Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Taoiseach's Public Relations Budget.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Copenhagen Summit Attendance.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Government Buildings Visitors.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Northern Ireland Peace Process.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Aer Lingus's Financial Position.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Telecom Éireann Investment Programme.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Financial Contributions to Political Parties.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Disposal of State Assets.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Energy Policy.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Assistance for Small Business.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - State Mining Facility Applications.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Rail Network.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Radiological Protection Institute Report on Visit to Sellafield.
Adjournment Debate Matters.
Order of Business.
Financial Resolutions, 1995. - Financial Resolution No. 4: General (Resumed).
Private Members' Business. - Defamation Bill, 1995: Second Stage (Resumed).
Adjournment Debate. - Threatened Job Losses at Bray Plant.
Adjournment Debate. - Westport (Mayo) Psychiatric Day Care Centre.
Adjournment Debate. - Letterfrack (Galway) School.
Adjournment Debate. - Killorglin (Kerry) Coastal Protection.
Written Answers - Electricity from Renewable Sources.
Written Answers - Community Television.
Written Answers - Public Transport in Dublin.
Written Answers - Waterford Regional Airport.
Written Answers - Bogs and Bog Roads.
Written Answers - Connaught Regional Airport.
Written Answers - Energy Saving and Efficiency.
Written Answers - Legal Radio Costs.
Written Answers - Bord na Móna.
Written Answers - Electricity Interconnector.
Written Answers - Transport Subsidy.
Written Answers - European Nuclear Safety Inspectorate.
Written Answers - Joint Venture Projects.
Written Answers - Airports Marketing Funding.
Written Answers - Post Office Plans.
Written Answers - Educational Projects.
Written Answers - Consultancy Fees' Increase.
Written Answers - Regional Airports.
Written Answers - Airports' Grant Aid.
Written Answers - New Generating Station.
Written Answers - Irish Aviation Authority.
Written Answers - Telecommunications Industry.
Written Answers - Landing Charges.
Written Answers - Pirate Radio Stations.
Written Answers - Wind Energy.
Written Answers - Telecommunications Industry.
Written Answers - Attendance at Dáil Committees.
Written Answers - Urban Programme.
Written Answers - Use of Government Jet.
Written Answers - Cultural Relation's Committee.
Written Answers - Central Fund Expenditure.
Written Answers - European Budget.
Written Answers - VAT Refunds at Livestock Marts.
Written Answers - Telephone Rental and TV Licence Allowance.
Written Answers - EU Single Currency.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Appropriations-in-Aid.
Written Answers - Special Savings Accounts.
Written Answers - Flood Relief.
Written Answers - PRSI Payment.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Death Certificate Issue.
Written Answers - Environmental Health Officers.
Written Answers - Grangegorman (Dublin) Hospital.
Written Answers - General Register Office Delays.
Written Answers - American Cardiac System.
Written Answers - Dental Treatment.
Written Answers - Social Welfare Benefits.
Written Answers - Cancer Incidence.
Written Answers - Cystic Fibrosis Unit.
Written Answers - International Women's Day.
Written Answers - Reports of Inspector of Mental Hospitals.
Written Answers - Anti-D Contamination Report.
Written Answers - Proposed Ombudsman For Children.
Written Answers - Exchange of Surgeons.
Written Answers - Waiting Period for Hip Operations.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Collins Barracks Playing Pitches.
Written Answers - Local Authority Arts Funding.
Written Answers - Arts Council Funding.
Written Answers - Architects' Directive.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Budget for County Roads.
Written Answers - Dublin Water Supply.
Written Answers - Roads Allocation.
Written Answers - Seat Belts in School Buses.
Written Answers - Glencolmcille (Donegal) Sewerage Scheme.
Written Answers - Water Safety Funding.
Written Answers - County Cork Sewerage Scheme.
Written Answers - Roads Allocation.
Written Answers - Treatment of Disabled People.
Written Answers - Complaints re Rock Concerts.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Abolition of Examination Fees.
Written Answers - Accomodation Needs of Primary Education.
Written Answers - Ballymacart (Waterford) National School.
Written Answers - Provision of Sports Facilities.
Written Answers - Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.
Written Answers - Extension of Bus Services.
Written Answers - Purchase of County Tipperary School.
Written Answers - Refurbishment Grants for School in County Galway.
Written Answers - Drogheda (Louth) College.
Written Answers - Ballina (Mayo) School.
Written Answers - School Extension.
Written Answers - Physics and Chemistry Course.
Written Answers - Remedial Teacher.
Written Answers - Capital Allocation for Schools.
Written Answers - Disadvantaged Primary Schools, County Donegal.
Written Answers - Garda Síochána.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Land Registration.
Written Answers - Censorship of Publications Board.
Written Answers - Prosecutions Statistics.
Written Answers - Land Registration.
Written Answers - Kenmare (Kerry) Garda Station.
Written Answers - Registers of Summary and Indictable Offences.
Written Answers - Registers of Criminal Records.
Written Answers - Number of Convicted Persons.
Written Answers - Land Registry Dealing.
Written Answers - Response to Complaint.
Written Answers - Citizenship Application.
Written Answers - Safety Belt Offences.
Written Answers - Crime Problems.
Written Answers - Land Registry Application.
Written Answers - County Galway Project.
Written Answers - Land Registry Dealing.
Written Answers - Shannon Airport Incident.
Written Answers - Registration of Lands.
Written Answers - Garda Disciplinary Matter.
Written Answers - Drug Related Offences.
Written Answers - Hunt Sabotage.
Written Answers - Refugee Application.
Written Answers - PRSI Income.
Written Answers - Social Welfare Expenditure.
Written Answers - Free Travel Scheme.
Written Answers - Social Welfare Benefits.
Written Answers - Summer Jobs Scheme.
Written Answers - Social Welfare Benefit.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Accommodation Grants.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Motor Insurance Statistics.
Written Answers - County Enterprise Boards.
Written Answers - Irish Countrywomen's Association.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Beef Tribunal Legal Fees.
Written Answers - Suckler Cow Quota.
Written Answers - Nuclide Contamination in Sligo.
Written Answers - Farm Retirement Scheme.
Written Answers - Livestock Exports.
Written Answers - REPS Scheme.
Written Answers - Herd and Flock Owners.
Written Answers - Beef Slaughter Premium.
Written Answers - SLOM Milk Quota.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Competition in Transport Industry.
Written Answers - Mobile Telephone Operating Licence.
Written Answers - Telecom Éireann Ownership.
Written Answers - Electricity Cost.
Written Answers - Community Television Licences.
Written Answers - MMDS Mast.
Written Answers - Grant Aid for Regional Airports.
Written Answers - Property Rental Income.
Written Answers - Microwave Frequencies Use.
Written Answers - Electromagnetic Fields.
Written Answers - Radon Levels.
Written Answers - MMDS System.
Written Answers - An Post Delivery Times.
Written Answers - Galmoy (Kilkenny) Mine.
Written Answers - Directors of Companies.
Written Answers - Prospecting Licence.
Written Answers - Directors of Semi-State Companies.
Written Answers - Departmental Responsibility for ESB.
Written Answers - Shannon Airport Marketing.
Written Answers - State Companies.
Written Answers - ESB Installation Grant.
Written Answers - Power Purchase Agreements.
Written Answers - Shannon Airport Diversions.
Written Answers - Public Relations Budget.
Written Answers - Reserve Defence Forces Representative Associations.
Written Answers - Second Line Reserve Training.
Written Answers - Additional Service Medal.
Written Answers - Old IRA Widows' Pension.
Written Answers - Strategic Management Initiative.
Written Answers - Green Paper on UN and NATO,
Written Answers - Defence Forces Retirement Dates.
Written Answers - FCA, Slua Muirí Officers.
Written Answers - Departmental Publications.
Written Answers - Professionals Serving in Defence Forces.
Written Answers - Defence Forces in Rwanda: Dispute.
Written Answers - Defence Forces Budget.
Written Answers - Fish Farm Licence.
Written Answers - Departmental Budget.
Written Answers - Seaweed Cutting Application.
Written Answers - Extension to Blacksod Pier, County Mayo.
Written Answers - Development of Darby's Point, County Mayo.
 Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.
1. Ms Keogh asked the Taoiseach the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
The Taoiseach: An estimate of £30,000 — or 10 per cent of my Department's overall allocation for consultancy services — has been tentatively provided for public relations consultants.
As I mentioned in the House on 7 February, no public relations consultants have been retained by my Department on an ongoing basis so this provision may not be required.
Ms Keogh: Why is there a provision for an increase of 108 per cent in the Book of Estimates, in particular for public relations services? Will the Taoiseach say whether a proposal to increase the salaries of programme managers and advisers to the Government is under consideration?
The Taoiseach: This relates to consultancy services in general. We are simply saying that 10 per cent of the consultancy services in general are  pencilled in for public relations consultants, which is what Deputy Keogh is asking about. I do not know whether we will need an appreciable proportion of that provision at all because, unlike my predecessor, I have not any ongoing public relations consultants working with my Department. The figure given here is approximately what it cost my predecessor annually to retain the services of a public relations consultant but, as we have not retained such so far, the Deputy may be glad to know that we may not spend this money.
Mrs. O'Rourke: It is dependent on how the polls go, is it not?
The Taoiseach: One learns to ignore these things.
Mr. B. Ahern: Would the Taoiseach agree that it was a poor public relations exercise last week to berate my party for not investigating leaks in 1990, yet, when he discovered that he was incorrect, to send the Minister for Finance into the House to blame civil servants? Should the Taoiseach not have a word with his public relations people about having been misled in this way?
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is extending the subject matter of the question.
Mr. B. Ahern: The Taoiseach dodged it. So much for openness, transparency and accountability.
Mr. Andrews: After that answer it is very clear that the Taoiseach very badly needs a public relations consultant.
2. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach if he intends to accept the invitation issued to him to attend the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development to be held from 6 to 12 March 1995. [3652/95]
The Taoiseach: I have accepted the  invitation to attend the United Nations World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen. I look forward to participating.
Mr. B. Ahern: I am glad the Taoiseach will participate in this important conference, which will give a clear signal that we are interested in a social consensus or dimension, on which the Taoiseach changed his views recently. How will the Taoiseach handle the anti-poverty programme he will present to that conference? For example, how will he explain that the Government he leads has decided to grant the lowest increase in 30 years to pensioners and the poor? How will he reconcile his policy statements, when in Opposition, with this latest pathetic attempt to help the really marginalised within our society?
The Taoiseach: If the Deputy wishes to look at the overall increase in the amount being provided for social welfare this year that people will have in their pockets because of the earlier payment date of the increases, he will see that in real money terms the benefit is very substantial. In addition, it is worth pointing out that this will be a world summit on social problems. The really important point to mention is that, in recent years, ours has been one of the very few countries in Europe — I think Denmark may be the only other one — where there has been a substantial increase in overseas development aid. There have been reductions in this aid in many other countries. A number of important member states within the European Union proposed that the European Union overseas development aid provision should be cut back. We have not moved in that direction. We have shown our commitment to the eradication of poverty worldwide by our consistent increases in overseas development aid. On assuming office and examining the Estimates left to us by the previous Government, I am glad to say that one of the early decisions of this Government was to substantially  increase the provision for overseas development aid within those Estimates.
Mr. B. Ahern: I am well aware of the Rowtree study of last year showing that we were the only country that effected a reduction in equalities, or at least we were one of the very few OECD countries.The Taoiseach will be asked at this conference to present an antipoverty programme for each participating country, and he will have to prepare a programme for this country. However, according to the Conference of Religious of Ireland, his Government, in its first budget, has widened the gap between social welfare recipients and others. It is not the overall provision that is important — pensioners, widowers, childless unemployed couples and other couples, are all now worse off. That is something over which the Taoiseach must stand at this conference. What paper will the Taoiseach present to show what he has done to endeavour to build——
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Carey): What is the question?
Mr. B. Ahern: ——on what we did in this respect?
The Taoiseach: The increases in social welfare, both in terms of rates and of the amounts received, are substantially greater than the rate of inflation; in other words, those on social welfare will be better off as a result of these budgetary provisions.
Mr. O'Donoghue: That is not true.
The Taoiseach: Has Deputy Ahern checked on this with his colleague, Deputy Brennan, whom I recently heard on radio complain that there was too great an increase in public spending in this budget? The Leader of his party is now calling for more increases in public spending.
Mr. S. Brennan: You have given it all to the banks.
The Taoiseach: It seems we are experiencing a degree of schizophrenia on the Opposition benches in terms of policy.
An Ceann Comhairle: Many of the questions raised are more appropriate to the ongoing budget debate.
Mr. B. Ahern: I want to make this point——
Mr. Carey: Ask a question.
Mr. B. Ahern: You are not allowed answer questions.
Mr. Carey: The Deputy is making a bad fist of it.
Mr. O'Dea: The Minister for the west.
Mr. B. Ahern: People, particularly pensioners, will judge the true position for themselves. As the Government's public relations budget will increase by 108 per cent is the Taoiseach really saying that the income of people on social welfare will be in line with inflation?
The Taoiseach: In contrast, my predecessor spent £30,000 on public relations. I do not intend to spend a fraction of that sum.
Mr. B. Ahern: Because of your programme manager's salary.
Miss Harney: Will the Taoiseach consider extending the tax relief provisions introduced in the budget for overseas charities to charities at home as a means of assisting organisations working in the poverty and social development area?
The Taoiseach: That matter can be raised by the Deputy in the debate on the Finance Bill.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Does the Taoiseach agree with the verdict of the Conference  of Religious in Ireland on the recent budget and the widening inequality between those who have and those who have not?
An Ceann Comhairle: That is a separate question. Let us come to Question No.3.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Is the Taoiseach not going to answer that question?
An Ceann Comhairle: Many of the questions being raised now are obviously appropriate to the budget debate.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Taoiseach will have to present details on this to the summit in Copenhagen.
3. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach the estimated number of visitors to Government Buildings since they were opened to the public on Saturdays in June 1992; and if he intends to continue this practice. [3656/95]
The Taoiseach: Over 24,500 people have visited Government Buildings since the Saturday tours started in 1992. I am happy to continue this practice.
Mr. B. Ahern: I thank the Taoiseach for that information. Will he acknowledge that the decision by his predecessor to open Government Buildings to the public was an excellent one? Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for the Environment and the Tánaiste to consider opening the Custom House and Iveagh House to the public? The decision to open Government Buildings has proved successful as people are even visiting the buildings in the winter months. I am aware such public visits cause some inconvenience, but Iveagh House and the Custom House are buildings of considerable architectural and  historical importance and would be suitable for members of the public, particularly tourists, to visit during the summer weeks.
The Taoiseach: I am quite happy to give credit to my predecessor for the decision to open Government Buildings to the public. The opening of the Custom House and Iveagh House to visitors is a matter for the Departments concerned, but I will be happy to convey the Deputy's views on the matter to my colleagues.
Mr. Cowen: The Taoiseach should try to arrange some visits to the offices of the Ministers of State.
Mr. Carey: Visitors would be welcome.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister of State must be lonely as nobody is calling to see him in the west wing.
4. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach where the Summit with the British Prime Minister will be held; the format the summit will take; and the form the presentation of the results of the Summit with the British Prime Minister will take. [3773/95]
5. Miss Harney asked the asked the Taoiseach, in view of the imminent publication of the Framework Document, the steps, if any, he is taking to assuage Unionist fears by seeking to address the people directly on the matter. [
The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 and 5 together.
I am pleased to inform the House that the British Prime Minister and I will hold a special summit meeting in Hillsborough, County Down, tomorrow to formally present and publish the Joint Framework Document. I would hope to make a statement in the House tomorrow afternoon.
 The Joint Framework Document will undoubtedly challenge the two traditions on this island but it will do so in an even-handed way. Neither tradition need fear its contents. As I have emphasised at every appropriate opportunity, it is a framework for discussion and not a blueprint to be imposed. Its purpose is to facilitate, not pre-empt, dialogue and at the end of the day, the people on this island, North and South, will have the final say. I will of course be taking every oportunity to reinforce this message in the coming period. Naturally, I would urge everyone to give the most careful consideration to the document when published.
Mr. B. Ahern: I thank the Taoiseach for his reply and wish him well in the important talks tomorrow. Hopefully, they will be successfully concluded. Will the Taoiseach explain why the Government does not intend to publish the proposed constitutional changes at the same time as the Framework Document?I ask that question because I am sure the Taoiseach will agree that the British authorities through their media consultants are making all sorts of claims and they will continue to be made tomorrow. The public need to be in a position to judge exactly what is involved. I understand the Taoiseach cannot give details of the Framework Document. Will he advise the House if at this stage he has been given advance information on the contents of the parallel document covering strand one?
The Taoiseach: Regarding the latter part of the Deputy's question, it has been accepted by successive Governments that we have not been involved in the preparation of that document within strand one. It has been accepted by the previous Government and this Government that it is a matter within the competence of the British Government and, therefore, I am not in the position to give details about it and I have not been involved in its preparation. It is important that distinction should be clearly maintained here. On the first  part of the Deputy's question, it is true that wordings were discussed between the previous Government and the British Government for illustrative and discursive purposes in regard to the outworking of the commitments being given in regard to constitutional change, but those discussions were never finalised. There was no formal agreement on them. At this stage the Government is agreeing on a general statement in the Framework Document about the effect we would wish constitutional changes to achieve in the event that they are put to the people as a consequence of agreement having been reached in Northern Ireland. We are not proposing and have not finalised — nor would it be proper for us to finalise with an external authority — details of the wording of possible amendments to our Constitution.
One of the factors we have taken very much into account is that the precise wording of amendments to our Constitution is a matter for this House and there would be difficulty in getting to a point of entering into bounden commitments on precise wordings outside this House. It is my impression that the previous Government, quite properly, did not intend to do that either. To the best of my knowledge, the discussions the previous Government had were general and did concern specific wordings, but the procedure we are adopting now is one of making a general statement in the Framework Document as to what the changes would be designed to achieve, rather than referring to exact wordings of particular sections.
Miss Harney: While I accept what the Taoiseach said, I believe that in the case of Northern Ireland it is always better to be specific in relation to these matters and to choose words carefully. Are the commitments in relation to Articles 2 and 3 up for negotiation? I am delighted the document will be published in Northern Ireland. What plans does the Government have to ensure the document is widely distributed and explained to the public in Northern  Ireland? Does the Taoiseach have any plans to address the business or community associations or have Government representatives addressed community groups in Northern Ireland to explain the document and to point out its even-handedness and sense of balance?
The Taoiseach: I stress that the Government is anxious to facilitate the opening of discussions on the framework document and any visits to Northern Ireland would be designed to achieve that end. Obviously one has to be careful to ensure that any intervention is not counter productive either. I assure the House that I am anxious to ensure that all in Northern Ireland see this framework document as something to facilitate discussion and negotiation. It is important to stress that the principal fruit of this document will be that it will enable the people of Northern Ireland to have sovereignty over their own affairs vested in themselves and they will have an opportunity to shape their future at local level. There is an opportunity for both traditions in Northern Ireland to achieve that objective.The Deputy's question was a multiple one and I may have missed one or two points.
Miss Harney: Will Articles 2 and 3 be up for negotiation?
The Taoiseach: The Government will make a statement about what we are willing to do in circumstances where agreement has been reached on other matters. In a sense we are creating in that statement part of the framework. We will not negotiate that aspect but, obviously, that does not mean the Government is unwilling to listen to representations. That this Government and the previous Government were willing to put the issue on the table at all, is a clear sign that they were willing to listen to suggestions from Northern Ireland where concerns about this were expressed. It is important to recognise, given that constitutional amendment  proposals are a matter for this House and ultimately a matter for the people, that the commitments we enter into are ones freely made by ourselves, not ones we have been bound to make by some legal instrument or international commitment.The Constitution of this country is our property as a people.
Mr. B. Ahern: The previous Government had reached a certain stage on the constitutional position. If I understand him correctly, the Taoiseach states that constitutional position stands. Is the Taoiseach suggesting that the final constitutional considerations — I accept it is a matter for this House and the Irish people in the final analysis as to what will change — are part of the discussion phase of the framework document? I do not like the idea that the framework document might become a talking shop document. Certain principles that have to be covered in a framework document and other aspects have to be there for discussion purposes. I would like the Taoiseach to be clear on the constitutional issues. There has to be an understanding between the two Governments on how far and if and when we would move on the constitutional position and that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. What is the status of the arrangements we made in Government in regard to constitutional change?
The Taoiseach: There is an understanding between the Governments as to steps we would take on the Constitution and in the British Government's case in regard to their constitutional legislation contingent on an agreement being reached. On the status of agreements, discussions or papers exchanged by the previous Government the position, as I understand it, is that there are two elements here. There are the commitments given in the framework document itself which are similar to commitments given by this Government. The second is another document which, I understand, the previous Government  was discussing, which was an intended elaboration of the situation. That is no further advanced than it was at the time. We have decided to concentrate — I believe properly — for the reasons I have already given in my earlier reply on getting the framework document agreed rather than getting into lengthy discussions about elaborations and so forth as to the wording that was exchanged between the British and the preceding Irish Government on the precise changes in Articles 2 and 3.
Mr. M. McDowell: I understand the notion of contingent understandings and nothing being agreed until everything is agreed. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether there is any sequence involved? Is the understanding he has in mind contingent on some things happening first and then other things happening or, alternatively, is there the notion of a joint initiative north and south of the Border on a different referenda on the same day? Is there any understanding on the sequence in which the steps involved in the framework document would be put in place?
The Taoiseach: It would be fair to say that certain elements of sequence are implicit in the whole arrangement. Obviously, the first step, apart from the publication of the document, is agreement being reached between the parties there on the matters covered in the framework document. The next step is the delivery of the commitments by the Governments in regard to the changes in the Constitution here and changes in legislation in Westminster. That is the provenance of the statement about a triple lock existing; the triple lock being a sequence of steps that have to be taken before the agreement is delivered. A sequence is agreed in that sense. Obviously there is a fair measure of flexibility in regard to timing and there are other elements that can be put in to build confidence in the process as it proceeds. There is not a prescriptive detailed timetable agreed in this document and that is only proper because it  is important to recognise that this is simply the two Governments' contribution to finding a solution. It creates a framework and within the framework the detail will be filled in most appropriately by the parties directly involved.
An Ceann Comhairle: May I remind the House, as I normally do, that on Tuesday only 30 minutes are provided for in our Standing Orders for dealing with questions to the Taoiseach. There are still a few questions to be disposed of and the time is fast running out.
Mr. B. Ahern: By its nature some aspects of the framework document must be flexible for discussion purposes. The two Governments cannot find themselves in a different framework every week. There have to be principles which they will stand over. To avoid confusion in regard to the constitutional aspects, would it not be better to make known the initial understandings of this Government and the British Government, so that people are clear not only on the constitutional status of Articles 2 and 3 but also on section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act and of the legislation of 1973. May I ask the Taoiseach——
An Ceann Comhairle: Sorry, this is going on too long and we are not proceeding by way of question.
Mr. B. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach give a commitment that at an early stage the constitutional provisions as understood by the Irish Government will be made known to the people so that they may make a judgement on them?
The Taoiseach: We will be making very clear in the Framework Document and in answer to questions arising from it the exact constitutional commitments we are giving; there will be no lack of clarity in that regard. I am not prepared at this point to agree — I suggest it is a fine judgement — to produce the precise wordings that were discussed between  the previous Government and the British Government, mainly because they were not finalised or brought any further in subsequent discussions since November 1994. What we have concentrated on since has been agreement of the Framework Document and for that reason we are not ready to come forward with precise wordings.
In addition to what I said about the precise wordings of the Constitution being a matter for this House and not for negotiation with any overseas Government, a danger which would arise from publishing precise constitutional wordings at this stage is that we would end up in an endless hair-splitting exercise in regard to legal wordings and so on. Anyone who has been a student of Irish history will recognise the inherently divisive character and indeed our strong national ability to get ourselves very much entrenched in difficult situations on precise wordings. We will be giving clear commitments in regard to the intent of those words. When agreement has been reached, and that may be some distance away, we will have to turn those commitments into precise wordings. I have no doubt that at that stage the precise wordings that were in discussion between the previous Government and the British Government will be extremely helpful to the Government in putting precise constitutional wording on the political commitments we are giving.
I am not in a position to say it would be appropriate now to publish that document. I have discussed the matter with the Deputy privately and I think he may have a point, but I believe I have a point and on balance it is probably better not to publish it. I recognise that, in asking the questions, the Deputy is anxious to be as helpful as possible to the process.
Mr. B. Ahern: That is correct.
The Taoiseach: I know it is correct, but I have come to a somewhat different judgment as to the appropriate way to  proceed. I know that the Deputy's pressing of the question is designed to be helpful.
Mr. R. Burke: I welcome the fact that the document will be published tomorrow.That is important. On the last point made by the Taoiseach, will he accept the fact that the wording will not be published has the potential to be a major recipe for confusion? All the talks were carried on under a structure of the three strands and on the basis that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. What is the status of the strand one document to be published tomorrow?Is there a likelihood that the assembly or any structure will be put in place before discussions on the framework are complete, or does the agreement still stand that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and that the structures under strand one cannot be put in place until discussions on the framework, constitutional changes and so on are complete?
The Taoiseach: As I said in answer to Deputy Ahern, neither this Government nor its predecessor has been involved in elaboration of detail in regard to the strand one paper which is to be published tomorrow and therefore I am not in a position to give detailed answers to the questions arising from that document. My understanding is that the status of that document would be the same as the Framework Document.It would be a document as to the Government's contribution to what it believes might be agreed, but it would be also, as is the Framework Document, subject to discussion leading to agreement.
Mr. R. Burke: Can it be agreed separately from the Framework Document?
An Ceann Comhairle: Order. That must be the end of questions to the Taoiseach.
Mr. R. Burke: I would simply like an answer to that question.
An Ceann Comhairle: We are well over time.
The Taoiseach: I do not want to leave that question unanswered. Basically the two documents are feeding simultaneously into a process of discussion leading towards agreement. It is hoped they will complement one another, that one will assist the other. The Framework Document deals with strands two and three and the internal document deals with strand one, each forming part of a three stranded approach——
Mr. R. Burke: Together with the Constitution they will form a package.
The Taoiseach: ——which, as the Deputy correctly said, is based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us proceed to priority questions.
Dr. O'Hanlon: On a point of order——
An Ceann Comhairle: There should be no point of order now, Deputy.
Dr. O'Hanlon: I put down a question to the Taoiseach on whether he would attend the Washington conference, but the question was transferred to the Tánaiste and Leader of the Labour Party.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy, that does not arise now.
Dr. O'Hanlon: The Taoiseach knows exactly where he is going and should not transfer the question to the Tánaiste.
The Taoiseach: I am not going.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am proceeding to deal with questions nominated for priority to which a time limit applies.
9. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his policy in regard to the financial situation at Aer Lingus and TEAM Aer Lingus. [3776/95]
183. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications when he proposes to advance further funds to Aer Lingus under their agreement. [3786/95]
184. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the current situation at TEAM Aer Lingus. [3787/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): You will be aware, a Cheann Comhairle, that this is my first time to take questions as Minister. I note from the range and quality of questions put down by the Opposition that I will get a very warm reception.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 183 and 184 together.
Before I was appointed to my present portfolio I was under the distinct impression, along I suspect with most other Deputies in the House, that the restructuring programme at Aer Lingus was being implemented successfully. I am now in a position to give a more measured assessment of the airline and the group in general.
Substantial progress has been made at the airline under the restructuring programme and the airline core business has benefited from the general uplift in world aviation. Regardless of the world aviation backdrop the airline is continuing to make the sort of progress envisaged in the restructuring programme.
I am, however, seriously concerned about TEAM. While it may have appeared to the House and, indeed, to the wider public that similar progress was being made at TEAM my own analysis from information provided by Aer Lingus is that there are still major problems to be overcome if TEAM's  operating and financial results are to ensure the long term viability of the company.
More immediately my concern with TEAM revolves around the final £50 million tranche due for payment in 1995 under a decision on State aid provisions made by the European Commission on 21 December 1993 whereby a total of £175 million could be injected over three years into Aer Lingus by way of equity, subject to detailed conditions. Before we have permission to make the final investment of £50 million the Commission wants a detailed report on progress under the restructuring programme, including the performance of TEAM. I have directed the executive chairman of Aer Lingus to submit to me by next week updated proposals to address the problems at TEAM.
Mr. S. Brennan: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him a happy and fruitful, but not necessarily long term of office. I am concerned about his comments in regard to TEAM Aer Lingus. Is he aware that accounts for Aer Lingus have not been published since March 1993 and that a decision has been taken by the company to postpone their publication until some time in 1995? This means that instead of 12 month accounts the company will publish 20 month accounts. Does the Minister approve of this decision and has it anything to do with the situation in TEAM Aer Lingus about which he said he is genuinely concerned?
Mr. Lowry: I am aware that the accounts for the period ended 31 December 1994 have not yet been published.I brought this to the attention of the executive chairman of the board and asked for the accounts to be prepared and forwarded to me at the earliest possible date. A company of this size, with its resources and personnel, should have its accounts prepared in good time.
Mr. S. Brennan: I do not understand the Minister's reply. The last accounts were published in March 1993 and,  therefore, the next accounts should have been published in March 1994. I understand the board decided not to produce accounts in March 1994 but instead decided to publish them in December 1994; in other words, to add an extra nine months to the accounting period. The accounts which should have been published in December 1994 are still not available. It is not a matter of delay; rather there seems to have been a deliberate decision by Aer Lingus not to publish annual accounts. Has this anything to do with the time at which money is paid in and the apparent anxiety to incorporate two summer periods into one set of accounts? Will the Minister inquire into these matters and report to the House?
Mr. Lowry: I am concerned about this matter and raised it with the executive chairman. The board of Aer Lingus has advised me that the change in the period of annual accounting to the calendar year was made to bring the company into line with the practice in most airlines and other State bodies. That is the reason I have been given by the executive chairman of the board——
Mr. S. Brennan: Does the Minister accept it?
Mr. Lowry: No, and I have asked that the accounts be published at an early date and that the question raised by the Deputy be addressed by the executive chairman and the board.
An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 10.
Mr. S. Brennan: May I ask——
An Ceann Comhairle: The House should be aware of the time factor involved in dealing with priority questions.There are 20 minutes only for five questions and we cannot dwell over long on any one question.
Mr. S. Brennan: It has been some  months since we had an opportunity to discuss Aer Lingus.
An Ceann Comhairle: A brief question, please.
Mr. S. Brennan: Will the Minister publish the document after he receives it from Aer Lingus next week to facilitate a discussion on it? Are jobs in TEAM Aer Lingus at risk in the immediate future?
Mr. Lowry: I am willing to take any questions put to me about TEAM and Aer Lingus in general. Under the restructuring programme, TEAM was projected to return pre-tax profits by year end 31 March 1996. While the Labour Court recommendations of last year have been accepted, leading to increased flexibility in work practices, I am informed by Aer Lingus that the improvements achieved are insufficient, particularly in the light of plummeting world market prices and rates. The hourly aircraft maintenance rates projected when the restructuring programme was formulated did not materialise.Even as late as the latter half of 1994 TEAM was predicting rates which were almost 50 per cent higher than some of the rates now being quoted on the world-wide market.
The restructuring programme provided for 250 redundancies in TEAM and I am informed that these have been achieved. However, the real crux of the problem is that the market rates have deteriorated, making it more difficult for TEAM to secure profitable work. In the light of the foregoing and the information available to me, it is clear that the projections in the restructuring programme are no longer achievable in the international market in which TEAM operates. In the circumstances, it is now apparent that the means of achieving the objectives for TEAM set out in the restructuring programme must be reassessed by the management and board of the company. I have asked the executive chairman to carry out a reappraisal and  to report back to me at the earliest possible date. I expect to receive the report in the Department within the next seven-ten days. This is an urgent matter.
Mr. S. Brennan: Will the Minister publish the report?
Mr. Lowry: I will not publish the details of the report which will obviously contain sensitive information. I will accept the report and have it assessed. I want to make it clear that the resolution of the problems at TEAM is a matter for the executive chairman, management and board of the company. I am not happy that the projections are in line with the previous projections and I have asked the company to carry out a reappraisal and to report back to me at the earliest possible date so that I can assess whether the progress made is adequate.
10. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the way in which he intends to provide the £1 billion estimated by the IDA to be required by Telecom Éireann over five years to maintain the international competitiveness of the economy.[3780/95]
Mr. Lowry: Telecom Éireann has concluded that it will need to invest in the order of £180-£200 million per year over the next five years. This investment is necessary to keep pace with technological advances and provide a wider range of services as well as catering for growth and improved competitiveness.
The telecommunications business is inherently profitable for efficient operators.The company has made clear that it proposes to fund its investment programme without taking additional borrowings on board. This is the way it has managed its finances in the past five years. There will, of course, be a contribution of £27 million over the next five  years from the Structural Funds programme.With the exception of limited funding received from European Union programmes, the company has to date funded its own investment programme and that situation will continue. There is, therefore, no question of capital investment funds being provided by me. My flexibility to provide such funds would be severely constrained by our European Union obligations.
I await submission of the next five-year corporate plan by Telecom Éireann and I am not in a position today to give precise indications as to its investment plans over that period. The company has, however, indicated that its investment requirements will be, broadly speaking, in the range suggested by the Deputy and that it intends to fund this investment without recourse to additional borrowing.
Mr. S. Brennan: I am sure most people will be surprised to learn that Telecom Éireann can find £1 billion internally over the next five years. Has this anything to do with the fact that Telecom Éireann's charges are 30 per cent higher than the EU average and 30 per cent higher than the UK official figures?Given that it is able to find £1 billion over five years without recourse to the Exchequer, does the Minister propose to tell Telecom Éireann that imposing charges which are approximately one-third higher than the rates in other countries is not acceptable and that he will not approve the investment of £1 billion unless it brings its charges into line with those in the rest of Europe?
Mr. Lowry: The rates to which the Deputy referred were fixed by his colleague when he was in Government. There are only two ways in which the telecom sector can be funded—by the taxpayer through Exchequer funding or through Structural Funds. The Deputy's colleague in Government made the allocation under the Structural Funds programme.The outlook for Telecom Éireann in terms of finance does not  have to be bleak. The reality is that, with its partners in Europe, Telecom Éireann is operating in a sector which is both profitable and experiencing growth. I am satisfied, from the information provided to me, that Telecom Éireann will be able to fund any development from within its own resources without having to increase charges to the consumer unduly.
Mr. S. Brennan: I was suggesting that perhaps the Minister would not sanction the £1 billion investment until Telecom Éireann agrees to reduce its rates but that is a matter for the Minister and I will pursue it another way. Is it proposed to sell off any part of Telecom Éireann in the near future?
Mr. Lowry: Could the Deputy be more specific?
Mr. S. Brennan: Everybody else in the country seems to know what I am talking about; I am referring to the mobile network, the talks that are taking place with AT&T, Cable and Wireless and nine or ten other groups throughout the country. I will send the Minister the newspaper cuttings if he so wishes. I understand there are proposals to sell off a part of Telecom Éireann. Is the Cabinet which is comprised of three parties united behind this decision?
An Ceann Comhairle: That is a specific matter and worthy of a separate question.
Mr. N. Treacy: It is extremely relevant, important and vital.
Deputy S. Brennan rose.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should table a question on the subject matter.
Mr. S. Brennan: It arises from the proposed investment of £1 billion by Telecom Éireann over the next five years.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is going from the general to the particular. Question No. 11, please.
Mr. Lowry: The matters to which the Deputy referred are in hand; the Government is united and in due course the Deputy will read about the decisions.
Mr. S. Brennan: So the sell-off is imminent?
11. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if any of the semi-State bodies for which he is responsible have made direct or indirect financial contributions to any political party in the past three years; if so, if he will give details regarding these contributions, including the amounts paid and the name of each party; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3762/95]
Mr. Lowry: Before I give the Deputy a specific answer to the question I want to make an important point on the policy I have laid down as Minister. While I am Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, I will not permit the semi-State companies under my control to make any financial contribution, directly or indirectly, to any political party.
I have written to the chairman of all the commercial State bodies for which I am responsible instructing them to adhere strictly to this policy.
Semi-State bodies under my aegis have not made direct contributions to political parties in the past three years but the ESB took up entertainment facilities promoted by the Fianna Fáil Party at the Galway Races in July 1994.
Mr. Cowen: A wise decision.
Mr. S. Brennan: A good bet.
Mr. Lowry: The cost payable for  those facilities was £4,800. In order to test the ESB's position in regard to other parties in the context of this precedent set by the board's actions my party forwarded an information leaflet on a golf classic. I understand that the ESB was represented by a team in this event at a cost of £500. I understand that the ESB also participated in a similar Labour Party event. There was no mention of the Progressive Democrats in regard to participation in golf classics. On the question of any material benefits arising from participation in such a classic to any particular party the fee of £500 covers green fees, hospitality and dinner.
Mr. S. Brennan: And prizes.
Mr. Lowry: I must, however, emphasise that the ESB does not and has not made contributions directly to any party. Nonetheless I have instructed the ESB, as well as the other semi-State agencies under my aegis, that I am strictly forbidding indirect contributions to political parties. I have no wish to be a killjoy or to impact on any event which can be proven to have a business benefit but it is reasonable to exclude fund raising activities from this scenario. I have decided to forbid any contributions to social activities organised by political parties which in effect amount to indirect contributions to those parties.
Mr. Molloy: I welcome the Minister's statement that he has issued an instruction to each of the semi-State bodies under his aegis that they are not to make any contribution, directly or indirectly, to political parties. I regret that it took a question from the Progressive Democrats to bring this about. Does the Minister agree that it was highly inappropriate for his party, Fine Gael, and for Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party to solicit funds from a semi-State organisation? Am I to take it from his statement that he regrets having solicited funds from these organisations and that he accepts it was wrong to do  so? He owes this House and the public an apology. It was made clear in reply to earlier questions that some of these organisations are heavily in debt. It is outrageous that they allocated funds to political parties.
Mr. Lowry: In his fury the Deputy will recognise and acknowledge that there is a huge difference between participation in a golf classic and forwarding £4,800 to cover the cost of facilities at an event.
Mr. Molloy: The Minister's party received less than Fianna Fáil; he has no shame.
Mr. Lowry: Unfortunately for the Deputy I cannot allow him to command the high moral ground. I have been Minister for only eight weeks and I have already taken this course of action. The Deputy will recall that it was not unusual when he was Minister for the semi-State sector to fund golf classics.
Mr. Molloy: That is outrageous. At no time when I was Minister was I aware that any semi-State organisation acted in such a fashion. I am surprised that on the one hand the Minister is seeking to condone what his and other parties have been involved in and on the other is condemning it.
Mr. Lowry: My actions speak louder than words. I have taken action already; I have written to the chairman of the commercial State bodies. The letter is precise and detailed and it sends a clear message that this practice is to be discontinued.
Mr. Molloy: In order to show his goodwill and his serious intent will the Minister return the taxpayers' money to the semi-State organisation which sent the cheque to Fine Gael? I make the same appeal to Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party.
Mr. N. Treacy: May I ask a question?
An Ceann Comhairle: No; I would be glad to facilitate the Deputy but Standing Orders are against him.
Mr. N. Treacy: It is a three part question and I will be succinct.
An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 12, please. There is no question remaining and time is almost, if not, exhausted.
12. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his policy in regard to the disposal of State companies, State assets or parts thereof. [3781/95]
Mr. Lowry: The Government's policy regarding the sale of State assets is clearly set out in the policy document, A Government of Renewal, which states that “State assets will not be sold except where it protects employment and is in the long term strategic interest of the company and its stakeholders. Any resources released as a result will be used for job creation. We will retain majority State ownership in these companies”.
Mr. S. Brennan: Will the Minister confirm that the Government is united behind the decision to dispose of a part of Telecom Éireann, to break-up RTE to permit private competition and to introduce a bus competition Bill to permit competition with CIE in the marketplace?Is the Minister saying that there will be no sale of State assets unless the purchaser gives a guarantee that employment will not be reduced? Is this a request he will make of any potential purchaser, for example, of Telecom Éireann? Has he told this to the Americans and the nine or ten other groups who are bidding for a part of Telecom Éireann? Are they aware of this condition and is he being honest in not telling them this up front?
Mr. Lowry: The terms and conditions  in the disposal of any State asset will be set down clearly. Unlike the attempts the Government of which the Deputy was a member made to sell off State assets I have no preconceived ideas as to whom they should be sold.
Mr. Cowen: To which attempt is the Minister referring?
Mr. N. Treacy: The Minister should be specific.
Mr. Lowry: The Deputy will recall C & W.
Mr. Cowen: What about C & W? The Minister should get the facts.
Mr. Lowry: The Deputy mentioned Telecom Éireann. He is obviously referring to the strategic alliance——
An Ceann Comhairle: One voice, and the voice only of the Deputy who tabled the question.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister is misleading the House inadvertently.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should not use that word.
Mr. Cowen: Inadvertently?
An Ceann Comhairle: That is parliamentary——
Mr. Cowen: It is inadvertently misleading the House.
An Ceann Comhairle: ——but it is still a little doubtful.
Mr. Cowen: I am trying to be charitable.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy knows full well the procedure at this time.
Mr. Cowen: You are giving the Minister the benefit of the doubt.
An Ceann Comhairle: This is Priority Question Time and the only Deputy who can raise a supplementary question is the Deputy who tabled the question. The Deputy should not intervene at all at this time.
Mr. Cowen: On a point of order——
An Ceann Comhairle: Rubbish. Has the Minister anything else to say?
Mr. Lowry: A Cheann Comhairle, you can see I am having difficulty——
Mr. Cowen: On a point of order——
An Ceann Comhairle: No, Deputy. I am dealing with disorder from you and I will not entertain a point of order.
Mr. Cowen: Can I clarify a point of order with you?
An Ceann Comhairle: I would be grateful if you would do that.
Mr. Cowen: Is it the purpose of Question Time to elicit facts from the Minister?
An Ceann Comhairle: I have told the Deputy that he has not tabled a priority question and he is not entitled to intervene.
Mr. Cowen: I appreciate that. I do not wish to intervene, I merely want to make that point. I want the facts.
An Ceann Comhairle: I will have no argument. Minister, are you finished with the reply?
Mr. Lowry: I did not get an opportunity to begin my reply because of the interruptions from the back benches.
An Ceann Comhairle: Before I leave the Chair I must say that the time for dealing with priority questions is quite exhausted. I have advised the Leas-Cheann Comhairle that we will deal  with Deputy Treacy's priority question in ordinary time.
Mr. Lowry: In respect of the question raised by Deputy Brennan, I do not agree that Telecom Éireann, in exploring the possibility of a strategic partner, would sell off any of its assets. In seeking a partner, Telecom could gain a number of benefits. It could attract new equity or access to advanced technology in addition to generally helping to develop its services in the Irish market and abroad. It is too early to say what might transpire on this matter and any agreement on a strategic partner will have regard to the Government's clear-cut policies on public enterprise. We are in the process of negotiations. Telecom is examining this aspect of it. The CWU and my Department have examined it also. It is a priority in respect of my own Ministry and, in due course, I will bring forward my proposals in regard to support for Telecom that is much needed in an era of technological change.
Mr. S. Brennan: My question referred to the Government's policies across the State companies sector. Will the Minister confirm—he has not yet done so —that he is saying to the potential purchasers of any part of a State company that no part of a company is on the market unless all employment can be guaranteed? That is what the programme for Government says.
Mr. Lowry: Any decision in relation to partnerships or the sale of any part of an asset of a State company will take into account all the dimensions involved. In relation to any strategic alliance for Telecom I will be examining the ability of a partner to advance, promote and develop the interests of Telecom both at home and abroad.
Mr. S. Brennan: That is not in the programme.
13. Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the energy policy of this Government under the programme A Government of Renewal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3770/95]
29. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the proposals, if any, he has in relation to the formulation of a sustainable national energy policy co-ordinating the activities of the State utilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3765/95]
Mr. Lowry: I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 29 together.
The primary focus of the Government's energy policy is to ensure that a secure supply of energy is available at competitive prices while minimising the impact on the environment, to consume this energy efficiently and to produce as much energy as is economically possible from indigenous sources.
A key element of Government energy policy, as set out in the agreement, A Government of Renewal, is to ensure a coherent national approach to guide the activities of the State energy utilities — the ESB, Bord Gáis Éireann, Bord na Móna and the Irish National Petroleum Corporation. This includes the restructuring of the electricity sector and providing for the efficient operation of the utilities. On the demand side our policy places considerable emphasis on energy conservation. In addition, we will promote the development of renewable energy sources and contribute to European policy on carbon dioxide emissions.
These objectives are the driving force behind this Government's energy policy and we will work to develop the elements necessary to meet them.
Mr. N. Treacy: What forecasts can the Minister give of energy demand in the next five years vis-á-vis economic  growth and what importance does he attach to a clear, efficient energy policy for continued economic growth?
Mr. Lowry: The primary focus of the Government's energy policy is to ensure that a secure supply of energy is available at competitive prices while minimising the impact on the environment. This requires restructuring of industries, including the ESB, and improvement in infrastructure, including interconnection and the promotion of important aspects such as energy conservation and renewable energies. Energy is an essential requirement for activity in all sectors of the economy and its efficient use can only serve to increase the competitiveness of industry in general. By using energy wisely businesses can reduce their costs, thereby improving their competitiveness and the potential for job creation. Of course, there are obvious environmental benefits to that. In terms of the energy supply available, I am satisfied that it is in line with the requirement and that all necessary efforts are made to ensure a sufficient percentage is available for emergencies.
Mr. N. Treacy: What importance does the Minister attach to the use of alternative energy sources? Why has there been a delay in the announcement of the recent AER competition?
Mr. Lowry: A separate question has been put down on that subject which my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, will deal with.
Mr. N. Treacy: What about alternative energy sources?
Mr. Cowen: In relation to energy policy, the Minister referred to restructuring the electricity industry and the need to ensure security of supply. What work has been done on obtaining final approval for a 120 megawatt peat station in the east midlands region? What indigenous fuel policy does the Minister intend to pursue in terms of  further investments in indigenous fuel as part of his energy portfolio?
Mr. Lowry: The principal question asked by the Deputy is in respect of the peat fired power station. As the Deputy is aware, that proposal is at present with the Commission. It is undergoing a cost benefit analysis and I am anxious to ensure that an early decision is made by the European Commission. To that end I have been in contact with the incoming Commissioner. I have made arrangements to meet with her at an early date with a view to emphasising the importance of this project to regional development in the east midlands area and to maintaining and expanding employment prospects for people in that area.
Mr. Molloy: My question was already asked by Deputy Cowen so I will ask another question. In regard to participation by the private sector in the future generation of electricity, will the Minister outline his proposals?
Mr. Lowry: This matter is under discussion in my Department. I have had discussions with the ESB and various interest groups in this regard and I am anxious to introduce competition in this area. I hope to be in a position to bring forward proposals at an early date in line with the suggestions made by the Deputy.
