Road Safety

Ceisteanna (12)

David Stanton

Ceist:

15 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has given any consideration to legislating for the mandatory use of dipped headlights for all vehicles on dull days or at all times in an effort to improve road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22992/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The question refers to the imposition of a mandatory requirement for daytime running lights. In 2010, the Road Safety Authority reviewed the policy options available for the mandatory introduction of Daytime Running Lights or DRL whereby driving lights are switched on automatically once the engine is started. That review concluded that DRL should not be made obligatory for the time-being, because the experience in other countries shows that mandatory DRL works best where all vehicles are fitted with dedicated DRL and where there has been intensive promotion and awareness campaigns prior to DRL being made mandatory. The Road Safety Authority encourages the use of DRL on a voluntary basis, in particular during the period of September to March and in wet or poor conditions at any time. Earlier this year the Authority launched an awareness campaign promoting the use of DRL on national radio.

In Ireland most vehicles do not have dedicated DRL and the Road Safety Authority analysis has shown that the costs of retrofitting DRL at the current time outweighs the benefits. However, EC Directive 2008/89/EC requires dedicated DRL be standard on all new passenger cars and small vans from February 2011 onwards and on HGVs and buses from August 2012 onwards. Therefore, as the national fleet is renewed over time all vehicles will have DRL. The Road Safety Authority has recommended that the position be reviewed in around 3 years by which time vehicles on our roads with dedicated DRL will have become more prevalent. In the meantime, the Authority will intensify the promotion of using DRL with a view to significantly increasing the use of DRL.

Cycle Facilities

Ceisteanna (13)

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

16 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to improve cycle lanes in areas being considered for the extension of the bikes scheme in place in Dublin city. [23040/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, responsibility for the delivery of public transport infrastructure, including the provision of cycle lanes in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) is a matter for the NTA. Under its Sustainable Transport Management Grants (STMG) Scheme the NTA provides funding to local authorities for a range of schemes to benefit cyclists including cycle paths and cycle corridors. I recognise that the development of safe cycle routes is a key factor in encouraging more people to cycle and encouraging those who already cycle to use their bikes for more journeys. The Government will therefore continue to provide funding either directly or through the NTA to local authorities for the development of urban cycle lanes, greenway cycling trails and progressing the development of a national cycle network.

Rural Transport

Ceisteanna (14, 15)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

17 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has met with the Department of Education and Skills to discuss school transport strategies and the need to maintain public provision while providing an affordable service. [23034/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John McGuinness

Ceist:

19 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will outline his liaisons with the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Health in relation to changes to the rural transport scheme; if they have raised concerns regarding consolidation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23080/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 19 together.

Following a Government decision in January I announced plans on 28 February to achieve greater levels of transport integration and coordinated delivery across a range of Exchequer funded local and rural transport services incorporating the RTP, HSE non-acute transport, school transport and voluntary transport services. This followed a value for money review into the rural transport sector and a commitment in the programme for government to extend and integrate some of these services.

The National Transport Authority, who have been allocated responsibility for RTP will, in conjunction with a national committee made up of key stakeholders, develop proposals for future integration based on a series of model areas which will trial how services in rural areas can be further enhanced and optimised whilst achieving necessary efficiencies. Senior officials from the Department of Education and the HSE are members of the Committee and are working together on this issue with both my Department and the National Transport Authority.

Given the cost to the Exchequer of providing the necessary non-acute health and education transport services in rural areas it is vital that these two areas are included in the consideration at a national level of future integration plans for rural transport . This process has been approved by Government and agreed by the relevant Ministers. However, while my Department has responsibility for the integration of local and rural transport, strategy and policy relating to the various types of transport provision, including school transport and non-acute HSE transport, remain the responsibility of the parent Departments.

There are challenges and complexities in this endeavour but the Committee will examine these and, where possible, suggest solutions. I understand that at its meeting last Friday the Committee established sub groups to examine the issues regarding future integration for schools transport and HSE non-acute transport. These will report back quickly to the Committee and I am confident progress can be made this year.

Cycle Facilities

Ceisteanna (16)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

18 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to introduce cyclist training schemes through local authorities in large urban areas to increase safety awareness as has been done in London. [23036/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

Cycle training for school children is currently provided under local authority assisted programmes, under Green Schools Travel Flag programmes and by Cycling Ireland. Such training is often supported by the Road Safety Authority also. Objective 11 of the National Cycling Policy recognises the need to improve cycling standards and cyclist's behaviour on the road including development of national cycle training programmes and a curriculum for the training of cycle instructors. A group has been examining the development of a National Cycle Training Programme for school children. This process has involved An Taisce, Cycling Ireland, The Department of Education and Skills, Donegal Co Council, Dublin City Council, the RSA, the NTA and my Department. Part of this process will be the introduction of a national standard for cycle instructors. I expect to receive proposals from my Department arising from this work in the coming months.

Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 17.

Light Rail Project

Ceisteanna (17)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

20 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the capital and current budget allocations for the Luas BXD extension to Broombridge in 2012; the year end forecast for overspend or under spend in each allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22988/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

This PQ relates to the capital and current budget allocations for the Luas BXD extension to Broombridge in 2012. Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) on 1 December 2009, the provision of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), such as LUAS BXD, now comes under the remit of the NTA. The capital funding provided to the NTA to fulfil its statutory role is allocated in line with the policy objectives and priorities outlined in the various capital development plans as revised from time to time, most recently the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Programme 2012-2016 — Medium Term Exchequer Framework which was published in November 2011. Since BXD is a priority project under this 5-year plan funding has been included in my Department’s capital allocation to cover the cost of commencing the main construction works in 2015 and pre-construction enabling works in 2013 and 2014. Construction is expected to take 4 years. The NTA has been given an overall capital allocation for 2012 of €130.24m. The NTA has since provided a breakdown of their proposals based on this allocation which includes an indicative amount of €8m in respect of Luas BXD for 2012. However this is a provisional estimate as key decisions and actions which will determine the precise budget requirements and spending profile for BXD must await the outcome of the planning process which is currently ongoing. My Department has provided no current expenditure in relation to this project.

Road Traffic Offences

Ceisteanna (18)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

21 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will report on potential new proposals to deal with drink drivers including the use of alcolocks, speed monitoring mechanisms and re-training programmes; if there is a timetable for the publication of these proposals; if new primary legislation in this regard will be required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22791/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The Deputy's question relates to new proposals to deal with drink drivers. Action 119 of the current Road Safety Strategy provides for exploring alternative correction and rehabilitation options for repeat road traffic offenders. The Strategy identifies the Department of Justice and Equality as having the lead role in pursuing this Action. However, my Department has an active role in this area, and my officials, along with the Department of Justice and Equality, the RSA, the Courts Service and An Garda Síochána, have been engaging in discussions about possible alternative sentencing methods.

There is general agreement on the need to explore new ways of tackling the problem of people who are repeatedly involved in road traffic offences. International experience provides a range of alternatives, such as requiring repeat offenders to take certain courses, to resit tests, or to have particular types of device fitted to their vehicles. Courses could focus on skills or on attitude, while devices under consideration include alcolocks and intelligent speed adaptors. No decisions have yet been made on which measures would be most appropriate or would work best in an Irish context.

The RSA is currently conducting a study of the technological options available and I understand that this study is due be completed at the end of this month. This will feed into the wider consideration of the best sentencing options. I anticipate that concrete proposals will develop out of these discussions during the summer. I can confirm that any change to sentencing options will indeed necessitate primary legislation.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 11.

Road Network

Ceisteanna (19)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

23 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to fund the upgrade of the N63 Roscommon-Galway road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22789/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

This question relates to plans to upgrade the N63. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Noting the foregoing position, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

Sport and Recreational Development

Ceisteanna (20)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

24 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has had dialogue with the various sporting organisations in the context of the extent to which the sporting sector can lend itself to the promotion of the positive national image thereby attracting investment, generating confidence and facilitating increased job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22990/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

Sport undoubtedly showcases Ireland around the world and we have a proud tradition in the international sporting arena where we consistently punch above our weight. I have met with the Federation of Irish Sports and had discussions on the importance of sport to Ireland in an international context.

I want to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive location for international sporting events. The Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland. The hosting of sports events provides an opportunity to show that a country like Ireland can host major sporting events, such as the Ryder Cup, the Tall Ships Race, Volvo Ocean Race and the Solheim Cup, in an efficient and professional manner. It also provides a great showcase for Ireland and the media coverage of sports tourism events helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination. Fáilte Ireland continues to support the sports tourism sector and in 2012 the Volvo Ocean Race will return to Ireland with its finale in Galway while Dún Laoghaire will host the ISAF Youth World Sailing Championship.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (21, 22)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

25 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to extend the LEAP scheme to other urban areas transport services and the national rail and bus networks. [23041/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

This PQ relates to plans to extend the Leap scheme to other urban areas. Responsibility to develop, procure, implement, operate and maintain the integrated ticketing system in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) became the function of the National Transport Authority (NTA) with effect from 30th September 2010 in accordance with section 58 of the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) Act 2008. In addition, section 63 of the DTA Act 2008 extends the Authority's remit in relation to integrated ticketing to the rest of the State.

As part of the next phase of the scheme, the Leap Card will be rolled out to Bus Éireann services in the Eastern region. In addition, a number of private operators that provide commuter services into Dublin or to Dublin Airport are also likely to join the scheme. Further extensions will be kept under review having regard to funding availability and other priorities.

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

26 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his work to date to liaise with the National Transport Authority and local authorities to deal with now obsolete bus lanes due to cuts. [23032/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

This PQ relates to bus lanes. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. Matters relating to bus lanes and other traffic management issues come under the remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in liaison with relevant local authorities and I have no function in such matters.

I am advised, however, that recent bus network changes, which involved a realignment of a number of bus routes, has meant that there is no longer a requirement for a number of bus lanes. In such cases, it is a matter for the local authorities to determine the most appropriate traffic arrangements to put in place for the particular road. Within the Greater Dublin Area, the relevant local authority should liaise with the NTA in relation to proposals for revised road layouts in these cases, and funding may be provided by the NTA for the implementation of appropriate proposals in certain cases.

Pyrite Contamination

Ceisteanna (23)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

27 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the work that he is undertaking to identify any issue with pyrite contamination in the motorway and road network. [23042/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

This Question concerns the issue of the use of pyrite in road construction projects. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Noting the foregoing position, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (24, 25)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

28 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update in the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the taxi industry reform group; the legislation that is planned and the work done to inform taxi drivers of these changes and the effects on their business. [23043/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

33 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the legislation in response to the recent report from the taxi review group will be published; the key provisions of the upcoming legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22790/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 33 together.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is the lead agency with responsibility for the implementation of the recommended actions contained in the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011. Work is progressing on all 46 Actions proposed and eight of the short-term actions have been implemented to date. The timetable for implementation of the remaining actions is set out in the Review Report with short-term actions to be implemented this year and medium-term actions to be implemented after 2012. The NTA makes quarterly reports on progress to the Taxi Advisory Committee which includes representation from the key stakeholder groups including representatives of consumer interests and the taxi industry. I understand the NTA will also be making direct contact with drivers by email and issuing updates on the work so far.

Some of the actions proposed in the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011 will require supporting legislation. Where possible, the NTA will make the necessary regulations under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. My Department is currently preparing amending legislation which will address some of the key enforcement recommendations contained in the Review Report. In particular, the proposed legislation will address the necessary amendment to Section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 concerning mandatory disqualification for holding a licence upon conviction of certain offences. I will shortly be submitting a General Scheme setting out my legislative proposals to Government for approval.

Road Network

Ceisteanna (26)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

29 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the work he is undertaking to relieve the State of its obligation to subsidise toll operators due to falling traffic numbers. [23035/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The implementation of individual national road schemes, including Public Private Partnership projects, is a matter for the National Roads Authority in accordance with the Roads Acts 1993-2007.

In particular, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

The contracts for the privately operated toll schemes are commercial agreements between the NRA and the Public Private Partnership (PPP) concessionaires concerned. There are eight toll based PPP schemes. Two PPP contracts, the M3 Clonee-Kells PPP and Limerick Tunnel PPP incorporate a traffic guarantee mechanism, the purpose of which within the overall financial package for the project was to enhance the fundability of these projects and obtain competitive funding terms to the benefit of the taxpayer over the life of the PPP scheme. The level of payments under the traffic guarantee provisions will depend on future traffic volumes.

As the Deputy will appreciate there are two sides to all contracts, and seeking to reduce the State's liability on any contract will necessarily involve some other form of compensation being offered. It is not simply a matter of dictating terms. In the case of the other toll based schemes, the traffic risk remains with the operator. The PPP contracts also include provision for revenue sharing with the NRA where traffic levels exceed specified thresholds.

Job Creation

Ceisteanna (27, 28)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

30 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which employment levels throughout the transport, tourism and sport sectors have fluctuated in each of the past five years to date; the extent to which it has been possible to identify those areas within the sectors most likely to respond to positive influences resulting in growth and job creation in the future; the extent to which this can be quantified in job numbers; the extent to which it has been found possible to formulate an integrated plan whereby the strengths in the tourism, transport and sports sectors can be magnified with resultant economic benefit to the wider community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22989/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which air, road and sea transport can be integrated to present the best possible opportunities for economic recovery and the provision of the widest possible scale and quality of service to the general public and tourism sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23353/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 228 together.

The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 sets out an integrated Government approach to job creation with particular emphasis on tourism as one key area for the generation of employment. Transport demand on the other hand is primarily derived from the outputs of the other economic sectors. In addition to directly generated jobs on transport projects, increased employment in the transport sector will flow from increased economic activity generally.

The main actions relating to these sectors in the Plan and in the Government's earlier 2011 Jobs Initiative are:

The targeting by Fáilte Ireland of capital grants from the €21 million fund available to it in 2012 to develop new and to upgrade existing tourism attractions and to support training and building business capability;

Important initiatives to stimulate visitor numbers, including the reduced VAT rate of 9% on certain tourism and hospitality services;

Preparations for "The Gathering Ireland 2013" initiative which aims to attract an additional 325,000 visitors to Ireland in 2013;

Use of the €40 million Tourism Marketing Fund available in 2012 to focus on the four core source markets of Great Britain, the United States, Germany and France;

Participation in key trade missions overseas to promote tourism;

The development of niche tourism activities and products where Ireland has a comparative advantage;

Funding for two new rounds of Sports Capital funding with the first in 2012 to enhance modest sporting facilities throughout the country;

Approval of a strategy for the incremental development of the National Sports Campus;

Selected road and public transport projects with a clear impact on economic development, competitiveness and market access which include the linking of the two LUAS lines, investing in new buses and the maintenance of the road network;

Review of public transport regulation to identify the potential to reduce costs; and

The continuing offer to abolish the remaining €3 travel tax subject to acceptable commitments from the carriers to additional inbound flights to Ireland.

Statistics relating to employment levels in the Transport and Tourism sectors can be found on the CSO website http://www.cso.ie/en/statistics/labourmarket/principalstatistics/. Sports statistics are not available from the CSO. I understand that Fáilte Ireland also produce statistics oftheir own on their website http://www.failteireland.ie/Research-Statistics/Current-Tourism-Performance.

Road Signage

Ceisteanna (29)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

31 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update in the review of speed limits and road signage throughout the State. [23037/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

Under Action 35 of the Road Safety Strategy, 2007-2012, my Department is committed to auditing and reporting on the appropriateness and consistency of speed limits across the road network at regular intervals. The audit is designed to examine and improve, where necessary and appropriate, the application by local authorities of speed limits and speed limit signage throughout the country, in accordance with my Department's "Guidelines for the Application of Special Speed Limits" which issued to all road authorities last year.

I recently announced that a review of speed limits would be undertaken and my Department is in the process of establishing a stakeholder Working Group to carry out this review. The Automobile Association, An Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority, the National Roads Authority, representatives of local authorities and the National Transport Authority have accepted my invitation to participate in the Working Group.

It is planned that the first meeting of the Group will take place in the coming weeks and that substantial progress will have been made by the end of 2012.

Visa Waiver Scheme

Ceisteanna (30)

Áine Collins

Ceist:

32 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to the Department of Justice and Equality’s extension and continuation of the visa waiver scheme, the value of this to the tourism industry here; the way the tourist agencies intend to take advantage of this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22787/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme was introduced as part of the Government's Jobs Initiative last year to promote tourism from emerging markets. Following a positive review of its impact, my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality decided in March to extend the Programme for a further four years.

Tourism Ireland, the agency responsible for promoting Ireland overseas, has been working hard to maximise the benefits of the Visa Waiver Programme, promoting it to travel trade contacts, industry partners and consumers through extensive marketing activity and media relations in relevant markets. Since the Programme was first introduced, there has been a noted increase in demand from tour operators for visits to Ireland. 24 new tour operators and travel agents who already programme the UK are programming the Republic of Ireland in 2012 for the first time on the back of the new visa arrangements and further growth is anticipated for 2013. There is also evidence of increased interest in Ireland from individual travellers from these markets and, since seventy-two per cent of wealthy Chinese people are now opting for an individual, high-end travel experience, Tourism Ireland is also targeting this demographic by highlighting the new short-stay visa. With additional tours and other visitors availing of the waiver, the Irish tourist industry is clearly benefitting from this extra business.

I am committed to attracting tourists from beyond our traditional markets and to exploiting the long-term opportunities presented by developing markets such as the countries covered by the Visa Waiver. Tourism Ireland continues to target potential holidaymakers in these markets by working closely with airlines and tour operators to increase exposure and demand for holidays to Ireland, and to highlight the improved access to Ireland from Asia and the Middle East.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 28.

Appointments to State Boards

Ceisteanna (31)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

34 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will be acting on the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal and ensuring that an independent appointments board will appoint future members of the National Transport Authority; if so, if he will provide details of any proposals he may have on achieving same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22987/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The Deputy's question relates to the recommendation of the Mahon Tribunal regarding appointment of members of the National Transport Authority.

I am aware of the Mahon Tribunal's recommendation that the Chairperson and the Members of the National Transport Authority (NTA) should be appointed by an Independent Appointments Board.

The current members of the Authority were appointed on 1st December 2009 by my predecessor in accordance with Section 14 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act, 2008 as amended by the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 and their term expires on 30th November 2014. I will, of course, consider the recommendation of the Mahon Tribunal in relation to the appointment of new members of the Authority in the interim or should any vacancy arise in the intervening period.

Prisoner Transfers

Ceisteanna (32)

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

35 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make contact with a person (details supplied) with a view to establishing an international transfer under the Sentenced Persons Act and afford all consular rights as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23109/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

The person referred to by the Deputy first came to the attention of my Department in 1997 when the person was initially arrested. Since then, my Department, through the Consulate-General of Ireland in Boston, has afforded all possible consular assistance to the person mentioned. Successive Consuls in the Consulate in Boston have visited the person. The current Vice Consul visited the person in prison in July 2011 and intends to visit again in the coming months. The Consulate-General of Ireland in Boston will remain in contact with the person and will continue to provide all possible consular assistance.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (33)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

36 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23174/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables:

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Eamon Gilmore T.D.

May 2011

Annual salary or scale €

Office of the Tánaiste

1 Special Adviser

168,000

1 Special Adviser

155,000

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

Private Office — Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 Special Adviser

80,051

1 Private Secretary (Third Secretary)

33,247-58,294 plus 20,685 annual PSM allowance

1 Higher Executive Officer

43,816-55,415

1 Executive Officer

29,024-45,616

3 Clerical Officers

23,177-37,341

Constituency Office

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

1 Personal Secretary

23,820-47,755

1 Clerical Officer

23,177-37,341

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Ms. Jan O'Sullivan T.D.

May 2012

Annual salary or scale €

Office of the Tánaiste

1 Special Adviser

168,000

1 Special Adviser

155,000

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

Private Office — Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 Special Adviser

83,337

1 Private Secretary (Third Secretary)

33,247-58,294 plus 20,685 annual PSM allowance

1 Higher Executive Officer

43,816-55,415

1 Executive Officer

29,024-45,616

3 Clerical Officers

23,177-37,341

Constituency Office

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

1 Personal Secretary

23,820-47,755

1 Clerical Officer

23,177-37,341

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Ms. Jan O'Sullivan T.D.

May 2011

Annual salary or scale €

Private Office

1 Private Secretary (First Secretary)

65,185-80,678 plus 20,685 annual PSM allowance

2 Clerical Officers

23,177-37,341

2 Civilian Drivers

32,964

Constituency Office

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

1 Personal Secretary

23,820-47,755

1 Clerical Officer

23,177-37,341

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Mr. Joe Costello T.D.

May 2012

Annual salary or scale €

Private Office

1 Private Secretary (Third Secretary)

33,247-58,294 plus 20,685 annual PSM allowance

1 Executive Officer

30,516-47,975

2 Clerical Officers

23,177-37,341

Constituency Office

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

1 Personal Secretary

23,820-47,755

1 Clerical Officer

23,177-37,341

Minister of State for European Affairs, Ms. Lucinda Creighton, T.D.

May 2011

Annual salary or scale €

Private Office

1 Private Secretary (HEO) *

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

1 Clerical Officer *

1 Clerical Officer

23,042 — 36,266

2 Civilian Drivers

32,964

Constituency Office

1 Personal Secretary

23,820-47,755

2 Clerical Officers

23,177-37,341

Minister of State for European Affairs, Ms. Lucinda Creighton, T.D.

May 2012

Annual salary or scale €

Private Office

1 Special Adviser

61,966

1 Private Secretary (HEO) *

1 Executive Officer — part time *

10,342 (50% of annual PMS allowance; paid by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

1 Personal Assistant

43,715-56,060

1 Clerical Officer *

2 Civilian Drivers

32,964

Constituency Office

1 Personal Secretary

23,820-47,755

2 Clerical Officers

23,177-37,341

*Staff of the Department of the Taoiseach.

Election Monitoring

Ceisteanna (34)

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

37 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the fact that in September of this year Angola will hold its legislative elections, if he will commit to supporting the case being made for the need to have a substantial independent team of observers monitoring the election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23289/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

The Government engages in electoral preparation and monitoring activity under the auspices of official EU Election Observation Missions. No decision has been taken yet by the EU to send an Election Observer Mission to Angola. Ireland would give favourable consideration to the organisation and deployment of an Election Observation Mission to Angola. The issue will need to be considered by EU Member States in the overall context of elections taking place this year in Africa and indeed elsewhere, and the availability of resources. In a recent positive development, European Commission President Barroso visited Angola last month and, in a meeting with President José Eduardo dos Santos, stated that the EU will consider the deployment of a team of experts to assist Angola in its electoral endeavours, if so requested by the Angolan Government. Should this request be received from the Angolan authorities prior to the legislative elections, Ireland will consider contributing experts through the established EU channels.

