Dáil Éireann

07/Feb/1996

Prelude

Order of Business.

Suspension of Member.

Order of Business (Resumed).

Voluntary Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 1995: Report and Final Stages.

Dumping at Sea Bill, 1995: Report and Final Stages.

Commissioners of Public Works (Functions and Powers) Bill, 1995 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Report of Constitutional Review Group.

Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Interdepartmental Task Force on Border Counties.

Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - National Commemorations.

Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Currency Fluctuations.

Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Drug Trafficking Profits.

Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Income Tax Yield.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Commissioners of Public Works (Functions and Powers) Bill, 1995 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed.)

Commissioners of Public Works (Functions and Powers) Bill, 1995 [ Seanad ]: Referral to Select Committee.

Powers of Attorney Bill, 1995 [ Seanad ]: Second Stage.

Private Members' Business. - Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1996: Second Stage (Resumed).

Private Members' Business. - Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1996: Referral to Select Committee.

Adjournment Debate. - Hepatitis C Victims.

Adjournment Debate. - Operation of Sun Tanning Units.

Adjournment Debate. - National Library.

Adjournment Debate. - Beef Industry.

Written Answers. - Budget Leaks.

Written Answers. - British Economic and Monetary Union Membership.

Written Answers. - Dividend Relief.

Written Answers. - EU Border Funding.

Written Answers. - Harmonisation of EU Institutions.

Written Answers. - Departmental Staff.

Written Answers. - Education White Paper.

Written Answers. - Deposits Value.

Written Answers. - Sale of State Assets.

Written Answers. - Illegal Drugs Seizures.

Written Answers. - Border Region Funding.

Written Answers. - Overtime Payments.

Written Answers. - Investment Options.

Written Answers. - Departmental Printing Costs.

Written Answers. - Semi-State Companies.

Written Answers. - Government Tendering Procedures.

Written Answers. - Cabinet Advisory Post.

Written Answers. - Border Counties Economy.

Written Answers. - Maintenance Payments Review.

Written Answers. - Former Garda Station, Monaghan.

Written Answers. - Appointment of Consultants.

Written Answers. - Disabled Persons in Civil Service.

Written Answers. - EU Funding.

Written Answers. - Computer Costs.

Written Answers. - Tendering Procedures.

Written Answers. - Residential Property Tax Abolition.

Written Answers. - Civil Service Appointments.

Written Answers. - Arrow/Owenmore Drainage.

Written Answers. - Semi-State White Paper.

Written Answers. - Office of DPP.

Written Answers. - URBAN Community Initiative Programme.

Written Answers. - European Conventions.

Written Answers. - Embassy Function.

Written Answers. - British Army Checkpoint.

Written Answers. - Border Counties EU Funding.

Written Answers. - Residential Property Tax.

Written Answers. - Casino Licensing.

Written Answers. - VAT on Newspapers.

Written Answers. - INTERREG Programme.

Written Answers. - Verolme (Cork) Dockyard.

Written Answers. - Mixed Hospital Wards.

Written Answers. - Disability Report Publication.

Written Answers. - Tobacco Legislation.

Written Answers. - Child Care Act.

Written Answers. - Child Care Workers.

Written Answers. - Children's Hospital Charter.

Written Answers. - Eastern Health Board Reorganisation.

Written Answers. - Child Care Facilities.

Written Answers. - Residential Home Charges.

Written Answers. - Rates on Sporting Organisations.

Written Answers. - Noise Pollution.

Written Answers. - Cavan Roads Funding.

Written Answers. - Consultant Engineer Appointment.

Written Answers. - Disabled Person's Grant.

Written Answers. - Driving Instructors' Register.

Written Answers. - Galway Roads Funding.

Written Answers. - Drogheda (Louth) Premises Sale.

Written Answers. - Private Education Legislation.

Written Answers. - Fee-Paying Schools.

Written Answers. - Remedial Teacher Posts.

Written Answers. - Youth Services.

Written Answers. - Music in School Curriculum.

Written Answers. - School Escort Services.

Written Answers. - Castlefin (Donegal) School.

Written Answers. - Tulloha (Kerry) School.

Written Answers. - Prison Sentences.

Written Answers. - Dublin Garda Deployment.

Written Answers. - Galway Garda Station.

Written Answers. - Vehicle Licences.

Written Answers. - Free Travel Scheme.

Written Answers. - Kenmare (Kerry) Office.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - SME Initiative.

Written Answers. - Employment Projects.

Written Answers. - Adapt Community Initiative Programme Funding.

Written Answers. - County Enterprise Board Funding.

Written Answers. - Concrete Manufacture.

Written Answers. - Structural Funding.

Written Answers. - Land Transfer.

Written Answers. - REP Scheme Requirements.

Written Answers. - Farmyard Pollution Scheme.

Written Answers. - Beef Exports to UK.

Written Answers. - Scheme Changes.

Written Answers. - Electricity Price Increase.

Written Answers. - PESCA Initiative.

[329] Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.

Paidir.

Prayer.

The Taoiseach:  It is proposed to take Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 1. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Private Members' Business shall be No. 22 and the proceedings on the Second Stage thereof shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Are the proposals for dealing with Private Members' Business satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Will the Taoiseach outline to the House the action the Government intends to take in relation to the report of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General? As Minister I brought forward that legislation which is different from what we dealt with in the past because we extended its remit. The various bodies — health boards, vocational education committees — are covered by this particular report. In the normal course of events the relevant Minister would take whatever action was necessary but these bodies have the same powers as Government Departments had previously. A number of important matters are raised in the [330] report and I wish to highlight one in particular.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Did the Deputy not refer to legislation?

Mr. B. Ahern:  The point I am making refers to the Bill we are discussing today, the Misuse of Drugs Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We must not have any elaboration now.

Mr. B. Ahern:  The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states that there is a general absence of proper control over pharmacy stocks and that the financial implications of such poor control——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The matter of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report does not arise now. Doubtless the House will have an opportunity of debating that matter later.

Mr. B. Ahern:  There is not much point in the Comptroller and Auditor General providing a report to the House if no action is taken on it. The Comptroller and Auditor General is highlighting the general misuse of drugs in the health service.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are ample ways and means, in accordance with the procedures of this House, to deal with the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. May I ask the Taoiseach if he has an observation to make on legislation in this area?

Mr. B. Ahern:  May I ask the Taoiseach what he intends to do with that legislation?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am not aware of any legislation in the area unless I am corrected in that regard.

The Taoiseach:  There is no legislation promised in the area. The Deputy's questions, therefore, are not appropriate to the Order of Business but I do [331] not wish to deny him information on a matter of this nature. The report will have to be considered immediately by the bodies directly concerned as they are the ones most appropriate for taking action thereon. Furthermore, the report will be considered by the Committee of Public Accounts and the Government will be communicating with that committee, which I believe is chaired by a member of the Deputy's party. It is appropriate that the matter be dealt with by the committee established for that purpose, which has existed since the House was formed.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Will the relevant Ministers responsible for the health boards and vocational education committees take the same responsibility as if it were a matter concerning their own Departments?

The Taoiseach:  Of course not.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I cannot allow Question Time now.

The Taoiseach:  There is little point in saying that Ministers have the same responsibility for devolved bodies as they have for what happens in their own Departments. Ministers will take responsibility in so far as their statutory responsibility extends but in the first instance it is a matter for the bodies themselves to take action.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Mr. Cooney's appointee.

The Taoiseach:  Deputy Ahern should not expect otherwise given that we have devolved responsibilities to these boards under law passed in this House, In so far as the Ministers have a responsibility they will take that responsibility seriously and I have already indicated to the Deputy that we will be reporting to the Committee of [332] Public Accounts. I suggest to the Deputy that if he wishes to raise matters relating to the Committee of Public Accounts, such as this report, the appropriate place to do that is in the Committee of Public Accounts, not on the Order of Business where they do not come within the rules as understood.

Mr. B. Ahern:  This is the first time we have received such a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Sorry, Deputy, the report does not arise now. That is very clear

Mr. B. Ahern:  ——and if we are concerned about controlling these matters, we must take an interest in them.

Mr. Dukes:  The Deputy is scraping the barrel this morning.

Mr. B. Ahern:  It is nice to see Deputy Dukes back again.

Mr. Davern:  I am sure you, a Cheann Comhairle, and the Taoiseach would wish to sympathise with the family of Mr. Danny Fanning who was murdered in my constituency last night by a gang with Dublin and Northern Ireland accents. May I ask the Taoiseach the proposals he and the Minister for Justice have to curtail this horrific type of murder and indeed the type of crime committed during the week where 12 people were fortunate not to be killed in an armed raid on the Minella Hotel? Five shotguns were used in that raid. Will the Taoiseach include in those proposals the removal of the right to remain silent and expedite changes in the bail laws to help the Garda Síochána in its battle against crime?

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are ways and means, in accordance with the procedures of this House, for dealing with delicate and tragic matters of this kind.

Mr. Davern:  On pending legislation, [333] will the Taoiseach consider a proposal to remove the right to remain silent?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy can table a question on that matter.

Mr. Dukes:  We will defend the Deputy's right to remain silent.

Mr. N. Treacy:  That is a disgraceful remark.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The Minister was silenced and given a job.

Miss Harney:  I wish to raise a matter I raised yesterday. When I asked the Taoiseach about the response given by the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, on 23 January he said that replies to written parliamentary questions later in the day would clarify the matter. Despite the fact that replies to parliamentary questions are normally available at approximately 4.20 p.m., when my office contacted the Department of Social Welfare at 5.50 p.m. it was told the replies were being redrafted. These questions were submitted five days ago, the matter was raised in the House on 23 January and the response of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am not prepared to have a rehash of yesterday's rather unruly proceedings.

Mr. D. Ahern:  A special unit has had to be set up to investigate the answers.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are ways and means of dealing with the matter. A substantive motion has been tabled, item No. 35 on the Order Paper in the name of Deputy Joe Walsh.

Mr. N. Treacy:  Can we take it now?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Committee on Procedure and Privileges is also seized of this matter and will doubtless deliver its opinion on it in due course.

[334]Mr. D. Ahern:  It is a disgraceful matter.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We must not anticipate these considerations. I will hear no more about the matter.

Miss Harney:  I wish to raise a question on promised legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Certainly.

Miss Harney:  On the question of Ministers telling the truth to the Dáil the Taoiseach told the House in November 1994 that: “Fine Gael in Government will ensure that when answers to questions asked in the House are not adequate the Ceann Comhairle will be given a power to demand that a further answer be given”.

Mr. D. Ahern:  That was then.

Miss Harney:  He went on to say: “It is only by that change will it be possible to ensure that the Government of the day is fully accountable”. When does the Taoiseach propose to give this power to the Ceann Comhairle? I spent last night examining the response given by the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, checking dictionaries and talking to people in the advertising business. The advertisement was directed at a target audience, a select few, and for the Minister for Social Welfare to say——

Mr. N. Treacy:  The red brigade.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is proceeding against my ruling and I will hear no more on the matter. The Private Members' motion dealing with this matter can be taken next week if Members so desire and I will convene a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges as early as possible. I think the House has precedents in this matter and I am waiting to find out if it is the intention to utilise Private Members' time next week to deal with the issue.

[335]Miss Harney:  When does the Taoiseach propose to give you this power, a Cheann Comhairle?

An Ceann Comhairle:  It is not legislation.

The Taoiseach:  The Minister for Social Welfare stated yesterday in the Dáil that he did not mislead the House——

Mrs. O'Rourke:  But he did.

The Taoiseach:  ——and I believe that that is the case. The communication within his political party seeking people to assist him in giving political advice in regard to Government business was not an advertisement in any normally understood meaning of the term.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Then what is it?

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach:  The same brazenly hypocritical Opposition parties would have said the Minister misled the House if he had said the communication was an advertisement. They cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Dempsey:  The Government cannot have it both ways.

The Taoiseach:  If that has been the only means whereby he could have made it known he was seeking applicants for this position they would have said that was not an advertisement.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  They are five Democratic Left advisers.

The Taoiseach:  They are now saying that because he said it was not an advertisement he misled the House.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle:  I had sought to ensure that there would be no debate on [336] the matter now and I am sorry it has taken that trend.

Mr. J. Walsh:  May I——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Not on that subject, Deputy. I will not hear it.

Mr. J. Walsh:  I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but I am looking for the truth in this matter.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The ball is at your feet in this regard.

Mr. J. Walsh:  I expect you to provide an opportunity to enable us to get the truth in the House. I want to know if the Taoiseach will provide Government time for this motion so that we can get the truth in this matter.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That was raised yesterday morning.

Mr. J. Walsh:  But we did not get an answer.

Mr. O'Dea:  Will the Taoiseach give a simple answer, yes or no?

The Taoiseach:  No.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Malley:  The matter in question appears in a column headed “vacancies”. All newspapers——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have ruled the matter out of order. Demonstrations of that kind are not in order, Deputy.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The Minister for Social Welfare is a sham and a disgrace.

The Taoiseach:  It is obvious from the succession of trivia raised by the Opposition parties this morning that the principal vacancy is in their political programmes.

[337]Mr. Martin:  The Taoiseach is prepared to defend the Minister for Social Welfare to the death.

Mr. Andrews:  One hundred thousand pounds of taxpayers' money is not trivia. No wonder the country is in such a mess.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputies have utilised all the procedures open to them to deal with this issue. Deputy Walsh has put down a motion and the matter is before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Let us not anticipate these procedures.

Mr. J. Walsh:  This is a very serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I know that but I am not prepared to entertain it now.

Mr. J. Walsh:  An effort was made to conceal information from this House. The secretary of Democratic Left now seems to be responsible for taking on staff in the Department of Social Welfare at taxpayers' expense.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Walsh, please desist.

Mr. J. Walsh:  This is the first time the House has been deliberately misled.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Please resume your seat, Deputy.

Mr. J. Walsh:  The House has been told a deliberate lie and there is a coverup by the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Walsh is being disorderly.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle:  Order, please. I am proceeding to the business ordered.

[338]Mr. D. Ahern:  On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle:  It is difficult enough to maintain order in the House——

Mr. D. Ahern:  It is a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Unless it is seen to be a point of order and not disorder that kind of ruse will not work.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I am seeking your guidance, a Cheann Comhairle. In recent days we have been informed that the matter can be raised by way of substantive motion or by bringing it before the Committe on Procedure and Privileges.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That has been done.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Deputy Walsh has put down a motion which may be taken during Private Members' time some time in the future. We have asked the Government to provide time——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am aware of that and it has been replied to by the Taoiseach.

Mr. D. Ahern:  A report ont he file of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges about allegations made by Deputy Jim Mitchell recommends that disorderly allegations made in the House should not be referred to it but should be dealt with in the House.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I would much prefer if the Deputy waited for the debate on the matter.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I ask you to decide on that matter. There is a precedent whereby the Committee on Procedure and Privileges has recommended that these allegations should be taken in the House and not referred to it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If Deputies [339] wish to refer a matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges I do not see any function for me in it.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The Committee on Procedure and Privileges has thrown the matter back on the Dáil, according to that report.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I would prefer if the Deputy raised these points during the debate which doubtless will ensure on this matter in Private Members' time.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I am asking you to give a ruling on it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am not prepared to give an instantaneous ruling on such matters. This House is not a court of law.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I am not asking you to give an instantaneous ruling on it.

Miss Harney:  On proposed legislation, given that the Taoiseach has more stomach for dealing with Fine Gael Ministers and Ministers of State and that the Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell, has allocated 50 per cent of the local development fund to his constituency——

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. G. Mitchell):  No, I have not.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle:  That matter does not arise now. I must ask Deputy Harney in all seriousness to raise that matter at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.

Miss Harney:  I wish to ask another question on promised legislation. Given that the Minister for Defence told the Dáil on 16 November 1988 that where there was favouritism in giving out public funds or where there was an abuse of [340] public funds Fine Gael would not stand for it in Government, what will the Government do to ensure that——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, Deputy Harney, but I cannot facilitate you now and you know that. I call Deputy Micheál Martin.

Miss Harney:  What does the Taoiseach intend to do to ensure that there is——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have called Deputy Martin and if he does not respond now I will not call him again.

Miss Harney:  There is favouritism in the Minister of State's constituency.

Mr. Martin:  On a separate issue relating to promised legislation, when will the Government bring forward its legislative proposals appertaining to early school-leavers? It was clearly illustrated in a recent report by the European Social Fund Evaluation Unit that there has been an alarming reduction in expenditure on early school-leavers, from 8 per cent to 3 per cent, under this Minister for Education.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If there is no legislation promised in this area, the Deputy may raise the question at some other time.

Mr. Martin:  The relevant legislation is the truancy Bill. It is promised legislation.

The Taoiseach:  A general education Bill will be introduced in the House later this year. Furthermore, it is hoped that school attendance legislation, which has been in need of reform for many years, will be brought forward in the second half of the year.

Mr. D. Wallace:  In excess of £400,000 out of a budget of £900,000, was allocated to the constituency of the Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell——

[341]Mr. G. Mitchell:  That is untrue.

Mr. D. Wallace:  Will he explain the position to the House?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Wallace, please resume your seat.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. G. Mitchell:  A sum of £5.5 million went to the Deputy's constituency and £5.5 million went to Deputy Haughey's constituency.

Mr. Martin:  Deputy Mitchell hijacked a few million pounds for his constituency. The bottom line is that he is looking after his own.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If I do not hear something relevant, I will proceed with the business ordered. What we have heard so far is totally disorderly and a serious abuse of the Order of Business.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Deputy Byrne is the backbencher of the year.

Mr. Cowen:  Well done, Eric.

Mr. O'Dea:  Before I ask a question on promised legislation I want, on behalf of Fianna Fáil, to thank Deputy Eric Byrne for bringing this matter to our attention.

Is there contained in criminal justice legislation promised by the Government a proposal to amend the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990 to tighten up on the control and supply of illegal firearms which have wreaked havoc throughout the country?

The Taoiseach:  The programme of legislation, which includes general and criminal justice legislation, may contain provisions of that nature, but until the legislation is approved by the Cabinet it is not possible to give details of its contents.

[342]Mr. Molloy:  When is it proposed to bring forward legislation to give effect to the Government's proposals for the reorganisation of the health services? Will he ensure that these changes will provide for adequate services? Is he aware of the collapse of the emergency health services in the Western Health Board region, specifically Galway, where there is chaos?

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The Deputy did not do anything when he was a Minister.

The Taoiseach:  I am glad the Progressive Democrats are interested in spending money in the health area. I assure them that all these problems will be dealt with effectively by the Minister for Health within his budget which, of course, would be much smaller if the advice of the party the Deputy represents were taken.

Deputy Molloy rose.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Has the Deputy a separate matter to raise?

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Taoiseach aware that patients are left overnight on trolleys in the corridors of University College Hospital, Galway on a regular basis——

Mr. S. Barrett:  That was in 1992 when the Deputy was in Government.

Mr. Molloy:  ——and that again last night 22 patients were left on trolleys overnight?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I must ask Deputy Molloy to raise that matter at the appropriate time. There are many ways open to him. He may not make a speech now.

Mr. Molloy:  I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle. There is a serious crisis in the health service. I want the Taoiseach to know what is going on.

[343]An Ceann Comhairle:  I will facilitate the Deputy in raising this matter at the appropriate time, but not now.

Mr. Molloy:  People are suffering night after night. The staff are not able to deal with the accident and emergency section of University College Hospital in Galway.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy will resume his seat.

Mr. Molloy:  This is not fair. This is a disgrace. Will the Taoiseach not make some response?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I must ask the Deputy to leave the House forthwith.

Mr. Molloy:  People are suffering night after night, lying on stretchers, and the Government is doing nothing about it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I must now proceed to name the Deputy if he does not withdraw from the House.

Mr. Molloy:  A Cheann Comhairle——

(Interruptions.)

[344]An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy leaves me no option but to name him. I must now ask that a motion be moved suspending Deputy Molloy from the service of this House.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): The Deputy did nothing down there during his three years as Minister. He should apologise to the people of Galway for neglecting everything.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I will desist from naming the Deputy on condition that he remains silent.

Mr. Molloy:  Not on an issue of this kind, it is far too serious. This is a crisis and we are being ignored by the people who control the health services.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The motion should be moved.

The Taoiseach:  I move:

That Deputy Robert Molloy be suspended from the service of the Dáil.

Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 58.

Ahearn, Theresa.
Allen, Bernard.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Peter.
Bhamjee, Moosajee.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Bhreathnach, Niamh.
Broughan, Tommy.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connor, John.
Costello, Joe.
Coveney, Hugh.
Crowley, Frank. [345]Kemmy, Jim.
Kenny, Enda.
Kenny, Seán.
Lowry, Michael.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
Currie, Austin.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Avril.
Dukes, Alan M.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Ferris, Michael.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gallagher, Pat.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Harte, Paddy.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan. [346]O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Penrose, William.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, John.
Ryan, Seán.
Sheehan, P. J.
Shortall, Róisín.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Upton, Pat.
Walsh, Eamon.
Yates, Ivan.

Níl

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Callely, Ivor.
Clohessy, Peadar.
Connolly, Ger.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Foley, Denis.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Hilliard, Colm M.
Jacob, Joe.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Keogh, Helen.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Martin, Micheál.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Michael.
Moffatt, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Quill, Máirín.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies O'Donnell and D. Ahern.

Question declared carried.

Deputy Molloy withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr. Cowen:  Sir, on the Order of Business——

An Ceann Comhairle:  If the matter the Deputy wishes to raise is not relevant I shall proceed immediately to the Business of the House.

Mr. Cowen:  On the Order of Business, coming as you do, a Cheann Comhairle, from a rural constituency, you will be aware that we again face the [347] spectre of thousands of farmers protesting on the streets of Dublin about the crisis in the beef industry. Can the Taoiseach indicate if he intends to intervene given that his Minister for Agriculture Food and Forestery has agreed to leave the export refunds as they are for a brief extended period?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That does not arise now, Deputy.

Mr. Cowen:  The Taoiseach has no interest in the matter. The farmers of Meath will remember him as a result of his meeting in Meath recently.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, line 8, to delete “Subject to subsection (3)”.

This amendment arises directly from amendment No. 3 and merely removes the reference in subsection (1) to subsection (3) which is being deleted. The effect of amendment No. 3 is to remove subsection (3) of section 4. That subsection enabled the Minister, by regulation, to increase the number of members on the board beyond the upper limit of 12 persons as provided under subsection (1).

Concern was expressed about this on Committee Stage, particularly by Deputy O'Malley. I have decided to meet the points raised by tabling this amendment. The net effect of it is that the Minister may appoint up to a maximum of 12 members. However, he or she may appoint less than 12 members. The power which was in the [348] draft Bill to vary that upwards by regulation is now being removed as a result of the debate on Committee Stage.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I thank the Minister for taking on board the view expressed by me and Deputy O'Malley on Committee Stage. The Minister suggested it would be possible in future for a Minister to reduce the membership of the board. I said at the time I hoped he was speaking tongue in cheek because I did not think any Government Minister would ever reduce the membership, whatever about increasing it. I appreciate that the situation has been clarified. It is better from the board's point of view and it also strengthens the Bill.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I overheard the debate on this matter on Committee Stage and, from what I recall, it got quite heated at times. Sense has prevailed and the Minister's amendment is a good one.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 4 is consequential on amendment No. 2 and both may be discussed together by agreement.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, to delete lines 11 to 16.

This amendment was discussed at some length on Committee Stage, and I also raised the issue on Second Stage. I articulated my concerns on Committee Stage about the decision by the Minister to limit the number of health service providers that can be appointed to the board. I felt it was unfair to put a limit on health service providers when we did not impose the same limit on other professional bodies which may well be appointed to the board.