Mr. P. Gallagher: (Laoighis-Offaly): In the context of the Government's energy policy, will the Minister assure the House that it will continue to be Government policy that peat should be used in electricity generation? Will he ensure that that view is communicated strongly to the ESB and other potential power providers? Will he inform the House when he expects to meet the new European Commissioner to advance the progress of the new 120 megawatt peat station for the midlands?
Mr. Lowry: In answer to the final part of the Deputy's question, I have been in  telephone contact with the Commissioner's chef de cabinet and I expect to meet the Commissioner within the next three weeks. It is Government policy to promote the use of indigenous energy resources as far as is economically practical. I am committed to the construction of a new peat fired station in the east midlands. I recognise that some ESB peat fired stations are old, have low conversion efficiencies and are unreliable. The cost of electricity from these stations is high due to these factors and the high cost of peat. Some stations are reaching the end of their operational lives and over the next number of years will face closure in part or in full.
Some areas may have peat which will allow for further electricity generation. A feasibility study of west Offaly is under way to maximise the economics of further generation in the Boora region and the proposal in the east midlands will contribute to peat generation there in the future. Some existing stations will merit investment to prolong their operating lives and where economic to do so such investment will be undertaken. I acknowledge that closure of stations in certain areas will have serious job loss consequences and it is my intention to minimise them if possible.This information is not new. Any decisions taken in respect of the old stations will be taken in the context of the EU and the Government supporting a new peat fired power station for the midlands.
Mr. S. Brennan: Will the Minister confirm that he has received an application for an increase in electricity charges to householders and industry? Has he made a decision on whether to grant that price increase sought by the ESB?
Mr. Lowry: An application for a price increase has been with my Department for more than seven years. No decision will be taken on price increases until the necessary restructuring and rationalisation of the ESB has been undertaken.
Mr. S. Brennan: When does the Minister envisage he will be in a position to make a decision?
Mr. Lowry: Considerable progress has been made. There is tremendous co-operation between management, workforce, unions and my Department. I would like to bring it forward as soon as possible. However, it is important not to have a time-scale but to allow the meaningful discussions which have taken place to continue until they reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Mr. S. Brennan: So householders can relax?
Mr. Cowen: As regards the new power station will the Minister confirm that all necessary documentation was submitted prior to him taking office and that the only outstanding issue is Commission approval. I encourage the Minister to seek that approval given that a positive cost-benefit analysis was submitted by his Department in respect of further clarification sought by the Commission.Will he confirm that the only outstanding issue is the decision? Will he confirm that the economics of existing peat fired stations would be much improved if agreement can be reached on the necessary work practices required in those stations and that any future investment in existing stations will be greatly enhanced by a successful conclusion of the cost competitiveness review within the ESB? Will he confirm that, in looking at any prospective investments in future peat fired stations of whatever magnitude, he will take the long term view in terms of the economics of an indigenous fuel policy which will benefit the country rather than the short term price comparisons between peat and other imported fuels?
Mr. Lowry: An application for funding for peat fired stations was made to the EU Commission. A submission was made and a cost-benefit analysis conducted.There are a number of outstanding queries, some of which are  serious. Some question the viability of and necessity for the project. I received a number of queries from the Commission which I addressed and I would like to take up the two outstanding matters directly with the commissioner. I agree with the points made by the Deputy regarding work practices and the criteria which would be used to determine the location of the new station. Obviously, the first matter is to secure European funding and a Government decision on whether a peat fired station will be put in place. I have a positive attitude to it and will bring it before Government. A project of this magnitude, costing in the region of £90 million will need EU assistance. Such funding has not been forthcoming and I will avail of every opportunity to exercise my ministerial authority to emphasise the importance of the project and secure the necessary resources to enable it come on stream.
I have been consulted on this issue by Deputies and Senators, including Deputies Gallagher and Flanagan and Senator Enright who consulted me yesterday.
Mr. N. Treacy: Does the Minister agree that indigenous semi-State energy companies have made a unique contribution to the country? Can he assure the House that the flexibility they exercised in the supply of energy and job creation in different parts of the country will not be curtailed in any changes that may be effected in the future?
Mr. Lowry: I agree with the Deputy's sentiments.
14. Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will instruct the semi-State companies under his aegis to initiate special schemes to assist small business. [3807/95]
Mr. Lowry: While supporting measures which assist small business it  would, given the competitive future facing the semi-state companies which operate under my aegis, be inappropriate for me to instruct them to initiate schemes which would, by definition, have to be subsidised by them or their customers.
The best contribution semi-State bodies can make, not only to small business but to the economy in general, is to produce quality services at the most competitive rates possible. Asking commercial State companies to take on a different role would be self-defeating and inevitably discriminatory.
I understand, however, that the pricing structures of the services provided by a number of the companies in question are designed to facilitate the establishment and development of small business undertakings.
Mr. S. Brennan: As a former businessman, I am sure the Minister does not believe that answer. Yesterday a firm of accountants suggested that semi-State companies should pay their bills on time and the taskforce on small business unanimously proposed that they be asked to do so. It would not cost them anything. Will the Minister give such a direction to the State companies under his control? It would give life blood to many small businesses whose major complaint is that semi-State companies do not pay bills within the specified time.
Mr. Lowry: That is a different question.I have no statutory responsibility for the provision of assistance to industry.Initiatives such as discount and incentive schemes and technical assistance programmes are matters for the individual agencies under my control. Such companies must adhere to European Directives on procurement of supplies, works and services. It should not be necessary for me to instruct State agencies to pay their bills on time. I would expect any State company operating proper accounting procedures to pay their customers on time as a matter of course. In reality there is an  inbuilt penalty clause so it is self defeating not to pay bills on time. It is not cost effective for State agencies not to pay their bills on time.
Mr. S. Brennan: I am talking about small companies. Is the Minister aware that the previous Government had a proposal to introduce legislation to ensure that the public service would pay its bills within the due date. I do not know if this Administration plans to continue with that legislation although some members of the Government have suggested it might. I do not accept that the Minister has no responsibility for small companies because they are the customers of State companies.
Mr. Lowry: I am not saying I have no responsibility for small companies but I have no direct reponsibility for them. My colleague Deputy Doyle is responsible for the strategic management initiative and I will bring this matter to her attention. I am not aware that there is a serious problem in this regard with the agencies under my control but if this is the case I will refer it to Deputy Doyle and ask her to draw up guidelines and regulations and if necessary bring them to the attention of these agencies.
Mr. S. Brennan: She cannot tell you what to do.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Has the Minister undertaken to list all the building surplus to requirements in State bodies under his aegis? Does he intend to ask those bodies to liaise with the local community in setting up local enterprises in such buildings, thereby helping them to avail of county enterprise grants and the Leader programme?
Mr. Lowry: I do not know how this question is related to the one on the Order Paper——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Special schemes.
Mr. Lowry: ——but I am happy to  answer the question. I have requested my Department to contact the State agencies to determine if they have assets surplus to requirement. To give an example, there are many disused railway lines and old buildings around the country; the rail lines could be an amenity for the community and a tourism attraction; old buildings could be used as museums. I will look favourably at the proposals of community groups that generate tourism, local wealth or employment.
15. Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the number of mining licence applications which were received in his Department in 1994; the number of licences granted in 1994 and to date in 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3645/95]
Mr. Lowry: In 1994 my Department received one application for a State mining facility. This application is currently under consideration.
There were no mining facilities granted in 1994. To date this year no applications have been received. One mining facility was granted — the State mining licence for zinc and lead to Arcon Mines Limited over an area at Galmoy in County Kilkenny.
Mr. N. Treacy: I presume the Minister was satisfied to grant a licence to Arcon Mines Limited. Will he confirm that having conducted an examination following his appointment as Minister, everything pertaining to this application was carried out to the highest standards?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: This is primarily a statistical question.
Mr. N. Treacy: No, it relates to granting mining licences. The Minister stated he has granted only one licence this year and I wish to discuss it with him. As the  Minister granted the licence he must have been satisfied but are the members of the Government, past and present, and the Members of all the parties in Government satisfied that the licence should have been granted? Will the Minister confirm——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is clearly going beyond the bounds of this question.
Mr. N. Treacy: ——that his predecessor in office acted with the highest integrity and to the highest standards at all times in ensuring that this licence application was progressed in the interests of the nation?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are moving on to Question No. 15.
Mr. N. Treacy: A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I asked a question.
Mr. S. Brennan: Has the Minister an answer for Deputy Treacy?
Mr. Lowry: The licence granted to Arcon was the subject of extensive research and detailed analysis by numerous professionals representing my Department, Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanála and the Mining Board. I am absolutely convinced I made the correct decision in granting this licence and that the mining development will be conducted to the highest possible international standards.
Mr. N. Treacy: I agree. Will the Minister confirm that he had many discussions with officials in his Department pertaining to this application before a licence was granted and will he now inform the House that no official at any level at any time was wheeled out by a former Minister to speak to the press on this matter?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is beside the point——
Mr. N. Treacy: These are important matters——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sure they are Deputy, but they do not refer to this question.
Mr. N. Treacy: ——relating to a Member who served this country with great distinction and against whom unfair allegations were made in this House and I think it is important that they are corrected here.
Mr. S. Brennan: I am sorry the Minister is not in a position to answer Deputy Treacy's question.
Mr. Lowry: I was ruled out of order.
Mr. S. Brennan: I accept that. Considering that no licences were granted in 1994 and only one in 1995, to what does the Minister attribute the low number of applications for mining licences? Will the Government study the situation and bring forward initiatives to attract more exploration? We have known mineral resources but yet no application for a mining facility was made in 1995 and only one in 1994? Is that to be the future trend or is it planned to attract environment friendly exploration?
Mr. Lowry: The matter to which Deputy Treacy refers was addressed in great detail in this House. All the points raised by him were addressed by the then Opposition and I am happy to let the record stand.
Mr. N. Treacy: The Minister has not corrected the record — unfair allegations were made against an eminent public servant.
Mr. Lowry: On Deputy Brennan's question he will appreciate that although we are still at the early stage of 1995 I am very concerned about the matter. I have a very positive attitude to exploration for natural mineral resources. Much needs to be done to  encourage it in a manner compatible with the environment to benefit our economy. I have asked the National Minerals Policy Group to prepare a report and I look forward to receiving it within a few months. When we receive the report, a decision will be taken on whether to publish it. My intention is to obtain Government decisions on the review group's recommendations as quickly as possible. I expect the group will come up with some imaginative proposals to ensure that we have positive developments in this area.
Mr. N. Treacy: Is the Minister in a position to indicate when he expects to issue the next mining licence?
Mr. Lowry: Three applications with my Department are being assessed. As soon as I can make an informed decision I will do so. I know the Deputy has a particular interest in this area and I will inform him of progress as soon as possible.
Mr. N. Treacy: I have a general interest in all issues.
16. Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the proposals, if any, he has for improvements to the rail network; and the timescale for implementation. [3761/95]
188. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his views on a figure of up to £500 million being the amount needed by Iarnród Éireann to ensure safety standards over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3791/95]
195. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications when the upgrading of the Dublin to Belfast and Cork rail links will be completed. [3594/95]
Mr. Lowry: I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 188 and 195 together.
Under the National Development Plan 1994-1999, total investment in the mainline rail network will amount to approximately £275 million over the period of the plan. This investment is comprised of an EU-assisted investment programme of £185 million and a further £90 million of uncofinanced investment from CIE's own resources.
This investment, to be effected under the transport operational programme will be focussed on track renewal — £123 million — modern signalling systems — £27 million — and rolling stock — £125 million. All major lines on the inter-urban mainline railway network are included in the proposed investment under the programme to be undertaken within the period 1994-1999.
The upgrading of the Dublin-Belfast-Cork high speed rail line will be completed by the end of 1996.
Under the Transport Acts, safety on the railway is a matter for the boards and management of CIE and Iarnród Éireann, who assure me that it is and will continue to be afforded the highest priority. Funding for rail safety is a matter for Iarnród Éireann from the resources, including substantial Exchequer funding, available to it.
Clearly the major investments in track renewal, modern signalling and rolling stock under the National Development Plan and the operational programme for transport will have a very significant, positive impact on the quality and standards of service on the mainline rail network. These developments will obviously be of benefit to Iarnród Éireann in meeting its responsibilities in regard to rail safety.
Mr. Molloy: As the Minister is aware of the importance of the national rail network for the growth of our economy, will he accept that it is in poor condition, that rail travellers are regularly subjected to breakdowns and long  delays, causing frustration and dissatisfaction with the level of service provided and that, to date, very few Structural Funds appear to have been allocated? Will he agree his reply is disappointing in that it is similar to previous responses which, without the overall allocations being made known, make no specific reference to work undertaken and completed, work at present under way or at contract and about to begin? Will the Minister give the House positive information to raise the hopes of regular rail users that they will soon begin to experience an improvement in the quality of the service, a vital transport system for the country as our economy and particularly tourism, is dependent on an efficient service?
Mr. Lowry: I agree that our rail network is in urgent need of improvement and-or renewal. However, many improvements have already been carried out under the programme I mentioned.For example, work is in progress on the Dublin-Belfast, Dublin-Cork and Dublin-Waterford lines, effecting substantial improvements and carried out with the assistance of the funds to which I referred. In addition, work on upgrading the Tralee-Dublin, Mayo-Dublin, Sligo-Dublin and Rosslare-Dublin lines, with funding from CIE's own resources, is in progress. The lines in which Deputy Molloy has greatest interest, the Dublin-Galway and Dublin-Limerick, are being upgraded with assistance from the European Union Cohesion Fund. It is too early for me to give precise details of the level of investment in these lines but expenditure on them is a mix of European Union funding and resources from within CIE. I am anxious that this work progresses as speedily as possible, I recognise that the lines are overdue for renewal and that the positive impact on customer satisfaction and tourism in general merit early implementation.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Since Deputy Molloy raised the matter in the House, the Minister will be aware of the discomfort  of passengers — even this morning the Cork-Dublin train was two hours late.
Mr. Molloy: That is a regular feature.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: This has been a very frequent occurrence on this line over the past six months. Is the Minister aware that the new locomotives have contributed enormously to the lack of comfort of passengers on this line? Given that some 475 miles of the Cork-Dublin rail line are comprised of continuously welded line on a timber framework, will he give that line priority in terms of improvement so that passengers with appointments in Dublin will arrive on time? Is it the Minister's intention to speak to CIE management on the major delays at present being experienced on this line?
Mr. Lowry: As a regular user of this line and the facilities provided by Iarnród Éireann, I am aware of those problems, many of which I have been assured are teething ones associated with the ongoing work involved. Obviously, there is huge infrastructural work in upgrading those lines. Deputy O'Keeffe asked if I would afford this line priority. The allocations to the various lines have already been decided, they are primarily the responsibility of the company itself, but evidence of the priority this project is receiving is the fact that, when this work is completed in 1996, £40 million will have been expended on it, in anybody's language, that has to be priority.
Mr. S. Brennan: While not wanting to alarm the public — which would not be proper — about our rail services——
Mr. Dukes: ——and the Harcourt Street line.
Mr. S. Brennan: Harcourt Street will arise later. Is the Minister aware that there are 1,500 miles of track nationwide, of which 50 per cent is in excess of 50 years old? Independent studies have shown that a sum of £500 million will be  required to render that percentage reassuringly safe? Will the Minister consider commissioning and publishing an independent safety study of the 50 year old track, when we might ascertain how we might plan in terms of its financing?
Mr. Lowry: I have no doubt that any study would highlight the neglect of our rail network resulting from inadequate funding on the part of successive Governments, including many in which the Deputy participated. The safety factor is primarily the responsibility of Iarnród Éireann but I have been assured on a number of occasions that, in the circumstances, the company is applying the highest possible safety standards throughout its rail network. Obviously, it is a matter of continuous concern to the company, which is doing everything possible within its available resources to upgrade those lines to the highest possible standard.
Mr. S. Brennan: Will the Minister consider commissioning an independent safety study of the 50-year old track?
Mr. Lowry: All matters in regard to safety are the responsibility of the company itself, which has continuously addressed that factor. If the company presents me with proposals of any studies it wishes to carry out, I will assess them and make a decision.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister is not the Minister for CIE, he is the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.
Mr. Molloy: I am disappointed with the work programme outlined by the Minister because it appears that the improvement of the rail network in the west is coming at the end of the line from the point of view of expenditure. Of the total of £275 million to be expended on improvement of the national rail network, will the Minister say whether there is a requirement that such moneys are spent over the period of the plan, or would it be possible for  him to ensure that all this work is put in train immediately, having drawn down the appropriate funds?
Can funds be drawn down as soon as work is completed or must a percentage of the work be carried out in each of the succeeding years? When the investment is made and the work completed, will the Minister indicate the reduction in the length of time of the journeys from Sligo-Dublin, Mayo-Westport-Dublin, Galway-Dublin and Cork-Dublin? Accepting the increased safety that will accrue as a result of the investment and improved comfort of new carriages, what other benefit will the rail travelling public derive?
Mr. Lowry: Significant resources are being spent on the Galway-Dublin line. I do not have the precise figures, but I will send them to the Deputy. On the second part of the question, the funds will be spent over the lifetime of the plan.
Mr. Molloy: Is that a requirement?
Mr. Lowry: Yes. Funds will be drawn down on a phased basis over the lifetime of the plan.
Mr. Molloy: Is the Minister certain that all the work cannot proceed?
Mr. Lowry: My understanding is that the work must be conducted on a phased basis over the lifetime of the plan.
Mr. Molloy: What about the time saving factor?
Mr. Lowry: The level of investment on that line should be reflected in a reduction in the journey time. I do not have precise details, but I will send them to the Deputy.
Mr. Sargent: In spite of the investment in the Belfast line, is the Minister aware of the frequency of breakdowns on that line as I know from experience?  When consideration is given to the amount of money being spent on road networks, will the Minister agree that the rail service is a Cinderella service? Does he accept that the use of rail is very much related to the cost incentive for people to travel and, if so, has he had an opportunity to voice the concern of southern travellers about the recent increases by Northern Ireland Railways which will have a considerable effect on travel between Dublin-Belfast?
Mr. Lowry: I agree the rail network has been the Cinderella transport service in past years. Major investment is planned for it, but it will not be sufficient to bring it up to an acceptable standard. I agree that the breakdowns on the Dublin-Belfast line have been too frequent. I have been told that the reason is that a certain amount of disruption follows from the level of investment in the line and that matters will improve when the full investment has been made and the work completed. I have taken that matter up with the group and asked customers' views to be taken into account. Delays should be notified to the public in advance in so far as that is practicable to ensure that people with advance knowledge of delays on the track would not make the journey. In many instances delays are expected, but not notified to the rail travelling public. We are concerned about that matter. The investment programme for the rail network is an exciting development, the first time in our history that we have had such investment in the rail network which has been a Cinderella service. I will do everything possible to ensure the investment programme is concluded on time and within the budget to maximise the benefit of the funds available from the European Commission.
Mr. Nealon: Unlike Deputy Batt O'Keeffe's Cork train, it is news when the Sligo train is on time, not when it is late. In view of the failure of the previous Government to secure EU moneys specifically for the Sligo-Dublin  line, will the Minister assure the House that upgrading the line in terms of rolling stock, tracks and signalling will be carried out on a similar basis and timescale as work on other lines.
Mr. Lowry: I would like that rail line improved to a satisfactory level. Improvements on the line will be made on the basis of available funds. Unfortunately, the Structural Funds have already been allocated and I do not have the flexibility to divert funds from projects which the Government has already notified the Commission will be undertaken. However, I am conscious and concerned about the inadequate service provided on the Sligo-Dublin line. To that end I have agreed to meet a deputation of representative interests led by Deputy Nealon at an early date to hear their views and consider how I can assist them.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Given that Iarnród Éireann has ten new locomotives, that it will purchase another 20 new locomotives and that it has exacerbated, rather than rectified the problem of meeting schedules, does the Minister intend to carry out a detailed examination of the effectiveness and efficiency of the ten new locomotives before the other 20 are brought into the country?
Mr. Lowry: I am not aware of the technical difficulties and problems associated with those locomotives. I expect that if the company is making an investment and expending money on locomotives it will ensure in advance that they are capable of doing the job and will not give rise to difficulties. I will bring the Deputy's concern to the attention of Iarnród Éireann and ask that the matter be examined. My attention has not been drawn to problems associated with the locomotives.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Problems have been noticed since they were introduced.
17. Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he has received a report from the Radiological Protection Institute in view of their visit to the Sellafield nuclear installation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3754/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Stagg): There were two visits to Sellafield by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland during 1994. The first visit occurred on 8 March. An officer of the institute met with managers for environmental assessment and health and safety and the head of the visitors' centre during his visit. The purpose of the visit was to view the work then being undertaken with regard to the commissioning of the THORP plant and the safety and security measures for storage of plutonium at the plant. As this was the first such visit by the institute after the commissioning of the THORP reprocessing plant, the institute sent a report of the visit to my Department for information.
The second visit, by the same officer of the institute, was on 24 November. This visit came about as a result of an invitation from the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to the officer of the institute to accompany NII personnel during an inspection of the THORP plant. The visit was part of the ongoing informal contacts between the institute and the UK authorities on nuclear safety matters. The institute did not report to my Department on the visit.
I should point out that the institute undertakes visits to various installations as part of its day-to-day functions in order to ensure that it is up-to-date on developments in the nuclear industry. It does not, as a matter of course, report to my Department on such day-to-day matters. However, if matters requiring my attention arise during such visits, they would be reported by my Department.
Mr. Molloy: Following the two visits by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to Sellafield, did its officials indicate a view on the standards of safety at the THORP plant and the plutonium storage facility at Sellafield? Did they report any concern to the Minister for the safety of the Irish community arising from a potential accident at Sellafield? Will the Minister indicate the official view of the Radiological Protection Institute about the Sellafield plant and the possibilities of its potential danger to people living on this island?
Mr. Stagg: Radioactive discharges from the Sellafield complex, including the THORP plant, are monitored at the point of discharge under the supervision of the United Kingdom's regulatory authority. The results of this monitoring are published regularly. The EU Commission, under Article 35 of the EURATOM Treaty, carries out inspection of facilities established in member states to monitor nuclear installations which discharge radioactive substances into the environment. Inspection of monitoring facilities at Sellafield was carried out by the Commission towards the end of 1993. I am satisfied that the present arrangements for monitoring of the discharge at Sellafield, together with inspection and monitoring facilities by the Commission and the monitoring carried out by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, are adequate. With reference to discharges from Sellafield and THORP I reiterate the Government's total opposition to the continued operation of all nuclear activities carried out at Sellafield and to any expansion of these activities.
Mr. Molloy: My question was if the Minister would indicate to the House the scientific view of the Radiological Protection Institute in regard to the threat posed to the people of this island from the presence of the Sellafield plant in the adjoining island. The Minister did not address the question I put to him.
Mr. Stagg: I have been advised by the institute that they regard the existence of the plant, without accident, as not being a significant health risk to Irish people and that there is no danger from using marine food from the Irish Sea or from using beaches for pleasure. The danger is — and it should be reiterated — what would occur in the case of an accident. They are satisfied with the monitoring and the reduction of discharge recorded. We are in the course of setting up an interdepartmental group comprising the Departments of the Marine, the Environment and my Department to bring the various interests together concerning the environment and Sellafield with a view to progressing Government policy on the matter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That concludes questions for today.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 20 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Hughes — the need to approve a new psychiatric day care centre in Westport, County Mayo, as prioritised by the Western Health Board having regard to the present inadequate facility; (2) Deputy Upton — the need to ensure that the maximum possible number of organs for transplantation are made available in this country; (3) Deputy Broughan — the water supply crisis in Fingal and the northern fringe of Dublin city; (4) Deputy Dukes — the progress made in relation to the proposed 120 megawatt peat-fired power station in the north-west Kildare-East Offaly area; (5) Deputy Kathleen Lynch — the urgent need to provide increased counselling and support facilities for male victims of sexual assault and abuse; (6) Deputy Eric Byrne — the urgent need to review and update the register of prohibited publications; (7) Deputy Matt Brennan — the urgent need for a remedial teacher for six national schools in the south Sligo area;  (8) Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív — the need to review the schemes of grants for people living in remote areas to enable them to attend second level boarding schools; (9) Deputy Seán Ryan — the decision taken by the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications and Aer Rianta to enter into a third party handling agreement at Dublin Airport from 1 January 1995; (10) Deputy Ned O'Keeffe — Ireland's annual subscription to the European Space Agency; (11) Deputy Molloy — the urgent need for a new classroom at Letterfrack national school; and the delay in sanctioning an extension to the school; (12) Deputy O'Donoghue — the condition of the sea embankment at Cromane, Kilorglin, County Kerry, which is in urgent need of coastal protection work; (13) Deputy Jacob — the risk of the loss of 125 jobs in a County Wicklow manufacturing company; and the steps, if any, the Minister proposes to take to safeguard these jobs; (14) Deputy Michael Ahern — the need to provide a remedial teacher for schools in the Castlelyons, Rathcormac and Conna parishes of Cork.
The matters raised by Deputies Hughes, Molloy, Jacob and O'Donoghue have been selected for discussion.
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 5 and 1. Private Members' Business shall be No. 11.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There is nothing to be put to the House.
Mr. B. Ahern: Can the Taoiseach give any further information on the members of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation involved in constituency work who were arrested yesterday? I understand that Ms Dodie McGuinness has been released. Following his communications with the British authorities can the Taoiseach give the House any information on Ms Mary Nelis and whether he expects an early release?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: This is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
Mr. B. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach accept that it is an affront to the forum to arrest people who are involved in their normal activities?
Miss Harney: Is the Government going to make new arrangements for the payment of programme managers and advisers?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Again, this is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
Miss Harney: I understand the Government is planning new legislation to allow for the secondment of certain people from the private and other sectors to the jobs of programme managers and advisers. I wish to ask the Taoiseach if that is the case.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is more appropriate for a question.
Miss Harney: I understand it is promised legislation. May I have an answer from the Taoiseach? Is the Government going to——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Are we talking about promised legislation? I am informed not, therefore I cannot deal with it now.
Mr. Cowen: Further to my party leader's request, does the Taoiseach have a view on what took place in Derry this week and is he prepared to sit there——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy, I have already indicated that that is not a matter for the Order of Business.
Mr. Cowen: Is that the way the Nationalist people are going to be represented in this House?
Mr. Sargent: In relation to long promised legislation will the Taoiseach indicate why the European Commission which has written to the Government three times about the waste Bill — the last occasion on 12 January — has not yet received a reply? That long promised legislation has been shown to the EU Commission. Is it not an affront to this House that the EU Commission sees legislation prepared for the Dáil before we do?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Are we talking about promised legislation?
The Taoiseach: This legislation is at an advanced stage of preparation. I believe it is normal, where compliance with EU rules is one of the objectives of the legislation, that there should be consultation with the appropriate authorities.That is entirely reasonable. I expect the legislation will be presented to the Government next month and will be presented to the House shortly thereafter.
Mr. Martin: In the context of the forthcoming Finance Bill will the Taoiseach clarify, in relation to the legislative commitment to abolish covenants, which view holds sway in the Cabinet? Is it the view of the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, that any change could not be made in terms of robbing other areas or is it the view of the Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach, that the shortfall in funding will be made up by the Exchequer?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That matter is worthy of a separate question.
Mr. R. Burke: In relation to the incident in Derry yesterday, the forum was established by the office of the Taoiseach——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That matter cannot and will not be debated now, Deputy. I have already ruled on  that. It is not one for the Order of Business.
Mr. R. Burke: If you bear with me one moment——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy, not on that issue. If the Deputy wishes to raise something relevant to the Order of Business I will be delighted to hear from him.
Mr. R. Burke: In relation to the forum established by the Taoiseach, will the Taoiseach avail of the opportunity in the House today to make a statement in relation to some people who were arrested yesterday in Derry?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Sorry, Deputy. I am calling Deputy Woods.
Mr. R. Burke: I know it may be boring for the Taoiseach but it is a matter of importance.
The Taoiseach: I am bound by the rulings of the Chair, as is the Deputy.
Dr. Woods: When does the Taoiseach propose to hold the referendum on divorce and when will he publish the wording of the proposed change in the Constitution?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is it in the context of promised legislation?
The Taoiseach: This year.
Dr. Woods: The Taoiseach previously said the referendum would be held in late May or June. Has he changed the position in that regard and——
The Taoiseach: No, I have not.
Dr. Woods: ——will the referendum be held later in the year? The Taoiseach should make the position clear. When does he intend to publish the wording for the referendum?
The Taoiseach: The wording will be published when it is ready. It is the intention of the Government to hold the referendum this year. I understand the previous Government had intended to hold the referendum in May, but as we know there was an interruption in proceedings as a result of certain difficulties experienced by that Government on other matters and that has led to a falling behind in the schedule generally. It is our aim to have the referendum as early as possible this year but I am not willing, and I will not be altered from this unwillingness, to specify a date until I am absolutely sure that the date will be fulfilled.
Miss Harney: Does the Government intend to bring in legislation on defamation this year?
The Taoiseach: The Government will bring forward legislation on defamation when it is ready. The House has resolved that a Second Reading should be given to legislation promoted by the Deputy's party, nine months from a recent date. Obviously the Government will seek to be in a position to give a reasonable response at that stage to the issues raised in the legislation. I am sure the House will be well aware that the issues involved here are complex. There are rights on both sides: the rights of publishers and the rights of people not to be defamed and placed in a position where it would cost the earth to defend their reputation. For that reason it is not surprising the Government intends to consider this matter very carefully. This is one of a number of issues on the Government's legislative programme; obviously there are other issues which need priority, some of which have been referred to today by Deputy Woods.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: When will the Minister for Enterprise and Employment publish the Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council report, better known as the STIAC report for which the country is waiting?
Mr. Cullen: In light of recent tragedies, not least of which occurred in Dunmore East at the weekend, will the Taoiseach consult with the Minister with responsibility for sport with a view to considering guidelines, regulations and legislation dealing with adventure sports in which there is enormous growth in activity, on land and sea?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Perhaps the Deputy will find another way to deal with that matter.
Mr. Cullen: Surely health and safety are paramount in this regard?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am calling Deputy Molloy.
Mr. Cullen: The Taoiseach may wish to indicate positively that he will consider this matter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are dealing with the Order of Business, not with a mini Question Time. Deputy Cullen will kindly resume his seat.
Mr. Cullen: The Taoiseach indicated that he would respond.
The Taoiseach: I am indicating that I, like the Deputy, will abide by the rulings of the Chair.
Mr. Cullen: That is a marvellous reply for the people who are looking to the Government to take action.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Please, let us hear the Deputy in possession.
Mr. Cullen: That is appalling behaviour when people are looking for guidance and leadership.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputy Cullen to resume his seat.
Mr. Rabbitte: This is not the Martin I knew in a different jersey.
Mr. Cullen: Look at the jersey the Minister is wearing. The only jersey he has is a big Mercedes.
Mr. Cowen: That is coming from a guy on the upper part of the stand.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Let us hear the Deputy in possession, without interruption from either side of the House.
Mr. Molloy: Some weeks ago one of the Minister announced that legislation would be brought forward to amend the Arterial Drainage Act. Will the Taoiseach clearly indicate at what stage is this legislation? Surely the Taoiseach is aware that there is an ongoing tragedy in south County Galway where hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage has been caused to property, people's homes have been flooded for weeks and are likely to remain so for the next two to three months.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy has made his point.
Mr. Molloy: Because of the flooding there on an annual basis there is a need for a permanent solution to the problem.It will occur year after year unless the Government does something about it.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy has made his point and the Taoiseach wishes to respond.
Mr. Molloy: Too many Minister have been looking at the problem but none of them has done anything about it. They forget about it the minute they are gone.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Please, Deputy Molloy.
Mrs. O'Rourke: There were too many of them in the boat.
Mr. Molloy: We have had visitors from all sides of the House. It is time  the Government lived up to its responsibilities.
The Taoiseach: The Government has commenced the preparation of legislation to amend the Arterial Drainage Acts, the purpose of which is to allow localised drainage to be undertaken under those Acts. Currently the provision of that legislation requires a whole catchment approach. The new legislation would allow localised drainage to be undertaken within the powers to be conferred upon the Commissioners of Public Works. This legislation has acquired considerable importance in recent times in light of the dreadful experience of flooding for people in Galway and elsewhere in the west. Members of the Government have gone to see the flooding at first hand and have reported to me. It is an extremely serious problem and this legislation is given added urgency by this phenomenon.
Mr. O'Donoghue: Will the Taoiseach say when it is proposed to introduce legislation to amend section 5 of the Punishment of Incest Act, 1908? Will he accept that amending legislation should have been introduced subsequent to the first judgment by Judge Carney and the second judgment should have been preempted?
The Taoiseach: There are two separate judgments in the general area of the reporting of incest cases. The Minister for Justice has this matter under very active review and I expect she will bring forward proposals to Government at a reasonably early stage. Obviously we are dealing here with complex legal issues.
Mr. O'Dea: Will the Taoiseach say when the Government will fulfil its commitment to amend the Mental Treatment Act, 1954, in view of the trenchant criticism of that legislation by the President of the High Court last week? It is promised legislation.
Mrs. Owen: Why did the Deputy not do so when in Government?
The Taoiseach: I am not in a position to give the Deputy details about mental health legislation at this stage, but I will come back to him on this matter tomorrow.
Mr. Sargent: In view of a conference held this morning on energy and Irish business, will the Taoiseach say when it is proposed to publish legislation to amend building regulations to require that an energy audit such as that which operates in other member states of the EU is carried out on new buildings and buildings changing hands?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is more appropriate to a question.
Mr. Sargent: It is promised legislation.
Mr. D. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach say when it is proposed to bring forward the Houses of the Oireachtas Privilege and Compellability Bill? Will he give his views on the extra committees the Government proposes to put in place? Will he provide extra staff and finance for research in view of the fact that there will be 17 committees of the Dáil?
The Taoiseach: The legislation concerning privilege of witnesses is at an advanced stage of preparation and I hope to have it before the House in the first half of this year.
Mr. D. Ahern: The Taoiseach did not answer the second question.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: I welcome the Taoiseach's statement that the arterial drainage Act will be amended, but will he say if the Munster Blackwater and its tributaries will be included in the new Bill? Both the Taoiseach and the Minister are well aware of the substantial flooding in those areas and the problems it causes  for the towns of Fermoy and Mallow and people involved in agriculture.
The Taoiseach: Yes, they will.
Mrs. O'Rourke: On the protection of employment Bill, what decision has the Government taken in regard to Irish Steel and why has there been such a veil of secrecy over its plans?
The Taoiseach: The Government will shortly announce its decision on that matter.
Miss Harney: Will it be £50 million or £60 million?
Mr. J. Walsh: When is it proposed to publish the Social Welfare Bill?
The Taoiseach: That legislation was approved at Cabinet today and it will be published shortly.
Mr. Cowen: With regard to the arterial drainage legislation, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry is in a state of shock two months after the flooding started following his visit to the areas affected. Will this shock, which may require medical treatment, delay his consideration of the Bill?
Mr. D. Ahern: He would be well advised to wear a life jacket the next time.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We have already had a response on this issue.
Mr. Martin: With regard to the amendment of the Ministers and Secretaries Act and given that he has made accountability the central plank of the Government's agenda, will the Taoiseach assure the House that he will urge his Ministers to respond to Adjournment Debate matters within their remits? From information supplied by the General Office, the Minister for  Education replied on only 27 out of 114 matters.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will find another way of raising that matter.
Mr. Martin: The Minister of State at the Department of Education has been designated the Minister for Adjournment Debates.
An Ceann Comhairle: This is not in order now.
Mrs. Owen: That was the practice when the Deputy's party was in Government.
Mr. Martin: It is important from the point of view of accountability that Ministers should respond to Adjournment Debate matters.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Martin, I must ask you not to ignore the Chair.
Mrs. Owen: Shame on the Deputy.
Mr. Martin: It is called accountability.
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy persists I shall have to deal with the matter. He may not ignore the Chair.
Mr. Quinn: The Deputy should go to the back of the class.
Mr. B. Ahern: Given the concern among the staff of RTE, may I ask the Taoiseach when the Green Paper on broadcasting will be published?
An Ceann Comhairle: This is not Question Time.
Mr. B. Ahern: It is promised legislation.
Mrs. O'Rourke: It has been promised.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is this promised legislation?
The Taoiseach: We have a very inquisitive Opposition.
An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot permit the Order of Business to be turned into a mini Question Time.
Mrs. O'Rourke: We cannot get questions answered any other way.
The Taoiseach: I wish to be as helpful as possible to the Opposition.
Dr. Woods: Does the Taoiseach propose to publish the divorce Bill in advance of the divorce referendum?
An Ceann Comhairle: We have had this question many times.
Dr. Woods: The answer we got today was different from the one we got the last day. I am referring to the divorce Bill, not the referendum.
The Taoiseach: Yes.
Mr. B. Ahern: Will the legislation to break up RTE be introduced shortly?
The Taoiseach: The Green Paper will be followed by a White Paper, which will be followed eventually by legislation.
Mr. Cowen: And then by a general election.
The Taoiseach: The Green Paper is at an advanced stage of preparation and I expect it to be published during the first half of this year.
Mr. Cullen: On the forthcoming health and safety legislation, will the Taoiseach say if a section will be  devoted to safety at sea and, if so, will particular reference be made to adventure sports?
The Taoiseach: There is no safety legislation promised.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Amending legislation has been——
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Batt O'Keeffe has been called.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Given his public pronouncement on entering Government that he would give a two or three year licence to the South Coast Community Television group and that this group——
An Ceann Comhairle: What has this to do with the Order of Business?
An Ceann Comhairle: That matter can be raised in some other appropriate way. Deputy Molloy.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: A Cheann Comhairle——
An Ceann Comhairle: Please resume your seat forthwith, Deputy.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: On a point of order——
An Ceann Comhairle: I will not hear a point of order.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: ——there is legislation promised in this area.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy did not advert to any legislation. To what legislation is he now adverting?
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: I understand that it will be necessary to introduce legislation to give——
An Ceann Comhairle: That is another matter.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: It was promised by the Taoiseach on entering Government.
An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy. I call Deputy Molloy.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: It will cost the group £250,000 this year——
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy persists in ignoring the Chair in this fashion I will not call him again.
Mr. D. Ahern: The end justifies the means. They got their man elected.
Mr. Molloy: With regard to promised legislation in the Programme for Government and the refusal by the Department of Health to make information available regarding the batch number of a three-in-one vaccine administered to an infant in my constituency whose parents are convinced their child became handicapped after the injection——
An Ceann Comhairle: To what legislation is the Deputy adverting?
Mr. Molloy: The freedom of information legislation.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is this legislation promised?
Mr. Molloy: This legislation will require the Department of Health to make the batch number available.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy may not make a speech.
Mr. Molloy: I do not want to make a speech but this is a very sad case.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is there anything else on the Order of Business?
Mr. Molloy: Freedom of information legislation is promised in the Programme for Government.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should put down a question on the matter.
Mr. Dempsey: The Taoiseach should at least answer some questions.
Mr. Molloy: It is promised legislation.
An Ceann Comhairle: Obviously we are in some difficulty here. I call Deputy O'Rourke.
Mr. Molloy: Can I have a reply to my question?
An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot compel any Member of the House to speak if he or she does not want to.
Mr. Cowen: The Taoiseach should be given time to find the answer in his files.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Molloy, resume your seat forthwith.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Taoiseach was kind enough to send me a letter about proposed legislation, and I acknowledge his courtesy. Since the Keegan case, which related to the status of the father, much disquiet has been expressed by would-be adoptive parents. May I ask the Minister for Health——
An Ceann Comhairle: Not now, Deputy.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I got a letter from the Taoiseach.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us keep to promised legislation.
Mrs. O'Rourke: It is promised legislation.
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy wishes to address a question to the Minister for Health she must put it down in the ordinary way.
Mrs. O'Rourke: In that case I will put my question to the Taoiseach. When will the legislation be introduced? I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the concern among prospective adoptive parents who do not merely want a brisk reply but who want to know when the legislation will be introduced.
An Ceann Comhairle: That should be sufficient.
The Taoiseach: I am not in a position to add to the information conveyed to the Deputy by way of letter.
Mr. Ellis: Given that he seems to have a problem with the arterial drainage Bill, would the Taoiseach be in favour of the Government Senators supporting the Private Members' Bill in the Seanad so as to expedite the matter?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am proceeding to the business ordered.
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That it is expedient to amend the law relating to customs and inland revenue (including excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.
— (The Taoiseach.)
Mr. S. Ryan: I wish to share my time with Deputy Flaherty.
The Government must play a positive and proactive role in creating the economic conditions which permit enterprise and job creation. We are seeing the  benefits of such policies. For the past few years the unemployment rate has been falling steadily. To this end many of the taxation measures will ensure that the trend continues. In 1994 there was an increase in total employment of 36,000 compared with 1993.
I am particularly concerned at the unemployment levels in Dublin city and county which are by far the highest in any region in the country. The long term unemployment rate, which can be as high as 80 per cent in some housing estates within the city and county boundaries, must be addressed.
I welcome the decision to provide £6 million for the introduction of an intensive guidance and placement service for the long term unemployed. This important training initiative will give hope to those who have been out of work for a long period. If the long term unemployment rate continues unchecked it will mean that many generations will never hold a job.
The Minister has rightly concentrated on assisting those in low paid jobs, particularly young people, by reducing the level of taxation. The reform of PRSI through the introduction of the new PRSI allowance of £50 per week is a bold and radical move. It is a major reduction of the tax wedge in an exposed sector of the economy. These moves will lead to an increase in take home pay and make it more financially attractive for young people to take their first job and make the all important tentative step into the labour market.
A further welcome step is the increase to £25 per week in unemployment assistance paid to young people living in the family home. I urge the Minister to introduce in future budgets further measures to give young people a genuine opportunity to make a positive contribution to society.
This is undoubtedly the most profamily budget presented in modern times as it contains a series of measures designed to help families. In particular the decision to increase child benefit by £7 per month will give financial relief to many hard pressed families. The  increase in child benefit will have a double effect: it will ease the financial burden on parents and provide an incentive to work. I urge the Minister for Finance to discuss with the Minister for Social Welfare the option of introducing an integrated child benefit scheme. This would be a sensible reform as it would help families financially when they need it most. Since the payment is made to mothers, women in the home will now be more financially independent.
The Labour Party has been pursuing the abolition of third level fees for many years. Thanks to the commitment of the Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach, she has received the support of the Cabinet for this aspiration. It is the first and most important step in making third-level education accessible to all children. This decision will give great heart and encouragement to many people who wish to pursue third-level education but have been deprived of the opportunity to do so.
Some people have said that this is not the right direction in which to move at this time. I would be the first to acknowledge that there are other problems, for instance, with maintenance grants and PLCs, while attention needs to be paid to pre-school education but a commitment has been given in the Programme for Government to address them.
The Minister of State with special responsibility for sport recently announced an increased allocation for sports in 1995. I welcome this announcement.However it is vital and important that there be greater transparency in the allocation of lottery grants. I ask the Minister to recognise the invaluable service given by sports and youth organisations and by thousands of volunteers throughout the country. This would be most welcome. In some cases, particularly in areas of high unemployment, a small grant, for example, for a set of jerseys or towards the cost of transport, would be most welcome and appreciated.I urge the Minister to provide an allocation to the local authorities for  such purposes or to double the allocation to the vocational education committees for youth and sports organisations.
A small amount of money invested in our young people is money wisely spent especially when one considers that it costs only £300 per week to employ a youth worker who could help up to 3,000 young people. We should compare this with the cost of £500 per week to keep a juvenile offender in custody. This matter has to be addressed.
I welcome the decision to provide an increased allocation of £8 million to reduce hospital waiting lists. While acknowledging that progress was made during the past two years by the previous Minister for Health, Deputy Howlin, there is still a number of areas that need to be addressed such as heart surgery and orthodontic treatment. I have received repeated representations from distraught parents regarding the orthodontic service. Thousands of children are awaiting treatment, in many cases for three to seven years. This morning I received a telephone call from a mother about her son who is now 20 years old and still awaiting treatment. Last Thursday I received a telephone call from a mother about her daughter who is 14 years old and afraid to go out to play after school as she will be jeered by other boys and girls. The new Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, is sympathetic to such cases and I look forward to progress being made in the near future.
This is the first of three budgets that will be introduced by this Government. I am not one who pays much attention to opinion polls but it was interesting to note over the weekend that people were saying that this is the best budget introduced in the past three years. I am satisfied that it is a good start and by the time the next general election is held wealth will be distributed more fairly and there will be equality. I support the Government in its efforts and will try to ensure that its programme is implemented.
Miss Flaherty: This budget debate has been more lively than many in recent years. Its liveliness has been added to by its unusual political timing. We have had the experience of having in Opposition Members who some weeks ago were involved in the budget's preparation, who have an intense interest and knowledge which is unusual when we have a change of Government as a result of an election, when there is often a long intervening period before a budget is even considered.
There have been interesting contributions, some of which have been referred to as vaudeville acts by speakers on this side of the House. A few were worthy of that description. I was very interested to hear an esteemed colleague, the deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy O'Rourke, engage in an extraordinary personalised attack on the Taoiseach for making a major series of U-turns. When Deputy O'Rourke made the transition from Opposition spokesperson on education to Minister for Education, she made one of the most dramatic U-turns ever in the first weeks of her appointment. She said to journalists “then I was in Opposition, now I am the Minister”. That was the end of the story, there were no apologies or explanations.I believe in consistency in politics and Deputy O'Rourke, in attempting to take the high ground, should reflect on her past and her less than positive performance in this area.
I was also annoyed by the repetition of the great myth about the achievements of the Fianna Fáil Government and the party's repeated attacks on what had been done from 1983-87. While nobody can argue about the national debt being doubled in this period, it is important to remember what was inherited by Governments elected in 1981 and 1982. This was a time of unprecedented crisis and we had three Governments in 18 months.
I was involved in framing a budget in the Department of Social Welfare when there were inflation rates of 22 per cent. I ask every Member to reflect on the  challenge facing a Minister for Social Welfare when in current day terms the spending of the Department, that is the cost of its schemes, is £2 billion. What possibility for economic control was there when we had to find £500 million to simply provide for an inflation rated increase? This was the challenge facing the Government and the situation which had to be turned around. There was no way an increase less than inflation could have been given at that time but inflation was running at 22 or 23 per cent. To give increases in real terms, increases of around 25 per cent had to be given.
We should consider what was handed over by the Government of 1983-87. By the time it left office inflation was down to 7 per cent and was as low as 6 per cent in advance of this. Interest rates, which it had inherited at 14 per cent, were down to single figures. The image of a runaway train has been used before and rightly so and it was impossible to turn it around in an instant. A period of putting on the brakes and slowing down the pace of misdirection was necessary before it was possible to bring in even further controls, restraints and correction to the economy, as the Government did in 1987.
