conclusively that the more openings on a road to accommodate houses, the greater the risk of accidents. We must always look at the big picture and be honest with ourselves.

In reply to Deputy Crawford, as I have not seen the applications in question, I cannot say why they were refused on technicalities. I reiterate that as far as Government policy is concerned, in the BMW region such as the Deputy's constituency, in an area of non-urban influence and where the person wishes to live permanently, that person should get planning permission, subject to good planning and design and as long as he or she does not build in a bog hole, for instance.

I was very involved in the spatial strategy and in the wording of this section. The words "farmer's son or daughter" or any other, do not appear. The phrase used is, "those with a connection with the place by way of background." That word is crucial. I am tired of this argument about the farmer's son when I know that more and more young people growing up in the countryside are not going to be the sons of farmers but the sons of somebody with a half-acre site. The spatial strategy is clear on that issue and I advise the Deputy to study it.

There also seems to be a problem in the case quoted by Deputy Lynch in that even though the spatial strategy is not the interpretation wished for by either of us, the county plan, which is not the prerogative of the manager, but 100% the prerogative of the councillors, has not yet aligned itself with the spatial strategy. I do not know when the Cork county plan is due for review but I suggest the Deputy line up the county plan to exactly reflect the spatial strategy. Her problem is then solved in one go and the county manager has no option but to apply the plan as written.

There was a court case which tested the issue of whether they had a right to rewrite the plan in their own head contrary to what the council had done and the answer was clearly given in the High Court case, as I interpret it, that they had to comply with the plan as long as it was legal.

As the following are oral questions, not more than 18 minutes is allotted to them.

Garda Deployment.

Ceisteanna (207, 208, 209, 210)

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

298 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if gardaí at all ranks who have retired or ceased duties in the Buncrana district have been replaced in the past three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3273/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that one member of the Garda Síochána has retired from the Buncrana district since 1 October 2003. To date, this member has not been replaced.

The Buncrana district is in the Donegal division.

Garda management will continue to appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed in the Buncrana district and Donegal division with a view to ensuring an effective Garda service is maintained.

The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the Buncrana district will be fully considered within the context of the overall needs of Garda divisions throughout the country.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

299 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown of the number of gardaí designated for Malahide Garda station, County Dublin, in each of the years 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, in view of the increase in the population and the demands from the community; and the proposals he has to increase the numbers. [3333/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength, all ranks, of Malahide Garda station at 1 January 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 is as set out hereunder:

Year

Strength

1995

40

2000

39

2001

44

2002

43

2003

43

The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available, the needs of Malahide Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

300 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown of the number of gardaí designated for Swords Garda station, County Dublin, in each of the years 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, in view of the increase in the population and the demands from the community; and the proposals he has to increase the numbers. [3334/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength, all ranks, of Swords Garda station at 1 January 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 is as set out hereunder:

Year

Strength

1995

45

2000

49

2001

52

2002

54

2003

57

The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of Swords Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

301 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown of the number of gardaí designated for Balbriggan Garda station, County Dublin, in each of the years 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, in view of the increase in the population and the demands from the community; and the proposals he has to increase the numbers. [3335/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength, all ranks, of Balbriggan Garda station at 1 January 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 is as set out hereunder:

Year

Strength

1995

31

2000

32

2001

32

2002

32

2003

35

The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available, the needs of Balbriggan Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Residential Placement.

Ceisteanna (211, 212)

Mary Upton

Ceist:

302 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on care provided to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 who is urgently in need of a residential placement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3348/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

It is not my practice to comment on individual cases. However, I have been advised by the Probation and Welfare Service that this young man was accepted by the hostel referred to by the Deputy prior to Christmas 2003 but that, during his one week stay, he absconded from the hostel on a number of occasions. I am further informed that a recent multidisciplinary case conference was held to consider whether the hostel in question was a suitable placement in the short term as an alternative to a continued remand in custody, pending the availability of a place at a unit specialising in cases of this type, in the UK. Following further deliberations, the management committee at the hostel decided that it was not in a position to offer a further placement, even temporarily, to the young man in question.

This young man is currently on remand in custody to Clover Hill Prison and I understand that this case is listed for further hearing today, 4 February 2004.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

303 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary for assistance with the provision of a full day children's facility. [3351/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

An application for capital grant assistance from the 2000-2006 Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme was received from this community based group on 9 January 2004.

All applications for grant assistance undergo a thorough assessment and appraisal process by Area Development Management Limited. On completion of the assessment process, applications are considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, for a recommendation before I make a final decision.

There has been considerable demand from community based groups for capital grant assistance under the programme and every county has benefited from significant grant commitments to provide new and enhanced community based child care facilities.

My Department is currently carrying out an extensive review of the programme's capital commitments to date to ensure that those grant commitments previously entered into will in fact be realised by the groups on the ground. At the same time, it is also reviewing the different budget lines under the capital programme to ensure that the most effective use is made of all remaining capital funding in accordance with the objectives of the programme.

All applications for capital grant assistance are appraised in accordance with the programme criteria to ensure that those projects which best meet the aims and objectives of the programme receive the capital grant assistance which will enable them to provide quality child care in areas where there are service deficits.

It would be premature of me to comment further on specific applications for capital grant assistance at this time.

Child Care Services.

Ceisteanna (213, 214)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

304 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary for assistance with the provision of crèche facilities. [3352/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am informed by the Childcare Directorate of my Department that it has no record of an application which matches the details provided by the Deputy.

Every application received under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 is referred to ADM Limited which undertakes the day to day management of the programme on my behalf. ADM carries out a thorough appraisal of the application, following which it will make a recommendation to the programme appraisal committee with regard to funding. The programme appraisal committee reviews all applications and makes a final recommendation to me. In the event that a group is recommended for funding, it is invited to enter into a contract with ADM Limited and the project may proceed.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

305 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary for a staffing grant for their pre-school facility. [3353/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The group, to which the Deputy refers, received a staffing grant under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 in July 2002. The grant was awarded over one year to enable the group deliver a child care service and to prepare and submit a development plan, which would show that the service has a clear focus on disadvantage.