For example, what about accountants, lawyers or other professionals who might be appointed to the board? There could perhaps be a company director who is also an accountant and an [349] accountant representing one of the accountancy profession groups. Because the Voluntary Health Insurance board is involved in health care, any health service provider brings a certain amount of expertise to the board.

I accept that a board, which deals primarily with insurance, cannot have representation from all the people involved in the health care industry. It is unfair, however, to make a distinction between various bodies. We could believe that the Minister, and his successors will not fill the board with all types of individuals who are involved either directly or indirectly in the provision of health services.

The Minister admitted on Committee Stage that he had no difficulty with health service providers who were members of the board at present and stated that at no time had they abused their professional representation while they were members of the VHI board, and we all accept that. There is no need to fear that that might happen in future. However, the Minister should consider removing an unreasonable limit in relation to health service providers, when the same type of limit is not put on other professional who might be members of the board.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): I have reflected on this and decided to leave the situation as it is. I would like the board to bring a number of skills to the management of the VHI. It should not be a representative type of board. There is continuous pressure to make other boards which come under the Department of Health representational in nature. Quite a number of organisations feel they have a legitimate right to be represented.

The medical profession is represented by a number of organisations. If one gives represenation to one on a representative basis, there is pressure to give representation to another. With the best will in the world, we could easily end up with a VHI board consisting, to a very large degree, of people with medical interests. It is important to put [350] some limit on it and limiting it to two is reasonable.

Other skills are necessary. After all, the VHI is not providing a medical service, but insurance. The skills appropriate to running an insurance business are not necessarily the ones which providers of medical services would have although naturally enough, providers of medical services would bring experience to bear which would be very relevant. I am not ruling out having the expertise of service providers but I am confining the number to two. The VHI is under the aegis of the Department of Health and there will be pressure on the Minister to give more and more representation to the providers of health services. It could result in a majority of the board being providers of health services which would not be a good idea. The VHI is an insurance company and should be run on business lines. There will be competition in the business shortly and the formula in the Bill is appropriate.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I accept what the Minister said about not having a representative board. From experience, I know it is difficult for a Minister to make a decision on such matters and make room for people representing the various professional bodies or trade associations. I accept that the VHI board should not be a representative one per se. However, certain skills, such as actuarial, marketing and sales, need to be brought to the board.

What would happen if, having appointed the managing director of a well known company to the board it is discovered five months later that the person's company is indirectly involved in the provision of a health service? If the two health service providers were already appointed will the third person. who is at one remove from the provision of the health service, forfeit his or her seat? If the Minister confines this strictly to two health service providers many other skills may be lost to the board.

[351]Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): My interpretation——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Minister will know the procedure of the House. Only one speech is allowed on Report Stage but it is not unusual for the Minister to comment.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): Membership will be confined to two people directly providing health services.

Question: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand” put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No.3 was discussed earlier with amendment No. 1.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, to delete lines 17 to 30.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No.4 was discussed earlier with amendment No. 2.

Amendment No.4 not moved.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I move amendment No.5:

In page 8, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

“7.—(1) Not later than the 31st day of March, 1996, there shall be established by the Government, on the request of the Minister, a body to become known as the Voluntary Health Insurance Users' Commission and which is in this Act referred to as ‘the Commission’.

(2) The Commission shall consist of a chairman and not less than seven other members who shall be appointed by the Government.

[352] (3) When appointing a member of the Commission, the Government shall fix his/her term of office which shall not exceed five years and, subject to subsections (7) and (8) of this section, he/she shall hold office on such terms and conditions (other than terms or conditions relating to remuneration or the payment of allowances) as are determined by the Government at the time of appointment.

(4) A member of the Commission may at any time resign office by letter addressed to the Government and the resignation shall take effect as and from the date of receipt of the letter by the Government.

(5) A member of the Commission whose term of office expires by the effluxion of time shall be eligible for re-appointment.

(6) There shall be paid by the Board to members of the Commission such remuneration (if any) and allowances (if any) as the Board, with the consent of the Minister, from time to time determines.

(7) A member of the Commission may be removed from office by the Government for stated reasons, if, and only if, resolutions are passed by each House of the Oireachtas calling for his/her removal.

(8) Where a member of the Commission is nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann or for election to either House of the Oireachtas, he/she shall, upon accepting such nomination, cease to be a member of the Commission.

(9) (a) A person who is for the time being entitled under the Standing Orders of either House of the Oireachtas to sit therein shall, while so entitled, be disqualified from becoming a member of the Commission.

(b) A member of the Board of the VHI or an officer or servant of the [353] Board shall be disqualified from becoming or being a member of the Commission.

(10) The quorum for a meeting of the Commission shall be four or such higher number as the Commission may, if it thinks fit, from time to time, by resolution determine.

(11) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Commission shall regulate its procedure and business.

(12) The Commission may investigate and decide complaints made by subscribers of the Voluntary Health Insurance about services, operations or customer relations. The Commission may also investigate matters in relation to existing and proposed health insurance schemes and health-related insurance schemes.

(13) A complaint described in subsection (12) of this section may be made to the Commission by any VHI subscriber in writing.

(14) When the Commission proposes to investigate a complaint made under this section, the Commission shall afford the Board an opportunity to comment on the complaint.

(15) As soon as may be after they decide on a complaint made under this section, the Commission shall send to the person making the complaint and to the Board a statement in writing of their decision on the complaint.

(16) When the Board receives a statement of a decision from the Commission in relation to a complaint, the Board shall, not later than fourteen days after its receipt, inform the Commission in writing whether or not the Commission's decision is accepted by the Board.

(17) The consideration by the Commission of a complaint made to it under this section shall be carried out in private.

[354] (18) Unless it considers it inappropriate, the Commission shall, as soon as may be, publish particulars of its decisions on a complaint in such manner as it considers suitable and where it considers that the publication should be by the Board, or should include publication by the Board, the particulars shall be published by the Board in such manner as shall be agreed between the Commission and the Board.

(19) This section shall not apply to a complaint which, in the opinion of the Commission is frivolous or vexatious.

(20) As soon as may be after the end of each year, the Commission shall make to the Minister a report of its activities during that year. It shall also make interim reports on general matters in relation to existing and proposed health insurance schemes and health-related insurance schemes.”.

The Minister will agree that a number of strenuous complaints have been made concerning the fact that there is no independent mechanism for investigating complaints made by subscribers. The VHI acts as judge and jury. No one is accusing it of not being fair and impartial but those against whom the complaint is made investigate it.

My proposal is based broadly on the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. Although its expenses are paid by RTE it acts independently of RTE and has proved effective and efficient. There is an onus on us to ensure that a facility to investigate complaints is available in any State organisation such as the VHI. People may feel hard done by, for example, when the board refuses to pay portion of a bill that a person thought would be paid in full.

Many VHI subscribers require specialist treatment. One of the most expensive is an MRI scan. I know subscribers who inquired if this was covered under their plan and were told at their [355] local office that it was but when they submitted their bills to the VHI only part of the treatment was covered. They are aggrieved that they were not given full information. It is not good enough to say that the small print at the bottom of the application form states that the first £X is not covered. The VHI does not have much competition and there should be an independent mechanism, which should be seen as such, to investigate complaints made by subscribers, many of which concern customer relations. The VHI will be a better organisation when such a mechanism is available.

It is interesting that during the past 12 months when I mentioned this proposal on a number of occasions in the House and received a positive hearing from the Minister, the VHI drew up a complaints system to be located within the board which would be independent, fair and so on. The board did not make such a proposal until political noise was made about it. I applaud the VHI for doing so despite being nudged along the way. However, it is not seen by the public to be independent because the board receives the complaints, investigates them and decides them. It would be better if a users' commission investigated complaints by subscribers and matters relating to existing and proposed VHI and health related schemes. It is important that complaints are made in writing to weed out vexatious and frivolous complaints. Such complaints are often made to the Garda Complaints Commission. It is very easy for a commission or complaints body to weed out that kind of unnecessary complaint. It is important that consideration of complaints be conducted in private. I imagine the VHI believes that if it were done in public it might attract much adverse publicity. When complaints and allegations are made they receive huge headlines, but when it is later found that the allegation or complaint is not true the same publicity is not afforded to that decision. That is why I propose that [356] consideration of complaints be conducted in private.

It is important that the board of the VHI be given an opportunity to respond to each complaint. That would probably reduce considerably the number of complaints made, very often in an off-hand manner, about the VHI. It might help to get rid of the idea that VHI stands for very high insurance rather than Voluntary Health Insurance. In a recent statement the chief executive officer of the VHI said that subscribers to the VHI can expect hefty price increases this year. I am sure the Minister was as shocked as I was at that statement which was reported in the newspapers. Subscribers should have an opportunity to respond to such a statement.

The board would be happier if complaints were investigated by an independent third party who would take on board its views and comments in response to a complaint. Even though I applaud the VHI for what it has done in this area, it is important that it is not judge and jury in its own case; that responsibility should be given to an independent commission. There are many precedents for such commissions and I recommend strongly that the Minister agree to the amendment.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): I have reflected very carefully on the amendment proposed by Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, which is very similar to an amendment moved on Committee Stage on which we had a constructive debate. The Deputy had difficulty bringing the amendment into accord with the rules of the House — Opposition Deputies always have that difficulty because they cannot move an amendment that imposes a charge on the Exchequer. There are technical aspects in the amendment, which I presume arise because of the drafting necessity to bring it into order, that render it an incomplete amendment, but I understand the Deputy's intentions. I am not accepting the amendment although I share many of the concerns expressed by the Deputy. The action taken by the [357] VHI, combined with the remit of the insurance ombudsman, will probably be sufficient to meet the need.

There is no point in having a multiplicity of complaints organisations to whom consumers can make their case. I will certainly keep the issue in mind and see how the VHI Members Advisory Council works. That council held its first meeting on 19 January and therefore has not a long track record. I share the intention and motivation behind the Deputy's amendment, but there is no need for a new statutory body to provide the service envisaged. There is an independent and expert arbiter available under the insurance ombudsman of Ireland scheme, of which the VHI is a member. The terms of reference of the insurance ombudsman provide that she will receive references in regard to complaints, disputes and claims made in connection with or arising out of policies of insurance effected or proposed to be effected with members of the scheme. There are about 50 insurance companies participating in the scheme, which means that VHI members are on an equal footing with the generality of insured persons as regards access to independent redress of their grievances. The insurance ombudsman is able to assist by conciliating between the insured person and the insurance undertaking and by adjudicating in a matter of dispute.

It is particularly noteworthy that the undertakings who are members of the scheme have agreed to be bound by the ombudsman's decision. Policyholders are free to accept or reject the decision and may take legal proceedings if they do not agree with the decision. The insurance ombudsman publishes an annual report, which ensures transparency to which the Deputy referred as a necessary element of such a system. Accordingly I am of the view that there is already an effective agency which has the qualities of professionalism, independence and transparency for dealing with the grievances of VHI members as these relate to the application of the terms and conditions of their policies.

[358] There is lack of public awareness that the insurance ombudsman is available to intervene, redress and make recommendations on conflicts between members of the VHI and VHI management. I am sure our debate this morning, together with the debate on Committee Stage, will receive publicity, which will increase awareness of the work of the insurance ombudsman. Under the VHI rules, which are available to all policyholders, there is a provision that any difference of opinion between the board and a subscriber may be referred to arbitration in accordance with law. That is an avenue through which the settlement of disputes can be further pursued.

The VHI moved rather quickly in the latter half of last year to set up the VHI Members Advisory Council. I think that move was motivated by the debate initiated by Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn on Second Stage. I am mindful that such a scheme is now in place. The council met on 19 January under the chairmanship of the Mr. Finbarr Flood of the Labour Court. It has 12 ordinary members drawn from different backgrounds. The VHI is not represented on the council.

For the information of Members I will outline the council's terms of reference: to review all communications with VHI members, including product terms, and to suggest ways in which these can be improved; to propose codes of good practice in all aspects of VHI business, including the standards of services required from hospitals and doctors; and to review such other aspects of VHI operations as are considered appropriate from time to time. It is also envisaged by the board that the terms of reference will be reviewed by the council in the light of experience. Accordingly the council has been given a wide remit with provision to further define its terms of reference, and that is to be welcomed.

Having regard to the functions of the insurance ombudsman, the council which will not deal with members' complaints and VHI documentation which will [359] inform members about the board's participation in the ombudsman scheme, there is probably sufficient redress at present. It is apparent the VHI board has put considerable thought and effort into devising a forum through which the views of consumers may be channelled, articulated and focused. I accept its good intention and I hope the system works as intended.

I convey my wish to the board, if it is not already its intention, that annual reports should contain information about the work of the VHI Members Advisory Council so that transparency, which is very important, is evident. That would further encourage consumer confidence in the council. Under the 1957 Act the Minister for Health is obliged to lay the annual report and accounts of the VHI before each House of the Oireachtas. That provides a further element of accountability. The fact that I am increasing the size of the board weighs on the same side of the scales. There will be a wider representation on the board and in turn, taking into account the professions I indicated, a wider range of consumer experiences will be represented.

I share the Deputy's desire that the VHI should have independent redress. If the provisions I outlined this morning do not do that, I reserve the right to establish and legislate for a body independent of the VHI. This body would have the right to investigate complaints by persons availing or proposing to avail of a scheme referred to in section 2 of this Bill in relation to the board's performance of its functions. The right to investigate disputes between the board and such persons in relation to the performance of its functions will be appropriate, as will the furnishing of reports of the results of its investigations to the Minister, the board and the person concerned. If considered appropriate, it will also make available its report's recommendations arising out of its investigations, including recommendations designed to lead to improvement of the performance of the board's functions, [360] and it will furnish an annual report of its activities to the Minister who may lay it before the House of the Oireachtas.

I have taken into account what the Deputy said, particularly on Committee Stage, and there is a lot of merit in her arguments. The measures in place are probably sufficient to meet the Deputy's requests. However, if there is a need for an independent body, depending on how this works out in 1996, I will provide it.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I appreciate the Minister's good intentions in this regard. I should have declared a personal interest in the VHI because I am one of its subscribers who has benefited considerably over the years. While my experience as a subscriber with the company has been a good one, that is not the case for everyone. The Minister accepts that. The independence given to the users' commission in this amendment is what the VHI membership requires. I appreciate that the VHI has a members' advisory council. I was not aware, until the Minister said it, that its reports will be included as part of the VHI's annual report. That is an important step forward.

It is important that subscribers should have confidence in whatever complaints procedure is in place. That is the case with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the Garda Síochána Complaints Board. While it is accurate to say that the VHI, in relation to the insurance ombudswoman, should be put on the same footing as other insurers, it is slightly different in that other insurers have active and aggressive competition in the market, whereas the VHI does not. It may take some time for it to have the type of aggressive competition in the health insurance market which we would like to see.

It is always better to give people an opportunity to voice their complaints in an independent way rather than encouraging them to take legal proceedings which are expensive for both sides. We must do everything we can to encourage people to have faith in an independent [361] complaints procedure which will not go as far as a court, but will leave them satisfied that their complaint was examined. I agree with the Minister that the public should be made aware that subscribers who are aggrieved at their treatment by the VHI can raise it with the insurance ombudswoman. I accept what the Minister says that few subscribers to the VHI realise they can ask the insurance ombudswoman to investigate their case.

I am interested in the users' commission because one individual has written to me on numerous occasions about an ongoing battle with the VHI over a bill of almost £5,000. That subscriber was a managing director of a big company and is capable of making an argument and fighting his case. He is totally [362] frustrated by the company and will not fight any more. He believes there should be an independent users' commission so that he and people like him will have the confidence to go before it.

Although the Minister does not recognise the need to include this in the Bill, he has given a commitment that if he is not happy with how the members' advisory council works, he may table an amendment to this Bill in the future. I have listened to the Minister's argument and I accept his intention to include it in the Bill at a later date. However, I will push this important amendment to a vote.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 56; Níl, 71.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Noel.
Aylward, Liam.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Callely, Ivor.
Clohessy, Peadar.
Connolly, Ger.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Foley, Denis.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Seán.
Hilliard, Colm M.
Jacob, Joe.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Keogh, Helen.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Martin, Micheál.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Michael.
Moffatt, Tom.
Morley, P. J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M. J.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Leary, John.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Quill, Máirín.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

Níl

Ahearn, Theresa.
Allen, Bernard.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Peter.
Bhamjee, Moosajee. [363]Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connor, John.
Costello, Joe.
Coveney, Hugh.
Crowley, Frank.
Currie, Austin.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Avril.
Dukes, Alan M.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Ferris, Michael.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flaherty, Mary.
Gallagher, Pat.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Harte, Paddy.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kemmy, Jim.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Bhreathnach, Niamh.
Broughan, Tommy.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny). [364]Kenny, Enda.
Kenny, Seán.
Lynch, Kathleen.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Pattison, Séamus.
Penrose, William.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, John.
Ryan, Seán.
Sheehan, P. J.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Upton, Pat.
Walsh, Eamon.
Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies D. Ahern and Callely; Níl, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald.

Amendment declared lost.

Bill reported with amendment and received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): I thank those Members who participated on Second, Committee and Report Stages, in particular, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn who carried the debate this morning and, on Committee Stage, Deputies O'Malley and Michael McDowell, the latter represented his party this morning, when we appreciated his quietness and sense of reflection.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 1 in the name of Deputy Michael Smith. I observe that amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and suggest that we discuss all three together if that is satisfactory. Agreed.

Mr. M. Smith:  I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 20, to delete “in the maritime area and substitute “in the sea”.

On Committee Stage I argued that the Oslo and Paris Conventions do not replace but are an addition to the London Convention, 1972, as amended in 1978. The Oslo and Paris Conventions deal with the maritime area of each contracting state in the North-East Atlantic while the London Convention deals with the sea as a [365] whole. Therefore, while the Oslo and Paris Conventions have regional application the London Convention has global application so that, apart from some overlap, the parties to the conventions will be different. The Oslo and Paris Conventions will apply only in the maritime areas of the contracting states whereas the London Convention will apply to the whole area of the sea, including the maritime areas of the contracting states.

Dumping under the London Convention has already been defined in the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, including the maritime areas, whereas the Oslo and Paris Conventions have a more extensive but not necessarily co-extensive definition.

Accordingly, it is necessary to continue that part of the regime of the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, which derives from the London Convention, and amend that Act to include provisions from the Oslo and Paris Conventions. Under the Oslo and Paris Conventions any State could adopt more stringent measures but in the North-East Atlantic only. I commend the Minister on the more exacting provisions of this Bill, supported by Members of all sides of the House. My problem is to ensure that we extend those criteria on a more global basis, as failure to do so constitutes a serious omission. The Bill could be in breach and, in some cases, abandon elements of the Oslo and Paris Conventions. For example, it may well be the case that a loophole exists which would provide opportunity for ships of convenience. For instance, if a ship, not flying an Irish flag, comes into an Irish harbour, loads hazardous waste and proceeds to dump it outside our maritime area — waste generated in Ireland, loaded in an Irish harbour by a ship from another country and dumped outside our maritime area — what is the position? Will the provisions of this Bill prevent that occurrence?

It is crucial to ensure that the two regimes are properly amalgamated so that no escape route exists, unwittingly or otherwise. It is for that reason I tabled these amendments. We went [366] over this argument on Committee Stage but I continue to maintain it is necessary to devise some method of ensuring that the provisions of the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, are properly amalgamated with those of the Bill before us. I await the Minister's comments.

Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. Gilmore):  Deputy Michael Smith referred to the provisions of the London Convention and the Oslo and Paris Conventions. It may be of some help if I explain the position in relation to both conventions.

The Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, enabled Ireland to give effect to the London Convention on the prevention of marine pollution by dumping of wastes and other matter, commonly known as the London Convention, at the same time as the Oslo Convention on the prevention of marine pollution by dumping from ships and aircraft. The Oslo Convention is a regional convention applicable to the North-East Atlantic region only. The London Convention applies globally and has been adopted by the International Maritime Organisation.

The terms of the London Convention are very similar to those of the Oslo Convention. In general, environmental protection trends set under the Oslo Convention progressed to consideration and adoption by the London Convention. The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic — generally known as the OSPAR Convention — replaces two separate conventions in which Ireland has participated. These are the Oslo Convention and the Paris Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land-based Sources, 1974.

The Oslo Convention is administered by the Department of the Marine, the Paris Convention is the primary concern of the Department of the Environment but the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications also plays a role in controlling the discharge of radioactive substances, including wastes, from land-based sources. The Oslo and [367] Paris Conventions have been merged with a view to a stricter, more updated environmental protection regime for the North-East Atlantic. The provisions of the OSPAR Convention relating to dumping at sea require that new domestic legislation be enacted to give full effect to that convention.

While the Bill before the House includes provisions of the London Convention, it incorporates the stricter provisions of the OSPAR Convention. I assure Deputy Michael Smith that Ireland will continue to participate in both the London and OSPAR Conventions. This Bill regulates dumping within our maritime area only. The maritime area defined in the Bill extends to 200 nautical miles and, in some cases, to 350 nautical miles off the Irish coast, depending on the extent of our Continental Shelf.

As Deputy Smith is aware, that jurisdiction is being increased substantially in this Bill. Under the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, jurisdiction extended only to the 12 mile limit. This Bill increases substantially the jurisdiction of the Irish State in relation to dumping at sea from 12 miles to 200 miles minimum and, in some cases, to 350 miles depending on the extent of the Continental Shelf.

Under international law Ireland has no legal right to regulate dumping in other countries' jurisdictions. However, section 2 of the Bill regulates dumping anywhere in the sea outside the maritime area where such dumping is from an Irish vessel or aircraft. It also regulates loading on a vessel or aircraft in the State or in the maritime area for dumping.

Deputy Smith mentioned a specific example. This Bill provides that dumping cannot occur at all in the area of jurisdiction, that is, out to 200 or 350 miles. It cannot occur in any sea where the vessel is an Irish vessel. I would draw Deputy Smith's attention to section 2 (1) (c) which states that if any vessel or aircraft, substance or material is loaded on to a vessel or aircraft in the [368] State or in the maritime area for dumping, dumping from such vessel is also prohibited. Deputy Smith's example was where a ship, which is not an Irish flagged ship, is loaded in an Irish port or anywhere within the 200 or 350 mile limit. That situation is covered.

For those reasons I cannot accept amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3. There is no legal basis to regulate dumping outside our maritime area except in those circumstances which I have outlined and which cover Irish vessels or vessels loaded in the State or in our maritime area.

Mr. M. Smith:  I thank the Minister for his explanation. As he will recall my first attempt on Committee Stage was to join the two Acts to give us the best of both worlds and that obviously failed. I had my doubts as to whether it would be feasible to accept the amendments because of the limits of our jurisdiction. However, I needed to be certain that the circumstances I outlined were adequately covered because I was afraid they were not. It is appropriate to have teased out the matter.

I accept that this Bill contains stricter conditions on which I commend the Minister. The extension of the maritime area is an extremely welcome development. Our amendments were proposed to ensure there are no loopholes. We will discuss an amendment presently where the Minister has taken account very properly of points made on Committee Stage. My fears were that, based on the 1981 Act and its relevance to the London Convention, we might have been creating a loophole. I am satisfied on the basis of the Minister's reply that this is not the case.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

Mr. M. Smith:  I move amendment No. 4:

[369] In page 6, line 26, after “installation” to insert “, offshore pipeline or man made structure”.

On Committee Stage we had a brief discussion as to whether the addition of the words “offshore pipeline or man made structure” were necessary. I am anxious to clarify two points. Would it be acceptable to abandon a pipeline? It would not seem acceptable to me but it is likely that certain companies might take this action and abandon the pipeline altogether. On the point of man made structures, could the Minister assure me that in future any parts, disused or overutilised equipment or anything else from the Sellafield plant could not be dumped successfully under the provisions of this legislation?