Overseas Development Aid

Ceisteanna (35)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

38 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount that was spent by Ireland on foreign aid in 2010 and 2011 and the projected spend in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23294/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

In recent years approximately 80% of Ireland's Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget has been allocated to Vote 27 — International Cooperation which is managed by my Department through its external delivery vehicle, Irish Aid. The remaining 20% is accounted for through ODA eligible contributions by other Government Departments and Ireland's share of the EU Development Cooperation budget.

Total ODA for 2010 was €676 million of which €522 million was expended by my Department. Total ODA for 2011 was €651 million of which €521 million was expended by my Department. Total estimated ODA for 2012 is €639 million and I expect that approximately €514 million will be expended by my Department. I would additionally note that total ODA expenditure dropped by approximately 30% between 2008 and 2011. Current expenditure levels equate to approximately 0.5% of GNP and the Programme for Government commits us to reaching the UN target of 0.7%. We will seek to achieve this by 2015.

Ireland's aid programme prioritises the fight against global poverty and hunger, focusing on the world poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. It has an enviable international reputation and is recognised as one of the best and most effective aid programmes in the world.

The programme reflects the core values of the Irish people and continues to enjoy very strong public support, even in the current very difficult economic circumstances. As recently as last week an independent poll showed that almost 90% of people are proud and supportive of their aid programme.

The Government is ambitious for, and committed to, the aid programme. We are determined that it will maintain and build on its high international reputation, and continue to build the foundations for real change, future prosperity and well being in the lives of many of the world's poorest people.

Motor Fuels

Ceisteanna (36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

39 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has studied the cost associated with the transport sector with particular reference to the extent to which fuel prices now negatively impact on the sector; if he has received submissions from the representative bodies in this regard; if any intervention can be made unilaterally or in consort with his EU colleagues with a view to ensuring that fuel prices here are competitive with those prevailing throughout the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23348/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he and his Department have compared the fuel element of road transport costs here with those in other jurisdictions throughout the EU, within the eurozone and without; the extent to which possible corrective action has been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23349/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

41 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has had discussions with the road haulage representatives in the context of the extent to which high fuel prices here place the industry at a disadvantage in comparison with other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23350/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

45 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he has examined the issue of a fuel rebate for Irish licensed and tax compliant hauliers who are currently buying diesel in bulk on the continent to avail of cheaper fuel costs. [23102/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

47 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the estimated fuel consumption lost to the continent as a result of hauliers refuelling abroad. [23111/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

48 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost to the Exchequer of implementing a fuel rebate of 20 cent per litre for haulage companies; and his views on whether any of this cost could be offset by making Ireland more attractive to purchase fuel as a result. [23112/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 to 41, inclusive, 45, 47 and 48 together.

The Deputies will be aware that I met with representatives of the IRHA last February and that a working group was set up involving officials of my Department and the Revenue Commissioners, the IRHA and members of the Oireachtas to examine a number of issues of concern to the haulage industry. I am sure the Deputies will understand that I cannot pre-empt the outcome of those discussions which are ongoing.

Among the issues being examined by the group is an essential user's rebate system. I should point out that a system such as that sought by the IRHA, could not under EU law be restricted to Irish licensed hauliers but would have to be extended to all vehicles intended exclusively for the carriage of goods by road with a maximum permissible gross laden weight of not less than 7.5 tonnes. In addition, the rebate would have to include the carriage of passengers by a motor vehicle of category M2 or category M3 as defined in Council Directive 70/156/EEC. Under Council Directive 2003/96/EC, any such rebate would have to be within the confines of the minimum EU excise rates so a 20c rebate as suggested by Deputy Doherty would not be possible. The maximum rebate possible would be in the order of 15c.

Given the wide range of users to which a rebate might be available, it would be difficult to cost such a rebate system. On the matter of fuel consumption lost to the continent, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they do not have such data.

On the matter of fuel prices in general, the excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 58.8 cent per litre of petrol and 47.9 cent per litre of auto-diesel. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK.

Any proposals around temporary taxation adjustments could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was discussed by EU Finance Ministers at an ECOFIN meeting last year where they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.

National Asset Management Agency

Ceisteanna (42)

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

42 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance if there have been any further discussions between him, the board of National Asset Management Agency and the Department of the Environment regarding NAMA allowing community groups to use sites when there is a clear need in an area for increased community facilities for young families and community groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23084/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

Constant with its overriding commercial mandate as set out in Section 10 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, NAMA has demonstrated its commitment and contribution to the achievement of wider social and economic policy objectives in line with Section 2 of the Act. This includes NAMA's policy to give first option to public bodies on the purchase of property which may be suitable for their purposes. The Agency also works to facilitate engagement between interested parties, including community and sporting organisations, and its debtors/receivers/sales agents and this has led to a number of positive outcomes for both parties.

I am advised by NAMA that in the first instance community groups themselves are best positioned to identify specific properties related to a NAMA loan that may be suitable for their purposes. Such groups are therefore encouraged to make contact with the owners of property and to inform NAMA of their interest. It should be noted that, while NAMA is prohibited by its legislation and by the normal rules of banking confidentiality from disclosing the identity of debtors or details of their properties, the Agency ensures that debtors are aware of interest in their properties and encourages them to engage with potential purchasers.

Central Bank Investigations

Ceisteanna (43)

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

43 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance when the Central Bank of Ireland will complete and publish its review of payment protection insurance schemes provided by financial institutions covered by the State bank guarantee; the reason for this delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23099/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

In 2011, the Central Bank carried out an initial review of the suitability of sales of payment protection insurance to customers who took out loans to determine if the sales were in compliance with the requirements of the Consumer Protection Code. The Director for Consumer Protection in the Central Bank indicated that, arising from this initial review there were concerns in relation to providers of payment protection insurance. The Bank committed to examining these concerns in more detail and announced a "2012 Programme of Themed Reviews and Inspections" for consumer protection to be undertaken by the Bank. Copy of the Press Release is available on the Central Bank's website.

I have been informed by the Central Bank that they will provide an update on the progress of the payment protection insurance review at mid-year.

European Financial Stability Facility

Ceisteanna (44)

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

44 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance the conditions under which eurozone member states can access funds under the European Financial Stability Fund; if he will confirm the timeframe within which participating States have to avail of such resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23100/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

Access to funds under the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) can be granted following an application to the EFSF for financial assistance. This assistance will be granted on the basis of a Financial Assistance Facility Agreement. Such an agreement, will be conditional upon the relevant euro-area Member States entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Commission, acting on behalf of the euro-area Member States. Any MoU entered into will be subject to conditionality, such as budgetary discipline, economic policy guidelines and their compliance with the terms of such an MoU. The EFSF has been created as a temporary institution. The EFSF Framework agreement as amended provides that "Euro-area Member States which are potential borrowers may only request and enter into Loan Facility Agreements up to 30 June 2013 (provided that loans may be disbursed after this date under Loan Facility Agreements entered into prior to this date)."

It also provides that EFSF guarantors shall only be required to issue a guarantee to facilitate the financing under Loan Facility Agreements entered into on or prior to 30 June 2013.

In accordance with its Articles of Association, the EFSF will be liquidated on the earliest date after 30 June 2013 on which there are no longer loans outstanding to a euro-area Member State and all Funding Instruments issued by EFSF and any reimbursement amounts due to Guarantors have been repaid in full.

This means that after June 2013, EFSF would not enter into any new programmes but will continue the management and repayment of any outstanding debt and will close down once all outstanding debt has been repaid.

The Eurogroup's statement of 30 March 2012, provides that the ESM will be the main instrument to finance new programmes as from July 2012. It's lending capacity will be €500 billion. The EFSF will, as a rule, only remain active in financing programmes that have started before that date. For a transitional period until mid-2013, it may engage in new programmes in order to ensure a full fresh lending capacity of EUR 500 billion for the ESM during the initial set up period.

These arrangements form part of a number of initiatives. All these initiatives were made to improve the governance of the euro area through enhancements of the Stability and Growth Pact, the new macro-economic imbalances procedure, the Euro Plus Pact and the Fiscal Compact enshrined in the new Treaty on Stability, Cooperation and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. Finally, robust firewalls have been established. This comprehensive strategy has paid off and led to a significant improvement of market conditions.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 39.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (45)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

46 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to any arrangements within semi-State companies whereby individual employees are paid for their services, either for regular contractual duties, extraordinarily contractual duties or both, through the practice of incorporating themselves and having that remuneration paid to their company; if he will outline the tax implications of such arrangements; if it facilitates the avoidance of payment of PAYE, PRSI and or other taxation at source; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23103/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The engagement and remuneration of staff of semi-State companies is a matter for those companies. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is long established in tax legislation that the remuneration arising from employments under any public institution, any public foundation or under any public corporation or local authority is fully chargeable to income tax and fully within the scope of deductions at source under the PAYE and Universal Social Charge systems with the necessary PRSI regime applying.

On a wider note, I am further informed that the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners has previously written to all Secretaries General of Government Departments as regards a range of tax issues including the need to ensure that individuals engaged by such Departments or engaged by State bodies/agencies under the aegis of those Departments are correctly classified for tax purposes and that the correct tax, etc. is deducted from emoluments paid. I understand that the Chairman will shortly be writing to Secretaries General again as regard the obligations of their Departments (and of State bodies/agencies under their aegis) to be fully tax compliant.

Questions Nos. 47 and 48 answered with Question No. 39.

Motor Fuels

Ceisteanna (46)

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

49 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to help consumers with the rising price of fuel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23125/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

Ireland, as with other countries, has experienced an increase in the cost of petrol and auto-diesel. This is an international phenomenon driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty in Northern Africa and the Middle East with potential supply disruptions. The excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 58.8 cent per litre of petrol and 47.9 cent per litre of auto-diesel. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK. The rates for petrol and auto-diesel were increased with effect from 7 December 2011, arising from an increase in the carbon charge for those fuels from €15 to €20 per tonne of CO2 emitted. This represented an increase of less than 1.5 cent per litre in the case of petrol and just over 1.5 cent per litre in the case of diesel, when VAT is included. The rate of VAT that applies to those fuels increased from 21% to 23% with effect from 1 January 2012.

The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT per litre of fuel, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase. However, in this regard it should be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

It should also be noted that businesses are of course entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on their business inputs, including VAT incurred on fuel. For example, VAT incurred on auto-diesel and marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. VAT on petrol can not be deducted/reclaimed.

There are no plans for temporary taxation adjustments, as to do so, could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was discussed by EU Finance Ministers at an ECOFIN meeting last year where they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.

Personal Debt

Ceisteanna (47)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

50 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the terms and conditions of the deferred interest scheme which is an option in the restructuring of a mortgage; in the case of each covered institution, the number of DIS arrangements that have been entered into to date and if he is satisfied with the implementation of this recommendation from the expert group on mortgage arrears and personal debt, the Cooney report. [23165/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt ("the Expert Group"), in its final report, recommended that lenders should implement its deferred interest scheme or a variation of it. The Central Bank quarterly residential mortgage data for end December 2011 showed that 82 mortgage holders were participating in Deferred Interest Schemes (DIS) offered by lenders. It should be noted that the DIS is a voluntary scheme directed towards extending forbearance to mortgage holders in difficulty.

The latest Central Bank mortgage data shows that there are approximately 75,000 restructured mortgage accounts which demonstrates that lenders are offering a range of forbearance options to mortgage holders in difficulty.

The approach of Government to the mortgage arrears problem has been clear and measures being implemented to assist mortgage holders in difficulty include personal insolvency reform, the implementation of the "mortgage to rent" initiative, direct engagement with individual mortgage lenders on their mortgage arrears resolution strategies, the development by lenders of realistic options for their customers that are experiencing mortgage difficulty and the provision of a mortgage advisory function.

In addition, the Central Bank's revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears remains a key framework that governs the relationship between lenders and mortgage holders who are in arrears or facing arrears. This continues to provide very important and much needed protections to such mortgage holders.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (48)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

51 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23173/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

Since my appointment as Minister for Finance on 9 March 2011, the following staff have been appointed to my private office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

1 Private Secretary

€33,247-€58,294

1.00

2 Executive Officers (EO)

€29,024-€47,379

1.00

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,177-€37,341

1.00

2 Clerical Officers (CO)

€23,042-€36,267

1.00

The following staff are assigned to work on constituency matters.

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

1 Personal Assistant

€43,715-€56,060

1.00

1 Executive Officer (EO)

€30,516-€47,975

1.00

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,177-€37,341

1.00

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,042-€36,267

0.40

My colleague, Deputy Brian Hayes, TD Minister of State for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Department of Finance has appointed the following staff to his office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

1 Staff Officer (SO)

€33,070-€43,906

1.00

Local Authority Charges

Ceisteanna (49)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

52 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Finance if there has been any discussion or decision on the Revenue Commission withholding tax clearance certificates from persons who have not paid the household charge and or any similar charges now or in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23187/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The Household Charge is an annual charge introduced by the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and is payable by owners of residential property. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is responsible for the administration of this charge. The Household Charge does not currently come within the scope of the taxes and duties that are covered by the existing legislation governing the Tax Clearance scheme operated by the Revenue Commissioners.

National Asset Management Agency

Ceisteanna (50)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

53 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to correspondence regarding the National Asset Management Agency, banks, and household charge holiday homes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23206/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

NAMA is prohibited, by the legislation that established it and by the normal rules of banking confidentiality, from disclosing the identity of debtors or details of their properties. I am therefore unable to comment on the cases referred to in the details supplied. However, I am advised by NAMA that it has exposure to 121 of the over 900 operating hotels in Ireland and has exposure to 20 golf courses, mainly attached to the aforementioned hotels, of which there are over 400 in the country. These figures show that despite perception to the contrary NAMA debtors have relatively small exposures to the hospitality sector and it could therefore be argued that the Agency's impact on the overall viability of the sector tends to be exaggerated. Furthermore, I am advised that complaints about NAMA loans which have hotels as security have been received by the Competition Authority. NAMA engaged openly with the Authority in its investigations of these complaints and I understand that as a result of the information it received from NAMA, the Competition Authority chose not to pursue these complaints further.

EU-IMF Agreement

Ceisteanna (51)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

54 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his estimate, based on all currently available information, including the projected deficits for 2013, 2014 and 2015 set out in the recent stability programme update and the maturity of Government bonds, the amount of additional funds Ireland will need to raise beyond the funds currently available in the EU-IMF programme of assistance in 2014 and 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23320/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The most recent Exchequer deficit estimates for the years 2013-2015 were presented in the April 2012 Stability Programme Update. They are also set out in the table below. The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) advises me that a list of outstanding Irish Government bonds can be accessed on its website. Outstanding Irish Government bonds due to mature over the period 2013-2015, as well as the dates on which those bonds are due to mature are set out in the table below. This data reflects the position as at 30th April 2012:

€billion

Projected Exchequer Deficit

Irish Government Bond Maturities (maturity date)

IMF/EU and BilateralFacilities

Total Funding Requirement

2013

14.5

6.0 (18/04/2013)

20.5

2014

10.4

8.2 (15/01/2014)

18.6

2015

6.8

3.6 (18/02/2015) and (18/08/2015)

6.9

17.3

As of end-April 2012, some €48 billion of the €67½ billion in external funding available under the EU/IMF Programme had been drawn down, leaving a further €19½ billion to be drawn down over the remainder of this year and next. At end-April 2012, the Exchequer also maintained healthy Exchequer cash balances of €13.1 billion.

These cash balances as well as the remaining EU/IMF Programme funding are also available to finance the Exchequer over the remainder of 2012.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (52)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

55 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding taxation in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [23369/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in the case of the person named, the Revenue Commissioners wrote to him on 25th April 2012 and requested him to complete Returns of income for the years 2008 to 2011 inclusive. He was advised to include all sources of earnings, including pensions, on his Return in respect of himself and his late wife. The Revenue Commissioners do not propose to make enquiries relating to earlier years in this case. On receipt on these returns, Revenue will be in a position to advise him on his tax situation.

In general, Revenue can make assessments to tax for a period of 4 years from the end of the most recent year of assessment. In cases of fraud or neglect this 4-year time limit does not apply.

Third Level Entrance Examinations

Ceisteanna (53, 54)

John Lyons

Ceist:

56 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reform the HPAT entry exam to Irish medical schools; his views on whether those who can afford expensive preparatory courses are at an advantage when sitting the exam; his views on whether there is a more equitable assessment process that could be instituted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23181/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Lyons

Ceist:

57 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills if in consideration of any proposals for reforming the HPAT entry exam to Irish medical schools, he will examine the possibility of allowing any such entry exam or assessment process to be taken through Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23182/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 57 together.

The selection criteria for admission to medical programmes are determined by the higher education institutions in line with their statutory autonomy in academic affairs.

The introduction of HPAT in 2009 had regard to the findings of the Working Group on Undergraduate Medical Education and Training: Medical Education in Ireland: A New Direction (the Fottrell report), which recommended that the Leaving Certificate results should no longer be the sole selection method for entry to medical education at undergraduate level, but that a two stage mechanism should be applied consisting of the results obtained in Leaving Cert and a standardised admissions test which would assess non-academic skills and attributes regarded as important for the practice of medicine.

The medical schools committed to a review of the new entry mechanism within 3 years and the outcome of this review is awaited. Any issues arising from the review in relation to the entry process will be for the medical schools to address.

It is understood that the medical schools did consider the possibility of making the test available in both Irish and English but this was found to be impractical as when dealing with an internationally-standardised aptitude test such as HPAT the medium of language is a significant factor and tests in different languages are not directly comparable.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (55)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

58 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a progress report on the national spring board scheme; and the number of participants in each county. [23297/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

Springboard is a specific initiative to provide part time higher education places targeted at unemployed people who have lost jobs in sectors where employment levels will not return and who will need new qualifications and skills to re-enter employment in areas where sustainable opportunities may arise as the economy recovers.

A first-stage process evaluation of Springboard was published by the Higher Education Authority in February and is available on the HEA's website: www.hea.ie. It shows that the programme has been very successful to date in reaching its target cohorts. As at the end of December 2011, 77% of Springboard participants were aged between 25 and 49, 60% had been out of work for more than 1 year and 20%, the largest single group, were previously employed in the construction sector. The second stage of Springboard evaluation will take place in July 2012. Further monitoring of outcomes will take place at regular intervals thereafter.

Information is not available on the number of Springboard participants in each county; however, information on those currently enrolled on a Springboard programme by region is contained in the following table:

Region NUTS III

Total

Border

360

Dublin

3,244

Mid West

165

Midlands

5

South East

119

South West

520

West

155

Grand Total

4,568

Schools Refurbishment

Ceisteanna (56)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

59 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of reports of spalling and falling concrete occurring in schools (details supplied), if he will consider the schools’ application for the summer works programme in order that this problem is attended to before it leads to accidents to staff, children, parents and causes the school to close; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23094/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department will shortly be making direct contact with the school authority in the context of the matters raised by her.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (57)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

60 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm the date on which the review of the modern languages in primary schools initiative will commence; the date this review will be completed; his views on the modern language initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23105/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

I believe that the Deputy may have misunderstood the reply given by the Taoiseach on 1 May 2012 to a question concerning the modern languages in primary schools initiative. In his reply, the Taoiseach did not give a commitment to review the decision to end the modern languages in primary school initiative. He did however state that the primary curriculum is being reviewed by the NCCA in the context of the national literacy and numeracy strategy.

This Government does not plan to review the decision to end the modern languages in primary schools initiative.

As the Deputy is aware the decision to end the scheme took account of a 2008 Report by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The report identified serious issues with curricular overload at primary level. The NCCA's advice recommended for the present modern languages should not be part of the Primary School Curriculum as an additional and separate subject. The advice in relation to curriculum overload predated the wake up call on literacy and numeracy triggered by the PISA results. I am taking that advice on board and with particular regard to the demands on time in school that will result from a heightened focus on literacy and numeracy.

The primary curriculum is currently being reviewed by the NCCA in the context of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. The €2.5million in savings from this measure will go towards the cost of implementing the new National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. The 17% of primary schools at present in the Initiative, who have had even more time demands than others in a crowded curricular space, should as a result be better placed to deliver under the strategy.

Given the priority of literacy and numeracy, I have acted on the 2008 advice about overload and could not justify either the continuation of the initiative in the existing schools or its expansion to all schools even if funding was not an issue.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (58)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

61 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23171/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

At a Government meeting held on the 15th March, 2011, it was decided to reduce the number of staff permitted in Minister's Private Offices from 10 to 8 and Minister of State's Private Offices from 7 to 5. The number of staff permitted in Minister's Constituency Offices was reduced from 6 to 4 and Ministers of State's Constituency Offices from 5 to 3. The staffing of these offices at my Department is in accordance with the new guidelines.

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Minister — Private and Constituency Offices

May 2011

Number of Staff (*FTE)

+Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

8

€434,060

Constituency Office

4

€193,881

May 2012

Number of Staff

Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

8

€438,983

Constituency Office

4

€195,097

Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, T.D. — Private and Constituency Offices

May 2011

Number of Staff

Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

5

€213,548

Constituency Office

*2.8

€120,613

May 2012

Number of Staff

Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

4

€177,875

Constituency Office

3

€126,037

Private Secretary appointed on 7th June, 2011, to Mr Seán Sherlock, T.D., Minister of State for Research and Innovation in the Department of Education and Skills

Gross Annual Salary Cost

May 2012

€58,273

*Full time equivalent.

+The salaries paid to the civil servants are in accordance with the Department of Finance salary scales for the relevant grades. The salaries paid to the non-civil servant staff are in accordance with the Department of Finance Instructions relating to the Appointment of Ministerial Private Office Staff.

School Management

Ceisteanna (59)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

62 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills the external avenue of appeal open to a parent who wishes to challenge the decision of the board of management of a national school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23210/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

The Deputy will be aware that under the Education Act 1998, legally, all schools are managed by school Boards of Management, on behalf of the school patrons or trustees, and it is the Board of Management that employ the teachers at the school. Accordingly, whereas I provide funding and policy direction for schools, neither I nor the Department have legal powers to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regards to individual complaint cases, or to investigate individual complaints except where the complaint involves a refused enrolment, expulsion or suspension, in accordance with Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act.

In dealing with parental complaints, my Department's role is to clarify for parents how their grievances and complaints against schools can be progressed. If a parent wishes to make a complaint against a teacher or school they should contact the relevant school authorities. The complaint procedures adopted by most schools are those that have been agreed between the teacher unions and school management bodies. Where a parent feels that the school's board of management has failed to investigate or adequately investigate their complaint, they should contact the Ombudsman for Children.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints about schools recognised with the Department of Education and Skills, provided the parent has firstly and fully followed the school's complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the action of the school has had a negative affect on a child. The office can be contacted at Ombudsman for Children's Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1, (Ph) 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 8656800, E-mail oco@oco.ie.