I have been advised that the group submitted an application for further funding towards their staffing costs, which was received in my Department on 22 December 2003. The application was forwarded to Area Development Management Limited which carries out a thorough assessment of each project proposal on behalf of my Department. On completion of the assessment process, the application will be considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, which makes a funding recommendation to me.

I would like to advise the Deputy that support towards staffing costs under the programme is only available to community based child care projects which meet the programme criteria, show that they are addressing disadvantage and are supporting the child care needs of disadvantaged parents who are in employment, education or training.

In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment further on this application for a staffing grant application.

Garda Deployment.

Ceisteanna (215)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

306 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that members of the gardaí were injured in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, recently; the action he will take on this matter; the plans he has to increase the number of gardaí to Enniscorthy Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3354/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the current personnel strength of Enniscorthy Garda station at 2 February 2004 is 30, all ranks.

Four members of Enniscorthy Garda station were injured arising from two separate incidents in the town on the weekends of 18 and 25 January 2004. Both incidents are under active investigation.

A number of persons have since been charged with breaches of sections 4, 6 and 8 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 and are currently before the courts.

The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of Enniscorthy Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda districts throughout the country.

Garda Vetting.

Ceisteanna (216)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

307 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of times the interdepartmental group on vetting has met; if he will clarify the proposed timetable for the completion of the group's work; his views on whether a vetting requirement should be extended to people working in crèches or other child care related areas; and if such procedures will require amendments to existing legislation or if they can be introduced via ministerial order or regulation. [3360/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The working group on Garda vetting has met on seven occasions to date, with a further meeting scheduled for 12 February 2004.

The report of the working group is currently being finalised, and it is hoped that it will be submitted to the Garda Commissioner and myself in the coming weeks. Full consideration will then be given to the recommendations of the working group, including modes of implementation, where appropriate.

Home Ownership.

Ceisteanna (217)

John Cregan

Ceist:

308 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure and approximate costs involved for married persons with a house in the name of one spouse who wish to have the house in joint names; if it can be done directly with the Land Registry office or other statutory agency; if stamp duty or other costs of significance apply; the rights of a spouse married for 40 years, living in the house but without his or her name on the ownership deeds; if such a spouse's rights are protected during his or her lifetime; and if he or she has any legal say in the passing on of the property. [3373/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The subject matter of the Deputy's question is one on which he might appropriately consider obtaining legal advice.

I would, however, draw his attention to the provisions of the Family Home Protection Act 1976 which protects the interests of the non-owning spouse in the family home. In addition, section 14 of the Act provides that no stamp duty, land registration fee, registry of deeds fee or court fee shall be payable on any transaction creating a joint tenancy between spouses in respect of a family home where the home was immediately prior to such transaction owned by either spouse or by both spouses otherwise than as joint tenants. This provision is designed to facilitate the transfer of the family home into the joint names of spouses. Other costs such as solicitors fees may be incurred in effecting such a transfer.

Registration of Title.

Ceisteanna (218, 219)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

309 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Land Registry Office will expedite a dealing for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [3425/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for a copy folio file plan which was lodged on 23 January 2004. Application Number C2004SM000235U refers.

I am further informed that this application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and will be completed within the next two weeks.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

310 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the dealings which are pending on a folio in County Mayo; and when they will be completed. [3426/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that an application for transfer of part is pending on the folio mentioned in the question.

I am further informed that it is impossible to estimate when the dealing will be completed until a query raised by the Land Registry is addressed.

Drug-Related Crime.

Ceisteanna (46, 47, 48, 49)

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

136 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date on the RAPID programme; the amount of funding which will be spent in 2004 and the groups that will benefit; and if he intends to extend the RAPID programme to new areas in 2004. [3246/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

186 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the RAPID programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3100/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Bruton

Ceist:

204 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which he intends to distribute the fourth measure of the LDSIP in RAPID areas; when the guidelines for this distribution will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3225/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

220 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the specific steps his Department intends to take to ensure that actions targeted at disadvantaged areas, such as the RAPID and CLÁR programmes, operate effectively, in regard to the commitment given to Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3096/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136, 186, 204 and 220 together. My Department, supported by ADM Limited, co-ordinates the implementation of the RAPID programme. It is, therefore, a matter for each of the other Departments to report on progress on the implementation of RAPID and details of funding for the proposals that fall within the remit of their own Department.

In the case of my Department, proposals from RAPID plans fall to be considered under the community development programme, CDP, funding for local drugs task forces, LDTF and the young peoples' facilities and services fund, YPFSF. Allocations of funding have been made to a LDTF project and a number of CDPs. I refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions Nos. 102, 103, 106, 108, 127 and 131 on 21 October 2003, for details of these allocations and general progress on the RAPID programme. There are no plans at present to extend the RAPIDareas.

As I have stated previously, many of the proposals from RAPID plans have been sent unnecessarily to Departments for consideration, when it would be more efficient for them to be dealt with at local level. To this end, a dedicated fund of €4.5 million has been set aside for capital expenditure for the RAPID programme to support such small-scale projects. These projects will be co-funded by the relevant Department or local agency with levels of co-funding agreed at national level. Projects will be co-funded under a number of categories and I am in the process of conducting a series of meetings with my ministerial colleagues to agree such arrangements. Once these measures have been agreed, it is envisaged that an allocation will be made to each RAPID area based on size and population, for example. Area implementation teams will then select projects to be supported in this manner. I intend to make a formal announcement shortly regarding the precise details of the operation of this fund.

My Department also provides the sum of €1.3 million to ADM Limited to meet administration expenses and to provide support to area implementation teams. The dormant accounts disbursement plan also gives priority to RAPID and CLÁR areas.

As regards CLÁR, the measures introduced under the programme were decided after consultation with the communities in the areas concerned. They are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments or agencies, as appropriate, thus ensuring coherence and effectiveness by public bodies in delivery of such measures in CLÁR areas.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I welcome the fact that money is finally being allocated to RAPID. In today's edition ofThe Irish Times it states that €1 billion was promised when it was launched, not €4.5 million. I ask the Minister to produce the goods and to say where the money is.

There are many bodies involved, such as local authority employees who work for the RAPID programme, partnerships and ADM Limited. What are the Minister's plans for these funding bodies? Is there a case for having one organisation in charge of these schemes on a county basis?