Mr. Clohessy:  I support Deputy Smith's point. Everybody knows that dumping at sea from places like Sellafield is extremely dangerous and has ongoing consequences for future generations. I would like the Minister's assurance that every possible effort will be made, even if it is in waters outside our jurisdiction, to control this practice.

Mr. Gilmore:  The definition of “offshore installation” includes its pipelines. Pipelines which are not associated with offshore installations may not be dumped at sea because they constitute industrial waste which is prohibited under the terms of this Bill. The definition of “offshore installation” also includes man made structures. The abandonment of offshore installations is covered by the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications and is being specifically provided for in the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The procedure being provided for in that legislation requires consultation with the Department of the Marine about how that is to be achieved if it arises. It is covered in separate legislation.

The issues of Sellafield and the dumping of radioactive materials are specifically provided for in section 4 where the [370] dumping of low, intermediate and high level radioactive substances or material is specifically prohibited.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 5:

In page 7, to delete lines 22 and 23 and substitute the following:

“(3) A permit under this section shall contain such conditions as the Minister thinks appropriate. Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, a permit under this section shall include a condition that the person to whom it is granted shall indemnify the Minister against all reasonable costs incurred by him arising out of a breach of a condition of the said permit.”

On Committee Stage Deputy Smith proposed an amendment that a condition be included in dumping at sea permits requiring the permit holder to indemnify the Minister against costs associated with tracing owners, salvage and so on. I have examined Deputy Smith's amendment in detail with the Attorney General's office who advised on this text for this amendment. This amendment will enable the Minister to seek indemnification against costs incurred arising out of any breach of a condition of a permit. I believe that the amendment takes account of Deputy Smith's concerns and I thank him for raising the matter on Committee Stage.

Mr. M. Smith:  Needless to say, this side of the House has no difficulty accepting the Minister's amendment. I thank him for taking account of our fears. In the areas of dumping, monitoring and the problems that can follow over a long period of time, it is difficult to assess accurately what the cost might be or where it could eventually lead. It is therefore important to include a provision like this. It is also good sense in terms of how we do our business. Some Government Departments believe that [371] the Opposition is always wrong and the Government is always right. It has been a feature of my own experience in ministerial office that we need the combined wisdom that is available. I thank the Minister for proposing this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 6:

In page 7, to delete lines 35 to 44 and substitute the following:

“(6) The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, in a case where the Minister proposes to grant a permit to a person under this section, charge the person (in addition to any fee paid by the person under subsection (5) of this section) a fee of such amount as, in the opinion of the Minister, is appropriate having regard to the cost of any monitoring, surveys and examinations carried out or to be carried out for the purposes of enabling the Minister——

(a) to determine where dumping may take place,

(b) to assess the effects of the dumping to which the permit relates on the marine environment and the living resources which it supports, and

(c) to ensure that the dumping to which the permit relates is carried out in accordance with that permit.”.

On Committee Stage, Deputy Smith proposed that specific provision be included in the Bill to provide for payment by the permit holder of a fee, having regard to the costs of any monitoring required, to ensure that dumping is carried out in accordance with the conditions of a permit. I undertook to examine Deputy Smith's amendment with the Attorney General's office and to return on Report Stage with a text for an amendment.

[372] Under the provisions of section 5 (3) the Minister may include such conditions as he thinks appropriate in a dumping at sea permit. A standard condition of all dumping at sea permits is that the costs of any tests, sampling, analysis and monitoring, which the Minister for the Marine may require after or during dumping, must be borne by the permit holder. As section 5 (6) deals specifically with monitoring the effects of dumping, the Attorney General's office has advised that this is the most appropriate subsection in which to incorporate Deputy Smith's proposal. Section 5 (6) (c) takes on board Deputy Smith's amendment.

Mr. M. Smith:  Far be it from me to question the Attorney General's advice on these matters. The Minister has taken account of what we said on Committee Stage. I thank the Minister for his efforts to ensure this provision is included.

Mr. Clohessy:  I too wish to thank and congratulate the Minister for including this amendment. It is extremely important that those who dump at sea be controlled to a certain degree. The Minister is wise to include such a provision.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk):  We come to amendment No. 7 which is a drafting amendment. Amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 11 are cognate. It is proposed that amendments Nos. 7, 9, 10 and 11 be taken together by agreement. Agreed.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 7:

In page 10, line 21, to delete “Judge” and substitute “judge”.

These are drafting amendments. Apparently a judge is not adjudged to merit the capital “J”.

Mr. M. Smith:  I do not think this is a matter which will delay the House. I do [373] not think there will be long contributions about whether the word “judge” should be given a capital “J”. We are not too bothered one way or the other. If it is to be changed we accept it. I hope the Minister will not be burdened in the future with problems of this kind.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 8:

In page 11, line 5, after “Forces” to insert “or a member of the Garda Síochána”.

Section 6 (11) provides that an authorised officer, other than a member of the Defence Forces, shall be furnished with a certificate of his appointment. Section 6 (1) (c) provides that every member of the Garda Síochána shall be an authorised officer for the purposes of this Act. This amendment will enable gardaí to become authorised officers automatically on enactment of the Bill in the same way as members of the Defence Forces and, therefore, will not have to be furnished with certificates of appointments individually.

Mr. M. Smith:  On a point of clarification, is this not automatic in terms of the primary law enforcement agency? Is this absolutely necessary?

Mr. Gilmore:  It is necessary because the Bill as drafted exempts only members of the Defence Forces from being furnished with a certificate of appointment. For obvious reasons, the Garda are authorised officers under the provisions of this Bill and it would be nonsensical if individual gardaí had to be furnished with certificates of appointment. It is simply to provide that they would be automatically authorised officers.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 9:

[374] In page 12, line 36, to delete “Judge” and substitute “judge”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 10:

In page 12, line 38, to delete “Judge” and substitute “judge”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 11:

In page 12, line 42, to delete “Judge” and substitute “judge”.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman:  We come to amendment No. 12. Amendment No. 13 is related and it is suggested that amendments Nos. 12 and 13 be taken together by agreement. Agreed.

Mr. Clohessy:  I move amendment No. 12:

In page 12, to delete lines 45 to 48 and substitute the following:

“and upon conviction under this subsection, the said defendant shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £2,500, or at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both the fine and imprisonment.”

I was absent during the Committee Stage debate but it is my opinion that a fine not exceeding £2,500 is small when one is mostly dealing with multinationals. Is there a ceiling of £2,500 or can it be increased at a later date?

Mr. M. Smith:  In the normal way I would be happy to support Deputy Clohessy's amendment. As he said he was not present on Committee Stage when the Minister explained the limitations placed on him, whereas indictable offences were catered for on conviction by way of fine. On the basis of [375] what was said on Committee Stage I will not support the amendment.

Mr. Gilmore:  Deputy Clohessy is seeking to increase the maximum fine on summary conviction from £1,500 to £2,500 and to increase the maximum term of imprisonment on summary conviction from one year to two years. As I explained on Committee Stage, I cannot accept these amendments on the advice of the Attorney General's office. The distinction between summary and indictable cases arises from the Constitution. Cases of a minor nature can be taken in the District Court. A case in 1937 established the upper limit to a fine that could be imposed by the District Court. It was £100 at the time and this has been updated over the years. The District Court maxima for summary penalties is deemed at present to be a sum not greater than £2,500 and we do not have discretion to increase it.

With regard to the proposal to increase prison sentences for summary offences from one to two years, I am advised by the Attorney General that in a High Court case in 1994 — Mallon v. the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry — Mr. Justice Costello ruled that a two year prison sentence on summary offence was unconstitutional. Therefore, I cannot accept that proposal either.

A number of speakers referred to the issue of penalties on Second and Committee Stages. There may have been some confusion as to what penalties are being provided for in this legislation. The Bill provides for unlimited fines in respect of serious or indictable offences and or prison terms of up to five years. It is hoped that the possibility of substantial penalties, on conviction, which could run to millions of pounds, will be an effective deterrent to would-be offenders. The penalties for indictable offences are unlimited. They are based on whatever the cost would be of cleaning up and undoing the damage caused by dumping and are supported by considerable powers available to authorised [376] officers to seize and detain vessels which might be engaged in dumping. The penalties provided for are substantial and should act as a deterrent to any person contemplating dumping within our maritime area. Attention has been drawn only to the penalties provided for on summary conviction. We have no discretion in the matter and are bound by the Constitution and the courts' interpretation of what that means in modern terms.

Mr. Clohessy:  Far be it from me to question the wisdom of the Attorney General on this subject. I am prepared to accept the Minister of State's explanation.

Mr. M. Smith:  Does the Minister of State have any figures for the number of convictions for dumping in recent years?

Mr. Gilmore:  There have been no convictions. Based on our assessment, the law is being complied with.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 13 not moved.

Acting Chairman:  Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 form a composite proposal. Amendment No. 16 is consequential. It is proposed, therefore, to take them together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. Recommittal is necessary in respect of these amendments as they do not arise out of committee proceedings.

Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 14, 15 and 16.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 14:

In page 13, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

11. —(1) Section 3 of the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974, shall not apply to the prosecution of an offence under this Act or to any functions in relation to that matter to [377] which, but for this subsection, it would apply.

(2) References in Part II of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967, and section 62 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, to the Director of Public Prosecutions shall, in so far as that Part and those sections apply in relation to an offence referred to in subsection (1) of this section or to any functions referred to in that subsection, be construed as references to the Attorney General.”.

The purpose of these amendments is to enable the Attorney General prosecute offences committed under the Dumping at Sea Bill and the Sea Pollution Act, 1991. The Sea Pollution Act enables the Minister, following upon a maritime casualty, to give directions, for the purpose of preventing, mitigating or eliminating danger from pollution or threat of pollution by oil or any other harmful substance, to the owner or master of a ship outside our territorial waters. Where the response of the owner or master of such vessel to such directions is inadequate, the Minister may take such actions and do such things as he thinks necessary and reasonable to prevent, mitigate or eliminate the effects of pollution. This Act also prohibits or controls the operation discharge of marine pollutants from ships through the establishment of operational discharge criteria and vessel construction and equipment standards.

We make provision for the Attorney General to prosecute offences committed under the Dumping at Sea Bill and the Sea Pollution Act because of the international and diplomatic complications which can arise in cases of this kind. Offences under the Dumping at Sea Bill and the Sea Pollution Act are not like ordinary offences in our jurisdiction and may involve relations with other countries. It is important that the Attorney General should conduct the prosecution because he sits with the Government and is aware of the diplomatic and international perspectives involved in prosecuting such offences.

[378] Maritime law is very specialised and is traditionally dealt with by the Attorney General's Office which is familiar with the relevant international conventions and legislation. This amendment will enable the Government to make use of this expertise when prosecuting offences under the Dumping at Sea Bill and the Sea Pollution Act. A similar provision is already in place in the Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1978, and I am satisfied it is effective.

Amendment No. 16 is consequential on amendments Nos. 14 and 15 and I commend them to the House.

Mr. M. Smith:  Am I correct in saying that we are dealing exclusively with acts committed outside our maritime area?

Mr. Gilmore:  No, we are dealing with all offences committed both within and outside our maritime area involving Irish vessels or vessels loaded within our maritime area.

Mr. M. Smith:  Is it not normal to have the Attorney General involved? Why is it necessary to be specific in this instance?

Mr. Gilmore:  Under the 1981 Dumping at Sea Act and the 1991 Sea Pollution Act the Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for prosecuting offences. The position is different under the Sea Fisheries Acts under which prosecutions for illegal fishing are brought by the Attorney General. Because of his expertise in the area of maritime law it would be more appropriate for the Attorney General to bring prosecutions under this Bill. The offences involved are not typical criminal offences prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr. M. Smith:  I have the utmost confidence in the Attorney General as I had in previous Attorneys General over a long period despite the criticism levelled at some of them. I wanted to be certain the Bill would not be confined [379] to offences committed outside our maritime area and to know the reason the Attorney General would prosecute offences. The Minister of State's explanation is satisfactory.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 15:

In page 13, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

“12. —(1) Section 3 of the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974, shall not apply to the prosecution of an offence under the Sea Pollution Act, 1991, or to any functions in relation to that matter to which, but for this subsection, it would apply.

(2) References in Part II of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967, and section 62 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, to the Director of Public Prosecutions shall, in so far as that Part and those sections apply in relation to an offence referred to in subsection (1) of this section or to any functions referred to in that subsection, be construed as references to the Attorney General.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gilmore:  I move amendment No. 16:

In page 13, to delete line 43 and substitute the following:

“14. —(1) This Act may be cited as the Dumping at Sea Act, 1996.

(2) The Sea Pollution Act, 1991, and section 12 of this Act may be cited together as the Sea Pollution Acts, 1991 and 1996, and shall be construed together as one Act.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 14, 15 and 16 reported.

[380] Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Mr. Gilmore:  I thank Deputies Smith and Clohessy for their contributions today and those Members who contributed on both Second and Committee Stages. This is significant marine environment legislation which extends the area over which this country will have jurisdiction from 12 miles to 350 miles in the north east Atlantic. We will be able to exercise a greater degree of control over what may be dumped within that area.

The Bill prohibits the dumping of a range of materials, including radioactive material and offshore installations. Members will recall that an attempt was made early last year to dump the “Brent Spar”. A number of other installations have been lined up for disposal in the near future. They may not be dumped within our maritime area. The dumping of munitions is also prohibited. Much concern has recently been expressed about the dumping of substantial quantities of used munitions in areas off our coast at the end of the last World War. The dumping of industrial waste and sewage sludge at sea will be prohibited as and from 1 January 1999.

Effectively, this legislation will prevent the dumping of toxic or dangerous materials in our seas. People contemplating dumping material in our seas will be required to apply to the Minister for the Marine for a dumping licence. The legislation provides that strict conditions will apply to any such permit, including, as a result of today's amendments, conditions relating to charges imposed by the Minister for monitoring and controlling any such dumping. These provisions will move our environmental legislation a stage forward; we can no longer view the sea as an area of convenient disposal. Unfortunately, in the past it was believed that when something was dumped at sea it would break [381] up and disperse and not cause environmental damage, but we now have a much more enlightened view in that regard. People are aware that the sea cannot be used as a big dumping ground and the steps taken in this legislation will bring into effect probably the tightest domestic legislation on marine pollution in the world. It will enable us ratify the OSPAR Convention and strengthen our position in seeking tighter environmental controls through various international bodies and conventions to which we are a party.

I thank Members, particularly those present, for their co-operation on this legislation.

Mr. M. Smith:  I thank the Minister for his comments and for sharing the wisdom of Members from both sides in ensuring that we introduce the best possible legislation.

In recent years the public have become much more conscious of our natural environment. Legislation has been introduced on air and water pollution and on dumping at sea, we also established the Environmental Protection Agency. All parties have been involved in pursuing an environmental policy which would provide a stringent, tough and enlightened legislative code ensuring that people who breach the conditions are convicted and punished.

We must also develop the educational aspect of environmental management. It is not simply good enough to have a legislative code in place, public consciousness and their involvement in environmental protection is also crucial. There have been no convictions in this area in recent years, but that does not mean we do not have problems, particularly from land-based sources. We face a major task in terms of dealing with coastline pollution, particularly from untreated sewage. I accept that the matter cannot be dealt with under this legislation, but it must be addressed.

We are pleased the legislation has reached this stage. I hope other countries in the European Union and elsewhere use it as an instrument to update [382] their domestic legislation. It is not good enough that stringent measures apply in only two or three countries, they should apply on a global level. I hope the legislation is effective in our maritime area.

Mr. Clohessy:  I join Deputy Smith in thanking the Minister for his co-operation in dealing with this Bill. On Second Stage Members were anxious that the legislation should pass through the House as quickly as possible. It is important that as a sovereign nation we ensure as far as possible that our seas are clean. In carrying out research in respect of the legislation I discovered that a nuclear submarine, the property of the former USSR, is lying at the bottom of the North Sea and at some stage in the future will disintegrate and pollute the seas. We should be proud of our work on this legislation in recent weeks.

Question put and agreed to.

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mrs. T. Ahearn:  I wish to share time with Deputy Ring.

Chairman:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs. T. Ahearn:  I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this Bill, the primary purpose of which is is put on a statutory basis powers and functions traditionally exercised by the Commissioners of Public Works.

When the Bill was debated in the Seanad before Christmas I had an interest in it because of my concern for the victims of the severe flooding in Galway. Little did I know at that stage that when the legislation came before this House I would have a much greater personal interest in it. Since Christmas south Tipperary, particularly the areas around Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir, suffered unprecedented flooding from [383] which few of those affected have recovered. My remarks, therefore, will concentrate on section 2 (c), the purpose of which is to make schemes or other arrangements for the provision of assistance, whether in the form of money, living accommodation, land or other property of any kind to persons who suffer undue hardship or personal injury or loss of or damage to land or other property by reason of flooding. Unfortunately, that section of the Bill relates to many of the constituents in south Tipperary.

In dealing with flooding, we must concentrate on three aspects, the causes, compensation for victims and a solution. It was distressing to see Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir become islands last January. Not only were the towns cut off, people's homes and businesses were flooded. It is difficult to provide words of comfort to people in such circumstances. While the waters have subsided, the trauma and hardship continues. Three weeks later, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir are back to their original state but the houses and businesses are not. It is sad to speak to the people of the area and to hear that they do not have proper facilities. Their kitchens have been totally destroyed and they are living in makeshift accommodation which is totally unsatisfactory. The public will forget about that but we must not forget that the flood damage caused to homes and businesses cannot be corrected in a week or two. People must wait for the walls to dry out and then find the money to redecorate their homes to a satisfactory standard.

We have all wondered about the causes of the exceptional flooding this year and ten months ago in Clonmel. We accept there was exceptionally high rainfall — according to the Office of Public Works it was the highest recorded since 1953 — but such statistics are no comfort for the people living in what we call target areas. We must know the reason the flooding was more severe this year and ten months ago than ever before. The local people have [384] rarely seen such exceptional flooding and damage as has been experienced in the past month.

I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, who visited our constituency with an air of compassion and took a personal interest in the desperate circumstances of the flood victims. He was not in a position on that occasion to tell us what he could do about the problem but his visit was very much appreciated by the people. The Office of Public Works and the Department of the Environment should be careful about the statements they make at a time when people are experiencing the trauma of flood damage. They cannot enter their houses without wearing waders and on occasion they have to be carried by members of the fire brigade or the Civil Defence. Statements lacking in sympathy should not be made. I realise it is difficult to know what to say at such times but comfort and support should be offered to people experiencing these problems. The Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, was exceptional in his sympathy and understanding for the people living in the flooded areas, which was greatly appreciated. Those people are depending on the Minister of State and they know he will continue to support them.

I realise we have had exceptional levels of rainfall in Clonmel but we must find out whether works carried out by Clonmel Corporation or South Tipperary County Council contributed to the flooding. I understand public bodies will be on the defensive in relation to any works they carry out but they should adopt a more open approach in matters of this kind. When people ask questions they should be prepared to carry out an investigation to determine whether any of their works contributed to the flooding.

A new roadway was constructed along the quay in Clonmel which reduced the width of the river bed. That water had to flow elsewhere, a factor that should be taken into consideration. There is much concern that the sewage plant being constructed on the river [385] bank in Clonmel, which was previously a flooding plain, may have contributed to the flooding there. We must have an open, honest and independent investigation because unless we are prepared to investigate all possible causes of flooding, we cannot ensure that the problem will not occur again. We are not professionals in this field but water which previously flowed through a flooding plain which, on this occasion, was powder dry because of its elevated position will flow into areas with much greater velocity than it did previously. I call on the Minister for the Environment to carry out an independent investigation in relation to those two projects and to report to both authorities on its findings. It is essential that such an investigation is carried out speedily so that corrective measures can be taken if the factors to which I referred contributed to the recent flooding.

When we talk about compensation for flood victims we generally refer to home owners but we must also have concern for business people. Several businesses in Clonmel were closed for a number of days due to flooding. Not only did they suffer financial loss due to redecoration of their premises, they also suffered loss of income. I hope that will be taken into account when the issue of compensation is being addressed.

I hope that the recent arterial drainage legislation will result in some corrective measures being taken in Clonmel. The Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, said that Clonmel will be high on the priority list when the next programme of works is being drawn up. Something must be done about this problem. We cannot simply continue to hope that it will not rain. We must be able to create the structures whereby rain will not result in people's homes being flooded.

Two issues need to be examined when we speak of flooding and one of those is the question of insurance. It is traumatic to hear, on visiting homes which have been flooded, that insurance companies will no longer take on those [386] home owners because they previously claimed for flood damage. Legislation should be introduced to compel insurance companies to provide insurance to their customers. Profit is the overriding principle of insurance companies but they must accept that people will make claims. It is not acceptable for a person who has previously claimed for flood damage to be refused insurance cover. That has happened in the past and it is totally unjust. We are talking about responsible people who want to insure their properties but are being denied that right. We have a responsibility to protect people who want to have their premises insured and insurance companies should be obliged to provide such cover.

The other issue to which I refer is planning permission. One would have to question the reason many of the houses flooded in Clonmel were given planning permission. Our planning authorities should be vigilant in refusing planning permission to applicants if the location of the proposed premises is at risk from flooding. That might be considered a harsh decision at the time but it would be for the long-term benefit of the people concerned.

I was impressed by the response of the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, to this problem but that response did not end with his visit to Clonmel. Within days of his visit, the Minister of State was on a plane to Brussels armed with a detailed and comprehensive report containing all the facts, photographs, paper clippings, etc. needed to argue the case that south Tipperary be considered eligible for humanitarian aid from Brussels. I compliment the Minister on his success in Brussels. I acknowledge the co-operation he received from the local authorities but it was mainly his will and determination which ensured that the case presented was successful and that there was a positive speedy result. I await with anticipation the final outcome of the application to Brussels.

I wish to assure flood victims they [387] have not been forgotten. Public representatives are vigilant in trying to ensure a proper level of compensation and to formulate solutions to the problem while the Minister and his Department are working forcefully to ensure that compensation is made available speedily and funding is also made available for corrective measures.

I wish the Minister and his staff every success in their endeavours in the coming weeks. I look forward to his visit to Clonmel when he will be in a position to alleviate the fears and concerns of people whose lives and homes have been destroyed, to give them the necessary compensation and, more importantly, to put forward solutions to the problem. If action is not taken to deal with the problem in south Tipperary more compensation will be required in future years and this is not the answer to the problem. Given the seriousness of the situation and the trauma, suffering and hardship experienced by the victims, I have every confidence that the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, and his Department will do everything possible to alleviate the hardship and concerns of the people affected.

Mr. Ring:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Nealon.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Ring:  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I was in good form until Deputy Ahearn referred to insurance companies. They make my blood boil. Like a bank manager who gives a client an umbrella on a fine day and takes it back on a wet day, they will insure people on good days but will put every obstacle in their way to avoid paying out the money. I hope legislation will be introduced which will prevent insurance companies inserting small print at the back of leaflets which can only be read with the aid of a microscope.

[388] A young man who visited my clinic a month ago lost a finger as a result of an accident at work. He forgot about his mortgage protection policy but because he was good at meeting his repayments the county council gave him some leeway in paying his mortgage. After six or seven months he was told something would have to be done about his arrears. However, because he had not notified the insurance company of his position within six months it would only pay him a portion of the claim. This matter is being dealt with by the ombudsman who I hope will be successful. As legislators we should take on insurance companies and make them answerable to the public. At present, they are worse than racketeers in a sense that all they do is take money from people and do not provide a proper service or pay claims when people are in trouble. However, that is a debate for another day.

I congratulate the Minister on introducing the Bill and compliment his predecessor, the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Higgins, for the work he put into it. I pay tribute to Deputy Padraic McCormack who did much work in trying to solve the problem of flooding in Galway. I do not know how he did not suffer a heart attack or a stroke given the pressure he was put under. However, having done all this work he lost that part of his constituency in the revision of boundaries. I know what it feels like to work hard for an area and then to lose it.