Skills Development

Ceisteanna (60, 61, 62)

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

63 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in implementing the action plan on ICT skills, in particular the measures enacted to assist jobseekers in acquiring the ICT skills needed to benefit from the recent substantial job announcements in the ICT sector which serve as an indicator of future job growth and the emergence of ICT hubs. [23230/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

67 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the up-take of the Bluebrick ICT programmes; the completion rate of courses and the numbers of students who have progressed from job placements to employment under this initiative. [23360/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

68 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the progress made on introducing a higher diploma level 8 conversion programme in order that graduates from other sectors can convert to the ICT sector which is providing new employment opportunities through its expansion and innovation. [23362/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 67 and 68 together.

The new Higher Diploma Level 8 Conversion ICT Programmes targeted at jobseekers have been rolling out from March 2012. To date 682 students have accepted places or are enrolled on these programmes countrywide. A preliminary evaluation of applicant data shows that there has been strong demand for these programmes from high quality applicants. More than 80% of participants have degree level or postgraduate qualifications. A quarter of participants were previously employed in the construction sector. A preliminary analysis of qualifications responses show that approximately 8% have qualifications in Architecture, architectural technology or Built Environment and a further 15% have qualifications in Engineering (mostly civil and mechanical engineering) with others qualified in mathematics, science, accountancy, commerce and other disciplines. None of the programmes have completed yet but there will be ongoing monitoring of the programmes and an evaluation of the outcomes as graduates emerge early next year.

Other actions provided for in the Plan are also under way including the establishment of a new high level Academic Industry Foresight Group. The publication of the Plan has also contributed to raised awareness of the employment opportunities for graduates from these disciplines. While it is too early to assess increased numbers onto undergraduate ICT programmes, early indications from CAO application data are very promising. The number of students expressing a first preference for Science courses (including Computing) at honours degree level (level 8) increased by 18.47% this year and over the five year period 2008-12, this figure has increased by a total of 63.5%. It is expected that this will feed through into increased enrolments in September 2012.

Higher Education Grants

Ceisteanna (63)

James Bannon

Ceist:

64 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay in issuing the second instalment of a third level grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23241/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

The decision on eligibility and the payment of the student grant is a matter for a student's local grant awarding authority, in this case County Roscommon VEC. Officials in my Department contacted County Roscommon VEC, which confirmed that it issued the 2nd instalment of the grant on the 11th of January 2012 and the 3rd instalment on the 17th of April 2012 to the student's college, Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

School Staffing

Ceisteanna (64)

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

65 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) in County Donegal with 84 pupils on roll and a teaching staff of four is scheduled to lose a dedicated member of staff and return to a three teacher school due to cutbacks; and if he will resolve the issue to prevent the loss of one of their teaching staff. [23303/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

The school referred to by the Deputy will retain all of its current teaching posts for the forthcoming 2012-13 school year. The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September.

The staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. As part of the new staffing arrangements my Department has expanded the existing appeals process so that it is accessible to the small primary schools that are losing a classroom post as a result of the budget measure. Such schools will not lose their classroom post if they are projecting increased enrolments in September 2012 that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term.

The Primary Staffing Appeals Board met on 18th and 19th April. A total of 367 schools submitted appeals to the Appeals Board. These appeals were considered in accordance with the appeals criteria set out in Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012. 205 schools had their appeals upheld by the Staffing Appeals Board. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools have been notified of the outcome of their appeals.

The next meeting of Staffing Appeals Board is due to be held on 14 June 2012. The latest date for other schools to submit appeals is 1 June 2012. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and all appeals to the Staffing Appeals Board will have been considered.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (65)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

66 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of 18 year olds currently in secondary school. [23314/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of the number of 18 year olds in post-primary schools for 2011/12 school year is 18,061 in mainstream education which includes Junior Certificate, Transition Year and Leaving Certificate programmes. There are an additional 7,846 18 year olds enrolled in Post Leaving Certificate, Core VTOS and Repeat Leaving Certificate programmes. The age of the students is calculated with reference to 1st January 2012. This information has been extracted from the returns made by post-primary schools to my Department for the school year 2011/12.

Questions Nos. 67 and 68 answered with Question No. 63.

School Staffing

Ceisteanna (66)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

69 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to allocate a school (details supplied) five hours per mainstream teacher learning support instead of four hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23375/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Skills)

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. A key part of the reforms of the allocation process was to facilitate a long overdue updating of the GAM (learning support) allocation for all schools. The criteria for the allocation of GAM hours by school type including DEIS schools are outlined in circular 007/2012. The reform inevitably involves changes to existing clustering arrangements whereby a teacher is shared between schools. A further change is that schools in any locality are being empowered to cluster and arrange their GAM resources in a manner that best suits their local needs.

The staffing arrangements include provision for an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal and the Board upheld this appeal at its meeting on the 18th and 19th April 2012. The school has been notified accordingly.

Property Valuations

Ceisteanna (67)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

70 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the programme of revaluation of all commercial and industrial properties that is currently being carried out throughout the State; the number of counties that have been reviewed and which counties; when this review will be completed; if he will reorganise the Valuation Office to ensure that those carrying out property revaluations are separate to those who set the initial valuations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23113/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Expenditure)

The work of the Valuation Office is underpinned by The Valuation Act 2001 which provides for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property. The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Act and the making of valuations for local authority rating is his sole prerogative. The statute does not accord me, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, any function in this regard. In accordance with the 2001 Act, which came into force on 2nd May, 2002, a national programme is being rolled out progressively for the revaluation of all commercial and industrial properties in the State.

The revaluation programme aims to provide up-to-date valuations for individual properties across all economic sectors that are subject to local authority rates. The revaluation process is the mechanism whereby economic changes that take place in the property market are reflected in the valuation lists for rates purposes and in individual ratepayers' rates liabilities. It is an important programme, especially given the significant changes in values and rents following the economic downturn of recent years.

The purpose of a revaluation is to redistribute commercial rates liabilities among ratepayers based on up-to-date values. Following revaluation, there will be a much closer relationship between rental value and commercial rates liability. Even though property values have fallen generally, some ratepayers will gain while others will lose from the process of redistribution but, overall, revaluation results in a fairer distribution of the rates burden.

The revaluation programme, which has been completed in three County Council areas in Dublin, began in November 2005 in the South Dublin County Council area and has since been rolled out to the areas covered by Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils. The revaluation of South Dublin was completed in December 2007, Fingal was completed in 2009 and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown was completed in 2010. The revaluation of Dublin City Council area began in May 2011 and will be completed in 2013. The Commissioner signed valuation orders for Waterford on 12th December, 2011 and Limerick on 29th March, 2012. The Waterford and Limerick revaluations will be completed in 2013 and 2014 respectively. It is intended to extend the revaluation programme to further local authority areas as soon as it is practicable to do so but it is not possible at present to say where these areas will be.

While the extension of the project to Dublin City is the major current focus and represents an important advance, the Commissioner has expressed his concern that the present rate of progress may not allow the Office to complete the job nationally within the ten years from 2008 which the Office previously indicated.

Accordingly, the Valuation Office is actively pursuing ways to accelerate the revaluation programme. The Commissioner has indicated that following detailed examination of various possibilities over the past year the Office has concluded that it may be feasible to introduce a Self-assessment approach, accompanied by appropriate controls, and that it might be possible also to outsource some of the work. The enabling provisions to allow for these changes are included in proposals for amending legislation currently being drafted by the Parliamentary Draftsman and, subject to the enactment of this legislation, I understand that the intention would be to initiate pilot revaluations in two local authority areas using the new methodologies.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (68)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

71 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23178/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Expenditure)

Since my appointment as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 9 March 2011, the following staff have been appointed to my private office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

1 Private Secretary

€42,838-€60,224

1.00

1 Executive Officer

€29,024-€47,379

1.00

3 Clerical Officers (CO)

€23,177-€37,341

1.00

The following staff are assigned to work on constituency matters:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

1 Personal Secretary

€23,820-€47,755

1.00

1 Personal Assistant

€43,715-€56,060

1.00

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,177-€37,341

0.80

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,042-€36,267

0.60

My colleague, Deputy Brian Hayes, Minister of State for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Department of Finance has appointed the following staff to his office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

1 Staff Officer (SO)

€33,070-€43,906

1.00

Cloud Computing Strategy

Ceisteanna (69)

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

72 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the progress made in designing a cloud computing strategy for the public service; when he will present such a strategy to the Government; and the role he envisages that ICT companies based in Ireland can play in the implementation of the strategy and the introduction of the technology required. [23363/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Expenditure)

My Department is working with the Public Service Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council on the development of the Cloud Computing Strategy for the public service. Drafting is under way. It is planned to bring the Strategy to Government in June for approval and publication. Considerable research on Cloud Computing approaches has already been done with ICT companies based in Ireland and it is clear that the implementation of the various strands of the Strategy should over time give these companies ample opportunities for business with public bodies.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (70)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Ceist:

73 Deputy Luke “Ming” Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the guidelines on the Services Directive, Directive 2006/123/EC, will issue; and if he will ensure that his Department carries through on issuing a notice to all local authorities regarding casual trading. [23114/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

As stated in my previous reply, Directive 2006/123/EC [the Services Directive] on services in the internal market was transposed into Irish law by way of S.I. No. 533 of 2010, (European Communities (Provision of Services) Regulations 2010) and S.I. No. 555, (European Communities (Court Orders for the Protection of Consumer Interests) Regulations, 2010). The Directive is not concerned specifically with casual trading but with the provision of services in general. The service in the context of the Deputy's question is the regulation of casual trading by local authorities which results in the provision of casual trading licences to traders to sell goods in public places.

On the 17th December 2009 my Department issued a detailed Notice to all 88 local authorities entitled to make bye laws under the Casual Trading Act 1995 outlining the obligations arising for them under the Services Directive. This Notice was drawn up in my Department following consultations with the Office of the Attorney General. Arising from this Notice, local authorities and others raised issues in respect of the obligations under the Services Directive. Regulation 14(2) of S.I. No. 533 of 2010 transposes Article 13(2) of the Services Directive. This Regulation states that competent authorities (in this case local authorities) shall ensure that the fees charged "are reasonable and proportionate to the cost of administering the scheme". The question arises as to how this provision interacts with the provision for fees in the Casual Trading Act 1995 [section 6(4)].

Consultations between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General are still ongoing in this matter. When these consultations have concluded, I can assure the Deputy that my Department will write to all local authorities, informing them of the position with regard to this issue and any other issues arising from how the Services Directive affects casual trading regulation.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (71)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

74 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23176/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The following tables outline the number of persons employed in my private and constituency office and also in each Minister of State's office at 9th May 2011 and 9th May 2012:

Office

Staff Numbers at 9th May 2011

Staff Numbers at 9th May, 2012

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Private Office

Private Office

2 Special Advisers

2 Special Advisers

1 Private Secretary

1 Private Secretary

2 Executive Officers

2 Executive Officers

5 Clerical Officers

4 Clerical Officers

Constituency Office

Constituency Office

1 Clerical Officer

1 Clerical Officer

1 Parliamentary Adviser

1 Parliamentary Adviser

1 Personal Secretary

1 Personal Secretary

2 Civilian Drivers

2 Civilian Drivers

Office

Staff Numbers at 9th May 2011

Staff Numbers at 9th May 2012

Minister of State for Research and Innovation

Private Office

Private Office

1 Private Secretary

1 Private Secretary

2 Clerical Officers

2 Clerical Officers

Constituency Office

Constituency Office

1 Personal Assistant

1 Personal Assistant

1 Personal Secretary

1 Personal Secretary

1 Clerical Officer

1 Clerical Officer

2 Civilian Drivers

2 Civilian Drivers

Office

Staff Numbers at 9th May, 2011

Staff Numbers at 9th May 2012

Minister of State for Small Business

Private Office

Private Office

1 Private Secretary

1 Private Secretary

1 Staff Officer

1 Staff Officer

1 Clerical Officer

1 Clerical Officer

Constituency Office

Constituency Office

1 Personal Assistant

1 Personal Assistant

Personal Secretary (0.5% x 2)

Personal Secretary (0.5% x 2)

2 Civilian Drivers

2 Civilian Drivers

1 Clerical Officer

The following table sets out the salary scales of those employed in my private and constituency office and also in each Minister of State's office:

Office of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Grade

Salary Scale

Special Adviser

€127,000

Special Adviser

€80,051-€98,424

Private Secretary

€46,081-€58,294 plus allowance of €20,685 p.a.

Executive Officer

€30,516-€47,975

Clerical Officer

€23,176-€37,341

Parliamentary Adviser

€43,715-€56,060

Personal Secretary

€23,820-€47,755

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Office of the Minister for Research and Innovation

Grade

Salary Scale

Private Secretary

€30,516-€47,975, plus allowance of €20,685 p.a.

Clerical Officer

€23,176-€37,341

Personal Assistant

€43,715-€56,060

Personal Secretary

€23,820-€47,755

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Office of the Minister for Small Business

Grade

Salary Scale

Private Secretary

€46,081-€58,294, plus allowance of €20,685 p.a.

Staff Officer

€33,070-€43,906

Clerical Officer

€23,176-€37,341

Personal Assistant

€43,715-€56,060

Personal Secretary

€23,820-€47,755

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Industrial Disputes

Ceisteanna (72)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

75 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to industrial relations problems in companies (details supplied); if he has had contact with the boards or the management of the companies in relation to these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23197/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Industrial action by 110 workers at the Irish Cement production plants at Platin, Co Meath and Castlemungret, Co Limerick began on 3rd April last. I understand that the Labour Court's most recent Recommendation of January 2012 in relation to this dispute was the culmination of a protracted dialogue between the company and the group of unions representing the workers on restructuring issues that had already involved three successive Labour Court Recommendations. The Labour Court noted in its Recommendation of last January that it was not in a position, on the basis of the information provided through a report of a Financial Assessor undertaken following agreement between the parties, to make a definitive recommendation on an adjustment of pay rates and pay structures for the future. The Labour Court had, accordingly, urged the parties to engage with each other regarding the total cost base of the company.

The Labour Relations Commission was subsequently closely involved in facilitating talks between the company and the group of unions which were aimed at finding an agreed solution to the matters in dispute. That process of dialogue proceeded to the stage at which proposals for a settlement of the dispute were rejected by the trade unions concerned and a work stoppage commenced. I understand that the parties are currently engaged in direct discussions in an effort to resolve the dispute, with the assistance of an independent facilitator jointly appointed by ICTU and IBEC.

I would urge the parties involved in this dispute to work together to break the current impasse and to approach the process in good faith. The industrial relations dispute resolution bodies also remain available, if requested, to assist in seeking a resolution.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (73)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

76 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a review will take place into the correct entitlement of rent allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23096/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances. The claim was reviewed on the 27th of March and the client has been paid all outstanding arrears.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

77 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23154/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions indepedently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

78 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23155/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1st December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

79 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a supplementary welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23156/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 26th March 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the case in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

80 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a supplementary welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23157/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 26th November 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

81 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23159/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received on 24th June 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for DCA. A letter issued on 20th September 2011 refusing the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision and he was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 3rd April 2012 that the appeal had been disallowed. The decision/appeal process for this application is now complete. If the person concerned has additional information which was not made available to the deciding and appeals officers when they made their decisions, it is open to him to re-apply for the payment.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

82 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23160/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

83 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23161/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 07th December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

84 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23162/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the invalidity pension claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 2 April 2012 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Employment Support Services

Ceisteanna (82)

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

85 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when persons on disability allowance will be allowed to participate in schemes such as TUS and internment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23163/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The purpose of Tús is to support the work-readiness of people who are unemployed for a year or more. For this reason, eligibility is confined to those in receipt of a job seekers payment from the Department of Social Protection. These provisions are to ensure a highly targeted approach on those at danger of falling into long term unemployment. Persons in receipt of disability allowance are however eligible for a range of other job activation initiatives, including community employment. This morning I increased the range of options available by announcing that with effect from the 28th of May the eligibility for the national Internship Scheme, Job Bridge, would be altered to include those in of Disability Allowance. This change will take effect from the 28th of May 2012

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (83)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

86 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in her Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23179/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

Details of the staffing levels, and related salaries, in respect of my private and constituency offices in the Department are shown in the following tabular statement. There is no Minister of State attached to my Department.

Staffing of Minister Joan Burton's Private Office at 9 May 2012

Grade

Salary Scale

Allowance

Ministerial Appointments

1 Special Adviser, appointed on 29/7/11

€127,796

1 Press Adviser, appointed on 18/7/11

€80,051-€98,424

Established civil servants

1 Higher Executive Officer (Private Secretary)

€43,816-€55,415

€19,653

1 Executive Officer

€29,024-€45,616

1 Clerical Officer

€23,042-€36,267 Higher Scale

1 Clerical Officer

€22,015-€35,515

1 Clerical Officer

€23,177-€37,341

**Personal Pension Contribution Pay Scales apply, as employment commenced after 6 April 1995.

Staffing of Minister Joan Burton's Constituency Office at 9 May 2012

Grade

Salary Scale

Allowance

Ministerial Appointments

1 Personal Assistant, appointed on 3/5/11

€43,715-€56,060

1 Personal Secretary, appointed on 9/3/11

€23,820-€47,755

[In my role as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party I also have a further support person, employed by the Labour Party].

Established civil servants

1 Executive Officer

€30,516-€47,975*

1 Clerical Officer

€23,177-€37,341*

Ministerial Drivers

2 Civilian Drivers appointed on 16/5/11 and 30/5/11

€32,964

*Personal Pension Contribution Pay Scales apply, as employment commenced after 6 April 1995.

Staffing of Minister Joan Burton's Private Office at 9 May 2011

Grade

Salary Scale

Allowance

Established civil servants

1 Higher Executive Officer (Private Secretary)

€43,816-€55,415

€19,653

1 Executive Officer

€29,024-€45,616

1 Clerical Officer

€23,042-€36,267 Higher Scale

1 Clerical Officer

€22,015-€35,515

1 Clerical Officer

€23,177-€37,341

**Personal Pension Contribution Pay Scales apply, as employment commenced after 6 April 1995.

Staffing of Minister Joan Burton's Constituency Office at 9 May 2011

Grade

Salary Scale

Allowance

Ministerial Appointments

1 Personal Assistant, appointed on 3/5/11

€43,715-€56,060

1 Personal Secretary, appointed on 9/3/11

€23,820-€47,755

[In my role as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party I also had a further support person, employed by the Labour Party].

Established civil servants

1 Executive Officer

€30,516-€47,975*

1 Clerical Officer

€23,177-€37,341*

*Personal Pension Contribution Pay Scales apply, as employment commenced after 6 April 1995.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (84)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

87 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to deal with the ongoing backlogs and delays in processing carer’s allowance applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23184/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

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

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

Accurate processing time figures are not available at present as applications are still being processed on both the old and the new computer systems. The average time to award an application at present is estimated at around 28 weeks. There are currently approximately 7,800 new applications registered and awaiting a decision and approximately 330 new applications are received each week. I acknowledge that this is unsatisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking all steps available to it to resolve the issue.

In addition to the deployment of new systems which should address service levels in the medium term, the Department is allocating additional resources in the form of overtime working to help reduce backlogs that have built up. In addition, approval has recently been given for the assignment of temporary staff to expedite the reduction of the backlogs. However, it is expected to be a significant number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

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

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (85)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

88 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the decision to refuse an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23201/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 9th November 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (86)

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

89 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection the mechanism for appeal for those who applied for funding from the humanitarian assistance fund set up after the floods of October 2011, and the qualifying criteria; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23216/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

In the immediate aftermath of the severe flooding experienced in October 2011, the Government put in place a humanitarian assistance scheme to assist households affected by that flooding. The scheme, which is means tested, is available to people whose homes were damaged in the flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and in some instances structural repair as a result of the flooding damage.

The humanitarian assistance scheme is a non-statutory scheme and is not covered under social welfare legislation. It is one of a number of social welfare schemes which operates on an administrative basis. Administrative schemes are not appealable under social welfare legislation. However, where a person is dissatisfied with a decision they can request to have their case reviewed by another officer. This review will be carried out by an officer not involved in the original decision.

Social Welfare Code

Ceisteanna (87)

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

90 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection the changes, if any, that are proposed to ensure that self-employed persons who fall on hard times, or are without work for some of the time, receive support from social protection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23217/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social insurance benefits pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

Any changes to the PRSI system to extend the full range of social insurance benefits, to self-employed persons would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable. I established the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare last year to meet the commitment made in the Programme for Government. Among the issues that the Advisory Group is currently considering is the issue of providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable. In addition, the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, which is due to be completed in mid-2012, will examine this matter.

Self-employed individuals who fall on hard times or are without work for some time may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments. Those who have been previously self-employed can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year and, in the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. As in the case of a non-self-employed claimant for assistance-based payments, the means of husband/wife, civil partner or co-habitant will be taken into account in deciding on entitlement to a payment.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (88)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

91 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a domiciliary care appeal in respect of a person (details supplied). [23226/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 7th December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Redundancy Payments

Ceisteanna (89)

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

92 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when redundancy payment will be paid in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23227/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 26 March 2012. The claim has been awarded and payment will issue to the person's nominated bank account in the coming weeks.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (90)

James Bannon

Ceist:

93 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will review the decision on pension arrears in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23232/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

Where a student reaches age 22 during an academic year, the increase for a qualified child is continued in payment for the duration of that academic year, provided s/he remains in full-time education.

The child concerned reached 22 on 15 September 2011, however the academic year did not start until 19 September 2011 as confirmed by letter of 23 April 2012 from Dublin City University. As the child was 22 before the academic year commenced, the person concerned is not entitled to payment of an increase for the child.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (91)

James Bannon

Ceist:

94 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision not to grant a disability allowance to a person (details supplied) in county Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23234/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned following an Oral Hearing.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer agreed to review the case and following this review has allowed the appeal. The person concerned was notified of the result on 28th April 2012

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (92, 93, 94, 95, 96)

James Bannon

Ceist:

95 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (detail supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23236/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

Medical evidence supplied in support of the person's application was referred to one of the department's medical assessors who was of the opinion, based on the information supplied, that the person was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and the application was refused. The person concerned was notified in writing of this decision on 27 November 2011. Further medical evidence was subsequently received and has been referred to a medical assessor. When the medical assessor's opinion is received the deciding officer will review the claim and the person concerned will be notified in writing of the decision in due course.