It is hard to accept, when one has been around for a number of years, people being so disingenuous with the truth. It does not help their credibility or proper political analysis in this House. There was also the repeated schizophrenia in the attacks on the budget. It was attacked for being over-extravagant and for being scrooge like. While I accept that many of the attacks were politically motivated and unbalanced, certain words of caution from the Opposition should be listened to carefully by the Government. These relate to the danger of allowing our economy, which has been brought under relative control, to slip out of control again.
I do not accept the great play made about the budget now being in surplus. This was not planned by the Minister for Finance last year. A £120 million deficit was planned. Growth and other  factors led to the budget being in surplus at the end of the year. I hope the same rates of growth will be sustained.
The Minister, when he referred to the medium term outlook, sounded words of caution. I accepted some of the caution preached occasionally by Members of the Opposition, when they were not attacking us for under-spending in the Department of Social Welfare. It is important to remember that there were certain once off factors, the absence of which will create pressures in future. The Minister confirmed he will work within the limits set out and will ensure that firm budgetary control is maintained.This is important for future generations.
We also have to watch with caution the upward movement of interest rates internationally. It is hard to think that the economy can withstand this. It will remain the constant feature for many more months and will have major significance for the management of our economy.
I support this budget because of the major priorities it established, in particular, its response to the needs of families. For the past four or five years report after report from the ESRI and Combat Poverty Agency has indicated that families with children are most at risk from poverty.
Much has been said about the position of the elderly and this must always be kept to the fore. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s their needs and the development of schemes for them were rightly the priority of the Department of Social Welfare because prior to that they were not adequately provided for. As schemes improved, there was more concentration on the long term unemployed and rightly so.
Now it is the time for families and I am glad that the budget decided to prioritise and target families in a way which avoided poverty traps. I have long been convinced, and have argued within my party, that future supports for children should be given in a way which does not give undue benefits to those on social welfare. The ESRI has identified  the need — it is accepted as broad Government policy and is supported right across the House — to devise means of supporting families which do not force them into greater dependence on social welfare for long term support. I welcome the honouring of this commitment, which is a major shift in emphasis.
The second major social welfare commitment which was honoured and which I welcome very much was the payment at last of the equality arrears. Those of us in the House who harried the former Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Woods, for payment of these moneys will remember the frustration, the avoidance of the issue and ungenerous way we were given information on court cases around the country. At last this shameful episode is being brought to a close with a commitment by the Government to make those payments as quickly as possible in full to all women who qualify within budgetary constraints.In my constituency many families will benefit from this, some of them substantially.
While it has taken a major chunk of the finances available for improvements in social welfare, many families will benefit enormously this year and in the years to come. I hope the Minister will supply full information to all those concerned as soon as possible. He has indicated that a special office will be set up and that individuals entitled to receive the moneys will be contacted directly. We look forward to having the fullest possible information as many inquiries are coming in from constituents.
I welcome the fact that Fine Gael's priorities have been dealt with. During the debate on last year's budget the party gave a commitment that the residential property tax would be brought back to the rates applying before the increase and that undertaking has been honoured. If political parties are to achieve any kind of respect from the public they should not change their tune depending on which side of the House they are on. Therefore, I welcome the  honouring of our commitment on the property tax and also welcome the support for families. Another priority which has been identified by Fine Gael over many years is the workers' PRSI contribution. This has now been delivered on.
While third level education has occasionally been claimed by Fianna Fáil as its own baby, the current Minister has clearly put her name to it and pinned her colours to the mast, for which I congratulate her. Within Fine Gael, policy was also advanced in that area arising out of work done by former education spokespersons, Deputies Theresa Ahearn and Jim Higgins. They came to much the same conclusion — that given the way in which funds were allocated through covenants and direct contributions to the education system, a policy of free fees would be both desirable and reasonable. There is no doubt that the maximum benefit of this will go to less needy families. Middle income families in great need will benefit from it but there are many, perhaps not in great need, who will also benefit.
There is a need to deal with the maintenance grant and with other types of post leaving certificate courses which the Minister has given a commitment to examine. The future significance of this, as passionately outlined in the House by Deputy Broughan from Dublin's north-side, will be as important as the decision to provide free secondary education. Third level education will increasingly become the norm and will not be seen as exceptional. One can already see the pattern changing radically with the increase in post leaving certificate courses in Dublin, even in areas described as deprived or disadvantaged. More and more youngsters are now staying on after sitting their leaving certificate and this measure will provide a welcome boost for them.
I am concerned about the impact of taxation on unemployment benefit and disability benefit in the context of people trying to get back to work. The  Minister has proposed certain amendments in this regard. I hope the Finance Bill and the Social Welfare Bill will deal with, for example, the situation where, if a person on social welfare has an opportunity to return to work — on a community employment or other scheme — their social welfare income is deemed to have eaten up their tax allowance. Thus, by going back to work they can actually be less well off. If they were, at least, given a clean slate when they started work the taxation position would not be as onerous and there would not be a disincentive to work.
In my own constituency the refurbishment of Ballymun flats is a major project requiring substantial investment estimated at £100 million over the next six or seven years. There has been a pause in this refurbishment following phase one while evaluation was undertaken.That evaluation has now been completed and it is essential that phase two of the refurbishment should get under way and that the Department of the Environment should decide its overall approach to the Ballymun estate and allocate resources.
I am concerned about the inadequacy of child care places and I would like the Ministers for Education and Health to crack heads together using the good offices of the new Minister of State who has, hopefully, been placed in a position to do exactly that. The Minister should deal with the many youngsters in this city and throughout the country who are out of school with no place to go and who have no suitable education facilities.Some of them are in need of full time care. That should be a priority in the year ahead. I am happy to support this budget because it has achieved progress in certain priority areas.
Mr. Molloy: I gcáinaisnéis na bliana seo, tá sé soiléir nach bhfuil mórán ann chun dóchas a thabhairt dóibh siúd atá ina gcónaí sna h-áiteanna iargúlta, go h-áirithe ar chósta iarthair na hÉireann agus, taobh istigh den cheantar sin, sna ceantair Ghaeltachta féin. Nuair a fheiceann tú ardú deich bpingin sa seachtain  dóibh siúd atá ina gcónaí leo féin agus atá ag brath ar leasa shóisialaigh, cuireann sé ionadh ort a fheiceáil go bhfuil Airí sa Rialtas seo ó Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre agus ó Pháirtí an Daonlathachas Chlé. Tá mé cinte go bhfuil daoine i bPáirtí Fhine Gael a bhfuil náire orthu nár thugadar níos mó cabhrach dóibh siúd atá ina gcónaí leo féin. Nuair a chuireann tú san áireamh go bhfuil ardú dhá phingin déag ar bhosca fiche toitíní, cuireann sé in aigne duit nach bhfuil cás na ndaoine seo á chur san áireamh ag an Rialtas. Cuireann sé sin ionadh orm.
In iarthar na hÉireann, ó chósta Dhún na nGall soir go Ciarraí nó Corcaigh, is mó atá daoine ina gcónaí leo féin agus ag brath ar leasa sóisialta. Níl aon chabhair á thabhairt dóibh chun a gcaighdeán maireachtála a fheabhsú. Níl aon rud ann chun dóchas a thabhairt dóibh go mbeadh postanna le fáil ag a gclann mhac agus go gcaithfidh an aos óg aghaidh a thabhairt ar an mbád bán. Is mó an trua é sin agus cuireann sé ionadh orm gur mar sin atá, tar éis trí pháirtithe a theacht le chéile chun Rialtas nua a chur ar bun. Bhí súil againn go mbeadh bealach nua á chur os ár gcomhair ina mbeadh dóchas againn go dtiocfadh feabhas. Ní fheicimse go bhfuil aon phost le cruthú sna ceantair sin faoi na moltaí atá i gcáinaisnéis an Aire Airgeadais i mbliana agus ba é sin an lucht is mó atá agam air.
The real measure of the success or failure of any budget is the extent to which it opens up opportunities for people to participate in the economic life of the country. The only realistic way in which we can achieve such an outcome is for the Government vigorously to set about establishing the conditions for enterprise, innovation and investment to flourish. In our present economic situation this requires a reduction in current Government expenditure and less tax. Over the years in this House I have listened to many Ministers for Finance whose speeches, couched in optimistic tones, held out great expectations of substantial  improvements to the economy. Thinking back to those occasions, one wonders why it was that 12 months later, when none of these great expectations had been realised, a Minister would come forward again with another optimistic speech from which no positive results were to be seen. The tragedy is that Ministers do not seem to look very far beyond the immediate future.
If Ministers do not have the courage to lay down and apply firm economic parameters which will bring about the improvements necessary to provide employment for our people in the future, to increase the wealth of this country and help us maintain and improve our services, then one has to be somewhat despondent about our prospects.After all, the overriding requirement is that we make the Irish economy the most competitive in Europe.
We must be able to meet competition in the marketplace and if we are competitive it will open up new markets for our goods. If we do not succeed in achieving new markets, we will not be employing the people in the factories at home which give work for our people. An expanding export trade will create the job opportunities which will reduce our unemployment figures faster than any artificial social employment scheme thought up by Governments, no matter how imaginative Ministers for Finance may think their proposals are on budget day.
We cannot expect State injections into artificial employment schemes to eliminate our huge unemployment figures.The national objective must be to allow people to participate in the economy, to allow them to enjoy the dignity of work and the fruits of their labour. For far too long we have been complacent about the huge number of people signing on week after week. The opportunity was presented to this Government with a new combination of three parties to come up with proposals which would have given us hope that we would succeed in establishing the competitive economy that is so important in  this State to achieve the desired objectives of all our people. It is obvious that reducing the numbers on the unemployment list further reduces Government spending and turns those who were recipients of unemployment assistance into contributors to the Exchequer.
With lower tax rates, I firmly believe that overall tax receipts would actually increase. The black economy would come under severe attack. It has been said that if the black economy were to cease to operate overnight without any other changes being made at Government level, the economy would collapse. The extent of the black economy is so vast and involves so many hundreds of millions of pounds, so many people are surviving in it, that we are living in a two-tiered society. Some people are living within the parameters laid down by this House in regard to taxation and the regulations that apply to business etc., and others are living on the other side of that line. That is a sad reflection on society and on the ability of the Government to create a system in which people will willingly participate. Many people do not participate because of the crippling levels of tax on business, individuals and employers who want to create new jobs in their enterprises.
Incentive is an essential ingredient in achieving the level of competitiveness necessary to provide a satisfactory level of employment for all. High taxes on workers, employers, and investors are a serious obstacle to job creation. Workers' disposable income must be substantially increased and rewards for work must been seen to be real and tangible.Returns on financial investment must be rewarding to those who take the financial risks in making those investments and the cost to the employer of hiring new labour must be substantially decreased. All these things have to be done if we are to achieve the desired objective of giving everybody an opportunity to participate in the economy and to have employment. This Government achieves none of these objectives and that is why the budget of  the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, and the rainbow coalition a dismal failure.
Great claims were made in the rhetoric of the budget but the changes contained in it are minimalist. Adjustments were made which will in most cases wither by the end of the year because of inflation and other movements such as wage increases. This House knows that as long as there are Members here to represent the Progressive Democrats we will continue to state our consistently expounded belief that radical changes to the tax rates are essential for long term benefits to accrue. The hollow claims of Finance Ministers on budget nights of moving thousands of people out of the tax net are seen in their real light only 12 months later when all are back in the net again, ready, no doubt, to be used as fodder for another major shift of the same tax net which relentlessly grinds on renewing itself year after year at the hands of short-sighted quick-fix Ministers for Finance.
The Minister for Finance ultimately designs the budget strategy, presents it to his colleagues in Cabinet, seeks their support, and comes in here with the fruits of his labour. It is tragic that we have not had a Minister for Finance for quite a long time who is prepared to take the long term view, make proposals that have a long term effect and which require implementation over a period of years. We cannot make the kind of change in one year which is necessary to make Ireland a competitive economy which will give hope and employment to all who live here. Making exaggerated claims in the budget speech is no answer to those who week after week sign their names on a piece of paper in social welfare offices and Garda barracks throughout the country.
It is a living shame that those of us who stand in this House as elected representatives preside over a system where this crime of unemployment is persistent and consistent and that no real efforts are being made to eliminate it. The sweeteners thrown in at budget time, little adjustments here and there,  grants to privileged groups within society, filter away the millions of pounds available to a Minister for Finance on budget day which, if applied in a consistent long term planned way, would help to reduce the level of taxation which is the major obstacle to job creation and a competitive economy.
As somebody who has been in Government in recent times for a short period, the Progressive Democrats were in coalition with Fianna Fáil, I am only too well aware of the battle which had to be fought by the Progressive Democrats in that Government to get a reduction in the tax rates from the three rates which existed at the time, 35 per cent, 48 per cent and 58 per cent rate. We succeeded in a short two years in reducing that to two rates of 27 per cent and 48 per cent. For some strange reason there seems to be an in-built resistance to changing the tax rates within the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour Parties. Maybe I should add Democratic Left, now that it is in Government, but in fairness it is a small group and I recognise the difficulties that a small group has in a large coalition Government, it has only been there a very short while.
Labour has been in Government now since 1992, Fine Gael has been in and out before and told us in the discussions that we had prior to the formation of the rainbow coalition that it did not consider changing the tax rates to be of any great importance. We know Fianna Fáil's position from our own experience in Government with it. This resistance to changing the rates is confirmed in the Minister's budget speech. The rates have not been changed. The Progressive Democrats want the standard rate of 27 per cent to be reduced to 20 per cent for all those under the average industrial wage level and the remaining taxable income to be charged at a top rate of 40 per cent. Furthermore, we want the standard rate of 20 per cent and that top rate of 40 per cent to be inclusive of PRSI which is the real enemy of job creation in our system.
In the Progressive Democrats' policy  document which we published just before this year's budget we illustrated clearly and exactly how this radical change in Ireland's income tax system could be achieved over a span of four budgets by staged annual cuts of £250 million.
The Minister for Finance has produced a budget which time will show to have been a dismal failure. He refuses to make any adjustments in the tax rates and offers no hope of doing so in the future. Ireland's opportunity to move to a low tax regime has been missed; our crippling tax rates remain as before at the highest levels in western Europe, inclusive of PRSI; we remain less competitive than we could be and there are more people on the dole because of this. Regrettably, we have a reputation of having one of the highest levels of unemployment in the European Union.
Two specific items in the budget which have serious consequences for my constituency are the farmers flood relief fund of £2 million and the granting of special tax incentives to certain traditional seaside resorts announced on budget day by the Minister for Finance. The severe flooding in south Galway is unique because it will not recede for approximately two to three months after the heavy rainfall ceases. The Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, who also has a role to play, must understand that what is happening in south Galway does not and cannot happen in any other part of Ireland because of the ground's unique structure and the fact that there is no river to carry the water to the sea. It is a new phenomenon to have such high levels of annual flooding in the region.
The budget created a fund of £2 million to provide compensation for farmers for livestock and fodder losses. However, it gave nothing to householders who are not farmers, but who also suffered and who had to abandon their homes. In addition to the cost of renting alternative accommodation, these people suffered the loss of goods and personal belongings, the value of  their homes will be permanently affected, insurance premiums will be increased and the possibility of being able to reside in their homes for 12 months of the year no longer exists because of the threat of annual flooding. The misery caused to these people and their families is cruel and their future prospects are depressing. There is a crisis in south Galway and the Government must take action.
On two separate occasions I spoke about the Government's solution, an amendment to the Arterial Drainage Act, which was announced during a special debate in Private Members' Business several weeks ago by Deputy Hogan, when he was Minister of State at the Department of Finance. Fianna Fáil is introducing such a Bill in the Seanad, yet the Government is not dealing with this matter as it should. It does not seem to have recognised that this is a crisis.
The shock expressed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry when he went to Galway last weekend is not good enough. He should not have waited so long to find out how bad the situation was. His expression of shock indicated that he was not properly briefed on the extent of the devastation. This flooding is accompanied by an air of depression because local people know that this water will not subside next week or in three weeks' time, if it stops raining today, but it will be there in April and these houses will still be flooded as happened last year. This situation is getting worse each year.
The compensation fund of £2 million is welcome for what it is, although it is more than previous Governments did in the past few years. However, non-farmers are receiving no help and this is wrong. There has been no declaration yet that steps will be taken to ensure that this problem does not arise again in the future.
The Geological Survey of Ireland study of south Galway flooding, which was published in 1992, states that the only solution to deal with the problem  on an ongoing basis is to cut a relief channel from Coole Lake to the sea at Kinvara. Estimates suggest that this channel will cost £30 million. Members of the Government have thrown their hands up in the air and said they do not have £30 million for such a project, therefore they will not consider it. Amending the Arterial Drainage Act is of little use if the Government is not prepared to spend the type of money required to ensure that this problem will not recur. Is the Government prepared to undertake such a project to remove this threat for good?
The Minister did not refer in any detail, if at all, to the Geological Survey of Ireland study. He said he would set up an interdepartmental study group and would amend the Arterial Drainage Act and, as we know, he will pay compensation for loss of fodder and livestock.However, in the eyes of the people of south Galway, the official response to their plight is pathetic. The problem of flooding in south Galway has been known and fully understood since the publication of that report in January 1992. Several years of inaction at departmental level followed the publication of the report. Indeed, several year of refusals by different Ministers, Departments and Galway County Council to take the matter seriously and to plan a long term solution have led to despondency in the region.
People in south Galway have seen Ministers come and go. We saw Senator O'Kennedy and Deputy Joe Walsh on the back of a tractor; we saw Deputies Noel Treacy, Bertie Ahern, Hyland and Hogan and, more recently, we had a visit from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Yates.
Mr. Durkan: That was the ultimate visit.
Mr. Molloy: It is clear that the Minister's predecessors stood idly by, but will this tragedy continue year after year? Are the Government and the Departments planning to abandon the people of those areas in south Galway  who have suffered as a result of this tremendous calamity? Some £2 million compensation has been provided this year — perhaps it will be £3 million next year — and if the Government continues with such action and the flooding occurs on an annual basis, we will spend £30 million in compensation over a short period of time, the cost of a lasting solution.
Government Departments, previous Ministers with responsibility in this area and local authorities have let the people down. The people of south Galway are shocked at the deaf ear treatment they have received from bureaucracy over the past number of years. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry has responded to the farmers' short term difficulties and this is welcome and appreciated in so far as it goes. However, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach must now respond to the question which south Galway wants answered — will the Government give the go-ahead for the construction of a channel from Coole Lake to the sea at Kinvara, if that is the only solution to this problem?
The Geological Survey of Ireland study is the only report I am aware of which has scientifically examined the problems in south Galway. It was undertaken in the summer of 1992 and dyes were used to establish where the water flowed from and where it came up, which was in turloughs and swallowholes, and its exit to the sea. It is the most comprehensive document available.I am amazed that the Ministers did not refer to it in their comments about this problem.
The report clearly states that Coole Lake appears to be the hub of an extensive underground drainage system, taking water from a vast area, including Slieve Aughty, and the limestone area to the south-west. The water then flows underground from Coole Lake to Kinvara, which is the only way water can get out of this area. It is believed that the underground channels are clogged up with branches of trees and plastic  bags which have been in extensive use in farming in recent years. As it is so far underground, that is the only explanation for the slow run of the water. In addition, rainfall has also increased on an annual basis.
The 1992 report also states that, according to local farmers, major flooding has occurred three times in living memory, in 1924, 1959 and early 1990. Major floods have occurred once every 25 or 30 years. Since this report was prepared, there have been floods in 1994 and 1995. The problem is now occurring annually. The report states the Gort/Ardrahan area is unusual and even unique in a national and European context in that it contains a lowland karst limestone landscape with all the typical karst features; swallowholes, springs, turloughs, etc. It is relatively untouched by human activities, specifically arterial drainage, so there is no way for the water to escape.
Successful drainage was carried out in Galway during the western drainage scheme. It was spearheaded by the then Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Michael Donnellan. Credit should be given where it is due; to the then Labour/Fine Gael coalition supported by other parties in the House. I look to this Government to follow suit by coming to the rescue of people in south Galway.
The report contends the only way to significantly reduce flooding is to construct extensive drainage channels or tunnels. This would have major benefits for local people; there would be less disruption during periods of extensive rainfall, less concern about possible flooding in the future, and increased agricultural production. It goes on to refer to the pros and cons of that solution, but no other one is offered. As I said in a previous debate, I have many letters of refusal from Minister after Minister. They said they had no money in the Department or the Estimate to do anything about the problem, nor was there money available from the EU and there was no way they could aid these people. We know this. It takes a decision of the  Government to recognise the tragedy and to take the necessary measures to alleviate the problem.
The second matter is the tax incentive for traditional seaside resorts. The Minister for Finance announced the scheme in this Budget Statement. It is to apply to a number of traditional seaside resorts but the list does not include one of the oldest and most important in the country, Salthill, County Galway.
Salthill suffered more than most areas from the effects of the Northern troubles in the early 1970s. The resort did not recover from the huge loss of business when Northern Ireland and United Kingdom visitors stayed away. The thriving family hotels of those years suffered severe financial losses and many have gone out of business. I can name 18 hotels in Salthill which have either lost registration, closed completely or been converted to another use since my youth. This has had a disastrous effect on Salthill as a major tourism earner in the region.
The local business community, recognising the need to revitalise Salthill as a major tourist resort, privately employed a firm of consultants — Frank Benson and Company — to produce a plan for its future development. Many people in the resort recognise the level of investment required to achieve the standards expected by tourists in the 1990s and beyond could not be attracted without a tax incentive of the urban renewal type. It was understood locally that a scheme was being considered for Salthill but it came as a great shock and disappointment that the town was not included when such a scheme was announced in the budget.
This decision was not understood in Salthill and it is still believed there that the exclusion was an oversight. People are expecting this to be remedied in the near future by the addition of Salthill to the list. It is dangerous to be complacent about such matters so I highlight here the mistake made. I appeal to the Minister for Finance, when closing this  debate, to give a clear indication Salthill will be added to the scheme.
The tourism product includes public amenities available as well as the quality of the accommodation and entertainment facilities. I assure the Minister, Salthill will respond with investment, involving refurbishment and new buildings, which will attract foreign visitors in great numbers if granted special tax status similar to that granted to Westport and other towns. The extra revenue to the Exchequer will more than replace whatever tax is temporarily forgone to relaunch Salthill as a premier family holiday resort.
I put down a parliamentary question to the Minister for Tourism and Trade, asking him to inform the House of the criteria upon which the list of tourist resorts was based. I was amazed and disappointed that he could not give any criteria because I knew Salthill would qualify under any criteria by which the other towns had been chosen. It is a bone of contention in the area that a town the size of Westport can be included but a seaside resort which has suffered so much since the early 1970s was not. I have outlined the effect of the lack of investment and stated the need to revitalise the town.
This Government has set store on employment creation through the development of the tourism industry. We hope the ceasefire in Northern Ireland will help restore the confidence of British tourists and bring Northern Ireland tourists back to Irish resorts. At such a time people in the tourism industry in Salthill are disappointed that those who control national tourism policy did not recognise the vital role the resort could, should and would play if it was given the necessary assistance. The level of investment required is substantial and it is unrealistic to expect private individuals in that region to be in a position to make the financial investment to restore the resort to the standards tourists require in the 1990s.
I mentioned the 18 hotels which have closed since I was young. I still live in  Salthill so I am familiar with the problems.If the Minister wishes me to name or give proof of the number which have closed I will do so but I will not delay the House.
Mr. Durkan: I am delighted to have this opportunity as Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare to contribute to the budget debate.
Much has been written and spoken about the economic effects of the measures in this budget. Financial and economic commentators have discussed their likely impact on the main economic indicators, on the climate for fostering and promoting enterprise and on our competitiveness vis-á-vis our main trading partners. They have also focused on the effect on the public finances generally.In this regard, the Exchequer borrowing requirement has figured prominently and the targets set by the Minister for Finance have been analysed by the various commentators.
However, for a huge number of people in our society the annual budget has a much different dimension. I am talking about the 800,000 people and their 600,000 dependants who rely on the State's social welfare system for their weekly income. About 39 per cent of our population are in that category. When one includes recipients of child benefit, the proportion increases to over half our total population. That is why the social welfare improvements in the budget are so important for such a huge number of people. Right across the country, sick and disabled people, unemployed and retired, pensioners, widows, widowers and lone parents are all affected in one way or another.
The measures announced in the budget are a set of well-balanced provisions which will benefit a wide cross section of Irish society. Families will be better off through a substantial increase in child benefit which will also be paid for 18 year olds in full-time education, and child dependant allowances paid up to age 22 in similar circumstances. The sick and disabled will get an increase in their weekly payments in line with  inflation and will get the increase this year six weeks earlier than previously. Unemployed people will get the same increase and at the same earlier date. In addition, they will benefit from the intensive placement and guidance service which is being introduced on a pilot basis for the long term unemployed, as well as extra places this year in community employment and further improvements in my Department's back to work allowance scheme.
Workers will benefit through the improvements in personal taxation and the reliefs introduced into the PRSI system.Employers will also gain from changes in business taxation and further improvements in employers' PRSI. Pensioners will have their weekly payments protected against inflation and also will get the increase six weeks earlier — something they have been seeking for years. They will also get a free colour television licence.
I make those points in answer to the strident and shrill cries from the Opposition benches in the last number of weeks. They have deliberately homed in on the 2.7 per cent increase and ignored the main features on socal welfare in the budget, which provide much more benefit than a so-called 2.7 per cent increase.
Carers in our society will benefit from an extension of the carer's allowance, a further improvement in the means test and a free travel companion's pass for the pensioner for whom they are caring. Voluntary organisations will benefit from an additional £3 million being provided by the Government in recognition of the trojan and often taken for granted work being done by the voluntary and community development sectors.
The 2.5 per cent increase in weekly social welfare rates cannot be judged in isolation from other improvements. To do so gives an unbalanced and unfair picture of the impact of the general rate increase. Let us look at the impact of the budget improvements as a whole in a number of concrete examples.
A couple with four children in receipt  of long term unemployment assistance will receive a new weekly payment of £180.03, including the child benefit increase. This amounts to a weekly increase of £8.86 or 5.2 per cent, over double the general increase of 2.5 per cent. If one child is 21 years of age and still in full time education, the family could benefit from a further £13.20 a week by way of the continuation of the child dependant allowance up to age 22. Similarly, if one of the children is 18 years of age, child benefit of either £27 or £32 a month will be payable for them from September until they reach 19 years of age.
A couple with three children on either disability benefit or unemployment benefit will get an additional £7.25 a week, an increase of 4.8 per cent — bringing their weekly payment to £159.45 when account is taken of the child benefit increase. As set out in the example above, the family could also benefit from the continuation of child dependant allowances and additional child benefit depending on the ages of their children.
A social welfare pensioner getting a contributory old age or retirement pension with a spouse under 66 years of age and additional income of £8 a week will get an increase of £10.04 a week or 8.6 per cent, bringing their new weekly payment to £127.09. This increase includes the fuel allowance of £5 a week payable when additional income in these circumstances does not exceed £10 a week.
In all cases, social welfare recipients are getting the increase in their weekly payment six weeks earlier than normal, that is, from the middle of June instead of the end of July.
This budget provides a total of over £90 million for social welfare and related improvements in 1995 and some £212 million on a full year cost basis. This is a huge amount of money by any standards. It demonstrates this new Government's concern for the less well-off sections of our society. It should also be taken on board by the Opposition which appears to have overlooked the  real impact of the social welfare budget. It probably suits the Opposition to do so but now and again it should look at the budget's deeper implications.
When the additional cost this year of the social welfare budget improvements is added to our existing commitments for 1995, total spending for this year will exceed £4 billion. This will be the first time in the history of the State that overall social welfare spending has exceeded that figure. It means we are spending at the rate of over £11 million each day for every day of the year or £77 million per week. I wish to refer specifically to two significant measures in this year's budget: the general increase for all recipients and the increase in child benefit for all families.
A 2.5 per cent increase is being given in all weekly social welfare and health board payments from the end of June next. The general increase in weekly rates is by far the most expensive single item in the social welfare budget improvements. It will cost almost £43 million this year and £76.6 million in a full year. I point out the reality of this situation for the benefit of those who call for greater expenditure and, at the same time, reductions in taxation. The increase which will apply to personal rates and adult dependant allowances is designed to compensate social welfare recipients for the expected increase in prices this year and, thereby, maintain their real income.
As Deputies are aware, the increases will be brought into effect from the middle of June instead of the normal implementation date of the end of July. That is being done at a cost of an extra £9 million this year. I am surprised that previous Governments have ignored that aspect of the rate increases. This Government has not. I have always been conscious of the time lag of up to six months between the announcement of the rate increases and their implementation date and I am delighted that the Government will consider bringing the dates forward even further in the context of future budgets.
As has already been explained to the  House, the general rate increase is not being applied to child dependant allowances payable with social welfare weekly payments. Child dependant allowances will, however, be payable up to age 22, instead of age 21, in the case of recipients of long term social welfare payments.
Child benefit is recognised as our universal income support mechanism for children. It has proved to be an effective method of directing resources to families, particularly families in need. Almost half a million families benefit in this way every month. In line with the commitment in the new Programme for Government, a substantial increase in child benefit is being given in this budget. The monthly payment for each child is being increased by £7 from next September. This is a very significant increase and will be of great benefit to all families with children.
The extra £7 will mean a new monthly rate of £27 for the first two children which is an increase of 35 per cent on the existing rate. The new monthly rate for the third and subsequent children will be £32 which is an increase of 28 per cent.
In addition to the role which child benefit has in directing resources to families, child dependant allowances payable with weekly social welfare payments also figure prominently in any discussion on the question of incentives to work. The fact remains that increases in child dependant allowances have been shown to create barriers for unemployed people wishing to return to the workforce, especially for those with large families. The significance of child benefit is that it is paid to families regardless of work status. The essence of the new child benefit supplement proposed in the programme for A Government of Renewal is that it will help to alleviate many of the employment and poverty traps in the present system. Consequently, child dependant allowances payable with all weekly social welfare and health board payments are not being increased in this  budget. They will be maintained at their July 1994 rate.
In addition to the increase in the payments, it is also proposed from next September to pay child benefit up to age 19 for those in full time education, including those attending FÁS courses for which no weekly course allowance is payable. Under present arrangements, child benefit ceases to be payable at age 18 irrespective of whether full-time education is being pursued. Similarly, child benefit is not currently payable to 16 to 18 year olds on FÁS courses without a weekly allowance. These improvements will be welcomed by many families. Even the Opposition might give some credit for this.
On almost all occasions when the issues of creating employment and improving the situation of the lower paid are raised, it is suggested that one solution is to integrate the tax and social welfare system. It is one of the many formulas that are thrown around in economic debates which do not have a precise meaning. There are many views as to what precisely integration might mean.
Some people point to a total integration of systems, perhaps even going so far as to replace the existing tax and welfare systems altogether with a unified system, such as tax credits or basic income. Others say the solution is “strategic integration”, that is, to leave the systems separate, but to make sure that they work together in a more co-ordinated way.
From my many years as a public representative, I am all too aware that there are serious practical problems with the lack of co-ordination of tax and social welfare. I realise, of course, that this is a very complex area, and I am very glad that the expert working group on the integration of tax and social welfare has been working on this topic for some time. As Members may be aware, there is a commitment in the programme A Government of Renewal to publish the working group's report this year. I met the group last week to discuss its work and I understand it hopes  to report in good time to meet the Government's commitment. I am looking forward very much to receiving its conclusions.
The main reason for integrating tax and social welfare is to remove poverty and unemployment traps. The working group's interim report, which was published in January 1994, showed that relatively few people are affected by these traps. Nevertheless, they should be reduced as much as possible or eliminated.
It should also be remembered that the complexities involved in moving from social welfare to work and back again can often be as much of an obstacle to taking up work as the amount of gains or losses. Rules such as those governing earnings from casual work and the assessment of means after seasonal work are very complicated and must constitute some disincentive to taking up work. Some of these issues really are a matter of integration within social welfare rather than interaction between social welfare and tax but they are all part of the same general problem.
Traps arise not only from the operation of the tax and social welfare systems but also from cash and non-cash benefits administered by other agencies. In particular, the fear of loss of the medical card can prevent many people from taking up a job. In many cases, these fears are unfounded, as there are now many situations where an unemployed person with a medical card can get a job or a place on a training course or enterprise scheme and keep the medical card for up to two years.
There are considerable incentives in the budget for making the transition from an unemployment payment to work. It illustrates how important it is to look at the whole package of benefits, and not just to define social welfare in its narrow sense, when we are looking at poverty traps.
It is widely recognised that the current arrangements, whereby people getting unemployment payments get child  dependant allowances whereas those at work do not, contribute to work disincentives.Efforts have been made over the years to address this, especially through family income supplement and through the child additions to the tax exemption limits, which remove low paid workers with children from the tax net. While these have certainly helped the situation, their effects have been limited. On the tax side, the exemption limits for families with a large number of children are now considerably higher than the tax allowances.
Clearly, there is a need for more substantial reform of this area. A number of ideas have been raised in the past. In particular, a lot of interest was raised by the ESRI's research last year on the effects of abolishing child dependant allowances payable with social welfare payments and replacing them with an increased child benefit, paid regardless of whether the parent was at work.
The Government's programme A Government of Renewal states:
We will work towards a basic income system for children by systematic improvements in child benefit, and the creation of a child benefit supplement payable to all social welfare recipients and to low and middle income families.
The child benefit supplement will eliminate some of the worst poverty and unemployment traps in the tax and social welfare systems.
It will replace child dependant allowances currently payable to social welfare recipients and family income supplement which is currently payable to very low income families.
In this year's budget, we have taken one step along this road by giving a significant increase of £7 per month in child benefit. Given the value of this increase, no change was made to the child dependant allowances, family income  supplement, or the child additions to the income tax exemption limits.
The House will recall that my colleague, the Minister for Finance, announced in his budget speech that the Government will be asking the expert working group to consider this further, and advise on the best overall strategy. I believe that the expert group is in a position to plan the best overall strategy in this regard, in the light of the work which it has already done in this area. I look forward to its conclusions later this year.
Deputies will be familiar with the information services provided by the Department of Social Welfare and I am sure most of them will agree that my Department is to the forefront in terms of the quality and effectiveness of its information strategy.
The social welfare system consists of a number of interlinking schemes designed to support individuals and families in a wide range of circumstances.The circumstances under which people may need to access the system can be very complex indeed and, therefore, the services and programmes required to address those needs will, inevitably, tend to be quite complex also.
Through experience and training, officials who administer State funded services become very familiar with all their aspects, no matter how complex or difficult the underlying legal terminology might be. Members of the public rarely have the same opportunities to familiarise themselves with the various schemes and there is a clear onus on service providers to ensure that information is readily available in simple, clear and unambiguous language.
The purpose of a good effective information system must be to break down complexities and simplify the system to the point where each citizen is fully aware of his or her rights. People must be afforded the best possible level of guidance, advice and assistance when seeking benefits and allowances to which they are entitled in law. To achieve this, public sector organisations  must listen to their customers and tailor their services to meet the real needs of people. My Department will continue to seek the views of its customers and their various representative bodies to ensure that the information services are attuned to their needs.
Apart from the comprehensive range of written leaflets and booklets, the Department of Social Welfare also makes good use of advertising and promotional activities to inform and advise citizens of new services or improvements to existing services. These include national and local papers, which regularly carry advertisements on social welfare matters; information which is displayed constantly on Aertel; local radio, which is becoming more and more a feature of our information strategy, and our own staff officials, who frequently give presentations and talks to a wide range of statutory and voluntary bodies.
Information officers are available to deal with inquiries in each of the 59 local offices throughout the country. A telephone inquiry service is also provided and this was recently broadened to include a freefone service on budget 1995 which ran for a period of five days immediately after the budget. Staff working on this freefone dealt with almost 1,000 calls each day and were able to assist and advise callers on the range of social welfare improvements announced on budget day.
My Department, therefore, clearly recognises its responsibilities and is responding to the information needs of citizens in a constructive and helpful manner. These information services will continue to be developed further in consultation with our customers and other relevant organisations.
Information is not the preserve of the service providers only. If statutory agencies concentrate on their own individual services, there is a danger that information relating to those services can become too compartmentalised. This may mean people seeking information having to visit a number of different  offices or organisations to get a complete picture of their rights and entitlements.This fragmentation of information must be addressed through greater interdepartmental co-operation. In this regard, social welfare information leaflets are being reviewed to include, where appropriate, references to services and schemes administered by other Government agencies. This is also an important development.
It is also important to mention the invaluable role of non-governmental organisations in the provision of information, counselling, guidance and advice at local and community level. No matter how well developed and effective the information services of the State become, there will always be a need for the services provided in an increasingly professional manner by the thriving and vibrant voluntary sector.
The voluntary sector can provide a broad level of support in terms of information and advice to people within their own communities. Organisations who make up the voluntary sector have varied interests and many focus their services to meet the needs of a particular target group.
Information provided in an interactive fashion will ensure that the intricacies and problems can be teased out fully in an informal atmosphere. The provision of information in these situations will often include advice and advocacy services which will help people to obtain their full rights and entitlements. Voluntary groups can and do assist people to overcome difficulties they may encounter in seeking their rights and entitlements. There is a further dimension to this because the voluntary groups also can bring these difficulties, obstacles or anomalies to the attention of the service providers and can influence change in delivery procedures to avoid similar pitfalls in future cases.
The programme A Government of Renewal contains a commitment to consult and work with the National Social  Service Board and the Director of Consumer Affairs in overhauling the facilities for community information. This will be achieved by strengthening and building on the tapestry of information services already in existence in the voluntary and statutory sectors.
All voluntary groups will have a role to play in this regard. I believe that the agreement to transfer responsibility for the National Social Service Board to the Department of Social Welfare is an important step towards this process. The NSSB provides support and resources to over 200 organisations who have access to its files. The board also operates at local level through 83 citizens' information centres throughout the country and the closer working links will ensure greater coverage, in geographic terms, of effective information services. Funds are being provided this year by my Department to assist in the computerisation of information files held by the NSSB and other voluntary organisations. The computerisation of these files will have a knock on benefit for the many groups and organisations who use the NSSB data as a basis for their own local information services.
Additional funds will also be made available from my Department this year to enable groups and organisations in the voluntary sector to develop other aspects of their information services. Details of these will be advertised shortly and organisations will be invited to make applications for funding to my Department at regional level. This cooperative approach offers the best way forward to ensure that all citizens are made aware of their rights and given every possible assistance and guidance to avail of the wide range of supports, benefits and allowances now available under our modern and comprehensive social welfare system.
As I said earlier, this is a well-balanced budget, not only in the financial sense but also with regard to what it seeks to achieve in social and economic terms. Social welfare spending will exceed £4 billion this year for the first time in the history of the State. This  brings us to new levels of support and protection for those who, for one reason or another, need to call on our services. It demonstrates the commitment of the Government to look after the needs of the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. I am glad, as a Minister of State in the Government, to support this budget.
Whenever one moves from Opposition to Government, a certain transformation takes place, apart from the physical movement involved in moving from one side of the House to the other. Nothing has ever matched the transformation which has taken place in the Members who have moved to the other side of the House. They see things now with far greater clarity and have a far greater focus on the real needs of the community than they ever did when they were on this side of the House.
My good friend and colleague from my constituency of Kildare obviously watches television as he made references in his budget speech to “Star Trek”. Deputy McCreevy likened the budget to a call by Fine Gael, in particular, to the Minister for Finance, following in the steps of the commander of “Star Trek” who would say “Beam us up, Scottie”, to “Beam us up, Ruairí”. The antics of the Opposition in the last couple of weeks have been somewhat similar but, finding themselves floating around in that vastness of political outer space, theirs is a strident cry to “Beam us in, please, somebody”.
Dr. Moffatt: Floating around.
Mr. Durkan: I have also been amazed by the degree to which Opposition speakers have made countless references to the allegedly poor social welfare budget, although there is a 35 per cent increase on last year's provision. At the same time, those Opposition Deputies have been calling for increased expenditure in various areas, of which this is obviously one. We all recognise that we have to meet the requirements——
Dr. Moffatt: Targeting.
Mr. Durkan: ——of those who are in need, vulnerable and unemployed. However, at the same time, they are calling for reductions in taxation. I know there is a great deal of economic ingenuity on the Opposition benches but, to the best of my knowledge and having sat in this House for the last 14 years and studied those objectives with great diligence, I have failed to detect how those two objectives can be achieved. It is not possible to save more money and spend more money at the same time. I know that Fianna Fáil are very good at this particularly at election time——
Dr. Moffatt: There are areas other than social welfare.
Mr. Durkan: However, I would have thought that it would give the poor electorate some relief from that at the moment and concentrate on the real issues, which are what the people are thinking about.
I was also amused by the way in which the Opposition shrieked shrilly, threw up their arms and tore their hair in dismay when they alleged that the Taoiseach had belatedly recognised the need for a Minister for rural development.They said that it was an afterthought and that he only did it because he wanted to create a job for one of the boys and girls. Since last June, after the European elections, three vacancies were available to the Taoiseach of the day to which he could have appointed a Minister for rural development, urban development or anything else. Three Members were elected to the European Parliament resulting in three junior ministries becoming vacant. I have to conclude that not only did the then Government not have the benefit of afterthought or forethought but it took no action when it could have. Their crocodile tears cannot be seriously regarded by anybody.
Mr. Kirk: I propose to share my time with Deputy Moffatt.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Kirk: I wish to return to reality after that short lecture from the Minister of State on trivial matters. The budget of 1995 has come as a great disappointment after the great promise which was heralded for some time beforehand. Anybody who has been in this country since 1987 will be aware of the very significant progress which has been made on the budget arithmetic. It has been a process of continuing improvement right up to this year. The Minister for Finance had probably the best budget figures available to a Minister for a very long time. Now that the initial response to the budget is over and people in various sectors have analysed and calculated the impact on their areas, one can say that there is an air of disappointment.
The national debt problem is still a huge burden on the economy. There is marked reluctance on the part of the Government to tackle it in this budget and to make a meaningful effort to reduce that figure which is an albatross on the economy. That is not in any way to denigrate the very significant role of the National Treasury Management Agency which is doing an excellent job. The National Treasury Management Agency was the inspiration of the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and future generations will be very greatful to him for that decision. Combined with the serious national debt problem there is the still very high level of unemployment.However, I am realistic enough to know that it is not easy for a Minister for Finance to tackle the problem of the national debt and to make a meaningful effort to tackle the seemingly intractable problem of unemployment.
The objectives set out in the budget to reward work, promote enterprise and strengthen social solidarity are highly desirable for any Minister for Finance. However, we must examine the prospects of achieving those objectives. A recent survey by the Small Firms'  Association of a typical service company in the North and a comparable company in the South clearly indicated that the level of profitability of the Northern company far exceeded that of the Southern company. Those companies could be in Newry and Dundalk, a mere seven or eight miles apart on the N1. This survey is of particular interest to my constituency because with regard to the hoped for investment in the wake of the peace initiative in the North, towns in County Louth such as Dundalk, Drogheda and Ardee have, quite understandably, been hoping for significant industrial development. However, because of the comparative cost competitiveness between the North and South we may lose out on that investment surge.
For some time, IBEC and the CBI have had a task force working on the possible establishment of an economic corridor between North and South. The whole concept is very worthwhile and I hope the Government will be fully supportive of it as it progresses. Clearly, such a concept will require a co-ordination of the State agencies and an injection of funds from the EU or the State or a combination of both. The reality is that Border areas such as County Louth have suffered greatly over the last 25 years. I often think that there is a serious lack of appreciation, at different levels, of the degree of impact which the Northern troubles have had on the economies of counties such as Louth, Monaghan and Cavan.
We have various schemes and funds but there has been a serious lack of co-ordination.In some areas where they have been providing support for particularly desirable types of development, for example, in the tourism sector, there may be a slight variation in the criteria for eligibility for grant aid. This is highly undesirable and the Minister for Finance and his Department should urgently examine the situation in the context of a more cohesive, co-ordinated thrust towards development in Border counties. We cannot afford  unfocused and ill defined development efforts.
Because of the relative peripherality of the Border counties, which are distanced from the central activity in Dublin by a mere 50 miles, and developments north of the Border, we may well fall foul of the development thrust on the island in the wake of the peace initiative. It is most important that the decision makers keep the needs of those areas in mind at all times. In many ways, these areas have been at the coal face of the Northern troubles for the past 25 years. The recent announcement of additional EU funds being made available, at the ratio of 80 per cent to the North and 20 per cent to the South, has been a great disappointment. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to negotiating a change in the 80:20 balance, which would benefit the Border counties.
With regard to comparative costs, which I raised a number of times in the House and which were mentioned in the budget debate, there is a serious problem in terms of premia for public liability, employers' liability and motor insurance. We seriously underestimate the impact of the cost of those premia on small and medium size businesses and individuals. In common with all public representatives, I am continually inundated with complaints from young drivers about their inability to get a quote for motor insurance or, if they are successful in getting a quote, the exorbitant premia demanded. I realise that it calls for a fundamental reappraisal of the entire insurance industry. The Department of Enterprise and Employment has for some time applied itself to the possibility of publishing a control of insurance costs Bill but that Bill has not seen the light of day, the sooner it is published the better.
Muintir na Tíre has organised a special conference in Santry tomorrow on behalf of various groups in the voluntary sector involved in development, particularly in rural areas. The theme of the conference is the high cost of premia, particularly public liability. I  understand an expert from New Zealand will speak on this matter because New Zealand operates on the basis of a State agency providing insurance cover for a whole range of needs in the area. Although I do not advocate that type of arrangement in Ireland, there is a need to bring forward the control of insurance costs Bill as quickly as possible.This would allow people who have a direct interest in this topic to debate it and to propose legislative measures, one way in which we can come to terms with some of the hidden costs involved in job creation in this country.
I stated earlier that industrial development in County Louth has moved at a relatively slow pace due to its peripheral position. There are approximately 10,500 unemployed people in the county and this statistic has been constant for a number of years. We all hope there will be further industrial development and that people from the United States, Europe or Japan will come to the area to avail of the local excellent and well trained workforce. This could create jobs and give local people a meaningful role in life.
In the budget, the Minister for Education hoped the initiative to abolish third level fees would be a milestone in the development of education. We all welcome the abolition of fees over a phased two year period. However, in the context of the debate on education matters, we must remember that there is a huge maintenance cost involved for parents who have up to three children at third level. The further away they are from the university, whether it is in Dublin, Cork or Belfast, the greater the cost involved. I hope the Minister, as she indicated in her budget speech, will address the matter of increasing the thresholds for eligibility for maintenance grants as there is an urgent need for such a move.
Of those who complete the post primary school system, 52 per cent go on to third level. However, 48 per cent do not, and we would be foolish to disregard their needs in the education debate. There is an urgent need to  examine the whole area of the development of post leaving certificate courses and the availability of positions in the apprenticeship sector. Are there restrictions in this area whereby boys and girls, who have talents and abilities to pursue certain apprenticeship, are effectively excluded from the system because they cannot get sponsorship for training centres? This is highly undesirable and should be urgently examined.