Mr. Nealon:  The Deputy gained because he got the whole county.

Mr. Ring:  That is true but the trouble is I did not get the piece I wanted. If we were honest and open we would not have allowed that legislation on boundaries to be passed.

Action must be taken now to deal with the flooding in Galway, Tipperary and Mayo where there are problems in Kilmaine, Ballycroy and Cross. It is important for the Office of Public Works and county council to work [389] together in trying to solve this problem — I hate getting separate letters from them telling me they have no responsibility. Action must be taken to deal with this problem.

Mr. Nealon:  I am fed up with the trend in this debate where too much emphasis is put on what is called emergency flooding. The type of flooding has caused great difficulties in Galway and Clonmel but it occurs only occasionally. I am more worried about the limited funding available to the Minister which may be spent on emergency flooding to the total neglect of permanent flooding in other areas.

In my constituency of County Sligo the permanent flooding along the banks of the Owenmore and Arrow rivers over the past 70 years has caused many problems and could hardly be described as a flash flood. It is important not to neglect these areas. Under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, a list of priorities was drawn up and, in fairness to them, successive Governments and the Office of Public Works adhered to that list. The Owenmore and Arrow rivers finally came to the top of the list but unfortunately there will be no more arterial drainage in the catchment area. I accept that the Government does not have the necessary finance for this work but given that these rivers had reached the top of the list I would like an assurance from the Minister that limited drainage will continue in the area and that the main blockages will be eliminated. I would also like an assurance that the Owenmore and Arrow rivers will be at the top of the new priority list. The people of the area deserve this given the damage caused by flooding for many years.

Mr. Killeen:  Fáiltím roimh an cuid den Bille seo a thugann cumlachtaí breise do Oifig na hOibreacha Poiblí, go mór mhór i leith na ndaoine go raibh a dtithe faoi thuilte agus go bhfuil gá le tithe nua a thógáil dóibh no airgid a thabhairt dóibh chun na tithe sin a chur ar fáil.

[390] Fáiltím freisin roimh an cuid a thugann cead dóibh co-oibriú le comhairlí chontae agus le coistí eile. Ach táim buartha faoi chuid eile den Bhille, faoin chuid sin go ginearálta a thugann cumhactaí do na coimisineirí agus táim buartha faoin rud a tharla san Árd Chúirt trí bhliain ó shin.

I welcome the parts of the Bill which will extend the powers and functions of the Office of Public Works, particularly as they relate to the victims of flooding, the payment of compensation, the building of houses and the other elements which come into play arising from flooding. However, I have concerns about some of the powers being given to the Office of Public Works. Arising from the 1993 judgment it is clear there is a need to deal with the lack of clarity in regard to the huge number of Acts going back over 200 years. An element of those powers was dealt with in the State Authorities (Development and Management) Act, 1993, while another element is being dealt with in the Bill. I am concerned that we are continuing to add little pieces to the powers and functions of the Office of Public Works without considering where the commissioners stand in terms of the system and the need to deal with these powers and functions in a comprehensive manner.

In the context of the ultra vires argument which arose in the High Court case in February, 1993, it became clear that in making his decision the judge had to take into account new powers and functions assigned to the Office of Public Works under various Bills enacted as necessary to give it these powers. The 1831 Act, which was the principal Act relating to these matters, empowered the commissioners to make advances for the drainage of lands under section 32, for the building of roads, bridges and harbours under section 62, to enter into contracts for the construction of roads and bridges under section 65 and, under section 72, it was declared that it would be lawful for persons acting under its authority to dig up and carry away materials for making, [391] protecting and preserving roads and bridges. These functions were gradually and individually specified. In making a judgment, therefore, a judge would have to look at a history of legislation in which was specified each necessity more or less as it arose.

All kinds of powers were given to the commissioners. Soon afterwards, and in fairly quick succession, other Bills were enacted, each of which gave them further powers. It seems peculiar to deal with legislation which adds to or amends legislation which is 160 years old. That itself creates difficulty. There were quite a number of other additions to the 1839 Act. These included settlements relating to the execution and making of roads, bridges, canals, harbours, piers, railways, drainage or embankments and the transfer of powers and duties to the commissioners, and that transfer of powers and duties also took place. Other changes were made in the 1846 Act under which the commissioners were allowed to appoint inspectors to inspect ancient monuments and to act as guardians of ancient monuments etc.

There is a raft of legislation and at different stages more bits have been added. One of my concerns is that this Bill continues that trend and may not extend the statutory powers as it is intended to do. This House must be aware of the risk that when an action is taken in the High Court an Act will be open to question and will be carefully examined. In adjudicating on an appeal of a section of the February 1993 judgment which went to the Supreme Court, five Supreme Court judges finished up with a three-two judgment. It was almost like a penalty shoot-out, with two people going along with the Government's argument and three finding against. There is a good historical reason to be careful about added legislation such as this to the Statute Book.

Section 3 deals with the powers of the commissioners. They shall have and shall be deemed always to have had powers to mortgage land and property, and to demolish buildings or structures [392] or other property of any kind. I assume the reference to compensation refers to the payment of compensation where houses deemed to be no longer suitable for habitation are demolished. However, if one were suspicious and came from my part of the country one might think that confirming powers of the Office of Public Works to demolish meant something different. People would ask if these powers could be extended to the demolition of buildings which are controversial in their nature, which are unfinished and might come to be dealt with at a future date.

Under section 3 (1) (d) the Office of Public Works shall have power to carry out development, whether on payment or free of charge, as agents for another State authority, a local authority, within the meaning of the Local Government Act, 1941 or a health board or any other person. The Bill does not seem to provide that the commissioners will have power to carry out these functions on their own and not in partnership with any or all of these other groups. The Minister will probably say that has been dealt with in the State Authorities (Development and Management) Act, 1993, and that may well be the case. However, I suspect it may not be the case in respect of some of the new powers here. Section 3 would be stronger if the powers for the commissioners to carry out such works on their own were included. The rest of the section deals with the circumstances under which the Office of Public Works may engage in development jointly with another person etc. The two difficulties posed by this section are that it does not seem to include power for the commissioners to operate on their own in the way that it does for them to operate jointly, and it adds to the corpus of material going back over a very long time, falling into the same trap of adding extra functions.

Deputy Noel Treacy referred to an attitude of Government to the commissioners. I agree with what he said. To a certain extent the commissioners have become the whipping boy, but when there is good news to be [393] announced, they are left very much in the background. There was a strong example of that in the case of the Burren National Park which gave rise to the February 1993 judgment on these matters when the commissioners were accused of failing to consult local interests even though they held three series of consultations. Subsequently a new series of consultations was set in train which excluded local people, local elected representatives and farming bodies. There is a need to be more honest and up front in our approach to the commissioners. If they can be under attack one day, let those who attack them be consistent subsequently and not have the commissioners victimised by political groups. In much of the legislation, powers and functions which were exercised in an excellent manner by the commissioners have been removed from them, and that is something that greatly concerns me. Compensation is central to the issue. There is public support for the payment of compensation to those whose homes were flooded. There is nothing as harrowing as to visit a family whose house is under two or three feet of water.

Public bodies are open to spurious claims for compensation. Chancers who find the only piece of broken pavement on a streetscape manage to fall over it and go to court although thousands of pedestrians may walk on the same pavement without falling over it. When one member of a family falls over a broken piece of pavement often another member does likewise or something will fall on top of his or her head, etc. The public resent the payment of compensation for organised, spurious claims and we must address that.

The Minister said he will shortly announce a scheme for the Sixmilebridge area as houses in the area were flooded on four successive occasions. I welcome the scheme and hope it will be successful in ensuring the problem does not recur. Sixmilebridge is located close to the tidal area of the river. There was much upstream drainage but there is a worry that the scheme will not address [394] the problem of six householders on the Limerick Road and Sixmilebridge area. If the scheme is not fully successful those people must have access to the compensation fund. The houses are located on low-lying sites beside the river and flooding could easily recur.

In many cases those who were not insured could not get insurance. Some householders were insured for a considerable time but when they made a claim it appears the insurance companies were unwilling to quote them or quoted an excessive premium. That issue could be addressed by legislation but in the first instance the Minister should compile a number of case histories and present them to the insurance companies. They have a moral, if not a legal, obligation to look after their customers. Everything was fine when their customers were profitable but they did not want to know them when they made a claim.

Flood victims who were forced to flee their homes lost many of their possessions. They feel isolated and believe that no one cares about them. They have been waiting for action for 13 months. They feel they are a minority and that politicians do not care about them. Those in Sixmilebridge say when there was a photo opportunity they were inundated with more than floodwaters but when there was hard work to be done no one was to be seen.

In the event of the proposed scheme, which I welcome, being partly successful such people should have access to the compensation fund.

Mr. Gallagher:  (Laoighis-Offaly): I wish to share time with Deputy Ferris. I welcome the Bill and acknowledge the work of the Minister in addressing the problems that arose. It is right to give power to the commissioners to provide humanitarian relief. We must address the legal difficulties involved. If a householder is affected by flooding an important element in determining the level of response to the problem is how well it is co-ordinated. We experienced flooding in my area and were told the [395] county council had responsibility for one matter and the Office of Public Works had responsibility for another. There must be some mechanism at county level to ensure that when there is an emergency there will be a co-ordinated response.

I accept that help was given by the Red Cross and the EU last year but we need a response modelled on the local emergency response teams set up by health boards, county councils and other agencies to deal with disasters. The Minister and the Office of Public Works should engage in serious discussions with the local authorities and statutory bodies as it is essential to respond immediately when there is an emergency.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

  1.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Taoiseach    if, in view of the provisional report of the Constitutional Review Group, he intends to make any immediate changes in the Office of the Attorney General; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2207/96]

The Taoiseach:  As the Deputy will see from reading the review group's report, it does not recommend any changes in the Office of the Attorney General which I would be in a position to make. The group does recommend one change in the Constitution relating to the Attorney General which will now be considered by the proposed all-party committee, together with any other constitutional changes which the group recommends.

[396] The Government is committed to discussing all the group's recommendations in the context of the all-party committee and I will put forward proposals shortly to the Opposition leaders on the establishment of the committee.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The report referred to the Attorney General's two roles, but it is accepted that only about 5 per cent of the workload relates to his duty under the Constitution to protect and safeguard the public interest. The report recommends that there should be no change in that. Would the Taoiseach not accept that even within the 5 per cent workload there have been public occasions on which the Attorney General had two different positions within the one issue? It has been accepted by a broad spectrum of opinion in this House that there is a need for an independent person who would, in effect, represent the public interest as opposed to being legal adviser to the Government in high profile issues which are of major public concern.

The Taoiseach:  As the Deputy will see when he reads the report, this is exactly the point the group referred to and, having examined it, they recommended no change. The report states:

The question remains how a conflict of interest between the Attorney General's role as legal adviser to the Government and as guardian of the public interest might be handled. The review group considers that the discretion on whether a conflict arises should be left with the Attorney General who would have to act in the full glare of publicity and under the closest scrutiny by the courts under the legal system. If he or she decides a particular issues presents such a conflict, he or she should be able to assign the task to one of a small panel of senior lawyers.

Having considered the matter, that is essentially what the review group said should be the case, in other words, that the present position should not be [397] changed. However, it will be open to those who have a different view to advocate their view within the context of the all-party committee.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I have a copy of the report and I note what the Taoiseach says about it. I also note what the Committee has said in relation to the glare of publicity that the Attorney General might be under in a court case, but there is still a distinct reluctance both on the committee's behalf and on the Government's behalf to allow the Attorney General to be accountable in any way to a Dáil Committee. We only have to look at the Compellability of Witnesses Bill which excludes the Attorney General from coming before a committee of the House.

I am not sure if the Taoiseach knows that one of the committees of the House has already examined this issue and has come to a certain view as to whether the Attorney General should be answerable to the House and should have a separate position of protector of the public interest. Is the Taoiseach aware of the deliberations of that committee and will its views be taken into account in future amendments?

The Taoiseach:  I am aware that the Constitutional Review Group, on which the Deputy's party was represented by a very eminent barrister, also considered the further question the Deputy has raised concerning the accountability of the Attorney General. I wish to quote again from their report. They found that:

The Attorney General's relationship to the Government, being that of lawyer to client, should entail no accountability to the Houses of the Oireachtas. Accountability for advice and action on it should be through the Taoiseach as specified in the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. The Taoiseach should decide how much or how little he or she reveals of the advice, as in any other lawyer client relationship.

[398] That is not my finding but the finding of the group. The Government is considering the matter independently. We will obviously take account of the very clear recommendation by this independent review group, which is representative of a wide range of expert opinion, that the present practice should not be changed.

When a Member of the Deputy's party occupied the office I now occupy and questions about changes of this nature were suggested to him, he made it quite clear that he did not believe any such change should be made. However, so far as this matter and any other matters in this report are concerned, the Government is happy to have them discussed in the all-party committee. I have no doubt that members of the all-party committee who do not agree with the review group's findings will be able to argue their point of view in the committee. That is probably the best way to proceed rather than attempting at Question Time to do the committee's job in advance, although I have no doubt they will be taking note both of the Deputy's comments and my own.

Mr. O'Dea:  As I understand the report, it states that where the Attorney General's two functions come into conflict the Attorney General himself will decide that question and will delegate one of his functions to a panel of senior lawyers. Does the Taoiseach accept that that recommendation is fatally flawed because the Attorney General himself will have to decide when his two functions are in conflict? Will the Taoiseach not accept that in most instances that will not be reviewable by the courts? This review group has decided that no powers or functions of the Attorney General should be ceded, but the group comprised the Attorney General himself and his chief legal assistant who are, effectively, acting as judges in their own case. Does the Taoiseach think that is acceptable?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Who guards the guards?

[399]The Taoiseach:  The group also comprised a barrister nominated by the Deputy's party and a number of other legal people of noted independence as far as the Attorney General or this Government is concerned. It was chaired by a very eminent public servant, the former Senator, Mr. Ken Whitaker. Having considered all these matters they came to these conclusions. All I am doing is drawing the attention of the House to their conclusions. I am not drawing any conclusion on the matter myself. I look forward to seeing this being discussed at the all-party committee. It is important for us to give some weight — and Deputy O'Dea and Deputy Dermot Ahern should give due weight — to the findings of this body. They should not attempt to impugn it or, indeed, to impugn this or any other Attorney General in so far as Deputy O'Dea suggested that he was acting as a judge in his own case.

Mr. O'Dea:  Should he be a judge in his own case?

The Taoiseach:  It is important to recognise that in matters of this kind one has to rely on the integrity of public office holders. It is not possible to provide detailed rules and procedures to govern every conceivable situation. In practice it is often the case that the surest guarantee is in the integrity of office holder to make difficult decisions where conflicts of interest occur. Conflicts of some kind or another are inherent in virtually every political decision.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I fully accept, as the Taoiseach says, that if a conflict arose on advice, the present and previous occupiers of the position of Attorney General, would undoubtedly, seek the advice of others and if he were advising the Government in one direction and thought perhaps that the rights of an individual in society required a separate mind to be brought to bear on the issue, separate advice might be got from some other legal adviser.

It is not so much a question of conflict [400] of interests. Will the Taoiseach consider the point of a conflict of roles? For instance, without getting enmeshed in the circumstances of the X case, it might well be that the entire Cabinet might not want a case to be brought by the Attorney General on some issue that is against their views, but the Attorney General in his public protector role might arrive at the opposite view and think he was bound — as indeed some of the judges in the X case said — to bring an application. Where the potential conflict is, I think is in the conflict of roles of the Attorney General. What would happen if an entire Cabinet went on its knees to the Attorney General asking him not to bring a case as they did not want him to do so and to which he replied that he felt bound to do so in his role as protector of public rights? A practical example was the extraordinary situation after the High Court decision in the X case, when the then Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, had to publicly plead with the family involved to appeal the decision that had been obtained by his own Attorney General and offer them legal aid. Would the Taoiseach not agree that there is an extraordinary conflict on occasion between the roles of somebody who is advising the Government, which wants one thing to be done and somebody required by law to bring an action in the name of somebody whose rights are at issue?

The Taoiseach:  In fact, Deputy Michael McDowell is making my case by citing that example in which, the then Attorney General showed he was able to make an independent judgment — independent of the Government of the day. That vindicates the point of view I have been advocating in general terms, that the person appointed as Attorney General will be chosen on the basis of integrity and knowledge and, therefore, should be capable where a conflict arises of recognising it and acting in a way that recognises the division of responsibility inherent in his office. By the example he cites, Deputy McDowell [401] has disproven the case he seeks to make.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Deputy McDowell's point was well made. He referred to the possibility of a future Government finding itself in this difficulty if the present way of operating continues.

The Taoiseach:  He referred to a specific case where his own case was demolished by what happened.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The Taoiseach referred to a report dealing with accountability for advice in which he said that action should be as specified under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. I understood the Taoiseach was proposing to amend that legislation, in effect to make the heads of Departments more accountable for their actions. Does the Taoiseach go along with the view that the Office of the Attorney General should be excluded from an amendment of that legislation? What are the Taoiseach's views on the proposal to delegate, and the proposal that the Attorney General be allowed to delegate some of his powers to someone under him? Is it now accepted — as we have seen in the past — where there was a conflict of interest because the incoming Attorney General had been involved in actions before taking office which would now be a potential conflict of interest, that he cannot, as the Consistution is framed, delegate them to someone below him to make a decision?

The Taoiseach:  As the Deputy is well aware, this problem will arise every time a practising barrister with a sizeable practice is appointed as Attorney General. There will be cases in hand from his previous capacity and it would be normal to assume that among those would be cases against the State or in which the State might be involved. The Attorney General has made perfectly transparent and effective arrangements to ensure that no conflict arises in those situations by having independent and [402] separate counsel and there is no constitutional barrier to what he has done in this instance.

In response to the earlier part of the Deputy's question, it is the case that the Government is looking at the whole matter, including the relevant functions of the Attorney General in the context of the review of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, which the Minister for Finance is undertaking? I referred to that already when I said the Government is looking at this matter independently. We are proposing to set up an all party committee where all these matters and the views for and against the recommendations of the expert group can be discussed and, if possible, a consensus reached at political level before any decisions are taken or recommendations made to the people. The Deputy should have confidence in that process.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I was requested to put down a parliamentary question.

The Taoiseach:  It would be subversive of the process we intend to adopt, which is to try to seek an all party approach on these matters, for the Deputy to attempt to get me to take a position on behalf of the Government on each one of these individual recommendations before they had been considered by the all party committee. It would be better to allow the all party committee to consider the matter and draw the conclusions together from that consideration. I think that is an appropriate way to go forward. Perhaps the Deputy does not agree, but that is the way we will go.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Will the Taoiseach go against the grain and appoint an Opposition Deputy to chair this all party committee in view of the fact that we have the chair of three of the 17 committees of the House?

The Taoiseach:  I will not be in a position to make a statement on that matter until I have considered it fully. I would have regard also for precedents in [403] regard to the previous reviews of the Constitution when the Deputy's party had an opportunity as the Government of the day to decide who should be in the chair and they did not, I believe, appoint a chairman from the Opposition parties but appointed one of their own number.

Mr. B. Ahern:  There are now 17 committees.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I do not wish to prolong this discussion unnecessarily or to anticipate the discussion which will undoubtedly take place if such a committee is established, no matter by whom it is chaired. Does the Taoiseach accept I was not suggesting that the X case was an example of where there was not a conflict of interest? I was suggesting that it is quite possible to see further situations where a Cabinet will be of one view and the Attorney General of another.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We are having repetition.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I am not repeating myself.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I take a different view, Deputy.

Mr. M. McDowell:  If I am going to be shouted down both by the Chair and the Taoiseach there is hardly a point——

An Ceann Comhairle:  There is no question of shouting down anybody.

Mr. M. McDowell:  If I may be allowed to finish my question, does the Taoiseach not agree that it is perfectly possible to anticipate future circumstances where the Cabinet will be of one view and the Attorney General of another view in their respective roles and in which a future Attorney General would be forced into the position of either resigning his office to protect the rights of an individual or, alternatively, [404] maintaining an action as Attorney General which the entire Cabinet does not want made in the name of the law?

The Taoiseach:  On the contrary, the example cited by the Deputy proves the direct opposite. I have no doubt in that case the Government of the day might well have preferred that the Attorney General of the day had not taken the action, but he properly recognised that in this matter, as guardian of the Constitution, his responsibility was to act autonomously and he did so. One may question whether he made the right judgment but there is no doubt that he showed the requisite independence of judgment in this case.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Nobody is suggesting he did not.

The Taoiseach:  That brings me to the point made by the committee, namely, that at the end of the day one can trust Attorneys General to make independent judgments of this nature. It is a reflection of a particularly adverse kind on politicians that Deputy McDowell suggests that an Attorney General appointed by a Government, regardless of its composition, decides as guardian of the Constitution, autonomously of the Government, to take a particular course, no Government would force him to resign. Politicians understand the value of having an independent judgment by an Attorney General, in a matter where he has a separate role from that of the Government, as being an important value in our Constitution. No Government, certainly none with which I would be associated, would endeavour to force an Attorney General to resign because in the public interest——

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That is just what the Taoiseach did in Opposition.

The Taoiseach:  ——in the exercise of his function he decided to take an independent course.

[405]

  2.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Taoiseach    the plans, if any, he has to set up an interdepartmental task force on the Border counties in order that the maximum benefit can be derived from available funding for that region. [2361/96]

The Taoiseach:  The funds for the development of the Border regions are currently administered by a variety of Departments and agencies. Some of the funding is specific to the Border areas which also benefit from national funding programmes. To ensure that all these funds are maximised for the benefit of the Border regions, I have asked the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Carey, to review existing arrangements and to recommend whatever steps may be appropriate so that the maximum effectiveness of the funding is achieved.

Mr. Leonard:  There are 36 programmes in operation in the Border areas which are administered by nine bodies including ADM, the Combat Poverty Agency, the IFI, local authorities and county enterprise boards. There are also nine Government Departments involved, including the Taoiseach's Department. Experience heretofore has been that there has been no co-operation between those Departments and agencies. Will the Taoiseach agree there is need for such co-operation, particularly in view of the criticism by the EU audit service in its recent report when it stated that administration of the funding did not meet the objective of the peace and reconciliation programme? It requested that the position be changed.

The Taoiseach:  I agree with the first part of Deputy Leonard's question there is a multiplicity of bodies spending money in the Border areas. I agree with the suggestion inherent in the question that an interdepartmental task force is [406] needed to bring the various bodies together to ensure coherence in the various expenditures. For that reason I have asked the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, at political level in my Department to chair such a task force to ensure the relevant level of co-ordination is achieved to get value for money and maximum benefit for the people living in the Border areas. The Deputy should be happy we are acting on this matter. In appointing Deputy Carey I am appointing a Minister who has a good practical knowledge of the operations of local government and who can work effectively, with all the diverse interests in this area, to achieve a good result.

On the second part of the Deputy's question relating to the appropriate spending of the money and the criticisms of the auditor, the Minister for Finance will deal later, at Question Time, with that matter. He will outline arrangements being made, particularly in regard to additionality and establishing a base line for additionality to ensure that extra moneys provided for Border areas because of the problems experienced in them will be over and above what would otherwise be spent. The Minister for Finance will outline how that will be done. As a result of the decision to appoint the Minister. Deputy Carey, to chair an interdepartmental task force, there will be effective follow through on this matter. There will be an appropriate contact point for public representatives and others interested in Border areas to ensure the desired results are achieved.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I will be interested to hear what the Minister for Finance says on additionality. Has the Taoiseach changed his view since 27 October last when, as reported in the minutes of a meeting with the north-west cross-Border group, he stated that increased funding to the Border areas could not be achieved because it would interfere with the target of 2 per cent increase in public spending and that money would have to be redirected from other areas? [407] He also said that the drawing down of European funds was not a priority for the Government. Has he changed his view in that regard?