James Bannon

Ceist:

96 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23237/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I confirm that an application for carer's allowance was received from the person concerned. While the medical evidence submitted with her application did not satisfy the medical criteria for receipt of carer's allowance, additional medical evidence was received and forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her claim a decision will be made and the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

James Bannon

Ceist:

97 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23238/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The person concerned is currently in receipt of carer's allowance in respect of one care recipient. She was refused carer's allowance in respect of a second care recipient on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. On 28 October 2010, she was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review or appeal within 21 days. Further medical evidence was submitted on 17th January 2011 and 2nd February 2011 in support of her case. However, this information did not alter the opinion of the medical assessor and consequently the deciding officer's decision remained unchanged. On 16 March 2011, she was notified accordingly. There is no record of an appeal against that decision.

On 15 February 2012, you submitted further medical evidence on behalf of the second care recipient's medical condition.In view of the lapse of time since the initial decision, this medical evidence is being taken as an indication of a wish to make a new application for an increase in carer's allowance in respect of a second care recipient.Accordingly a fresh application form and return envelope issued to her on 5 May 2012.On receipt of the form, duly completed, the application will be assessed as soon as possible and the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

James Bannon

Ceist:

98 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in CountyLongford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23239/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person will be notified directly of the outcome. Customers who have urgent income support needs while awaiting a decision on their primary social welfare claim can apply for the means tested supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) from their local Community Welfare Officer.

James Bannon

Ceist:

99 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in awarding children’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23240/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Under EU Regulations the country of employment is competent to award child benefit even though the family may reside in another EU member state. The spouse of the person concerned is employed in the United Kingdom. She herself is not employed. Therefore, the United Kingdom is the competent state to award family benefits and this Department considers entitlement to a Family Benefit Supplement payment. A supplement payment is the difference in the total amount of family benefits payable in the UK (Child Benefit + Child Tax Credit) and Ireland (Child Benefit). In order to establish entitlement to a Family Benefit supplement payment, UK Child Tax Credit Notices are required for the tax years 2011/2012 and 2012/2013. Correspondence has issued requesting these. When this information is received, entitlement to Family Benefit supplement payment from 1 January 2012 will be established and the customer will be notified accordingly.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (97)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

100 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a mortgage interest supplement appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23291/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that no appeal by the person concerned has been received by that office. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 101 withdrawn.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (98)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

102 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the uptake for the national internship scheme JobBridge on a county basis; and if an audit of the programme has been carried out. [23298/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, at all skills levels. The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience. It provides them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment. The Scheme is open to organisations in the private, public and community or voluntary sectors. The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. 6,840 jobseekers have commenced their internship since 1st July 2011. Please see breakdown of starters to-date in Table 1.

My Department has recently selected Indecon International Economic Consultants to conduct an independent evaluation of the Scheme. This Project needs to be undertaken to assess the design, delivery and impact of the JobBridge scheme on the unemployed. It should also assist the Department in making further policy decisions on the benefit of work placement programmes in the overall context of the Government's activation policy which is to engage with every unemployed individual to provide them with a pathway to employment and to prevent and reduce long term unemployment.

COUNTY

STARTERS

CARLOW

99

CAVAN

74

CLARE

156

CORK CITY

479

CORK COUNTY

203

DONEGAL

221

DUBLIN 1

198

DUBLIN 10

23

DUBLIN 11

61

DUBLIN 12

133

DUBLIN 13

10

DUBLIN 14

57

DUBLIN 15

137

DUBLIN 16

18

DUBLIN 17

33

DUBLIN 18

110

DUBLIN 2

650

DUBLIN 20

10

DUBLIN 22

63

DUBLIN 24

104

DUBLIN 3

47

DUBLIN 4

147

DUBLIN 5

15

DUBLIN 6/6W

77

DUBLIN 7

75

DUBLIN 8

132

DUBLIN 9

69

DUBLIN NORTH COUNTY — FINGAL

112

DUBLIN WEST COUNTY

16

DUN LAOIGHAIRE — RATHDOWN

123

GALWAY CITY

277

GALWAY COUNTY

144

KERRY

194

KILDARE

209

KILKENNY

89

LAOIS

97

LEITRIM

34

LIMERICK CITY

180

LIMERICK COUNTY

144

LONGFORD

51

LOUTH

156

MAYO

138

MEATH

122

MONAGHAN

107

OFFALY

76

ROSCOMMON

45

SLIGO

149

TIPPERARY (NORTH)

88

TIPPERARY (SOUTH)

126

WATERFORD CITY

158

WATERFORD COUNTY

66

WESTMEATH

176

WEXFORD

200

WICKLOW

162

GRAND TOTAL

6,840

Personal Public Service Numbers

Ceisteanna (99)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

103 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a PPSN has not been issued by Newbridge social welfare office, Kildare, to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the matter will be reviewed as the person is in poor health following a traffic accident in 2011. [23307/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The process for allocating a Personal Public Service (PPS) number normally involves an application in person at one of my Department's PPS Number allocation centres. Where a person cannot attend, an application may be made in writing with appropriate proof of identity to the Department's Client Identity Services Division, Shannon Lodge, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim. The necessary details can be obtained on the Department's website (www.welfare.ie) or by phone at 1890 927999.

In respect of the particular case raised by the Deputy I have made enquiries and my Department has no record of any application for a PPS number on behalf of this person.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (100, 101)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

104 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a bereavement grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23309/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

A bereavement grant is a payment designed to assist families in dealing with death and funeral expenses. It is a once-off payment based on pay-related social insurance (PRSI) contributions, made from the Social Insurance Fund.

According to the records of my Department no application for a bereavement grant has been received in respect of the deceased.

To qualify for a bereavement grant, the person on whose insurance record the claim is based must have 156 PRSI contributions. Alternatively, they must have paid 26 PRSI contributions and a specified number of credited PRSI Contributions. The claim may be based on the insurance record of the deceased, or their spouse, civil partner or cohabitant.

All adults are treated equally under the bereavement grant scheme and must satisfy the same PRSI conditions.

On preliminary inspection, based upon the information provided by the Deputy, it appears that the person concerned was a single man who did not have any reckonable contributions paid and that, consequently, a bereavement grant would not be payable in this case. However, it is open to the person's next of kin to make a claim for bereavement grant in order for the case to be fully assessed and a formal decision made. In this case, a completed application form should be sent to the bereavement grant section in the Social Welfare Services Office in Longford.

Alternatively, to assist with burial costs, the claimant may qualify for a means tested exceptional needs payments under the supplementary welfare scheme administered by the local Community Welfare Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

105 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of instances in which a claimant’s domiciliary care allowance payment was stopped in advance of the conclusion or decision of the scheduled desk review. [23312/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Customers who have their Domiciliary Care Allowance entitlement reviewed are asked to provide relevant up-to-date medical evidence and details of the additional care needs of their child within 60 days. In a small number of cases where customers have not returned information or made contact with the Department, their payments have been suspended. Payments have been restored in these cases when the customers concerned contacted the Department and they remain in payment until the review process is completed.

This information provided on review is assessed by a Departmental Medical Advisor and a decision is made based on the medical opinion they provide. Where payment is stopped as a result of a review, the customer is invited to submit any further information they may wish to have considered and that information is further examined and they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare appeals Office.

Reviews of the Scheme commenced in 2010 with a total of 134 reviews carried out. Eighty of these customers were found to have a continuing eligibility. Fifty four customers were found to be no longer eligible for the allowance. In 2011, a total of 403 reviews were carried out with 176 customers found to have a continuing entitlement. Of the overall number, 224 customers were found to be no longer eligible with 3 cases yet to be finalised. Payment has been stopped where the customer has been found to be no longer eligible for the allowance.

There is no provision in Social Welfare legislation to allow the Department to continue to making payments once a decision has been made that the customer no longer fulfils the conditions for receipt of a payment.

Social Welfare Code

Ceisteanna (102)

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

106 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide the detailed information as promised during the Committee Stage debate in respect of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012 as passed by Dáil Éireann in respect of section 4(3), regarding the continuation of payment and amendment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23321/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

I duly note the queries made by the Deputy during last Wednesday's committee stage debate in respect of Section 5, Subsection 3, of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, 2012. Due to the detailed and comprehensive nature of these queries, and as discussed and agreed with the Deputy, officials in my Department are preparing an answer, and this will be issued as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (103)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

107 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23324/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The client was awarded rent supplement on the 4th of May following receipt of all the requested documentation. The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (104)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

108 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will respond to the issues regarding the JobBridge scheme and internships in respect of a person (details supplied). [23370/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, at all skills levels. The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience. It provides them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment. The Scheme is open to organisations in the private, public and community or voluntary sectors.

The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. 6,842 jobseekers have commenced their internship since 1st July 2011. There are currently 4,670 jobseekers undertaking internship opportunities. In addition, there are 1,876 internship opportunities available across a wide number of occupational sectors and geographic areas being hosted on the JobBridge website www.jobbridge.ie.

The eligibility to access the National Internship Scheme is based on the overall objective of labour market policy in ensuring a pathway to appropriate employment, training and education opportunities for those on the Live Register. It is important that as employment opportunities become available they are taken up by those on the Live Register.

Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy and of the NEAP will be to keep those on the Live Register close to the Labour Market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will ensure that Live Register members availing of activation measures such as the National Internship Scheme will, while retaining social welfare unemployment payments and a top up allowance of €50, get an opportunity to engage in the workplace, get work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves.

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of jobseekers allowance/benefit payments or signing for credits for 78 days of the last 6 months. Time spent of certain government sponsored training may also be taken into account when calculating eligibility. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources to those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time.

Provided that an individual can fulfil all Jobbridge eligibility criteria regarding jobseekers allowance/benefit, persons in part-time employment can participate in JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme provided that their employer is not the provider of the internship. The intern must advise their local Social Welfare office of their continued part-time employment while undertaking an internship.

A standard Internship working week will range from 30-40 hours per week. Therefore an intern will be required to participate on the scheme for a minimum of 30 hours and a maximum of 40 hours per week. Hence, an additional requirement is that the part-time employment does not interfere with the minimum weekly hours (thirty) of the internship.

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

Arts Plan

Ceisteanna (105)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

109 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding Arts programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23130/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

I am aware of the issues raised in the correspondence. A meeting has been arranged for later this week with the relevant parties.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (106)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

110 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23167/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

My Department was established on 2 June 2011. The details requested by the Deputy in respect of my own private and constituency offices, and those of Minister of State Dinny McGinley, T.D., are set out in the tables below. The staffing levels referred to are consistent with the Guidelines on Staffing of Ministerial Offices, as approved by the Government last year.

Offices of Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Minister's Private Office

Staffing 2011 (WTE)

Staffing 2012 (WTE)

Private Secretary

1

1

Executive Officer

2

1

Clerical Officer

1.8

2.8

Total Staffing (WTE)

4.8

4.8

Annual Salary Costs

€210,675

€197,427

Minister's Constituency Office

Staffing 2011 (WTE)

Staffing 2012 (WTE)

Personal Assistant

1

1

Personal Secretary

1

1

Executive Officer

1

N/A

Clerical Officer

0.8

0.5

Total Staffing (WTE)

3.8

2.5

Annual Salary Costs

€159,059

€112,128

Minister of State's Private Office

Staffing 2011 (WTE)

Staffing 2012 (WTE)

Private Secretary

1

1

Clerical Officer

3

2.5

Total Staffing (WTE)

4

3.5

Annual Salary Costs

€146,543

€132,827

Minister of State's Constituency Office

Staffing 2011 (WTE)

Staffing 2012 (WTE)

Personal Assistant

1

1

Personal Secretary

0.22

0.4

Personal Secretary

0.585

0.585

Clerical Officer

1

1

Total Staffing (WTE)

2.805

2.985

Annual Salary Costs

€115,523

€134,940

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (107)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

111 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to further encourage the use of low emission and electric cars; and if he will indicate any studies or research being carried out to develop evidence based policy on this matter. [23033/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

The Government's EV Grant Scheme for certain vehicles with CO2 emissions of less than 75 g/km was launched in April 2011. The objective of the 2-year scheme is to incentivise and support, through grants of up to €5,000, the early deployment of electric and other low emission vehicles in Ireland in order to provide an early critical mass of such vehicles and to encourage the growth of a stable and robust market for these vehicles.

The ESB is currently rolling out smart charge points on a nationwide pilot basis. These charge points can interact with electric vehicles and can provide features such as real time electricity prices as well as being able to collect useful data that will be used to inform future decisions relating to the deployment of charging infrastructure. The ESB are also involved in a number of research projects such as Ecars trial and Green eMotion, which is a major EU electric vehicle project. More details on these projects can be found at www.esb.ie/electric-cars/electric-car-charging/electric-car-research-trials.jsp.

In addition, in January 2011, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) along with the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs launched a pilot programme to investigate the potential for Electric Vehicles to store and manage available wind and ocean power. The project involves the deployment of eight Electric Vehicles on the Aran Islands which are being monitored over a three year period.

SEAI have also supported 8 Commercial EV demonstration projects. The vehicles have completed 1 year of service and the results of these trials will be communicated to prospective EV customers via SEAI's website and industry networks. There are also a number of other research projects on electric transport, involving Irish academic institutions and industry, which are being part funded by the European Union under the FP7 programme.

Telecommunications Services

Ceisteanna (108)

Heather Humphreys

Ceist:

112 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there are any plans to upgrade the Stranooden exchange for broadband in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23121/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Ireland's telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and thus the delivery of broadband services is a matter, in the first instance, for private sector commercial operators which are licensed and regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

Decisions by private operators relating to investment in infrastructure to provide broadband services, including the upgrading of an exchange, are taken purely on commercial grounds, having regard to the cost of service provision and the anticipated revenue returns from any such investment. You will appreciate therefore, that I do not have a statutory authority to direct commercial companies in this regard.

The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis. In the case of one such intervention, namely the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), services are available since October 2010 from the NBS service provider, 3, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in each of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme.

A detailed mapping exercise was carried out prior to the roll-out of the NBS to determine which parts of rural Ireland could be included and which parts, by virtue of already having access to commercial broadband services, had to be excluded. That mapping exercise found that a number of commercial providers were active in the area referred to in the Deputy's Question and consequently it was not included in the NBS.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched last year in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision, due to technical difficulties such as line of sight issues. This Scheme, which is being rolled out this year, is aimed at making a basic broadband service available to those individual unserved premises in rural non-NBS areas who wish to avail of such services.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission's Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I convened last summer, has had an important role to play in this regard.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Taskforce report has now been published. The report notes that by 2015, over 50% of the population will have access to high speed broadband services with speeds in excess of 70 Mbps. The report also highlights areas where Government and industry can work together to facilitate the roll out of high speed services across Ireland, and particularly in areas where the case for commercial investment is marginal.

Following on the publication of the Taskforce report, I have also launched a 4 week consultation process. The purpose of this consultation is to provide further input to this important policy area. Thereafter, it is my intention to bring proposals to Government for a National Broadband Plan for Ireland. This plan will build on the recent excellent progress made and be informed by the findings of the Taskforce and subsequent consultations.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (109)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

113 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23169/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

The total staffing levels and salaries of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State are outlined in the tables below:

Minister’s Private Office May 2011

Minister’s Constituency Office 2011

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

7.6

€415,027

3.5

€161,269

MOS Private Office May 2011

MOS Constituency Office 2011

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

2

€77,301

1.5

€71,250

Minister’s Private Office May 2012

Minister’s Constituency Office 2012

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

8.3

€455,237

4

€176,642

MOS Private Office May 2012

MOS Constituency Office 2012

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

Staff Numbers

Salary Costs

3

€131,323

3

€111,810

The staffing complement in all cases is within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Guidelines.

Broadcasting Services

Ceisteanna (110)

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

114 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding getting an upgrade to the new Saorview service when paying a TV licence in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if funding is available for those who are not in a position to pay for the new set top boxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23223/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

I am very much aware of the challenges digital switchover brings, in particular for households that are reliant on the existing free to air analogue TV network. The necessary assistance and support for everyone but in particular for those households who need to make the switch to digital is being provided through a substantial national information campaign. In addition there is a community outreach programme aimed at providing local assistance to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in society. As I have stated in reply to previous questions, I do not propose to introduce grant schemes for this purpose.

Experience from other European countries indicates that the cost of set top boxes and other digital receivers reduces as the date for digital switchover approaches, and as competition increases in the market. There is clear evidence that this is now happening in Ireland with affordable set top boxes that meet the SAORVIEW standard on the market, as well as a wide range of suitable digital televisions. A small SAORVIEW TV costs approximately €120 and set top boxes are now retailing from €70 or less. Experience from other European countries however shows that the availability of accurate and reliable information and the provision of practical assistance is the most effective approach towards assisting people in making the switch to digital television.

In this regard, therefore, to overcome the challenges that digital switchover brings, I have undertaken to deliver a substantial information campaign providing households with information on the digital switchover, the 24 October date for analogue switch off and on their options for going digital. This information campaign commenced in quarter four 2011 and includes a dedicated telephone helpline, 1890 840 980, a website www.goingdigital.ie, information booklets, TV and radio ads and a PR campaign. An information booklet will also be delivered to every house in the country in the coming months.

In conjunction with this, my Department has been working to address the particular information and assistance needs of vulnerable households as they prepare to go digital. On January 10th 2012, I signed an agreement with a national voluntary organisation, the Wheel, to develop and operate a nationwide community outreach digital switchover programme (Outreach Programme).

The Wheel, in conjunction with other voluntary and community organisations throughout the country, has now begun to roll out the countrywide Outreach Programme through a network of recently appointed county-based local Champions. The aim of the Outreach Programme, which will provide additional assistance and advice at community level to those who may find the move to digital TV difficult, is to ensure that everybody is made aware of the switchover and that no TV viewers are left without a TV service once the national analogue TV service switches off in October.

A press release issued on the Outreach Programme and is available on the dedicated digital switchover website www.goingdigital.ie, as is the list of local champions referred to above. Please find attached the details in relation to the local champion for Wicklow.

Contact Details: Champions and Organisations

Community Outreach Digital Switchover Programme

County/Area

Champion

Mobile

Email

Organisation

Contact Person

Email

Phone

Wicklow

Eileen Byrnes

01 286 8266 086 036 6471

eileen@ brayareapartnership.ie

Bray Area Partnership Ltd, 4 Prince of Wales Terrace, Quinsboro Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow

Jennifer D’Arcy

jennifer@ brayareapartnership.ie

01 286 8266

Mobile Telephony

Ceisteanna (111)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the total number of mobile phone licences allocated in this country in the past 15 years; the process by which all such licences were issued in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23231/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

The following table outlines the number of licences issued to mobile operators in the last 15 years (included also are details of licences issued in 1996). All of these licences were issued through a comparative evaluation process and the two interim licences are limited extensions to licences previously issued through a comparative evaluation process.

Licence Holder

Type of Licence

Issue Date

Expiry Date

Issued By

Vodafone

GSM900

May 1996

Dec 2011

DCENR

Interim GSM900

May 2011

Jan 2013

ComReg

GSM1800

Jan 2000

Dec 2015

ODTR

3G

Oct 2002

Oct 2022

ComReg

O2

GSM900

May 1996

Dec 2011

DCENR

Interim GSM900

May 2011

Jan 2013

ComReg

GSM1800

Jan 2000

Dec 2015

ODTR

3G

Oct 2002

Oct 2022

ComReg

Meteor

GSM

June 2000

July 2015

ODTR

3G

March 2007

March 2027

ComReg

3

3G

July 2002

July 2022

ComReg

ODTR — Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation (now ComReg).

DCENR — Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

ComReg — Commission for Communications Regulation.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (112)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

116 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with regards to a property site valuation tax due to be implemented next year, if there are any rates yet being proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23286/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

An independently chaired Inter-Departmental expert Group has been established to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable valuation based property tax. The Group will complete its work and make recommendations to me shortly. Following consideration of the Group's recommendations, I will bring proposals to Government on the full property tax as soon as possible. It will then be a matter for the Government to decide on the structure and modalities of the full property tax.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (113)

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

117 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to establish a rent to buy property scheme through the local authority in County Meath; the supports he is planning for persons on low incomes in County Meath to purchase homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23087/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

The Government is committed to supporting access to home ownership for lower income households and a range of paths to home ownership will remain in place in that regard. These include the incremental purchase scheme, the availability of loan finance from local authorities for house purchase, including open market purchase, and the tenant purchase scheme. I have no immediate plans to introduce a general rent-to-buy scheme across all local authorities.

Local Government Reform

Ceisteanna (114)

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

118 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a decision will be made in relation to the local authorities structure; to clarify if he is planing to abolish some local authorities and merge some local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23092/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 216 of 3 May 2012, which sets out the position in this matter.

Private Rented Accommodation

Ceisteanna (115, 116)

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

119 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the responsibility held by landlords and tenants to maintain the outside and front garden of privately rented houses. [23106/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

120 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the sanctions available to ensure that landlords and tenants maintain the outside and front garden of privately rented houses in a reasonable state. [23107/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 120 together.

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. These Regulations were further amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 which expanded the definition of "a proper state of structural repair" to allow for all aspects of the internal and external appearance of a dwelling to be taken into account for the purposes of the Regulations.

All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations. Responsibility for enforcing the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority, supported by a dedicated stream of funding allocated by my Department.

It is a matter for each individual local authority to decide the specific details of its enforcement strategy and inspection arrangements. However, in discharging their responsibilities in relation to the rental sector, authorities have been asked to have regard to the Good Practice Guidelines for Local Authorities on Standards in the Private Rented Sector: Strategic Planning, Effective Enforcement published by the Centre for Housing Research in November 2007, which make a range of recommendations on relevant issues, including targeting inspection activities.

Following the enactment of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, local authorities have a strengthened, updated legislative and regulatory framework available to them which provides for the issuing of Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices where landlords are in breach of their obligations under the regulations, and fines for continuing non-compliance with the Regulations have also been significantly increased.

Housing Grants

Ceisteanna (117)

Simon Harris

Ceist:

121 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason a list for housing adaption grants (details supplied) remains closed; when funding will be made available to facilitate these works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23164/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

The Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. It is a matter for each local authority to decide on the specific level of funding to be directed to each of the various grant measures, and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within their allocation.

Exchequer allocations totalling over €54 million were notified to local authorities under the grant schemes on 28 February 2012. Of this, some €763,835 was allocated to Wicklow County Council. To date none of this funding has been drawn down.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (118)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

122 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23172/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

Staffing of my private and constituency offices and that of my colleague, Ms. Jan O'Sullivan, T.D., Minister of State, is in accordance with the agreed reduced staffing numbers set out in the Instructions on Ministerial Appointments for the 31st Dáil and the Guidelines on Staffing of Ministerial Offices of March 2011.

During the period in question, former Minister of State Penrose held office from 10 March 2011 to 16 November 2011 and subsequently Minister of State O'Sullivan took up office on 20 December 2011. Minister of State O'Dowd has no staff assigned to his office in my Department.