Regarding the development of co-operation in the field of education, there is a great similarity in the institutions North and South. I have long held the view that opportunities exist to eliminate and avoid duplication. Opportunities also exist whereby co-operation between North and South will benefit students and those involved in the management of education institutions. In the context of the discussions on the Framework Document, I hope that education will be one of the areas focused on and that the potential for the development of co-operation will be furthered as quickly as possible.
Whenever the next general election is held, in two months or in the next two and a half years — the Minister of State is not indicating when it will be held — the issue of crime will be crucial. There is a serious problem in this regard and an urgent need to increase the number of gardaí on the beat to counter crime. The escalating level of crime is invariably one of the top items on the agenda of every meeting I attend in my constituency. I am not sure whether the level is drug related or drug driven because clearly other factors are at play. However, elderly people living in their homes in isolated parts of the country dread the winter nights because of bangs on their doors, broken windows or intruders. This is a highly undesirable position in a country where at most times we can be proud of the quality of life enjoyed by people here. Although it would be foolish to pretend that by simply increasing the number of gardaí on the ground we will automatically come to terms with the crime level, we must  tackle it. Other factors must also be addressed but one major initiative the Government can take is to increase the number of gardaí available and bring young, vibrant people into the force.
I recently submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister for the Environment, which was not reached at Question Time. This related to the population settlement policies pursued in Ireland. We are all aware of the concentration of people in the greater Dublin area. There are approximately two million people between Belfast and Dublin, which is one third or more of the total population of the island. I often think that we should stop and ask ourselves if this is a desirable trend. Previous Fianna Fáil Governments in particular were strong on the issue of decentralisation and its whole thrust should be accelerated.
However, the decentralisation of sections of Government Departments will not encourage population regeneration in Deputy Moffatt's constituency or in mine. The Minister of State's constituency is under the influence of the growth of the greater Dublin area. In my county the population has gone slightly into decline on the basis of figures from the last census but other parts of the country, particularly in the west, have community infrastructures that are seriously under-utilised due to the population decline over the years.
We must ask if there is a need for overall co-ordination of the county development plans to ensure a more even population growth. That theory may run counter to the trend and popular theory. There has been an acceleration of growth in the Dublin area but we should consider the growth in social problems in urban centres. In Britain also the great conurbations throw up huge social problems and we had a slight manifestation of them at the football match a few days ago. It is clearly a manifestation of a deeper social problem in the huge urban communities in Britain. I do not believe it is too late to reverse the trend.
When a representative from Louth  mentions the possibility of providing incentives for seaside resorts many Members might wonder where are the seaside resorts in County Louth. I wish the Minister for Tourism and Trade had looked at the east coast when he was looking for possible locations for inclusion in what is a worthwhile proposal in the budget. Places such as Omeath, Clogherhead and Blackrock would benefit enormously from the incentives the Minister has in mind. I am sure those in the west coast resorts are delighted to be designated for the purposes of the scheme, as many people in areas along the east coast would be.
Dr. Moffatt: I am somewhat dismayed like many of my colleagues at the leakage of the budget contents. So much for openness, transparency and accountability. Openness in this regard means cracks here and there; transparency means everything having been laid bare prior to the date of delivery, and accountability means creative accounting to suit members of the rainbow coalition, especially the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, in his efforts to justify certain elements of the corporation tax in relation to the banking sector.I will not dwell on that for the present but I will await the results of the Taoiseach's high ranking investigation into the leaks which, by budget day, were equal to any of the floods in Galway we have heard about.
The budget lacked direction. For the first time in about 27 years we were in surplus after much hard work and good bookkeeping by the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Bertie Ahern. Alas, we are again on the slippery slope to deficit budgeting. Will we ever learn from our previous mistakes to deal with situations as we find them and not depend on expected buoyancy and the sale of the family silver to rectify the situation at the next budget?
Budgets should be balanced on the current account side. Our annual debt service charges should be tackled. It costs too much to service our national debt — nearly £2.5 billion per annum at  present. The national debt, which is still rising, is about £29 billion or 97 per cent of GNP — well short of the Maastricht Treaty guideline of 60 per cent of GNP — public spending is escalating and robbing us of many of the good results of recent years. With unemployment so high, too many are dependent on the State revenues, yet our taxes arise from a narrow base. We should be careful of the manner in which we manage our public sector spending.
The Programme for Government contains a number of expenditure targets.The intended growth of current supply service spending will be contained at 6 per cent in 1995 and annualised thereafter at 2 per cent for the subequent two years. A figure of 6 per cent is far too high and I wonder if the aspirations of 2 per cent will be realised.
There was considerable tax reform between 1986 and 1994, and given the good outcome in 1994 in tax revenue the time was right for further pruning. Alas, the opportunity was not taken. We depend on a small tax base of which income tax represents about 35 per cent, corporation tax about 10 per cent, VAT about 24 per cent and customs and excise about 20 per cent. We keep tinkering around with those elements and never make any definitive changes. We have too many VAT rates — five altogether.We should be aligning ourselves with other European countries; Britain, for example, has only two. We should increase registration limits for VAT.
Small traders should be allowed to reinvest in their own companies, say up to 15 per cent of profits, tax free. We have so many rates and classes of PRSI that it makes the matter complicated. It should be simplified at the earliest opportunity. The recent changes in corporation tax should have been targeted with small industries, companies with profits up to £200,000, levied at about 25 per cent, to protect our interests vis-à-vis neighbouring competition. Perhaps the 10 per cent rate for the manufacturing sector might in future apply to retain profits invested in Ireland.
The changes with regard to covenants as  they affect elderly people need to be reviewed as the reductions will create hardship for long term patients such as stroke victims and sufferers with MS or Alzheimer's.I hope this inequity will be corrected in the Finance Bill. There are many pious platitudes in the health programme relating to community care, yet we are not able to pay our GPs for basic immunisation and other preventive work. We must get the base right before talking about and tackling grandiose expenditure and ideas in the health service.
On a more parochial note, I wonder what happened to phase two of Mayo General Hospital. Perhaps the Minister, Deputy Enda Kenny, and the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Higgins, will expedite the last Government's commitment and do what they promised they would do when in Government. I await their reply.
The orthopaedic service in Mayo is disgraceful, to say the least. If anyone thinks I am only playing politics I would ask him to read a recent article by Dr. Gerry Crowley from Mulrany in the Irish Medical Times. He outlines the great tragedy that exists in relation to the orthopaedic service in Mayo, with waiting lists of five to seven years and transfers to Merlin Park Hospital, Galway for most minor fractures and dislocations, necessitating trips of up to 120 miles for patients. This is not acceptable and should be remedied as soon as possible with the appointment of two orthopaedic surgeons in Castlebar because there is plenty of work there for two surgeons. If one takes into consideration that there is a big influx of visitors into the area during the summer, it is essential that we have an acute trauma unit at the Mayo General Hospital.
CAT scans will be available shortly in most of our major hospitals throughout the country, yet Mayo does not merit one of them. Perhaps the Western Health Board should look again to see what is happening in other health board areas, such as the north-west, where  there does not appear to be any problems in getting this necessary equipment.
Ballina is on the N26, and is the third largest town in Connacht, yet there is no day care centre, no hospice bed or proper physiotherapy service there. This is something the Minister should take up with the Western Health Board before he starts talking about expenditure in other areas. I know the Minister has an interest in cancer therapy and in cancer patients and I hope this interest extends to keeping the peripheral outpatient clinics open in places like St. Luke's, Ballina, which serves the north Mayo area.
There is no point giving free colour television licences to old age pensioners if they cannot see the television because of cataracts. It is high time we improved this service also.
In respect of social welfare, certain people will be disappointed with the 2.5 per cent increase, despite what the Minister said.
Mr. Durkan: Thirty-five per cent.
Dr. Moffatt: I agree there has been a great overall increase but it was not targeted at the people who most need it.
Mr. Durkan: The Deputy should read it.
Dr. Moffatt: Old age pensioners, the blind and people with disabilities have been largely forgotten with this 2.5 per cent increase. I know there are “ifs” and “buts” in the Minister's presentation, but if he looks at it carefully, he will have to admit that we are back to a 2.5 per cent increase.
Mr. Durkan: Two hundred and twelve million pounds in a full year.
Dr. Moffatt: Tuigim é sin——
Mr. Durkan: An nglacann tú leis?
Dr. Moffatt: It was not targeted at the various areas that really required it.
In education, it is time the rural school bus service was reviewed. There  are many areas in the province with very poor service. The number of school children is falling all the time, so it behoves us to have a fresh look at the school bus service.
I welcome the abolition of third level fees as many people in the middle income bracket were experiencing difficulties in keeping their children in third level education. However, the Minister should have come up with a more imaginative programme and should have helped more people in the lower income bracket with maintenance. The problem with education is that many parents with low incomes have two or three students in third level education; they are the parents who really need assistance with maintenance, otherwise they will have to take out loans or some of their children will have to forego third level or post-leaving certificate education altogether.
In regard to tourism, I welcome the initiative of the Minister for Tourism and Trade relating to the pilot seaside resort programme and its tax breaks. However, he forgot such areas as Killala, Ballycastle and Belmullet in my region. I would ask him to have a fresh look at that programme. The Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with responsibility for western development is in the House and I would ask him to have a fresh look at that.
Dr. Upton: By any standard, this is a very good budget. There is no doubt that the public is very pleased with it. Last Saturday's Market Research Bureau of Ireland opinion poll clearly confirms this. That poll also makes it clear that this budget is seen as the best for many years. As stated by the chairman of MRBI, Mr. Jack Jones, the budget has made a much better impact among the electorate than either of the two previous budgets introduced since the 1992 General Election. There is now a growing feeling that this budget will result in an improvement in the standard of living and that it will further increase job opportunities. There is a  significant increase in confidence among the public in the economy and I have no doubt that will further stimulate and enhance growth and further employment in this country. It is not a coincidence that this is the first budget presented to the Dáil by a Labour Minister for Finance. The contents and the tone of the budget clearly reflect the Government's and the Labour Party's anxiety to reward work, to promote enterprise and to strengthen the social fabric of our society, as the Minister for Finance said in his Budget Statement.
The contents of the budget are influenced by modern socialist and social democratic thinking which seeks to move people away from benefit and towards work. The desirability of moving people from benefit to work must now be of prime importance. Unemployment is a dreadful waste of talent. It is soul destroying for those who are unemployed. The talents of the unemployed could be of huge benefit to the welfare of the country if they were employed usefully. Any saving made by the Exchequer on unemployment through the creation of more jobs will greatly increase the capacity to spend money on health and education and, indeed, on social welfare.
A reduction in unemployment will also greatly enhance the fabric of our society. It will help reduce the level of crime, which is now part of the social decay which characterises high unemployment societies. The employment stimulating aspects of this budget should have a beneficial effect in reducing the alienation which is now felt, in very alarming levels, in some parts of this country and in some parts of Dublin. The very significant increase in jobs which will be created this year, coupled with the reduction in the numbers on the dole, marks a very significant further turn around in the economy. This should result in less alienation in some sectors and should have the effect of decreasing crime and vandalism, which are a feature of the changes which have accompanied the increase in  unemployment over the last decade or so.
The changes which are now taking place should encourage and facilitate a reduction in the politics of envy which have characterised our society in the recent past. Envy, as a driving force in economic development, has little that is useful or constructive to make. A society that is serious about the objective of improving the lot of its citizens can have little time for the politics of envy. Let us be under no illusions. There is more than an adequate amount of envy alive and well in this country. Its presence should not be mistaken, even if it frequently can be found masquerading as a desire for justice or, in the more recent parlance, a preoccupation with accountability. The objective should be to bring the underprivileged up to the standards of those who are privileged rather than reducing the living standards of those who are privileged.The primary objective must be one of increasing the size of the “national cake” so that everybody can have their fair share of what is produced.
There must be a greater emphasis on enterprise and on the politics of opportunity so that, as a country, we are equipped to meet the challenges of changing technology and changing environments. There is no long term future in trying to resist these changes: change is inevitable. We must learn to be ready for it and we must be prepared to manage it rather than to be frightened by it. It is essential that we become a high wage economy rather than that we should retreat in the belief that our future could somehow be assured by becoming a low wage economy. Those economies which have prospered have done so as high wage, high skill and high technology economies. The philosophy underpinning this budget, as set out in his speech by the Minister for Finance is very much in accord with these principles.
The management of the economy was  well handled by the former Labour-Fianna Fáil Government since 1992 and the economy is now in a better state than it has been for many years. This is a time of opportunity. As the Minister said, employment in 1994 increased by 36,000 or 3 per cent, while the unemployment figure fell on average by 12,000. Exports during 1994 increased by 10 per cent and inflation continued to be low. The outlook for this year is also good and it is expected that gross domestic product will grow by as much as 6 per cent, inflation will continue to be low, that there will be an increase of as much as 10 per cent in investment and that more than 30,000 new jobs will be created. That should result in a reduction of 16,000 drawing unemployment benefits and will reduce the number unemployed to a figure approaching one quarter of a million.
The Minister for Finance made a number of important changes in the manner in which work is to be rewarded. The introduction of an allowance of £50 per week for full rate PRSI contributors will mean a significant reduction in the PRSI payments of those on low pay. This will increase the incentive to work and help tackle the relatively high levels of taxation people on low incomes are forced to pay.
The general changes in taxation are also a step forward. The changes in the standard rates of income tax, in personal allowances, in the thresholds for unemployment, training and health levies mean that as many as two thirds of taxpayers will now pay tax at standard or marginal rates.
There are a number of incentives in the budget which should greatly improve enterprise. Changes in employers PRSI should encourage employers to increase their work forces. In effect, employers will be given a saving of £46 million in PRSI in a full year. That represents a considerable incentive to employers to expand their businesses and take on more employees which will help to develop the country.
Changes in corporation tax, which  will bring the levels of corporation tax in line with that of our international competitors, should be an incentive towards enhancing and developing business.Changes in capital acquisitions tax should encourage the transfer of family businesses from generation to generation.That should enhance and stimulate progress in business which were to some degree perhaps becoming tired because parents and elderly people were reluctant because of tax considerations to hand over the business to a new generation. Changes in capital gains tax and stamp duties should also help companies to restructure their operations and promote new business start ups. All of these changes should greatly increase employment.
Changes in the seed capital scheme and in section 115 of the Finance Act, 1986, should help companies to get started and help companies endeavouring to expand. The pilot renewal scheme for traditional seaside resorts, while unfortunately is not relevant in my constituency which is landlocked, is welcome in places like Kilkee and Lahinch which have been badly run down over the past number of years and it should give those resorts a considerable boost. It is also welcome in places where the population is in decline and will help make the work of the Minister Deputy Carey somewhat easier than it might have been if this scheme had not been introduced.
I am pleased with the welcome changes in allowances for motor cars used for business purposes. An impression had been created some time ago that people who used cars for business purposes invariably drove large cars and were particularly wealthy. That was a gross distortion of the facts. Many people who use company cars are ordinary people doing ordinary jobs, such as commercial travellers who earn modest incomes for whom the use of car is essential so they may do their job properly.It is unacceptable in the businesses in which they work to drive around in a ten year old banger, as it would be  incompatible with the image companies seek to present to their customers.
Much confusion has arisen from the abolition of the bank levy. I understand, it is meant to be revenue neutral. The public should know the abolition of the bank levy will not result in a saving of £36 million for banks. It means that because of the adjustments and regulations in corporation tax, etc., banks will still pay the same amount of money to the State as before the introduction of the levy. The public has not got that message and it has generated a significant amount of unease.
The Taoiseach shortly before or after he was elected spoke about his belief in the concept of a society and he was right in that we all depend on and need one another. Nobody should lose sight of this. Nobody should be bullied into believing that those who are better off can ignore the needs of others. We must build cohesion in society and maintain and enhance the fabric of that society. We must encourage the development of ideas on how this can be done. I see little value in the negative anxiety particularly in some sections of the media, which constantly highlights dissent and discord. I am unable to understand how it will help to resolve the problems we face. We would be better off seeking solutions to those problems rather than seeking to exploit and aggravate them.
The Minister for Finance was correct to lay great emphasis in his budget speech on the concept of social solidarity.He was correct to seek to stimulate enterprise so that resources are provided to maintain and enhance social solidarity. It was especially encouraging that he did so in his speech with such clarity so that nobody can be under any illusions as to his priorities in this area. I hope his contribution will help to concentrate minds on the need for social cohesion and on the need to create the resources to fund and maintain that cohesion.
A number of worthwhile initiatives in the budget should help to maintain and develop a society based on social  cohesion and solidarity. Changes in allowances for children are the best since the State was founded. An increase of £7 per month will benefit families with children. As the Minister said in his speech, a family with four children can now expect to obtain £1,400 per year. This is a certainly a worthwhile step along the road towards providing a basic income to support children.
The increase of 2.5 per cent in weekly personal and adult dependant allowances was somewhat less than many people would have liked, especially old age pensioners. It should not, however, be forgotten that these increases will be brought forward by six weeks to be paid in mid June. I hope this trend of paying increases at an earlier date closer to budget time will be continued in future budgets.
The changes in the deserted wife's benefits and in lone parent's allowances are progressive and are designed to maintain the incentive to work. These changes are much less intrusive than they were heretofore. Changes in the minimum unemployment payments to single people living in the family home should go some way towards diminishing the incentive to people out of work to leave the family home. That was undesirable and created many social and inter-family difficulties. I am glad this change has been made and I have no doubt it will make a useful contribution towards relieving this problem.
The increase of £5 in the back to school clothing and footwear allowance will help to alleviate the hardship of people during September. It is an expensive period for people with school going children, as they have to buy books, clothes, footwear and so on for children on their return to school. The provision of funds to allow an extra 7,500 people to be employed on community welfare schemes is also a worthwhile development.
 The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael McDowell on Tuesday, 14 February, 1995:
That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
Debate resumed on the following amendment:
To delete “now” and to add at the end of the motion “this day nine months”.
— (Minister for Equality and Law Reform.)
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Ms Burton): I wish to share my time with Deputy Ferris.
Letting in the light on issues of public importance, opening our public affairs to intense scrutiny and letting the public know what is happening are all very important as are accuracy, fairness and balance. I am happy to have an intense beam of light shine on all issues of public importance. Like most people in this House, I also want to ensure that people do not have their good names tarnished by inaccurate and defamatory reporting and that their right to privacy is respected.
Reforming the law on defamation, desirable though that may be, will not have the effect of ensuring that media reports are accurate, much less fair or balanced. It would be a mistake to consider that law reform is the answer to all the problems in that area. Properly considered reform can certainly help and my colleague, the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor, is committed to introducing considered reforms. While welcoming many aspects of this Bill, the Minister has already dealt with the proposals about which he has reservations. I want first to  address more general issues on journalistic standards and privacy.
Defamation does not only arise in the mass media. However, it is where most problems arise. Legislation is one way, but not the only one, of trying to ensure that people retain the right to their good name. Another way of ensuring this is by a general raising of journalistic standards which is best done by voluntary adherence to the best professional standards.I am not talking about restricting any of the media in its investigation of stories, political and otherwise, but about reporting facts, verifying reports before going to print and ensuring that unsubstantiated allegations do not get into print. Good journalists already adhere to these principles. Speedy correction of defamatory or inaccurate material is desirable but it should not remove the need to be utterly vigilant about accuracy in the first place.
Not all inaccurate material is defamatory.The mass media should be just as careful about general inaccuracy as it is about defamation. General inaccuracy may not be punished by court awards but it may, and should be, punished by consumer sanction.
Another general issue which arises is the question of invasion of privacy. Here we are talking about stories which may or may not be accurate or defamatory but which really go beyond legitimate public interests. This is a particularly difficult area to address either by legislation or by voluntary codes. Fortunately in Ireland, invasion of privacy has not yet reached the epidemic proportions of other countries. However, before it does, we should discuss what constitutes intrusive questioning, where the lines should be drawn between public and private interests and how we can ensure that standards do not fall.
Most of the provisions of Deputy McDowell's Bill are concerned with the civil law of defamation. This obviously is the kernel of any debate on defamation.However, other provisions in the Bill are primarily the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and it is to those aspects of the Bill that I now turn.  Section 37 abolishes the common law offences of seditious libel and obscene libel, in line with the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission. The commission was of the view that the historical circumstances which gave rise to the need for a crime of seditious libel had long since disappeared and the offence was not one which was expected to occur often in a relatively settled society. With regard to obscene libel, the offence has been rarely prosecuted in modern times, which would suggest that in practice, it is virtually obsolete. In addition, the commission considers that other legislation exists which punishes adequately the sort of activities which essentially constitute such offences.
It is noteworthy, though perhaps understandable, that Deputy McDowell's Bill does not deal with the matter of blasphemous libel. The Law Reform Commission report, in discussing this form of libel, concluded that there was no place for an offence of blasphemous libel in a society which respects freedom of speech. The problem of taking on board the commission's recommendation in regard to this form of libel is that there are constitutional considerations which impinge on it by virtue of Article 40, which states in part that the publication or utterance of blasphemous matter is an offence which will be punishable in accordance with law. The Defamation Act, 1961, prescribes penalties for the offence and also confers powers of search and seizure in respect of it. In view of the constitutional implications, it is not surprising that this Bill chooses not to deal with it and while in principle, the constitutional provision which I have mentioned may need to be addressed, in reality it is hardly a priority.
The remaining sections of Part III are concerned with defamatory libel. The Law Reform Commission recommended that the common law offence of defamatory libel should be retained, although in a more confined form. While the offence is prosecuted only very rarely today, the commission was  of the view that its abolition would deprive the criminal law of a potentially valuable weapon. There is a view, supported by newspaper publishers, that a reformed civil law of defamation would provide a citizen with all the protection they need against defamatory statements.
I commend Deputy McDowell on his contribution and the effort which he has put into this Bill. While the Government is not in a position to support it, we will be bringing before the House our own proposals which will address the issues raised in this debate by the Deputy. I hope that we will address it in a fair and balanced way because important issues of public interest arise here. I congratulate the Deputy on the work he has done in this area.
Mr. Kenneally: I wish to share my time with Deputy Kitt.
An Ceann Comhairle: Sharing time is permissible in this debate.
Mr. Kenneally: I am glad of the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I congratulate Deputy McDowell for bringing it forward and perhaps achieving to a certain extent some sort of acceptance from the Government; we will have to wait to see how much of it will be incorporated.Obviously, I do not agree with all the Bill's provisions, it would be unfair to expect everyone to agree with everything that might be contained in any legislation. Nevertheless, it has served to create a healthy and necessary debate on the laws as they relate to defamation.
I agree with the changes suggested in the law as it stands on slander and libel. This is a sensible provision and should be supported as it appears to be based on a sort of purely historical convention which has made the law in this area more complex than is perhaps necessary.That is also probably the case across the ambit of our legislation.
Section 43 of the Bill interests me and  I agree with it. If it has been incorporated in legislation it might have prevented an unnecessary recent court case in Dublin involving an English journalist. The section provides that:
No court may require a person to disclose, nor is any person guilty of contempt of court for refusing to disclose, the source of information contained in a publication for which that person is responsible, unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.
We all realise that a good journalist must have his or her confidential sources in order to get to the truth in any investigation they may be pursuing. In an instance like that I believe it is unreasonable to expect a journalist to reveal that source. Obviously it would be a major blow to investigative journalism if that was the case. I am also reminded that in such situations certain privileges are bestowed on some professional people dealing with the general public. Confidentiality exists in the doctor/patient relationship, the solicitor/client relationship, a bank dealing with customers and our own profession between Deputies and their constituents.I often say to some of my constituents when they are worried about the confidentiality that I treat the clinic as if it were a confessional and I will not reveal any information they disclose.It should be the same in this instance.
One aspect of the Bill about which I am not happy relates to a provision which has been omitted. I am referring to the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission which stated that:
There should be a new cause of action in respect of dafamatory statements made about a person who was dead at the time of publication. At present no actions may be maintained in defamation in respect of injury to  the reputation of a person who was dead at the time of publication.
I believe that when the initial consultation paper was published most of the criticism attaching to this proposal came from the national newspapers and RTE. They were mainly concerned that historians would be deprived of valuable material if such a provision were included. If the media has material on a particular person why not publish it while that person is alive? Waiting until a person has died would seem to suggest that they were unsure of their facts in the first place or could not stand over any allegations they might make. I have always thought that historians should record facts, not fiction.
One has to decide what is paramount: the legitimate claim of the media to comment about the deceased or the legitimate claim of the deceased's family to maintain his or her good reputation. I believe the latter consideration has to be of prime importance and accordingly, I would hope this improvement can be made to the Bill on Committee Stage. I realise that if such a provision were to be included and also allowed for damages to be claimed, perhaps we could be inundated with spurious cases clogging up the court system. Therefore it would be more prudent to deny damages in such cases which would mean that only genuine cases for defamation of character would be brought to the courts. Furthermore, any such action could only be instituted by a close family member, which could easily be defined at a later date, or by the executor of a will.
A colleague mentioned incidents where various statements were made about two clerics after they died. There was little the families could do in either instance to rescue the good name of their deceased relative. Such an occurrence would be remote to me and most other Members because we would not know either of these people. However, perhaps we should think of a close relative of our own and try to imagine how we would feel if he or she were the subject of derogatory comment in the  media after their death. It is only when we consider a case close to home that we realise the implications of not being able to rescue someone's reputation. I certainly would want to have this avenue of approach open to me, not seek damages but with the best intentions.Any genuine or reasonable person would be satisfied to clear their relative's name and would not want monetary gain. A certain privacy has to be allowed to people even in death.
I would like to refer to the Irish law on privacy and its state of relative uncertainty. If there is a general right to privacy under the Irish law it stems from the Constitution. There is no such right in common law. To the extent that the right of privacy exists it is one of the unspecified personal rights under Article 40.3.1º. The first steps toward the general right of privacy were taken by Magee v. Attorney General. I do not intend to go into the details of that case but it was found that the ambit of the right of privacy went beyond merely marital relations. In Norris v. Attorney General the plaintiff sought to build on the Magee decision to find a more generalised right of privacy. Again I do not wish to go into details of the case but from the various judgments it appears that the Supreme Court accepted that a wider right to privacy is recognised by the Constitution. There were subsequent Supreme Court cases concerning infringements on the right of privacy but in general it can be concluded that Supreme Court jurisprudence privacy in Irish law is both recent and sparse. The right to privacy in Irish law is, as yet, undeveloped and in the absence of legislation will develop only in such detail and coherence as particular cases will require.
Section 9 of the Bill also gives some cause for concern. I have always been of the opinion that the burden of proof was the responsibility of the person making the allegation and not the person it was made against.
However, it seems to be suggested now that the plaintiff in a defamation action must prove certain matters. The  burden of proof is shifting. This is a radical proposal and needs to be teased out at greater length when this Bill is next discussed. Under the present law once the plaintiff has shown the matter complained of to be defamatory, the law presumes the statement to be false thus the burden of proof is on the defendant to establish the truth of the statement if he raised the defence of justification. It appears we could be moving away from the present convention where one is innocent until proven guilty to one of being guilty until proven innocent. It is obvious that if this provision were to be introduced it would be easier for the media to succeed in cases where they might be unable to prove to the satisfaction of the court that what they have published is true. Luckily, we have a very responsible media in Ireland at present. As it stands, I do not have a problem with this section. However, this statute may be in force for a considerable period and we cannot say how responsible the media may be in future. Society appears to be taking a more liberal turn which means that perhaps the provision needs to be inserted now to cover possible future eventualities.
The original consultation paper published by the Law Reform Commission in relation to the civil law of defamation provisionally recommended that the presumption of falsity existing under the present law should be retained. In their final report on this subject they stated they were now satisfied that the reasons given initially for retaining the presumption of falsity were somewhat facile. I notice that some of the written submissions sent to the Law Reform Commission came from the print and telecommunications media. This may have coloured their thinking. While the purpose of inviting submissions is to get a broad range of views, it seems strange they would now say that the reasons for coming up with their original recommendations were facile. I am not suggesting that I disagree with what is contained in the Bill but it definitely requires further scrutiny. It is a good  idea that the Minister has suggested it would be some time before Committee Stage is taken. This would give time for more reflection on this important topic.
Section 26 is also a cause for concern. I agree with our Justice spokesperson, Deputy O'Donoghue, who also expressed reservations with what is attempted here. The Law Reform Commission's consultation paper pointed out that, under the existing law, the central remedy for defamation was the power to award damages and this has significantly influenced the way in which the law operated. Elsewhere in that paper they spoke about the merits of other remedies which would, it was hoped, reduce, to some extent, the central role of damages with beneficial results. At the same time it was recognised that damages would continue to play some role in defamation cases and the commission recommended further examination of possible reforms that might be introduced regarding the manner in which the damages were assessed.
At the outset there was reference to concerns expressed by the media and publishers that the general level of damages was unjustifiably high. In this connection it was pointed out that awards generally were significantly lower than in England but at the same time it accepted that there might be some basis for the frequently expressed anxiety that they were too often out of proportion to the seriousness of the libel and, coupled with the high level of costs in defamation litigation, had a markedly inhibiting effect on the publication of material of public interest. A number of possible alterations in the law were examined which might help to ensure that damages would be reasonably proportionate to the injuries suffered.
The Law Reform Commission considered in detail one of the most frequently suggested changes in the law, that is, the modification, or even the abolition, of the role of juries in defamation actions. However, at the end of the day they concluded that juries should be retained in such actions but that the damages should be assesed by  the judge. The commission suggested that a statutory provision should set out the factors to be considered in the assessment of damages, whether the jury was to play a role in this matter. These included circulation of the libel, matters relevant to the plaintiff's reputation, the state of mind of the defendant and the durable or other nature of publication, irrespective of whether the plaintiff sues in respect of the whole or part of the publication. There was some comment about the inclusion of the state of mind of the defendant as a factor. However, the report concluded that the state of mind of the defendant should be retained as one of the factors to be taken into account, which finds agreement with me.
The view was also expressed in the consultation paper that one of the factors listed should include the plaintiff's reputation. It was pointed out that while a general rule is that a defendant may lead evidence of the plaintiff's bad reputation in order to mitigate damages, it has been laid down in case law that only evidence of general bad reputation could be admitted. The defendant would not be entitled to lead evidence of particular acts of misconduct of the plaintiff even though these may show he deserved a bad reputation.
The section provides that no damages, other than damages for financial loss, will be awarded in a case where the defendant exercises reasonable care before publication to ascertain the truth of an allegation of fact. What is “reasonable case”? There does not appear to be any guidance as to what that means. This lack of clarity leaves section 26 open to certain abuse.
I hope we will have a chance on Committee Stage to consider further some of the points I have raised. At this stage, I would like to hand over to my colleague.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, there is a slight switch. By mutual agreement, I now call Deputy Helen Keogh.
Ms Keogh: One thing we have seen in the debate so far on which there is general agreement is that the law of defamation is long overdue amendment. It is incredible, as was pointed out last week by my colleague, Deputy Michael McDowell, that we are still relying on a system which has its origin in the British legal system and, despite the proposals that were made by the Law Reform Commission, no real changes have been made to examine the principle of freedom of speech on the one hand and the right of protection for an individual's reputation on the other.
It could be said that freedom of speech has not always been very highly regarded everywhere, but freedom of speech and freedom of expression are linchpins of democracy. There are countless examples; anybody who has been a member of Amnesty International could point to what can happen when essential freedoms are denied or severely limited. It is in that context, and the desire to ensure a balance between freedom of speech and the protection of the individual, that the Progressive Democrats are presenting this Bill in the name of Deputy Michael McDowell.
I was a little nonplussed by the rather negative response by the Minister for Equality and Law Reform last week which is in contrast to what has been said in the debate since. I realise there is some difficulty about the lack of notice in terms of the Bill but as we pointed out that night, the Minister has the benefit of programme managers and advisers to help him.
Mr. M. McDowell: Not to mention the Law Reform Commission.
Ms Keogh: The Minister knows all about the Law Reform Commission. Let us take a look at our Bill. As the lawyers among us will probably attest, it is very desirable that a simple statutory definition of defamation be put in place which will state clearly the ingredients of the tort in modern phraseology. The  Defamation Act, 1961 — I am no lawyer so I cannot claim to be an expert on this — does not define the two torts of libel, the statements in permanent form and slander, that is, oral statements, which make up defamation. In the absence of a statutory definition, the legal definition of libel and slander has had to be gleaned from various judicial dictas in cases over the years.
The distinction between libel and slander is confusing, it is unnecessary and it can lead to anomalous and unjust results in practice and it is outmoded in the light of the development of many new forms of communication as many speakers have said. This Bill abolishes the distinction between libel and slander and creates a new cause of action called “defamation” and it sets out a statutory definition of “defamation”. I believe it will greatly clarify and simplify the law which I find incredibly confusing.
In considering remedies for defamation, the purpose of suing for defamation should be borne in mind. A person who has been defamed goes to court in order to repair his or her damaged reputation and to vindicate the right to a good name. It is hard to see how an award of damages can achieve this. It can take years for proceedings brought in the Circuit Court and the High Court to come to trial and by the time a case is brought to trial, the damage to an individual's reputation may well have become firmly entrenched. In addition, going to court years after the defamation took place may only cause matters that have been forgotten to be dredged up and ventilated leading to a plaintiff being ridiculed. I believe there is a certain case in point in a recent defamation action brought by a certain Fine Gael Minister which has attracted the attentions of The Phoenix magazine.
But while the State is obliged to vindicate the good name of citizens, the principal way in which this is done — the defamation action — may in many cases, and particularly in deserving ones, fail to do so. If a plaintiff's constitutional right to a good name is to be  truly vindicated, what is needed is a speedy, effective and cheap mechanism which will enable the plaintiff to get meaningful redress.
The Bill proposes the creation of a new form of action, the declaratory action, which will enable persons who believe their reputations to have been damaged to restore their reputations swiftly on summary application to the court. The only remedy in such a case will be a declaratory order clearing his or her name plus the costs. The Bill also gives the court the power to direct the defamer to publish a correction of the matter and no general damages may be awarded. I think this remedy will do much to assist plaintiffs to vindicate their constitutional right to a good name in a meaningful way while at the same time reducing the value of awards in defamation cases, although some people might not be too keen on that, as we know.
Under the present law, once a plaintiff has proved that the words he complains of are defamatory the court must presume them to be false. The burden is placed on the defendant to prove that they are true if he wishes to plead the defence of justification. This is a major problem for media defendants and, perhaps, adds to the unduly restrictive nature of the freedom of the press here. Since the sources of information are often reluctant to give evidence in court, it may be difficult for a media defendant to prove the statement true. Even if they have privately established that it is true, the presumption of falsity is regarded by many as a major impediment to freedom of speech.
In addition, a position where a plaintiff is not required to prove each ingredient of his case is at variance with the rest of the law of torts. The core of defamation law is that a defamatory statement is a statement is both defamatory and untrue. The current position, whereby the plaintiff is not required to prove an essential ingredient of the tort, is illogical. There is no public interest in  penalising the authors of true statements so this Bill proposes that a plaintiff be required to prove that the statement of which he or she complains is false.
By the way, Sir, I forgot to mention at the outset that I am sharing my time——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is due to conclude at 7.37 p.m. and she has seven minutes remaining.
Ms Keogh: I will share the last few minutes with Deputy Kitt, if I may.
There are various elements to this Bill that have been alluded to: the issues of providing guidance to a court and making awards of damages, the provisions clarifying the role of judge and jury, the provisions providing a right of action in certain circumstances where a group or class of persons is defamed and the provisions which deal with the situation of distributors and printers of defamatory matter.
We have also alluded to the crime of libel. The Bill implements the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in relation to the crime of libel by setting out in statutory form the ingredients of the offence and by abolishing the crimes of seditious and obscene libel.
The contempt of court aspect of the Bill was initiated on foot of the O'Keeffe case. It provides limited protection for journalists who refuse to disclose the sources of their information in court. The judge may only order disclosure where it is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or to prevent disorder or crime. The journalist may only be prosecuted for contempt in circumstances where the disclosure was necessary in those interests. That is an interesting and pertinent addition to the Bill.
The Bill sets out to address the issues suggested by the Law Reform Commission.It is a complex and difficult matter and therefore it would be of great benefit if this Bill was allowed proceed to Committee Stage. I am not sure from what we have heard from the  Government side how this procedure will operate. I hope it is not the intention of the Government to put the Bill into some sort of legislative limbo in order to divert attention for nine months. We should have it on the record that we are prepared to address this nine months to the day after this debate.
It is essential that we tackle the law of defamation. We are living in very different times. This is a more sophisticated society where there is an expectation, at least as far as quality newspapers and some radio and television programmes are concerned, that the media will be seekers after truth. They should be allowed the means to ensure that can happen.
There is no doubt that the media here believes that at times they are operating under a legal onus. They feel an inhibition because they have to comply with a legal system which does not encourage them to be courageous and outspoken. Unfortunately the law is an inhibiting factor and I hope acceptance of this Bill, perhaps in an amended form, will serve to improve the situation in a satisfactory manner.
Mr. T. Kitt: I welcome the introduction of this Bill and wish to express my appreciation for the work of the Law Reform Commission on defamation law. I thank Deputy McDowell for introducing it. All one has to do is read the Constitution to understand how difficult it is to get the right balance between freedom of speech and the value of the individual's reputation. Article 40.3 states:
The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.
It further states that:
The State shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person,  good name and property rights of every citizen.
Article 46 guarantees, subject to public order and morality, certain rights to include the rights of citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions subject to certain limitations. There lies the challenge. Deputy McDowell in this Bill is making an effort to do that.
I agree with colleagues who said that a free investigative press should be part and parcel of any democracy. When Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs I visited countries where this did not exist. We should not deceive ourselves by thinking that freeing up the press legally will bring about true openness in our society.
The opening up of Dáil procedures and the way we do our business, introducing real Dáil reform and having Ministers answer questions directly — we heard much about this when we were on the Government side and certainly have not been impressed by changes to date — informing the public on Government and European policies and permitting more press freedom would lead to a truly more open society. Sadly, on Dáil reform and the way the Government conducts its business, we have not seen much to enlighten us after all that was promised when Government members were in Opposition.
It is within our capacity to get the balance right. We have the yardstick of experience in other countries, and the United States and France have been mentioned by other speakers. We also have the proposals by the Law Reform Commission. I accept the Minister's word that he needs some time but maybe not as long as he suggests. I agree that these are complex issues and I suppose we have to take his word that he will report back in nine months or so.
A number of elements of this Bill could be dealt with immediately. First, the Bill proposes to abolish the distinction between libel and slander, a straightforward proposal and I believe that should be done. We should have a  civil wrong of defamation. Second, I support the proposal that no liability should attach to printers and publishers. Provision is rightly made in the Bill that publishers can be liable if they publish material intentionally, knowing it to be defamatory. Again, with modern technology, it is understandable that this provision is in the Bill.
The Bill recommends that new cause of action be introduced in respect of defamatory statements made about persons who are dead at the time of publication.My colleague, Deputy Kenneally, has ably dealt with this. In recent times we have seen a free-for-all in the media about people who have passed away. There should be restrictions on who can bring such an action and the period of time in which it can be brought. I welcome the proposals to deal with this matter because there is nothing relations can do in many cases to right a wrong printed about a dead relative.
The key element of the Bill is shifting the responsibility from the defendant to the plaintiff in defamation cases. The Minister has given his views on this. At present it is a matter for the defendant to prove that a defamatory statement is true. I am aware that the Law Reform Commission was divided on its recommendation concerning this issue. A majority believed that the plaintiff should be obliged to prove the false nature of the defamatory statement. A minority took a different view, protecting the individual's right not to have to prove his or her innocence. I have some support for Deputy McDowell on this issue. We are dealing with civil law. The Bill would lead to the law taking a neutral stance and, as in all other areas of tort law, would compel the plaintiff to prove all the ingredients of the tort he is alleging.
I support the establishment of a press council, a proposal I put forward many years ago. Such a body is in the interest of the individual and the media because it is generally accepted that we have high standards of journalism here. The Minister of State, Deputy Burton  referred to defamation of a general nature that takes place. We have all had experience of that in the past.
Going to court is expensive for everybody concerned — the individual and the press — and it is therefore sensible to establish a press council where the individual or the press could sort out their difficulties. This happens in other aspects of life including marital breakdown.It is always a practical proposal to have an interim system of reconciliation.A press council would be an appropriate means of recourse for the complainant and for the press. I commend Deputy McDowell for bringing this Bill before the House.
Mr. E. Byrne: Democracy is ill-served by illusions. For far too long we have cherished the pleasant illusion that Ireland is a bastion of freedom of expression. Yet, freedom of expression can hardly flourish when individuals who feel aggrieved, including in the past Members of this House, can scatter libel writs around at will or where a journalist can be cited for contempt for refusing to reveal her sources.
I am delighted that the Minister, Deputy Taylor, intends addressing these and other issues which have been raised by Deputy McDowell's Bill. However, I ask the Government not to stop there. Our law on civil defamation is just one part of an antiquated body of legislation which militates against freedom of expression at every turn. In this regard I urge the Minister for Justice to review our outdated censorship laws which have not kept pace with other legislation.
At present books mentioning or advocating contraception can be banned despite the fact that contraception has long since been legalised in this jurisdiction.Freedom of information hinges on access yet, in 1995, Irish citizens are denied access to the works of authors ranging from Bertrand Russell to Upton Sinclair because their works are deemed to be indecent or obscene or because they “advocate the unnatural prevention of conception” according to section  16 (5) of the Censorship of Publications Act, 1946.
Information, Irish style, means that a renowned company employing over 300 people in well paid employment manufacturing contraceptives has its own publication entitled Your Oral Contraceptive banned in this country. So politically sensitive was the opening of this factory that many politicians were notable by their absence and the official opening had to be carried out by an ambassador to Ireland. Freedom of information, Irish style, means that Old Moore's Almanac was banned in 1951 and 1964 as it was deemed to be unfit for adult consumption. Irish readers are not considered mature enough to read H.G. Wells. The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. Freedom of information, Irish style, means that while we can watch “Taggart” or “Hill Street Blues” on our television screens, we may not read detective stories published in the 1950s. Freedom of information, Irish style, means that some of Simone de Beauvoir's books are taboo as we near the end of the 20th century.
It is clear that the Bill before us adresses only one, albeit important, aspect of freedom — access and diversity of information. Diversity of information is as important as access, yet Ireland has the highest concentration of print media in individual private ownership in the European Union. During the past few years, a growing print media monopoly has combined, together with foreign penetration, either to squeeze out or absorb the smaller players. Successive Governments have added insult to injury by levying a punitive VAT rate on the print media which must be deemed to be a tax on information. Newspapers are further crippled by insurance premia which I hope will be considerably reduced following much needed reform of the defamation laws.
Information, especially printed information, is an expensive commodity in Ireland. If one buys a morning paper, an evening paper and only one Sunday paper it costs approximately £8 per week. Is it any wonder that English  newspapers are making increasing inroads into the Irish market? Indeed, “English” is perhaps a misnomer in this context because print monopolies are transnational and even transcontinental. An Australian publisher owns media companies in the United Kingdom and the United States and an Irish publisher is expanding into South Africa. The big players are fighting it out on the world stage, sacrificing diversity and national identity in the process.
Paradoxically, the much vaunted information superhighway is being accompanied by a growing lack of accessible printed information and opinion. It is surely no coincidence that, according to figures released yesterday, three out of 1,223 young people surveyed by the National Youth Council could name a local MEP and only 9 per cent could name a local Deputy. Obviously the print media cannot shoulder all the blame for declining civic and political awareness and questions must all be asked of the independent local radio stations which, although increasing their market share — according to figures released today, 50 per cent of all listeners tune into their local radio station on a daily basis — are clearly not providing sufficient news and current affairs content.
It is clear, however, that the political and news content of the Irish media and, in particular, the investigative aspect has been seriously hampered by our libel laws which have undoubtedly caused journalists, editors and publishers to recoil from dealing with sensitive issues for fear of being held liable for defamation. In this regard, I particularly welcome the fact that under Deputy McDowell's Bill distributors would be immune from defamation action. Their current liability is a hangover from the days when defamation laws were used as an instrument of political repression. Reform in this area is long overdue.
A comprehensive reform of the civil law on defamation will go some way  towards reasserting journalistic independence and redressing the balance in favour of the smaller independent players and in that regard I welcome the Bill. I wish the Progressive Democrats had pushed more urgently for such reform when they were in Government.
Mr. M. McDowell: We did.
Mr. E. Byrne: The Law Reform Commission's recommendations on the civil law of defamation were published in 1991 and, like so many other reports, rested undisturbed on Government shelves for four years until they were unearthed by Deputy McDowell in a welcome flurry of Opposition activity.
Mr. M. McDowell: I have not been appointed yet.
Mr. E. Byrne: I wish to concentrate on one aspect of the Bill which is of particular concern to Democratic Left, namely section 21, which provides for qualified privilege in certain media reports of public interest, and section 41 which enshrines the principle that refusal to disclose the source of published information should not be construed as contempt of court except in certain circumstances.
A free press demands the journalists are free to carry out their work without being hindered either by the State, institutions or individuals. Yet, during the past few months two journalists have been subjected to unprecedented harassment as a direct result of their work. Veronica Guerin was shot in her own home as a direct result of her attempt to expose some of the seamier aspects of Dublin gangland. Until the case against her collapsed, there was a real danger that Susan O'Keeffe would be the only individual prosecuted as a result of the beef tribunal. In a litany of shame, that was perhaps the most shameful aspect of the beef tribunal and  I am delighted Deputy McDowell has addressed this in this Bill.
I regret, however, that Deputy McDowell neglected to make provision in the Bill for a course of action in regard to the defamation of the dead. Many Members of the House will recall the unprecedented spate of media muckraking following the death of Fr. Michael Cleary. Under the present law, a dead man or woman is fair game for every prurient hack out to make a fast buck at the expense of those who can no longer defend themselves. I hope the Government will address this matter and strike a sensible balance between the reputations of the dead and the right of serious journalists, historians and biographers to engage in well founded speculation.
The whole issue of freedom of expression challenges us to find an acceptable middle ground between private and public interest and it is a challenge which I hope will be met during the lifetime of this Government with the important legislation the Minister intends to introduce. I compliment the Progressive Democrats on the Bill and I await with keen interest the publication of the Government's Bill.
I should have said at the outset that I wished to share my time with Deputy McGrath.
Mr. McGrath: I thank Deputy Byrne for sharing his time with me. I compliment Deputy McDowell and his party for bringing forward the Bill and giving us an opportunity to express our views on the defamation legislation in force.
I have two main concerns about any defamation legislation. The right of every citizen to his or her good name must always be a prime concern and, where that good name is defamed, its restoration must be generously and expeditiously undertaken by the defendant responsible for impugning it. I am also concerned about upholding the constitutional right of free speech,  which is an important guarantee to every citizen and to every medium of communication, provided that freedom is responsibly used.
It is generally accepted that current defamation legislation fails to serve both these interests in many areas. It is a duty of the Legislature to remedy these defects. Because society has moved so quickly and, in some cases, so radically, particularly in the past decade, new attitudes and reactions demand that the law keep pace with such developments so that we can reasonably say we, in this House, are playing our part to ensure, as far as possible, that there is justice and fair play for all.