Obviously the Taoiseach is concerned at the multiplicity of agencies charged with spending money in the Border areas. Why were two new agencies, ADM and the Combat Poverty Agency, given responsibility for administering peace initiatives money in the Border area? Will the Taoiseach indicate when the interdepartmental task force which will be chaired by the Minister, Deputy Carey, report? The funds have been available for some time and in three years' time they will be expended. It is important the report is available before then.

The Taoiseach:  There are four parts to the Deputy's question. On the first part, when I met the group, I drew attention to the realistic point that there are limits on Government spending in any given year which must be taken into account in the context of demands made. Any politician of experience, particularly a former Minister such as Deputy O'Hanlon, who is well used to dealing, as he did effectively when Minister for Health, with a limited budget will understand that. On the second point — and I make no apology for this — I regard achieving results as the objective of the Government's approach to the use of EU funds, not drawing down funds as a value in themselves. I have detected in the past a tendency to regard maximum draw down rather than maximum results as a guiding principle, and I do not consider that as appropriate. I make no recantation of what I said in that regard.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Can the funds be redirected?

The Taoiseach:  On the third part of the question concerning the multiplicity of bodies, the establishment of separate bodies in terms of the peace initiative was a European requirement, in other [408] words the people who provide money believed that a separate body was necessary for that purpose. On the timing of the report by the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, no decision has been taken on whether a report in that sense will be presented. It will be a matter for the Minister to decide whether ongoing management on the basis of agreed criteria would be a more appropriate function for him to perform rather than the simple production of a report. There is no question of a report being produced. I assure the Deputy he will be welcome to table parliamentary questions to the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, who will answer them in either of the two national languages.

Mr. D. Ahern:  While Deputies representing Border areas will welcome someone as nice as the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, having responsibility for those areas, it is indicative of the Government's lack of emphasis on those areas that it assigns responsibility for them to the Minister of State with responsibility for the west. It has not appointed a Minister or a Minister of State with specific responsibility for those areas.

Will the Taoiseach agree that previous Governments and Ministers for Finance were able to draw down the maximum amount of EU funds for Border areas and keep within the budgetary parameters they set? The Government should earmark some of the extra £17 million available over and above ADM and Combat Poverty moneys, which have not been designated, to provide proper infrastructural facilities, mainly industrial, in counties such as Cavan and Monaghan. I draw the Taoiseach's attention to the Fianna Fáil motion in this regard on the Order Paper. In my county of Louth there are also difficulties in providing industrial infrastructure. We are informed that if £5 million——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Progress at [409] Question Time today has been particularly sluggish.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is turgid.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We have disposed of only one question in half an hour. That is not good enough. I need to expedite matters and I am sure Deputy Ahern will co-operate.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. D. Ahern:  Unfortunately the six Border counties sometimes experience similar difficulties to those experienced by the six Northern counties in the House of Commons in that they are not given due regard.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us have brief, relevant, succinct questions.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Will the Government consider Border counties in that regard?

The Taoiseach:  The cavilling and grudging approach adopted by the Deputy to the announcement of the responsibilities of the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, is similar to that adopted by members of the Deputy's party on county councils all over Ireland when they heard of the major increase in road grant allocations to councils.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  That is a three card trick.

Mr. D. Ahern:  And it will be found out.

The Taoiseach:  They must find something to complain about. They make comparisons with what is allocated to other counties. The Deputy's party should recognise positive news.

Mr. Quinn:  They are being choked on success.

Dr. McDaid:  I tabled two questions to the Taoiseach which he transferred to [410] the Minister for Finance. Deputy O'Hanlon said the Taoiseach told the committee that he was keeping spending under control, but that has now changed. The Taoiseach also said that to increase funding to Border areas money would have to be redirected from other areas or sectors. I would be interested to hear the Minister for Finance's response in the light of what the Taoiseach stated publicly.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We are dealing with questions to the Taoiseach.

Dr. McDaid:  The Taoiseach is aware that under the operational programme European Regional Development Fund funds amount to £1,100 million and Cohesion Funds to £2,600 million, but the Border counties do not qualify for Cohesion Funds.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I expect brevity.

Dr. McDaid:  I am asking a question. There are nine sections under which application for European Regional Development Fund funds can be made, but Border counties qualify under only three of those sections.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is embarking on a speech rather than asking a relevant question.

Dr. McDaid:  While I welcome the announcement that the responsibilities of the Minister of State will be extended to include Border areas, the promise of additionality is lukewarm. There is a prima facie case that in the past additionality has not been a problem——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry to intervene but the Deputy is proceeding by way of speech rather than question.

Dr. McDaid:  The monitoring committee of the INTERREG Commission would be interested in how additionality has been applied in the past. Will the [411] Taoiseach guarantee that it will be possible to draw down the maximum amount of funds available to Border regions——

An Ceann Comhairle:  That should be more than adequate.

Dr. McDaid:  ——given that Border counties are entitled to only a small proportion of those funds?

The Taoiseach:  We want to obtain the maximum drawdown of funds to secure the maximum benefit for people living in County Donegal and other Border counties. That, rather than filling the coffers of a Government Department, is the overriding consideration. That is common sense and I have no doubt the Deputy would agree it is an appropriate priority. In order to verify additionality, the Minister for Finance has requested all Government Departments spending money under INTERREG or the peace initiative to give to the Department of Finance details of forecast expenditure under each operational programme and community initiative for the eight regions. Those forecasts would provide a baseline, a reference point for establishing additionality. That is an effective measure taken by the Minister for Finance upon which he will elaborate when answering questions after the time allocated to these questions expires. I hope the Deputy will allow the Minister for Finance to give more detailed answers which he is qualified to do.

Mr. Leonard:  I want to be treated the same as other Members, nothing more or nothing less. When I table a question I demand the right to ask a supplementary.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy has asked more than one.

Mr. Leonard:  Not a word was said about the long-winded contributions we have heard.

The Taoiseach said I should have [412] been happy. I would have been happy if he had set up a task force 12 months ago. Agreement to its establishment had to be dragged out of the Taoiseach today similar to dragging a rabbit out of a hat. During the past 12 months Members representing Border regions have asked for a refocusing of the operational programme. The EU has asked the Government to do that, but not one programme has been refocused. Such refocusing is the priority. As a result of programmes not being refocused, there is a lack of industrial infrastructure in Border areas. The IDA has no money and we cannot find a bob in any programme to fund necessary industrial infrastructure in those areas. This matter should have been addressed 12 months ago after the Washington conference, not now.

Last week I tabled a question on funding for tourist angling which is provided for a scheme which falls between the operational programme and INTERREG. The project has been approved under the operational programme, but not one programme under INTERREG has been approved in my county. That is why programmes need to be refocused and a structure should be established to review them.

The Taoiseach:  I remind the Deputy that his party negotiated these programmes and if their focus is improper, it was set when his party was in office. Given that refocusing would be on a programme basis, it can occur only when the mid-term review arises. The Government will consider the opportunity for appropriate refocusing of funding in light of the experience gained from the first part of the programme. The Deputy should recognise where the proper responsibility for the focus of these programmes lies.

Mr. D. Ahern:  There is money available under the Delors package.

The Taoiseach:  To ensure optimum political direction to achieve co-ordination and maximum results in this [413] area, the Interdepartmental Task Force on Border counties chaired by the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Carey, will report regularly to me on this matter. He will have the full co-operation, assistance and support of the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Leonard:  EU officials asked that it be done.

Dr. McDaid:  On a point of order, four of my questions have been transferred from the Taoiseach——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy McDaid, please resume your seat.

Dr. McDaid:  Despite the fact that I had four questions tabled——

An Ceann Comhairle:  We have taken two questions in 40 minutes; yet Members are not satisfied.

  3.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Taoiseach    the official commemorations, if any, that are planned for 1996, other than the continuation of the Famine Commemoration; and the commemoration, if any, planned for the 80th Anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916. [2393/96]

The Taoiseach:  I propose to circulate in the Official Report details of commemorations to be held this year.

In addition to the annual 1916 Arbour Hill commemoration held in May and the National Day of Commemoration in July the following commemorations are planned: (1) 50th anniversary of the formation of the FCA; (2) 50th anniversary of the Naval Service; (3) 50th anniversary of the standing-down of the Defence Forces, at the end of the emergency; (4) Bi-centenary of the Four Courts; (5) 150th anniversary of the birth of Michael Davitt, and (6) 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Labour Court.

It is not the normal practice to [414] officially commemorate 80th anniversaries. However I propose to lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in memory of all those Irish men and women who lost their lives during the Easter Rising. On the evening of this ceremony I intend to host a State reception for relatives of the 1916 leaders, surviving veterans and their families.

Commemorations During 1996

(1) 50th anniversary of the Formation of the FCA.

The 50th anniversary of the formation of the FCA occurred on the 6 February. It is proposed to hold a number of events in 1996, with participation by LDF representatives, to commemorate the anniversary — such as regional parades, the printing of a special edition of An Cosantóir, photographic and equipment displays and the issue of a dedicated call-card from Telecom Éireann.

(2) 50th Anniversary of the Naval Service.

The 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Naval Service as a component of the permanent Defence Forces takes place in 1996 and a number of commemoration events are planned. In addition to cultural, sporting and liturgical events throughout the year, ships of the Naval Service will visit most ports in the country coinciding with local festivals; Mass will be televised from the flight deck of LE Eithne, the Naval Association, comprising serving and retired naval personnel, is planning to stage the Dublin Maritime Heritage Festival in Dublin Port from 31 May to 3 June; a nationwide transition year students' competition will be held and the President will review the ships of the Irish Naval Service, along with nine visiting war ships, in Cork Harbour on 12 July.

(3) 50th Anniversary of the standing-down of the Defence Forces, at the end of the emergency.

It is proposed to commemorate the [415] 50th anniversary of the ending of the emergency by staging a number of events in various occupied barracks and military posts throughout the country. The main commemorative event will take place in Cathal Brugha Barracks on 31 August where displays of archival material and military memorabilia of the emergency period will be put on display. Mass will be celebrated in Rathmines Church at the commencement of the event.

(4) Bi-centenary of the Four Courts.

The bi-centenary of the Four Courts occurs on 8 November next and it is proposed to mark the occasion by unveiling a plaque in the Fourt Courts; holding an exhibition of memorabilia and a State reception.

(5) 150th anniversary of the birth of Michael Davitt.

Details of the arrangements to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Michael Davitt have not yet been finalised between my Department and others, principally the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. However, it is intended that celebrations will take place to mark this occasion later in the year. The Government has included a stamp to commemorate the anniversary in its stamp programme for 1996.

(6) 50th anniversary of the Establishment of the Labour Court.

Consideration is being given to the publication of a history of the Labour Court and the funding of a scholarship to mark the 50th anniversary of its establishment.

Mr. B. Ahern:  I am glad the Taoiseach is taking this initiative. Other countries celebrate events of national importance annually regardless of whether it be a 79th or 81st anniversary. Will the commemoration he has announced be in addition to our usual [416] commemorative service in Leinster House? Now that some of the difficulties that prevented us from commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916 over the past 25 years have ceased, will he agree that we should honour the true founders of this State, take pride in their courage and revert to annually honouring their endeavours?

The Taoiseach:  We honour the 1916 leaders every year at Arbour Hill. Furthermore, a national day of commemoration was introduced in the 1980s with the co-operation and agreement of all parties, including Deputy Ahern's, at that time, as an inclusive annual commemoration of all Irish people who died in wars whether at home or abroad. As the Deputy will be aware, in addition to the annual 1916 commemoration — which takes place at Arbour Hill — in 1991 a special commemoration was initiated by the then Government to mark the 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising because it is usual to do something extra on a 50th, 75th and centennial anniversary. It is not usual to do something extra on a 80th anniversary but, in this instance — as a personal initiative — over and above the Arbour Hill commemoration, and on a different day from the Arbour Hill commemoration, I propose to commemorate the 1916 Rising and those who took part in it by laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance and by hosting a State reception. That is appropriate. I thank the Deputy for his welcome of that initiative.

Mr. B. Ahern:  While welcoming the Taoiseach's initiative, he will recall in the late 1960s and early 1970s the annual commemoration of the Easter Rising of 1916 held on Easter Sunday ceased for various reasons into which I will not delve now. Now that the difficulties that led to that decision being taken are no longer there does the Taoiseach agree we should resume our celebration of the founders of our State? While acknowledging the arguments of revisionists and others, the actions and [417] sacrifices of 1916 were endorsed retrospectively by the overwhelming wish of the people in 1918 and led to the foundation of this State. This appears to me to be an appropriate time to resume those annual commemorations. Will the Taoiseach consider doing so?

Mr. M. McDowell:  Do not look at me.

Mr. Quinn:  We are tempted; it will not interfere with the Coalition.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach:  I have not given much thought to the more general point Deputy Ahern is now making. I hesitate to enter that territory. As I have said many times, in any commemoration of the foundation of this State, it is important to include all of the traditions that contributed, and continue to contribute, not just to this State but to the life of this entire island. There is always the risk that, by adopting one view, we exclude those who hold a different view of history. While history can be very instructive, inclusive and reassuring, it can be divisive and triumphalist if presented in a certain way. In the initiative I am taking to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916, over and above the annual 1916 commemoration ceremony at Arbour Hill. I believe I am taking an appropriate course.

The wider questions the Deputy raised are ones I would be happy to examine if he wishes to make submissions to me. It is important that we bear in mind the many traditions, and different views of historic events, recognising diversity as a value in itself and commemorate all traditions, as we did last year in commemorating patriotic Irish people who died in both world wars——

Mr. B. Ahern:  We supported that initiative too.

The Taoiseach:  ——saving this island [418] from Nazi tyranny, fighting against a tyranny that caused the deaths of so many people on racial grounds alone. It is important that that tradition — not necessarily in conflict with other traditions — is recognised in an inclusive way. Our national day of commemoration was initiated, in conjunction with the Arbour Hill 1916 commemoration on the basis that it would include commemoration of different events, views of historic events and sacrifices by Irish people in various circumstances. That is the best approach. That approach was agreed by the Fianna Fáil Party and I would be surprised if it changed its view on that at this stage.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I remind Members that we must proceed to deal with questions nominated for priority not later than 3.30 p.m.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  While all Members would commend inclusiveness in dealing with events to which the Taoiseach referred, does he agree it should not override our special sense of pride in the Easter Rising of 1916, and in the heroism of the men and women who participated in it?

The Taoiseach:  It is because of its significance that we have an annual commemoration of the Easter Rising of 1916 at Arbour Hill. It is because of that special recognition of 1916 — although one does not normally celebrate the 80th anniversary of any event — I propose holding an extra commemoration this year. I do not understand the ultimate purpose of the Deputy's question or the distinction she is trying to draw.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The Taoiseach made the distinction.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It was the Taoiseach himself who drew the distinction and would wish us to regard all such historical matters with a sense of inclusion. In a general sense, that is admirable but history is history and is not to be revised. There is a genuine need to [419] recognise the founding persons — the women and men of 1916. As our leader said, there was a definite sense of purpose to the commemoration of that event. Events intervened and it was put to one side. However, in the climate of peace which thankfully exists in this country, we could again openly commend and commemorate the heroism of that period in proper fashion.

The Taoiseach:  I am still unenlightened as to what Deputy O'Rourke wants. She wants what she calls a definite sense of purpose. There is a definite sense of purpose at Arbour Hill; it is to commemorate 1916. There will be a definite sense of purpose at the Garden of Remembrance when I lay the wreath and hold the State reception; it will be to commemorate 1916. I am not sure what Deputies Ahern and O'Rourke are driving at in regard to this matter. I have invited Deputy Ahern to put his thoughts in writing and let me examine them.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We will do that.

The Taoiseach:  I hope that we would recognise that there are different views of historical events. We should be inclusive and commemorate various traditions on this island rather than just one particular tradition alone. After all, we are trying to build peace. Peace derives from respect for difference, including differences which exist on this island about its history. It is important that we recognise that, while still having a special commemoration on the 80th anniversary of 1916 in addition to the Arbour Hill annual commemoration. I can see no coherent disagreement with the approach I am adopting. I simply hear references in rather elliptical terms to definite purposes and so on and I am afraid it is beyond my capacity to define their true significance.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is very sad if it is beyond the Taoiseach's capacity to [420] understand because that is what it is all about.

Mr. B. Ahern:  I would be disappointed if a simple straightforward question, to which I got three-quarters of a straightforward answer, led to an argument. I will take up the point in writing rather than take up more time.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  So shall I.

The Taoiseach:  I thought the two Deputies would work together.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We will.

Mr. Cowen:  Like the Taoiseach and Deputy Spring.

Mr. B. Ahern:  There is only one true group of founders of the State. Can I get the Taoiseach's attention?

The Taoiseach:  I am being distracted by Deputy Cowen.

Mr. Cowen:  The Taoiseach is easily distracted.

Mr. B. Ahern:  There is only one true group of founders of the State. This event was commemorated for 50 years or more and this commemoration should continue, having been suspended for some time. I welcome the Taoiseach's initiative in moving some way to commemorate the 80th anniversary.

Lest this side of the House be misunderstood, last year I went along with the Taoiseach's initiative and was glad to be there. The first event was cancelled because of the inappropriateness of the day and we all changed our plans to be present on the second occasion. If somebody wants to commemorate 12 July on the streets of Dublin at some time in the future, I have no difficulty with that. However, the people who founded this State are the people of 1916. As a modern country and a republic we should be able to commemorate people as they would anywhere else in the world without putting strings and tails on it. That [421] is all I ask. It is simple enough and I ask the Taoiseach to reflect on it.

The Taoiseach:  Of course I will reflect on it. We are commemorating the unique and distinctive contribution of the men and women of 1916——

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Those are my very words. I am delighted.

The Taoiseach:  ——by having an annual commemoration at Arbour Hill and this further commemoration. However, it is important to recognise that there are others of a different tradition living on this island who do not have the same feelings about 1916.

Mr. S. Brennan:  What has that to do with it now?

The Taoiseach:  If we are not to be partitionist in our mentality it is important that we seek to be inclusive in any commemorations we undertake. That is the value of the national day of commemoration.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Do not always be doffing the hat.

The Taoiseach:  I do not think we should unduly emphasise military aspects of commemorations, if that is what the Deputy has in mind. We want an inclusive commemoration which commemorates all who contributed, whether through military or non-military means, to making this a society which is at ease with itself and has the capacity to be at ease with all the traditions in Northern Ireland. The more we emphasise what is exclusive about this State, the less we will be able to be receptive to other traditions.

Mr. Cowen:  Terrible stuff.

The Taoiseach:  That is my view and it is one I have held throughout my political life.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We know that.

[422]The Taoiseach:  It is a view that enables me, from that standpoint, to commemorate the events of 1916.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Taoiseach is the Renaissance man.

Mr. S. Brennan:  Why does the Taoiseach feel it necessary to give us this long explanation in answer to a simple question? He was asked if he will do something extra for the 80th anniversary and he answered yes. I would have thought the answer could have been left as “yes, and I am proud to do it”. Why does the Taoiseach feel it constantly necessary to allay the fears of everybody else? Why not just be proud of this one commemoration and leave it at that? We do not have to apologise or explain because we want to hold a celebration of something of which we are proud.

The Taoiseach:  I was responding to a question from Deputy Ahern who seemed to suggest that what I was proposing was not adequate. He wanted something more — something unspecified which he did not explain. He wanted something definite, to use Deputy O'Rourke's words.

Mr. B. Ahern:  I explained it but the Taoiseach does not want the explanation.

The Taoiseach:  Our approach to commemorations should be as inclusive as possible and recognise that the conflicts on this island derive from the multiplicity of traditions on this island. In commemorating, particularly 1916, we also want to recognise the need to commemorate other traditions in an inclusive way.

Mr. S. Brennan:  We should have the courage to hold our own celebrations.

The Taoiseach:  That is not doffing the hat to use the Opposition's term.

Mr. S. Brennan:  It is apologising.

[423]The Taoiseach:  This country is secure enough in its own traditions and strong enough in its own convictions that it can afford to be inclusive. We do not need to constantly reassure ourselves about past verities or reinforce past prejudices.

Mr. B. Ahern:  We do not have to bury them either.

The Taoiseach:  We do not need to reassure ourselves that one view of Irish history was exclusively right and the other exclusively wrong. That approach is not consistent with achieving the reconciliation necessary to underpin peace on our island. That is why I am taking this approach while holding a special commemoration of 1916.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  The Taoiseach has talked in circles and finished nowhere. In light of its uniqueness and special place in our history, will the Taoiseach be prepared this year to have a special day at Easter to commemorate the memory of 1916? An article in The Sunday Times of 21 May made reference to a Sergeant John Bruton of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who gave evidence against Joseph Plunkett which secured his conviction. Was that man a relation?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy should not personalise matters.

The Taoiseach:  Deputy O'Keeffe's intervention says all that needs to be said about his party.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That is a neat way out of everything.

The Taoiseach:  It shows where the members of the front bench, who use more sophisticated language, are actually coming from.

Mr. B. Ahern:  It does not answer the simple question the Taoiseach was asked.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The House [424] heard me say earlier that we must proceed to deal with priority questions.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Taoiseach was very remiss in the way he dealt with this question. We are fully entitled to put our questions to him.

The Taoiseach:  When Deputy Ned O'Keeffe spoke the mask fell.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We will not be dismissed by the Taoiseach in his arrogant way.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Sorry, that is the end of questions to the Taoiseach for today. We are now proceeding to deal with questions nominated for priority.

Mr. M. McDowell:  On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle:  It may be a point of order but it is audacious to interrupt the Chair continuously when he is making an important announcement to the House. The Deputy should proceed with his point of order.

Mr. M. McDowell:  In future, will the House move a little forward and, at least, get to Civil War politics instead of 1916 politics?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  What would the Deputy's poor ancestor say?

Deputy M. Kitt rose.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There is a time limit attached to priority questions and I will not allow any Member to erode that time.

Mr. M. Kitt:  I want my question put back on the Order Paper?

An Ceann Comhairle:  My office will be happy to do that in the ordinary way, Deputy.

[425]

  8.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Finance    the action, if any, he proposes to take to safeguard jobs threatened in view of the continuing appreciation of the punt against sterling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2547/96]

  20.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on the threat to jobs in Irish export companies caused by the continuing weakness of sterling; the measures, if any, he proposes to take to alleviate this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1571/96]

  39.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has to conduct a study measuring the impact of recent currency movements on employment in particular the rise of the punt against sterling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2638/96]

  51.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Finance    if he intends to introduce measures to alleviate the problems being experienced by exporters in this country in view of the current rate of exchange. [19174/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 20, 39 and 51 together.

I am conscious of the concerns of exporters to the United Kingdom about the impact of the higher exchange rate of the Irish pound against sterling, which is due to the weakness of sterling in the international markets. As I indicated in reply to questions in November last, this higher exchange rate of the Irish pound has come about despite the different evolution of interest rates here compared with the UK over the past 18 months or so, such that Irish interbank rates are now about 11 per cent below corresponding UK rates. In fact in overall terms the Irish pound has appreciated only modestly over the past year, while sterling has weakened against the [426] Irish pound the Irish pound has weakened against other currencies such as the DM. The weakness of sterling should be providing offsetting benefits for some exporters, in terms of lower import costs, while the fact that the Irish pound has depreciated against the Deutsche Mark and certain other currencies is of advantage to exporters with markets in various EU member states other that the United Kingdom.