The current staffing of my private and constituency offices and the levels of staffing for the same period in 2011 (May 2011) are set out in the following table:

Office

Grade

Staffing Levels (May 2012)

Staffing Levels (May 2011)

Salary Scale

Private

Special Adviser

2

1

€80,051-€92,672

Private Secretary

1

1

€46,426-€57,251+ appropriate Private Secretary Allowance

Executive Officer

1

1

€29,024-€47,379

Executive Officer

2

1

€30,516-€47,975

Executive Officer

0

0.5

€29,024-€45,616

Clerical Officer

0

0.5

€22,015-€35,515

Clerical Officer

2

2

€23,042-€36,267

Constituency

Personal Secretary

1

1

€51,365 (Personal Point)

Personal Assistant

1

1

€43,715-€56,060

Executive Officer

1

1

€30,516-€47,975

Clerical Officer

1

0

€22,015-€35,515

The current staffing of Minister of State O'Sullivan's private and constituency offices and staffing for the same period in 2011, under former Minister of State Penrose, are set out in the following table:

Office

Grade

Staffing Levels (May 2012)

Staffing Levels (May 2011)

Salary Scale

Private

Special Adviser*

1

1

€80,051-€92,672

Private Secretary

1

1

€43,816-€55,415+ appropriate Private Secretary Allowance

Executive Officer

1

2

€30,516-€47,975

Clerical Officer

1

1

€23,177-€37,341

Constituency

Personal Assistant

1

1

€43,715-€56,060

Personal Secretary

1

1

€23,820-€47,755

Clerical Officer

1

1

€23,042-€36,267

*Minister O'Sullivan, who regularly attends Cabinet meetings, is currently arranging for the appointment of a second special adviser in accordance with the Instructions on Ministerial Appointments for the 31st Dáil.

Local Authority Charges

Ceisteanna (119, 120, 121, 122)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

123 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there has been any discussion or decision on the Revenue Commissioners withholding tax clearance certificates from persons who have not paid the household charge and or any similar charges now or in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23188/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

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

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

Tax clearance certificates are issued by the Revenue Commissioners under the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. That Act is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. My Department has had no discussions with the Revenue Commissioners on the issue.

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

124 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent of the discretion that local authorities have in implementing the household charge and the non-principal private residence charge, which he has mentioned in many parliamentary questions; if grants will be reduced for any local authorities who seek to exercise discretion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23189/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Ceist:

131 Deputy Luke “Ming” Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if late fees can be waived for those living abroad who were not aware of the non principal private residence tax on their property; and if he will instruct the local authorities to accept the NPPR tax only for those who now present to pay the back tax owed (details supplied). [23302/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 131 together.

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, set out the legislation underpinning the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences respectively.

Under the legislation, it is a function of a local authority to collect household charges and charges on non-principal private residences and associated late payment penalties due to it and all such charges and late payment penalties imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned. In this regard, application of the legislation in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. Interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts.

I have recently issued guidelines to local authorities in relation to the operation of the "care and management" provisions of the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 in the context of individual situations where genuine hardship in having to discharge a liability in a single payment can be demonstrated. In such cases, the guidelines set out the modalities for local authorities in entering into payment arrangements for the discharge of outstanding liabilities in instalments over a specified period. I also intend to issue guidance shortly to local authorities on hardship in the context of the operation of the "care and management" provisions of the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011.

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

125 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason local authority tenants are specifically mentioned as not having to pay the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23190/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislation underpinning the household charge.

Section 2(2) of the Act provides that certain buildings are not residential property for the purposes of the legislation. Section 2(2)(b), in particular, provides that a building vested in a Minister of the Government, a housing authority (within the meaning of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992) or the Health Service Executive is not a residential property for the purposes of the Act.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (123)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

126 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the EU has approved the increase in the level of grant aid to 75% to private enterprises available in the LEADER programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23204/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

On the 25 April 2012 I announced an increase in the rate of aid available to private promoters under the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) from 50% to 75%. This change will further assist in addressing the difficulties being experienced in accessing credit in the current economic climate and will provide an increased level of support for rural entrepreneurs in Ireland. This is in line with commitments to enterprise supports in both the Programme for Government and the Action Plan for Jobs.

The change is still undergoing a formal process of programme amendment at EU level and subject to final approval from the European Commission.

Noise Pollution

Ceisteanna (124)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

127 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status of the Noise Nuisance Bill which was advanced by the previous Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23219/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to take further steps to address noise pollution, inter alia, through the introduction of fixed payment notices (also known as on-the-spot fines) and provision for mediation procedures between neighbours. The development of new noise legislation by my Department will be considered in the context of this commitment, however, as indicated in the Government Legislation Programme published on 17 April 2012, it is not possible at this time to indicate when the legislation will be published, having regard to other priorities in the area concerned and the broader range of legislative priorities to be progressed across my Department’s remit.

Currently, a person experiencing noise nuisance may contact their local authority, which may initiate proceedings on grounds of noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. This Act also provides for any person, or group of persons, to seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A public information leaflet A Guide to the Noise Regulations, outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance, is available on my Department's website www.environ.ie.

International Agreements

Ceisteanna (125)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

128 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will be in a position to ratify the Aarhus Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23220/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

Prior to ratification of the Aarhus Convention, it has been necessary to ensure that Ireland has implemented its provisions in national law, a task which has been ongoing for some time. The Attorney General has confirmed that all provisions are in place and the necessary administrative work is now underway to ratify the Convention. Ratification of the Aarhus Convention is a high priority and my Department is working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with a view to finalising this process as soon as possible.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (126)

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

129 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding a developer who is made bankrupt but still retains ownership of an estate with a bond on it; what happens the bond; if he will confirm if it automatically transfers to the local council; if it will transfer to a different party; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23292/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

Sections 34(4)(g) and 180(2)(b) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provide respectively that a planning authority may attach conditions to a planning permission requiring the giving of adequate security for the satisfactory completion of a proposed development and, if a development is not subsequently completed satisfactorily, may apply a security, given under section 34, for the satisfactory completion of that development. My Department has consistently advised planning authorities that it is essential that planning permissions for residential developments are subject to conditions under which an acceptable security is provided by way of bond, cash deposit or otherwise so as to secure the satisfactory completion of those developments. Planning conditions must require the giving of sufficient security prior to commencement of development and planning authorities should ensure that they are in a position to draw down the security in cases where a developer fails satisfactorily to complete a residential development, or phase of a development, within the specified period.

It is a matter for the planning authority to determine both the level of the security, the duration and the type of security (e.g. the lodgement of a bond from a financial institution such as a bank, insurance company or building society, a cash lodgement or a letter of guarantee from the Construction Industry Federation) that will be required for each residential development. The amount of the security, the duration and the terms on which it is required to be given, must enable the planning authority, without cost to itself, to complete the necessary services (including roads, footpaths, water mains, sewers, lighting and open space) to a satisfactory standard in the event of default by the developer. Similarly, the enforcement of planning conditions, including conditions in relation to bonds, is a matter for the relevant planning authority.

The Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments considered that the issue of securities and bonds merits further examination, including the use of more liquid securities such as cash deposits coupled to careful phasing of developments in a sequential manner to minimise the working capital impact. The matter remains under active consideration by the National Coordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments, which I chair.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (127)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

130 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government regarding an audit accessibility for disabled of all public places and buildings by Kerry County Council, the projects for which funding was made available to Kerry County Council; the cost of each project; the number of projects completed to date and the location of same; the projects in the audit for County Kerry that have still to be completed; if Kerry County Council has prioritised the places and costing for each project; when it is anticipated that the funds to carry out the remaining works will be made available. [23296/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

In accordance with my Department's Sectoral Plan, under the Disability Act 2005, all local authorities were required to carry out an accessibility audit in respect of all public spaces, public buildings and services owned and operated by them. Local authorities were then required to draw up implementation plans setting out a programme of works to address any issues identified through the audit process.

In 2005 the multi-annual Disability Services programme to assist delivery of the National Disability Strategy by the Department, local authorities and bodies under the Department's aegis was commenced. The multi-annual programme was completed in 2009 with one year's extra funding provided by the Department in 2010.

In total my Department provided over €77 million, between 2005 and 2010, to assist local authorities in improving access to public spaces, buildings and services for people with disabilities. Funding was allocated annually, for purposes of Disability Services, to local authorities, on the basis of priority areas identified by them in implementation plans.

The funding provided to Kerry County Council from 2005 to 2010 inclusive is set out in the table:

Funding for Kerry County Council

Year

Current

Capital

Total

2005

15,000

35,000

50,000

2006

74,638

446,023

520,661

2007

75,088

350,000

425,088

2008

28,516

340,000

368,516

2009

26,809

303,688

330,497

2010

7,500

226,106

233,606

Question No. 131 answered with Question No. 124.

State Agencies

Ceisteanna (128)

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

132 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will be providing the money to cover the shortfall of €3 million debt that is owed to Dublin City Council by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority for the Samuel Beckett Bridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23311/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority is independent in the performance of its statutory functions. In this regard, transfers of monies between public bodies in respect of development projects are in the first instance a matter for the public bodies concerned.

Separation Agreements

Ceisteanna (129)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

133 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 2 May 2012, if he will set down guidelines as to what is acceptable in relation to separation agreements, in view of the period of time that families, especially those seeking free legal aid, have to wait to have such a determination in the Courts; and if he will publish the guidance to authorities as stated in the reply to allow applicants determine their positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23364/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 101 of 2 May 2012, which sets out the current position on this matter. Regulation 22 is worded in such a way that once there is a Deed of Separation in place, this aspect of eligibility for social housing support can be determined. As stated in the reply of 2 May 2012, my Department is currently reviewing the social housing assessment provisions and will consider what wider discretion might be given to housing authorities to address the individually difficult and complex cases which may present to them.

Criminal Prosecutions

Ceisteanna (130)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

134 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that have been prosecuted, pursuant to the offence of section 19D of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as inserted by the Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23367/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Crime Levels

Ceisteanna (131)

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

135 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality is his attention has been drawn to the increase in burglaries in County Meath; the way resources are going to be allocated to deal with the increase in view of the administrative change to Ashbourne Garda Station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23086/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

I share the Deputy's concern at the incidence of burglaries and I am conscious of the deep distress which this type of crime can cause to householders, and to the broader impact it can have in terms of fear of crime in our communities.

All crime trends are monitored closely by Garda management, with intelligence-led initiatives put in place to target burglary and other criminality. The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner has recently announced the introduction of a wide range of measures aimed at tackling gangs involved in burglaries. These measures are encompassed in Operation Fiacla, which is particularly focused on identifying and targeting mobile gangs involved in burglaries around the country so as to disrupt their activities and bring them before the Courts. Specific burglary related initiatives are being implemented in each Garda Region in support of Operation Fiacla.

In terms of prevention, the National Crime Prevention Unit (NCPU) and Crime Prevention Officers at divisional level provide advice, information and support to organisations, businesses and individuals aimed at reducing burglary crime and the opportunity to commit burglary. These specially trained officers are skilled at identifying environmental design risks and advise on ways to reduce opportunities to commit burglary and other property crime. During 2012, the national ‘Garda Supporting Safer Communities Campaign' will continue to highlight key issues, in particular burglary prevention. The first such campaign was launched by the Garda Commissioner on 2 May and a second campaign will take place in September.

Insofar as developments with respect to Ashbourne Garda District are concerned, the Garda Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2012, which I laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 5 December 2011, sets out, among other things, plans for the amalgamation of Garda Districts. In this context the Garda Districts in Laytown and Ashbourne in the Meath Garda Division were amalgamated and form the new Ashbourne Garda District.

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of Ashbourne Garda Station on 31 March 2012, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 45. The personnel strength of the overall Meath Garda Division, on the same date was 296. There are also 30 Garda Reserves and 22 Civilians attached to the Meath Garda Division. These resources are augmented, when appropriate, by gardaí from national units such as the Garda National Drug Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team, is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation. The allocation of resources is constantly monitored in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The priority is, and will remain, that an effective and professional policing service is provided to every part of the community.

Prisoner Releases

Ceisteanna (132)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

136 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of offenders who have been released under the community return programme and the offences for which they had been originally convicted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23089/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

The Community Return Programme is an incentivised scheme introduced in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group which provides for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service.

The scheme, which was introduced on a pilot basis last October, is applicable to suitably assessed prisoners who are serving sentences of more than one and less than eight years. Those participating are granted renewable temporary release having served at, or after, the 50% stage of their sentence with a condition of their release to undertake supervised community service.

The following factors are taken into account in considering the suitability of a prisoner for temporary release to participate in the scheme:

the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence being served by the person relates;

the sentence concerned and any recommendation made by the Court in relation to the sentence imposed;

the potential threat to the safety and security of the public should the person be released;

the person's previous criminal record;

the risk that the person might commit an offence during any period of temporary release;

the risk of the person failing to comply with any of the conditions of temporary release;

the extent of the prisoner's engagement with therapeutic services while in custody and the likelihood of period of temporary release enhancing his/her reintegration prospects; and

conduct while in custody.

As announced with the launch of its new three year strategic plan, the Prison Service, in conjunction with the Probation Service, intends to increase the number of prisoners benefitting from this structured form of release over the course of the next three years. The Prison Service will work towards the placement of 400 prisoners per annum serving sentences of 1 to 8 years. It is envisaged that there would be no more than 150 prisoners participating in this scheme at any one time and all prisoners will be carefully assessed before being approved for the scheme.

Between 3 October 2011 and 31 March 2012, there were 137 participants in the pilot scheme. The scheme has continued and on 1 May 2012 there were 85 offenders taking part in the Community Return Programme. A total of 161 offenders have participated in the scheme and 56 offenders have completed the programme successfully.

I will write to the Deputy shortly with a detailed breakdown of the offences.

Prisoner Transfers

Ceisteanna (133)

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

137 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will make contact with a person (details supplied) with a view to establishing an international transfer under the Sentenced Persons Act and afford all consular rights as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23108/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

The 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons provides a mechanism whereby prisoners can be repatriated to their home state in order to serve prison sentences they have incurred abroad. The Convention is provided for in legislation in this State by virtue of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts, 1995 and 1997 and the process is administered by my Department.

The process requires extensive documentation to be exchanged between the relevant jurisdictions in order to allow an application to be fully considered. Three way consent is also required to enable any transfer to take place, i.e., from the authorities of both jurisdictions and from the person concerned. On receipt of those consents (assuming they will be forthcoming), an application must then be made to the High Court for a warrant authorising the transfer of the person concerned and their continued detention here.

I understand that an expression of interest in repatriation was received from the person referred to, in 2002. On foot of this, the US authorities were asked to commence processing the application. However the US authorities refused to consider the transfer and consequently the case was closed. Should the prisoner wish to re-apply for a transfer he must do so via his Prison Governor in the US. I can inform the Deputy that the issue of consular assistance is a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and this case has been brought to their attention by my officials.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (134)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

138 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23177/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

The current staffing of my Private Office and Constituency offices, and their salary ranges, is as follows:

Private Office

Salary (as of May 2011 to date)

1 Private Secretary

€43,816-€55,415 + appropriate Private Secretary allowance

3 Executive Officers

€30,516-€47,975

2 Clerical Officers

€23,177-€37,341

2 Special Advisors

€80,051-€98,424

Constituency Office

1.6 Clerical Officers

€23,177-€37,341

1 Personal Assistant

€43,715-€56,060

1 Personal Secretary

€23,820-€47,755

The level of staffing in my offices for the same period in 2011 was slightly higher by 0.4 of a whole time equivalent at clerical officer level. I would remind the Deputy that this Government has reduced the number of staff in a Minister's Private Office from 10 to 8 and in a Minister's Constituency Office from 6 to 4 and that the staffing of my office complies with these guidelines.

No Minister of State maintains an office in my Department.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (135)

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

139 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the criteria used when awarding a contract from his Department for services such as document scanning, document storing, forms processing, data entry/capture and microfilm conversion consultancy; if ISO 27001 is a requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23209/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am not aware that my Department has been in the market for the services referred to by the Deputy. The Deputy will appreciate that the information security management systems deployed by the Department for its own systems are a security matter and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further. However, if the Deputy has some specific suggestion in mind perhaps she can get in touch with me and let me know.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (136)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

140 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the applications for naturalisation for persons (details supplied) in north Dublin; and if in view of his commitment to see all outstanding applications dealt with by this spring he will comment on the fact that these cases are still awaiting decision after almost a year. [23295/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that valid applications for a certificate of naturalisation were received from the persons referred to by the Deputy in May, 2011.

The applications are currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicants meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. While good progress continues to be made in reducing the large volume of cases on hands, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that for a broad range of reasons some cases will take longer than others to process. It is a statutory requirement that, inter alia, applicants for naturalisation be of good character. In some instances that can be established relatively quickly and in other cases completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time. I can, however, inform the Deputy that enormous progress has been made in dealing with the backlog and steps are being taken to process all outstanding applications and to have made significant inroads into them by the end of this year.

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

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

Legal Aid Service

Ceisteanna (137, 138)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

141 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the legal firms that were the ten highest earners for free legal aid services for each year in the ten year period 2002 to 2011; and the amount each firm was paid for each year. [23299/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

I can inform the Deputy that the provision of legal aid falls within two separate categories, i.e criminal legal aid and civil legal aid. Details in respect of each category are as follows:

Criminal Legal Aid

The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962 provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings. Under the Act, the grant of legal aid entitles the applicant to the services of a solicitor and , in certain circumstances, up to two counsel, in the preparation and conduct of their defence or appeal. The assignment of lawyers or the granting of aid are matters for the Court and, as such, are handled by the judiciary.

While records and information on expenditure under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme provide details of fees paid to individual solicitors, they do not provide separate details of the names of their particular firms, if any. The ten highest earning solicitors under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme for the seven year period 2005 to 2011 (figures for earlier years are not readily available and the retrieval of relevant records would require a disproportionate use of resources) and the amount each solicitor was paid are as follows:

2011

Frank Buttimer

889,659

Yvonne Bambury

789,364

Michael Hanahoe

776,168

Cahir O’Higgins

762,510

John Feaheny

710,316

John Quinn

580,282

Edmund Burke

507,993

Aine Flynn

475,368

Kevin Tunney

462,926

Michael Staines

452,347

2010

Yvonne Bambury

920,529

Frank Buttimer

866,005

Michael Hanahoe

813,469

Cahir O’Higgins

796,778

Michael Staines

784,920

John Feaheny

752,727

John Quinn

714,034

Aine Flynn

482,329

Michael Hannon

476,455

Michael Kelleher

474,390

2009

Michael J. Staines

1,340,102

John Quinn

1,136,483

Yvonne Bambury

1,130,352

Cahir O’Higgins

1,127,727

Michael Hanahoe

1,053,518

Frank Buttimer

982,062

John Feaheny

858,151

Kevin Tunney

724,519

Michael Kelleher

606,972

Michael Hannon

572,633

2008

Michael J Staines

1,354,077

John Quinn

1,187,516

Yvonne Bambury

1,109,906

Frank Buttimer

945,760

Michael Hanahoe

925,496

John Feaheny

866,594

Cahir O’Higgins

669,084

Michael Hannon

642,831

Aine Flynn

620,922

Terence Hanahoe

562,355

2007

Michael J Staines

1,484,090

John Quinn

1,121,176

Yvonne Bambury

1,007,202

Michael Hanahoe

905,955

John Feaheny

717,928

Frank Buttimer

694,581

Aine Flynn

678,677

Michael Hannon

539,736

Terence Hanahoe

498,972

Michael Kelleher

476,945

2006

Michael J Staines

1,543,839

John Quinn

1,211,921

Michael Hanahoe

975,367

Aine Flynn

848,710

Yvonne Bambury

772,139

John Feaheny

736,314

Garrett Sheehan

592,621

Frank Buttimer

580,644

Michael Hannon

484,264

Diarmuid Kelleher

437,543

2005

Michael J Staines

1,373,558

Michael Hanahoe

841,943

John Quinn

830,007

Aine Flynn

815,680

Frank Buttimer

582,075

John Feaheny

547,585

Michael Hannon

547,407

Yvonne Bambury

545,789

Garrett Sheehan

542,807

Ted McCarthy

525,437

Civil Legal Aid

The Legal Aid Board (LAB) is the statutory body which provides legal aid and advice in civil law matters. All Board services are governed by the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations.

Again, the Deputy might wish to note that the relevant information in respect of civil legal aid is only readily available for the years 2007 to 2011 inclusive and that retrieval of earlier records would require a disproportionate use of resources. In the case of civil legal aid, records and information on expenditure under the Civil Legal Aid Scheme provide details of fees paid to both individual solicitors and to firms and in the case of the former details of their particular firms, if any, are not on record. The details are as follows:

2011

Doyle Fox and Associates

60,927

Kevin Tunney and Company

55,222

Carmody Moran

54,844

Eugene G. Smartt and Co.

52,979

Sandra McAleer

52,943

Doyle Solicitors

47,825

Burns Nowlan Solrs

42,848

Sean Mulvihill and Co Solrs

36,779

James Watters and Co.

35,530

John A. Sinnott and Co.

34,318

2010

Eugene G. Smartt and Co.

95,981

Eamonn Bennett

63,141

James Watters and Co.

62,000

Maura Hurley

52,084

Carmody Moran

47,774

Peter Doyle Solrs

47,766

Burns Nowlan Solrs

47,209

Margaret Horan and Co.

45,884

Doyle Fox and Associates

44,442

Huggard Brennan and Murphy Solrs

42,654

2009

James Watters and Co.

123,606

Eugene G. Smartt and Co.

87,079

Carroll, Kelly, O’Connor Solrs

73,259

Peter Doyle Solrs

64,594

Doyle Fox and Associates

63,338

Kevin Tunney and Co.

59,100

Eamonn Bennett

49,178

John A. Sinnott and Co.

41,556

S.T. Glazier and Co.

41,028

Maura Hurley

40,765

2008

James Watters and Co.

80,943

Eugene G. Smartt and Co.

73,003

Maura Hurley

61,965

Margaret Horan and Co.

59,345

Huggard, Brennan and Murphy Solrs

50,656

John A. Sinnott and Co.

45,963

Kevin Tunney and Co.

31,614

Lynch and Partners

31,231

S.T. Glazier and Co.

31,052

2007

James Watters and Co.

82,266

Huggard, Brennan and Murphy Solrs

64,768

Augustus Cullen Law

55,083

Eamonn Bennett

54,668

Margaret Horan and Co.

53,258

Maura Hurley

52,650

Eugene G. Smartt and Co.