A citizen who is defamed is not always given the right to have the libel corrected and accompanied by an appropriate apology. It may take years before he or she will have an opportunity to have the wrong put right through the courts and in the meantime a grave injustice has been perpertrated and allowed to continue in the public mind. A coach and four is being driven through the very desirable principle to have the defamation corrected as expediously as possible and the legislation is being used to hinder that desirable objective. It is not always the fault of the media concerned.
The media has a responsibility to be accountable for its approach and presentation in the context of the stories it publishes, particularly with sensitive issues where the lives of citizens conducting their affairs in a responsible manner may be shattered as result of something published in the newspaper. I hope the type of journalism portrayed in some overseas tabloid newspaper which are sold here will not become a role model for articles and reports published by Irish newspapers and that every newspaper will have a proper code of conduct, to which it adheres with the utmost responsibility.
While many people have a genuine reason for claiming to be defamed,  unfortunately, as in every other sector, a growing number are very much into what has become known as the “compo cult”. They have little or no interest in a published apology but are in the business of obtaining substantial sums in settlement from relatively small circulation local newspapers throughout the country which are afraid to risk allowing the matter to go to court because of the legal costs involved even in small decrees for which they have no insurance. While my main concern is for the citizen who is defamed, maliciously, irresponsibly or accidentally by reason of typographical error I am concerned also about what is happening to regional weekly newspapers with circulations averaging between 7,500 and 15,000 copies per week. I am concerned also about how the law inhibits local radio stations. Local newspapers give very good employment which up to now has been relatively secure. However in recent years profits have dropped by half and advertising has contracted alarmingly, because of escalating costs over which they have no control and too many sources drawing from the advertising cake. Many have small printing operations attached which are also experiencing the winds of change and falling profits.
The provincial press are recognised as responsible publications and the local press in rural areas is regarded as an ongoing basis of recording history in every locality. Until ten years ago these newspapers would rarely have been the subject of defamation claims. That has all changed in spite of well trained newspaper staff, and regular updating and training in journalistic matters, including libel. During the past few years approximately 30 provincial newspapers would have paid out £2 million in settlement of defamation claims, the major portion in legal costs. That might seem relatively low in terms of national newspapers who may individually budget for  this amount annually but for the average local weekly newspaper, barely managing to keep on the right side of viability, it is very serious. A daily newspaper may survive ongoing losses over a number of years and several defamation judgments of a substantial nature but no weekly newspaper could survive a few years' losses and a substantial defamation judgment with accompanying costs in the economic climate of the industry. History has proven this to be the case and there is fear and grave concern in the ranks of the regional newspapers.I am aware that in a number of instances where errors that might be considered minor, meriting a simple clarification, correction and apology arise, local newspapers have been placed in the position — while being anxious to publish generous and prominent correction — where they are impeded by very carefully constructed correction demands and the apology committing them to high settlement which are impossible for them to publish.
We are experiencing the influence of daily and Sunday tabloid newspapers prepared to pay out large sums of money in defamation judgments in settlements for sinister and sensational stories that substantially increase sales. One can visualise such publication deliberately setting out to print some such story and regard the subsequent cost in libel payments as good value for the increased sales.
We have to realise that there may be cases of irresponsibility but as a rural Deputy I want to ensure that fair play is accorded to the people whom I represent, the genuine citizen who has been defamed and groups such as provincial newspapers with a good record of public service reportage and a vital help to the local community. I want to ensure that local newspapers which have been an integral and responsible part of local communities for over 100 years continue to play their essential role without  fear of closure because of faulty legislation.I want to ensure that the staff continues to enjoy secure employment. I understand that the Provincial Newspapers' Association has made a submission to the Minister for Equality and Law Reform and that its representatives met him today and had a good discourse.
I have no difficulty with most of the issues being discussed or the main thrust of the Law Reform Commission recommendations but I need to hear the full argument of the Law Reform Commission on the issue of the proposed change from the burden of proof on the defendant to the plaintiff in defamation legislation. I am very concerned about such a change. I am aware of the need to address the areas of corrections and apologies, that apologies should not be regarded as an admission of liability and that payment in the courts should be allowed and not taken as an admission of liability. I also want to see the circulation of newspapers taken into account so that a small local newspaper spreading a defamation among the 10,000 circulation should have to pay proportionately less than a paper with a circulation of 250,000. There has to be a definition of “defamation” and I understand that has to be carefully done to conform to the European Convention on Human Rights on the question of restrictions of freedom of speech. There should also be a distinction between malicious and accidental defamation due to a typographical error and a limited period within which action can be taken. In some cases several years elapse after publication. The provision for a defence of reasonable care would seem acceptable.
One of the main problem areas for local newspapers is court reporting and I have been informed that because of difficulties some local newspapers have stopped reporting on local court cases. This is a very serious matter because it is important that the public is informed  of trends in crime and how the court deals with them. We must also have justice that is seen to be done and the Department of Justice may have an input in this regard. A lay person visiting the District or Circuit Court around the country would get the distinct impression of a huddle of people at the front of the courtroom deciding what is happening and making the important decisions, no one else hears what is going on. The provincial press has a difficulty in printing what happens in the courtroom and this has led to many court cases. This needs to be sorted out.
I commend the Minister for Equality and Law Reform for agreeing to bring forward legislation as soon as possible.
Mr. E. Walsh: This is a very difficult subject to deal with in a short time. The lay person often confuses the two aspects of defamation, the printed and spoken word. Maintaining a balance is the answer to this problem. In the early parts of this century people spoke freely in a derogatory way about different races. Fascism was rife throughout Europe. If people were completely free to say what they liked in a political arena would we witness the rise of fascism again? It is important to take into account the important aspects of control which are needed in the context of the written and spoken word to protect society from the movements which sprang up during the 30s and 40s. We know that in the United Kingdom — we saw evidence of this in Lansdowne Road — people abuse certain rights and we know the controls necessary to protect society from their actions. In a democracy such as ours it is difficult to give complete freedom to the media and at the same time expect inaccuracies to be corrected to the satisfaction of the injured party. Sometimes people have sought redress but it can prove difficult to obtain. It is difficult to frame controls which might be applied because they could be interpreted as interfering with  democracy and the freedom of speech. It is a daunting task to try to strike a balance between these two aspects of the problem.
The Bill addresses some of these issues. The debate must elaborate on the points contained in the Bill and on the proposals in the report of the Law Reform Commission. We must examine the issue in greater detail.
As regards court cases the Judiciary has a totally different function from ours, they interpret the law as written. They use it today in a way which is unacceptable. We must ensure that the legislation we enact is perfect. When we pass legislation we must take into account the comments of those who say it is insufficient to deal with the problems they face. There is a responsibility on reporters to ensure the information they publish is correct. In most cases the Irish media has been fair and diligent. There is the question of the policy and ownership of newspapers and how that affects those in the media and the pressures that can be exercised by newspaper owners in influencing people on how to deal with information. How do we control the press while giving them freedom at the same time? How do we enact legislation while at the same time protecting people's rights? How do we prosecute people for infringing laws while enabling them to operate within the freedoms offered by a democracy?
People come on air on local radio stations and say what they like. We must address this issue and see if injured parties have the right of redress. Modern media is complicated and capable of disseminating information in the widest possible fashion. It is virtually impossible to retrieve information and correct it.
The protections we put in place must strike a balance in an even-handed way and protect the rights of the individual, which in many cases are forgotten, in the general principle of freedom of  expression. Sometimes at public meetings people are incited to hatred of certain sections of the community. We must be careful not to cut across areas of defamation while allowing people to express their opinions freely. The democratic process would be weakened if people were not allowed to express themselves. In council chambers elected representatives have a right to say what they feel but they must bear in mind that what they say could affect a person's welfare, livelihood or good name. We must also consider the possibility of whether students have a right to address subjects in a classroom setting while protecting their sources of information. That might lead to difficulties. These are complex problems which I would like to see addressed.
I congratulate the Progressive Democrats for bringing the Bill forward and enabling the debate to take place but this is not the time to proceed further without a more detailed examination of the subject. The Minister should bring his proposals before the Dáil. I look forward to the combined wisdom of the Progressive Democrats, the Government and other agencies bringing forward the best possible legislation to ensure freedom of speech and control in the areas I mentioned.
Ms O'Donnell: Many contributors focused on the need to balance rights and many aspects of legislation require a balancing of conflicting rights. Some of the more difficult legislation promised by the last Government has not been introduced because of the difficulty and fear of balancing and bringing two rights together.
The fear of libel is almost worse than the libel itself. It has been instrumental in stifling investigative journalism. Newspaper copy is swept as if for mines by libel lawyers such is the fear of the stray word which might impugn the reputation of an individual and give rise to a claim for damages. One journalist  referred to “a filter of fear” through which all copy must go. The fear of libel has seriously infringed the right of the media to cover and publish matters of public interest.
There has been much discussion on the constitutional rights that come into play when we discuss freedom of speech. The Progressive Democrats, particularly Deputy Michael McDowell who presented this Bill, believe that reputations can be protected without arbitrarily preventing or unduly restricting responsible, investigate journalism.The constitutional rights that come into play are the right to a good name, to freedom of expression and to communicate. If there is a right to communicate, this implies not only freedom to impart one's views but also the freedom to receive, hear or read the views of others.
As we debate this Bill we must be mindful that this State is currently in breach of a decision or order of the European Court of Human Rights on the right of Irish women to receive certain information, a matter which has been long-fingered by successive Governments. I hope the Government will move in the near future to remove that injustice. It appears absurd that clinics can be threatened with eviction because they possess literature giving information about services legally available to Irish women overseas.
The right to hold opinions and to express them derives directly from our nature as human beings. The right to hold opinions and communicate them in an area of human life that should and must remain as free from legal and State interference as possible. As Members of the Oireachtas, we are afforded the unique privilege of immunity from civil liability for libel, a very important facility. That enables us to raise issues of public importance without a threat hanging over us of being sued for  merely mentioning the name of an individual, of a company, or an alleged corruption which we believe should be exposed in the public interest.
Therefore, the inquiring role of the Dáil is very much dependent on the right of its Members to be immune from libel. Far from supporting the contention, as many people have alleged in the past, that Members of this House have abused their privilege, by making allegations which infringe on the right of the good reputation of another person outside this House, it is my belief that Members have been too timid in using that privilege. It is a very unique, important tool in democracy that this House be the channel through which matters of public controversy, which may allege corruption and is of public interest, can be properly raised by Members without fear of libel. A Government which is not examined or scrutinised by its citizens becomes a tyranny.Governments which are not questioned, whose actions pass without examination, can become abusive of power and unaccountable to their electorates.Crimes not exposed publicly go unavenged; abuses which are not discovered and exposed become entrenched. Therefore, democracy cannot survive without freedom of speech and of expression.
The House will recall when Members made allegations of impropriety and irregularity within the beef processing industry there were cries to the effect that they were abusing the privilege of the House, indeed accused of national sabotage. We must remember that not all allegations are untrue, some turn out to be true. That is why it is very important that this facility of Members to make statements based on information given them must be protected, particularly by each Member of this House, from any diminution of freedom.
Likewise, there is the matter of the freedom of the press which has a vital  role to play in informing the public on the accountability of Government, on the activities of all politicians, including Members of the Opposition. The media has a crucial role to play in informing citizens and providing a forum for a free exchange of opinions. The press represents the principal means by which citizens are kept informed of the activities of Government, of everything that takes place in their name in this House, and within Government. Accordingly, the media must not be impeded in its function of informing the public. This right of the media to cover matters of public interest has been unduly restricted.
There is a constitutional right to a good name, one which is particularly significant within the area of defamation law. Those of us in public life, perhaps, are more aware than most about how important is one's reputation, how fragile it can be. For example, we have witnessed in England how insignificant details of peoples' private lives can be seized on by the media, inflated, served up to the public in a manner that is totally destructive of one's reputation, even though the particular matter at issue may in no way reflect on that person's integrity, fitness or suitability for public office. An example of this occurred recently when it was reported in the British press that Cherie Booth, a barrister and the wife of the Labour Leader there, Mr. Tony Blair, had been involved in prosecuting poll tax defaulters, which made the front pages of the broadsheet media, carrying lengthy reports quoted from her submissions to the court. However, they failed to give any prominence to the fact that the so-called “cab rank rule” meant that Ms Booth was under a professional obligation to take on those cases and could have been reprimanded by her professional body had she refused to do so. In this instance, Ms Booth's professional activities, which were totally private,  separate and personal, carried on by her in an impartial and professional manner which had nothing whatsoever to do with her husband's political life, were used by the media as a means of heaping ridicule on the Labour Leader, Mr. Blair.
Therefore, I understand and can perceive why there were considerable concerns expressed by several Members, including the Minister, that any relaxation of the defamation laws here might lead to a sort of media open season, that standards in our media would plummet to the same depths of the tabloids in the neighbouring state. This fear of tabloidism is legitimate, something with which I have sympathy, but there is need for a press council and also for us to consider privacy laws. There is the need, perhaps on Committee Stage, to examine the overall area of privacy, with an amendment being tabled to deal with this aspect in order to protect the individual's privacy.
It is worth noting in this case that the defamation laws obtaining in England are exactly the same as ours. The fact is that under existing law anything may be printed about anyone, no matter how scurrilous, no matter how scandalous, no matter how it may expose the person to ridicule, so long as it is true. Potentially, no area of private life is closed to the attentions of the press if the press chooses to go down that road. This is as true now as it will be if this Bill is accepted and enacted. The way to protect citizen's legitimate interests, in protecting the integrity of their private lives, would be to take a fresh look at the overall area of privacy. When the Law Reform Commission issued its consultation paper on the law of defamation it had the following to say:
There is an overlap between the law on privacy and the law on defamation....An essential difference between the two causes of action is that a true statement of fact is not  actionable in defamation, whereas a true statement of fact could be actionable under privacy law, For example, if it is correctly stated of a man in 1989 that he was convicted of a criminal offence in 1933, this is not actionable in defamation because truth is a defence. However, the person might argue that because he has since turned over a new leaf and led a life as a model citizen, it is an invasion of his privacy to rake up old slurs upon his reputation.
The commission went on to say that the whole issue of privacy was one which should be addressed separately from that of defamation, the former being a very wide issue encompassing issues going far beyond those involved in defamation law. Any new legislation on privacy must deal with such issues as secret surveillance, telephone tapping, interception of communications, privacy of computer data and the like.
It has been established in our law that there is a right to privacy, established in the case of McGee versus the Attorney General in which Mr. Justice Budd said in the High Court:
...it is scarcely to be doubted in our society that the right to privacy is universally recognised and accepted with possibly the rarest exceptions, and that the matter of marital relationships must rank as one of the most important of matters in the realm of privacy.
That right was expanded on further in the case of Norris versus the Attorney General when Mr. Justice Henchy, in a dissenting judgment, said:
There are many other aspects of this right of privacy, some yet to be given judicial recognition.... they would all appear to fall within a secluded area of activity or non-activity which may be claimed as necessary for the expression of an individual personality, for purposes  not always moral or commendable, but meriting recognition....
Everybody will agree also that there is a right to a sphere of privacy, to have a life which should not be open to unwelcome intrusion by the State or anyone else, including the media. In the United States of America I think they refer to this right as the right to be let alone. It may well be that this right to be let alone is one deserving of legislative protection which, if enshrined in the Constitution may mean there is an obligation on us to embody it in legislation. I do not believe the right to privacy may be satisfactorily dealt with in this Bill, but we should consider it.
Regarding public interest, it should be noted that many of the provisions in this Bill will only be of assistance to a defendant where he or she can show that a publication concerned a matter of public benefit or of legitimate public interest. Rare cases may arise where a false and defamatory statement might be made, with malice, about somebody's private life, perhaps concerning his or her private relationship. In such cases the plaintiff would be obliged to prove that the statement was untrue, thus requiring him or her to give evidence in open court on personal and private matters.That area should be properly dealt with and scrutinised on Committee Stage.
Fear of a libel claim is endemic among members of the press. It may stop people reporting child abuse. In the past many people, who have had legitimate suspicions about the activities of certain people, have been afraid to report them or inform others about them for fear of a libel claim. Such fear has had dangerous consequences for the protection of children. As recommended in the report of the Kilkenny incest case and other documents on child sex abuse, mandatory reporting is vital if people are to report freely what  they consider to be legitimate allegations of child sexual abuse to protect children. Fear of libel has meant that people have continued to have access to children even when real doubts exist about a child's safety. Fear of a libel claim has caused social workers, doctors and teachers who have had suspicions of child sex abuse not to report them.
Defamation law has become a means whereby people, who have been the subject of a trivial error, take action, not so much to repair their reputation as to secure a financial windfall. Somebody recently said that a person can receive more for an insult to his or her reputation by the print media than from losing an eye in a personal injuries claim. There has been an unhealthy appetite for sending out civil bills when a person's name appears in a questionable way in the media. Fear of libel has led to a climate of secrecy in which newspapers are afraid to publish matters of legitimate public interest which are widely known to be true. Responsible investigative journalism is being prevented from carrying out its more important role, that of acting as a watchdog on democracy and a guarantor of high standards in public life.
This is a reforming Bill. It seeks to bring into the public arena and debate in this House an area acknowledged to be fraught with difficulties. The Bill Deputy McDowell has drafted is a courageous one and I congratulate him on it. It consolidates, modernises and greatly simplifies the law of defamation. It will greatly assist legitimate and careful journalists to do their job properly without fear of being subject to ill-founded suits by aggrieved litigants. Newspaper editors can be instructed, under threat of being sent to jail, not to publish the fact that they have been gagged by an injunction. There is a real need to reform the law in this area and we cannot wait too long for such liberation of our press.
 Much criticism of the Bill has centred on the fact that it gives too many freedoms and too much latitude to journalists at the expense of the reputations of private citizens. However, an examination of the Bill will reveal that careful attention has been given to the right of the citizen to his or her good name and the vindication of it.
One of the most important provisions in the Bill is that for the first time it provides a remedy which is custom made to address the needs of persons whose good names have been impugned. Experience has shown that the existing remedy, proceedings in the Circuit Court or High Court for libel or slander, does very little to assist people who have been defamed. A person who has been defamed goes to court in order to repair his or her damaged reputaion. If a plaintiff is to have any real redress, it is absolutely essential that he or she should have speedy access to justice to stop the defamer in his tracks and to ensure that the damage caused by the defamatory statement is limited, contained and nipped in the bud. As in many other fields, justice delayed is justice denied.
At present there is such a backlog of cases in the Circuit Court and High Court that it can take literally years for proceedings to come to trial. This means that by the time an action is heard the damage to an individual's reputation may have become entrenched and accepted by the public. The plaintiff may have had to suffer years of hatred, ridicule and contempt in the eyes of his or her peers and the public. Serious libel claims can do real damage and ruin lives. There is no attempt in the Bill to diminish the fact of serious libel. Going to court years after the defamation took place may cause matters that have been forgotten to be dredged up again and result in the person being “re-libelled” as it were. Although there are no statistics on the matter, I imagine many plaintiffs with a good cause of action may  decide not to sue, prefering to grit their teeth and get on with their lives rather than go through harrowing years of stress waiting for their court actions to be heard.
If a plaintiff's constitutional right to his or her good name is to be truly vindicated in a way that addresses the substance of the offence committed against the plaintiff, a speedy effective and cheap mechanism must enable the plaintiff to get true redress. In line with the Law Reform Commission's proposals, the Bll proposes the creation of a new form of action, the declaratory action, which will enable persons who believe their reputations to have been damaged to restore their reputations swiftly by way of summary applications to court. The only remedy in such a case will be at the declaratory order clearing the plaintiffs' name plus payment of his or her costs. The Bill also gives the court the power to direct the defamer to publish a correction of the matter. No general damages may be awarded, although the defendant will have to pay for any financial loss a plaintiff incurs as a result of the defamatory statement. That is a fair recompense for a plaintiff who has been defamed and offers him or her quick course of action.
This remedy will do much to assist plaintiffs vindicate their constitutional right to a good name in a meaningful way and address the wrong done to them. The punishment would fit the crime. Some people bemoan the loss of general damages, but I believe that is the loss of a windfall to which people have become accustomed and has no basis in justice.
Another far-reaching measure in the Bill is the reversal of the burden of proof. This proposal has led to a certain amount of unfavourable comment. Under existing law, once the plaintiff has shown that the matter of which he or she complains is prima facie defamatory, he or she does not have to go on to prove the next essential ingredient of  the tort — that it is false. The law presumes that it is false and that it is up to the defendant either to show it is true, a concept known as the defence of justification, or that some other defence applies, such as fair comment or privilege.
The question of whether the burden of proof should be reversed so as to place the entire burden of proof on the plaintiff, as is the norm in every other type of case, was one which caused the Law Reform Commission particular difficulty.As mentioned, it considered, in its consultation paper, all the arguments for and against the retention of the presumption of falsity and recommended provisionally that the presumption that exists in our law should be retained. However, having further considered the issue it changed its view and its December 1991 report states: “...the publication of the matter which is both defamatory of the plaintiff and untruthful is the core of the tort of defamation...it is illogical and anomalous that the plaintiff should be relieved of the burden of proving one of the essential ingredients of the action”. In arriving at that conclusion the commission was not unanimous and took the unusual step of publishing a dissenting opinion. Accordingly, I am not surprised that many conflicting views have been expressed in the House about this radical proposal to change the burden of proof. However, it is one of the most important proposals in the Bill. The presumption of falsity is a major problem for media defendants. Their sources of information are often reluctant to give evidence in court and so it may be difficult for a media defendant to prove in public a statement is true, even if he or she has privately established it is true. A plaintiff may issue proceedings in respect of statements which are true knowing the defendant will be unable to prove the truth of the allegation. In other words it would be  very difficult to prove that somebody——
An Ceann Comhairle: I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but I would be grateful if she would move that the debate be adjourned.
Mr. Jacob: I thank you for affording me an opportunity to raise the problems currently being experienced by a manufacturing company in Bray, County Wicklow. I also thank the Minister for attending to hear my concerns in the matter. I know he will do his best to assist.
I am concerned primarily for the safety of the 125 jobs at risk and whose loss would constitute a disaster for Bray. This company has for almost a year been engaged in attempts to restructure its borrowing and obtain additional equity.It has received every assistance from Forbairt, the Minister and the competitiveness and employment protection unit in his Department. I pay tribute to the officers of that unit, who have bent over backwards in their efforts to ensure the company's long term success and future viability.
By way of general comment I wish to refer to the attitude of the banks, whose role in such cases is absolutely critical. I hope that when tenders for the purchase of the Trustee Savings Bank are being considered, due regard will be had to the track record of bidders in maintaining and creating jobs and that the tenders will not be looked at in isolation.It would be a shame if the TSB were to be sold to an organisation which was not pro-jobs, or to any organisation which does not have a positive attitude towards maintaining employment and helping companies through difficult trading periods.
 Turning to the immediate subject, will the Minister ensure that all possible steps are taken to safeguard the 125 jobs in Bray. With 7,741 people unemployed at the end of January 1995, Wicklow can ill-afford for this figure to be increased by another 125. The social fabric of Bray which has 3,942 unemployed, more than half of the county's total, could not withstand a further substantial increase of this size.
The overall economic mood in the country is positive and I hope this positive mood can be brought to bear upon this situation. This progressive company, employing 125 skilled and dedicated staff, has been at pains to co-operate with all relevant agencies to ensure its survival.
The company's top quality, pro-active management has been trying for some considerable time to restructure its debt and I have had regular contact with the Minister's predecessor, my colleague, Deputy Seamus Brennan, who was ultra co-operative in this matter. Unfortunately, the company's bank has been most unhelpful. On several occasions during the past six weeks the bank has altered the conditions under which it was prepared or provide additional essential finance to the company. Agreement had been reached between Forbairt, the company and its bank, only to be later changed by the bank, much to the surprise of Forbairt and the company. Forbairt is happy to support the company, not just with platitudes, but by providing additional financial facilities. Most recently, auditors appointed by the bank issued a recommendation that the company should find additional equity and that its borrowing should be restructured — this restructuring is precisely what the company had been trying to achieve for almost a year, and even now after the bank's auditors have recommended this action, the bank is less than helpful in facilitating this. It is ironic that this bank today announced profits of IR£105 million in 1994, and that its chairman has  taken such pride in stating that he feels his bank is now “unrivalled as the Third Banking Force in the Republic of Ireland”, that his bank is the ideal partner for the TSB, that his bank “is in a unique position to participate in and support commercial life on both sides of the Border”, and that as the long established “all-island” bank, they look forward to contributing strongly to a very promising economic future.
While I appreciate that the Minister is unable to intervene in the bank's commercial decisions, or in matters affecting its relationship with clients, I hope equal regard will be had to the realities of commercial life for companies dealing with this bank, and that its public platitudes at the announcement of its profits will not overshadow its performance at the cutting face of job creation and maintenance.
Will the Minister once again ensure that full consideration is given to every option available to ensure that these jobs are not lost and that this company receives the support it deserves.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): I share the Deputy's concern about any possible threat to the 125 jobs at the plant in Wicklow to which he refers and which is the focus of considerable attention in my Department. From what he said the Deputy is well aware of the background to this company's difficulties. In view of the delicate and sensitive nature of the current difficulties and discussions which are taking place it would not be helpful if I were to elaborate any further at this stage.
I assure the Deputy, however, that my Department and Forbairt are actively involved in discussions with all the relevant parties in an effort to resolve the matter satisfactorily. I hope these discussions will result in the company's future being safeguarded. I agree  entirely with the Deputy about the critical role of the banks and the impact they may have in the resolution of this industrial dispute.
Given the nature of the discussions. I regret it is not possible to give a more comprehensive reply tonight. My response is also conditioned by the terms of the Deputy's motion. It shows he fully appreciates the sensitivity of the situation and I would like to offer him as full a briefing as is possible, privately, if he wishes to avail of it.
Mr. Jacob: Thank you, Minister.
Mr. Hughes: I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me raise this matter on the Adjournment. Also I thank the Minister for coming into the House to reply. This is my first opportunity to wish the Minister every success and I hope, apart from delivering on this matter, we will see the completion of phase II of Castlebar Hospital, incorporating an orthopaedic unit, during his term of office. We will have words on that again.
The psychiatric day centre which started in Westport in 1986 transferred in 1988 to a rented premises, in effect, a private house in Westport. This was in keeping with the policy of the health services and, particularly, the report on the development of psychiatric services —Planning for the Future— in developing a full comprehensive community based psychiatric service. The substantial reduction in the numbers of patients institutionalised, from 939 patients in 1971 to 246 this year, is correspondingly reflected in the increased number of day care centres in the Western Health Board from eight in 1983 to 22 ten years later. This is most welcome. If services in the community are to be successful they must be properly funded and the case I make this evening deserves the highest priority.
 Since 1988 these rented premises in Westport have had no structural adaptation and modernisation despite staff levels having increased by 300 per cent at a minimum. The number of patients attending the centre is 48 with an average daily attendance of at least 50 per cent. In addition on Mondays and Thursdays the situation is chaotic where the outpatients clinic has a throughput of ten to 15 additional patients who are attended by a psychiatrist and an alcoholism counsellor. A number of the patients are elderly. Sanitary facilities in the building comprise a bathroom upstairs which has not been adapted to assist nursing staff in lifting patients. The downstairs toilet is outdoors and the kitchen, which produces on average 20 meals a day, is in need of modernisation.The adjoining garage of this private rented house, which houses a boiler unit to heat it, is used as a recreation room for playing darts and other purportedly occupational therapy facilities for patients. The occupational room upstairs is used as a doctors' consultation room on Mondays and Thursdays when the additional out-patient facilities are being used, and this is most unsatisfactory.
In the report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals the overall standards were considered satisfactory but the inspector suggested that consideration be given to relocation to larger premises and the reason is obvious to anyone who visits the premises. Patients are crowded together and, I am sure, the fire prevention officer, if pressed on the matter, would be dissatisfied with the present accommodation.
Westport is one of five designated sectors in Mayo. It has a population of approximately 25,000 people, located mainly in sparsely populated rural areas. Most sectors in Mayo have, in addition to modern day care facilities, residential care facilities. I do not know why the Westport area has fallen so far behind in the revision of day care and residential care, but the present position cannot  be allowed continue. The Westport area is fortunate in having a dedicated staff under Dr. Craven, psychiatrist, and Nurse Mary Joyce. Their continued professionalism in working under the present conditions must be matched by a response to the Western Health Board development plans. This should be the priority community project in County Mayo. No capital funding was made available to psychiatric services in 1994 for the entire county of Mayo. A sum of £100,000 is sought in 1995 to allow for the proper establishment of a day care centre to meet the needs of the Westport sector. I hope the Minister will be in a position to respond favourably to this request.
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I thank the Deputy for his good wishes.
The Western Health Board is responsible for the delivery of mental health services in County Mayo. That board has been working consistently to develop its mental health service in line with the recommendations of the report Planning for the Future which was published in 1984 and which has been adopted as policy by successive Governemnts.Planning for the Future recommended a shift from the psychiatric hospital being the focus point of the mental health service and proposed a service which is comprehensive, community-based, sectorised and integrated.
The Green Paper on Mental Health, published in 1992, documented progress to date towards the development of a new mental health service in the light of the recommendations of Planning for the Future and identified areas which still needed to be addressed. The strategy for the health services, Shaping a Healthier Future, sets clear targets for the health service including important commitments in the futher development of mental health services.
In its seven year plan — 1991-1997 — the Western Health Board has set out  its priorities, in line with Planning for the Future for the development of a range of community-based services to replace services formerly provided from psychiatric institutions.
The County Mayo catchment has a population of approximately 110,000 and is divided into five sectors, one of which is based in Westport with a population of 26,000. Acute psychiatric care is provided in St. Teresa's admission unit on the campus of the General Hospital, Castlebar and St. Mary's Psychiatric Hospital, Castlebar, now accommodates long-stay patients. With the continued development of community-based services, there has been a sharp decline in the numbers of patients requiring long term care in the hospital. In 1994, there were 246 long-stay patients compared with 511 in 1988 and 408 in 1991.
The Westport sector serves a scattered population in urban and rural areas. Mental health services in the sector consist of regular out-patient clinics and a day-care centre in Westport. Ideally, such a service would be supported by community residences, both supervised and unsupervised with the possible provision of a workshop and day hospital places. In his latest report, the inspector of mental hospitals considered the overall standards in the psychiatric day centre in Westport were satisfactory but suggested that consideration to be given to relocating to a larger premises. The day centre, which was opened in 1988, has an average daily attendance of 17 clients. It is housed in an old domestic-type building which the Western Health Board agrees is too small to cater for the number of clients requiring the service. Rehabilitation programmes are limited due to the inadequacy of the accommodation. However because the accommodation is rented, the Western Health Board cannot make any structural modifications.
 The difficulties experienced in Westport to date are compounded by a shortage of accommodation to rent owing to the appeal of the locality to visitors and tourists. Permanent accommodation is also quite expensive by comparison with other areas of County Mayo. The provision of an alternative facility in the Westport sector is a matter for the Western Health Board. It estimates that approximately £100,000 is needed to purchase an existing premises or construct a purpose-built day-care centre on a new site. This project has been included in the board's priority list for community psychiatric services but has not been placed sufficiently high in the context of other service needs for the project to obtain funding to date.
In the light of the inspector of mental hospital's observation that the service provided from the day-care centre is satisfactory, I can only add that I will keep the Deputy appraised should any developments take place.
Mr. Molloy: I thank the Minister for taking this matter on behalf of his colleague, the Minister for Education. I am sure most Members are familiar with Letterfrack which is located in Connemara on the western coast of County Galway. In summer it is a stunningly beautiful place but in winter it is wet and windy. The 92 pupils who travel from different corners to attend the school at Letterfrack are entitled to comfortable accommodation but, unfortunately, that is not the case. There are five teachers in Letterfrack national school and only three classrooms. The temporary facilities there have been deemed by the school authorities to be in contravention of health and safety regulations — that is a quotation from the principal of the school. I am sure the Minister will agree this is most unsatisfactory.
The school board submitted plans to the Department of Education for an extension to the school. On behalf of  teachers, parents and particularly the children attending the school, I appeal for approval to be given immediately for the plans and that work is authorised to commence this year to ensure it is completed for the new school year commencing next September. I am sure I have the full support and sympathy of the Minister in this matter. I hope that in reply he will indicate that provision will be made in the current year for the extension to Letterfrack national school.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I am glad, on behalf of the Minister for Education, to have the opportunity afforded me by Deputy Molloy to outline the present position on the application submitted on behalf of the board of management for a grant for additional accommodation at Letterfrack national school. First I wish to outline the position in regard to the school's present enrolment, teaching staff and accommodation.The school currently has 93 pupils with a teaching staff of four plus one part time remedial teacher. The school's accommodation consists of three permanent classrooms, a principal's office and toilets. A cloakroom has been converted to accommodate a class teacher and the shared remedial teacher.
The question of additional accommodation has been under consideration. However, this consideration must have regard to the long term indicators of enrolment. In this regard, a projection of the school's enrolment trends carried out by the Department shows that the school will not retain the third assistant teacher beyond 1996, so the need for the additional accommodation in this school is likely to be temporary.
In the circumstances it is not possible for the Department to accede to the application for grant aid for the provision of permanent additional classroom space at the school. However, as indicated, the Department is mindful of the considerable pressure on space in  the school at present and is considering other options to alleviate the temporary overcrowding, including grant aiding the provision of temporary accommodation.
The primary buildings branch of the Department of Education expects to be in a position to make a decision in the matter very shortly and will communicate its decision to the chairman of the board of management.
Mr. Molloy: That is not very satisfactory.There is no general purpose classroom in the school.
Mr. O'Donoghue: I congratulate the Minister of State on his appointment and wish him every success during his term of office.
I welcome the opportunity to outline to the House the very serious situation at Cromane, Killorglin, County Kerry where the sea embankment, which stretches for two and a half-three miles, is now under serious threat. There are several weak points in the embankment where high tides come on to land and unless action is taken in the very near future hundreds of acres of land will be lost to the sea. In excess of 30 small holdings now face the threat of complete elimination and it is obvious that people's homes will come under threat. There is a considerable degree of despair in the area about this ongoing problem. Since, I think, the Land Commission ceased maintaining the embankment approximately 20 years ago the problem has become progressively worse. Local people have done their best to try to maintain the embankment but this work is not sufficient and unless assistance is provided urgently the problem will deteriorate to the stage of no return.
I realise that the funding available to the Minister's Department is extremely limited. The sum of £5 million available under the Operational Programme 1994-99 is minuscule for an island  nation. If the same amount of funding was given to Holland to protect land from the sea that country would very quickly become like the lost city of Atlantis.The time has come to give serious consideration to this problem. It is obvious that the funding provided to the Minister's Department to carry out this very urgent and essential work is inadequate. Apart from the area to which I have referred, there are many other places along the coastline which are also under threat from the sea. For example, Waterville in my constitutency is under threat and given the amount of funding available to the Department the prospect of funding being provided for this work is rather slim.
The problem at Cromane requires urgent attention given the threat posed to people's holdings and homes and to the mussel fishing industry which is based along its shoreline. I earnestly request the Minister to ensure, within the confines of the limited funding available to him, that work is carried out at this location within the coming year.
Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. Gilmore): I thank Deputy O'Donoghue for his very good wishes. I understand his concern about the sea embankment at Cromane.
Primary responsibility for coastal protection lies with the property owner, whether that be a private individual or a coastal local authority. The role of the Department of the Marine is to work in conjunction with coastal local authorities on the overall management of the coastal zone. The Department has not received any proposals from Kerry County Council in relation to the sea embankment at Cromane. However, it has received proposals in relation to a number of other projects on the Kerry coastline.
As regards the funding of coast protection works, grants of up to 75 per cent may be made available from the Marine Vote subject to funds being  available and the necessary 25 per cent being funded locally. Some £5.1 million has been provided in the National Development Plan 1994-99 to help address the erosion problem. This funding is being subvented for the first time by Structural Funding from the European Union. As Deputy O'Donoghue said, this level of funding is insufficient to address all the erosion problems around our coastline, and I will be making every effort to secure additional Exchequer resources for this purpose. That being said, the availability of some £5.1 million over the period to the end of 1999 is a great improvement on the £100,000 for capital works and £100,000 for maintenance works provided in recent years.
Given the limited funding available to the Department to assist local authorities in undertaking protection works, the Department discussed the matter with the City and County Managers' Association late last year. Arising from this meeting, each coastal local authority was requested to submit details of its top four priority protection proposals for consideration by the Department in the context of drawing up a programme of protection works to be undertaken between now and 1999.
The objective of this programme is the protection, through coastal protection works, of key coastal areas, especially those with significant economic infrastructure where, in the absence of such works, there would be a short to medium term risk of major damage. The prioritisation criteria to be utilised in the selection of projects will include: the economic cost, that is the lifetime costs of the works including maintenance, must be less than the loss that would otherwise be suffered over that period; the protection of livelihoods, that is the employment at risk in the event of continued erosion; the environmental or ecological premium, that is preservation of areas of scientific interest, heritage items, unique flora,  fauna or habitats; and amenity protection, that is tourism, recreational or scenic beauty of coastal stretch must be preserved. It is essential that any preservation works undertaken will support rural development, tourism, environmental protection or other activities which contribute to increasing the economic potential of coastal regions.
Decisions have yet to be made on any additional works to be undertaken in 1995 and subsequent years. These decisions will not be made until the Department has received the priority  proposals requested late last year from coastal local authorities.
As I said at the outset, responsibility in this case seems in the first instance to lie with Kerry County Council and I will, of course, consider whatever proposals are submitted by the council in conjunction with proposals submitted by other local authorities prior to the allocation of available funds.
The Dáil adjourned at 9 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 February 1995.
18. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the targets, if any, he intends setting in respect of electricity generation from renewable sources; and the incentives, if any, he intends to provide to encourage their integration with the national grid. [3766/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The Deputy may be aware of the alternative energy requirement scheme, administered by the ESB on behalf of the Government, to secure by 1997 up to 75 megawatts of additional electricity generating capacity from renewable sources of energy and CHP.
All applications under this scheme have been assessed by the ESB which has now submitted its report to me. This report is currently being examined and I will announce the results of the competition in the near future. Following  this, a review of strategy in relation to the development of renewable sources of energy will be carried out. This review will form the basis for decisions on the setting of further targets in respect of electricity generation from renewable sources and any incentives which may be appropriate in that regard.
19. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the Government's proposals for the implementation of the commitment to allow competition between community television deflection systems and existing MMDS franchise holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3751/95]
35. Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the timescale involved in allowing competition between community television deflection system and existing MMDS franchise holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3763/95]
40. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications when he will introduce a temporary licence for South Coast Community Television; and on what frequency will it be introduced. [2972/95]
190. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the impositions that will be placed on community television groups once a temporary licence has been issued. [2976/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 35 and 40 and 190 together.
The issue of competition in multi-channel television is a problem that I would like to be able to solve immediately, but Deputies will understand that there are certain difficulties to which there are no easy solutions and a fully  satisfactory resolution may take some time.
The first of these difficulties is that there are a limited number of frequency channels available for the transmission and reception of television programmes. We are subject to international restrictions in what we can do. If you try to overcrowd these channels then picture quality will suffer and interference will increase. This would happen to every broadcast programme if I were to allow unplanned access to these channels.
There are of course certain channels in the broadcasting bands that are not currently in use, but my freedom of choice here is limited by the fact that these have been allocated for some time under broadcasting policy to improvement of the existing RTE services and for use by the planned Telefís na Gaeilge and independent channels. Broadcasting policy is, of course, a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Deputies will be aware that his Department will shortly be bringing forward a Green Paper on broadcasting and I intend to ensure that it reflects my concerns in the area of multi-channel competition.
A further difficulty is that legal proceedings are, in fact, still pending and that they address a number of fundamental issues in this area, particularly in relation to Southcoast Community Television.Deputies will appreciate that until these proceedings are resolved I am constrained in what I can say.
As to the question of a temporary licence for the Southcoast Community TV, I can say that since the decision of the High Court in effect allows Southcoast to continue in operation pending a full hearing of the case, no interim licence from me is, in fact, required to enable them to continue in operation. Until such time as we have resolution of the law case, I am perfectly happy to leave the present arrangements in place. This will allow Southcoast Community Television operate freely until the matter is resolved by the courts.
 The Deputies will be aware that in the policy agreement, A Government of Renewal, a decision was announced that, subject to the resolution of current legal proceedings, and to good frequency management the Government would seek to allow competition in the area of multi-channel television services in this country.
In view of my desire to expedite possible changes, I am having the entire matter of multi-channel television services closely examined within my Department. It would be my intention to exploit whatever opportunities may be presented by new technology, in particular by the advent of digital technology, to facilitate competition and community involvement in this area.
I am aware that technical standards are being developed at European level although standards for terrestrial broadcasting may not be ready for some time. In the longer term, this will increase the number of programmes available, but such a development will have to be accommodated during a transition period in the channels now available alongside the existing system. In line with the commitment in the Government's programme, we are willing to go with that new technology to allow a wider choice of programmes wherever possible and particularly to allow community involvement in relation to local programming.
I know that digital technology is of particular interest to Southcoast Community Television and I am especially anxious to explore such possibilities with them. Although I am advised that the time scale for this new development is not yet certain, I have asked officials of my Department to meet Southcoast, without prejudice to any legal proceedings to ascertain their views as to how digital technology might assist them and to help them as much as possible in that regard.
It is of course too early at this stage to speculate on the nature or conditions that would apply to any future licensing arrangements.
20. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his views on measures that could be taken to improve public service transport in the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3709/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Over the past four years the Dublin Transportation Initiative has carried out the most detailed study ever undertaken of the transportation and traffic problems of Dublin. The transportation strategy for Dublin which has been recommended by the DTI comprises a balanced and integrated package of investment in roads, public transport and traffic management combined with a strengthened policy of traffic and parking restraint including more effective enforcement.
In so far as public transport services are concerned, the DTI has recommended the following major improvements: the development of a three line core light rail network; the implementation of a quality bus network; extension of the DART to Greystones and possibly to Malahide and upgrading of the existing DART system including certain stations; provision of secure park-and-ride facilities on the public transport network; an integrated ticketing system for all public transport services; and improved interchange facilities for buses and other public transport and off-street bus parking facilities in the city centre.
Provision has been made in the National Development Plan, which covers the period from 1994 to 1999, for EU co-financed expenditure of £220 million so as to enable substantial progress to be made on implementation of the public transport elements of the DTI strategy. This funding includes provision for expenditure of up to £200 million in respect of the first phase of the light rail network for Dublin.
 The objective is to have two priority phases of the light rail network constructed in the period up to 1999 at an estimated cost, exclusive of any financing charges, of £200 million. In this context my Department, in conjunction with a high level project team in CIE, has for some time been engaged in detailed planning and preparatory work to advise on the optimum combination of light rail links recommended by the DTI to be constructed by 1999 on the basis of a number of criteria, including financial performance, congestion alleviation, ease of construction and environmental impact. All of the bodies involved in the planning and provision of transportation in the Dublin area are co-operating in this work which embraces all aspects of the light rail network.The provisional finding arising from this work is that links to Tallaght and Dundrum should be constructed during the period of the national plan and this position was noted and approved by the previous Government in October, 1994. It is anticipated that construction of the light rail network will begin next year.
The decision in relation to the priority phases to be constructed by 1999 does not imply any abandonment of the remaining phases of the basic network.
The remaining £20 million has been included in the National Development Plan for expenditure on other important public transport projects to which I referred. Apart from the proposed £200 million light rail expenditure, it is not possible to be more specific about the prospects for implementation of the many other public transport projects recommended by the DTI until a full evaluation of these has been carried out, bearing in mind that the full cost of all of these projects would greatly exceed the level of funding available.
As regards the reference by Deputy Callely to extending hours of public transport in the Dublin area, these are matters falling within the day to day responsibilities of Bus Átha Cliath and Iarnród Éireann.
21. Mr. Cullen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the reason Waterford Regional Airport has been excluded from the State/EU subsidised Domestic Air Services Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2971/95]
33. Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will reverse the decision to exclude the two Waterford routes from the essential air services programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1539/95]
49. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the reason subvention for loss-making routes under the essential air services programmes for Waterford Regional Airport is not being renewed, in view of the fact that they contribute considerably to the economic and tourist wellbeing of the south-east region and in view of the fact that subvention being maintained for such services to all other regional airports, irrespective of whether they are loss-making or not; and if he will review the situation. [3795/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 33 and 49 together.
Let us be clear on why the essential air services programme was introduced.
The reason was this: it was a recognition that the regional airports contribute significantly to maintaining and attracting industry, developing tourism and contributing to the economy of the region. The programme guaranteed a minimum level of services to these airports.
But let us be clear, too, that the essential air services programme was introduced against the background of the quality of all transport access to a particular region. The examination of  transport access has been much wider than simply air services alone. The quality of access by sea and road is also important in deciding on where money should best be spent.
When I took over this portfolio the amount of money allocated to the programme in 1995 remained unchanged and is limited to £1.5 million. This, let me remind the Deputies, is also the figure included in the Estimates produced by the Fianna Fáil caretaker Government.
Deputy Brian Cowen was Minister at the time the Dublin/Waterford and Waterford/Galway/Sligo/Galway/ Waterford routes were withdrawn from the essential air services programme.
Deputy Cowen took this decision following detailed discussions with the EU Commission. He accepted the Commission's view that existing surface transport links serving Waterford were satisfactory. Deputy Cowen shared the EU view that the benefits foreseen through subsidisation of those routes were not consistent with the cost to the Exchequer.
The subvention required on these routes is high. While I will keep the routes under consideration, at the moment one could not justify a reversal of this decision.
22. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the projects he intends to fund from the £200,000 provided in the 1995 Estimates for private bog development grants. [2735/95]
25. Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will introduce a scheme of grant assistance towards the repair of roads that provide access to bogs. [2594/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 25 together.
The private bog development grant scheme was introduced in 1981 by the Turf Development Act of that year. The scheme provided grants towards access roads, drainage and machinery for bog development. The purpose of the scheme was to stimulate the development of private peat resources. Under the scheme, applicants submitted development plans to Bord na Móna who administered the scheme on behalf of the Department. The scheme proved successful as it brought private turf production to an annual level of approximately 1.5 million tonnes from a previously low base.
The scheme was terminated in October 1987, having been deemed to have achieved its purpose and Bord na Móna has not accepted any new applications since that date. It has not been possible to terminate financial outlay as there remains work approved which has not yet been completed due to delays caused by bad weather and also a shortfall in funding in recent years. Only when work has been completed can the funds be paid to projects. I understand that approximately 50 applicants remain outstanding at this stage and these are expected to be completed in the current year.
With the termination of the scheme, funds are not available for new grants to the sector or for the introduction of a new scheme.
23. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the plans, if any, he has to promote Connaught Regional Airport in the interest of western development. [2631/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The broad answer to the question is: We  recogise the airport's role in terms of western development; we are putting in place a policy which guarantees a minimum level of service to the region served by airports like Connaught Regional Airport; policy is directed towards increasing traffic at Connaught and other regional airports and we have appointed a Minister of State who will have special responsibility for co-ordinating this Government's commitment to the west and who will keep under close examination the needs of Connaught Regional Airport.
That gives you some indication of the importance we place on Connaught Regional Airport and other such airports.
However, there are facts we must take on board and the Deputy, so recently in government, will be well aware of the realities.
I would like to remind the Deputy and in the process draw the attention of the House to the fact that Connaught Regional Airport is privately-owned and managed. The promotion of the airport is a matter for the airport company — that is the fact of the matter.
Nonetheless, short term marketing assistance was provided for the six small privately-owned regional airports by the Exchequer on a once-off basis in 1993. This was because of their precarious financial position, resulting from a sharp downturn in traffic — a drop of over 51 per cent between 1990 and 1993 — and the inability of the airport to devote resources to marketing and promotion. Connaught Airport received marketing assistance of £270,200 under this scheme. Traffic improved significantly in 1994 as a result.
That is a start and we will continue to maintain close contact with Connaught Regional Airport and to offer any assistance we can to ensure positive growth is maintained.
We will do all in our power to help draw traffic into and out of Connaught Regional Airport. We will not be in a position to make funds available to the airport for development or promotion. No provision for such funding was  made in the National Development Plan 1994-1999.
24. Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the measures, if any, to be implemented in 1995 for both energy saving and efficiency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3769/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The first major initiative of 1995 in the energy conservation area was the completion of a memorandum of understanding with Forbairt to formally launch the new Irish Energy Centre.
The centre has a budget of approximately £21 million up to 1999. The allocation for 1995 is £3 million, and the following are the principal measures which will be implemented by the centre during the year. The first grants under two grant schemes launched in late 1994 will be paid. The first of these schemes is the energy audit grant scheme, under which grants of up to 40 per cent are available to energy users in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors towards the cost of energy audits. The allocation for this activity in 1995 is £150,000.
The second grant scheme is the energy efficiency investment support scheme. This provides grant assistance of up to 40 per cent of the cost of implementing the recommendation of audits. Additionally, call for tenders in respect of targeted energy efficient technologies will issue under the scheme — the successful tenders will be grant-aided.Already in 1995, calls for tenders in respect of two targeted technologies have issued and further calls are planned at various points during the year. £730,000 has been allocated for this activity in 1995.
In addition, the centre will provide technical advice and support to industrial and commercial companies and launch numerous promotional activities.  The Irish Energy Centre will be organised on a regional basis and advertisements were placed in the national press on 11 February 1995, inviting proposals for regionally based bodies to provide national services for the Irish Energy Centre in the areas of renewable energies and professional training in energy conservation and efficiency.
26. Mr. Morley asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the plans, if any, he has to assist with the infrastructural costs of legal radio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3813/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I do not have any function in this matter and I must refer the Deputy to my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, who has responsibility for broadcasting policy matters.
27. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he intends removing or reducing the debt of Bord na Mona; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3804/95]
34. Mr. P. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the way in which he will respond to the proposals made some time ago to the Government by Bord na Móna regarding the company's debt and equity situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3565/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions 27 and 34 together.
Bord na Móna has gone through a major rationalisation process in recent years, the magnitude of which cannot be  over emphasised. The workforce has been reduced from around 4,800 in 1987 to approximately 2,270 currently and this was accomplished largely without serious industrial relations problems. The board continues, however, to be in a serious financial situation because of its very high level of debt.
At 31 March, 1994, Bord na Móna's total net borrowings amounted to £172 million, all of it guaranteed by the State. Despite the major improvements in recent years in bringing its operations back into profits, the company still had a negative net worth of £72.4 million. Financial consultants employed by the board to look at financial restructuring reported in 1993 and identified £126 million of the debt as being unsustainable.I am at present having discussions with the Minister for Finance in relation to the financial structure of Bord na Móna and I expect shortly to be in a position to put forward proposals to Government.
28. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the present position regarding the proposed reconnection of the electricity interconnector with Northern Ireland; the benefits to be derived from and the possible effect of an interconnector between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3750/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The North-South Electricity Interconnector was commissioned in 1970 but because of sabotage attacks it has been fully out of commission since 1975. However, as a result of the peace initiative the ESB and Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) undertook a review of the situation and late last year the decision was taken to proceed with its restoration. Work on the restoration is at present in progress and the interconnector is expected to be back in commission next April. The total cost of restoration is estimated at  £1.5 million. The estimated transmission capacity of the link is approximately 300 MW. A reliable interconnector between the two systems would result in revenue and capital savings for the ESB. Cost savings would arise from lower overall fuel costs of approximately £1 million per annum due to a reduced spinning reserve requirement. In the longer term, capital savings would accrue from the fact that there would be a smaller total generating capacity requirement. Some years of trouble-free operation would be required before the interconnector could be relied upon as an alternative to additional capacity. However, the spinning reserve savings would arise immediately.
I understand that the proposed Northern Ireland-Scotland electricity interconnection is currently the subject of public inquiries in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. Planning permission for the project has yet to be obtained and in the circumstances it would not be appropriate to make assumptions regarding possible future contracts. Theoretically such an interconnection would link the ESB with the greater UK and European interconnected grid and would provide opportunities for electricity trading. However, these opportunities would be limited by the size of the proposed Northern Ireland-Scotland interconnector which I understand will be approximately 250MW.
30. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the State subsidy to the transport industry; and the Government's policy regarding future availability of such subsidy. [3755/95]
187. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the reason for the 5 per cent reduction in the CIE State subsidy in the 1995 Estimates. [3790/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 187 together.
State financial support for the provision of socially necessary but financially unviable public transport services has been very substantial over the years. In the past ten years a total of over £1 billion has been provided by way of annual Exchequer subvention to the CIE group. In 1995 a sum of £99.5 million is being provided by way of Exchequer subvention to CIE.
The high levels of State financial support for the provision of public transport services reflects the commitment of successive Governments to the best possible provision of public transport services nationwide. Approximately 90 per cent of the annual subvention goes to support the rail network. This level of support for the railway, together with the major mainline rail investment programme totalling £275 million planned in the period up to 1999 again indicates the importance attached by the Government to the upgrading and development of the railway. The balance of the subvention is deployed in support of the extensive range of socially necessary urban and rural bus services provided by Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann.
The levels of subvention paid to CIE in each year are determined by the Government by reference to a range of factors, including the financial situation of CIE and more generally the need to balance the many urgent and competing demands on the Exchequer. Successive Governments have pursued a policy of containing, and where possible reducing CIE's requirement for State financial support. This policy and the CIE Group's positive response to it, has resulted in a reduction of over 30 per cent in real terms in the CIE subvention since 1980. Moreover, this reduction has been achieved while maintaining the extensive network and levels of service provided by CIE and has been accompanied by a major improvement in productivity throughout the CIE group.
 Until Government decisions on the future development of the mainline rail network were made last year in the context of the National Development Plan, and pending completion of negotiations with the European Commission concerning the operational programme for transport, it was not practicable for my Department and the CIE group to fully develop a multiannual business planning framework to address subvention levels and other key business issues facing CIE for the period to 1999.
Now that these critical policy decisions have been taken, my Department is engaged, with the CIE group, in a detailed analysis of the CIE Business Plan 1995-1999. That analysis will address a wide range of issues arising in relation to the future development of CIE and its operating subsidiaries, including appropriate subvention provision in the context of a multiannual planning framework, while recognising the prerogative of the Government to settle definitive levels of subvention on an annual basis.
31. Miss Quill asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the occasions on which he has raised at EU meetings the question of establishing a European nuclear safety inspectorate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3757/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): There has not been a meeting of the Energy Council of Ministers since the formation of the Government and so I have not had an opportunity to raise any issues in that forum.
I understand that previous Governments did seek the establishment of an independent European inspection force which would cover all aspects of safety related to nuclear plants. It was not possible to progress the proposal as it was not acceptable to the vast majority of member states.
 In view of the opposition of these member states, it would be very difficult to make progress on the establishment of a European inspectorate. Nevertheless, it is essential that the operations of nuclear installations are sufficiently transparent to ensure that the highest safety standards are observed. I will do my utmost to ensure that only the highest safety standards prevail and that they are observed.
32. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the proposals, if any, he has for the establishment of further joint venture projects involving An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3767/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The situation has not changed significantly since my predecessor replied to a similar question on 22 June 1994. Briefly, the position is that the establishment of joint venture projects involving An Post is, in the first instance, a matter for the board and management of the company. Since its establishment in 1984, the company has shown a capacity and willingness to expand into new areas of activity appropriate to its core business, as is apparent by its involvement in ventures such as the national lottery, The Prize Bond Company and PostGEM Ltd, its subsidiary operating in the electronic mail market.
In its efforts to protect its current revenue base and generate new revenues, An Post is committed to the development of new services and business opportunities, the most recent being the establishment of a joint venture company, Printpost Ltd, which commenced operations in September, 1994. This company provides customers with high volume electronic printing and enveloping services for the production of documents such as invoices and statements.
 An Post is continuously assessing the opportunities to engage in further joint venture projects likely to provide sustainable employment and to enhance An Post's profitability.
36. Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the marketing funding made available to State-owned airports at Cork, Dublin and Shannon in each of the years 1993 to 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3753/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Aer Rianta is responsible for the marketing and promotion of Dublin and Cork airports.No Exchequer assistance for marketing or other purposes was made available to these airports in the years in question.
In the case of Shannon airport, a special traffic development task force was established by my Department in June 1993 with a budget of £1 million over the two years 1993 and 1994. Based on the recommendations of the task force, responsibility for the promotion of traffic through Shannon airport was transferred from the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited and Aer Rianta to a new marketing body, Shannon Airport Marketing, with effect from 1 October 1994, with a budget of £2 million for 1995.
Actual Exchequer expenditure incurred in the marketing of Shannon airport under my Department's Vote in the years in question was 1993, £93,000; 1994, £469,000; 1995 (est), £2,000,000.
Exchequer assistance of £1.579 million in 1993 and £1.584 million in 1994 was provided to Shannon Free Airport Development Company Ltd. under the Votes for the Department of Tourism and Trade for these years, for the promotion of traffic and tourism at Shannon.
37. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the future plans, if any, he has for viability of the Irish Post Office. [3808/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983 imposes a general duty of viability in its operations on An Post and the discharge of this duty is a matter in the first instance for the board of the company.
The House will be aware that An Post had accumulated losses of £14 million at the end of 1992. These losses had been reduced to £9 million at the end of the 1993 and preliminary indications are that when the 1994 accounts are published they will show that the accumulated losses will have been significantly reduced again.
The improvement in the financial position of An Post has taken place against the background of the implementation of recovery measures which have been agreed by management and unions. The measures were part of a major programme to make An Post more cost effective and involved changes which were the most far reaching since the introduction of postal services in the last century.
An Post and its staff are to be commended on their efforts to bring about the turnaround in the company's financial position. Notwithstanding the improvement that has taken place there can be no complacency about the future prospects of An Post and in this regard I am confident that both management and staff are fully committed to working together to ensure the future viability of the Irish postal services.
38. Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the educational projects for primary schools being organised by the Irish Energy Centre and funded under the EU's SAVE programme. [3760/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): As part of a range of activities in the education area, one primary school project, the joint energy pilot for primary schools, is at present being funded under the EU's SAVE programme. The project partners are the Irish Energy Centre and the Department of Economic Development (Northern Ireland). The objective of this primary school project is the development and encouragement of energy awareness at primary school level.
The project focuses on energy use in the domestic and transport sectors and aims to instil in seven to nine year old pupils the knowledge that they are consumers of energy which provides heat, light and inorganic motive power; the production and use of such energy affects the environment, usually to its detriment; and their actions can reduce energy consumption and thereby minimise its detrimental impact on the environment.
The project is a cross-Border pilot project and involves 20 schools in Northern Ireland and 20 in the Republic. Although the project is still in its infancy, good working relationships have already been established between the appropriate authorities North and South.
The project will produce teaching aids with the emphasis on “learning by doing”. Use of these teaching aids is scheduled to commence during 1995. The project will be assessed during the summer and autumn terms to establish the extent to which the pupils have absorbed the information and applied it at home. This latter point is seen as being particularly important as the project is also about changing and shaping attitudes.
In the longer term, it is intended that the teaching aids produced through the project will be available to every school in the island of Ireland.
39. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will give details of the increase in consultancy fees proposed for his Department in the 1996 Estimates.[3811/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): There is no increase in the consultancy fees proposed for my Department in 1995. The estimate for 1994 was £3.65 million and the estimate for 1995 is £2.592 million. There is an increase, however, in the 1995 Estimate over the provisional 1994 outturn of £746,000. This is due to a number of anticipated consultancies not going ahead in 1994.
41. Miss Quill asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the recommendations made by a person (details supplied) in the report entitled A Study on the Regional Airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[3759/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The report referred to by the Deputy was commissioned on a confidential basis for internal-departmental purposes.
I do not propose, therefore, to give details of the report other than to say that the recommendations were examined and implemented where I considered appropriate.
42. Mr. L. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the assessment, if any, he has made of the future prospects for Ireland's regional airports. [3810/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): In response to the sharp downturn in traffic at the regional airports in 1993 compared with 1990 (51 per cent drop),  my Department commissioned an aviation and transportation analyst in 1993 to review the performance of the regional airports and assess their future viability.
Arising from the consultant's recommendations, short term marketing assistance was provided by the Exchequer for these airports on a once-off basis in 1993. This contributed to a 25 per cent increase in traffic at the airports in 1994 compared to 1993.
In addition, an essential air services programme has been introduced by my Department to guarantee a minimum level of air services to the regions served by these airports. The provision in my Department's 1995 vote for the programme is £1.5 million.
43. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the grant aid that has been made available to Cork and Shannon Airports over the last three years. [2982/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I would like to explain that Cork and Shannon airports, and also Dublin airport, are managed and operated by Aer Rianta on my behalf. Capital investment at the three airports is funded by Aer Rianta from their own resources and borrowings.
Expenditure of £4.8 million, which qualified for European Regional Development Fund aid at the rate of 50 per cent, was undertaken at Cork airport over the last three years. The relevant expenditure in the case of Shannon airport was £2.2 million. This expenditure was in respect of infrastructural improvements carried out by Aer Rianta at the two airports, including a new passenger terminal at Cork Airport.
Assistance was also given to these airports on the marketing front. A special traffic development task force for Shannon airport was established in June 1993 with a budget of £1 million over the  years 1993-94. Actual expenditure incurred amounted to £562,000. Based on the recommendations of the task force, responsibility for the promotion of traffic through Shannon airport was transferred to Shannon airport marketing with effect from 1 October 1994 with a budget of £2 million per annum from 1995.
While Aer Rianta is responsible for the marketing and promotion of Cork airport, the company was encouraged by my Department to set up a special marketing fund totalling £500,000 in 1994, compared to the £116,000 in 1993. A new marketing consultative committee was also set up comprising of airport management, tourism and commercial interests in the Cork area. I understand that this contributed significantly to the record traffic level of almost 800,000 passengers achieved by Cork airport in 1994.
I have had discussions with the chairman of Aer Rianta about the development plans for the two airports.
The development programme for Shannon airport to the end of the decade will involve capital expenditure of £25 million. I visited Shannon on 9 January and gave approval for development works costing over £8 million. I will be monitoring closely progress on the remaining phases of the development plan.
At Cork airport, the forward development plans to the end of the decade provide for expenditure of over £10 million. As the Deputy is aware, Cork airport has a new passenger terminal which was opened last October. I intend to visit Cork airport shortly and I will then be in a better position to see for myself the projects planned at Cork and the projected timescale.
44. Mr. P. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the current position regarding the Government's application to the EU for financial support for the proposed new peat-burning generating station in the midlands; when the project will proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3566/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The Government is committed to the continued use of peat for electricity generation provided the costs are not excessive.The proposal for a new 120m W peat fired station to be located in the east midlands has been included in the energy sub programme of the Community Support Framework for Ireland 1994-99 and EU financial assistance of £21 million has been sought towards the project.
At the request of the EU Commission, a socio-economic cost benefit analysis of the project has been completed by a firm of international consultants and is being considered by the Commission. In this connection I am arranging an early meeting with Commissioner Wulf-Mathies to discuss any outstanding concerns.
45. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the future plans, if any, he has for the Irish Aviation Authority. [3803/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): In accordance with the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993, the Authority is responsible for the provision of safe, efficient and cost effective air traffic services to aircraft operating in Irish controlled airspace and for the safety regulation of Irish civil aviation.
My Department's overall policy in regard to air navigation matters is designed to ensure that the Authority takes all necessary measures in order that Irish controlled airspace continues to be operated safely, with maximum  efficiency and effectiveness and that the regulatory safety standards applied by the Authority are maintained and enhanced in accordance with the highest international standards.
The Authority's air traffic management systems are among the most modern in Europe and are fully geared to meeting the requirements of the European air traffic control harmonisation and integration programme. This programme — EATCHIP as it is known, is currently being developed and is designed to increase air traffic control capacity in Europe and to relieve air traffic congestion. The Authority should continue to play a significant role in the harmonised and integrated structures which are being developed in Europe.
In addition to its core role, the Authority also has a strong commercial focus and hopes to exploit profitable opportunities in the field of aviation training and consultancy services. The Authority has a modern technical infrastructure consistent with world standards, supporting its commercial operations, and it is the intention that the Authority will attract and secure profitable business in the consultancy field in the coming years.
As well as opportunities, the company also faces challenges to its environment, most particularly that of satellite technology. It is a widely held view that satellite-based navigation will eventually dominate air traffic control. While this is still a number of years down the road, my Department is in close liaison with the IAA on all issues of this nature.
Finally, as the Deputy is aware, the Authority has only just completed its first year of operation. My Department is currently in discussion with the Authority on the finalisation of its corporate plan. This plan will address the objectives of the company over the next five years including the challenges and opportunities facing the Authority. I will be examining this plan in detail, with my officials, and I will be ensuring that the Authority, whose first priority  must always be safety, is fully responsive to the needs of the market.
46. Mr. D. McDowell asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the view taken by the Irish Government at the recent meeting of the EU Telecommunications Council in relation to the liberalisation of the telecommunications industry. [3564/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The Telecommunications Council was held in November 1994 and adopted a resolution on infrastructure liberalisation.
The original proposal from the Commission was to liberalise in a first stage communications infrastructure which already exists for use in respect of services which are already liberalised with effect from an early date with no derogations and in a second stage to liberalise all infrastructure for all purposes from January 1998 with a derogation of up to five years for certain member states, including Ireland. The primary focus of Ireland's efforts up to and at the Council was to oppose the first stage and this objective was achieved.
The final result was a one stage liberalisation timetable for 1998 which is the same as that for liberalisation of voice telephony. Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal may have a derogation of up to five years linked to the derogations which are possible from voice telephony liberalisation. The Irish delegation made it clear that any decision to avail of the derogations would be for the same period in both cases.
47. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will conduct a review of the policy of Aer Rianta in regard to landing charges. [3806/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Airport  charges (aircraft landing charges and passenger load fees) at Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports have not been increased since 1 April 1987.
In addition, in 1994 Aer Rianta introduced major discounts in their charges for both existing and new customers. This discount scheme proved successful in generating additional traffic. Further improved discounts were introduced for 1995 aimed particularly at stimulating traffic growth in the off-peak months of the year.
I am satisfied that Aer Rianta's airport charges are competitive and I do not intend to conduct a review of policy in this matter.
48. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the present position regarding the operation of illegal pirate radio stations. [3746/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The position regarding the operation of illegal pirate radio stations is that the full provisions of the Broadcasting and Wireless Telegraphy Acts will be invoked against such stations in any situation where the circumstances allow, and those involved in illegal broadcasting, including business and people advertising on, or providing services to, illegal stations, should have no doubt that action may be taken against them at any time.
Following a resurgence of the activity of such stations in the Dublin area last year, my Department intensified its efforts in enforcing the law here, and succeeded in putting two of the more persistent offenders off the air.
It is difficult to be exact about the numbers of such stations in operation because they are transient by nature, they tend to move about on the frequency bands and they often change their names. Nonetheless my Department will keep this matter under careful review and efforts will be intensified as the need is identified.
50. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his views on the proposals to create an initial 500 Irish jobs by the year 2000 AD if a target of 3 per cent of Ireland's electricity being generated by wind energy was implemented as formulated by the Irish Wind Energy Association (details supplied) in Dublin; and if he will commission a study by the ESRI with a view to developing an Irish wind energy industry. [1516/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): This Government is committed to the promotion of appropriate renewable energy technologies. The present indicative target for wind energy is 30 mw to be achieved by 1997 and, following the competition recently completed by the ESB a final decision on the precise contribution to be made by each technology will be made by me in the very near future.
Any further targets for renewables, including wind, will be set following a detailed review of strategy including an evaluation of the AER scheme itself. Any necessary studies will be undertaken as part of that process.
I would add that there are other considerations which must be taken into account in setting targets and these include the additional costs involved and the possibility of environmental impacts on visual and other grounds.
51. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the plans, if any, he has for the future of the telecommunications industry.[3752/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The Government recognises the need for high quality and cost effective telecommunications services to support essential economic and social development. It is committed to the provision of a full  range of services which are competitive with those available elsewhere in the European Union.
Competition is already a fact of life in the provision of services in significant parts of the telecommunications market, with the exception of telecommunications infrastructure and voice telephony; as specifically defined. Even voice telephony which is still an exclusive privilege of most telecom organisations is coming under competitive pressure. Further competition is inevitable as a consequence of developments in EU policy and law, technology and the market itself.
I believe that the policies of the European Union in relation to the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector represent the best way forward to achieve our goals for the sector. Liberalisation of telecommunications is a world wide phenomenon whereby State owned monopoly provision of telecommunications services is being replaced by competitive regimes with substantial and, in many cases, exclusive private sector participation. This has resulted in the rapid expansion of services and lower tariffs; Ireland cannot afford to be in the slow lane of world telecommunications in terms of standard and price.
I am in the process of putting in place a regulatory regime appropriate to a competitive market. The two major steps which remain to be taken in relation to liberalisation in Ireland are liberalisation of telecommunications infrastructure and voice telephony services for which a deadline of 1 January, 1998 has been set for the EU generally but Ireland may avail of a derogation of up to five years. The question of whether it is in our overall economic interest to trigger this derogation at all or in full has yet to be determined but will be addressed in the coming months.
However, I recognise that it would be irresponsible to adopt radical liberalisation measures in Ireland at a time when Telecom Éireann is not in a position to compete with new market entrants.
 It is a challenge for the Government as shareholder and for the board of the company to take the measures necessary to ensure that Telecom Éireann is in a position to capitalise on the emerging opportunities and face competition with confidence. Telecom Éireann has served the State well over the last ten years in terms of updating the national telephone network to modern standards.
However, the need for Telecom Éireann to improve its cost base, tariff structure and range of services is clearly evident in order to position the company for increased competition in an open market. As part of this preparation, Telecom is now in the process of reviewing its long term strategy and examining the need for an alliance with an external partner in the context of its future development. There is close contact with my officials concerning this.
In the context of the strategy to improve the competitive position of Telecom Éireann I will consider the appropriate timing of liberalisation of telecommunications infrastructure and voice telephony services in Ireland. Liberalisation will also necessitate the establishment of a regulatory office for telecommunications to regulate the competitive market and the development of a policy to share the social obligations currently carried by Telecom Éireann, notably universal service. These matters are being considered by my Department at present.
52. Mr. D. Ahern asked the Taoiseach the appointees to high office in this State who, it is envisaged, will be obliged to report to relevant Dáil Committees under the Government's recently published Dáil reform package; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3667/95]
The Taoiseach: The Government's programme envisaged that all appointees to high office in the State, e.g. the Attorney General, the Director  of Public Prosecutions, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Governor of the Central Bank, would attend at the relevant Dáil Committee, as appropriate and subject to the legal constraints of their office.
In our proposals for Oireachtas reform, which were given to the Opposition parties on 24 January, we proposed that the terms of reference of relevant committees be changed to provide for this commitment. It will, however, be a matter for each committee as to whom they may wish to request to attend so long as the person concerned is relevant to the issue being considered and is legally free to attend.
53. Mr. Gregory asked the Taoiseach the applications received under the URBAN programme; and those selected for funding. [3698/95]
The Taoiseach: Forty-four proposals were received in my Department from local authorities, other organisations, community groups and individuals relating to the URBAN Initiative. A applications for URBAN must be in the form of integrated plans for specified geographic areas the proposals have been grouped according to area. These are:
|Area||Number of Proposals|
|South County Dublin||5|
Many of the proposals received, especially those from community groups, comprise individual projects which would form part of a wider and more long term strategy for development of urban areas. Given that the URBAN Initiative will be approved for an urban area, not individual applicants,  it would not be appropriate to provide details of the individual proposals.
The application for URBAN is under discussion with the European Commission.The discussions will be progressed as quickly as possible, in particular, in order to finalise the area which will participate.
54. Mr. Davern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of times he has used the Government jet since 1 January 1995; the destinations; the status of each passenger; the number of times his Ministers of State used the Government jet in the same period; the persons who accompanied them; the status of each person; and the cost of the trip on each occasion. [3876/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): In the discharge of my official duties as Minister for Foreign Affairs I have travelled on the Government jet to four commitments since 1 January 1995, twice to EU ministerial meetings and twice to Anglo-Irish ministerial meetings. I attach a tabular statement setting out the details requested by the Deputy.
The Minister of State for European Affairs accompanied me to the two EU ministerial meetings. The Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid accompanied me to one EU ministerial meeting. These were the only occasions the Minister of State at my Department used the Government jet during the period.
Tanaiste's Travel 1995.
|Date||Destination||Purpose||Number Accompanying Tánaiste||Transport Type||Travel Cost|
|22.1.1995||Brussels||General Affairs Council||10
Two Ministers of State
7 Civil Servants
|Government Jet||Department of Defence|
Spl. Adv. to the
5 Civil Servants
|Government Jet||Department of Defence|
|5.2.1995||Brussels||General Affairs Council||9
Minister of State
7 Civil Servants
|Department of Defence|
|17.2.1995||Belfast||Anglo Irish Conference||13
Minister for the Environment
Minister for Justice
Spl. Adv. to Tánaiste
Minister for the Environment
8 Civil Servants
|Government Jet||Department of Defence|
55. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the names of the organisations and the amounts of money each organisation received through the culture committee of his Department in 1993 and 1994; the total amount for 1995; and if groups involved in traditional music, song and dance will be assisted in 1995. [4006/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The cultural relations committee is a voluntary body appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to advise on the merits of Irish artistic and cultural projects to be undertaken abroad and recommend whether or not such projects should be assisted financially from the annual allocation for cultural relations available through my Department. The allocation for cultural relations in 1993 amounted to £213,000. It was increased to £400,000 in 1994 and remains at that level for 1995.
Grants are made for a wide range of activities — exhibitions in the fields of arts and literature, theatre and dance companies, music groups and performers, conferences and lectures on topics of Irish interest, exchanges of cultural and academic personalities and donations of books to libraries and universities abroad. Request for assistance towards groups involved in traditional music, song and dance are of course given the same careful consideration by the committee as are all applications it receives.
The Deputy has asked for details of the organisations in receipt of funding from the allocation of cultural relations for 1993 and 1994, together with the amounts of money involved. I shall have this information which is voluminous sent to the Deputy in the form he has requested.
56. Mr. Hilliard asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the reduction in expenditure from £5 million to £1 million under postal and telecommunications services, central fund services. [3625/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The reduction in Central Fund expenditure under the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983 was in fact from £56.113 million to £1 million. In 1994 a payment of £50 million was made, in accordance with section 46 (11) of the Postal and Telecommunication Services Act 1983, from the Central Fund to An Post and Telecom Éireann to meet part of the Exchequer's existing and 1995 liabilities in respect of pre-vesting day pension costs. Further payments in respect of the 1995 pensions liabilities will be made from the Vote for Transport, Energy and Communications. Payments amounting to £6.113 million under section 75 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983 were made to An Post in respect of postal charges arising from the European Assembly elections and Dáil by-elections. A provision of £1 million has been made in respect of election and referendum expenses in 1995.
57. Mr. Hilliard asked the Minister for Finance if he will give details of the £544 million payment to the European Budget under central fund services; and the benefits arising from this. [3626/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The payment referred to by the Deputy, which is Ireland's estimated contribution to the EU budget for 1995, is composed of the following elements:
|Customs Duties and Levies||£199 million|
|VAT based contribution||£232 million|
|GNP based contribution||£113 million|
 The financial benefits come in terms of the receipts under the Common Agricultural Policy, the Structural Funds, the Cohesion Fund and other policies. These receipts are estimated to amount  to £2.4 billion in 1995. The attached tables sets out for each year since 1973 Ireland's gross receipts from, payments to and net receipts from the EU budget. I am sure the Deputy will agree that the benefits to Ireland are considerable.
 Summary Table — Net Receipts from EU Budget 1973-1995
|Ireland's receipts by way of Grants and Subsidies from EU Budget||37.1||67.4||109.1||119.5||272.9||410.2||529.1||560.6||506.9||602.1||727.7||866.7|
|Ireland's contributions to EU Budget||4.5||5.5||9.8||13.4||22.1||46.1||60.6||88.9||105.4||136.7||184.7||202.5|
Summary Table — Net Receipts from EU Budget 1973-1995
|Ireland's receipts by way of Grants and Subsidies from EU Budget||1,128.7||1,146.6||1,110.3||1,161.6||1,295.3||1,741.0||2,201.2||1,994.0||2,245.3||1,842.1||2,395||23,060.41|
|Ireland's contributions to EU Budget||213.3||240.3||255.2||247.8||285.6||282.9||348.2||353.4||453.5||506.8||544||4,611.2|
58. Dr. McDaid asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a case for exemption of the 2.5 per cent VAT refund in the livestock marts centre in view of the problems it is going to cause in this sector. [3699/95]
69. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the co-operative livestock mart sector at the proposed introduction of a declaration system for VAT refunds at livestock marts; if he will review the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3939/95]
70. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for Finance if he will accept the request from ICOS that the livestock marts sector be exempted from the new VAT provisions to be introduced on 1 March 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4004/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): I propose to answer Questions Nos. 58, 69, and 70 together.
I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the proposed declaration system does not represent a completely new requirement, as seems to be implied in the questions, but is in fact a significant simplification of the existing legal requirement. It is designed to maintain necessary controls while facilitating business in this sector.
The background is that farmers who are not registered for value-added tax and who supply agricultural produce or agricultural services to VAT-registered persons are entitled to be paid a flat-rate addition (at present 2.5 per cent) to the price received for their produce or services. This is to compensate the nonregistered farmer for the VAT he has paid on his purchases and for which he is unable to obtain credit. The flat-rate  system is a major concessionary departure from normal VAT arrangements.
In order to establish proper entitlement to the flat-rate addition, the nonregistered (or “flat-rate”) farmer is obliged under the Value-Added Tax Act, 1972 to issue an appropriate invoice for each transaction. The arrangements were most recently updated and specified in the Value Added Tax (Invoices and Other Documents) Regulations, 1992 (S.I. No. 275 of 1992).
In the case of agricultural livestock sold to marts, factories and exporters, the legislation provides for a settlement voucher to be prepared by the purchaser in respect of each “flat-rate” transaction, and for that settlement voucher to be acknowledged and signed by the flat-rate farmer making the sale.
Because of changes in the working arrangements for livestock sales over the years it has been represented that those requirements are now in practice difficult to meet. Accordingly, discussions have been held with the industry to see if other more satisfactory arrangements can be devised. The arrangements now proposed provide that, instead of requiring a signed settlement voucher in support of each flat-rate transaction, it will be sufficient now for the flat-rate farmer to sign a once-off declaration of non-VAT-registered status. Such declaration is then to be retained by the mart, factory or exporter, which will confirm the farmer's entitlement to the flat-rate addition in respect of all future transactions. The declaration is also to be made available for inspection by Revenue when/if required.
Implementation of the revised arrangements was deferred for up to a year, to 1 March 1995 in order to give all parties a workable lead-in period. I am assured that every assistance will be given by Revenue in cases where initial administrative difficulties are experienced.
59. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the taxation of telephone rental allowances and television licence allowances to retired ESB staff. [4018/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): Telephone rental and television licence allowances paid by an employer to or on behalf of employees, including pensioners, are normally taxable. Any question as to whether these allowances are taxable in the case of retired ESB staff is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.
In this connection I understand that the Revenue Commissioners have been in discussion with the ESB about the criteria to be used in deciding whether taxation should apply and at this stage it has been agreed by Revenue that taxation would not be an issue where the retired staff satisfy the qualifying conditions under which the same allowances are available to the recipients of certain social welfare pensions.
The ESB is currently establishing which of their retired staff satisfy these conditions. I understand that the ESB will make the results known to Revenue so that the overall picture will be clear prior to 6 April 1995.
60. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement regarding the uncertainty created by the British Government in relation to an EU single currency. [3877/95]
66. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to discuss with his counterpart in Britain the single currency for 1997 as outlined by Mr. Santer, President of the European Commission; and his views on whether the uncertainty of Britain's attitude has created problems for Ireland's participation in a single currency. [3878/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 66 together. I have no plans at present to discuss the creation of a single currency with my United Kingdom counterpart. As President Santer has indicated, the Treaty on European Union sets out a timetable for the establishment of Economic and Monetary Union and a single currency. This will involve consideration of the relevant issues by the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) in due course, and in that context I will be discussing the matter with all my EU colleagues, including my UK counterpart.
The UK Government has indicated that it does not expect full Economic and Monetary Union, or a single currency, to be created in 1997, and that even if the Community does proceed to Economic and Monetary Union and a single currency at that time, the UK will not participate; as regards Economic and Monetary Union and a single currency created at a later date, the UK Government has said that a decision whether to participate will be taken closer to the time. This position is not inconsistent with the Protocol attached to the Treaty on European Union which allows the UK to remain outside Economic and Monetary Union if it wishes. The other member states, including Ireland, agreed to this Protocol when the Treaty was negotiated.
61. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Finance the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department.[3415/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): A provision of £32,500 was sought for 1995 prior to the dissolution of the last Government. It is unlikely, however, that my Department will utilise this allocation this year.
62. Mr. Hilliard asked the Minister for Finance the appropriations-in-aid included in the Vote for each Government Department as stated in the 1995 book of estimates; the relevant figures in 1994; and the way in which these figures were arrived at. [3627/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The following table gives the information requested by the Deputy.
Under section 2 of the Public Accounts and Charges Act, 1891, certain receipts arising in the normal course of a Department's or Office's ordinary Vote business may be retained by that Department or Office to meet expenditure instead of being paid  directly into the Exchequer. These receipts are known as appropriations-in-aid and can include such items as charges for services, pensions contributions, rentals and proceeds from certain sales, fines, forfeitures or costs recovered, and EU receipts.
Under the Act, moneys applied as appropriations-in-aid are regarded as moneys provided by the Oireachtas and the specific amounts to be applied to each Vote are authorised in the annual Appropriation Act.
EU receipts are calculated in accordance with the regulations governing the spending scheme which attracts the EU aid.
The Appropriations-in-Aid for each Government Department for the years 1994/5 are as follows:
|Department||1994 Provisional Outturn||1995 Estimate|
|Houses of the Oireachtas & the European Parliament||614||606|
|Office of the Tánaiste||15||—|
|Central Statistics Office||1,373||1,580|
|Office of the Minister for Finance||655||571|
|Superannuation & Retired Allowances||14,191||12,297|
|Comptroller & Auditor General||339||1,470|
|Office of the Revenue Commissioners||17,571||18,149|
|Office of Public Works||12,025||12,450|
|Office of the Attorney General||108||200|
|Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions||21||16|
|Valuation and Ordnance Survey||7,907||4,700|
|Civil Service Commission||1,062||1|
|Transport, Energy & Communications||40,648||32,256|
|Office of the Minister for Justice||1,417||1,344|
|Office of the Minister for Education||3,584||5,985|
|First Level Education||33,121||33,652|
|Second Level & Further Education||78,510||82,256|
|Third Level & Further Education||67,701||60,381|
|Agriculture and Food||229,730||286,554|
|Equality & Law Reform||22||5|
|Enterprise & Employment||12,707||10,853|
|Tourism & Trade||573||400|
|Arts, Culture & Gaeltacht||57,239||58,535|
A breakdown of all Appropriations-in-Aid is set out in the annual Revised Estimates Volume. A copy of the 1994 volume is available in the Dáil Library. The 1995 figures given above are taken from the Abridged (i.e. pre-budget) Estimates Volume as the 1995 Revised Estimate Volume has not been published yet.
63. Mr. Hilliard asked the Minister for Finance the number of special savings accounts under £1,000; £2,000; £5,000; and £10,000 which are liable for DIRT. [3628/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): Unfortunately, statistics are not available which would enable the information requested by the Deputy to be provided.
64. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the amount of funding being made available by his Department to alleviate flood damage in County Galway. [3830/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins): A provision of £2 million has been made to deal with the effects of recent flooding in the agricultural sector and an additional provision of £4 million has been made for maintenance of county roads. The expenditure of these provisions will be a matter for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and Environment, respectively. It would be expected in the normal course that other losses would be covered by owner's insurance. Such liabilities should not therefore fall on the State and consequently no provision has been made to meet them.
65. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for Finance if financial assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Galway who suffered losses in view of recent flooding. [3868/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins): There is no record of a claim for compensation from the person referred to having been received in the Office of Public Works.
The Government has established an interdepartmental committee to coordinate its response to the effects of the recent bad weather. The committee will consider what, if any, funds can be secured to assist those who have suffered loss from non-insurable risks as a result of the recent flooding.
It would be expected in the normal course that losses would be covered by owner's insurance and that such liabilities would not therefore fall on the State.
A provision of £2 million was made in the budget for compensation for flood damage in the agricultural sector.
Other exceptional or urgent needs arising from the recent flooding could be considered for assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered by the health boards on behalf of the Department of Social Welfare.
67. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Finance the steps, if any, taken by the Office of Public Works to ensure that the recent flooding which occurred in Kilkenny city, in particular at Green Lane, does not recur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3898/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins): The powers of the Commissioners of Public Works to undertake work to relieve flooding are derived from the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945.
The River Nore is No. 18 on the priority list of major catchments to be considered for an arterial drainage scheme. To date a total of 11 schemes have been completed in catchments on this list, one is in progress and due to be closed later this year. A decision not to proceed has been made in three cases, a further three schemes are under consideration, two of which have been subjected to cost/benefit analysis and to date have proved uneconomic. There is little prospect of undertaking a major arterial drainage scheme on the River Nore in the foreseeable future.
The Government has established an interdepartmental committee to coordinate its response to the effects of the recent bad weather. The committee will consider what, if any, funds can be secured to assist those who have suffered loss from non-insurable risks as a result of the recent flooding.
68. Mr. P. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) asked the Minister for Finance the proposals, if any, he has for the introduction of full PRSI for new entrants to the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3903/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): As indicated in the Budget Statement of 26 January 1994, modified PRSI cover will no longer apply to new public sector employees recruited on or after 6 April  1995. My colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare, will be making the necessary regulations to give effect to this change.
These new recruits will, accordingly, be liable for the class A rate of PRSI contribution and will be treated no differently than existing full-rate PRSI contributors as far as social welfare benefits are concerned.
These occupational schemes, such as the sick pay and pension schemes, of such employees will be amended to take account of their entitlement to the full range of social welfare benefits. These amended conditions of employment will be in accordance with the arrangements applicable to other groups of public servants — comprising a large proportion of the public sector workforce — who already have class A PRSI status.
Full consultations with staff interests about these revised conditions of service are underway in different parts of the public sector.
71. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Health the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department.[3415/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): It is anticipated that expenditure on public relations consultants to be met from my Department's administrative budget will amount to around £35,000 in 1995.
In addition, and as part of individual projects within the health promotion programme, my Department may engage the services of public relations consultants. It is not possible at this point to determine the cost for 1995 of such services.
72. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in the issuing of a death certificate in relation to a person (details supplied); and when a certificate will be issued. [3613/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The administration of the registration system is a matter for the Registrar-General of Births and Deaths and for local registrars who operate under his general direction.
I am informed by the Registrar-General that the death in question — a home death — had taken place in 1991, and that the next of kin had neglected at that time to give details to the district registrar as required by law.
As more than a year has elapsed since the death, the local registrar requires the authority of the Registrar-General to register the event and the application to the General Register Office is in respect of that authority. The initial application did not include all the appropriate information and documentation and it was necessary to write to the applicant and qualified informant, the son of the deceased, for additional contemporary documentary evidence of the death. When that has been received in the General Register Office the application will be processed with all due despatch and the necessary authority to register the death will issue to the local registrar. The qualified informant will then be advised by letter to attend at the office of the appropriate registrar. A death certificate may be obtained from the registrar when the qualified informant attends to register the death.
73. Mr. Hilliard asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, in the case of the pay claim lodged by the Environmental Health Officers, the arbitration board failed to reach agreement and the findings are those of the arbitrator alone; if the claim was rejected by the arbitration board; if the Environmental Health Officers rejected the arbitration findings as selective, unfair and inaccurate; if he will instruct his officers to enter into meaningful negotiations with the staff unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3630/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): As I explained quite recently to the House, both the management and staff interests opted to refer this claim to arbitration.
The arbitration board, having considered the matter and having failed to reach unanimous agreement, called upon the chairman to arbitrate in the matter and to issue his findings, as is the standard practice in these circumstances.The environmental health officers, through their union, IMPACT, rejected the terms of the arbitration report.
Under the terms of current policy on pay in the public service as agreed and set out in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, negotiations entered into and processed through the standard industrial relations channels, up to and including a full Conciliation and Arbitration Board hearing, cannot be reopened in the life time of the current programme.
I, as Minister, cannot advise my Department to enter into negotiations with the environmental health officers and their union as such negotiations would be unfair to other groups who are currently processing claims under the terms of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work.
74. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to provide modern geriatric care residential units at St. Brendan's Hospital, Grangegorman, Dublin 7; and the plans, if any, he has for the existing geriatric wards. [3633/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The Eastern Health Board is responsible for the provision of services in St. Brendan's Hospital, Grangegorman, Dublin 7. The board's proposals for the development of services for the elderly are in line with Government policy as expressed in the two policy documents, Planning for the Future and The Years Ahead dealing  with services for the mentally ill and the elderly respectively. These policy documents advocate the development of a comprehensive range of facilities which are community-based, sectorised, integrated and appropriate to the needs of the patient.
On 31 December 1994, 58 patients in St. Brendan's Hospital were aged 65 years and over out of a total of 256 patients. As the existing elderly population in St. Brendan's Hospital is reduced, services for the elderly on the campus will be phased out.
This year, I made available a sum of £254,800 to the Eastern Health Board to provide a high support hostel in Bray to facilitate the transfer of elderly patients from St. Brendan's Hospital and to fund nursing home places for elderly patients transferred from the hospital.
The policy of the Eastern Health Board is to develop specialised old age psychiatric services providing early intervention, assessment and support of persons with dementia in the community, as well as frail elderly with psychiatric disabilities. Such services currently operate in community care areas 3, 4, 6 and 7. I have made funding available to enable a service to begin in community care areas 1 and 2 this year.
75. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the delay in the issuing of Death and Marriage Certificates from the registration office; if these delays are due to staff shortages; the average time taken to issue certificates; the number of certificates in each category issued by this office for each of the past five years; the number of staff employed in the office for the same period; the plans, if any, he has to improve the service to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3638/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The administration of the registration system in Ireland is a  matter for An tArd-Chláraitheoir (the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages), and for the local registrars who operate under his direction. It is not clear whether the Deputy's inquiry refers to a particular local registration office or the General Register Office. However, An tArd-Chláraitheoir has furnished the following information in respect of the specific queries raised by the Deputy, in so far as they relate to the General Register Office.
The waiting period for the issue of certificates in response to applications received by post is currently two to three weeks. The response time in respect of applications received by post is affected by factors such as the seasonal increase in demand for passports. The time required to issue a certificate in respect of any particular application depends on the accuracy and amount of information supplied by the applicant, and the time devoted by a staff member to searching the indexes and locating the relevant entry. For these reasons, the time required to issue a certificate can vary significantly.
The number of marriage and death certificates issued by the General Register Office during the past five years are:
|Marriage Certificates||Death Certificates|
Details of the staff employed in the General Register Office during the same period are:
|1 January 1990||45|
|1 January 1991||45|
|1 January 1992||41|
|1 January 1993||47|
|1 January 1994||48|
These figures represent average whole time equivalents for the years in question.
 In an effort to further improve the standard of service being provided to members of the public, the General Register Office is presently engaged in a significant programme to introduce modern computer technology, modernise structures and update the relevant legislation governing the discharge of the functions of the Registrar-General, including the issue of certificates.
76. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Health his views on the proposal from St. James' Hospital, Dublin 8, that his Department should sanction the use of the American cardiac system called Psicor which can deal with 250 patients per annum at an estimated cost per patient of £1,300, which is in contrast to the average cost for heart surgery of £8,500; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3643/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The Psicor system referred to in the Deputy's question relates to the provision of a perfusion service during a cardiac surgery procedure.Perfusion is the procedure whereby the patient's blood supply which has been diverted from the heart is kept oxygenated while surgery is being carried out. I should point out that the cost of a perfusion service is only one part of the overall costs associated with cardiac surgery.
The proposal by St. James's Hospital incorporating the Psicor system was examined in my Department in 1992/93 and a decision was taken in 1993, that, for the present, available resources would be directed towards expanding the national cardiac surgery centre at the Mater Hospital, Dublin rather than establishing a new unit for cardiac surgery at St. James's Hospital.
I should point out that cardiac surgery is also performed at the Cork Regional Hospital and the developments at the Mater Hospital, together with developments for cardiac surgery at Cork  Regional Hospital, which were completed in November 1994, will have the effect of increasing the number of cardiac surgery operations performed on an annual basis in the public hospital sector by 47 per cent from 950 to 1,400.
77. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been told by the dental section, St. Finbarr's Hospital, Cork, that her son cannot be seen by the hospital until he is in sixth class; the reason this person was told by St. Finbarr's dental section that they did not have enough funding to treat her child in view of the fact that he is in third class and under the new scheme is entitled to treatment; when this person will be seen in view of the fact that he is in need of orthodontic treatment and has been told he needs a gum guard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3644/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Cork is the responsibility of the Southern Health Board in the first instance and I have referred this case to the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board for his immediate attention and direct reply to the Deputy.
78. Mr. P. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) asked the Minister for Health the dental services that are available to medical card holders under 65 years of age; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that medical card holders under 65 years of age who had applied for denture treatments prior to November 1994, and who were on waiting lists have been told that no service can be provided to them; the action, if any, he will take to remedy the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3677/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): Under the new dental treatment services scheme which was introduced by my Department on 1 November, 1994 dental treatment for all adults with medical card eligibility will be phased in over a four year period.