I do not propose to conduct a study of the impact of sterling's weaknéss on employment. It is difficult to relate developments in employment to exchange rate movements, and many other factors, such as inflation and interest rate levels, sectoral changes and the overall economic climate of the country of destination are likely to influence such developments. My Department monitors economic trends, including employment trends, on an ongoing basis: in this context I would point out to Deputy Byrne that according to the most recent labour force survey data, for April 1995, total employment has increased by 143,000 since 1989 and by 50,000 since 1994. In addition, the number of redundancies notified to the Department of Enterprise and Employment for 1995 as a whole was, at 13,246, the lowest yearly total since 1980 and was 13 per cent lower than the 1994 figure.

I have no plans to introduce special measures to aid exporters to the UK. The responsibility for protecting companies against currency fluctuations lies primarily with the companies themselves. There are many products available on the financial market to enable them to take such precautions. In any event, implementing any such measures would involve a significant commitment of funds at a time when the Government has set itself a tight ceiling for expenditure. In addition, it is likely that the European Commission would, on competition grounds, refuse to agree to the implementation of State-funded measures specifically aimed at helping exporters.

While it is primarily a matter for [427] exporters themselves, along with their employees, suppliers etc., to cope with the economic environment in which they find themselves, the Government has a role in helping to make this environment as conducive as possible to economic activity, including exporting. I would point out that the economic environment in Ireland is characterised by sound public finances, high growth, low inflation, interest rates at historically low levels, a high level of investment under the national development plan and moderate wage developments in line with the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. All of these are of benefit to exporters.

My 1996 budget contained measures, including improvements in income tax, PRSI and corporation tax, which were aimed at improving the economic climate for industry, including exporters. These measures built on the progress made in the 1995 budget and included the reduction of the employers contribution in the standard rate of PRSI from 12.2 per cent to 12 per cent and in the lower rate from 9 per cent to 8.5 per cent.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Before calling Deputy O'Hanlon I would remind Deputies that we have 15 minutes in which to deal with five priority questions. I aspire to accommodate all Deputies concerned and perhaps Deputies would co-operate.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Is the Minister aware of the number of job losses and the number of jobs threatened not only those involved in the export market but due to imports from Britain? Indeed, he referred to the lower import costs. There is also a hidden figure for jobs that could be created. I am aware of food industries in the Border area who are ready to establish new industries but have not done so because of their concern about currency fluctuations. Will the Minister outline the Government's policy to deal with the food sector, especially in the Border areas, and the [428] low profit margins on mushrooms and poultry which are labour intensive jobs? At what stage will the Government intervene? The budget measures to which he referred did not have a major impact. For example, the improvements in PRSI mean a reduction of £20 on £10,000 so that the reduction from 12.2 per cent to 12 per cent is not a major reduction. What measures has the Government in mind and when will they be introduced?

Mr. Quinn:  I am conscious of the request for brevity. However, I would not wish my brevity to be concluded as a poverty of response. I recognise there is a problem but it is almost impossible to quantify at present how many jobs have been lost as a result of the shift in the currency ratio, an approximate appreciation of 4p in the pound or 4 per cent overall. We cannot segregate that from the figures. If anything the figures indicate there is little or no problem because with redundancies at 13 per cent — the lowest since 1980 — an objective view would be that there is no problem. Because of the information brought to my attention by Deputy O'Hanlon and others I recognise there is a problem in specific sectors.

Whether we can introduce specific measures to help those sectors, such as the market development fund which was introduced by a previous administration in 1992-93, the answer is an unequivocal no. That measure was objected to at the time by the British authorities and, by and large, its objection was upheld by the Commission. We were allowed to operate it on a temporary basis. The Deputy's colleague, Deputy McCreevy, had responsibility as Minister for Tourism and Trade in 1993, and he will know precisely the type of pressure we came under from the European Commission when the market development fund was phased out.

On the question of what we can do and if the Government has a policy, we are trying to reduce the competitive cost disadvantage between Irish exporters into the UK market and British based [429] competitors. We have tried to reduce the producer cost base in areas such as PRSI and so on. We could go much further and I would like to move much further. We are lacking in overall information in this area on a sector by sector basis. For that reason, and because of the currency fluctuations and the possible shifts in exchange rates generally between different European currencies, I have commissioned — as announced in my budget speech — a fairly substantial study which is being dealt with under competitive tendering procedures, to the ESRI. We will then have a better focused picture which will enable me to answer some of the questions the Deputy has tabled in a matter of months.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Can the Minister offer any support to Irish exporters, particularly those in the high labour intensive low profit industries? Will he consider reducing employers' PRSI? This would not be in conflict with European law or the British viewpoint.

Mr. Quinn:  Let me outline what the Government and its predecessor have done in support of such industries. The rate of inflation has been reduced considerably below that in the United Kingdom. It now stands at 2.3 per cent as compared with a figure close to 4 per cent. Interest rates are 1.25 per cent below the base rate in the United Kingdom. Labour cost increases are also lower. As compared with the position in 1992, the employers' PRSI contribution has been reduced from 12.2 per cent to 8.5 per cent on incomes of £13,000 or less for labour intensive industries which traditionally have supplied the UK market.

These positive measures should be placed against the negative measure of an appreciation of 4 per cent in the exchange rate of the Irish pound against sterling. Some industries, for which we will try to do more, will remain vulnerable, but we have made a considerable move. This is recognised by some, but [430] perhaps not all in the industries affected.

  9.  Mr. McCreevy    asked the Minister for Finance    the sums of money retrieved from drug barons as taxes on profits from unlawful or unknown sources as miscellaneous income for each of the years from 1984 to 1995 in view of the fact that the Revenue Commissioners have the legal authority to target drug barons throughout the country; the date on which it is proposed to publish the joint review of the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda authorities: and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2548/96]

  26.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Finance    the reason the Revenue Commissioners have delayed the report regarding the improvement of co-operation between them and the Department of Justice in the fight against drugs. [18995/95]

Mr. Quinn:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 26 together.

As Deputies will appreciate, the essential objectives in the campaign to tackle drug traffickers must be to prevent illegal drugs from entering the country, to secure the conviction of those involved and to confiscate their ill-gotten gains.

The primary role of the Revenue Commissioners in this context is exercised by the Customs Service which is responsible for deterring and preventing smuggling of illicit drugs. Revenue has devoted considerable resources to this task and Deputies will be aware that the Customs Service has made many substantial drug seizures in recent years. These seizures represent a substantial contribution to curbing the activities of those involved in the drugs trade.

The chairman of the Revenue Commissioners and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána have recently signed a memorandum of understanding, which has been endorsed by the Minister for [431] Justice and myself, which delineates the respective roles of the Customs Service and the Garda and introduces arrangements to maximise co-operation between them in regard to smuggling of drugs. This brings to fruition one of the key proposals in the package of antidrugs measures decided upon by the Government last July and I am confident that it will contribute to greater effectiveness in combating drug smuggling and the apprehending of those involved by the Garda.

As regards the taxation of profits from drug trafficking, the question raised by Deputy McCreevy, I am assured by the Revenue Commissioners that they are committed to following up any such cases of which they become aware, in accordance with their duty to recover tax from any persons who make taxable profits irrespective of the activity involved.

It is obvious that there are many difficulties in establishing a tax liability against those who profit from drug trafficking or any illegal activity. Such persons do not wear the normal badges of trade, nor are there any of the conventions of normal trading which characterise legitimate business activity. There are no trading records to be examined, and what banking arrangements may exist are carefully concealed. It is essentially a cash-based business, using sophisticated money laundering techniques which have frequently defied the best efforts of police and revenue agencies all over the world. Where, however, hard information is received, from the Garda or otherwise, which shows that these people have a lifestyle inconsistent with their declared income, the Revenue will pursue those cases for tax assessment purposes.

The legal difficulties involved in attributing illegal profits to a particular source have been clearly recognised by the Oireachtas in its enactment of section 19 of the Finance Act, 1983 which reflected rulings made by the Supreme Court in this sensitive area. That section provides that profits which [432] arise from a source which is unlawful or unknown may nevertheless be assessed to income tax as “Miscellaneous Income”. In other words, the Revenue does not have to prove that profits are derived from drug trafficking, and for the reasons just mentioned, would be most unlikely to be able to do so.

For this reason, Revenue records do not make a distinction between unknown and unlawful sources, nor has there been a separate record kept which would enable it to indicate the total tax collected in section 19 cases. However, in seven cases which could readily be identified for the period in question, a sum in the region of £1 million was collected in respect of section 19 assessments. A number of further cases are currently being examined, which the Revenue hopes will result in section 19 assessments.

It is against this background that the Revenue and the Garda have been carrying out a joint review of certain recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission, in relation to co-operation between the two bodies, in its 1991 report on the confiscation of the proceeds of crime. As part of this, the review is looking also at the use of section 63 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 which implemented some of the key recommendations of the Law Reform Commission, and which allows the Garda, subject to compliance with certain procedures and safeguards for individual rights, to obtain information from various bodies, including the Revenue Commissioners, which may be useful to the Garda in discharging their functions in relation to the confiscation of illegal profits under that Act. The Revenue has informed me that it is happy to co-operate with the Garda in the use of this provision. The Garda have also indicated in the course of the review that they will provide information to the Revenue Commissioners where they identify assets suspected to be the profits of drug trafficking with a view to the Revenue exercising its powers under section 19 of the Finance Act, 1983.

[433] While the Government originally set a deadline of four months for the completion of the report the task has taken a little longer because of the complex issues involved. The Revenue Commissioners have kept me fully informed on progress and I am satisfied that there is absolutely no basis for the suggestion in Deputy Sargent's question that the Revenue has been delaying the report. The report has just been finalised and will shortly be considered by the Minister for Justice and myself before it is brought to the Government. Any decisions that may be made on the basis of the report, and which are suitable for publication, will be announced in due course.

Mr. McCreevy:  I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. He indicated that in seven cases a sum in the region of £1 million was collected by the Revenue Commissioners in back taxes. I very much doubt — the Minister did not allude to this — if this could be described as the profits of drug barons. Will he accept that people in Dublin and elsewhere are aghast at the lifestyle and general demeanour of persons known to have substantial assets? Will he further accept, from his knowledge of business people and the way the Revenue Commissioners pursue compliant taxpayers, that if a person is found to have substantial assets which cannot be explained, the Revenue Commissioners will go to extraordinary lengths to prosecute them? Why is the same approach not adopted in pursuing criminals known to have large assets which are openly displayed? What I and other ordinary people want to know is why are the powers given to the Revenue Commissioners by the Oireachtas not being used.

Mr. Quinn:  I share the Deputy's concern and understand the reasons the questions were tabled. As a result of the meeting held in July last and the report which has just come to hand, there will [434] be much more effective and close co-operation between the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána. I invite any Member whose attention has been drawn to the conflict between the lifestyle and known income of an individual suspected of being involved in drug trafficking or any related criminal activity to present the information to the Garda Síochána who, in turn, as a result of the new memorandum of understanding which has just been finalised, will provide it to the Revenue Commissioners who will then avail of section 19 of the 1983 Act.

Mr. McCreevy:  I do not doubt the bona fides of the Minister or that of any of his predecessors, but there is a marked reluctance on the part of the tax authorities to pursue known criminals and tax them on their ill-gotten gains. Does the Minister agree that in early 1995 the Garda gave information to the Revenue about six of Ireland's leading drug barons and, apart from some investigations, nothing was done about the matter? The information is all one way, from the Garda to the Revenue Commissioners. There is undoubtedly a reluctance on the part of Revenue to assess for tax purposes the ill-gotten gains of criminals. One of the most effective ways of putting criminals out of business is to tax their gains and take away their assets and the regulations are in place to do this.

Mr. Quinn:  Deputy McCreevy is a former Minister and, therefore, I listen carefully to what he has to say. I am informed by the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners that there is not a reluctance on their part to use their powers, especially those provided under section 19 of the 1983 Act. If the Deputy has specific information in this regard he should convey it directly to the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners or to me.

[435]

  10.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Finance    the anticipated yield in income tax for 1996; the estimated increase over the yield for 1995; the average amount of tax per income tax payer which the increase represents; the assumptions on which the amount for 1996 is calculated by reference to numbers of taxpayers and growth in earnings; and if he will make a statement on the anticipated growth in the income tax burden. [2760/96]

  22.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Finance    the anticipated yield in income tax for 1996; the amount it will increase over the estimated yield for 1995; the average amount of tax per income tax payer which the increase represents; the assumptions under which the amount for 1996 is calculated by reference to numbers of taxpayers and growth in earnings; and if he will make a statement on the anticipated growth in the income tax burden. [2626/96]

  31.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Finance    the anticipated yield in income tax for 1996; the amount it will increase over the estimated yield for 1995; the average amount of tax per income tax payer which the increase represents; the assumptions under which the amount for 1996 is calculated by reference to numbers of taxpayers and growth in earnings; and if he will make a statement on the anticipated growth in the income tax burden. [2625/96]

Mr. Quinn:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 22 and 31 together.

The post-budget estimate for income tax in 1996 is £4,388 million, an increase of £259 million on the 1995 Exchequer receipt of £4,129 million. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that this represents an individual average increase of about £217 per taxpayer. This forecast yield is based on the macroeconomic assumptions that pay [436] rates are expected to increase by some 4 per cent and the anticipated numbers in employment to rise by just over 2.5 per cent.

I draw to the Deputy's attention that income tax as a percentage of GNP in 1996 is projected to be 12.1 per cent as compared to 12.3 per cent in 1995 and is the lowest level since 1986 when the percentage stood at 13.5 per cent. It is the Government's policy, as set out in the programme of renewal, to relieve the tax and PRSI burden, especially on those with low income. Towards this end I have introduced significant measures in my 1995 and 1996 budgets.

Mr. M. McDowell:  In his Budget Statement the Minister stated that 18,000 people were being taken out of the tax net. I do not know how many people he expects to come into the net in some other way, but the bottom line for the average taxpayer is that he or she will be expected to pay £217 more into the Exchequer in the next tax year. Does the minister agree that the increase of £259 million in income tax yield is a conservative estimate of the buoyancy in the tax system and that it amounts to a 6 per cent increase at a time when wages are scheduled to increase by 4 per cent?

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy asked a number of questions. His position and that of his party is contradictory. His colleague was thrown out of the House this morning for accusing the Government of not spending enough money——

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Minister should stick to the question.

Mr. Quinn:  Deputy McDowell is not here as an independent Deputy, he is representing a respected party and should make up his mind about what he wants. Does he want tax reductions or tax expenditure? Deputy Molloy was thrown out earlier because of the lack of expenditure, as he perceived it, on Galway hospital. The burden of income taxation is reducing, notwithstanding [437] the fact that there are more than 100,000 extra people in employment now compared to when the Deputy's party left Government some three years ago.

We would like to further reduce the income tax burden but to do so we must find alternative sources of taxation or reduce expenditure. If there is consistency in the Deputy's party, it appears to want increased expenditure, particularly in terms of health services in Galway.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Minister must acknowledge that while he claims the tax burden is reducing, the average taxpayer will pay £217 more in the next tax year. Those are the facts.

Mr. Quinn:  Their salary will have increased by 4 per cent.

Mr. M. McDowell:  That may be true but the income tax yield will increase by 6 per cent. We have a progressive tax system. The Minister should concede that many more people will be substantially worse off as a result of the budget. If he takes into account the 18,000 people, whom he claims the budget took out of the tax net, he must accept that many people will pay much more than an additional £217 in tax next year and that this was another tax and spend budget.

Mr. Quinn:  We had an example of hysteria this morning in relation to tax and spend for which your colleague and former Minister, a distinction which Deputy McDowell has not yet achieved, was thrown out of the House. He wanted to spend more money without specifying from where the tax would come. Surely this is in direct conflict with the views of his leader. There is a contradiction in the Deputy's thinking. Given the performance in the economy. people will get promotion and pay increases. We are talking about an average increase of 4 per cent. Some people will get substantial pay increases and [438] because we have a progressive tax system, which no doubt the Deputy supports, they will pay additional tax but they will retain more money. By and large the burden of income tax this year as a percentage take in the economy will be less than last year and precisely 12.1 per cent as against 13.5 per cent of total tax take in the mid-1980s. That is progress.

[523]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 de Valera — difficulties regarding the funding and staffing of the National Library; (2) Deputy Seán Kenny — the recent outbreak of joyriding and the burning of stolen cars in the Kilbarrack area of Dublin; (3) Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn — the decision of one of the groups representing those affected by the hepatitis C matter to boycott the compensation tribunal; (4) Deputy Michael Smith — the question of initiating an inquiry into the cause of recent tragic accidents at sea (details supplied) and the action to be taken in the light of these events; (5) Deputy Tom Kitt — the question of initiating an inquiry into the recent death of a man in Dublin following sunbed treatment and the regulations governing the use of this equipment; (6) Deputy Frances Fitzgerald — Government action in relation to the recent incident at Sellafield; (7) Deputy Lawlor — the crisis in the South Dublin and Fingal council areas due to the failure by the Minister to finalise the scheme to enable Dublin Corporation houses and lands to be transferred to South Dublin and Fingal councils; (8) Deputy Hughes — the need to widen the range of persons permitted to reside with the elderly for the purposes of housing repair and other grant aid schemes in view of the attacks on isolated elderly persons; (9) Deputy Martin — the need to ensure that 14 children from the Ballyphehane-Greenmount area of Cork are provided with second level school places in their immediate catchment area; (10) Deputy Cowen — the effect on the Irish beef industry of the meeting of the EU Beef Management Committee held on 2 February 1996; (11) Deputy Eric Byrne — the need to regulate the use of sunbeds; (12) Deputy Lynch — the need to standardise hourly wage rates for home helps in all health board areas; (13) [524] Deputy Seán Ryan — the number of abscondments from Oberstown House, Lusk, County Dublin, over the past year and the proposals, if any, the Minister has for improving security for the centre in view of the concerns of the local residents; (14) Deputy Batt O'Keeffe — the effect of the lack of public indemnity insurance on work experience for transition and PLC students in community and comprehensive schools; (15) Deputy Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly)— the reported criticisms made in a European Social Fund evaluation report of provisions made for early school leavers, in particular those leaving with little or no formal qualifications; (16) Deputy Kenneally — the future of the military barracks located in the south east; (17) Deputy Theresa Ahearn — the need to give disadvantaged status to the Presentation Convent primary school, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, in view of the fact that such status has been awarded to two post primary schools; (18) Deputy Broughan — the need to regulate the proliferating microwave telephone networks in the Dublin region in view of the serious health, environmental and cost concerns.

The matters raised by the following have been selected for discussion: Deputies Geoghegan-Quinn, Tom Kitt, de Valera and Cowen.

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Ferris:  Like many Deputies who have already contributed to this debate, I welcome the Bill. The reasons for its introduction were set out by the Minister in his contribution last night. He is correct to avail of the opportunity presented by the recent flooding to systematically overhaul the legislation on the Commissioners of Public Works and their powers. The current position is clearly unsatisfactory. A public body should not be expected to function on [525] the basis of statutes laid down approximately 150 years ago. As I understand it, the Bill primarily seeks to update the legislation. The only new thing is the power given to the Commissioners of Public Works to act in the area of humanitarian relief. Those powers can be invoked with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

The Bill is urgently needed. The Minister, my colleagues in the South Tipperary constituency and I have witnessed the trauma suffered by the victims of flooding and we are all aware of the devastation caused to homes and businesses. We cannot predict the weather and circumstances such as those which occurred in my constituency will recur. We must have proper statutory measures to ensure a more speedy and effective response to similar disasters in any area. Last year this House passed the Arterial Drainage Act. I urge the Minister to do all in his power to ensure that under this Act every possible action is taken, particularly in relation to the River Suir and its tributaries, so that the catchment area will not be subjected again to the devastation that occurred in early January.

The county council has published a report today in which it outlines various causes for the recent flooding including high levels of rainfall, high tides at Waterford, strong south easterly winds and low atmospheric pressure. All of those factors, have caused damage in the south east, and in my constituency in particular, resulting in considerable costs being incurred, not all of which involved humanitarian aid. In the corporation area of Clonmel, approximately 250 properties were affected by flooding, 69 seriously, costing in the region of £400,000. The cost of road damage in the corporation area amounted to approximately £30,000; disruption to businesses — many people were put out of business for the second time — is estimated to cost approximately £100,000. The cost of the emergency services' response to this crisis is [526] estimated at approximately £80,000, making a total for the corporation area alone in a town which had been improving as a result of new industry and the urban renewal scheme, of approximately £610,000.

In the neighbouring council area of Carrick, which the Minister also visited, the cost of damage to private property and businesses is estimated at approximately £236,000. Damage to the roads was estimated to cost approximately £8,000; damage to the drainage system cost approximately £33,000 and fire brigade costs were approximately £20,000, making a total of approximately £300,000 for a small urban area.

In the electoral areas of Fethard, Clonmel, Tipperary, Cashel and Caher, the council has estimated the cost of repair works at approximately £781,750. The cost of disruption to businesses, is estimated to be £290,000. Damage to roads is estimated at £800,000 and the cost of the emergency response services throughout the county is approximately £180,000. The damage costs for the electoral areas in the county area is approximately £2 million.

Two bridges were washed away by the flood waters causing humanitarian problems for local people. One was the bridge at Killusty which serves the people living on the side of Slievenamon. This has affected business in the area. One farming family has almost lost its business because of our inadequate response to this crisis. The other bridge, on the Brown Bog Road near Bansha can be bypassed if one travels an additional ten or 12 miles. The cost of the damage in those areas alone amounts to approximately £120,000.

Yesterday the Minister announced an aid package amounting to £750 million over ten years. Of that, £3.3 million will be allocated to south Tipperary. That allocation was made to compensate for the damage caused by last year's floods and I put the Minister and the Minister of State on notice that that figure is not sufficient to take account of the additional damage that occurred since [527] the review of the damage caused in 1995.

I acknowledge the generosity of the Minister for the Environment in allocating some £10 million last week to south Tipperary for sanitary services, water and sewerage schemes. That is in addition to the £16 million being spent in Clonmel on the major arterial drainage works and the interceptor sewer for which an additional £3 million was allocated two weeks ago. However, people in Clonmel are concerned that those works may somehow have contributed to the recent flooding.

The council has identified a problem with the River Anner. I recently stood on a bridge erected following the renewal of a roadway in the area and noticed that approximately 30 of the old underground culverts had been filled in. They can no longer take the flood waters away from the River Anner, and they flow into the River Suir in various areas. I am sure the engineers who put those culverts under the road 20 or 30 years ago did so for very good reasons. With those culverts now filled in, the overflow from the River Anner is expected to flow under a smaller bridge which does not have any culverts and causes devastation to property near the river. I would find it difficult to quantify the damage caused to this property but it is not included in the figures I have quoted.

I am not trying to paint a bleak picture of the constituency of south Tipperary. I wish to extend my condolences to the Fanning family who lost a member as a result of a robbery yesterday evening. I also empathise with the people who were caught up in an armed robbery a few days ago. I support the comments by Deputy Davern about these incidents. Politicians at European and national level, including the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, have visited the area to see the flooding at first hand. The Bill will give the Minister of State some powers in this area. Consideration should be given to draining [528] the river Suir if it will mean that Clonmel, Carrick, Piltown and other towns along the river to Waterford are not subjected to this type of flooding in the future.

The Minister accepted appropriate amendments to the Bill during the debate in the Seanad. Some people have expressed their dissatisfaction at the treatment they received at the hands of the State when they applied for relief. I hope the Seanad amendments accepted by the Minister will improve people's chances of getting what they rightly deserve. The Minister of State referred to those areas in my constituency which suffered the most damage. The Minister of State and the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, who responded on his behalf, confirmed that the matter has been discussed with Commission officials, received a positive response and has been submitted to the Parliament, Council of Minister and the Budget Committee for consideration. The Irish Socialist member of the Parliament, Bernie Malone, was a primary signatory to the motion passed by the Parliament which approved the inclusion of a subhead for humanitarian assistance. I hope this motion will be backed up by the Minister in his Department.