48,763

Carol A. Hickey Solr

44,218

D. M. Burke and Co.

31,881

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

142 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the criteria to qualify for free legal aid; if he will provide in tabular form the total number of applications for the 10 years 2002 to 2011, on a county basis; the number of persons that qualified for free legal aid each year; the number refused each year; and the cost per year. [23300/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I wish to inform the Deputy that the provision of legal aid falls within two categories, i.e criminal legal aid and civil legal aid. The following is the position in respect of each category:

Criminal Legal Aid

Under the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962, the Courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. An applicant for legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the Court that his/her means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for legal representation him/herself. The Court must also be satisfied that, by reason of the gravity of the charge or exceptional circumstances, it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid.

I am informed that the number of applications and details of cases in which legal aid is refused is not readily available and the necessary search of records would require a disproportionate use of resources. The expenditure for each of the past 10 years is set out in the table below along with the number of legal aid certificates granted by the District Court

Year

Expenditure

Number of certificates Granted

2002

€28.880m

27,241

2003

€37.353m

30,060

2004

€34.140m

figure unavailable

2005

€40.208m

36,423

2006

€42.093m

41,582

2007

€46.365m

46,620

2008

€55.297m

55,265

2009

€60.338m

55,664

2010

€56.544m

55,412

2011

€56.116m

54,092

Civil Legal Aid

The Legal Aid Board (LAB) is the independent statutory body which provides legal aid in civil cases. I should however point out that civil legal aid is not free and clients of the Board are required to pay a contribution to avail of legal services and may be liable to pay the Board's costs in certain cases. The criteria for determining if a person qualifies for civil legal aid are set out in the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995, and accompanying Regulations. The two main criteria are the financial eligibility test and the merits test. In order to be financially eligible for legal services a person's disposable income cannot be over €18,000 and disposable capital cannot be over €320,000. The reckonable allowances to calculate disposable income and disposable capital are set out in the Regulations. The qualifying allowances are set out in detail on the Board's website, www.legalaidboard.ie.

In addition, the Act also specifies certain criteria to be met in respect of the merits and nature of the case. In brief, a person can only receive legal aid for a case that (s)he would be likely to pay for if (s)he had the means; the person must have grounds to institute/defend or be a party to the case; the person must have reasonable prospects of success in the case and the granting of legal aid must be reasonable in all of the circumstances of the case. In addition, certain types of cases are excluded under the Act. These merits criteria are set out in detail in Sections 24-28 of the Act, as amended.

Whilst I have made enquiries with the Board in respect of the statistical information requested, I am informed that it is not possible for the Board to provide all of the information sought in the format requested. Information which can be made available to the Deputy without placing an undue administrative burden on the Board is set out below. This includes the overall number of applications, the number of legal aid and advice cases handled in each year, the number of refusals and the cost to the Exchequer of providing the service. Applications on a county basis for 2010 and 2011 are also set out. The Deputy should note that this information does not include asylum cases.

In addition, I should point out to the Deputy that the Board's Annual Reports and Accounts are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas each year and these reports contain a significant amount of information in respect of the services provided by the Board.

Civil Legal Aid 2002-2011

Year

Applications

Legal Aid Cases

Legal Advice Cases

Refusals

Exchequer grant in aid (million)

2002

n/a

10,070

3,530

251

€17.636

2003

n/a

9,439

3,504

219

€18.389

2004

9,509

9,065

3,462

117

€18.388

2005

9,153

8,896

3,336

125

€21.362

2006

9,688

9,471

3,683

114

€21.913

2007

10,164

9,390

4,525

198

€24.288

2008

11,888

9,017

5,900

282

€26.310

2009

14,073

9,032

7,138

245

€26.310

2010

17,175

9,344

7,288

288

€24.225

2011

18,657

9,492

8,333

316

€24.125

Note: Legal aid and advice cases do not constitute new cases in each year, but the total number of cases dealt with. Refusals do not include those deemed financially ineligible.

Civil Legal Aid Applications by County 2010/11 (non-asylum)

2010

2011

Dublin

Blanchardstown

246

298

Brunswick Street

330

537

Clondalkin

264

376

Finglas

326

384

Gardiner Street

563

767

Medical Negligence Unit

80

72

District Court Centre

2,205

2,064

Tallaght

390

323

Cork

Popes Quay

1,000

1,063

South Mall

1,198

1,274

Cavan

233

280

Clare

630

732

Donegal

563

640

Galway

735

851

Kerry

584

610

Kildare

1,005

946

Kilkenny

653

790

Laois

410

555

Limerick

553

613

Longford

310

358

Louth

303

380

Mayo

414

366

Meath

437

456

Monaghan

313

376

Offaly

394

381

Sligo

346

356

Tipperary

568

477

Waterford

494

562

Westmeath

553

524

Wexford

521

588

Wicklow

554

658

Total

17,175

18,657

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (139)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23383/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

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

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation, such as good character, lawful residence and intention to continue to reside in the State, and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. As the processing requirements and time taken to complete necessary checks vary from case to case, it is not possible to provide a specific date for determination of an individual application. I can inform the Deputy that good progress continues to be made in reducing the time taken to process the generality of applications.

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

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

Asylum Applications

Ceisteanna (140, 141)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in respect of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23384/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 30th September, 2005, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. The person concerned was subsequently notified of his entitlement to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the procedures to be followed in respect of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23385/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 29th January, 2008, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

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

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (142)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in respect of an application for residency or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23386/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised that the person in question made an application for a permanent residence card to EU Treaty Rights Section of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) on 6 January 2012.

This application was acknowledged by letter on 18 January 2012 and additional documentation in support of the application was requested at that time. Further letters were issued to the applicant on 9 March 2012 and 1 May 2012 again requesting additional documentation in order to further process the application and a response to these letters is still awaited.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of INIS inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

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

Deportation Orders

Ceisteanna (143)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the procedures to be followed in respect of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23387/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 4th February, 2011, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. The person concerned later withdrew her application for Subsidiary Protection.

The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

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

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (144)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify entitlements to work, renew stamp 5 visa or make an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23388/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am informed by my officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy applied for and was granted Stamp 5 in April 2009. This permission was granted to the end of his passport which expires on 2 June 2016. A person on Stamp 5 may apply to INIS to have this permission endorsed into a new passport. A Stamp 5 entitles a person to work without the need for a work permit.

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in September, 2011.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (145)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

149 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Defence the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23170/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out below:

Private Office Minister for Defence

Grade/Position

No.

Current Salary Scale

Higher Executive Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer standard scale €43,816-€55,415 (includes long service increments)

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer standard scale €29,024-€45,616 (includes long service increments)

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer €33,070-€43,906 (includes long service increments)

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,177-€37,341 (includes long service increments)

These figures are unchanged since May 2011.

Constituency Office Minister for Defence

Grade/Position

No.

Current Salary Scale

Personal Assistant (Non-established)

1

Personal Assistant Scale €43,715-€56,060 (includes long service increments)

My constituency office is based at the Department of Justice and Law Reform. As Minister for Defence I did not engage any constituency staff until August 2011, when I engaged a personal assistant as set out above. Prior to my taking office in March 2011, the Private Office for the Minister for Defence had a staffing complement of 2 special advisors and 4 civil servants, and the Constituency Office had 8 staff.

The Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Defence, Deputy Paul Kehoe, has one Higher Executive Officer (Standard Scale) assigned as Private Secretary to his Department of Defence Private Office. The Higher Executive Officer Standard Scale is €43,816-€55,415 (including long service increments). The Minister of State does not have any staff from the Department of Defence in his constituency office. These figures are unchanged since May 2011.

The Higher Executive Officers assigned to my Private Office and to the Private Office of the Minister of State are also in receipt of a Private Secretary allowance of €19,653 per annum, in accordance with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines. My Private Office is responsible for providing administrative support to me in my capacity as Minister for Defence, including Government business and Cabinet papers, Parliamentary Questions, representations and managing correspondence from throughout the State and elsewhere, coordinating my diary and handling queries from members of the general public.

Army Barracks

Ceisteanna (146, 147)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

150 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence the progress, if any, that he has made in securing alternative use for Columb Barrack, Mullingar, County Westmeath; the number of potential groups his Department has met in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23193/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Robert Troy

Ceist:

151 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence if the Reserve Defence Forces based in Mullingar, County Westmeath, have been accommodated with a new premises since the closure of Columb Barracks, Mullingar. [23194/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 151 together.

As the Deputy is aware four barracks, including Columb Barracks Mullingar, closed on 30th March 2012. Military personnel occupied on security and support functions within the four barracks have been released for operational duties leading to an efficiency gain of around €5 million per annum. In addition, there are direct cash savings of approximately €1.3m per annum arising from utilities, maintenance and security duties allowances in the four barracks.

When the Government took the decision to close the barracks, I asked my Department to enter into discussions with other Government Departments, Local Authorities, State Agencies and community groups regarding the possible purchase of the properties to benefit the local community as a whole but with particular emphasis on job creation measures. In this regard officials from my Department have met with officials from the various agencies and the relevant local authorities. These discussions are ongoing. I can assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to dispose of Mullingar Barracks so as to maximise the benefits to the local community.

As a result of the closures there is a requirement to provide alternative accommodation for the local Reserve Defence Force Units. In this regard my Department placed advertisements in the relevant local newspapers seeking tenders for the provision of suitable accommodation. This is a normal arrangement for Reserve Units in other locations around the country. At present my Department has 10 permanent rentals and 30 part time rentals in place including part time use of parish and community halls as well as some commercial premises. The total annual cost is less than €100,000 for all forty premises.

Given the savings from the barrack closures you will appreciate that the renting locally of alternative accommodation for the Reserve Defence Force Units is the most appropriate course of action and there is no economic argument for keeping a full barracks open to cater for a Reserve Unit that may only train for a few hours once or twice a week when alternative rented accommodation can be provided for a small fraction of the cost.

Following receipt of the tenders and their evaluation I am pleased to say that suitable alternative accommodation for the local Reserve Unit has been identified in Mullingar and the necessary documentation (Tax Clearance Certs, etc.) has been requested from the owner of the property. When the documentation is received a formal lease agreement will be entered into and the local Reserve Unit can then take possession of their new training accommodation.

Harbours and Piers

Ceisteanna (148)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

152 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the rise in harbour fees in places such as Dingle, County Kerry and Howth, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23038/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

Charges for the use of facilities at each of the six Fishery Harbour Centres are currently levied by virtue of the Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2003. My Department has however recently conducted a review of the 2003 Order and a draft new Rates and Charges Order, the first proposed changes to the fee schedule for almost a decade, has been prepared on foot of that review.

The new draft Order was the subject of a public consultation process that closed on 20th April last, and I am pleased to note that my Department has received a total of 85 submissions in relation to the revised charges, from a wide range of stakeholders in the Fishery Harbour Centres. These submissions are being given careful consideration at present, and when the examination is complete I will, if necessary, make any appropriate amendments to the draft new Rates and Charges Order before it is finalised.

Grant Payments

Ceisteanna (149)

Michael Creed

Ceist:

153 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 165 of 8 February 2012, if he will give exact details of the circumstances of the applications which were appealed; the reason he originally refused these applications and the rationale behind the decision made by the appeal board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23104/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

As the Deputy is aware, the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme was closed to new applications on 14 October 2008 as part of the decisions taken in the context of the 2009 Budget. Accordingly, grant applications which were received under the Scheme after that date were not processed by my Department on the basis of strict compliance with the terms of the decision.

In the two cases in question, applicants who had lodged applications on 17 and 22 October 2008 respectively submitted appeals to the Agriculture Appeals Office in relation to the failure by the Department to process their applications. In two separate decisions taken by that Office, which were subsequently confirmed by the Acting Director of that Office following requests for a review, that Office considered that the Department was obliged to process the two applications concerned notwithstanding the fact that they had been received after the date of suspension of the Scheme. As the grounds for the decisions are quite detailed and lengthy, I will forward copies of the Appeals Office decisions to the Deputy with the personal details of the applicants concerned removed.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (150)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

154 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23166/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Turbary Rights

Ceisteanna (151)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

155 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a matter regarding turbary rights (details supplied) will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23203/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

A solicitor in my Department is in contact with the firm of Solicitors mentioned in the details in relation to the matter raised.

Employment Action Plan

Ceisteanna (152)

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

156 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will report on the progress made on the implementation of incentives and measures to improve skills, farm structure and scale set out in Budget 2012 and outlined as a key action for the Department in the 2012 action plan for jobs. [23228/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The 2012 Action Plan for Jobs sets out a range of actions which will be progressed throughout 2012; the first quarter progress report was produced last month. One of the actions relevant to my Department is to implement the incentives and measures to improve skills, farm structures and scale set out in Budget 2012.

In relation to upskilling at farm level, the main drivers are the Dairy Efficiency Programme (DEP) and the Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP). Both programmes are designed to equip farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the productivity and profitability of their dairy and beef enterprises. Utilising a discussion group format, these programmes are designed to upskill participants by introducing them to peer best practice and improved technology using the BETTER farms system and key profit drivers such as financial and grassland management, animal breeding, herd health and producing to market specifications. In 2011, around 6,000 participants were involved in the DEP, while over 7,000 farmers have applied to participate in BTAP, which was launched last February.

On Farm Structures, The Minister for Finance introduced a number of measures in Budget 2012 to both stimulate land sales and transfers and to incentivise farm partnerships so as to increase productivity and scale at farm level. These include an enhanced 50% stock relief tax relief for all registered farm partnerships and a 100% stock relief for certain young trained farmers forming such partnerships, up until 31st December 2015. There was also a reduction on the stamp duty rate from 6% to 2%, on agricultural land to promote inter-generational transfer and the transfer to more active producers. In addition, the Capital Gains Tax retirement relief was restructured in order to incentivise the earlier transfer of farm assets to the next generation and to encourage the sale of land by those farmers with no successors. Limited exemption from income tax on the net rental profits from long term farmland leasing is available to encourage long term leasing which gives leasees the time frame necessary to invest in and improve the land.

In addition Teagasc and my Department have planned a major promotional campaign, to take place over the next few months, directed at encouraging a range of collaborative farming arrangements including partnerships. Steps are also being taken to overcome the administrative and legal hurdles which may exist to the formation of formal farm partnerships outside the dairy sector.

Aquaculture Development

Ceisteanna (153)

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

157 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will report on the progress made in the development of off-shore aquaculture sites in costal areas such as County Galway. [23229/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

An application by Bord Iascaigh Mhara for an aquaculture licence for the cultivation of finfish near Inis Oirr in Galway Bay was received by my Department on 13th April. The application is currently being assessed by my Department in accordance with the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act.

Animal Diseases

Ceisteanna (154)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

158 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to modify the changes announced in January to the national TB testing service in relation to the mandatory TB testing of contiguous farms if such holding have not held livestock in the previous four months or more; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23243/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The background to the changes which I introduced earlier this year is that, now that the main constraint to the eradication of TB, the presence of the disease in badgers, is being addressed in a very effective manner, we need to move on to address some of the other constraints such as the movement of high risk animals and animals from high risk herds. Accordingly, my Department is paying increased attention to detecting the disease and preventing its spread to other herds and greater stress is being laid on ensuring that all herds test on time and on reducing movement opportunities for potentially infected cattle so as to provide increased protection for clear herds.

These measures are underpinned by research which indicates that movement of animals from the herds in question represents a significant risk to other herdowners who would otherwise buy these animals. For example, Department statistics show that, in 2011, the risk of herds which are contiguous to a high risk breakdown disclosing TB is almost 3 times greater than the risk in the case of herds tested on a round test. In view of the fact that contiguous tests were conducted on some 8,000 herds in 2011, involving almost 800,000 animals and resulting in the disclosure of 2,256 reactors, the risk of TB spreading from herds which are contiguous to high risk breakdowns is very significant.

With regard to the changes to the contiguous testing arrangements, the position is that herds which are contiguous to a high risk breakdown were already required to undergo an additional testing regime under the previous arrangements. The contiguous testing programme only applies to those herds contiguous to a high risk breakdown (approximately one third of all restrictions) which, after a risk based epidemiological investigation, are considered to be relevant to the breakdown. In relation to holdings that have not held livestock in the previous four months or more, assuming that those holdings now have cattle, the testing regime to be deployed in such cases is dependant on an epidemiological investigation, including into the timing of the spread of infection relative to the usage of the land in question and whether the herd has had a clear test since the last time the land was used.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (155)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

159 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to extend agri environment options scheme to new entrants and those exiting the REP scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23247/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

I am actively considering the possibility of re-opening the Agri-environmental Options Scheme to allow for the submission of applications either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale and, in particular, the possibility of re-opening for applications later in the year with a possible closing date for applications of end September and a commencement date for new participants of January 2013.

Any decision to re-open AEOS will be taken in the context of 2013 Estimate in order to remain within the agreed expenditure ceiling for my Department in 2013.

Common Agricultural Policy

Ceisteanna (156)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

160 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the Common Agricultural Policy reform negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23248/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

In very broad terms, the challenge for the current round of CAP reform is to deliver, in good time, a Common Agricultural Policy that is fit for purpose, that is coherent with the Europe 2020 strategy for recovery and growth, and that supports the twin goals of competitiveness and sustainability. These requirements in turn create further challenges in the form of crucial questions about how much money will be made available for the CAP in the period up to 2020, how these funds will be allocated both between and within Member States, and how the policy content will help to shape and serve the development of European agriculture.

It is important to note that, in addition to the European Parliament having an enhanced role in the process, key CAP issues are, in fact, being discussed in two parallel tracks, namely:

in the CAP reform negotiations in the Council of Agriculture Ministers, and at official level in the Special Committee on Agriculture and four separate working groups, and

in the negotiations on a new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) setting the EU budget for the period 2014 to 2020, which take place in the General Affairs Council and, ultimately, in the European Council.

Ireland is, of course, committed to playing an active and constructive role in securing agreement on the reform of the CAP. However, to do this, three things need to be happen:

there must be progress and, ultimately, agreement on the MFF,

there must be substantial progress during the Danish and Cypriot presidencies, at least on technical issues, and

all three institutions — the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission — need to engage actively in the negotiating process, with a commitment to seeking workable compromise.

Ireland's priorities, which are informed by the need to achieve the targets outlined in the Food Harvest 2020 strategy, are the sustainable intensification of production, environmental stewardship and the maintenance of a vibrant rural economy. Our key concerns as regards the reform proposals arise in four areas. These are the overall CAP funding, the method for distributing CAP funds between Member States, the method for distributing direct payment funds within Member States and the overarching need for simplification in the reformed CAP.

It is my view that a strong Common Agricultural Policy will make an important contribution to European economic recovery in the years ahead. In order to guarantee a strong CAP, commensurate resources need to be devoted to it. From an Irish perspective, the Commission's Budget proposals represent a reasonable starting point, given the pressure from some Member States to cut CAP expenditure. However, the pressure for further cuts to the CAP is still very real, and must continue to be resisted.

The key priority for Ireland is to retain our levels of funding for both direct payments and for rural development. Current proposals for redistributing direct payments between Member States on a pragmatic basis (convergence towards, but not all the way to, a uniform rate) are broadly satisfactory but I still have concerns about the method proposed for the allocation of rural development funds. I am therefore pressing for direct payments and rural development funds to be considered together, and for the pragmatic approach being employed for direct payments to be used for rural development also. The bottom line is that Ireland receives lower than average payments per hectare for direct payment and rural development funds combined, and I see no justification for any reduction.

My priority is to obtain as much flexibility as possible for Member States with regard to payment models and transitional arrangements. I recognise that we cannot continue to base our payments on outdated historic production references, but I have major difficulties with the pace and extent of convergence in the Commission's proposal. Analysis carried out by my Department indicates that the move to flat national or regional rates will cause large transfers from the more productive farms to more marginal and less productive land, and that much of this movement is proposed to be front-loaded.

I believe that Member States should therefore be allowed to implement the payment model best suited to their conditions and to the development of their farming systems, over a lengthy transitional period. The ‘approximation' approach, by which all payments could gradually move towards, but not fully to, the average, is one alternative that I believe should be considered in this regard.

I believe that the entire reform process should be informed by the need to keep the CAP as simple and as effective as possible. That means the lowest possible cost and administrative burden for both farmers and for Member State administrative systems.

I have assured Commissioner Ciolos and my Member State colleagues that Ireland will play a full and constructive role, both before and during our presidency, in seeking agreement on this vital dossier, both for the EU and for Ireland.

Departmental Inspections

Ceisteanna (157)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

161 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to reduce and or streamline the number of separate farm inspections annually and to hold inspections on different matters simultaneously in order to reduce the impact such necessary inspections have on the running of individual farm businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23249/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

My Department, in the context of delivering the Direct Payment Schemes, is required to carry out on-the-spot inspections on a number of farms covering such issues as eligibility, compliance with EU legislation in the areas of the environment, food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health and ensuring that the farm is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition.

A minimum of 5% of applicants are required to be inspected under the eligibility rule. The rate of on-farm inspection required for cross-compliance, is 1% of those farmers to whom the Statutory Management Requirements or GAEC apply. However 3% of farmers must be inspected for compliance with bovine identification and registration while 3% of sheep/goat farmers must be inspected representing 5% of the flock.

Since 2010 my Department has carried out some 1,500 additional Nitrates inspections annually on behalf of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. The implementation of these inspections has already seen an amalgamation of information and expertise that has resulted in a reduction in the duplication of inspections across both Departments and more efficient use of resources.

My Department is committed to ensuring the maximum level of integration of inspections and will continue to review inspection programmes in all areas with the aim of increasing integration where this is a feasible option.

Business Regulation

Ceisteanna (158)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

162 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made, if any, in concluding the investigation into a business (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if all established protocols and processes were followed in this case by the special investigation unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23308/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The review of procedures used in the investigation of a business in County Kilkenny is nearing completion. A separate file is being prepared in regard to the investigation of the business in question.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (159)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

163 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the Millennium trees in the event that Coillte forestry is sold to private companies. [22184/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The People's Millennium Forests Project was a flagship Millennium project sponsored by the National Millennium Committee and AIB and managed by Coillte in association with Woodlands of Ireland.

There were 16 sites involved in People's Millennium Forest Project, 14 of which are in the Republic of Ireland and two in Northern Ireland. I am aware that 12 of the 16 sites form part of the Coillte forest estate.