I question the non-involvement of elected public representatives in RAPID at the district level when projects are being developed. They are involved at county level but not in the decision making or the nomination of projects at local level. Will the Minister give the House his views and will he ensure that local representatives would be part of that partnership because they are excluded from it at present?

The irony of RAPID is that the big money was spent. The figure being spent on housing renewal runs to approximately €900 million or €1 billion. Much of that money is concentrated in a small number of RAPID areas. Many things happen and I accept it has been difficult to define whether they would have happened anyway or whether RAPID has made a difference. It was one of the weaknesses in the scheme. There are new schools and new health centres in these areas but many people say that would have happened anyway and it is also happening outside the RAPID areas.

This time last year I said there were weaknesses, even though the concept is very sensible and good. I have set about redressing those weaknesses. I see the operation on four levels. The fund is in place to deal with small issues — it is not intended to deal with the big issues.

It seems ridiculous that one has to call the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to deal with a small area of a housing estate, for example, that needs some landscape management but is not receiving it. Similarly, if minor changes are needed to a health centre or a school — for example, if a few ramps or CCTV cameras are needed, one should not need to process the matter through the whole system. My idea was to put in place a fund to match it with other things so that, as is the case with the CLÁR programme, the small issues can be dealt with on the ground. The advantage of this approach is that by separating the small issues from the thousand other issues that exist, we are left with a much smaller number of big issues that need to be dealt with in RAPID areas. We will focus on such issues on a Department-to-Department basis. The reprioritisation element of the big things has not been removed from the scheme. It clears the way to focus on them to a much better extent.

One of the weaknesses of the RAPID scheme since its beginning is that there has not been a report at a worthwhile level into what happened under the scheme. It was suggested that projects in the RAPID areas would be front-loaded, but there is no measure of that. There has been no effective monitoring of it. I agree with the Minister's idea of taking micro-decisions at local level and macro-decisions in Dublin. Nobody at central level is responsible for the implementation of the RAPID programme, however. I went through this in more detail on the last occasion the Minister took questions in the House. Nothing the Minister has said today leads me to believe that there will be a real coherence to improve on what is an awful situation.

The Deputy asked about a report. I have a fairly simple view of life. The country is full of reports, each of which is glossier than the next. People in the CLÁR areas, for example, are aware of things happening there. I receive feedback from those on the ground. The compilation of a big, glossy report will not necessarily change very much, but it will take up a great deal of time and staff resources. Although it might give some glory to the Minister, that is not what it should be about. Our approach should be about making people's lives better.

Many things have happened. If I trawl through the Departments and ask them to list everything they have done in RAPID areas in the past four years, I will find that many things have been done. In such circumstances, we would have a big debate in the House about whether such things would have happened in any event. My concern is to make more things happen. As I have said, I am trying to deal with the micro-matters at local level and, based on the IT plans, then deal with the big issues that remain. Individual Ministers will be responsible for trying to make progress in that regard. Those of us who understand the nature of the system accept that it is much easier to progress three, four, five or ten issues at interdepartmental level than try to progress hundreds of big and small issues.

Deputy O'Shea asked who is responsible for the implementation of the RAPID programme at central level. I wish to make it absolutely clear that I will take central responsibility for this. I have put a great deal of time and effort intotrying to advance this matter in a way that will work and I will take responsibility for it. I am taking a hands-on approach. Some people have accused me of adopting too much of a hands-on approach, but if one is elected to do a job, the greater the hands-on approach one takes the better if that is the way to get the job done. I will answer to any committee of this House at any time in respect of any of the actions under the RAPID programme.

I would like the Minister to give me a simple answer if possible. The RAPID programme is available in the progressiveCavan town area, but it is not in place in the Monaghan town area. Is there any possibility of the programme being extended in that direction or is there any reason it is not being so extended?

The answer to the Deputy's penultimate question is "No". One of the mistakes we made in pursuing previous programmes was that we could not resist the temptation to extend the boundaries. The effect of this policy was that too large an area of the country was covered. We did a disservice to those suffering the greatest levels of disadvantage by diluting the programme's effect. The boundaries of the CLÁR and RAPID programmes are fixed for the foreseeable future. I would like to make something happen within those lines.

One of the good aspects of the CLÁR programme is that one receives letters from people outside its area who say they would love to be included. I think that is a great measure of the success of the programme. I will be happy when people start to ask for their areas to be included in the RAPID programme because I will know I am making a difference and that it is better to be in rather than out. We have not mentioned the transfer of moneys from dormant accounts, under the terms of which funds spent on social and economic matters had to be distributed in RAPID and CLÁR areas.

We said that a large proportion of the funds allocated to combat educational disadvantage should be ring-fenced for RAPID areas. Let us be honest, rural Ireland does not suffer from educational disadvantage in the same way as the areas covered by the RAPID programme. Our decision led to the provision of an amount of money, over and above the sum of €4.5 million which I believe I can double following discussions in my Department. The funds from dormant accounts will be provided on top of that. These provisions will make a difference in advancing many smaller issues. They will allow us to deal with the big issues at Department-to-Department level. I do not intend to extend any borders, however.

I asked my original question because I am concerned about educational disadvantage, particularly as it relates to the Monaghan Collegiate School.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

Grant Payments.

Ceisteanna (221)

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

312 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason compensation has not been paid to a person (details supplied) in County Galway concerning a special payment to a person who had to de-stock ewes for environmental reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3260/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The person named was not included on the database of payees received by my Department from the Department of Agriculture and Food. Officials in my Department are making inquiries as to what payment, if any, is due to the person named. A letter will issue to him shortly in this regard.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Ceisteanna (222)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

313 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total allocation made to health boards in 2002 and 2003 under the special housing aid for the elderly scheme; the total allocation set aside or allocated for 2004; the number of jobs this funding will cover; the breakdown of funding per health board area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3336/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The information requested is set out in the following table:

Health Board

2002

2003

Initial Allocation 2004

Eastern

1,769,061

1,820,000

1,600,000

Midland

1,233,521

835,000

850,000

Mid-Western

1,577,602

1,530,000

1,600,000

North Eastern

1,381,910

1,284,000

1,450,000

North Western

979,331

1,138,000

1,000,000

South Eastern

1,310,086

1,284,000

1,350,000

Southern

1,349,579

1,055,000

1,050,000

Western

2,301,910

2,590,000

2,100,000

Total

11,903,000

11,536,000

11,000,000

Due to the range and cost of jobs which could arise under the scheme, it would not be possible to anticipate the number of jobs which will be dealt with in 2004.