If we were to deal with the problem in a structured way we would set up an interdepartmental committee, make money available through the ACC for fodder etc., and set up an emergency fund in the Department of the Environment to repair the damage to roads. The Red Cross played a major role in advocating the payment of compensation in the Galway region. I have no difficulty about the promise of funding for people in Galway or the Dodder Valley in Dublin who were forced to leave their homes but I want my constituency to be treated in the same way. The circumstances surrounding this flooding may be slightly different but people have been left homeless and traumatised. I saw beds, bed clothes, children's clothes, prams, etc., thrown outside the doors of houses while [529] mothers, fathers and children had to find accommodation in different locations in Carrick-on-Suir. These are the people, including the elderly and incapacitated, towards whom the humanitarian aid should be directed. People who are lucky enough to have insurance will be all right on this occasion but unless we as legislators, local authorities, county councils and urban and corporation councils get to the root of the problem of the flooding in Clonmel, Carrick and other areas, insurance companies will continue to refuse to give cover.

The figures provided by the local authorities in my constituency give an idea of the real needs of people and the measures which must be taken if this problem is not to arise again in the future. I have spoken to the Minister about the bridge and culverts below the river Anner and I hope the investigation will prove that there was a degree of negligence in that the culverts were blocked and the water flowed instead into the nearest property. One would have to see that property to realise the devastation caused to the people who had invested their life saving in it.

We and the European Union, in terms of humanitarian aid, have a major responsibility to these people. I witnessed the Minister's discussions with the victims of the flooding and I have no doubt that his heart is in the right place and that he will make the fullest possible use of the powers being given to him in the Bill to implement arterial drainage works where appropriate. My constituency is as entitled to be considered for inclusion in the arterial drainage scheme as any other river basin.

Mr. Browne:  (Wexford): I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this long overdue Bill. I am not criticising the Minister of State for this delay as he has only been in office for seven or eight months. The debate gives us an opportunity to outline our concerns about the ongoing flooding [530] problems in many areas, particularly in the south east.

I listened with interest to Deputy Ferris who referred to the funding for south Tipperary announced by the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, in recent weeks. If all the funding goes to South Tipperary there will be none left for other areas.

Mr. Ferris:  He gave the Deputy's constituency some money.

Mr. Browne:  (Wexford): Obviously Deputy Ferris has a very good working relationship with the Minister for the Environment. I hope some of the funding announced by the Minister in recent weeks will find its way to the model county of Wexford.

The Bill deals with some of the powers of the Commissioners of Public Works. During the debate in the Seanad many worth-while suggestions were put forward on how the Bill could best be implemented. The Bill put forward in the Seanad by Senators Daly and Frank Fahy was voted down by the Government. The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht dealt with certain aspects of the Bill and Senator Daly was very much to the forefront in putting forward worth-while amendments which, unfortunately, were again voted down by the Government. I therefore welcome the introduction of this Bill which includes many of the proposals put forward by Senator Daly in his Bill.

The Commissioners of Public Works and their staff have carried out good work over many years. Some of the work is exemplary and has been commented on not only by people in Ireland but by people in the know abroad. The Commissioners of Public Works would have had the right at any time in the past few years to make payments to groups or organisations in flooded areas once the Government of the day had allocated them that function. This Bill lays down clearly their role for the future. This is important because although we have always had flooding, particularly around the River Shannon [531] and west of it, in recent years flooding has escalated out of all proportion, not just in the south-east but in the west and in other parts of the country.

Many causes are suggested. The new drainage systems of modern-day farming, non-cleaning of culverts on roadways by county councils owing to lack of staff, etc. are blamed for the flooding of areas which were never flooded in the past. Areas in the River Slaney basin are now being flooded for the first time. We had major flooding ín Enniscorthy town in the early 1960s and again in the early 1970s, but these were isolated rather than regular incidents. However, during the recent floods last December and in January the River Slaney basin from Bunclody to Wexford Harbour was flooded on a regular basis, despite the existence of a new main drainage system in Enniscorthy and another under way in Wexford town. I am told by residents in Wexford town that houses are being flooded which were never flooded in the past, despite the main drainage system being well under way.

Many people criticise the main drainage system, the technical and engineering experts and the experts from the Department of the Environment. They say the new drainage schemes are not what they are made out to be, that there are technical flaws that cause flooding in certain areas. This is a matter the Minister for the Environment will have to look at seriously in the future.

We hear the same allegation in south Tipperary that the drainage system which is quite new added to the flooding rather than resolving it. It is only right that our experts should try to find out if there are flaws in those drainage schemes. A substantial amount of funding is coming from Europe and from the Exchequer to resolve the sewerage and main drainage problems in our coastal towns in particular. Having spent millions of pounds and installed the most high tech schemes right around our coastline, we do not want to find that a mile down the road lands and river [532] basin areas are being flooded because of the diversion of water through main drainage and sewerage schemes. The Minister, in conjunction with the local authorities, should look seriously at the problems that have been pointed out.

The Minister outlined clearly the action that was taken in Galway. I do not object to the people of Galway or of any other county being compensated for flood damage, loss of income or loss of property. Some people had to leave their dwelling houses for months on end because of prolonged flooding. We did not have that problem in the south-east, but I and every other Deputy in this House felt sorry for the people in Galway. I compliment the Minister on the preliminary compensation he has offered. Some people are unhappy with the amounts he has offered, but it is always difficult to get people to accept an initial offer. I am sure negotiations and talks will continue in that area to ensure that people are adequately compensated. I would not like to see people upping the ante for the sake of compensation — I would not dream of saying that is happening in the south-east or in Galway or anywhere else. The local authorities are the best people, in conjunction with local people, to quantify the damage, the loss of property, the loss of housing, livestock, etc. The Minister should ensure that people are given fair compensation because many, particularly people I have been dealing with in the Wexford area, are old or unemployed, or earning an ordinary wage and would not be in a position to make up the damage caused by flooding. It is important that the Minister should seek as much compensation as possible from the EU, top it up with Exchequer funding and make it available to people who have been affected by flooding.

The Minister also outlined the hardship caused to families by the flooding of homes throughout the south and south-east, including County Wexford. He stated that a substantial number of houses suffered flooding and that he visited Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary which were also [533] badly affected. I appreciate the Minister's visiting those areas, but I was disappointed that he did not visit the model county to see for himself at first hand what has happened there. I compliment Deputies Davern and Ferris who continue to highlight the plight of the people in south Tipperary. However, the two senior Ministers and the junior Minister's colleagues from the county, did not highlight the problems in Wexford to the same extent as the Deputies from Tipperary did the problems in their area. I constantly made public noises about the problems in Wexford to ensure, if compensation was available or if moneys were being sought through the EU, that people who were seriously affected by flooding in Wexford would be included.

The Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, went on to say that at his request the local authorities provided to the Department of the Environment information on the nature and extent of flooding and the resultant hardship in counties Cork, Kilkenny and Waterford. I hope the Minister has also received information from Wexford Corporation and possibly Enniscorthy Urban Council on the amount of damage and loss suffered by the people in King Street and on the quays in Wexford and in other parts of Wexford which were severly storm damaged. In Wexford town, King Street, South Main Street, Crescent Quay, Commercial Quay, Paul Quay, Common Quay, Mount Street, Skeffington Street and Redmond Square were badly affected by the floods in December and again in January.

If the Minister has not received a report from Wexford Corporation and county council on the damage caused by flooding, he should ask them to quantify it and assess it so that he will be able to pay compensation. Some people with property in the quays at Enniscorthy have not been able to operate their businesses from these premises. I visited King Street and South Main Street in Wexford Town where I was able to see at first hand the major damage caused to houses and property in that area. [534] Property on the quays and King Street in Wexford has been flooded so often in the past 20 years that it is now impossible to get insurance on it. I met many elderly pensioners and unemployed people who where in tears, having suffered the trauma of major damage to their homes, with carpets and furniture destroyed and who are not in a position to refurbish their houses. We are not talking about a large amount of money for the Wexford area. I appreciate that as South Tipperary was worse affected, the bulk of the money will have to go there. However, will the Minister allocate a certain amount of the funding from Brussels to the residents in Wexford Town and Enniscorthy, to whose plight I have drawn attention today?

I compliment our MEPs, Gerry Collins from Munster, Liam Hyland and Bernie Malone from Leinster and Pat The Cope Gallagher from ConnachtUlster who were very vocal on behalf of the people who have experienced flooding. They opened the doors for the Minister's very successful visit to Brussels. When the motion comes before the European Parliament in the next 60 days our MEPs will certainly support his call for European Union funding for these areas.

It is important that moneys be allocated in future to deal with emergencies and harzardous weather conditions. In recent years moneys were made available from Brussels to alleviate the effects of the seed potato failure in County Donegal, the damage to fruit crops in County Wexford and north County Dublin as well as the flooding in County Galway. When a problem arises we try to resolve it there and then. I agree with Deputy Ferris's suggestion of providing an emergency fund. From my experience, the Departments of the Environment, Agriculture, Food and Forestry and Finance have had to deal with the effects of natural disasters and money should be allocated from their Votes to an emergency fund where it can accumulate over a number of years so that when a disaster arises, we will be [535] able to request the EU to match our funds on a pound for pound basis.

There is no point in depending on local authorities to be in a position to resolve major problems caused by flooding. They are strapped for cash and find it almost impossible to deal with the ongoing daily problems in addition to the damage caused to roads and to the environment in general as a result of flooding. We should not look to the local authorities but to the Exchequer to deal with the problems caused by natural disasters. It is important to have a fund so that the Minister of the day can draw down funds to deal with hardship cases.

This worth-while Bill is long overdue. I do not necessarily agree with the reasons the Minister of State gave for this delay. The Commissioners of Public Works are capable of dealing with problems when they have the powers and have done so for the past 100 years. I hope this Bill will put in place statutory provisions so that we do not have to go begging to Ministers and the EU for the money to resolve problems. When the Minister receives the allocation from Brussels, will he ensure that a percentage of it is allocated to those in Wexford who have suffered for far too long.

Mr. Hogan:  This short Bill introduced by the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, allows work to be carried out as well as ensuring beyond doubt the legal position with regard to those works and the relocation of people. I compliment the Office of Public Works on its work during the past 15 months in particular in attempting to deal with the very difficult problem which has been ongoing for many years. I am amazed by my Fianna Fáil colleagues who make noise about the Government's response to flood relief measures when I consider that in 1995 when the Government had to first respond to this matter — I was then a Minister of State for a few short weeks — there was no legislation to empower anybody in Government to deal with such matters. [536]Mr. Browne(Wexford): That is not true. What about the potato farmers in County Donegal?

Mr. Hogan:  The plight of potato farmers in County Donegal had nothing to do with the catchment are of a river. The then Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey, found it very difficult to tell the truth about the status of legislation because none existed to deal effectively with the problems of the west in 1995. We are very fortunate that legislation is now in place to deal with the problems in south Tipperary outlined by Deputies Davern, Ahearn and Ferris as well as the problems in the south east generally, incuding those referred to by Deputy Browne.

The first Government decision that gave any hope to the ordinary people of the west in flooded areas was made on 14 March 1995 when a major injection of cash was provided to compensate people in a humanitarian way. In south Galway and other affected areas compensation was given by the Department of Agriculture for feedstuffs. This legislation allows action to be taken to relocate families who, because of the terrain, would have difficulties in future unless the matter is resolved.

Deputy Davern will be pleased that the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, will now have the power to assist his constituents, as well as mine, in the south east.

Mr. Davern:  I might not be.

Mr. Hogan:  Over the years, the Office of Public Works has been faced with an enormous dilemma in relation to this matter. It was continually asked to deal with the problems of flooding on a river catchment basis, but no amount of money could have solved that problem. The previous Minister for Finance, now Leader of Fianna Fáil, always ignored representations to him about compensation. He rightly pointed out that he would not have the money to deal with the problem on a river catchment basis. [537] Because of the enormous water pressures involved, an arterial drainage Bill was advocated to deal with specific areas on a small section of the catchment causing great difficulties for the agricultural community and householders.

I was pleased that Kilkenny city and Carlow town were included when the Office of Public Works drew up a plan to deal with nine pilot areas around the country. The John's Quay and Green Street area of Kilkenny city has been a problem area for many years. When the environmental impact study and its design works are completed we will see some response being made to deal effectively with the flooding that residents of John's Quay and Green Street have had to endure.

Many people suffered flood damage over the years and it is an enormous trauma for any household to face. Unexpected inclement weather can flood houses to a depth of three feet causing great distress. One has to experience such flooding to understand the hardship that people in affected areas go through. Deputy Davern had the same experience in Clonmel and from my knowledge of the area he has a tremendous case to make on behalf of residents there.

Other areas in the south east have also been affected, including Carrick-on-Suir. Piltown, which is just over the border in Kilkenny, has suffered tremendously. I understand that the county engineer has made a submission concerning that area — and Freshford. These areas were investigated over the years by the Office of Public Works but the money was never available because they could not do the entire catchment. Freshford is on the river Noanna which is a tributary of the Nore. That area, particularly Bohercrusha Street in Freshford, has been the subject of ongoing problems for local residents.

In coming to a conclusion on the submissions he receives from local authorities in the south east, the Minister should examine the problems of Freshford and Piltown. In addition to the [538] work that has already been approved for Kilkenny city, those two areas should be helped to resolve their problems.

In other areas small amounts of money could do a major job in eliminating potential flooding problems in future. These include Callan where a weir on the King's River has caused a problem for a small number of people. It would not cost an enormous amount of money to deal with that. In addition, there has been erosion and breaching of embankments on the River Suir at Ballybrasil near Mooncoin, and in the coastal areas of Ringville and Carney Bay in Glenmore in the Waterford Harbour area. Those areas require urgent attention but they would not put a major strain on financial resources. Small amounts of money could prevent the type of hardship to which I referred happening in future.

Over the last year, this Government has made the only effective response to deal with flooding. I compliment the Ministers of State, Deputy Higgins and Deputy Coveney, for meeting local people in the affected areas to inspect their problems at first-hand. It is only by experiencing such problems that one sees the hardship people must endure and the need for humanitarian assistance to resolve the problems flooding causes in such catchment areas.

There is no point in throwing money at people to give them temporary respite. It is better to deal with the fundamental problem through preventing future flooding by the least expensive means possible. The Minister should continue his efforts to get the work done in pilot areas as well as dealing in a practical and effective way with the south east, particularly the areas of County Kilkenny I mentioned, which have been badly affected on this occasion.

Since Fianna Fáil representatives are complimenting MEPs, I feel obliged to compliment John Cushnahan, MEP, who was the first public representative of a political party to announce that European funds would be available for [539] flood relief. Through his good offices as a member of the European Parliament's Regional Affairs Committee, Mr. Cushnahan was able to get other MEPs to assist him in ensuring that the Minister would receive a satisfactory hearing when he visited the European Commission some weeks ago.

I look forward to an early definitive response from the Commission on humanitarian aid. People may say that the money is not there, but if the right case is presented, with the help of Commissioner Padraig Flynn — who played a major role in helping Ireland with all these applications — it will assist Government Ministers to obtain the necessary aid.

I support the legislation which is urgently needed to tidy up legal aspects and ensure that people hit by floods can be relocated and granted relief. The legislation will give the Minister authority to take decisive and effective action.

Mr. Davern:  I am glad, a Cheann Comhairle, that you are here to be a witness because you are a sympathiser in this case for our own area.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair should not be drawn into controversy in the House.

Mr. Davern:  I appreciate that, a Cheann Comhairle. I was just saying that, on a personal basis, that was your moral approach.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I accept the generous-hearted approach of the Deputy.

Mr. Davern:  I am well aware of your total independence and neutrality in that matter, a Cheann Comhairle. I was saying that, morally, you would be thinking on the same lines as myself.

I welcome this legislation. It is unfortunate that four inches of rain fell, particularly on the mountain of Slievenamon in my area which caused the [540] River Anner to flood and burst its banks thus making the flooding in Clonmel worse. The flooded river also caused a huge problem below Clonmel.

Like Deputy Hogan, I welcome the legislation which gives statutory effect to compensating people for the terrible disaster which has hit their homes. We are not only talking about flood water but about sewage as well which has backed up through the pipes.

As regards the initial reaction to this situation, Deputy Bertie Ahern was the first senior national figure who came on the scene and provided the impetus. I appreciate the fact that the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, came to Clonmel on Tuesday night and took time to talk to people. I am glad he took the lead from the former Minister for Finance who provided money for relief works in other areas. The Minister received many telephone calls after his visit on Saturday to ensure he would make an appearance.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): The Minister would have done so in any event.

Mr. Davern:  The Deputy's brother's dog did not win, so he should stay quiet. On Wednesday night when these people were up to their elbows in water the Minister for the Environment, unfortunately, said it was an act of God and that nothing could be done as there was no money in the Department to pay compensation. However true that may be it was not a statement that a sympathetic person would make in the middle of this awful scene. The Minister was sympathetic when he met the people and had a long conversation with the mayor of the town.

The residents of O'Connell Terrace in Clonmel, most of whom are elderly and retired, decorated their homes for what they considered to be the last time. Twice in the last ten months their homes were flooded as were the homes of those living in Oldbridge.

A young married man rented a house on the Waterford side of the quay in [541] Carrickbeg. The water came in through the windows and destroyed everything in his home. Although he is unemployed the health board refused to help him. He is on the waiting list for a house and I presume is a priority case. The Minister might use his influence in this case as it is inhumane not to make emergency relief available to him.

The Minister sought £600,000 in aid from Mr. Williamson and the Commission and I am disappointed that they agreed to give £300,000. No one from the Commission came to Ireland to see the damage that was caused. I compliment the Minister for his quick response when spurred into action by Fianna Fáil. the local authority cannot afford to repair the damage caused by the flooding. In reply to a recent question the Minister for the Environment stated that moneys from discretionary grants may be used for road repair. Roads in the Mullinahone-Drangan area leading to Slievenamon were washed away. Years ago the area from Bulls Hole to the Pollocks was drained but this has not been maintained and roads leading to farms in areas such as the Asses Turn were washed away. The local authority estimates it will cost £800,000 to repair the roads. The bill from Carrick-on-Suir urban council is estimated at £310,000 and the one from Clonmel at £614,020. Something in the region of £2 million is needed for the area.

I compliment members of the fire brigade, Army and Civil Defence for their marvellous work. The Army assisted people leaving their homes and brought them to safety. Members of the Civil Defence did a fantastic job voluntarily. Both the manager and deputy manager of the local authority told me that when the Garda sought assistance in directing traffic people who had been up during the night until 4 a.m. volunteered to come back later in the morning to prevent people going into the flooded areas. There was a tremendous local response.

Those who were unable to get insurance should be given some idea as to the amount of compensation they will [542] receive. Their homes will be dried out in the next month. It is a dark, dreary, depressing scene. The banking institutions should make interest free loans available in advance of compensation being received. It is depressing to see carpets and furniture destroyed, doors warped, plaster falling off the walls and so on.

What is the position regarding drainage of the River Suir? Deputy Hogan stated that only the Fianna Fáil Party did not carry out these works in the past. In 1948, even before the time of the Ceann Comhairle, the late Parliamentary Secretary Donnellan, the father of the former Deputy Donnellan, promised that the River Suir would be drained.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): Do not forget to mention the Shannon.

Mr. Davern:  I am being parochial. Presumably that will not happen. The Department must undertake preventative works such as building higher walls on the river and mud banks such as those at Mooncoin and Piltown. While the flooding in Clonmel was particularly bad the worst flood I have ever seen was in Carrick-on-Suir. I am thinking of the family in Killallon whose home was destroyed. If the Minister could indicate the level of compensation that will be given to the families perhaps they could raise money now to help repair their homes.

The Minister was unable to see the Buala Bridge because it was dark and we would not like to lose another Minister. The Anner River was flooded at that time. The bridge to which I referred leads to the homes of 25 or 30 people on the side of Slievenamon. Those families are unable to drive in or out of their homes. Some people are fortunate that their cars are on the Clonmel side of the bridge. I pay tribute to the local authority for erecting a pedestrain bridge within 24 hours, providing access to houses that were cut off by the flooding. The local authority [543] responded very quickly but unfortunately encountered technical problems in building the bridge in that because of the gravel soil it found it difficult to keep the pylons in place. I hope the work will be completed within three weeks so that the families involved will have full access to their homes. The local authority should receive extra resources to carry out this work.

I pay tribute to the many people who helped those in need during the flooding, particularly Matron Donovan who did tremendous work. The assistance of a person of her stature who was used to being in charge was invaluable. She ordered meals for those who had no way of cooking and ensured the health board responded to the various problems. I pay tribute also to the Rotary Club in the town of Clonmel for its generous donation of £3,000 towards the cost of cleaning up the houses.

The Minister visited the area and saw the awful effect not only of water but also sewage which flowed into the houses. I am not sure what preventive measures can be taken to prevent a recurrence of the flooding. There are experts in the Department who can deal with this problem. Remedial action should be taken immediately so that the towns of Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir will not experience similar problems again. The flooding that took place at Killallon could be easily prevented because the houses which are situated on one side of the river are higher than the field on the other side and it should be possible to open a drain thereby preventing further flooding.

The Minister should ensure assistance is provided, through the South-Eastern Health Board, for those who cannot afford to replace their homes and valuable items lost. I was extremely disappointed to hear from constituents that the reaction of a health board official was that they could not help those who had suffered loss from flooding. Many of these people are living in temporary accommodation and the health board should assist them immediately. The [544] Minister is a kind, honourable and decent man and he should ensure representation is made to the health board so that compensation is given to these people. It is unfortunate that officials refuse to deal with the problem, perhaps because of a technicality. I hope that sufficient compensation will be provided for this purpose.

I ask the Minister to find a solution to the flooding problems, particularly in Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir, otherwise we will be back here, perhaps later this year seeking further compensation. Technical experience is available to the Department and for a small amount of money temporary relief could be provided such as building mud banks or deepening rivers.

I thank the Minister for taking up the suggestion put forward by Fianna Fáil to visit the houses affected by flooding and and for providing compensation. I hope he will continue the practice introduced by Fianna Fáil who generously compensated potato farmers in north Dublin and Donegal. The people of Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and Wexford would welcome compensation in this instance.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo mar tá sé fíor-thábhachtach nach mbeadh aon cheist ann faoin obair atá á dhéanamh ag an Office of Public Works — an bhfuil nó nach bhfuil an obair dleathach?

Má bhíonn tuile in áit ar bith, agus is cuma má bhíonn sé i gCeatharlach nó i gCluain Meala, tá sé fíor-thábhachtach go mbeadh faoiseamh le fáil ag an daoine i gceist. Ní dhéanann sé maitheas ar bith dóibh nuair a bhíonn daoine ag gearáin go raibh nó nach raibh cead ceart ag an Office of Public Works. Ní ceart go mbeadh ceist ar bith faoi na dualgais nó na ceartanna atá ag éinne. Ba chóir go mbeadh an obair déanta go tapaidh agus go mbeadh faoiseamh le fáil ag na daoine i gcruachás. Bheadh go leor ama ina dhiaidh sin chun ceisteanna a chur agus freagraí a fháil.

[545] I welcome this Bill which has special significance for the people of Carlow who last year were featured on television, much to the annoyance of householders, when their houses were flooded. Deputy Davern was very generous to his Fianna Fáil ancestors and colleagues for setting the standard in terms of compensation, and it would be remiss of me not to thank my constituency colleague, Deputy Hogan, who in his short time as Minister visited flood victims in Carlow and set about remedying the problem. On his resignation Deputy Jim Higgins visited the area and very quickly took action. He introduced compensation and promised that Carlow would be a priority for relief work.