In the initial phasing of the scheme persons aged 65 years and over have been identified as a priority group and additional resources have been made available to health boards to enable them to provide dental treatment including denture treatment for this group. Emergency dental treatment for the relief of pain is, of course, available to all medical card holders irrespective of age. However, where their existing resources allow, health boards will continue to provide routine dental treatment to adults who have not yet reached 65 years.
It is my intention to extend routine dental treatment under the scheme to an additional cohort of adults later this year if the initial phase progresses satisfactorily.All health boards operate a priority waiting list for dental treatment for medically compromised persons who are given priority irrespective of age on production of a letter from their general medical practitioner.
79. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Health if persons in receipt of disabled person's maintenance allowance at the relevant time will qualify for payment under the equality legislation if they fulfil the conditions similar to women under the social welfare legislation. [3693/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): As men and women have always been treated equally with regard to payment of disabled person's maintenance allowance, the question of payment to women under the equality legislation does not arise.
80. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Health if any study has been initiated in the Tubbercurry, Cloonacool and Coolaney areas of County Sligo to identify the reasons for the increased incidence of cancer. [3705/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I am advised by the North-Western Health Board that no such study has been initiated there. The board has also pointed out that the scientific collection of data of this nature on a small area basis is a very long drawn out process over a long period of years and, in scientific terms, is not all that reliable.
81. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a dedicated cystic fibrosis unit at St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3736/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I am providing additional revenue moneys in the current year towards the enhancement of staffing and support levels in a number of service areas at St. Vincent's Hospital, including the cystic fibrosis unit. My Department will be having discussions with the hospital in the coming weeks to determine the precise level of funding to be allocated to this service.
I am also pleased to inform the Deputy that a project team, comprising representatives of St. Vincent's Hospital and officials of my Department, has been established to prepare a comprehensive programme for the development of the hospital in the years ahead. The development and location of the cystic fibrosis unit has been identified to the project team as a priority by the hospital in the development of its infrastructure.I look forward to receiving the recommendations of the project team in the near future.
82. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to celebrate international women's day; and whether he has asked each of the health boards to arrange for celebrations as well. [3825/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I will be attending and addressing a breast cancer awareness seminar for the Irish Countrywomen's Association two days prior to International Women's Day. This is one of a series of seminars which are sponsored by my Department's health promotion unit and are organised by the Irish Cancer Society. Three of these seminars were held in different venues in 1994 and another five will take place during 1995.
As promised in the National Health Strategy, I propose to launch, in the near future, the health promotion strategy which contains provisions relating to women and a discussion document on women's health which will lead to the development of a national women's health plan.
In regard to the health boards participation in International Women's Day, the health education staff of the health boards were notified of the 1995 national and international calendar of events around which they could organise local or regional based events.
83. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health when the 1992 and 1993 reports of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. [3826/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals for 1992 is with the printers and will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas shortly. The inspector's report for 1993 is at an advanced stage of preparation  and will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible.
84. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health when his Department received a submission from Positive Action; when he expects to receive the expert Committee's report into Anti-D contamination; whether the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3827/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I met with a deputation from Positive Action on 24 January, 1995 and received a submission from them at the meeting. It was agreed that further discussions between the representatives of Positive Action and officials of my Department would take place and these discussions are ongoing.
I received the report of the expert group on the Blood Transfusion Service Board on 27 January 1995. I am considering the report in detail and arrangements will be made in due course for its publication.
85. Mr. Briscoe asked the Minister for Health if it is his intention to set up an office for an ombudsman for children along lines similar to Norway, Sweden and other countries in view of a report (details supplied); if he is examining or will have examined such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3858/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie): I have asked my Department to look into the arrangements that exist in other jurisdictions for safeguarding and promoting the rights of children, which in some countries has involved the appointment of an ombudsman for children. I intend to examine the experience abroad to see what lessons can be learned in relation to our own situation here.
86. Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for Health his views on the suggestion by a spokesperson for the National Hospital for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Bromsgrave Hospital, Birmingham for exchange of young surgeons for training visits between Ireland and Bromsgrove Hospital, Birmingham. [3942/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The question of an exchange of doctors for training purposes is a matter for the training bodies, in this particular case the Irish Surgical Post-Graduate Training Committee and the Joint (UK and Irish) Committee on Higher Surgical Training. As it appears that Bromsgrove Hospital is not accredited for training purposes and that Irish doctors would have nothing to learn there that they would not learn in Irish hospitals, it is difficult to see what rationale could be advanced in support of this suggestion.
87. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Health the number of people awaiting hip operations in County Westmeath at 1 January in each of the years 1990 to 1995; and the waiting time for hip operations in the midlands. [3997/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I am advised by the Midland Health Board that the number of patients awaiting hip replacements in its catchment area in respect of the following years on 1 January was as follows: 1993, 106; 1994, 39; 1995, 115. Figures are not available prior to 1993.
The Midland Health Board appointed a third orthopaedic consultant in January 1994 and additional out-patient clinics have been provided since then. This has resulted in additional people being put on the in-patient waiting list and a consequent increase in the number on the 1995 list. Information relating to  approximate waiting times is not routinely collected by my Department.
88. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor): No provision has been made in my Department's Estimate for 1995 in respect of a public relations budget. A provision of £500,000 has been made to provide information regarding the divorce referendum.
89. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): The press and information functions in my Department are handled by permanent civil servants and the costs associated with their work are met from the relevant sub-sections of my Department's administrative budget. A specific sum has not been allocated from the administrative budget for public relations.
90. Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the plans, if any, he has for public use of the playing pitches at the former Collins Barracks, Dublin; if they will be made available for use by inner city football clubs; if so, when; the criteria that will be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3733/95]
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): The Deputy will be aware that the Government has decided to develop the Collins Barracks site as a major National  Museum facility and a considerable amount of work has been completed on one portion of the site. Plans for the completion of the project will not be finalised until I receive the final report of the interim board of the National Museum, which I expect shortly.
91. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the allocation to each local authority for promotion of the arts for the years 1994 and 1995. [3734/95]
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): The question of funding for local authorities is not a matter for my Department and I am, therefore, not in a position to supply the Deputy with the information he has requested.
92. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht if he intends increasing funding to the Arts Council; and if he will establish an alternative scheme whereby each artist gets a minimum wage in view of the fact that most artists are excluded from any type of State support. [3904/95]
93. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht if he will make additional funding available to the Arts Council. [4020/95]
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 93 together.
Since my appointment as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, I have secured an increase of some 60 per cent in funding for An Chomhairle Ealaíon/the Arts Council, from £10.161 million in 1992 to £16.25 million in 1995. This Government is committed to a planned approach to the development of the arts and I propose to continue my dialogue with my colleagues in Government with a view to the implementation  of the recently-published Arts Plan 1995-1997 in the minimum time period possible.
I have no plans at this stage to establish an alternative scheme whereby each artist gets a minimum wage. There are a number of schemes in operation at present from which artists can receive support. These include the bursary and award schemes operated by An Chomhairle Ealaíon, which are open to all artists in the disciplines of visual arts, music, dance, drama, literature and film, and range in value from £1,000 to £3,000.
In addition, and uniquely, the Irish Government does not levy income tax on the earnings of individual artists from their creative work. Many artists avail of this exemption which is operated by the Revenue Commissioners and it is my understanding that taxation foregone under the scheme is in the region of £1.5 million to £2 million per year. The Deputy will appreciate that this represents a direct subsidy to creative artists working in Ireland. Finally, the Aosdána scheme provides to its qualifying members an annual subsidy of the order of £8,000 to allow them to concentrate full-time on their work. Members of Aosdána who are in receipt of such a subsidy — called the Cnuas — may not have any work other than their art. The membership of Aosdána is limited at any one time to 200 and currently the membership stands at 144. Of this number, 84 are in receipt of the Cnuas.
I should also point out that artists are not excluded from State services and may avail of services on offer from Departments such as Social Welfare, Health and Enterprise and Employment in the same manner as all other citizens of this State.
94. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for the Environment if he will introduce legislation in compliance with the Architect's Directive 85/384/EEC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3889/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Regulations entitled the European Communities (Establishment and Provision of Services in Architecture) Regulations, 1989 (S.I. No. 15 of 1989) which came into effect on 25 January 1989 implemented Directive 85/384/EEC in this country.
95. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for the Environment the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): My Department has no such budget. No staff or consultants are employed or engaged by my Department on public relations work.
96. Mr. Hilliard asked the Minister for the Environment the equivalent figure in 1994 to the £44.3m. which was increased in the recent budget by £4 million to £48.3 million for maintenance of county roads; and the way in which this money was distributed in 1994 to the local authorities as stated in the principle features of the 1995 budget. [3629/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The provision for the maintenance of all public roads in the 1995 Estimates for my Department was increased from £44.3 million to £48.3 million in the budget. The provision included in the Abridged Version of the 1994 Estimates was £34.5 million, later increased to £54.5 million, mainly by a once-off allocation from the proceeds of the tax amnesties. The allocation of the national roads element (£21.2 million) of the 1994 provision was a matter for the National Roads Authority and a further £4 million was set aside for urban authorities. The balance was allocated to county councils for regional and county roads as set out in the following table.
Distribution of 1994 Maintenance Grant Provision to County Councils.
|County Council||Grant Paid||County Council||Grant paid|
97. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment in view of the situation in relation to the greater Dublin water supply and the unsatisfactory supply to the northern fringe of the city, if he will sanction Contract 1C to expand treatment capacity at Ballymore Eustace. [3634/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I refer to the reply to Question No. 70 of 2 February 1995 which detailed measures now under way to improve water supply in the North Dublin area.
A major strategic study of water requirements in the Dublin region has recently commenced and is expected to be substantially completed this year. The development of major proposed investments, such as Contract 1C at Ballymore Eustace Water Treatment Plant, will be considered in the light of this study.
98. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for the Environment the total amount allocated for regional and county roads in each of the counties Monaghan and Cavan from the central fund and local authority funds for each of the years 1986 to 1995. [3692/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The information requested for the years 1986 to 1993 is set out in the reply to Question No. 112 of 15 February 1994. Information in respect of 1994 and 1995 is given in the following table:
Maintenance and Improvement of Regional and County Roads
|Year||Cavan County Council||Monaghan County Council|
|State Grants Received||Own Resources Expenditure||State Grants Received||Own Resources Expenditure|
Note: Grant allocations for 1995 will be made as soon as possible. The “own resources” figures for that year are those included in the councils' estimates.
99. Mr. E. Walsh asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to introduce regulations requiring seat belts to be worn in mini buses and coaches used in transporting children to school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3880/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The law on this matter, which conforms to the relevant EU Directive, is contained in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations, 1991 (S.I. No. 359 of 1991). Enforcement is a matter for the gardaí. I have no proposals to introduce new regulations.
100. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for the Environment the present position regarding the proposed sewerage scheme for Glencolmcille, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3906/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Contract documents for the Glencolmcille sewerage scheme are under consideration in my Department.
This project has been included in the Donegal Bay waste water management scheme for which application is pending to the European Commission for Cohesion Fund assistance.
101. Mrs. T. Ahearn asked the Minister for the Environment the finance given by his Department to the National Safety Council, water safety section; if he will increase this allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3924/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): A grant of £550,000 is provided for in my Department's Estimates for 1995 towards the administration and general expenses of the National Safety Council. The allocation of the annual grant among its various services is a matter for the council.
102. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for the Environment the present position concerning the provision of a small sewage scheme (details supplied) in County Cork. [3931/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): There is no proposal with my Department for a sewerage scheme at Bartlemy.
103. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment the allocation by his Department to Westmeath County Council for county roads and regional, national primary and national secondary routes in each of the past ten years. [3994/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Grant payments for non-national roads are not subdivided into the categories mentioned. Subject to this, the information requested is included in the replies to Question No. 72 of 24 May 1994, Questions Nos. 169, 170, 171 and 172 of 15 November 1994, Question No. 12 of 17 November 1994 and Question No. 101 of 31 January 1995.
The allocation of grants for national roads in 1994 was a matter for the National Roads Authority.
104. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for the Environment if his attention has been drawn to a recent newspaper article stating that disabled people living in West Cork have been ignored by his Department under a recent access improvement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4022/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): A once-off scheme of grants for the improvement of disabled persons' access to parks and other recreational open spaces was introduced in 1994 with an overall provision of £500,000. Applications were received for grants totalling £829,000 in respect of 135 eligible projects.
As the value of applications exceeded the funds available, grants were allocated last year to all eligible projects proposed by private voluntary groups and the balance was allocated among selected local authority projects. Allocations totalling £30,025 were made to projects in County Cork, two of which were local authority projects.
105. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to widespread complaints of residents in the vicinity of Dalymount Park, Dublin 7, in relation to problems arising for them before, during and after rock concerts; the controls, if any, that exist under his Department in relation to noise and anti-social behaviour including excessive drinking before and after such concerts in public places; if she will bring forward new regulations controlling rock concerts including a requirement for consultation with local residents in advance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3651/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): A code of safety at outdoor pop concerts and other outdoor musical events as well as a code of practice for safety at sports grounds are being finalised at present.
The codes will include attention to the interests of residents living in the vicinity of sports grounds and outdoor musical events.
106. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Education the public relations budget which has been allocated to her Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): There is no specific budget allocated to public relations in my Department. However, expenditure may arise from time to time in regard to public relations on particular issues.
107. Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Education if she will abolish the fees for the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate examinations. [3602/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): There are no proposals to abolish examination entry fees for the junior certificate and leaving certificate examinations.
Examination entry fees cover only part of the cost of running the certificate examinations. It is expected that about £6 million in fees will be collected in respect of the 1995 exminations but the cost of running the examinations will come to about £13 million. I should point out that my Department operates a number of measures in order to alleviate hardship arising from the payment of examination entry fees.
In the case of necessitious pupils, the ordinary fee payable may be reduced at the discretion of the school principal and subject to a maximum notified to each school or vocational education committee by my Department. My Department has made £400,000 available to schools and vocational education committees for this purpose in connection with the 1995 examinations. This amount is greater than the amount allocated in 1994 by 1.5 per cent, the estimated increase in candidature. There has been no increase in the rates of examination entry fees since 1994.
The amount allocated to each school or committee in respect of 1995 fees has  been based on the results of a questionaire on hardship issued to schools in 1994. Allocations have been increased or reduced, taking into account the particular circumstances in each school.
In addition, in the case of a candidate who remains at school to repeat the leaving certificate examination and whose parent or guardian is the holder of a current medical card the course fee of £100 is waived and the examination entry fee is reduced from £120 to a maximum of £44, (the ordinary leaving certificate fee payable by first-time candidates).
Finally candidates who are not attending school may enter presonally for the leaving certificate examination under the provisions for admission of external candidates. The ordinary fees payable by external candidates are reduced, where the candidate is the holder of a current medical card or is dependent on a parent or guardian who is the holder of a current medical card, as follows:
|£44 to £18||for one subject,|
|£88 to £33||for two subjects.|
|£132 to £44||for three or more subjects.|
This package of measures is geared to prevent hardship arising from the payment of examination entry fees and is kept under continuous review.
108. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the fact that her policy on the accommodation needs of primary education is preventing a person (details supplied) in County Dublin from securing a place at Mount Anville primary school and St. Raphaela's national school, both serving her parish, or St. Therese's national school and Our Lady's Grove primary school in view of the shortage of classrooms in all cases; her views on whether the person, who has spent two years at montessori school and has been on waiting lists for up to 18 months, is entitled to be educated in her home parish; her further views on whether the person should have to be bussed out of home parish to attend primary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter in view of the difficulties now facing the child's parents. [3607/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): It is the board of management of a national school which sets the enrolment policy for that school and, while parents are usually able to have their children enrolled in the school of their first choice, local circumstances may be such at a particular time that a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to those from a particular area or a particular age group.
My Department has investigated the circumstances of this case and is satisfied that, taking the two schools catering for girls and this parish, the Mount Anville and St. Raphaela's schools, sufficient classroom accommodation exists to cater for the child in question. She has not been refused a place in St Raphaela's national school but has been placed on a waiting list of children to be considered for acceptance. It is inevitable that, at this time of the year when some parents may have booked their children into a number of schools or may not have reached final decisions as to whether their children should commence primary education next September, it may appear that a situation is developing where the supply of school places in a given area will not meet the demand. My Department does not anticipate such a situation arising in so far as provision for girls in Kilmacud parish is concerned.
109. Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Education, in relation to Ballymacart National School, The Ring Gaeltacht in County Waterford, if she will sanction a change in the school bus route back to the route that was in operation up to 1989 in view of the fact that the school is in a Gaeltacht area and its future will be threatened if this change is not sanctioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3617/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): All existing school transport services are subject to review and possible reorganisation each year in light of population changes. A service can be restored only if the number of eligible pupils justifies it.
I understand that only two pupils would benefit from a restoration of the pre-1989 service. Whilst a return to that route could not be justified, I am prepared, as an exceptional matter, to sanction an extension of service which would bring the pick-up point nearer to those two pupils, giving a home pick-up point to one of the pupils. In doing so, I am taking account of the fact that Ballymacart is a Gaeltacht school.
110. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education the plans, if any, she has for the provision of sports facilities for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and, if so, when these works will commence.[3618/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Due to the demands on the capital resources available, priority has to be given to the provision of essential teaching accommodation. As a result, it is not possible to make funding available at this stage for the provision of physical education facilities at the school in question.
The provision of indoor sports accommodation in existing schools will resume as soon as pressure on available resources for urgent classroom accommodation has eased.
111. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education if she has finalised the new regulations governing eligibility for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas scheme; if so, the contents of these regulations; and when these schools will be notified of the outcome of their applications. [3619/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I have commissioned the Combat Poverty Agency to conduct a detailed study of current approaches to the identification and support of pupils in disadvantaged areas.
The criteria used to determine eligibility for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas scheme will be among the maters covered by this study.
I expect to receive a report on the outcome of this study by the middle of this year and this will provide a basis for the development of future approaches in this area.
My Department maintains a record of all applications received seeking disadvantaged area status. In the event of an expansion of the scheme being undertaken, all applicants will be advised as to their position.
112. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education if she will have arrangements made to improve the transport service available to children (details supplied) in County Cork who are attending a special school in Cork City. [3620/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): My Department's agents, Bus Éireann, have received a request for a home pick-up/set-down service for the pupils in question.
The possibility of introducing such an arrangement has been investigated. However, I am advised by Bus Éireann that an extension of the service to facilitate the children in question would give rise to an unacceptable deterioration in  the standard of service available to other children using the service.
Grant assistance can be provided towards the cost of private transport to the pick-up point. My Department will be communicating with the parents of the children in question in relation to this matter.
113. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Education the progress, if any, that has been made with regard to the purchase of the Christian Brother's School in Cashel, County Tipperary, as a replacement for Scoil Chormaic, Cashel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3669/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The question of relocating Scoil Chormaic, Cashel in the Christian Brothers' school is under consideration in my Department at present and reports are awaited from the Department's professional advisers in the matter.When these have been received and considered it is intended to have further consultations with the representatives of the Christian Brothers' School.
114. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for Education when refurbishment grants for a school (details supplied) in County Galway will be paid. [3672/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): My Department's local advisers have been asked to submit a report and recommendation on an application for grant-aid for certain remedial works at the school referred to by the Deputy. When this report is received and examined a decision will be conveyed to the chairman of the board of management.
115. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Education when she will sanction the application by Drogheda Vocational Educational Committee for a new college for Drogheda, County Louth; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the cost to her Department of the extra rented accommodation required for the overflow at St. Laurence College is now £50,000 per annum; if her attention has further been drawn to the inadequate facilities which exist at this college; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3695/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of 14 February 1995 in which I stated that a comprehensive review of the accommodation needs of the schools in Drogheda has been completed by my Department. This review includes the needs of St. Laurence's School.
I am aware of the condition of that school's accommodation and its need, at present, to incur signficant expense through the rental of additional accommodation.
I expect to be in a position shortly to make a decision regarding the provision of additional or replacement accommodation at schools in the centre, including St. Laurence's.
116. Dr. Moffatt asked the Minister for Education the plans, if any, she has to provide a pre-school class at the Convent of Mercy School, Ballina, County Mayo, which is classified as disadvantaged; and the further plans, if any, she has to extend the scheme to other areas in east Mayo. [3861/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I recently announced my intention to expand the early start pre-school programme through the establishment of a further 25 pre-school projects in the coming school year.
 This development will significantly expand the pre-school service and the areas targeted will be selected from among those already included in the disadvantaged areas scheme.
The process of selecting schools for inclusion in the expanded early start programme is currently under way in my Department and the needs of the areas mentioned by the Deputy will be considered in this context.
117. Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Education when an extension will be granted to St. Declan's Community College, Kilmacthomas, County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3909/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): My Department's planning and building unit has sought further information from the County Waterford vocational education committee regarding their application for an extension to St. Declan's vocational school, Kilmacthomas. The school's accommodation needs will be fully assesed when this additional information is received and a decision will be conveyed to the vocational education committee as soon as possible.
118. Mrs. T. Ahearn asked the Minister for Education the number and the names of schools taking physics and chemistry as a combined course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3926/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): A total of 145 post-primary schools are providing the combined physics and chemistry course. Following is a list of the schools concerned.
 Schools Providing the Combined Subject Physics and Chemistry.
|60041D||Coláiste Éoin, Bóthar Stigh Lorgan, Baile an Bhóthair, An Charraig Dhubh, Contae Bhaile Átha Cliath.|
|60160L||Notre Dame Des Missions, Churchtown Road, Dublin 14.|
|60200U||Presentation Brothers College, Glasthule, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin.|
|60280V||Belcamp College, Malahide Road, Dublin 17.|
|60321J||Rockbrook Park School, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.|
|60341P||Sancta Maria College, Ballyroan, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.|
|60420L||Árdscoil Rís, Ascal Ó Gríofa, Baile Átha Cliath 9.|
|60490J||Scoil na mBráithre, Sraith an Iarthair, Baile Átha Cliath 2.|
|60891E||Our Lady's Grove, Goatstown Road, Dublin 14.|
|61060M||Coláiste Pádraig Naofa, An Cabháin, Contae An Chabháin.|
|61080S||Royal School, Cavan, County Cavan.|
|61280D||Meán Scoil An Leith Triuigh, Breanann, Trá Lí, Contae Chiarraí.|
|61320M||Coláiste Bhreanainn, Cill Airne, Contae Chiarraí.|
|61340S||Meán Scoil Naomh Bríd, Clochar na Toirbhirte, Cill Áirne, Contae Chiarraí.|
|61370E||Coláiste Mhichíl, Liostuathail, Contae Chiarraí.|
|61440W||Meán Scoil na mBráithre, An Fhaiche, Trá Lí, Contae Chiarraí.|
|61450C||Meán Scoil na Toirbhirte, Trá Lí, Contae Chiarraí.|
|61700W||Acadamh Sheosaimh Naofa, Cill Dara, Contae Chill Dara.|
|61701B||Presentation Convent, Kildare, County Kildare.|
|62020F||Scoil Ioseph, An Tulach, Inis, Contae An Chláir.|
|62050O||Árdscoil Uí Urmoltaigh, Droichead na Bandon, Contae Chorcaí.|
|62240T||Maria Immaculata Secondary School, Dunmanway, County Cork.|
|62320R||Scoil Mhuire, Clochar na Trócaire, Maghchromtha, Contae Chorcaí.|
|62330U||Acadamh Phádraig, Mallow, County Cork.|
|62510W||Loreto Convent, Youghal, County Cork.|
|62520C||Christian Brothers College, Sidney Hill, Cork.|
|62570R||Presentation College, Mardyke, Cork.|
|62691G||Regina Mundi College, Douglas Road, Cork.|
|62830R||St. Eunan's College, Letterkenny, County Donegal.|
|62840U||Clochar Loreto, Leitirceanainn, Contae Dhún na nGall.|
|62900M||Coláiste Mhuire, Béal Átha Ghartha, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|62930V||Meán Scoil Naoimh Chuain, Gallach Uí Cheallaigh, Béal Átha na Slua, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|62960H||St. Joseph's Patrician College, Nun's Island, Galway.|
|63030N||Meán Scoil Sheosaimh, Clochar na Trócaire, An Gort, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|63060W||Scoil Áine, Mainistir na Coille Móire, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|63070C||St. Raphael's College, Loughrea, County Galway.|
|63130R||Coláiste Chroí Mhuire gan Smál, An Spidéal, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|63150A||Coláiste Iarfhlatha Naofa, Tuaim, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|63160D||Scoil Bríde, Clochar na Trócaire, Tuaim, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|63191O||St. Aloysius College, Athlone, County Westmeath.|
|63221U||Meán Scoil an Chlochar, Kilbeggan, Mullingar, County Westmeath.|
|63460P||Ballinamore Secondary School, Ballinamore, Cora Droma Ruisc, Contae Liatroma.|
|63840C||Christian Brothers St. Joseph's Secondary School, Drogheda, County Louth.|
|63880O||Coláiste Rís, Sráid An tSeipéil, Dún Dealgan, Contae Lú.|
|63890R||St. Mary's College, Dundalk, County Louth.|
|64020P||Árd-Scoil Mhuire, Bruff, Kilmallock, County Limerick.|
|64180O||Salesian College, Pallaskenry, County Limerick.|
|64200R||Coláiste Mhic na Bráithre Críostaí, Sráid Seasnáin, Luimneach.|
|64270P||Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ, Cnoc na Labhras, Luimneach.|
|64280S||Meán Scoil Maria Auxiliatrix, Fernbank, Limerick.|
|64290V||Árd Scoil Mhuire, Corbally, Limerick.|
|64350N||St. Patrick's Classical School, An Uaimh, County Meath.|
|64420I||Coláiste San Froinsias, Baile Mhic Gormáin, Contae na Mí.|
|64500G||Secondary School Balla, Castlebar, County Mayo.|
|64520M||Scoil na Maighdine Muire, Clochar na Trócaire, Béal an Átha, Contae Mhaigh Eó.|
|64551A||Meán Scoil Réalt na Mara, Clochar na Trócaire, Baile an Chasil, Béal an Átha, Contae Mhaigh Eó.|
|64600K||St. Joseph's Secondary School Marist Convent, Charlestown, Claremorris, County Mayo.|
|64620Q||Scoil Cnocán Mhichíl Naofa, Clochar na Trócaire, Chlár Chlainne Mhuiris, Contae Mhaigh Eó.|
|64630T||Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina, County Mayo.|
|64660F||Meán Scoil Sancta Maria Cluain Cearbhan, Cathair na Mart, Contae Mhaigh Eó.|
|64830E||Monaghan Collegiate School, Corlatt, Monaghan, County Monaghan.|
|64880T||Scoil na mBráithre, Dúngarbháin, Contae Phortlairge.|
|64900W||Ard Scoil na nDéise, Dúngarbháin, Contae Phortlairge.|
|64940L||Waterpark College, Waterford.|
|64980A||Sacred Heart of Mary Convent, Ferrybank, Waterford.|
|65040D||Coláiste Naithi Naofa, Bealach a Dóirín, An Caisleán Riabhach, Contae Roscomáin.|
|65051I||Scoil Chríost Rí, Clochar na Trócaire, Mainistir na Búille, Contae Roscomáin.|
|65070M||Bishop Hodson's Grammar School, Elphin, Castlerea, County Roscommon.|
|65140H||Coláiste Clochar na Trócaire, Baile an Mhóta, Contae Shligigh.|
|65200W||Marist Convent, Tubbercurry, Ballymote, County Sligo.|
|65260R||Scoil Críost Rí, Cathair Dhúin Iascaigh, Contae Thiobrad Árann.|
|65300D||Rockwell College, Cashel, County Tipperary.|
|65330M||Clochar Loreto, Cluain Meala, Contae Thiobrad Árann.|
|65340P||Clochar na Toirbhirte, Cluain Meala, Contae Thiobrad Árann.|
|65470F||Clochar na nUrsulach, Durlás, Contae Thiobrad Árann.|
|65540A||La Sainte Union Convent, Banagher, County Offaly.|
|70050K||Community College, Cumberland Street, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin.|
|70130I||Greenhills College, Limekiln Avenue, Greenhills, Dublin 12.|
|70160R||Vocational School, Clogher Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12.|
|70200D||Technical Institute, Cambridge Road, Ringsend, Dublin 4.|
|70240P||Vocational School, Kylemore Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.|
|70310K||Plunkett College, Swords Road, Whitehall, Dublin 9.|
|70350W||Vocational School, Belturbet, County Cavan.|
|70360C||St. Mogue's College, Bawnboy, Belturbet, County Cavan.|
|70380I||Cavan Vocational School, Keadue, County Cavan.|
|70400L||Vocational School, Borris, County Carlow via Kilkenny.|
|70410O||Vocational School, Hacketstown, County Carlow.|
|70420R||Vocational School, Carlow, County Carlow.|
|70440A||Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach, Easca, Ceatharlach, Contae Cheatharlach.|
|70450D||Community College, Killarney, County Kerry.|
|70460G||Community College, Killorglin, County Kerry.|
|70470J||Scoil Uí Chonaill, Cathair Saidhbhín, Contae Chiarraí.|
|70480M||Gairm Scoil An Coireán, Cill Áirne, Contae Chiarraí.|
|70520V||Vocational School, Castleisland, County Kerry.|
|70530B||Gairm Scoil, An Rath Mór, Contae Chiarraí.|
|70550H||Vocational School, Clash, Tralee, County Kerry.|
|70670R||Coláiste Lorcáin, Castledermot, Athy, County Kildare.|
|70730J||Vocational School, Rathangan, County Kildare.|
|70880F||St. Joseph's Community College, Kilkee, County Clare.|
|70970G||Vocational School, Cobh, County Cork.|
|71250A||Gairmscoil Cholm Cille, Indreabhán, Contae na Gaillimhe.|
|71310P||Gairm Scoil Chilleáin Naofa, Cnoc Breac, New Inn, Ballinasloe, County Galway.|
|71340B||Vocational School, Father Griffin Road, Galway.|
|71410T||Athlone Community College, Retreat Road, Athlone, County Westmeath.|
|71420W||Coláiste Cionn Torc, Castlepollard, Mullingar, County Westmeath.|
|71450I||Vocational School, Mullingar, County Westmeath.|
|71470O||Vocational School, Clonaslee, Portlaoise, County Laois.|
|71490U||Vocational School, Mountrath, Portlaoise, County Laois.|
|71690F||Vocational School, Ballymahon, County Longford.|
|71720L||Community College, Lanesboro, County Longford.|
|71760A||St. Laurence's Vocational School, King Street, Drogheda, County Louth.|
|71780G||Scoil Uí Mhuirí, Dunleer Post Primary School, Dunleer, Drogheda, County Louth.|
|71790J||Gairm Scoil, Caisleán Nua Thiar, Contae Luimnigh.|
|71840V||Coláiste Phobail Mhuire, Cromadh, Cill Mocheallóg, Contae Luimnigh.|
|71870H||Gairm Scoil, Mainistir na Féile, Contae Luimnigh.|
|71890N||Gairm Scoil, Rath Caola, Contae Luimnigh.|
|71910Q||Municipal Technical Institute, O'Connell Avenue, Limerick.|
|71920T||St. Nessan's Community College, Moylish Park, Limerick.|
|72010I||Vocational School, An Uaimh, County Meath.|
|72020L||Moyne College, Ballina, County Mayo.|
|72050U||Coláiste Bhrandáin Naofa Béal, An Mhuirthead, Béal an Átha, Contae Maigh Eó.|
|72070D||McHale College, Achill, County Mayo.|
|72100J||Vocational School, Crossmolina, Ballina, County Mayo.|
|72130S||St. Patrick's College, Lacken Cross, Ballina, County Mayo.|
|72160E||Vocational School, Westport, County Mayo.|
|72180K||Inver College, Carraig Mhachaire Róis, Contae Mhuineacháin.|
|72210Q||Beech Hill College, Monaghan, County Monaghan.|
|72290R||Vocational School, Roscommon, County Roscommon.|
|72390V||Vocational School, Cappawhite, County Tipperary.|
|72400V||Vocational School, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.|
|72420E||Vocational School, Clonmel, County Tipperary.|
|72460Q||Vocational School, Roscrea, County Tipperary.|
|72480W||Vocational School, Tipperary, County Tipperary.|
|72490C||Vocational School, Thurles, County Tipperary.|
|72500C||Vocational School, Banagher, County Offaly.|
|81010J||St. Columbas Comprehensive School, Glenties, County Donegal.|
|91342R||Bayside Community School, Baldoyle, Dublin 13.|
|91351S||Bailieborough Community School, Bailieborough, County Cavan.|
|91409A||Pobalscoil, Ghaoth Dóbhair Doire Beag, Letterkenny, County Donegal.|
|91413O||Community School, Portumna, County Galway.|
|91414Q||Community School, Dunmore, County Galway.|
|91446G||St. Enda's Community School, Crossagalla, Kilmallock Road, Limerick.|
|91456J||St. Ciaran's Community School, Navan Road, Kells, County Meath.|
|91461C||Community School, Ballyhaunis, County Mayo.|
|91496V||Community School, Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim.|
119. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Education, in relation to St. Brigid's national school, Haddington Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, if her attention has been drawn to the request by the principal and management of that school for the appointment of a full-time remedial teacher in view of the fact that two-thirds of the girls attending the school come from disadvantaged backgrounds; if she will make such a full-time appointment; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the present arrangement wherein the school shares a remedial teacher with a neighbouring boys national school, is unsatisfactory and wasteful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3937/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I am aware of the case that St. Brigid's national school has made for a full time remedial teacher. As I recently announced, I intend to allocate an additional 55 remedial teacher posts to the primary school sector in 1995. These posts will be allocated on the basis of priority of need following the collection and analysis of data from schools by my Department's primary inspectorate. The needs of all schools, including St. Brigid's national school, will be considered in the context of this allocation.
120. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Education the capital allocation by her Department in each of the years 1992 to 1995 for primary schools, voluntary secondary schools, community schools, community colleges and vocational schools. [3995/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The information sought by the Deputy is as follows:
|Primary||Voluntary Secondary Schools||Vocational (inc. Community Colleges)||Community Schools|
121. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for Education the names of all primary schools in County Donegal classified as disadvantaged. [4016/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): A total of 11 primary schools in County Donegal have been included in the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. Each of the schools in question has an additional concessionary teaching post and each receives additional capitation funding. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the special capitation funding in question is being increased from £17 to £25 per pupil for the coming school year.
The 11 schools in question are as follows:
Scoil Cholm Cille, Malin, Lifford, County Donegal.
Saint Patrick's national school, Murlog, Lifford, County Donegal.
Scoil náisiúnta Naomh Aonghus, Bridgend, Lifford, County Donegal.
Saint Baithins, Johnstown, Lifford, County Donegal.
Scoil Adhamhain, Rathboth, Leithbhearr, County Donegal.
Saint Patrick's boys' national school, Carndonagh, County Donegal.
Coileal national school, Glencolmcille, County Donegal.
Scoil Cholmcille, Carrigart, Letterkenny, County Donegal.
Scoil Naomh Chroine, Dungloe, County Donegal.
Saint Corthas national school, Kilcar, County Donegal.
Scoil Mhuire, Glenties, County Donegal.
122. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice if it is her intention to give official recognition to the Garda Federation; if not, if she intends to implement the Mulvey report; if so, when she intends to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4036/95]
135. Mr. Lawlor asked the Minister for Justice the action, if any, she will take to resolve the difficulties that currently exist in the representative structure of the Garda Síochána (details attached); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3732/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 122 and 135 together.
I am very concerned about the ongoing dispute in the Garda Representative Association and I am anxious to do everything in my power to assist in finding a resolution to the dispute. To this end I have invited the representatives of the groups concerned to meet with me so that I can get a comprehensive picture of the way which matters now stand in an effort to facilitate a resolution of the difficulties which exist. The meetings will carry no implication in terms of giving recognition to any organisation to represent the rank of Garda for the purpose of negotiating pay and conditions for gardaí.
123. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Justice the public relations budget which has been allocated to her Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The 1995 Estimates for my Department include an allocation of £50,000 for consultancy services which will provide for expenditure on public relations.
124. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will have his registration completed; when he will receive a file plan of folios (details supplied) already requested from the Land Registry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3610/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that Dealing No. 95SM00738 is an application for registration of ownership of three folios which was lodged in the Land Registry on 23 January 1995. I am further informed that on 7 February, 1995 a query issued to the applicant's solicitor to which a reply is awaited. Registration will be completed as soon as a reply is received.
I am informed that no application has been received for a copy of the file plan of Folio 46432. An application for a copy of the file plan has been received in respect of Folio 43954 only. This copy file plan cannot issue until a reply to an outstanding query, on a dealing on this property lodged by the land commission, is received. The requested folio file plan will be made available on resolution of this query.
125. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Justice the criteria on which membership of the Censorship of Publications Board is determined; the number of times on average the Board has met during the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3641/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The appointment of the Censorship of Publications Board is provided for in the Censorship of Publications Act, 1946. Section 2 of this Act provides for the appointment by the Minister for Justice of a Censorship of Publications Board consisting of five persons. No specific criteria for the selection of members is provided for in the Act but it has been customary to appoint a member of the Judiciary as chairperson. The Censorship of Publications Board has met on average five times per year over the five year period 1990-94.
126. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Justice the number of prosecutions that have been taken under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act; her views on whether the provisions of the Act are sufficiently strong; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3642/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that there have been no prosecutions on indictment under the Prohibition of Incitement of Hatred Act, 1989. Statistics for persons prosecuted summarily under the Act are not readily available.
The Prohibition of Incitement of Hatred Act, 1989, contains extensive measures to deal with incitement to hatred. The Act makes it an offence to stir up hatred, whether orally, in writing or by any other means, against a group of persons in Ireland or any other country on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of travelling community or sexual orientation. The Act also makes it an offence to prepare or possess any material with a view to its being distributed, broadcast or published in Ireland or any other country if the material is intended or likely to stir up such hatred.
The Act provides for a maximum fine of £10,000 or imprisonment for up to two years, or both. Provision is also  made for search warrants in respect of racist material and recordings and the courts can order that such materials and recordings be forfeited and destroyed. In addition, the Garda have the power of arrest without warrant in respect of any person they find inciting hatred against any of the groups of persons protected by the Act.
The 1989 Act is modern and comprehensive and there are no proposals to amend it. If the Deputy has specific proposals, of course, I will be glad to consider them.
127. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice if she will investigate the matter of an error in relation to a folio (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3661/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this matter has been investigated in the Land Registry and the Registrar is satisfied that there was no error on the part of the Land Registry in this case and that the Land Registry acted on foot of the documents lodged. I am further informed that the Land Registry will be in correspondence with the applicant's solicitors shortly concerning this matter.
128. Mrs. Moynihan-Croinin asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide funding for the refurbishment of the Garda station living accommodation in Kenmare, County Kerry. [3673/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The Office of Public Works has been requested to carry out a feasibility study in relation to works required at Kenmare Garda station and adjoining married quarters and I understand that this study is being carried out at present. As soon as this report has been received  the options for meeting the accommodation needs at this location will be considered.
129. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Justice the registers which are maintained to record the number and nature of summary and indictable offences on an annual basis indicating whether these are maintained in a central register or at local level. [3678/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that indictable crime is inputted at local level on to the Garda Headquarters computer. Non-indictable crimes are also recorded at local level and an annual manual return is made to Garda Headquarters.
130. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Justice whether registers are maintained to record an offender's previous criminal record which enables the production of statistics to identify those who have received sentences up to and including two years and who have not re-offended in the following five years. [3679/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that records are not maintained in such a manner as to provide the information set out by the Deputy.
131. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons convicted of summary and indictable offences in our courts in each of the last five years on a county basis. [3680/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Statistics relating to persons convicted in the courts are not compiled on a  county basis. I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are exploring the possibility of compiling the information sought by the Deputy. I will be in touch with the Deputy on the matter in due course.
132. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for Justice when a dealing (details supplied) will be expedited by the Land Registry. [3696/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Register of Titles that Dealing No. 94GY06784, which is an application under section 49, that is, acquisition of title by possession, of the Registration of Title Act, 1964, was lodged on 26 October, 1994. A request by the applicant to expedite the dealing has been agreed to. However, I understand that due to their complicated nature, these dealings take some time to process.
I am further informed that on 16 February, 1995, a query regarding the application issued to the applicant's solicitors to which a reply is awaited.
133. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice if she will ask the Garda their response to the complaint by the Dorset Street residents association that the Garda failed to respond to a telephone call for assistance made at 9.10 p.m. on Monday 6 February 1995 by a person (details supplied). [3697/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following is their response to the complaint.
A call was received from the person in question at 9.15 p.m. requesting the Garda to move on a number of youths who had gathered at the caller's location. The call was passed on to a patrol car from the Bridewell Station. This car had been dispatched to a more serious incident at 9.15 p.m. At 9.39  p.m., when this incident had been dealt with, the patrol car was directed to the caller's location.
While on their way to this location, the crew of the patrol car encountered a disturbance which necessitated the arrest of a person who had to be conveyed to the Bridewell. When this incident had been dealt with, the patrol car proceeded to the location, arriving at the scene at 9.55 p.m. By the time they arrived the youths who had been gathering earlier had dispersed.
It is regretted that the Garda were not in a position to respond more quickly to the original call, for the reasons I have outlined. I am seeking more information on the incident and will communicate with the Deputy again on the matter.
134. Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice the reason for the delay in granting Irish citizenship to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 who has been living in Ireland for nine years and who is married to an Irish citizen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3731/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The application for post-nuptial citizenship in respect of the person in question is at present being examined under the relevant statutory provisions.
An interview with the applicant and his spouse, in this connection, was arranged by my Department for 15 February but the applicants failed to attend. The interview has been rescheduled for the end of this month.
136. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Justice the number of prosecutions against motorists for failing to ensure that safety belts are worn by themselves and their passengers, particularly children, in each of the last three years; the steps, if any, taken by Garda to enforce the legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3783/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the statistics in relation to seat belt offences committed prior to 1993 were not compiled separately, but that they are recorded in the category of “other offences”.
Since 1993, they are compiled separately and the annual report of the Garda Síochána for that year shows that 7,345 persons were prosecuted resulting in 5,769 convictions. The 1994 figures are not yet available.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the enforcement of the seatbelt law is given a high priority by the Garda throughout the country; attention is paid to breaches of the regulations during special road traffic enforcement campaigns and throughout the year.
137. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Justice the steps, if any, she will take to stamp out the problems being experienced by senior citizens in an area (details supplied) in Dublin 14 in view of a spate of attacks and muggings; and if she will make a statement on the matter.[3784/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area will receive regular and ongoing attention from local gardaí and that foot patrols will be detailed to cover the area.
138. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Justice when an application for first registration from a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be completed in the Land Registry. [3823/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles  that Dealing No. 94GY06349 is an application for First Registration which was lodged in the Land Registry on 6 July, 1994.
I am further informed that on 8 February 1995 the Land Registry requested a Schedule of Areas from the Records Branch of the Land Commission. A reply to this query is awaited.
Due to the complicated nature of the type of dealing involved it would not be possible at this stage to predict the date of completion. However, the dealing in question is being expedited and on receipt of the Schedule of Areas, from the Land Commission, the application will be processed as quickly as possible.
139. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Justice the current position regarding a project (details supplied) in County Galway. [3824/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The position is that an estimate for refurbishment works for the project has been received together with a proposal to consider allowing a third party have use of a major portion of the building in turn for their investment in its refurbishment.These proposals are being examined at present and no final decision has been made.
140. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Justice if she will have arrangements made to have dealings lodged in the Land Registry finalised as quickly as possible for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [3895/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that Dealing No. J4877/94 is a Transfer of Part which was lodged in the Land Registry on 4 August, 1994. The second dealing, No. J5148/94 is a boundary amendment and transfer of the Folio which was lodged in the Land Registry on 17 August, 1994. I am further  informed that both of these dealings are awaiting registration.
I am informed that it is the policy of the Land Registry to try, as far as possible, to expedite cases in which it can be established that special circumstances of urgency exist. Any such cases would be specially considered if details of the reasons for urgency are submitted to the Registrar of Titles.
141. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Justice if she has received a Garda report on an incident at Shannon Airport on 16 November 1993; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3900/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I have received the Garda report and it is being examined. The incident in question is now the subject of civil proceedings and is, therefore, sub judice. In those circumstances, it would be inappropriate at this time to comment on the matters raised.
142. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Justice if she will have arrangements made to expedite an application for registration of lands (details supplied) in County Galway in view of the hardship which further delays would cause. [3910/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that there is no application for registration pending on the Folio No. quoted by the Deputy.
However, I am informed that Dealing No. 94GY00963 which was lodged in the Land Registry on 10 February, 1994, is an application for First Registration under section 49 of the Registration of Title Act, 1964 relating to a holding in the name of the applicant.
I understand that the present position in relation to this application is that the  Land Registry has entered into correspondence with the applicant's solicitor and a reply to this correspondence is awaited.
I am further informed that it is the policy of the Land Registry to try, as far as possible, to expedite cases in which it can be established that special circumstances of urgency exist. Any such cases would be specially considered if details of the reasons for urgency are submitted to the Registrar of Titles.
143. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Justice if she will allow an appeal or institute a new inquiry into a Garda disciplinary matter (details supplied) in relation to which significant new information has come to hand. [3912/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I have made inquiries with the Garda authorities and have been informed that the following is the position:
Following a sworn inquiry under the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations, 1971, the Commissioner ordered the dismissal of the person detailed from the force. Under the regulations, the member applied for an appeal board review of the Commissioner's decision. The appeal board, with an independent chairman, reviewed the case and affirmed the Commissioner's decision and, accordingly, the member was dismissed from the force with effect from 23 May 1986.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the person detailed has, on several occasions since his dismissal, made various allegations against Garda personnel involved in the investigation of this matter and witnesses who gave evidence at the sworn inquiry. All these allegations have been investigated by senior Garda personnel and have been found to be without merit. I understand that the person detailed, and his legal representatives, have been informed on several occasions that the Commissioner did not consider there was  sufficient reason to overturn the findings of the board of inquiry or to alter the decision to dismiss the member.
As the Commissioner is responsible in law for the internal administration of the force, including matters of discipline, I am disposed to be guided by him in this matter.
144. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Justice the number of drug-related offences brought to court in the Tipperary division in each of the years 1993 and 1994; the number of cases in each court area; and the number of convictions. [3989/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Statistics are not complied in a manner to distinguish those crimes which are drug-related, in the widest interpretation of the term, from those which are not. It would not always be possible for investigating gardaí to say for certain whether a particular crime was drug-related.