Local Authority Housing.

Ceisteanna (223)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

314 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the local authorities in 2003 who sought his Department's approval to use their internal capital receipts which were surplus to the requirements of their housing construction and remedial works programme for the provision of central heating and window replacement in their rented housing stock; and the amount in each case. [3337/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Since 1994, my Department has required that central heating be provided during construction in new local authority dwellings and included in the overall cost of the schemes.

The management, maintenance and improvement of their existing rented dwellings, including the installation of central heating and-or window replacement is, in principle, the responsibility of local authorities to be financed from their own resources. Where capital funding is provided under remedial or regeneration schemes operated by my Department for the upgrading of local authority dwellings, the provision of central heating and-or window replacement may form part of the work undertaken.

Local authorities may also seek my Department's approval to use their internal capital receipts, which are surplus to the requirements of the local authority housing construction and remedial works programmes, for improvement works including the provision of central heating and-or window replacement in their rented housing stock. The following proposals put forward by authorities for such improvement works were approved by my Department in 2003.

Local Authority

Amount of Internal Capital Receipts

Dungarvan Town Council

50,000

Ennis Town Council

190,210

Carrick-on-Suir Town Council

100,000

Macroom Town Council

66,000

Cobh Town Council

77,700

Listowel Town Council

75,500

Tralee Town Council

91,000

Carlow County Council

100,000

Meath County Council

52,500

Kilkenny County Council

500,000

Dundalk Town Council

842,615

Offaly County Council

105,000

Tullamore Town Council

250,000

Westmeath County Council

171,300

Athlone Town Council

66,000

New Ross Town Council

50,000

Galway County Council

1,300,000

Donegal County Council

400,000

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council

614,625

Sligo County Council l

95,000

Ballinasloe Town Council

20,000

Clones Town Council

120,000

Westport Town Council

250,000

Sustainable Development Strategy.

Ceisteanna (224)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

315 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for the Environment , Heritage and Local Government if he will review Sustainable Development — A Strategy for Ireland, published in 1997; his Department's planning guidelines in relation to higher residential densities which issued to local authorities in 1999; and the Strategic Planning Guidelines for the greater Dublin area published in 1999, in view of the fact that they are leading to the destruction of old houses and the construction of massive new apartment complexes of poor design which are out of character and do little to support family and community life in the traditional neighbourhoods of Dublin; and ifhe will make a statement on the matter. [3338/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The National Sustainable Development Strategy Sustainable Development: A Strategy for Ireland was reviewed in 2002 leading to the publication of the report Making Ireland's Development Sustainable: Review, Assessment and Future Action, as part of the preparatory processfor the World Summit on SustainableDevelopment.

In addition the national spatial strategy published in November 2002 sets out the principles of sustainable housing provision in urban and rural areas. I will shortly issue planning guidelines elaborating on that policy framework in regard to rural housing.

I have no plans at present to review the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density. These guidelines emphasise that higher residential densities must be coupled with the highest standards of residential environment. The guidelines indicate that in existing residential areas whose character has been established by their current density or architectural form, a balance must be struck between the protection of the amenities and privacy of adjoining dwellings, the protection of established characterand the need to provide new residential development.

The Strategic Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area, published in 1999, are currently being reviewed by the Dublin and mid-east regional authorities. New draft Regional Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area were published jointly by the two regional authorities on 19 December 2003. The draft guidelines are currently on public display until 5 March 2004 and it is open to any interested party to make observations on the draft guidelines during the consultation period. At the conclusion of the consultation period a report will be prepared for the regional authorities following which the guidelines will be considered for adoption by the authorities.

Local Authority Housing.

Ceisteanna (225)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

316 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons on each local authority housing list in County Louth for each year since 1997; the number of local authority houses allocated for each local authority in County Louth in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3355/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The results of the statutory assessments of local authority housing needs undertaken by local authorities in March 1999 and 2002 were published in my Department's September 1999 and September 2002 quarterly edition of the Housing Statistics Bulletin, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Information requested on the number of local authority authorised housing starts in each authority in County Louth is set out in the following table:

Local Authority

Authorised House Starts/Acquisitions

1997

1998

1999

2000-2003 Multi-Annual Programme

Louth Co. Cl.

29

30

35

240

Drogheda BC

33

30

35

285

Dundalk TC

33

30

45

285

Environmental Policy.

Ceisteanna (226, 227)

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

317 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to ensure that environment and heritage issues are at the heart of European policy during the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3356/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The Irish Presidency attaches a high importance to taking forward the EU's progressive approach to environmental protection and sustainability and I am focusing an agenda around three key areas: advancement of the EU's internal environmental policy and legislation. Negotiation on a number of proposals in the areas of air quality, waste management, climate change, chemicals and nature conservation is ongoing or planned with a view to maximising progress at the Council of Environment Ministers meetings on 2 March and 28-29 June. A second area is preparation of the environmental input to the annual review of the Lisbon Agenda by the European Council at its spring meeting in March. Finalisation of the environmental input will be a priority for the Environment Council meeting on 2 March. The third area is effective participation by the EU in wider international fora. My main priority is to lead EU participation in a number of significant international meetings in the first half of 2004, including the seventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, incorporating the first meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to be held in Malaysia this month.

An informal meeting of the Environment Council will be held in Waterford on 14 to 16 May, and will address future policy development on the sustainable use of natural resources and the recovery and recycling of waste.