As announced by the Government in February, consideration will be given to the possible sale of some assets of Coillte excluding the sale of land. A valuation of Coillte assets is currently being undertaken by the NTMA (NewERA unit) in conjunction with my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. No decision on the possible sale of Coillte assets will be taken until the valuation process is completed. The protection of the People's Millennium Forests is one of the issues to be considered in the decision-making process in relation to the possible sale of Coillte assets.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Ceisteanna (160, 161, 162)

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

164 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to publish a report following the Adoption Authority’s visit to Ethiopia for the purpose of entering a bilateral agreement with Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23088/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Children and Youth Affairs)

Adoptions from Ethiopia, effected under the transitional arrangements provided for in the Adoption Act 2010, are ongoing and are currently being examined, and recognised, by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). These transitional arrangements may lead to adoptions from Ethiopia taking place up to the end of October 2012. The Adoption Act 2010 also contains provision for a one year extension to declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt which may lead to a one year extension to this date. Ethiopia is not a signatory of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. In these circumstances, adoptions from Ethiopia which are not covered by the transitional arrangements referred to above would require a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Ethiopia. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption with states who have not ratified the Hague Convention is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010 which states that "the Authority, with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non-contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State ." Any bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Hague Convention.

A delegation from the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) visited Ethiopia in April and held exploratory meetings with the Ethiopian authorities regarding the system of adoption which operates in that country. The delegation, in the course of its visit, held preliminary discussions with the Ethiopian authorities around the potential for a bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption. The AAI is currently preparing a report for me on its assessment of the situation which will inform the next steps to be taken.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

165 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will address the need for a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Russia in order that the hundreds of families who were deemed eligible to adopt after 1 November 2010 but must now wait until a bilateral agreement is signed can proceed with the adoption process; if a bilateral agreement will be signed with the Russian authorities for the adoption of Russian children to Ireland in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23093/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

169 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the recent development in the ongoing negotiation with regard to the inter-country adoption from Russia to Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23251/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 169 together.

The Hague Convention is a co-operative agreement drawn up to allow countries to mutually support one another in protecting the best interests of children in the intercountry adoption process. It sets out minimum standards regarding intercountry adoption and covers issues such as subsidiarity, consent and financial considerations. It is designed in such a way as to allow for mirrored mechanisms and structures to mutually assure countries of the safety and standard of intercountry adoptions in those countries. The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) performs the function of a Central Authority under the Adoption Act, 2010, in accordance with the Convention. In choosing to deal primarily with Hague countries, the AAI has the mechanism to work collaboratively with equivalent structures in that country. Each Central Authority has the responsibility to oversee standards in respect of those parts of the process taking place within their respective jurisdictions. This mutual arrangement is designed to give the AAI, the Government and, most importantly, those involved in the adoption process assurance as to the standards being set and the oversight of the system.

A limited number of adoptions from Russia are currently being processed under transitional arrangements as provided for in the Adoption Act, 2010. Under the provisions of the legislation, such adoptions may take place up to the end of October 2012, with the possibility of the Adoption Authority granting approval for an extension of up to one year. Russia has not ratified the Hague Convention and there appears to be no immediate prospect that this will happen. In the circumstances, adoptions from Russia, beyond those provided for under the transitional arrangements, may only be possible under a bilateral agreement developed to the standards of the Hague Convention.

An official delegation from Ireland recently visited Russia and held preliminary discussions regarding the potential for a bilateral agreement. I have received an initial assessment from the Adoption Authority which will inform the next steps to be taken in relation to this matter. My Department is in discussions with the Adoption Authority on this assessment and other issues which will influence any policy decisions to be taken in this regard. I am aware of the need to bring clarity to the situation in respect of Russia and I hope to be in a position to do so shortly.

The immediate priority of the Adoption Authority is the development of administrative arrangements with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention. Any future bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would also be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Convention.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (163)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

166 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in her Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23168/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Children and Youth Affairs)

Both my Private and Constituency Offices are staffed in accordance with the Guidelines on Staffing of Ministerial Offices as issued by the Department of Finance in April 2011. These guidelines set out the maximum numbers of staff that can be employed in each office and I can confirm that staffing of my offices are fully compliant with the guidelines. The specific details requested by the Deputy in respect of overall staffing numbers and costs are set out in tabular form below:

Ministerial Private Office

Date

Staffing Levels (Wholetime Equivalent)

Annual Gross Salary (exclusive of PRSI and superannuation costs)

May 2011

6.3

€358,225

May 2012

6.8

€404,266

Ministerial Constituency Office

Date

Staffing Levels (Wholetime Equivalent)

Annual Gross Salary (exclusive of PRSI and superannuation costs

May 2011

3.0

€103,802

May 2012

4.0

€141,839

In addition to the above staff, I have also appointed two civilian drivers. As per the Guidelines on Staffing of Ministerial Offices, drivers are not considered "office" staff and are therefore not included above.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Ceisteanna (164, 165)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

167 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding inter-country adoption between Ireland and Belarus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23244/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Children and Youth Affairs)

Belarus has ratified the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. However, adoptions between Ireland and Belarus cannot take place due to compatibility issues between the laws of Ireland and Belarus, in particular in relation to the Belarussian requirement for legislative underpinning of post placement reporting.

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

168 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding attempts to establish an adoption agreement between the authorities in Panama and the Adoption Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23250/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) is an independent statutory body charged with implementing the Adoption Act, 2010. The Authority has responsibility for the direct operational implementation of legislation and Government policy.

In November 2011 the AAI commenced a review of the adoption law(s) of Panama, which has ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The general review process followed by the AAI in such instances is detailed on the Authority's website. Owing to the variable nature of the process in respect of each individual country, and the need to engage with legal experts in the country being assessed, there is no definitive or set timescale for the completion of such reviews. The AAI will provide all relevant information relating to reviews on its website at the appropriate time.

The Hague Convention is a formal state-to-state agreement between countries developed on a multilateral basis. If a country has ratified the Hague Convention then the Adoption Authority of Ireland may establish administrative arrangements, as provided for in Section 72 of the Adoption Act, 2010. Administrative agreements are designed to underpin the Hague process and are related to the sequence and process arrangements in place to support the safeguards already agreed between states. The Adoption Authority of Ireland works with central authority counterparts in the establishment of administrative agreements.

Question No. 169 answered with Question No. 165.

Home Help Services

Ceisteanna (166)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

170 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding home help (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23214/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Health Services

Ceisteanna (167)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

171 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is undergoing an assessment of needs has to wait at least eight months for the second part of the assessment when the requirement is three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23372/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (168)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

172 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in processing a gratuity payment and pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; the reason this person and so many others are still awaiting payment of their lump sum; and if he will give a commitment that this payment will be processed without delay. [23085/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (169)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

173 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) will have to wait 12 months before they will get orthotic supports for their shoes from the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23097/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Health Service Staff

Ceisteanna (170)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

174 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health when the post of diabetes specialist nurse to support paediatric diabetes services at Cork University Hospital will be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23098/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Hospital Staff

Ceisteanna (171, 172, 173, 174)

David Stanton

Ceist:

175 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health if a qualification (details supplied) is recognised for purpose of employment by the Health Service Executive in PET/CT and registration with the Irish Institute of Radiography and Radiation Therapy respectively; if a person with such a qualification and with years of professional experience in PET/CT is ineligible for employment by the HSE in PET/CT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23117/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

176 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health if the Irish Institute of Radiography and Radiation Therapy has assessed the equivalency of qualifications in radiography, radiology and nuclear medicine from Australia and issued advice to him and the Health Service Executive regarding same; if not, if he will advise if they intend to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23118/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

177 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health the progress that has been made by CORU the Health and Social Care Professionals Council regarding a system of national registration of radiographers; if this national register will be made up solely of radiographers or if there will be a possibility of a grandfather clause for professionals with other qualifications such as nuclear medicine and with relevant professional experience being allowed onto the register thus allowing them to work in PER/CT sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23119/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 to 177, inclusive, together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for the appointment of its employees including the setting of qualification requirements for particular posts.

I am advised that the use of positron emission tomography — computed tomography (PET/CT) instrumentation/Nuclear Medicine is one of a range of functions performed by the profession of radiography within the HSE. The qualification requirement for radiographer — basic grade- is possession of the Diploma of the College of Radiographers, London or the B.Sc. (Hons) in Radiography from University College Dublin or an equivalent qualification. Qualifications in nuclear medicine or PET/CT would not be recognised for the purpose of recruitment to the HSE as a radiographer because the range of professional practice required of a radiographer within the HSE is much broader than provided through professional training in nuclear medicine or PET/CT alone.

The HSE grade of Clinical Specialist Radiographer in the specialities of CT/MRI/Ultrasound/Nuclear Medicine/PET/CT and Mammography is a career grade within the profession of radiography and qualification prerequisites are the qualification requirements for radiographer — basic grade, post-qualification clinical experience and a post-graduate course in the relevant speciality.

Directive 2005/36/EC provides a mechanism for the recognition of non-Irish professional qualifications and the determination of their equivalence to the prescribed Irish qualification. Under Statutory Instruments Nos. 139 and 166 of 2008, which transpose the Directive into Irish law, the Minister for Health is the Competent Authority for the assessment of Radiography qualifications and is advised by the Irish Institute of Radiography and Radiation Therapy (IIRRT). The National Validation Office, Health Service Executive, Galway administers the process on behalf of the Department of Health.

The Directive applies to all EEA nationals wishing to practise a regulated profession in an EEA State other than that in which they obtained their professional qualifications. The processes of the Directive are also applied in Ireland to persons with certain health profession qualifications which are outside the scope of the Directive i.e. EEA nationals with non-EEA qualifications and all non-EEA nationals. This includes qualifications from Australia.

Under the Directive, the applicant must be eligible to practise the profession in the country where the professional qualification was obtained and the professional activities covered by the profession in the home and the host country must be the same. Persons with qualifications in nuclear medicine or PET/CT would not be recognised as radiographers in Ireland under the Directive because the range of professional practice required of a radiographer is much broader.

In relation to statutory registration which will apply to both the publicly-funded and the private sector, the Radiographers' Registration Board of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council (CORU) was established in December 2011. The Board is expected to be in a position to establish the register of radiographers later this year. Under the 2005 Act, the process known as grand parenting or grand fathering is to enable existing practitioners who hold specific qualifications listed in the Act (but who may not meet current qualification criteria to be set by the Registration Board) to register during the two year transition period. Following this transition period, the use of the title of radiographer will be restricted to persons on the Register of the Radiographers. It would then be open to an individual with the qualifications specified to seek employment using PET/CT provided the title of radiographer is not used. However, such employment options are not currently available within the HSE.

David Stanton

Ceist:

178 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 953 of 11 January 2012, if the PET/CT scanner unit in Cork University Hospital is now operational; the person who is operating same; the level of staffing and vacancies in the unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23120/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

179 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23143/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

180 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23145/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

181 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23146/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

182 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23147/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

183 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23148/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

184 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23149/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

185 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23150/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

186 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23151/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

187 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [23152/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (184)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

188 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23175/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

Both my Private and Constituency Offices are staffed in accordance with the Guidelines on Staffing of Ministerial Offices as issued by the Department of Finance in April 2011. These guidelines set out the maximum numbers of staff that can be employed in each office and I can confirm that staffing of my offices are fully compliant with the guidelines. The specific details requested by the Deputy in respect of overall staffing numbers and costs are set out in tabular form below. The figures are exclusive of employer's PRSI, employer's superannuation contributions or any payments in respect of overtime.

Minister of State Lynch's Office includes 1 WTE on loan from Department of Justice, Equality and Defence. Salary figures have not been included for this individual as the parent Department is paying the salary:

Minister Reilly

Private Office

Constituency Office

WTE

Salary Costs

WTE

Salary Costs

May 2012

9

€481,748

3

€116,370

May 2011

10

€506,650

1.6

€71,887

Minister of State Shortall

Private Office

Constituency Office

WTE

Salary Costs

WTE

Salary Costs

May 2012

3.5

€186,759

3

€125,842

May 2011

4

€184,074

3

€123,387

Minister of State Lynch

Private Office

Constituency Office

WTE

Salary Costs

WTE

Salary Costs

May 2012

3.8

€174,416

3

€112,838

May 2011

3.8

€137,395

2

€78,190

Health Services

Ceisteanna (185, 186)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

189 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health if he will report on the progress made on the implementation of the specific recommendations of the 2006 Orthodontic Review Group Report in relation to the recruitment of a chief dental officer and the reintroduction of the old mid west training programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23183/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

The current moratorium on the filling of posts has meant that my Department has not been in a position to fill the post of Chief Dental Officer. Future decisions on this post will be taken against the backdrop of my Department's need to balance the delivery of business priorities with falling levels of overall resources.

A pilot initiative has resulted in a reduction in the orthodontic assessment waiting list in the Mid West. The HSE has commissioned an independent review of Orthodontic Services which will consider a number of service provision models. The review will begin later this year and will give guidance as to what changes will be desirable to provide the best possible model of care delivery, given the current resources available and expected future demand for the services.

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

190 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the provision of a primary care health centre for the Knocknacarra area of Galway city which was listed as a priority over four years ago; if a site has been identified for said centre; when the necessary planning permission will be sought in order that the proposed centre may proceed; if the centre will be delivered as a priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23186/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

Health Service Staff

Ceisteanna (187)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

191 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health if he will report in the 2012 progress made in provision of a diabetes nurse specialist and dietician posts as per the accepted recommendations of the National Paediatrics Working Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23191/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

The HSE National Clinical Programme for Diabetes — which includes the care of children and adolescents with diabetes — was established within the Clinical Strategy and Programmes Directorate. The purpose of the Programme is to define the way diabetic Clinical Services should be delivered, resourced and measured.

It is widely recognised that secondary or acute care alone cannot cope with the current and increasing burden of disease. Reorganising systems into more integrated models presents opportunities for a more efficient and effective approach to the management of diabetes care.

In this regard, Diabetes Service Implementation Groups were established country-wide, with the priority at national level to progress an Integrated Care model of care.

Approval has now been granted for the recruitment of diabetes nurse specialists and dieticians for the provision of continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion therapy for patients with type 1 diabetes who are under five years of age.

The model of care and the job descriptions for these roles are currently under review. I am advised by the HSE that recruitment will take place once the model of care and job descriptions have been finalised and implementation plans have been approved.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (188)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

192 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if he will examine the length of the current waiting lists that persons are being subjected to in the public health system; his plans to deal with this problem in view of the fact that he has abolished the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23192/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

The development of the Unit is a key part of my plans to radically reform the health system in Ireland. In 2011 I identified two key priorities for the SDU, namely addressing trolley waiting times and reducing the maximum waiting time for elective surgery. I am happy to say that the SDU has delivered improvements on both objectives.

At that time I instructed all hospitals to ensure that they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for inpatient or day case treatment by the end of 2011. All except 2 hospitals achieved this target for their patients. In order to achieve this, the NTPF supported the treatment of 1,159 cases in the later half of the year. Over 60% of these cases were supported within public hospitals.

This year I have set a target that, by year end, no adult will be waiting longer than 9 months and no child longer than 20 weeks for in-patient or day case treatment. Also no person should be waiting longer than 13 weeks for a routine GI endoscopy. Currently the NTPF/SDU is intensely engaged with public hospitals supporting their planning processes that will underpin the delivery of these targets.

The NTPF has not been abolished. In July 2011 I announced changes to the remit of the NTPF — namely its role would be changed to support the mission of the SDU. The NTPF is now fully aligned with the SDU and is targeting waiting lists strategically and incentivising hospitals to manage their waiting times proactively. The NTPF capability is a core part of the SDU's performance improvement role in holding public hospitals to account.

There are a number of initiatives which will contribute to the overall improvement of hospital services in Ireland. The organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally and locally will be informed by the HSE's Clinical Programmes, which have been developed and implemented by the HSE, and by the work on the framework for the development of smaller hospitals. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals' needs.

The introduction of hospital groups will provide further opportunities for inter site cooperation. Smaller hospitals can assist larger hospitals in the group by taking on more elective work.

I can assure the Deputy that I am keenly aware of the length of the waiting lists and the continued reduction of these waiting lists is a key priority for me and my Department.

Health Services

Ceisteanna (189)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

193 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding payment for medicine in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [23195/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Accident and Emergency Services

Ceisteanna (190)

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

194 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if accident and emergency units in hospitals are trained in stroke recognition to ensure that any patients presenting in accident and emergency with warning signs of a stroke are immediately provided with medical treatment to prevent serious damage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23202/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (191)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if and when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23205/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Medicinal Products

Ceisteanna (192)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

196 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if a cancer drug, Roaccutane is safe for all persons for whom it is prescribed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23208/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

While there are studies on the use of Roaccutane to treat certain cancers, it is only authorised in Ireland for treating severe forms of acne which have been resistant to other standard therapies. It should only be prescribed by or under the supervision of doctors with expertise in using the product and with a full understanding of the risks of therapy and the monitoring requirements.

There are some types of patients who should not be prescribed or use Roaccutane:

women who are pregnant or breastfeeding;

women of childbearing potential unless all of the conditions of the pregnancy prevention programme are met;

patients with liver disease;

patients with high levels of blood fats;

patients with very high levels of vitamin A;

patients being treated with medicines called tetracyclines.

The information for patients and for their doctors includes detailed advice on the risks associated with use of Roaccutane and recommendations to minimise their occurrence.

Roaccutane has been closely monitored at national and EU level since it was first authorised and its benefits and risks were reviewed at EU level in April 2011. The benefits of treatment are considered to outweigh the risks, when the product is used in accordance with the approved product information.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (193)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

197 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive a hearing aid. [23213/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Health Service Funding

Ceisteanna (194)

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

198 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a child (details supplied) in Dublin 15 who is awaiting surgery in the UK which is not available here; if the family will be assisted with all necessary travel and accommodation costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23222/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (195)

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

199 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if same will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23225/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (196)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

200 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Health his plans to introduce legislation permitting dental hygienists to practice independently of dentists here, as they do in the neighbouring jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23245/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

My Department has a very extensive legislative programme under way at present. A significant amendment of the Dentists Act 1985 is to be undertaken as part of this programme and a preliminary examination of the issues involved has commenced. In amending this Act, the issues relating to auxiliary dental professions, including dental hygienists, will also be considered.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (197)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

201 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Health the funding under the section 38/39 of the Health Act 2004 that has been allocated to each Rape Crisis Centre and domestic violence organisation for each of the past seven years 2006 to 2012 inclusive in the Health Service Executive south area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23246/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (198)

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

202 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a child (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the reason the card was removed and the reason for the delay in the card being re-instated; if he will ensure that the child’s medical card will not be removed again in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23287/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Private Health Insurance

Ceisteanna (199)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

203 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the progress that has been made to eliminate the public private divide by introducing universal health insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23301/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

The Government is committed to fundamental reform of the health care system that will deliver a single tier health system, supported by universal health insurance, where access is based on need, not income. Every citizen will have a choice of insurer and will have equal access to a comprehensive range of curative services.

There are a number of key stepping stones that will play a critical role in paving the way for the introduction of universal health insurance. Significant work has already been undertaken to progress these. They include:

the strengthening of the primary care sector to deliver universal primary care with the removal of cost as a barrier. The Government has established a Universal Primary Care Project Team to oversee the introduction of universal primary care. In addition, the Government has given its approval to the preparation of Heads of a Bill to progress the phased introduction of free GP care in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. It is envisaged that the first phase in the Programme will provide for the extension of access to GP services without fees to persons with illnesses or disabilities to be prescribed by regulations under the new legislation.

reform of the acute hospital sector, including the establishment of the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) which has been tasked with unblocking access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system. An important part of the Programme for Government is the establishment of independent not-for-profit trusts. As a first step, non-statutory hospital groups will be set up which will have a single clinical governance model, one budget and one employment ceiling. The hospital groups will be established on the clear understanding that the groupings and their governance arrangements will be reviewed prior to 2015 to ensure an appropriate environment for the introduction of UHI.

the introduction of the more transparent and efficient "Money Follows the Patient" funding mechanism for acute hospitals. A number of initiatives are already underway including a patient level costing project and a pilot initiative in relation to prospective funding of certain elective orthopaedic procedures, at selected sites.

In February, I established an Implementation Group on Universal Health Insurance. The Group will assist in developing detailed implementation plans for universal health insurance and driving implementation of various elements of the health reform programme. A project team comprised of senior Department of Health officials has also been established to support the work of the Implementation Group.

The initial work of the Group will focus on overseeing reform work in relation to the following work streams:—

Hospital Financing (e.g. Money-follows-the-patient, Hospital Care Purchase Agency),

Hospital Structures (e.g. Hospital Trusts),

Regulation of the Hospital Sector (e.g. Patient Safety Authority, Licensing),

Private Health Insurance Market (e.g. Risk Equalisation, Minimum Benefits),

Overarching UHI Design (e.g. detailed design of the UHI system, including the legislative framework and the package of services to be covered).

The reform programme is a complex and major undertaking that requires careful sequencing over a number of years. The Implementation Group will continue in existence throughout the health reform process and will oversee different elements of the reforms as they are being put in place. It is also intended that it will consult widely as part of the reform implementation process.

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (200)

John Lyons

Ceist:

204 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a full breakdown of the decision to award a general practitioner visit card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [23304/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Health Services

Ceisteanna (201)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

205 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if an early date for assessment will be arranged in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if he will expedite matters. [23305/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Care of the Elderly

Ceisteanna (202, 203)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

206 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the national positive aging strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23316/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

207 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to ensure that the country is prepared for the increase in the number of older persons in the country’s demographics in future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23317/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 and 207 together.

In recognition that the population of Ireland is projected to age rapidly within a relatively short time, the Programme for Government has committed to completing and implementing the National Positive Aging so that older people are recognised, supported and enabled to live independent full lives. Traditionally, policy relating to older people has tended to deal almost exclusively with health and personal social services.

It is acknowledged that a wide range of policies, programmes and services impact directly on the lives of older people and a cross departmental group comprised of officials from 11 Government Departments, the Central Statistics Office and An Garda Síochána, and chaired by the Director of the Office for Older People was established in 2008 to oversee the development of the Strategy.

In keeping with the commitment to develop the Strategy in conjunction with the recognised voluntary groups, an NGO Liaison Group comprising representatives of twelve national level non-governmental organisations with an interest in older people's issues was established in 2009 under an independent Chair.

An internal Department of Health group with representatives of all relevant service areas and the HSE has also been established.

The Strategy will set the strategic direction for future policies, programmes and services for older people in Ireland. It will set out a common framework for the development of operational plans by a number of Government Departments which will clearly set out each Department's objectives relating to older people. Mechanisms designed to monitor the implementation of measures contained in operational plans will also be included in the Strategy. However, I do not envisage that the Strategy will propose new service developments. Rather it will set the strategic direction for future policies, programmes and services for older people in Ireland.

A considerable amount of preparatory work has already been completed. The drafting of the Strategy will proceed within the Department within the constraints of available staff and other priorities. At this stage I envisage the Strategy will be completed and published as soon as possible within these constraints.