Statistics relating to the number of cases in which proceedings were instituted under the Misuse of Drugs Acts in each of the District Courts in Tipperary and the total number of convictions are as follows:
|District||Number of cases in which proceedings were brought to court under the Misuse of Drugs Acts|
|Thurles District Court||65||40|
|Clonmel District Court||2||8|
|Cahir District Court||1||2|
|Nenagh District Court||3||—|
|Templemore District Court||—||1|
|Roscrea District Court||—||3|
|Total Number of cases||71||54|
|Total Number of convictions||70||54|
145. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the threats of violence to the hunt in Ireland in 1995; if her attention has been further drawn to visits by English hunt saboteurs to advise on methods of disruption; and the action, if any, that will be taken on the matter. [3990/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that, while threats regarding the disruption of hunt activities are constantly made, they have no information concerning the possible involvement of hunt saboteurs from England. If the Deputy has any information to that effect, he will no doubt communicate it to the Garda.
146. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Justice when a decision will be made on the application for refugee status by two persons (details supplied) who have been living in this country for a considerable time. [3992/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): It is not the practice to comment publicly on individual applications for refugee status having regard to the fact that applications by their nature are made in confidence, with an expectation by applicants that such confidence will be preserved. If the Deputy is aware of a  particular concern on the part of an applicant or applicants, I would be grateful if she could contact my office privately in order that whatever action is approprate can be taken.
147. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Social Welfare the estimated income in 1995 from PRSI contributions by employers and employees. [3690/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The 1995 estimate, at this time, for Social Insurance Fund income from PRSI contributions is £1,714 million broken down as follows: employers £1,183 million; employees £441 million; self-employed £90 million. The above figures exclude health contributions, the employment and training levy and the FAS apprenticeship training levy.
148. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare the percentage of GNP devoted to social welfare in the post-Budget Estimates in 1995 and each of the three preceding years. [3961/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:
|A Year||B Social Welfare Expenditure (millions)||C GNP (millions)||D B as % of C|
Between 1992 and 1995 there was an increase of £610 million in social welfare expenditure.
*Post Budget Estimate.
149. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Social Welfare the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): A sum of £20,000 has been provided in my Department's Estimates for 1995 for consultancy and advice on communications and public relations matters relating solely to social welfare schemes and services.
150. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Social Welfare the estimated cost of extending the free travel companion pass to carers in their own right. [3631/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The free travel companion pass is a variation on the ordinary free travel pass. It is available to persons who qualify for free travel as recipients of social welfare payments in respect of a disability and who, on account of their disability, are unable to travel alone. The majority of companion pass holders are either blind or mentally handicapped.
As announced in the budget earlier this month, the free travel companion pass is being extended to existing free travel passholders who are being cared for by a recipient of a carer's allowance. This will enable the carer or any able person and the person being cared for to travel free when travelling together. The cost of extending free travel to recipients of a carer's allowance in their own right is estimated to be of the order of £200,000 per annum.
151. Mr. Dukes asked the Minister for Social Welfare the cost in a full year of granting the benefits of free telephone rental, free electricity, free television licence, free travel and free fuel to the surviving spouses of old age pensioners who are themselves below 60 years of age to which their deceased spouses were entitled. [3711/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): As announced in the 1994 budget, surviving spouses aged between 60 and 65 retain entitlement to the free schemes to which their deceased spouses were entitled provided the other conditions relevant to those schemes continue to be satisfied. The cost of extending that concession on the same basis to all surviving spouses under 60 years of age is not readily available. I will write to the Deputy with the information as soon as it is available.
152. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he intends to introduce changes to allow British war disablement pensions as a qualifying payment for the free electricity allowance scheme to persons both under and over 66 years of age who also satisfy the other requirements of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[3820/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The free electricity allowance scheme operated by my Department is available only to people who are in receipt of certain welfare type pensions and who satisfy the other conditions attached to the scheme. About 185,000 people receive the allowance at present at an annual cost of about £25 million. The allowance is also available to people in receipt of a social security pension from another member state of the EU or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement.
Any extension of qualifying payments for the purposes of the scheme to include British war disablement pensions irrespective of the age of the recipient would have to be considered in a budgetary context.
153. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Social Welfare when details of the 1995 student summer jobs scheme will be available from his Department. [3862/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The students summer jobs scheme last year proved to be of significant benefit to local communities and voluntary groups. Many valuable projects have been undertaken by students over the past two years which would otherwise not have been carried out. Because of the success of the scheme to date and in recognition of the valuable contribution made by students to their communities, I obtained an additional allocation of £1 million in the budget for improvements in this year's scheme. This will allow me to make significant improvements.
Details of the 1995 scheme will be announced in the national papers in early March inviting sponsors and students to apply. Registration forms will be issued around the same time to all sponsors who registered projects in last year's scheme.
154. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare in relation to a situation where a husband separated from his wife who is on unemployment assistance at a reduced rate because of his estranged wife's earnings but has established a second relationship and a child of that second relationship has been born, if the person concerned can claim full unemployment assistance for himself, his common law wife and the child of that union; if so, if full unemployment assistance for a couple with one child will be paid and the earnings of the estranged wife ignored or if the common law wife should claim unmarried mother's allowance for herself and her child; the amount of unemployment assistance which would be paid if it were the full rate or the reduced rate, taking into account the fact that he is now receiving £50 per week; if their total income will be continued on the reduced rate of unemployment assistance if his common law wife were to get unmarried mothers' allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3892/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): A recipient of unemployment assistance who is living with a partner is entitled to claim an adult dependant increase provided the partner is not in receipt of a social welfare payment in his or her own right and does not have a weekly income exceeding £60 per week — the adult dependant income limit. In assessing means for unemployment assistance account is taken of any benefit deriving from a spouse's or partner's earnings. However, a husband who is estranged from his wife and receiving no maintenance or support from her would not be assessed with any means from her earnings.
Lone parent's allowance is payable to a person who is bringing up a child without the support of a partner, for example, a person who is unmarried or separated. The allowance is not payable where the person is cohabiting with someone as husband or wife. At present, the maximum rate of unemployment assistance payable to a person with an adult dependant and one child dependant is £110.80 per week. If the Deputy has a difficulty concerning a specific case I will be glad to have the matter investigated.
155. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny): No specific public relations budget has been allocated to my Department. Public relations costs would normally be borne under subhead A7 — consultancy services or subhead A8 — advertising and publicity.
156. Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade if he will consider a grant scheme for the provision of accommodation where suitable tourist accommodation is scarce and where accommodation is needed to encourage the development of the tourist industry. [3728/95]
Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny): Under the Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-1999, provision is made for grants, on a selective basis, for specialist visitor accommodation needs and for selective hotel accommodation improvement. The details are set out in the operational programme, a copy of which is available in the Dáil Library.
157. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): There is no specific public relations budget allocated to my Department.
158. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the number and cost of motor insurance claims against drivers in various age groups for the last year for which figures are available. [3737/95]
159. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the amount of insurance premia paid for public liability, motor insurance, passenger and freight and employers liability for each of the years 1980 to 1994. [3814/95]
160. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the number of public liability insurance claims submitted in each of the years 1980 to 1994. [3815/95]
161. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the exact or estimated percentage of all personal injury awards that were in respect of pain and suffering for each of the years 1980 to 1994. [3816/95]
162. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the claims as a percentage of premia for motor insurance in Ireland and the United Kingdom for each of the last five years. [3817/95]
163. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the average comparative cost of motor insurance premia in Ireland and the United Kingdom in each of the last five years. [3818/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 159, 160, 161, 162 and 163 together.
I refer the Deputies to the reply which I gave in the Adjournment debate on insurance costs on 2 February 1995 in this House. In my reply I indicated that my Department has been examining the key factors contributing to high insurance costs and in this regard is evaluating the findings of domestic and international research studies on comparative costs across EU member states.
Data is not available in the precise form requested by the Deputies in every case, particularly in relation to the United Kingdom and statistics for 1994. However, I can supply the following information. Claims information collected by my Department from motor insurers is not broken down by age of driver. In 1993, the latest year for which motor claims information for motorists in general is available, Irish insurers  received 103,792 claims and it is estimated that 11,682 claims were incurred but not reported to them. Insurers estimate that the cost of these claims will be £506,875,524.
It should be borne in mind that Lloyds, which has approximately 2.5 per cent of the motor insurance market, does not supply claims information to my Department on the same basis as the other motor insurers and the claims figures quoted above are exclusive of Lloyds' claims.
Claims as a percentage of premia for motor insurance in Ireland are detailed below. The equivalent UK data is not supplied to my Department.
There are a range of estimates of the levels of pain and suffering awards as a percentage of personal injury compensation, for example, 65 per cent to 80 per cent. The estimates are drawn from a number of sources using different methodologies and information bases. The departmental evolution to which I have referred is attempting to arrive at more reliable estimates.
The total number of public liability claims — excluding Lloyds' claims — for the years 1981 to 1993 is as follows:
The amount of premia paid for motor and liability insurance, 1980 to 1994 is as follows:
|Motor Insurance Premia||Liability Premia|
|(current prices)||(current prices)|
Premia Paid 1980 to 1994
A breakdown of the liability figures between (1) employers' liability and public liability, and (2) passenger and freight liability is not available.
Data is not available for each of the last five years. However, a survey carried out by the Motor Insurance Advisory Board in 1992 showed that the average premium per registered vehicle in Ireland was IR£401 and the comparative figure for the UK was IR£268.
164. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the number of projects or companies grant aided by each county enterprise board for each year since their formation; the number of jobs created by category, such as tourist manufacturing and service; and the number of these jobs that are FÁS-assisted. [4000/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Information on county enterprise board project approvals and job creation is set out in the following tabular statements which I propose to have circulated in the Official Report. The data supplied is subject to change in the light of project decommittals or amendments to amounts already approved in individual cases or to new approvals in 1995.
The approved projects comprise a variety of sectors with 36 per cent in services, 17 per cent in tourism, 13 per cent in craft, 13 per cent in industry, 7 per cent in food and the remainder spread over horticulture, fisheries, textiles, etc.
Data on jobs created by sector or also assisted by FÁS is not available; the number of jobs created in 1995 is not yet available.
The county enterprise boards have been operating subject to interim guidelines since they were set up in late 1993. Since establishment, their operations have largely been confined to the provision of grants for small businesses starting up or expanding. Based on returns supplied by the 35 county enterprise boards for 1994, their first full year of operation, some 1,776 full-time and 263 part-time jobs were created at a total cost of around £5 million paid in grants from the Exchequer. In view of the interim, start-up nature of their operation to date, I am satisfied with this performance by the boards and would expect to see it enhanced in future years by the wider range of enterprise development supports which will be available to the boards under the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development, 1994-99.
 County Enterprise Fund Approvals 1993-94
|County||Number of Projects||Value||GrantsDrawnDown||Jobs Created|
|Full Time||Part Time|
County Enterprise Fund Approvals — 1995
|County||Number of Projects||Value||Grants Drawn down|
165. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the proposals, if any, he has to make a financial contribution to the Irish Countrywomen's Association for 1995 in recognition of its 85th anniversary.[3828/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I propose this year to continue the tradition of support for the Irish Countrywomen's Association and Country Markets Ltd. by means of a grant of £12,000.
166. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): A public relations budget of £20,000 has been allocated to my Department.
168. Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the current progress and likely outcome of his commitment to reduce legal fees arising from the beef tribunal; if he has considered entering into or has actually entered into discussions with persons (details supplied) in the matter; the way in which the State's burden of their legal fees at the tribunal might be reduced; if he has asked for or received any offer from members of the Government not to pursue costs for their legal representation at the tribunal; when he will report progress on this important commitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3646/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The position relating to the legal costs incurred by some members of the present Government is that the sole member of the tribunal was satisfied that the award of their costs was justified.
As I indicated in the reply to Questions Nos. 23 and 32 on 16 February all legal fees payable in respect of the beef tribunal which are the subject of costs orders made by the sole member of the tribunal will be subject to a decision of a taxing master of the High Court and the strongest possible case will be made to the taxing master to ensure that the fees paid are kept to the absolute minimum.
169. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will have arrangements made to have a suckler cow quota issued on appeal to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [3687/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The person named qualified for a suckler cow quota of six premium rights based on the number of eligible suckler cows thay had in 1992, the reference year.
They had nine eligible cows in 1993 and applied to the national reserve for additional quota to cover the extra three cows. The category under which they applied was confined to herdowners who were limited in 1992 to payment on ten cows because of EU regulations. As they had only six eligible cows in 1992 they did not qualify for that category and they have not submitted any evidence to suggest that they would qualify under any of the other priority categories.
They may apply to the 1994 national reserve for a quota allocation and I have  arranged to have an application form sent to them when they become available within the next three weeks.
170. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the results of the monitoring and tests carried out on animals grazing in mountainous areas and, in particular the Ox mountains in County Sligo, giving the levels of nuclide contamination attributable to Chernobyl. [3703/95]
171. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if areas of significant or high levels of nuclide contamination have been identified in plants, vegetation and soils systems in certain mountains; and the figures, if any, there are relating to certain parts of County Sligo. [3704/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 171 together.
Following the accident at Chernobyl in April 1986, deposition of radio-nuclides took place on Irish soils. While many of these were of relatively small concentrations and also had a short halflife, two radioisotopes of caesium, namely caesium-137 and caesium-134 were of longer term significance. As a result of extensive surveys carried out on a nationwide basis by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) on sheep grazing on upland soils, a limited number of upland peaty areas have been identified as having elevated levels of radionuclide contamination, including parts of the Ox mountains of County Sligo.
Surveys carried out by the RPII on soil on the upper slopes of the Ox Mountains in 1989 gave combined levels of caesium 137 and caesium 134 of 564 Bq/kg of dry soil in the top 0-5 cm of soil. At the 5-10 cm level in the soil the figure for the combined level was 153 Bq/kg of dry soil. Work was carried out by the RPII in 1990 on vegetation in Lough Easkey (Grid: G450230). The  combined level of caesium 137 and caesium 134 found in samples of heather (calluna vulgaris) was 1230 Bq/kg dry matter.
Surveys carried out by the RPII in 1994 based on local slaughter houses in County Sligo showed that over 98 per cent of sheep had radiocaesium levels less than 100 Bq/kg, with the highest recorded level being 174 Bq/kg. These levels are not significant from a health point of view. Furthermore, sheepmeat samples collected from butchers shops by the North-Western Health Board showed radiocaesium activity less than ten Bq/kg.
173. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will review the conditions of eligibility for the EU retirement scheme to ensure that farmers who ceased farming and transferred their lands prior to 30 July 1992, but where the transfer was not stamped by the Revenue Commissioners until after that date can qualify for the EU scheme. [3865/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The scheme of early retirement from farming which was introduced on 7 January 1994 provides that only land for which transfer/lease documents are signed on or after 30 July 1992 — the date of the introduction of the Council Regulation on which the scheme is based — may be considered for inclusion in the scheme.
I have no plans to review this condition of the scheme.
174. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the steps, if any, he has taken to protect the export of Irish livestock; if an agreement has been reached with the EU in relation to exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3894/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 3, 4, 5, 52 and 87 on this subject on Thursday last which set out the then position in relation to exports of live animals to EU member states. The Council of Agriculture Ministers at its meeting yesterday and today has been endeavouring to agree on detailed transport rules for live animals, which, if adopted, should remove any threats to such exports. Discussions are continuing in the Council on the basis of a compromise submitted this morning by the French Presidency.
177. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the number of farmers in the greater Connemara area, including Inisbofin and the Aran Islands, who have applied to participate in the REPS scheme. [3901/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): Thirteen farmers in the greater Connemara area, that is, west of Galway city, have applied to participate in the REPS scheme, of which there are none from Inisbofin or the Aran Islands.
178. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the total number of herd and flock owners. The greater Connemara area, including the Aran Islands and Inisbofin.[3902/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The total number of herd and flock owners in the greater Connemara area is 4,708 of which 3,879 are herdowners and 829 are flock owners. The greater Connemara area is defined as the area west of the river Corrib, and including the Aran Islands and Inisbofin.
179. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry his views on whether the beef slaughter premium should be paid in respect of animals slaughtered in private registered abattoirs for domestic home consumption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3932/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): Animals slaughtered in privately owned local abattoirs are not eligible for the deseasonalisation slaughter premium because my Department does not operate veterinary controls at such plants.
I am, however, reviewing the arrangements to see whether in the future it may be possible to apply the scheme to the small number of steers slaughtered in such abattoirs.
180. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be awarded a SLOM milk quota in view of the circumstances outlined by his legal representative on 13 September 1994. [3933/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): A SLOM quota was provisionally granted to the person in question in 1991. The conditions set under EU Regulations for the permanent allocation of this quota were not met by the producer within the time limits laid down and, as a result, I regret that the quota had to be withdrawn subsequently.
181. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department. [3415/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): While my Department employs consultants from time to time for public relations purposes, no specific budget for public relations is allocated and payment is made from the Department's provision for consultancy in general.
182. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the plans, if any, he has to increase competition in the bus industry, both in cities and in the country.[3782/95]
219. Mr. Dukes asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the proposals, if any, he has to introduce a Bill providing for the liberalisation of the provisions governing private bus services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3908/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Stagg): I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 219 together.
Proposals to replace the Road Transport Act, 1932, were formulated in my Department during 1991-92 on the basis that the 1932 Act is in need of updating to provide for the development of the bus industry and meet the requirements of the travelling public. The proposals envisage the extension of competition within the passenger road transport area on a regulated, orderly and phased basis.
The Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications has asked me to assume direct responsibility for evaluating the regulatory position and bringing forward new proposals.
Deputies will, of course, appreciate that proposals of a regulatory nature in any sector must take full account of the impact of planned investment in that sector. Accordingly, in reviewing the proposals already prepared in my Department, I will have regard to the plans for major investment on public  transport infrastructure and services in Dublin and throughout the rest of the country in the context of the National Development Plan and Operational Programme for Transport 1994-99.
I can assure Deputies that there will be a full process of consultation with all sides of the public transport sector before any new proposals are finalised by myself and the Minister for submission to Government.
185. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications when he intends to issue a licence for a second national mobile phone company; and the person to whom this licence will issue. [3788/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I hope to announce a competition for a licence for a second mobile telephone operation in competition with Telecom Éireann's Eircell shortly. Applications will be evaluated by reference to a range of selection criteria including market development plans, quality of service, the approach to tariffs and the amount that each applicant is prepared to pay for the licence. Consultants will be engaged to assist in the evaluation process.The closing date for submission of applications will be approximately four months after the announcement of the competition and the decision on the new licensee will be made within a further four months.
It follows from this that the person to be granted a licence will emerge from the competition and that all applications will be considered on their merits.
186. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his policy in regard to the future ownership of Telecom Éireann. [3789/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The Government's policy in relation to public enterprise in general is set out in full in paragraphs 20 to 25 of the document A Government of Renewal. In the context of that policy, the statement on ownership at paragraph 21 is:
State assets will not be sold except where it protects employment and is in the long term strategic interest of the company and its stakeholders. Any resources released as a result will be used for job creation. We will retain majority State ownership in these companies. Opportunities for expansion to utilise the bank of skills in these companies will be encouraged.
The question of a strategic partner for Telecom Éireann is a central part of the agenda for 1995 but it is too early to say what form this will take and in particular whether it will take the form of an equity based joint venture.
It is well known at this stage that one party tabled an offer in relation to Telecom Éireann in the first half of 1994 and that this gave rise to a process seeking to identify other potentially interested parties. This process is still under way.
I believe that it would be highly desirable to settle this question during the current calendar year.
189. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he intends to allow an increase in ESB prices charged to the public. [3792/95]
200. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if the ESB range of tariffs and electricity prices for Irish industrial and domestic use are likely to remain static over the next 24 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3714/95]
221. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if his Department is considering allowing an increase in electricity prices in the years 1995, 1996 or 1997. [4010/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions Nos. 189, 200 and 221 together.
I would not propose to take a decision about an electricity price increase until I am satisfied that all opportunities have been exhausted to maintain existing electricity price levels through greater efficiency. Both the Culliton and Moriarty reports and the Programme for Competitiveness and Work emphasise the necessity of minimising energy costs as a vital element in maintaining competitive advantage. In the interest of our economy, I must be satisfied that ESB operations are efficient and cost effective before allowing a price increase to fall on the consumer.
At present ESB's cost and competitiveness review is examining ESB operations with a view to achieving a revitalised ESB performing to best practice and responding to the consumer's needs. I await the outcome of the review so that I can assess adequately ESB's application for a price increase.
191. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will issue community television licences to urban areas where cable television is already available and licensed. [2978/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Further to the undertaking contained in the policy agreement A Government of Renewal concerning competition in the area of multichannel television services, I am having this entire matter of multichannel television services closely  examined within my Department, in co-operation with the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. It would be my intention to exploit whatever opportunities may be presented, in particular by the advent of new technology, to facilitate competition and community involvement in this area.
192. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his views on the dangers posed by the MMDS mast adjacent to Cork Airport. [2980/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): MMDS companies licensed by my Department are obliged to adhere to my Department's technical specifications for MMDS operation, and this requires that these companies operate within the guidelines of the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA). This requirement applies to the facility adjacent to Cork Airport and I am not aware of any evidence that there is any danger arising from its operation.
193. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the amount of grant aid given to all regional airports over the past three years. [2981/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The information sought by the Deputy is given in the following tabular statement:
 Grant assistance — European Regional Development Fund — was given to the airports under the Operational Programme on Peripherality 1989-1993, for infrastructural improvements at airports. Because of the precarious financial position of these airports as a result of traffic downturn, the grant aid also includes assistance granted by the Exchequer in 1993 on a once-off basis for the marketing of the airports.
194. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the property rental income of CIE over the last five years. [3590/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The information sought by the Deputy is contained in the CIE Group annual reports and accounts which are available in the Oireachtas Library.
196. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if the Government has considered the implementation of an indemnification clause to be undertaken by communications operators where they use microwave frequencies that directly radiate into areas where the public have access. [3706/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I am not aware at this time of any evidence that would lead me to the conclusion that communications operators need to enter into indemnifications where they employ miocrowave frequencies that directly radiate into areas where the public have access.
As far as MMDS is concerned, it is a requirement of the specification in licences that the system works within the guidelines of the International Radiological Protection Association  (IRPA). Studies carried out in this country have shown that exposure levels from MMDS transmitters were many thousands of times lower than those limits.
197. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if any analysis of the levels of electromagnetic fields have been carried out in the Tubbercurry electoral area of County Sligo in locations where high tension cables pass through the area. [3708/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The analysis of levels of electromagnetic fields from high tension powerlines is a matter for the day to day administration of the ESB and I have no function in the matter.
However, the ESB have advised that where they receive requests to take electromagnetic field readings they are more than willing to do so.
198. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the levels of radon prevalent in County Sligo; and if any areas of significantly high radon levels have been identified. [3708/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Responsibility for undertaking measurements of the naturally-occurring radioactive gas, radon, is a matter for the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.
199. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if his attention has been drawn to the public concern regarding the health and safety aspects of the MMDS system; if submissions have been received; the research carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3712/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I am aware that there is some public concern regarding the health and safety aspects of MMDS and my Department has received some submissions on the matter.
However, the question of the safety of MMDS has been researched in detail and the findings of expert studies from around the world show that it is a safe system. In particular, the International Radiation Protection Association, the expert body in this field, has developed guidelines in conjunction with the Environmental Health Organisation of the World Health Organisation relating to exposure limits to radio signals of all descriptions. The limits which have been established by the IRPA are limits within which it is safe to work and live on the basis of all expert knowledge.
It is a requirement of the specification of licences for MMDS that the system works within the IRPA guidelines. Studies carried out in this country have shown that exposure levels from MMDS transmitters were many thousands of times lower than IRPA limits.
201. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications in view of public concern about the quality of An Post's delivery times in the Dublin area, the measures, if any, he will take to ensure a return to the traditional early morning delivery of post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3715/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Normally matters such as An Post's delivery times would fall within the day-to-day administration of the company. However in view of the concern that  exists about delivery times I have obtained a report from An Post on the matter.
As the House is aware An Post, as part of its recovery measures to reduce costs and improve profitability, implemented in January 1994 a programme of changes in the arrangements for the distribution and delivery of mail. The changes affected operations in Dublin and country areas and were the most far reaching since the introduction of postal services in the last century.
The revised arrangements meant that some customers, particularly in the key business areas of Dublin, were not having their mail delivered as early as they would like. An Post were fully aware of the problems relating to deliveries in the Dublin area and addressed those problems by deploying additional vehicles and staff, by breaking up delivery routes and by providing a collection facility to enable businesses, which may wish to do so, to pick up their own mail early in the morning.
I am informed by An Post that the present position is that 60 per cent of all mail in Dublin is delivered by 10 a.m. each morning. However business customers have told An Post that they would wish to have mail delivered no later than 9.30 a.m.
The company and the union representing the staff working in the district offices serving the Dublin business areas are in agreement that the customers needs must be met and they are working to achieve this.
Each of these district offices is being reviewed with a view to implementing any changes necessary to improve the time mail is delivered in the business areas. This process is at an advanced stage.
The company is aware of my concern that the changes introduced in January 1994 are taking so long to become fully effective and I have been assured that An Post is seeking an early resolution of outstanding problems.
202. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his views on the proposal to site a mine at Galmoy in view of unresolved concerns about long term pollution effects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1339/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The proposed mine development at Galmoy, County Kilkenny was the subject of a detailed environmental impact statement which accompanied the application for planning permission for the project to the relevant local planning authority. The proposal was rigorously examined and assessed by the local planning authority which, subject to numerous stringent conditions, granted permission for the project. The proposal was examined in detail again by An Bord Pleanála on appeal of the local planning authority's decision. That appeal process included a public oral hearing lasting eight days at which anybody who wished had the opportunity of voicing any concerns in relation to the proposed project. Having considered all of the submissions made to it, An Bord Pleanála decided to grant planning permission for the project subject to stringent conditions.
Those conditions are designed to mitigate any environmental impacts which the project may have. I am satisfied that the permission and conditions which have been issued will ensure that all reasonable measures to mitigate environmental impacts will be taken and that the project will be undertaken in an environmentally acceptable manner, in accordance with Government policy.
203. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the senior officials, if any, in his Department who are directors of private or publicly quoted companies. [3831/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): To my knowledge none of the senior officials of my Department are directors of private or publicly quoted companies. I should point out that only where a potential conflict of interest arose would there be a requirement to declare such a directorship.
204. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if a prospecting licence in respect of gold has been issued to a company (details supplied) in the townlands encompassing the parishes of Carrick, Ardara and Glencolmcille, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3832/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): In 1993 an application was received by my Department from Surf Oil Ltd., P.O. Box 1011, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, S4P 3B2 for a prospecting licence for gold in the areas mentioned. Following detailed examination of the company's proposed work programme a licence was offered to the company and notice of intention to grant the licence was published in the Donegal Democrat on 21 July 1994.
However, as the company failed to proceed with its application the offer was withdrawn in October 1994. The company has not contacted the Department since then.
205. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the officials in his Department who are directors of semi-State companies.[3799/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Two officials of my Department currently hold office as directors of semi-State companies. Mr. Michael McDonnell, Assistant Secretary, is a director of Aer Lingus plc. and Mr. Sean Fitzgerald, Assistant Secretary, is a director of the Irish National Petroleum Corporation.
206. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for the ESB. [3838/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The Board was constituted by the Electricity (Supply) Act 1927 and was given wide powers and the commercial freedom to promote, inter alia, the generation, transmission, distribution and sales of electricity throughout the State. Its powers, duties and functions are in the main embodied in the Electricity (Supply) Acts 1927 to 1988.
ESB behaves in accordance with commercial principles in its day-to-day operations.My primary responsibility and that of my Department is to ensure that ESB, as the monopoly supplier of electricity in Ireland, delivers an adequate supply of electricity to its customers at the cheapest possible price in accordance with its current statutory mandate. My Department does not have any statutory powers to intervene in the day to day operations of the ESB and normal Government monitoring is generally confined to the following: (i) the total amount of capital expenditure is subject to the approval of the Minister. Proposals for new capital projects are also subject to the approval of the Minister.However, the implementation by the board of approved projects is carried out on a commercial basis; (ii) borrowings by the ESB are subject to the consent of both the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and the Minister for Finance; (iii) the board  must report annually to the Minister in the format required by him and must provide him with any data he requests; (iv) a five year corporate plan, rolled over annually, is required to be submitted to the Minister; (v) annual estimates of capital expenditure are required to be supplied to the Minister; (vi) price adjustments are approved by the Government; (vii) chairman and board members are appointed by the Government. There are 12 members on the board, four of which are elected by the workforce and appointed by the Minister.
207. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications his views on the absence of Shannon Airport Marketing from the recent travel trade workshops in the United States of America; and the body's lack of personnel to pursue overseas promotion. [3839/95]
208. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications when adequate staffing will be made available to Shannon Airport Marketing which was set up by his predecessor on the recommendation of the Shannon Task Force. [3840/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together. I am satisfied that the staffing complement available to Shannon Airport Marketing, both at home and overseas, is adequate to effectively carry out its role of attracting additional traffic into Shannon Airport.
The overseas staff includes a full-time member located in New York. Shannon Airport Marketing had a representative present at the two week workshop mentioned by the Deputy. All major promotions are covered but as the Deputy will appreciate the level of representation at particular tourism/travel trade workshops is a matter for day to day  decision by Shannon Airport Marketing.
209. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Telecom Éireann. [3842/95]
210. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for An Post. [3843/95]
211. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Dublin Bus. [3844/95]
212. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Iarnród Éireann. [3845/95]
213. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Bus Éireann. [3847/95]
214. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Córas Iompar Éireann. [3848/95]
215. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Aer Rianta International. [3849/95]
216. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Aer Rianta. [3850/95]
217. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the responsibility, if any, he and his Department have for Aer Lingus. [3851/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 to 217, inclusive, together.
My responsibilities in relation to the State companies under the aegis of my Department relate to policy matters. Those responsibilities are set out in the relevant legislation for the respective companies as follows: Coras Iompair Éireann Transport Acts, 1944 to 1987; Bus Éireann Transport Acts, 1944 to 1987; Iarnród Éireann Transport Acts, 1944 to 1987; Dublin Bus Transport Acts, 1944 to 1987; Aer Lingus Air Companies Acts, 1966 to 1993; Telecom Éireann Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983; An Post Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983; Aer Rianta Air Companies Act, 1966 as amended by the Air Companies Act, 1993; Aer Rianta International Air Companies Act, 1966 as amended by the Air Companies Act, 1993.
218. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will sanction payment of an ESB installation grant to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [3893/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): This application has been approved by my Department. The ESB will be in touch with the above-named to advise of the outcome and to quote subsidised terms for supply. As soon as the ESB are notified of acceptance of these terms, the above-named will be placed on the ESB work programme.
220. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the role he and his Department envisage for power purchase agreements in the provision of electricity in the future; and the implications for staffing in power stations. [4009/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): In May 1993 the Government approved, as part of an overall restructuring of the electricity industry, the establishment within ESB of a power procurement function which is separate from ESB's generating, national grid and customer service functions. This is intended to increase the level of transparency in ESB's operations both to encourage greater efficiency and to anticipate the requirements of the draft directive on the liberalisation of the electricity industry which is currently under discussion at the Council of Ministers. As part of this process the power procurer will in the future have a formal agreement — a power purchase agreement — with each generating unit on the system for the purchase of electricity. This will specify such things as the price to be paid for the electricity, incentive payments for increased availability and penalties for failure to meet contracted obligations.
Power purchase agreements do not in themselves have implications for staffing in power stations. This issue is being addressed in the tripartite Cost and Competitiveness Review currently under way in ESB. However, efficiency levels achieved through this process will naturally be reflected in the various power purchase agreements.
222. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the number of diversions which occurred at Shannon Airport, County Clare during 1994, and the way in which this figure compares with other years since 1980. [4012/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The following table gives details of diversions at Shannon Airport since 1989:
|Year||Number of Diversions|
The details are based on information supplied to me by Aer Rianta. Aer Rianta have informed me that the details prior to 1989 have not been computerised and, in the time available, it is not possible to extract the information for those years.
223. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Defence the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department.[3415/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): The Department does not have a public relations budget as such. There is a provision of £40,000 in the Defence Estimate 1995 for expenditure on consultancy services and if any costs are incurred on external public relations services they will be met from this provision.It is not possible, at this stage, to say what public relations costs, if any, will be incurred by the Department in 1995.
224. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence, in respect of the regulations providing for representative associations for the reserve defence forces, in respect separately of an FCA and Slua Muirí, the number and dates of meetings requested of each general officer commanding or flag officer, Naval Service, since July 1992 per section 7 paragraph 8 ; the dates such meetings took place in respect of each command or the Naval Service since 1992; the numbers requested in 1995 to date; whether meetings have been requested or taken place in each command after duty hours or on Saturdays by command; and whether this system or negotiation is proving of value, having regard to expeditious follow-up of issues raised and the compilation of minutes of meetings.[
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): As provided for in paragraph 8 of Defence Force Regulations S.7, five meetings between GOCs and representatives of RDFRA took place at command level between July 1992 and December 1994. Details of the dates and number of meetings in each command are set out in the following statement.No meetings have been requested to date in 1995 but it is anticipated that a meeting with the general officer commanding, Eastern Command will be arranged during this month. All meetings with the GOCs took place on the dates requested by RDFRA. Of those meetings, two took place after normal duty hours — one in the Eastern Command and one in the Western Command.
The system of negotiation referred to in the question has proved to be of value. Issues raised have been or are being addressed as quickly as possible. Agreed minutes record the proceedings of each meeting.
Meetings between GOCs and representatives of RDFRA at command level.
Meetings requested 2 — on 24/2/1994
Meetings requested 1 — on 7/10/1993
Meetings requested 1 — on 7/11/1994
 Curragh Command
Meetings requested 1 — 23/6/1994
Meetings requested None
225. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the entitlement of a member of the second line reserve to undertake annual paid training as regards hours attended and Defence Force regulations; the number of members of the reserve who were unable last year to undertake paid annual training due to insufficiency of financial resources available to the Defence Forces; whether such members who do not attend a course of paid training may receive their annual training bounty; and, if so, whether such has been paid in each of the years 1990 to 1994, the amount so paid and whether such a situation will occur this year. [3615/95]
234. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence when the two week camp for the second line reserve was terminated; the reason for this; whether an evaluation has been undertaken by the directors of reserve forces or training into the consequences of such cut-backs since then; if so, the recommendations to improve matters; whether he or his Department has given any thought to bringing back the two week camp; the additional cost of a further weeks camp divided between rations, pay and other costs; the cost of the current one week camp; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3749/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 234 together.
Defence Force regulations provide that members of An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and An Slua Muirí may, with their own consent, be required to attend in each training year for a course of training for a continuous period of not less than seven days and not more than 21  days in the case of the FCA, and not more than 14 days in the case of An Slua Muirí, at such times and places as the relevant military authorities may determine. While members who wish to attend for such training are facilitated as far as possible many, due to business or other commitments, are unable to make themselves available.
Since 1983, it has been found necessary, as part of the Government's programme for achieving reductions in the level of public expenditure, to curtail annual training for members of the reserve having regard to the provisions in the Defence Vote for the training of the reserve. Accordingly, each year since 1983 the annual training period for members of the FCA and An Slua Muirí has been reduced to seven days.
The position in regard to annual training is kept under review and in this regard it should be noted that, in addition to the seven days' annual training, 14 day courses of instruction, such as technical training, potential officer, potential NCO, standard NCO and senior NCO courses, are also arranged.
During 1994 approximately 8,500  members of the FCA and Slua Muirí attended for courses of annual training and instruction.
A gratuity is issued to members of the FCA and An Slua Muirí who complete a course of annual training or other full-time instruction and, in addition, they are paid at the same rates of pay as those that apply to corresponding ranks in the Permanent Defence Force. In addition to attendance at such training or instruction it is necessary for each member to have attended, in each month during the period 1 January to commencement of annual training, at least two local training parades or their equivalent in field days or overnight camps in order to qualify for payment of the gratuity.
Notwithstanding the reduced period of annual training that has applied in the reserve since 1983, the gratuity payable to qualified members who complete the maximum permissible period of training is at the full rate, and not at the reduced rate that would normally apply in respect of attendance for the shorter period. The same arrangements apply this year. The rates of gratuity are as follows:—
|Rank (FCA/Slua Muirí)||Up to and including 1994||1995||1996|
The total amount paid in respect of gratuities in each of the years 1990 to 1994 was:—
The current cost of annual training is estimated at £2.5 million approximately and the estimated additional cost of restoring the normal annual training arrangements would be £2.3 million approximately. It is not possible to compute the additional cost of rations and other costs as these are not accounted for separately.
226. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence, in view of Parliamentary Question No. 17 of 19 June 1991, in relation to an additional service medal for members of the second line reserve, the present position of the review. [3616/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): Members of the second line reserve, which consists of An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and An Slua Muirí, are awarded An Bonn Seirbhíse (The Service Medal) on completing seven years' satisfactory service.A bar is added to the medal on completing 12 years' satisfactory service and a second bar on completing 21 years' satisfactory service.
Service in the second line reserve is rendered on a voluntary part-time basis. Specific Defence Force regulations apply to the organisation and administration of that body. These provide for such matters as the assessment of conduct during service on a broader and more general basis than would be appropriate in relation to the Permanent Defence Force. However, members of the second line reserve and the Permanent Defence Force are treated similarly in that completion of a specified period of satisfactory service is recognised by the award of service medals and bars. The relevant periods required in the case of the second line reserve compare very favourably with those required of members of the Permanent Defence Force.
The question of an additional medal or bar in recognition of service of more than 21 years has recently been raised by the Reserve Defence Force Representative Association. The association, at a meeting held with the Department on 15 December 1994, undertook to provide definite proposals in respect of this matter. These proposals will be given full consideration when received in the Department.
227. Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Defence the plans, if any, he has to make the old IRA pension available to widows without a means test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3624/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): Widows of deceased veterans of the War of Independence, who held a special allowance under the Army Pensions Acts, qualify for the payment of an allowance without the application of a means test at the rate of £782 per annum. Arrangements were introduced in 1982 which provide for the grant of an allowance at the same rate to the widow of a veteran who was not at any time in receipt of a special allowance, provided that the yearly means of the widow do not equal or exceed the sum prescribed for the award of a special allowance.
The special allowance is intended as a measure of support for veterans and their widows who are not in a position to support themselves. The means test has been relaxed over the years and is now far from severe. The means test is essential to ensure that the maximum benefits are granted to those veterans and their widows with the least assessable means.
Widows of veterans, who held a military service pension, qualify for the grant of an allowance equal to a maximum of one half of the annual rate of pension which was payable and the allowance is not subject to a means test.
228. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the way in which the strategic management initiative is progressing in his Department, with particular regard to the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3741/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): The Department of Defence has made  a major commitment to the development of the strategic management initiative. In accordance with the guidelines laid down for the initiative, a statement of strategy was drawn up and submitted to the Department of the Taoiseach by the appointed time. The statement has been reviewed by the coordinating group of secretaries and it is now being developed further in the Department. Specifically as regards the Defence Forces, the Efficiency Audit Group has carried out a comprehensive review of the forces. When the report of the group has been considered by the Government and conclusions arrived at, common strategic management decisions will be implemented.
229. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the plans, if any, he has to publish a Green Paper on the role, function, UN activities and NATO obligations or potential obligations of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3742/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): I have no such plans. As the Government's programme makes clear, Ireland will not become a member of NATO and the Government will work with like-minded members of the European Union to strengthen UN peacekeeping.
230. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the number of officers in the Permanent Defence Forces, the first line reserve and the FCA and Slua Muirí who are currently serving after the normal date of retirement; the number serving in January 1992, 1993 and 1994; the reasons for this practice; the normal retirement dates for those involved; the corps and commands involved; whether all officers have an entitlement to use this facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3743/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): The normal retirement ages for officers and the number who were retained in service beyond those ages in January each year from 1992 to 1995 are set out in the attached schedule.
Officers who hold professional qualifications and who are filling technical appointments may, subject to certain conditions laid down in Defence Force regulations, be allowed to serve up to a maximum of 65 years of age.
Line officers of the permanent defence force in the ranks of captain, commandant and lieutenant-colonel may, subject to certain conditions laid down in Defence Force regulations, be retained up to the age of 60 years to fill administrative posts. This scheme is at present under review.
Normal Retirement Ages for Officers Who May be Retained in Service.
|Rank||Permanent Defence Force||First Line Reserve||FCA/Slua Muirí|
|Colonel/Captain(ns)||60 Years||60 Years||†|
|Lieutenant-Colonel/Commander||58 Years||58 Years||†|
|Commandant/Lieutenant-Commander||56 Years||56 Years||57 Years|
|Captain/Lieutenant(ns)||54 Years||54 Years||55 Years|
|Lieutenant/Sub-Lieutenant*||*||47 Years||55 Years|
|Second-Lieutenant/Ensign*||*||47 Years||55 Years|
* Not eligible to be retained in Service.
† Officers above the Rank of commandant/Lieutenant Commander do not serve in an Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil or an Slua Muirí.
231. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the number of officers of an FCA and Slua Muirí as at 31 December 1994, who are holding acting higher ranks; the reason for such numbers of acting higher paid ranks; and his views on the issue. [3745/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): On 31 December 1994 there were no officers of the reserve of officers serving in acting ranks.
232. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the number, name and average circulation of each publication published under the auspices of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3747/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): There are no publications produced directly under the auspices of this Department. There are two publications, An Cosantóir and Connect which are published by the Defence Forces public relations section. These  are journals of general military interest, and contain the disclaimer that `the fact that an article appears in this magazine does not indicate official approval of the views expressed by the author'.
They are distributed monthly and have a circulation of 7,000 approximately.
233. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the number of doctors, dentists, engineers and architects serving in na Buan Oglaigh, the FCA, Slua Muirí and the first line reserve as at 30 June 1992, 1993 and 1994; whether he has satisfied himself that there are adequate numbers serving to fulfil the current and future needs of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[3748/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): The statistical details requested are contained in the following schedule. I am satisfied that there are sufficient doctors, dentists and engineers serving at present to provide for the needs of the Defence Forces for the foreseeable future.
Doctors and Dentists Serving in the Medical Corps.
|30 June 1992||30 June 1993||30 June 1994|
|Permanent Defence Force||38||38||39|
|First Line Reserve||7||5||6|
|An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil||10||8||10|
Technical Officers Serving in the Engineer Corps.
|30 June 1992||30 June 1993||30 June 1994|
|Permanent Defence Force||55||50||54|
|First Line Reserve||16||18||18|
|An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil||9||10||11|
Note: There is no provision in Defence Forces Establishments for Architects.
235. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if he will give details of the dispute in his Department and the members of the Defence Forces who went as a group to serve in Rwanda as a result of the recent famine emergency there; his views on whether they were informed before they went that they would get the normal UNIFIL rates; in view of the fact that they served in Rwanda from September to December 1994, the total UNIFIL rates to cover that period and the lesser rate now being offered; and in the circumstances, if he will agree the UNIFIL rates should be paid. [3887/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): There is no dispute within my Department in relation to this matter. The terms and conditions of service, including allowances, of the personnel who were engaged on humanitarian duties in Rwanda/Zaire have been raised by the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations under the terms of the conciliation and arbitration scheme for the Permanent Defence Force. Under the terms of the scheme as agreed with the associations, negotiations are confidential.However, I can tell the Deputy that agreement has been reached with the Representative Association for Commissioned Officers in relation to its members and that discussions, likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome, are continuing with the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association.
236. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the nature and extent of the eight million pound increase for buildings in the capital budget of the Defence Forces for 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3940/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): A total of £13.5 million has been provided under Subhead V of the Defence Estimates 1995 for building and engineering works. This represents an increase of £8.15 million on the 1994 outturn of £5.35 million and will be expended on capital projects (£9.5 million) and maintenance projects (£4 million) throughout the Defence Forces. These include building, engineering, painting, tarmacadam, maintenance and repair works and the purchase of stores and materials for the Corps of Engineers.
237. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the nature and extent of the 8 per cent increase for the Reserve Defence Forces in the capital budget of the Defence Forces non capital for 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3941/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): The increased allocation in respect of the Reserve Defence Force in Subhead D of the Defence Estimate 1995 provides for a 30 per cent increase in the rate of gratuities payable to reservists, who attend at annual training in 1995. The allocation also provides for increases in rates of pay and allowances in accordance with the Programme for Competitiveness and Work.
It is intended that the level of gratuities will be increased further in 1996 to provide an overall increase of 60 per cent in the rate of gratuities payable.
238. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a fish farm licence for which he applied a number of years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3853/95]
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Coveney): I am advised by the Department that an application for licensing to engage in salmon farming in Clew Bay,  County Mayo was originally made to the Department by the person concerned in October 1987.
It was decided in early 1992 that this application, which related to a proposal for an additional farm in Clew Bay, should on the basis of precautionary principles, be put on hold in the light of emerging analyses on the possible interactions between salmon farming and sea trout stocks.
I have instructed officials of the Department of the Marine to meet with the person in question to explain matters fully as soon as possible.
239. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for the Marine the public relations budget which has been allocated to his Department.[3415/95]
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Coveney): A public relations budget as such is not allocated to my Department. Sums from within my Department's administrative budget may, however, be assigned to public relations activities.
Specifically for 1995, and based on the figures contained in the Abridged Book of Estimates, a sum of £35,000 is allocated to advertising and exhibits from Subhead A.3 of the Department's Vote. This funds statutory advertising and marine safety campaigns. In addition, £20,000 is allocated to consultancy in Subhead A.7. My Department also operates a Press and Information Office.
240. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Marine the current position regarding an application (details supplied) forwarded to his Department to cut seaweed in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3609/95]
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Coveney): The application in question, which was received on 6 January last,  will be further considered on receipt of a report on the matter which has been sought from the local Garda station.
241. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for the Marine the proposals, if any, he has for Blacksod Pier, County Mayo, to allow for an extension to the pier. [3890/95]
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Coveney): There are no proposals on hands in the Department in relation to Blaksod Pier.
Harbour development work in County Mayo is currently being undertaken by the Department at Darby's Point, where a piled pier extension is under construction.
242. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for the Marine the proposals, if any, he has to complete the development of Darby's Point, County Mayo to accord with the original proposals of Mayo County Council. [3891/95]
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Coveney): The original development proposal submitted by Mayo County Council to the Department of the Marine in respect of the Fishery Harbour Development Programme 1989-1993, provided for a pier extension and development scheme at Darby's Point pier at a cost of £750,000. This scheme was included in the Department's 1989-1993 programme. However, due to limited funding and higher than anticipated costs arising on a number of other projects, it was not possible to undertake the planned development works at this harbour.
As the Deputy will be aware, the moneys now available for fishery harbour developments under the National Development Plan is limited to some £8 million. This represents a 60 per cent  reduction on funding available in previous years. Therefore, it has been necessary to scale back the number and extent of projects to be undertaken.
Notwithstanding these constraints a significant £380,000 pier extension and development scheme at Darby's Point was initiated in 1994. The scheme involves a 25 metre piled extension, surfacing of a previously filled area, and improved access and dredging of the berths. I am satisfied that this project will be of benefit to the fishermen in the region allowing for safer and quicker handling of catches and increased berthage.
The question of further development at Darby's Point will be kept under review in the light of available funding.