In addition, my Department is organising or involved in a number of events to be held in Ireland during the Presidency. These include: a Conference on Emissions Trading in February; a meeting of the European Forum for Architectural Policies in April; a Conference on Sustainable Development in April; and a stakeholder Conference on implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans in May.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

318 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the EU Commission's proposals to extend the LIFE Instrument to 2005 and 2006 and for the alignment of LIFE with the Sixth Environmental Action Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3357/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The proposal to extend LIFE III until the end of 2006 is a pragmatic approach to facilitate continuity in the LIFE programme and thereby: avoid a legal gap between the expiry of LIFE III on the 31 December 2004 and the introduction of the post-2006 financial perspectives; allow for alignment of the LIFE Regulation with the provisions of the current financial regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities, and allow for the guidelines that define the priority areas for the LIFE- Environment demonstration projects to be revised to link with the priorities set in the Sixth Environment Action Programme, adopted in 2002, and the recently published EU Environmental Technology Action Plan.

Ireland supports this proposal, which will avoid any break in LIFE funding and is pursuing an agreement between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament as part of theenvironment programme of Ireland's EU Presidency.

Recycling Policy.

Ceisteanna (228)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

319 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to encourage recycling of all recyclable goods; if a refundable deposit has been considered; if shops or stores can be encouraged to operate such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3361/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

As outlined in the 1998 policy statement Changing our Ways, overall Government policy on waste management is based on the internationally recognised waste hierarchy which prioritises prevention, minimisation, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and environmentally sound disposal of waste which cannot be prevented or recovered.

Changing our Ways sets ambitious targets to be achieved over a 15 year timescale including: a diversion of 50% of household waste from landfill; a minimum 65% reduction in biodegradable waste consigned to landfill; the development of composting and other biological treatment facilities capable of treating up to 300,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste per annum; recycling of 35% of municipal waste; and recycling of at least 50% of construction and demolition, C& , waste within a five year period, with a progressive increase to at least 85% over 15 years.

The Government's priorities in relation to waste management are now heavily focused on implementation. Having regard to the targets set in Changing Our Ways, the local and regional waste management plans now being implemented provide for: household segregation and separate collection of organic waste and dry recyclables in urban areas, approximately 500,000 households nationally are already served by segregated household collection of recyclables; an extended network of bring facilities, approximately 1,800 bring banks currently in place compared to around 400 in 1995; an increased network of civic amenity recycling centres and waste transfer stations, there are now approximately 50 civic amenity sites or recycling sites around the country accepting a wide range of materials for recycling; and a range of centralised composting and biological treatment facilities.

I will also be announcing shortly implementation details of additional commitments contained in the Delivering Change policy statement published in 2002 which include: a national waste prevention programme, within the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, which has as its core objective ensuring a reduction in the amount of waste produced; a market development programme to ensure that end markets exist for the materials which are collected for recycling; a national strategy on biodegradable waste which will set out measures to progressively divert biodegradable municipal waste away from landfill in accordance with agreed targets over a 15 year period. It is also intended to establish a recycling consultative forum.

In relation to deposit and refund schemes, these generally refer to systems where a payment, or deposit, is made when a product is purchased and is fully or partially refunded when the product is returned to an authorised point of collection. Deposit and refund schemes introduced to date internationally have generally targeted beverage containers, plastic containers, glass bottles or drink cans, to encourage their return for reuse or recycling. The high cost of storage and the associated demands of operating a deposit-return system are issues that would have to be taken into account in assessing such an approach.

In Ireland packaging waste recycling, including beverage containers, is organised mainly through a collective industry based scheme operated by Repak. This scheme is working successfully and in 2001 met the target of 25% recycling required under EU Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. Repak is on course to meet the higher target set for end 2005. In these circumstances, there is no proposal to introduce a deposit and refund scheme for beverage containers in Ireland. However, my Department is currently in discussions with local authorities, Repak and industry stakeholders with a view to increasing the recovery and recycling of plastic beverage containers and proposals to tackle this waste stream are being developed.

In addition to packaging my Department is currently: working on expanding the number and range of other producer responsibility initiatives, PRIs, are being developed for specific waste streams — end-of-life vehicles, waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE, newsprint; priority is being given to implementation of these identified waste streams; and I will be making announcements in relation to end-of-life vehicles and the implementation of the EU WEEE directive shortly.

Habitat Prescriptions.

Ceisteanna (229)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

320 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date on discussions to compensate farmers in the Shannon callows; when his officials last held a meeting with farming organisations on the issue; the progress made at such a meeting; when he last held a meeting with farm organisations on the issue; the progress made at such a meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3393/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Discussions have been proceeding in a working group on management prescriptions for habitats that occur in the callows, and on the assessment of losses and costs for landowners arising from implementation of the draft prescriptions. It was expected that final agreement would be reached at a meeting of this working group, which was held on 23 January 2004, but this did not prove possible. Agreement would have allowed farmers, other than those who opt for the REP scheme, to be compensated by my Department for actual costs and losses arising from implementation of management prescriptions. My Department is maintaining contact with the farming representatives to see how agreement might be reached.

Road Network.

Ceisteanna (230, 231)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

321 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Question No. 438 of 18 November 2003, the specific funding allocated for such signage on a county by county breakdown of this figure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3397/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Of the €477 million allocated to local authorities for the improvement and maintenance of non-national roads in 2004, €5 million has been set aside for the non-national roads signage costs involved in the metrication of speed limits. I will be announcing the breakdown of this €5 million between individual local authorities at a later date.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

322 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the specific funding provided to each local authority under the non-national road network budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3398/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

A breakdown of the 2004 non-national road grant allocations to each local authority is set out in the following table:

County Councils

2004 Grant allocation

CARLOW

3,813,660

CAVAN

14,352,500

CLARE

15,943,000

CORK

37,657,193

DONEGAL

25,910,801

DUNLAOGHAIRE-RATHDOWN

9,166,000

FINGAL

12,796,954

GALWAY

23,906,229

KERRY

17,049,998

KILDARE

18,373,793

KILKENNY

10,459,500

LAOIS

7,763,000

LEITRIM

9,121,000

LIMERICK

16,576,773

LONGFORD

6,866,905

LOUTH

6,002,200

MAYO

20,945,500

MEATH

23,205,562

MONAGHAN

13,089,000

NORTH TIPPERARY

9,181,000

OFFALY

7,738,500

ROSCOMMON

12,546,000

SLIGO

9,477,000

SOUTH DUBLIN

20,667,760

SOUTH TIPPERARY

9,627,288

WATERFORD

10,293,000

WESTMEATH

7,465,000

WEXFORD

12,479,000

WICKLOW

10,700,000

TOTAL:

403,174,116

City/Borough Councils

2004 Allocations

CORK CITY COUNCIL

8,016,208

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL

11,547,837

GALWAY CITY COUNCIL

1,822,000

LIMERICK CITY COUNCIL

4,269,668

WATERFORD CITY COUNCIL

10,637,072

CLONMEL BOROUGH COUNCIL

775,000

DROGHEDA BOROUGH COUNCIL

570,000

KILKENNY BOROUGH COUNCIL

552,000

SLIGO BOROUGH COUNCIL

1,105,000

WEXFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL

530,000

TOTAL:

€39,824,785

Town Councils

2004 Allocations

ARKLOW

253,000

ATHLONE

510,000

ATHY

253,000

BALLINA

253,000

BALLINASLOE

253,000

BIRR

253,000

BRAY

550,000

BUNCRANA

253,000

BUNDORAN

178,000

CARLOW

532,000

CARRICKMACROSS

178,000

CARRICK-ON-SUIR

253,000

CASHEL

178,000

CASTLEBAR

503,000

CASTLEBLANEY

178,000

CAVAN

253,000

CEANNANUS MOR

253,000

CLONAKILTY

178,000

CLONES

178,000

COBH

253,000

DUNDALK

550,000

DUNGARVAN

253,000

ENNIS

532,000

ENNISCORTHY

253,000

FERMOY

253,000

KILLARNEY

253,000

KILRUSH

178,000

KINSALE

178,000

LETTERKENNY

510,000

LISTOWEL

178,000

LONGFORD

253,000

MACROOM

178,000

MALLOW

253,000

MIDLETON

253,000

MONAGHAN

253,000

NAAS

532,000

NAVAN

532,000

NENAGH

253,000

NEW ROSS

253,000

SKIBBEREEN

178,000

TEMPLEMORE

178,000

THURLES

253,000

TIPPERARY

253,000

TRALEE

789,500

TRIM

253,000

TULLAMORE

253,000

WESTPORT

253,000

WICKLOW

253,000

YOUGHAL

253,000

TOTAL:

14,507,500

Rural Industry.

Ceisteanna (232)

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

323 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is satisfied that sufficient support is available to individuals or groups to set up industry in rural areas which lack infrastructure such as roads and broadband; his views on whether, without small industry, depopulation will continue, with the drop in farm numbers; the steps he will take to encourage small rural industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3279/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

My Department is committed to maintaining the maximum number of people in rural areas and to strengthening rural communities economically, socially and culturally. As pointed out in the national spatial strategy, in many rural areas, the combination of a high dependency on a changing agricultural base, a scarcity of employment opportunities and resultant out-migration, has weakened demographic, economic, social and physical structure. Several policy responses are required as a result.

The aim of the CLÁR programme is to alleviate the economic and social disadvantage suffered by those living in areas of low population density. This disadvantage is manifested in weak infrastructure and slower delivery of services than more populated areas. The measures I have introduced under the programme aim to redress this imbalance and encompass the priorities highlighted by the communities in the selected areas whom I consulted at the outset. These measures support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects. Through these supports, setting up enterprises in the CLÁR areas is more attractive and viable.

As a consequence, more employment should be available thus maintaining or increasing the numbers living and working in these areas. In addition, an EU Community initiative for rural development provides approved local action groups with public funding, to implement multi-sectoral business plans for the development of their own areas. This is delivered via two programmes the EU initiative, Leader+ and the Leader national rural development programme. There is public funding of €150 million allocated to the programmes over the period to the end of 2006.

In September 2003 I announced that Fitzpatrick Associates, economic consultants, had been appointed to carry out a review of enterprise support in rural areas. This review was to analyse official enterprise support, including tourism enterprise, already available in rural areas. The greater Dublin area, as well as gateways, hubs and their areas of influence were excluded from the analysis to ensure that the focus remained on regions that have not benefited from urban-generated economic growth.

I hope that this report will be finalised later this month. In the light of the foregoing measures real progress is being made to counter depopulation and strengthen rural communities.

Regional Development.

Ceisteanna (233, 234)

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

324 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action he proposes to take to help bring about the creation of a critical mass of economic and social activity in the towns highlighted in the Western Development Commission report, Jobs for Towns, in order that the aspiration of balanced regional development is achieved in the west of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3281/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

In July 2003, when I launched the 2002 annual report of the Western Development Commission, I asked the commission to co-ordinate a strategy to develop towns on radial routes in the seven counties that comprise the western region. A critical objective is to maximise the benefit to the west of the national spatial strategy, major roads investment, the strategic rail review and decentralisation. At that time I said it was vital that infrastructure and development go together — each should make the other happen — and the commission was ideally placed to spearhead such an initiative. The overriding objective has been to enable local and regional authorities in these counties to plan a co-ordinated approach, to maximise the development potential of the region.

Jobs for Towns is a detailed and valuable report to appear in such a relatively short time. The commission consulted with the various local authorities and the regional authorities to compile and assemble this report. It identified 20 towns with populations in excess of 1,500 and analysed their potential for development by reference to a wide range of criteria such as road, rail and air access, remoteness and physical and social infrastructure. I was particularly pleased that account was also taken of towns proximity to a CLÁR area. Western Development Commission reports have consistently pointed out the need for an emphasis on smaller towns as part of the strategic development of the western region. In addition to the findings of the recent report, the commission intends to continue research into the development of small towns in the region. The national spatial strategy also reiterated the Government's commitment to balanced regional development, including the development of towns outside gateways and hubs, and rural regeneration. Many of the findings of this report are relevant to the recent Government decision on decentralisation, the implementation of which will be greatly assisted by the data and analysis contained in this report.

The report also deals with the issue of rail links and infrastructural development. The WDC wrote to the four local authorities on the route of the western rail corridor to establish if towns in each county have been prioritised for growth in part because of their positioning on the corridor. The local authorities have referred to this in their draft or current development plans.