Voluntary Sector Funding

Ceisteanna (204)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

208 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the contact that has been made between the Department of Health and an organisation (details supplied) in the past three months; if a meeting is scheduled to take place between that organisation and him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23318/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

Dignity 4 Patients has been in contact with my office recently to request a meeting with me. Early in 2011, I indicated that the issues raised by the case of Michael Shine, former Consultant at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda would be the subject of an inquiry by an Oireachtas Committee. This was dependent on the powers that had been proposed under the 30th Amendment of the Constitution. As it was not possible to proceed as proposed, I am giving consideration as to how best to deal with the issues involved. My Department is currently exploring the options in this regard particularly in the light of investigations by the Garda and various civil court actions. In these circumstances it would be premature to meet with Dignity 4 Patients, however, I would be open to a meeting with that organisation at a later date when my Department's deliberations are at a more advanced stage.

Dignity 4 Patients has also been in contact with my Department in the past three months concerning funding issues. One of those requests relates to ongoing funding and as ongoing funding for any service is a matter for the HSE, I previously asked the HSE to liaise with Dignity 4 Patients on the issue. I understand that the HSE has recently met with Dignity 4 Patients and signed a Grant Aid Agreement with them for €22,500 for one year's office supplies and voluntary support. The HSE also advised Dignity 4 Patients that they would not be in a position to provide any funding towards staffing costs as the current time and suggested that they consider establishing synergies with other similar agencies, in order to continue to provide support to their client group. My Department is also in receipt of an application for Lottery funding from Dignity 4 Patients and this is currently being considered.

Home Help Service

Ceisteanna (205)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

209 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the number of additional home help hours allocated to new clients since January in each PCCC area; the number of persons involved; the corresponding figure for the number of additional hours provided to existing clients; the number of persons involved, corresponding the number of hours that have become available on foot of clients no longer requiring the allocation; and the number of persons involved. [23322/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (206)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

210 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a lost medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [23371/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Health Services

Ceisteanna (207)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

211 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the dental treatment entitlements of medical card holders; if he will extend current entitlements to full dental treatment cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23374/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

Dental services for medical card holders are provided through the Dental Treatment Service Scheme (DTSS). Given the current difficult position of the public finances, it is not possible to increase the services available under the DTSS. The HSE is working to ensure that patients with special needs, high risk patients and those who have greater clinical needs are prioritised for treatment. In addition, free emergency dental treatment and a free oral examination every 12 months are available to all eligible patients.

Primary Care Strategy

Ceisteanna (208, 209, 210)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

212 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he has had any discussions with general practitioners in relation to his recent announcement that he intends to transfer the management of chronic illness to primary care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23376/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

213 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the other countries in Europe in which chronic disease is managed within the primary care setting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23377/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

214 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will provide further detail on the way he envisages chronic disease being managed within the primary care setting; if he will outline the role of each allied professional in terms of its management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23378/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 to 214, inclusive, together.

Many EU countries are moving towards a system where chronic diseases are managed within a primary care setting and are at different stages of development. Scandinavian countries, Germany and the UK Health Systems, in particular, have led the way in terms of chronic diseases being delivered in primary care settings. Here in Ireland, the HSE is developing chronic disease programmes to improve patient access and to manage patient care in an integrated manner across service settings. The programmes will be multidisciplinary in nature and will involve GPs, nursing staff, allied health professionals and other members of the primary care team, who will deliver appropriate care in the primary care setting. The programmes aim to deliver better health outcomes, enhanced clinical decision making and more effective use of resources.

Work is ongoing on the development of the following programmes which are particularly relevant to primary care: Diabetes; Stroke; Heart Failure; Asthma; and COPD. The Diabetes programme is due to commence in Quarter 4 of 2012. The model of care for the Integrated Care Diabetes Package prescribes that:

1. Uncomplicated Type 2 Diabetes patients will be managed in Primary Care only.

2. Patients with complicated Type 2 Diabetes, as defined by the National Model of Diabetes Care, will be managed by both primary and secondary care.

3. All patients with Type 1 Diabetes, genetic causes of Diabetes (MODY Diabetes), secondary causes of Diabetes, post-transplant Diabetes and pregnancy and Diabetes, will be managed in secondary care only.

The integrated model of care for diabetes is to be rolled out on a phased basis as resources permit. Work is also continuing on progressing initiatives introduced in 2011, including the national multidisciplinary foot care programme and the national retinopathy screening programme.

A National Steering Committee has been set up to oversee implementation of the Diabetes programme and the key work streams are:

Alignment of 10 pilot diabetes initiatives with nationally agreed model of care;

Selection of Phase 1 sites;

Recruitment of Integrated Care Diabetes Nurse Specialists;

Progression of ICT Development;

Discussions with Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and other relevant parties;

Identification of Drug Savings.

The roll-out of the national Diabetes programme is to be phased over 4 years (2012-2015) as follows—

In 2012, it is aimed to cover up to 1 million of the population;

2013 targeted to cover additional population of 1.7 million;

2014 targeted to cover further additional population of 1.7 million;

2015 targeted to cover final population of 0.45 million.

€2 million is required for the Diabetes programme in 2012 and this has been identified from within existing HSE resources. Funding for implementation in 2013 to 2015 is dependent on the identification of savings within the health system which will be re-invested in diabetes care.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (211, 212, 213)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

215 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he has had any discussions with general practitioners regarding the extension of free GP care to long term illness claimants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23379/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

217 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if general practitioners will be given any extra payments for the provision of free GP care to those with long term illnesses; the cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23381/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 217 together.

I have had preliminary discussions with the IMO and ICGP to outline policy in this regard. The question of remunerations has yet to be decided.

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

216 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health when he expects the 56,000 long term illness patients to have access to free general practitioner care; when he will publish legislation in relation to this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23380/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Programme for Government commits to reforming the current public health system by introducing Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all. As part of this, the Government is committed to introducing Universal GP Care within its first term of office.

Primary legislation is required to give effect to this commitment. The Department of Health is currently drafting legislation to provide for the phased introduction of a universal GP service without fees in line with the commitment set out in the Programme for Government. Initially it is intended to extend GP cover without fees to persons with certain long-term illness. It is my intention to have the Bill published and enacted before the summer recess.

Question No. 217 answered with Question No. 215.

Health Services

Ceisteanna (214)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

218 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the waiting period for orthodontic treatment in County Kerry; the number of persons currently on the waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23382/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

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

Ambulance Service

Ceisteanna (215)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

219 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will give official recognition and support with availability of qualified paramedics from his Department to Air Ambulance Ireland enabling the charitable organisation to provide an essential and much needed helicopter emergency medical services which is in operation in practically all other EU countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23396/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health)

In 2011, I initiated a review of the available options for aeromedical support of the National Ambulance Service in delivering emergency services in the west of Ireland. I intend to make an announcement shortly on the introduction of a pilot service to allow the HSE to establish the type and level of service, if any, that is required in the region.

Commissioners of Irish Lights

Ceisteanna (216)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

220 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding Irish lighthouses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23129/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The matters raised are the responsibility of the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL). However, my understanding is that a final decision has not been made with regard to changes to the design and layout of the lighthouses referred to in the correspondence submitted by the Deputy. CIL should be in a position to provide further information on this to the Deputy.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (217)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

221 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views that the Action Plan for Jobs (details supplied) which proposes to examine the bus market with a view to opening PSO routes post 2014 has the potential to not only impact on the revenue and job sustainability of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann but also increase the level of subvention required to fund the provision of public transport. [23347/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The Deputy's question relates to the operation of Public Service Obligation bus services and the future of such services.

The Action Plan for Jobs includes a commitment to examine the bus market with a view to considering the options for public service obligation or PSO bus services post 2014. This is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to explore the benefit to the public transport passenger of more diverse bus service provision. In accordance with these commitments I will be consulting with my Ministerial colleagues soon on the future options for procurement of such services.

Under EU law and the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, as amended, existing PSO bus services can be procured by the National Transport Authority through direct award contracts and any other new subvented services must be procured by way of open tendering.

At the expiry of the current 5 year direct award contracts for the provision of PSO services with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann in 2014, the NTA has discretion to renew, modify or terminate the direct award provision of bus services following a consultation process with interested parties under which the NTA is obliged to justify its approach.

PSO services are covered by Public Service Contracts and do not fall within the licensing system for commercial bus services. Section 10 of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 makes provision for the licensing of commercial bus services. Responsibility for licensing of commercial bus services was transferred from my Department to the National Transport Authority with effect from 1 December 2010.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (218, 219)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

222 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will explain the rule coming into effect on 1 October 2012, which prohibits the transferability of SPSV licences such that a single licence holder cannot transfer their licence to a family member but a multiple licence holder can hold multiple licences which they can sell or transfer as an asset of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23122/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The regulation of the taxi industry, including issues pertaining to the renewal and transfer of vehicle licences, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009.

As set out in the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011, it was considered by the Review Group that it was necessary to move away from a system whereby a licence will have value in itself — a licence should determine a person's suitability to carry out a function and it should not have monetary value or be traded on the open market. Action 14 of the Review Report proposes the introduction of a prohibition on the transferability of taxi vehicle licences such that all taxi vehicle licences will be unique to the person to whom the licence has been issued and cannot be transferred or sold to another individual.

All SPSV licences are granted to an individual and in making its recommendation concerning the non-transfer of vehicle licences the Review Group did not distinguish between single or multiple licence holders.

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

223 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he should differentiate between the categories of single licence holders and multiple licence holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23126/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The regulation of the taxi industry, including issues pertaining to the renewal and transfer of vehicle licences, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009.

As set out in the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011, it was considered by the Review Group that it was necessary to move away from a system whereby a licence will have value in itself — a licence should determine a person's suitability to carry out a function and it should not have monetary value or be traded on the open market. Action 14 of the Review Report proposes the introduction of a prohibition on the transferability of taxi vehicle licences such that all taxi vehicle licences will be unique to the person to whom the licence has been issued and cannot be transferred or sold to another individual.

All SPSV licences are granted to an individual and in making its recommendation concerning the non-transfer of vehicle licences the Review Group did not distinguish between single or multiple licence holders.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (220)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

224 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23180/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The number of persons currently employed in each of my and the Ministers of State's private and constituency offices together with the full year salary cost in 2012 and similar figures for 2011 are set out in Tables 1 to 3 below.

The 2011 salary costs are lower than the 2012 full year cost because fourteen Ministerial appointed staff were appointed after the formation of the Government in March 2011, with some not being in situ until May 2011. Therefore the figures for 2011 are not full year figures and are therefore not comparable with the 2012 figures.

Both the private and constituency offices in my Department are staffed in line with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines. As indicated in the tables below both I and Ministers Ring and Kelly currently employ three staff each in our constituency offices. This is one less than allowed number of staff for constituency offices, which is four. It should be noted that this marks a considerable reduction from the levels of staffing permitted under the previous government where there were a maximum of six staff in each Minister of Government's office.

Table 1 — Minister (Deputy Varadkar) Staffing

Office

No of persons employed

Salary (2011 — March to Year End) €’000

2012 annual salary €’000

Private

10 (incl 2 civilian drivers)

384

556

Constituency

3

145

146

Table 2 — Minister of State (Deputy Ring) Staffing

Office

No of persons employed

Salary (2011 — March to Year End) €’000

2012 annual salary €’000

Private

6 (incl 2 civilian drivers)

169

251

Constituency

3

101

157

Table 3 — Minister of State (Deputy Kelly) Staffing

Office

No. of persons employed

Salary (2011 — March to Year End) €’000

2012 annual salary €’000

Private

5 (incl 2 civilian drivers)

205

186

Constituency

3

105

121

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (221)

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

225 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the rerouting by Dublin Bus of the 76 bus away from Bawnogue, Clondalkin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23288/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The issue raised is an operational matter for Dublin Bus in conjunction with the National Transport Authority. I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Road Network

Ceisteanna (222)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

226 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has sought or received submissions from the various local authorities with a view to remedial action in respect of specific locations throughout the country wherein it is deemed that the road surface, vertical or horizontal alignment is such as to present serious health and safety issues; if such locations, accident black spots, have been identified as being in need of particular action, his plans, if any, in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23351/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the Council.

In July of last year, the National Roads Authority (on behalf of the Department) sought applications, in respect of regional and local roads, for funding under the Low Cost Safety Improvement Grants Scheme in 2012. Under this scheme of works, grant approval is based on accident data, inspection of sites and targeting locations showing demonstrable hazard which can be improved through engineering measures. A total of €6.035 million has been allocated to local authorities under this scheme of grants in 2012 for works at 212 locations.

The funding provided to each local authority and the individual schemes are listed in the 2012 Grant Allocations to Local Authorities for Regional and Local Roads which is available in the Dáil library.

Sale of State Assets

Ceisteanna (223)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

227 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he continues to monitor progress or developments in Aer Lingus; if he has a preferred option in respect of the future development share holding or ownership of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23352/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The Deputy's questions relate to the future of the Government's shareholding in Aer Lingus.

It is important to point out that the State's shareholding does not allow it to interfere in any way in the day-to-day commercial operations of the company and while the State has three Directors on the board, these Directors have fiduciary responsibilities to act in the best interests of the company.

In terms of State asset disposals, two Working Groups were established by the Government in 2011, one to consider the best approach in progressing the proposed part-sale of ESB and the other to undertake a similar analysis of a number of other State assets identified by Government as potential candidates for disposal. The State's remaining 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus was considered as part of this group of assets. Both of these Working Groups completed their work in 2011 and reported to Ministers in December 2011. NewERA was centrally involved in this process together with all relevant Departments including my Department. It was on the basis of the analysis undertaken by these two Working Groups that the Government agreed to the list of asset disposals announced on 22nd February.

In relation to Aer Lingus, the Government considers that the State's remaining shareholding in the company is no longer a strategic asset as it does not enable the Government to determine Aer Lingus policy on issues such as the use of the airline's landing slots at Heathrow. Accordingly, the Government has decided that the State's remaining shareholding in Aer Lingus will be sold at an appropriate time, when market conditions are favourable and at an acceptable price that is agreed by Government.

My Department along with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and NewERA is working to examine the potential options for the disposal of the State's stake and the issues that may need to be addressed in the context of the disposal of the stake. The Minister for Public Enterprise and I will consider any and all expressions of interest that may be received for the stake.

Question No. 228 answered with Question No. 30.

Tourism Industry

Ceisteanna (224, 225, 226, 227, 228)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which he has had discussions with the tourism sector with a view to identifying particular difficulties likely to be faced in the context of economic recovery; the actions planned in response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23354/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he is satisfied that tourism bookings in the current year to date are sufficient to generate adequate activity in the context of economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23355/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent of any discussions he has had and continues to have with the hotel and catering sectors with a view to addressing any issues needing attention with particular reference to viability throughout the sector and its ability to contribute to economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23357/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which the total number of hotel accommodation units have been utilised throughout the country in the present year to date; if he intends to introduce any measures to address any issues arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23359/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229, 230, 232 and 234 together.

I am in regular contact with stakeholders in the tourism sector and in recent weeks I have addressed the Irish Hotels Federation, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

Last year's Jobs Initiative and the Government's Action Plan for Jobs 2013 recognise the vital contribution of tourism to employment, economic activity and foreign revenue earnings. The VAT reduction on a range of tourism services from 13.5% to 9% enhances the competitiveness of our tourism product. The Visa Waiver Scheme is encouraging visitors from emerging markets to add Ireland to a trip to the UK and the halving of employers' PRSI for those on modest wages will significantly reduce the cost of employing people.

During discussions with operators, many identified an urgent requirement for certainty regarding the extension of the lower VAT rate into 2013. Following discussions with the Minister for Finance, the lower rate of VAT will be maintained during 2013. This will allow businesses, tour operators and customers to plan for the 2013 season. In addition, "The Gathering 2013" will take place next year — a major tourism initiative with the target of bringing an extra 325,000 visitors here.

2011 saw a welcome recovery in overseas visitor numbers with year-on-year growth of 6%. According to preliminary results from the Fáilte Ireland Hotel Survey, for the first nine months of 2011, hotel room occupancy rates improved compared to 2009 and 2010, up to 61% from 58%. Furthermore, according to Hotels.com, Ireland continues to have the most competitively priced hotel beds in Western Europe.

While there was a marginal decrease in overseas visits in the first three months of this year, I understand that industry and trade partners are positive about prospects for the year, with reports of advance bookings and inquiries being up on this time last year. Industry representative groups are hopeful we can achieve our target of a 4.5% increase in visitor numbers for the year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has had discussions with the tourism and sporting sectors with a view to availing of maximum opportunities arising from major sporting events here and in adjoining jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23356/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland. The hosting of major sports events can provide a great showcase for Ireland, drive international visitor numbers and the media coverage of sports tourism events helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination.

Fáilte Ireland continues to support the sports tourism sector and in 2012 the Volvo Ocean Race will return to Ireland with its finale in Galway, Dún Laoghaire will host the ISAF Youth World Sailing Championship, the Tall Ships and the Bavaria Motor Racing Exhibition event will be on in Dublin as well as the Navy-Notre Dame American Football game in the Aviva Stadium.

I am supportive of the efforts of the State Tourism Agencies and the National Governing Bodies of Sport to attract international events, subject, of course, to an assessment of the costs/benefits involved in any State financial support.

The tourism and sports agencies are represented on the London 2012 Coordinating Group which I am chairing and which is looking at opportunities for Ireland from the proximity of this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. As part of this, Tourism Ireland has been rolling out a busy programme of promotional activity to target a wide range of potential visitors in the run-up to and during the 2012 Games. On the sporting side, athletes from thirteen countries will train at the National Aquatic Centre and a number of other Olympic related events are also taking place in Ireland before the Games.

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 229.

Airport Charges

Ceisteanna (229)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which comparisons have been made between airport charges here and those applicable in competing jurisdictions; the degree to which any such issues can be addressed with a view to ensuring the competitiveness of the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23358/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

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

A study of 2010 airport charges by the Airports Council International (ACI) found that Dublin Airport's charges remain competitive and were amongst the lowest of comparable metropolitan airports in Europe.

The Government is committed to delivering an expansion of routes, airlines and passenger numbers through Irish airports and to this end has developed a comprehensive three-pronged strategy to encourage in-bound tourism. Included in this strategy is a new growth incentive scheme which has been introduced by the Dublin Airport Authority and which applies to the three airports under its remit. The scheme provides for a rebate on charges for airlines, depending on passenger growth at the airports in question. Last year under the growth incentive scheme, the DAA rebated €1.5m to 30 airlines that increased their passenger traffic in Dublin.

Question No. 234 answered with Question No. 229.

State Properties

Ceisteanna (230)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

235 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will intervene to resolve a dispute regarding outstanding invoices owing to a company from a hotel which was in State ownership (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23368/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

I have no statutory function in relation to this dispute. It may be a matter for the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). Accordingly, I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the DAA and asked it to reply to the Deputy. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Sports Funding

Ceisteanna (231, 232, 233)

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

236 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the potential role of sport in suicide prevention; and the funding that will be made available for same. [23389/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

237 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the potential role of sport in combating mental health difficulties within society, particularly among our youth; and the funding that will be made available for same. [23390/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

242 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the role of sport in combating obesity within society, particularly in view of the fact that Ireland has some of the highest rates of overweight and obesity amongst children in Europe. [23395/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236, 237 and 242 together.

My Department is responsible for the development of sport in Ireland. In that context, I recognise that sport and physical activity have significant potential to contribute to the development of a healthier society. There are huge social and health benefits accruing from sport. It can make a major contribution to some of our most pressing social and health issues, including suicide prevention, mental health issues and obesity. Sport needs to be better recognised for the major role it plays in this regard. There are major benefits not just for individuals but also for our health system in maintaining and increasing participation levels in sport. The World Health Organisation acknowledges that increasing levels of participation in physical activity can significantly reduce the costs to society. One of the goals of my Department is to contribute to a healthier and more active society by promoting sports participation. I want to ensure all people are encouraged and given opportunities to participate in sport and enjoy all the benefits sport can bring through developing a healthy lifestyle. In that context, the Irish Sports Council, which is funded by my Department, received an allocation of almost €44.5 million in 2012. I am pleased to say that provisional 2011 figures in relation to the level of participation in sport are encouraging. New research by the Irish Sports Council shows that the upward trends seen in participation levels in 2009, when 33.5% of the population participated regularly compared to 29.8% in 2003, are continuing and might if anything be accelerating.

Olympic Games

Ceisteanna (234)

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

238 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the efforts made by him to maximise the use of sporting facilities and accommodation here by supporters during the London Olympics in 2012. [23391/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The tourism and sports agencies are represented on the London 2012 co-ordinating group which I am chairing and which is looking at opportunities for Ireland from the proximity of this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. Tourism Ireland is the North-South body established under the Good Friday Agreement with responsibility for the overseas promotion of the entire island of Ireland as a tourist destination. The organisation has been rolling out a busy programme of promotional activity to target a wide range of potential visitors around the world in the run-up to and during the 2012 Games. This includes targeting corporate sponsors, promoting holiday package extensions to Ireland, targeting displaced Londoners and promoting golf and Ireland as the home of major champions. On the sporting side, athletes from 13 countries will train at the National Aquatic Centre in the lead up to the London games, including the US synchronised swimming team, the South Korean national squad, the UK Paralympic swimming squad and swimmers from the Cayman Islands, Poland, Venezuela and Surinam. A pre-Olympic water polo tournament taking place in the NAC in July will involve participation by Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Germany, Great Britain and current Olympic champions Hungary. A number of other Olympic-related events are also taking place in Ireland before the Games. In March this year, a men's hockey Olympic qualifying tournament was hosted at the National Hockey Stadium in UCD. In July, the World Youth Sailing Championships will take place in Dún Laoghaire and Morton Athletics Stadium in Santry will host a pre-games international athletics event.

Question No. 239 answered with Question No. 10.

Tourism Industry

Ceisteanna (235, 236)

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

240 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in view of his recent visit to Moore Street, Dublin, the initiatives he intends to put in place to ensure greater tourism opportunities. [23393/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

As the Deputy is aware, I recently had the opportunity to tour the major sites connected with the 1916 Rising in O'Connell St., Moore St. and Parnell St. I did this as a guest of some of the descendants of participants in the Rising. The 1916 Rising was an important event in our history and is of great interest both domestically and internationally. In this context, I have asked Fáilte Ireland to carry out an assessment of the potential interest from domestic and international visitors in the 1916 Rising and the possibility of developing a walking trail focused around the sites connected with the week of the Rising. I expect the assessment will be completed in the coming months.

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

241 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the cycling initiatives he intends to put in place to ensure greater tourism here; and the funding that will be made available for same. [23394/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The matter raised — insofar as it relates to promoting tourism here — is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. I have referred the Deputy's question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Question No. 242 answered with Question No. 236.