The research undertaken for this report will be immensely valuable not only to local and regional authorities but to national organisations including Departments such as mine. I intend to use the findings in promoting development in the west in co-operation with my colleagues in Government. In this context, the decentralisation programme, coupled with infrastructural development, will contribute significantly to enhancing economic and social activity across the towns in the west.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

325 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs what steps his Department has taken to ensure that rural development as the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy is capable of delivering for the rural community. [3300/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The conclusion of the mid-term review of the Common Agriculture Policy in 2003 was the clearest signal possible from the European Union that the second pillar of the CAP or, more commonly, rural development policy is now regarded as central to the future of an enlarged Community. People are the lifeblood of rural areas. As is all too evident here and elsewhere, the greatest threat to the survival of rural Europe is the continued decline of rural populations particularly in poorer and peripheral areas. The single most serious challenge facing rural development policy-makers is the need to provide a rural infrastructure capable of delivering a sufficient standard of living and employment opportunity to sustain vibrant rural communities.

It has been clear for some time now to those involved that farming alone can no longer sustain rural populations. Rural dwellers expect and demand a standard of living comparable with that of urban dwellers and will rightly settle for nothing less. Therefore, new ways must be found to address the needs of rural dwellers. I attended a conference on rural development hosted by the European Commission in Salzburg last November. The conclusions of the conference provide some guidance for future policy: investment in the broader rural economy to generate the employment and living conditions necessary to maintain rural populations, especially young people and women. Policy should be implemented in partnership between public and private organisations. Development must encompass the social, educational, health, cultural, sporting and economic needs of communities. Rural development policy should apply to all rural areas of the EU.

Ireland must take a proactive part in shaping the European agenda towards rural development. Future policy should include: recognition that rural areas must have multi-dimensional development policies and recognition that total dependence on agriculture will not sustain the population in rural areas; clear spatial strategies, ensuring the continued maintenance and growth of rural populations; targeted funding for rural areas is essential to ensure that infrastructure deficits in roads, telecommunications, water, public transport etc., do not inhibit rural growth, these funds in particular need to be targeted on declining and peripheral areas; provision that EU competition law does not operate in such a way that the provision of essential services becomes prohibitively expensive in rural areas; and recognition that enterprise support mechanisms need to ensure rural areas can compete for enterprise development.

My Department is already delivering on some of these broad multi-sectoral policies. It implements a regeneration programme, CLÁR, targeted at areas of specific population decline. This programme co-ordinates existing sources of public and private finance and provides additional stimulus funding for the provision of small scale economic and social infrastructure to help rural communities overcome local difficulties, and access a range of essential services such as water supply, sewerage, road access, broadband communication, community and economic infrastructure, etc. This programme has vividly demonstrated that small amounts of public funding specifically targeted can have an significant impact on disadvantaged rural areas experiencing low or declining populations. Many farmers cannot generate an adequate income from farming and are often under-employed. To counter this problem I am establishing a rural social scheme to enable them to participate in work programmes and provide community-based rural services while farming normally. This can secure a reasonable income and an enhanced rural, social and physical environment for them. Such an integrated approach to rural development could be central to future EU rural development proposals.

Rural communities also continue to receive support through current programmes such as Leader+ and the national Leader rural development programme as well as initiatives I have launched for rural enterprise and small food producers. We are about to enter a critical period in the formation of long-term rural development policy in the EU. The publication of the financial perspectives containing proposals on budget headings for rural development measures post-2006 is expected soon as are the Commission proposals for a future rural development programme. In bilateral meetings in Dublin Castle under the aegis of the Irish Presidency of the EU with the EU Commissioners responsible for rural affairs and regional policy I have made clear that my Department will take an active part in the discussions on future proposals for the direction of EU rural development policy. MEPs responded warmly to my vision for the future of rural Europe when I addressed the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament.

To welcome the new member states to the EU family and at the same time open real debate on the living conditions of rural dwellers in rural Europe, my Department as part of Ireland's EU Presidency will host a conference entitled Improving Living Conditions and Quality of Life in Rural Europe from 31 May to 1 June 2004. The foregoing demonstrates that I have been productive in advancing an enhanced role for rural development at EU and national levels.

Oileáin Urchósta.

Ceisteanna (235)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

326 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé ar intinn aige aerstráice a fhorbairt ar Oileán Thoraí, cén staid ag a bhfuil an obair phleanála agus cén uair a bheidh an t-aerstráice ar fáil do mhuintir an oileáin. [3276/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

Le cúpla bliain anuas, táÚdarás na Gaeltachta, ar iarratas ó mo Roinnse, ag déanamh réamh-obair ar fhorbairt aerstráice ar Oileán Thoraí. Ag eascairt as an obair sin, tá iarratas ar chead pleanála déanta le déanaí ag an Údarás chuig Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall. Ach toradh an iarratais sin a bheith ar fáil, déanfar cinneadh maidir le cur chun cinn an togra seo i gcomhthéacs an airgid atá ar fáil dom le caitheamh ar thograí oileánda agus na n-éileamh éagsúil ar an airgead sin.

Community Support for Older People.

Ceisteanna (236)

Mary Upton

Ceist:

327 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will amend the community scheme of community support for older people in order that his Department directly administers the scheme allowing persons to apply directly to his Department for assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3365/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The scheme of community support for older people provides funding for a range of initiatives which give older people the security they need to live independently in the community. This funding is provided by way of grant aid to voluntary groups and organisations who have undertaken to identify those elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme. These arrangements give a key role to voluntary organisations, create opportunities for them to develop links with older people in their areas and allow for a more flexible response to individual needs than a statutory delivery mechanism might allow. Voluntary or community-based groups seeking funding under the scheme must satisfy the defined criteria of the scheme, comply with Government tax clearance procedures and provide satisfactory accounts in respect of previously paid grants. I am anxious that this scheme continue to operate in a way that benefits the most vulnerable older people in our society. My Department is reviewing the administrative procedures which apply to the scheme in order to ensure that the needs of beneficiaries are met in a targeted and responsive manner. However, I have no plans to involve the Department in the direct administration of the scheme. The scheme for 2004 will be advertised in the national and provincial newspapers in a few months.

Question No. 328 answered with QuestionNo. 143.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (237)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

329 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will indicate his priorities for the development of rural community life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3411/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

My Department is committed to maintaining the maximum number of people in rural areas and to strengthening rural communities economically, socially and culturally. Rural development policy is set out in the White Paper on Rural Development which is being implemented primarily through the national development plan. As pointed out in the national spatial strategy, in many rural areas, the combination of a high dependency on a changing agricultural base, a scarcity of employment opportunities and resultant out-migration, has weakened demographic, economic, social and physical structure.

The national spatial strategy adequately addresses my concerns about rural housing. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is finalising rural housing guidelines. The aim of the CLÁR programme is to alleviate the economic and social disadvantage suffered by those living in areas of low population density. This disadvantage is manifested in weak infrastructure and slower delivery of services than in more populated areas. The measures I have introduced under the programme aim to redress this imbalance and encompass the priorities highlighted by the communities in CLÁR areas whom I consulted at the outset. These measures support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects. Through these supports, setting up enterprises in the CLÁR areas is more attractive andviable.

In September 2003 I announced that Fitzpatrick Associates, economic consultants, had been appointed to carry out a review of enterprise support in rural areas. This review was to analyse official enterprise support, including tourism enterprise, already available in rural areas. The greater Dublin area, as well as gateways, hubs and their areas of influence were excluded from the analysis to ensure that the focus remained on regions that have not benefited from urban-generated economic growth.

I hope the report will be finalised later this month. As regards decentralisation, I am working with my colleagues in Government to ensure that the ambitious programme announced on budget day is implemented on time and on target. I have initiated a small food producers' forum which has met several times to address the concerns of that sector. This will remain a priority for me in 2004.

On 29 January, I announced the establishment of a countryside council and I am making up to €40,000 available this year to provide related research and supports. Since the commencement of Ireland's EU Presidency, I have held bilateral meetings in Dublin Castle with the EU Commissioners with responsibility for rural affairs and regional policy. I have also addressed the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament.

In 2003 in response to similar questions from Deputies, I outlined my Department's activities in respect of Ireland's EU Presidency as including a conference on territorial cohesion in Galway from 25 to 27 May and a conference on rural development in Westport from 30 May to 1 June.

Designated Areas.

Ceisteanna (238, 239)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

330 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the regions throughout the country likely to benefit from grant or other financial assistance under the aegis of this Department in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3412/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

332 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which urban or rural community groups in County Kildare are likely to qualify for grant aid under the various schemes run by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3414/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 332 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply of today to his Question No. 199 seeking the total amount of funding available to my Department in 2004 for the provision of grant aid to urban and rural community groups. I have also set out in my reply the regions throughout the country likely to benefit from this financial assistance. While no specific allocation for 2004 has been made for County Kildare, unless outside a particular schemes remit, applications from urban and community groups in that county will be considered on their merits.

Rural Housing.

Ceisteanna (240)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

331 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had further discussions with An Taisce with a view to ensuring the right of rural dwellers to live in their own communities, having particular regard to his previous pronouncement on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3413/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

As I have previously indicated to the Deputy, I have not had any formal discussions or meetings with An Taisce but I have met some of its officers a few times in a social context and there have been informal exchanges. I have availed of any such opportunity to reiterate my views on rural housing, which are already well known to Members.

Question No. 332 answered with QuestionNo. 330.

National Drugs Strategy.

Ceisteanna (241)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

333 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to assist communities in the fight against drugs in the greater Dublin area and throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3415/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. It also has responsibility for the work of the 14 local drugs task forces which were established in 1997 in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug, particularly heroin, misuse. To date over €65 million has been allocated or spent on implementing the various projects contained in the two rounds of plans of the task forces; a further €11 million has been allocated to projects under the premises initiative which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community-based drugs projects; and approximately €68 million has been allocated or spent under the first round of funding from the young people's facilities and services fund. Projects submitted under the second round plans are being assessed and I hope to be in a position to make allocations soon.

Under the National Drugs Strategy 2001-08, regional drugs task forces have been established in the ten health board regions throughout the country. The task forces are mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas — as well as the range and level of existing services — with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision.

Community Support for Older People.

Ceisteanna (242)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

334 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which his Department can assist with community alerts and alarms for the elderly in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3416/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The purpose of the scheme, community support for older people is to improve the security and social support of vulnerable older people. Funding can be provided for small-scale physical security equipment such as strengthening of doors and windows, window locks, door chains and locks and security lighting, the once-off cost of installing socially monitored alarm systems such as the "panic button" pendant which is worn around the neck or wrist and operated via the telephone. Funding is not provided for burglar or smoke alarms.

To qualify for assistance under the scheme, people aged 65 or over must be living alone or in households made up exclusively of older people, or of older and other people who are dependent and vulnerable and be unable to install or purchase the security equipment or alarm system themselves. This funding is provided by way of grant aid to voluntary groups and organisations that have undertaken to identify those elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme. Any voluntary or community-based organisation working with, or providing support for, vulnerable older people can apply. Grants are not made to individuals under this scheme. Details of all organisations funded under the 2003 scheme of community support for older people are available on the Department's website,www.pobail.ie. Individual applicants may contact any of these groups who will apply on their behalf to the Department for a grant. The scheme for 2004 will be advertised in the national and provincial newspapers soon.

Community Development.

Ceisteanna (243)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

335 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when funding will be made available to a group (details supplied) in County Sligo following its community development programme application. [3418/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

My Department was established to produce a co-ordinated engagement by the State with communities around the country, as they pursue their own development. A key challenge facing the Department in this regard is the number and complexity of structures involved in the delivery of local and community development programmes. Following the completion of the review of local and community development structures, I recently brought forward proposals, which Government has now agreed, designed to improve cohesion and focus across various measures. This included a recommendation, on the basis of maximising recourse to existing structures, that there should be no further expansion of the community development support programmes, after the completion of the current programme.

Partnership 2000 committed the Government to identifying 30 priority areas for inclusion in the community development support programme. Community development projects were established in 15 of these areas last September. Apart from the remaining 15 actively targeted areas, it is not now intended, in light of the outcome of the review, to establish any further community development projects. Accordingly, as the project to which the Deputy refers is not one of the priority areas identified for a community development project under Partnership 2000, it will not be possible to fund it in the foreseeable future.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ceisteanna (244)

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

336 Mr. Connaughton asked the <