Only a year or two earlier I asked when relief work would be carried out on the River Barrow and was told it was No. 29 in order of priority. I am glad that as a result of flooding problems Carlow was placed second on the list after Galway. I hope when the Office of Public Works plan is put into operation Carlow will have a bright future and flooding will not be a concern. I thank the Minister, Deputy Coveney, who has been very helpful in dealing with my inquiries about the progress and implementation of the consultants' report on this matter.

The River Barrow is a beautiful river which is underdeveloped. It was planned to use it for boating activities so that people could enjoy its natural beauty. When the river is at its normal level it is difficult to believe that flooding can occur, but unfortunately that happens. Much drainage has been carried out upstream under the arterial drainage scheme and as a result the water flows too quickly into the town of Carlow. The Office of Public Works should devise a plan not only for the Carlow town environs but also downstream as far as St. Mullins. I am aware of the problem with the tide, but work should be carried out from Graiguenamanagh to Leighlinbridge. I suggest that work begin at the sea with a view to solving the flooding problems in all areas.

[546] As farming progresses land is no longer as it was where fields became flooded and there were wetlands. Now when rain falls it makes its way into the streams and then to the rivers so that a huge volume of water is very quickly dissipated in that way. Carlow fared well last year from the EU compensation funds allocated for flood damage. It would be a pity if there was more flooding this winter. We escaped it by the skin of our teeth during the last bout of heavy rainfall. Flood victims in Carlow were pleased with the compensation they received, although they will always appreciate more. It helped them restore their houses. However, it is difficult to imagine how one could be happy living in a house that has been flooded when one considers all the garbage, not to mention sewage, that may have flowed into it. It would be a pity if there was any delay in implementing a plan to relieve flooding of the River Barrow.

The EIS must be done. I know that legally, the Office of Public Works cannot any longer do what it did in the past. Projects like Luggala caused a significant amount of difficulty from a legal point of view. I urge the Minister of State to ensure that carrying out an environmental impact study in Carlow will not take longer than necessary. I realise we have to wait until May, and I suppose nothing can be done about that. If it is completed by October, I hope we in Carlow will see the start of flood relief before next winter.

In the past two years average rainfall here has increased by two inches. We hope to have more sunshine in future years, but given the trend of an increase in average rainfall here, there is always a danger of further flooding. It is amazing that Clonmel experienced such flooding this winter. There was a 375 per cent increase in average rainfall in parts of the Wexford area. That caused a good deal of damage to tillage. I hope the Minister of State will ensure that flood relief compensation will assist farmers specialising in growing vegetables whose crops were damaged by [547] flooding. Farmers who had 60 acres of tillage washed out by flooding suffered serious financial loss.

I thank members of the Irish Red Cross Society who were courteous and helpful in distributing money to flood victims. I also thank the EU. If a problem arises here we are inclined to take it for granted that compensation can be secured from Europe. There may be a good deal of gold in Europe, but it is getting scarce. We should appreciate that Europe assists us in a time of need.

Deputy Davern thanked local urban councils and county council workers who assisted people affected by flooding. I met them by the river bank assisting people in Carlow at 10.30 p.m. one night and that would not have been their last visit that night. They monitored the situation and were available to assist people cross flooded areas. They were up most of the night and out working again the next morning. The perception is that council workers dodge work, but they are always available when needed. I join with Deputy Davern in complimenting them for their work during the flooding.

It is important in doing drainage works that we adequately protect flora, fauna and wildlife and keep the fishermen happy. A proper balance must be struck to accomodate the interests of various groups. The environmental impact study will recommend what is approapriate. It was suggested that the River Barrow should be dredged in the centre to cause a fast flowing stream. That suggestion might be helpful, but I am sure the Office of Public Works has its view on the matter. It makes sense to suppose that if water flows quickly, it will keep the channel clear. There is no end to what could be done. The sugar company is a valuable asset to Carlow, but a certain amount of sludge builds up as a result of processing so dredging the Barrow would play a major role in preventing flooding.

I am glad this Bill has been introduced to make sure that the Office of [548] Public Works can do what it wants without the treat of court action. People who depend on that office will appreciate it. At times the Office of Public Works has been regarded as slow moving, like a slow moving river, but in recent years it has been very active and amenable. I compliment its officials with whom I have had contact on many occasions since the flooding in Carlow, including the head engineer who explained the work being undertaken. Initially I complained about the delay in implementing a plan to relieve flooding, but I now understand that the Office of Public Works cannot ride roughshod over everyone without carrying out an environmental impact study which I appreciate cannot be undertaken until May. I hope the flood relief work will continue and flooding will not recur for at least another year. After that I hope that everytime there is heavy rainfall we will not have another flood in Carlow.

Mr. Leonard:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Mattie Brennan.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Mr. Leonard:  I welcome the Bill since it will provide for compensation for people in Tipperary and elsewhere affected by flooding in recent years and will deal with emergencies that arise in the future. There have always been flash floods but the extent of flooding and the rise in water levels in recent years is worrying. It is very worrying to see three or four foot of water in dwelling houses and farmyards. The Minister of State said the Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Act, 1995 expanded the powers of the Commissioners of Public Works contained in the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945 thereby enabling them to carry out relief schemes for the alleviation of localised flooding. Residents of my local area could readily appreciate the benefits of that Bill because, although two priority lists of catchments had been specified in the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, following on the [549] drainage scheme of the Blackwater, we had expected that the Finn/Lackey and Erne scheme would follow whereas, on re-examination, it transpired it was not viable from a Northern tourism point of view, since the river rises in Fermanagh, flows through Monaghan and re-enters the Erne in the North.

Ad hoc schemes are undertaken on many rivers that become flooded, at source or further upstream, resulting in extensive flooding of properties and lands of residents in adjoining valleys. Many years ago the then Taoiseach initiated a scheme, I think in Howth, after a number of houses had been seriously damaged by flooding under which those affected received some compensation for the damage caused.

Following on the 1995 scheme it had been my hope that other drainage schemes would have been introduced to deal with blockages of rivers that were causing so much damage. In 1975 the first and most successful cross-Border committee was established to undertake a study of the Erne catchment area, including the Finn/Lackey, from whose deliberations the Ballinamore/ Ballyconnell canal project, which was adequately funded, emerged. Unfortunately, the necessary drainage was not undertaken; the River Erne being such a valuable tourist attraction and asset to County Fermanagh, the people there were more interested in tourism than in farming or bringing land back into usage. Bearing in mind the various EU directives such as the set-aside and others, that land is not now as valuable as it was in those years when we were endeavouring to reinstate and encourage small farms.

I have raised the system of drainage with the Office of Public Works over many years. That office never engaged in the type of arterial drainage that was carried out in the North on the Blackwater resulting in huge amounts of land being brought back into usage, North and South, when its bridge and culvert builders' quality of work was second to none.

[550] In Northern Ireland such schemes are described as county drainage schemes incorporating “scrubbing” exercises, have proved very effective — resulting in very few of its rivers ever flooding — and cost less. It would be my hope that those areas with no prospect of being included in an arterial drainage scheme would be included in one for the alleviation of flooding and in respect of which some funding would be made available. For example, within my local 12 mile region, from Rathdown to the Erne on the Cavan border, locals were contemplating carrying out such drainage work themselves but, on checking the matter with the Office of Public Works, I was informed one would first have to obtain a licence. There is so much heavy machinery capable of carrying out tremendous work, at reasonable cost, within a short time, that many opportunities exist if only grants were made available for such joint schemes by property and land owners along the river in conjunction with the Office of Public Works. They would be of great benefit to people in that area.

Such flooding will become worse if not rectified, leading to dwellings being flooded, emergencies arising and people seeking adequate compensation. Our roads committee also noted that the structure of many roads are damaged, particularly during flash floods.

Many Members referred to the importance of preserving wildlife and fisheries. In the case of the Blackwater scheme, when rivers were pegged, legitimate objections were lodged by fishery boards insisting on the preservation of their trout and other fish species breeding grounds. Since that proposal was for arterial drainage, it had to be thorough, comprehensive or not undertaken. At that time I contended there should have been some alleviation of flooding in that region without inhibiting or damaging such fish breeding grounds, something that should be examined.

When accompanying a deputation some years ago I spoke to an Office of Public Works official who expressed the [551] view that, taking into account the preservation of wildlife and fishery breeding grounds, it will be very difficult to have any drainage undertaken in the future because of the number of potential objections likely to be raised.

The Minister should consider some scheme to alleviate matters in the areas to which I referred that could be undertaken jointly by farmers and others within the respective communities.

Mr. M. Brennan:  Like others, I welcome this Bill and hope it will alleviate many flooding problems. Listening to the debate one realises that each county experiences its own problems. Nonetheless, it was devastating to watch scenes of flooding in Clonmel in County Tipperary. Like others I was very sympathetic to the plight of the many people in that region whose properties and land were damaged. Everyone would have sympathy for the people whose homes were flooded in that area. It is very traumatic for a person whose furniture and possessions are ruined.

I welcome this Bill, particularly the provision for the drainage of the Arrow/Owenmore River. This has been mooted for 70 years and every Deputy from the constituency has spoken about it. When it was decided that there would be no further European funding for arterial drainage, the Arrow/Owenmore project was first on the list. A cost benefit analysis was carried out by the then Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, so this Minister will not have that extra expense. All we want now is the drainage to start and money to be made available.

This legislation cover 29,000 acres of land and a total of 3,000 small farmers, mainly in fragmented farms with an average of 40 acres. That is a very small amount of land and sometimes half of it is flooded. How can one expect small farmers, some of whom have other employment, to continue to farm flooded land? I have a letter here from the then Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, [552] Deputy Jim Higgins. I wrote to him concerning the proposals and he replied:

I refer further to your recent letter in relation to the proposals submitted by the Arrow/Owenmore Drainage Scheme Committee. [This is a very active committee.]

The Commissioners of Public Works inform me that they have been investigating whether it would be possible to devise a modified scheme which might attract financial support based on social and environmental considerations...

There are environmental problems because of fishing and wildlife but people want this river cleaned. Parts of the river are blocked and one can just jump across at places where it is no more than four or five feet wide. The people living in the catchment area of the Arrow/Owenmore River have suffered over the years. It is time that something was done for them. Deputy Noel Treacy was the first to propose that the Arterial Drainage Act be amended to enable these people to avail of such a scheme. It was followed up by Deputy Dempsey and then by the current Minister who is doing an excellent job. I hope something will be done.

I welcome the money made available to the people who lost crops last year. A number of people in this catchment area were compensated by the Minister and his Department. I also welcome the money made available by his Department for county roads because it alleviated the problem and facilitated excellent work.

Mr. Boylan:  I compliment the Minister on introducing this Bill. It is strange that it is necessary to do so. What were previous Ministers doing over the years? It is a sad reflection on them that this legislation was not in place and the Office of Public Works placed on a proper statutory footing to deal with any problems that might arise.

The Bill was prompted by the severe flooding in the west and the south-east. [553] I notice that Deputies on all sides welcome the compensation being provided. Nobody could deny that the families concerned were entitled to the compensation. Through no fault of their own, their homes were destroyed and in many cases farms were devastated. People suffered trauma and severe loss. I cannot understand how a house could be made habitable again after being flooded for three weeks. Furniture, fittings, carpets and wooden floors would be destroyed forever. How would one dry them? I hope there will be sufficient compensation and I fully support the case that has been made. I compliment the Minister on the manner in which he moved so speedily to get compensation from Brussels. He obviously presented a reasonable case.

We have seen the problems of the west and the south-east on our televisions but there are isolated cases which never make the news. There are flooding problems in isolated households in my county and others of which nobody takes any notice. I know of a household which was flooded for three weeks. The elderly occupant was reluctant to leave the house but had to be carried out and could not return for three months. However, it was not deemed newsworthy. I do not know if publicity is of any benefit but it has helped in the west and the south-east. If it rains in Dublin, it is an emergency but if it pours rain in the country, it is hardly noticed. This country seems to start and end in Dublin city. During the recent snow storm, the city came to a standstill and it was on our televisions night and day. The Border region and the north-east were snowbound over Christmas and it hardly made the news. Apparently newscasters do not want to move too far from their base when covering news items.

I join with Deputy Leonard in saying that the work carried out by the Office of Public Works over 100 to 150 years in laying drains is still good. The culverts and bridges they built with cut stone are still standing today and are as good as they were the day they were built. This [554] is as a result of the engineering skills and craft of the people who carried out that work. The levels taken then are still good today but when those drainage channels were constructed the theory was that they would be dredged annually or bi-annually. There was an ongoing programme of work until the mid 1950s. One regularly saw men with hand tools cleaning these drains which were the responsibility and the property of the Office of Public Works. In recent years those drains and rivers have not been cleaned. All that work stopped, notwithstanding the fact that the pattern in farming has changed since the 1950s. The whole pattern of drainage of farmlands has changed dramatically and has resulted in sudden rushes of water when rain falls. I will explain this for the benefit of the Minister and his officials.

In the mid-1950s the land reclamation scheme was introduced by a former Minister for Agriculture, an outstanding parliamentarian, Mr. James Dillon. This scheme was funded by money from the American Government, known as Marshall Aid, in the aftermath of the war, and some European money. The late Mr. Dillon believed if the land was reclaimed and put to full use, the country would benefit as a result of the jobs that would be created and by keeping many families on small family farms, in which he had a great belief. Unfortunately, the scheme lasted only a number of years and was eventually whittled down by successive Governments. It set in place pilot schemes in various areas where farmers saw the benefit of drainage. As we moved into the mechanical age of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the whole pattern or drainage of farmland changed. We now have mould drains, subsoilers, graval tunnels and main drains. Progressive farmers have their lands substantially drained. This can be done easily by a mechanical means. As soon as the rain falls it flows off the lands into the arterial drains and rivers.

The farmers have progressed but — and this is no reflection on the officials — the Office of Public Works was not allowed to maintain the drains which [555] had been constructed to the proper levels but which have now been allowed to filter. That is causing the blockages which, in turn, is causing the flooding. It is isolated in some areas and very substantial in the west and in Tipperary and Clonmel. Until that issue is addressed, this will be a recurring problem.

I understand from Deputy McCormack, and I compliment him, that he set about relieving one area in his constituency because he saw the need for it. How did he solve the problem? There is apparently a peculiar problem in Galway and in the west with underground tunnels or turloughs where the river disappears and travels through naturally created caverns in the underground which got choked. Deputy McCormack and local farmers, with the advice of an engineer, set about opening a new drain and, I understand, they relieved at least 100 households and a large area of farmland when the water was released. That is evidence of what can be achieved by a good drainage system and maintaining existing drains. I understand many of the drains — it is not that anyone has been careless — are choked by plastic silage covers and wrappings from round bales which were discarded and eventually found their way into the streams.

I welcome the new environmental programme whereby this plastic will be collected and recycled. The IFA is actively involved and a number of pilot schemes are being set up. This scheme — which should be supported — will be advantageous not only to the environment but to the protection of our drains and rivers which are being choked with plastic wrappings.

The Minister has a responsibility to ensure that the Office of Public Works maintains drains and rivers. If a farmer tries to improve an Office of Public Works drain, adjacent to his land, and allows water to travel further down stream to cause flooding, he may be held responsible. I agree with Deputy Browne that one should begin at the outlet and work one's way back. That [556] indicates it is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works to start at the outlet. It is not necessary to do this work annually or even bi-annually but it would be necessary every five years as drains can become blocked by plastic wrappings and other obstacles deliberately put there such as fridges and washing machines. Trees also fall into drains. If the drain is overgrown, eventually it will be closed. Any person with a rural background or farm knowledge will understand this. Because of the machinery which is available there should be no difficulty in opening many miles of those drains in a day. This would prevent flooding recurring. It is much better to remedy the problems than paying substantial sums in compensation, which must be done when damage is caused and where people suffer severe loss and disruption of their lifestyle and their home.

As all other speakers have made a case for their river, I make a case for the Erne river from Belturbet to Lough Oughter and Killykeen forest park. This river has drainage problems but it also has a tourism amenity in boating. There are two — not major — blockages of soft rock at the mouth of the river at Belturbet. It would not be expensive to have that rock removed with the equipment which is available to the Office of Public Works and contractors doing that type of work. It would open up a stretch of waterway that could be availed of by those using the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal. I compliment the engineers and all those who were involved in its restoration. Many people thought the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal could not be restored but the Office of Public Works and the engineers and staff available to it, carried out this marvellous work, which involved the restoration of bridges and locks.

The further inland development of Killykeen forest park, which would be the final stage of that major development, would benefit from drainage. This work would benefit tourism and allow substantial quantities of water building [557] up at Killykeen forest park to get to the Erne and eventually to the sea.

Regular maintenance of existing drains would prevent the problem recurring and save substantial compensation. A strong case could be made to the EU — having made a case for Galway and Clonmel — in respect of the compensation that could be saved if grant aid was provided to prevent this happening in the future. It would be welcome if the River Erne and Lough Oughter were included in that programme of works.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Coveney):  I am grateful to Deputies on all sides for their contributions on Second Stage, many of which highlighted the need to deal urgently and fairly with the plight of the victims of the flooding and to assist them back to some form of normality. The essence of the Bill is to empower the Commissioners of Public Works to implement the Government's humanitarian assistance: home relocation scheme, in respect of the flooding which occured in 1995, primarily in the south Galway area. I am most anxious that with the passing of this Bill, all those who satisfy the scheme's criteria will be dealt with as speedily as practicable.

Some Deputies have been critical of the fact that the powers of the Commissioners of Public Works to implement the home relocation scheme were not recognised at a much earlier stage. The original drafting of the scheme and the discussions with the relevant interest groups proceeded in good faith in the belief that the commissioners did have the requisite powers to implement it. It was only when the details of the scheme had been finalised and sent to the Chief State Solicitor to be given a correct legal formulation that the difficulties in relation to the commissioners' powers came to light. The consultation could not have been initiated sooner than it was and the House will agree that as soon as the problem came to light the Government [558] acted with exceptional speed to deal with it.

The papers were referred to the Chief State Solicitor on 1 November 1995. His advice based on considerable research and consultation with an eminent senior counsel was received on 30 November 1995. The Bill now before the House was immediately drafted by the parliamentary draftsman and the Attorney General's Office and approved by the Government immediately. It was passed by the Seanad on 20 December 1995. It has been introduced in this House at the earliest possible opportunity after the budget and I welcome the fact that the Opposition parties have promised their support for it and are co-operating fully with us to ensure its early passage.

Deputy Treacy gave us a very succinct resume of the history of drainage legislation. He stated that he does not accept this Bill is necessary to allow the home relocation scheme to proceed and referred to the compensation provisions of the Arterial Drainage Act. Those provisions relate specifically to compensation arising from the implementation of schemes under the Act. This is precisely the difficulty I referred to in my opening remarks where powers conferred by a particular Act are specific to the subject matter of that Act and are not available in other situations.

Deputy Treacy referred to the Bill introduced in the Seanad by Senator Brendan Daly early last year and to his subsequent attempt to have the Government's own Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Bill amended to include provisions similar to those in his own Bill whereby the Commissioners of Public Works would be empowered to make compensation payments to victims of flooding in certain circumstances. While Senator Daly's intention showed considerable foresight, it is not true to say that if his suggestion had been adopted there would have been no need to introduce this legislation. The powers now being provided relate specifically to humanitarian aid; there is a fundamental difference between compensation and humanitarian aid. The former [559] implies the existence of legal entitlement while the latter has no such connotations.

This Bill will when enacted, meet the test mentioned by Deputies Treacy and Killeen, that it should not be necessary to come to the Oireachtas again to rectify deficiencies in the powers of the Office of Public Works. The approach that has been adopted is a very simple but effective one of outlining what the functions of the commissioners are and providing that they will have the powers necessary to carry them out.

A number of Deputies asked that I reconsider the amount of money that will be offered to people who seek relocation assistance. I will outline briefly the philosophy underlying the scheme. As some Deputies have recognised, there is no precedent for a scheme of this kind where the Government is offering to assist people who have experienced severe flooding of their houses to re-house themselves. The underlying principle is that people who will be assisted are, effectively, homeless. This is the only basis on which the scheme could be justified. The money that it is proposed to provide to assist people to relocate themselves is based on the cost of providing an appropriate local authority house.

This is a fair and reasonable approach. In effect, the people who have been made homeless because of the flooding are being treated on the same basis as any other citizen who is homeless for whatever reason. In arriving at the monetary values, I sought information from the Department of the Environment and Galway County Council on the cost of various categories of local authority housing. In determining the level of assistance to be offered I have opted for the highest figure that I can justify. I fully realise that the money on offer will not enable some people to re-house themselves on a like for like basis. I would like to be in a position to offer sufficient assistance to people to replace their existing houses, but the reality is that I could not justify [560] spending taxpayers' money to do so. It is simply not possible to justify treating people who are homeless because of flooding differently from people who are homeless for any other reason.

Reference has also been made to the amount of insurance compensation to be taken into account in determining the net assistance to be paid to each householder. My proposals in this regard are also determined by the basic principle that each householder should be provided with sufficient funds to provide themselves with a house of local authority standard whether those funds comprise Government assistance or insurance compensation.

I have already made a number of concessions in relation to the insurance deduction in response to requests from the South Galway IFA and the South Galway Flood Victims Action Group. I have agreed that the vouched cost of loss adjusters' fees and any insurance money which has reasonably been spent on repairs to the existing house will not be deducted. While I have listened to the proposal of some Deputies suggesting that the insurance deduction be on a pro-rata basis, I regret I cannot agree to make this further concession as it ignores the basic principle underlying the scheme that everyone should be put in a position to rehouse themselves to local authority standard.

I cannot accept the criticism by Deputy Ó Cuív that the assistance being offered represents a penny pinching attitude by the State. I have already explained that in deciding on an appropriate cost for a local authority house I have selected a figure at the top of the range. I have added to this what are by any standards generous allowances for the purchase of a site, fees that people may incur and the demolition of existing houses. I have also agreed that the house owners may retain both the site of the house and any salvage they can recover from the house. Most reasonable people will agree that the scheme is a fair attempt to give people who have been traumatised by the flooding the [561] option of relocating and not having to live any longer in fear of a recurrence.

Deputy Kitt mentioned that demolishing their houses might present difficulties for some people. That provision in the scheme was included on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor to avoid cumbersome transfers of property that would be necessary before the Office of Public Works could demolish the houses. These transfers would delay the completion of the legal agreements necessary to allow payments to be made. I am anxious to avoid delays. However, if any specific individual has a difficulty, we will discuss the matter with them and make whatever adjustments are necessary. I am determined to see that payments will be issued within the shortest possible time after the enactment of this Bill.

I have received a number of suggestions in relation to the scheme from the South Galway Flood Victims Action Group and the IFA with a request that I meet with them to discuss them. Their suggestions are being examined in detail and I will be prepared to meet both groups to respond to them. I wish to make it clear, however, that the scheme which I circulated on 16 January was not a negotiating document but represented our considered proposals following extensive consultation and discussion. I will give careful consideration to these latest suggestions, but my priority now is to be able to implement the scheme and finalise our dealings with individual applicants at the earliest possible opportunity.

Deputy Treacy questioned the commitment of the Government to the Office of Public Works. I agree fully with Deputy Treacy and others who referred to the experience and professionalism of the Office of Public Works. The Government is fully committed to developing the Office of Public Works as a more streamlined and more sharply focused organisation, well equipped to concentrate on managing the Government's property portfolio and operating Government procurement policy. The introduction of this [562] Bill to underpin the functions and powers of the office is an eloquent testimony to that commitment.

Deputies Connaughton and Kitt asked for assurances that the necessary surveys in relation to the proposed flood relief scheme at Williamstown, County Galway would be allowed to proceed, despite the execution of work by some individuals during the Christmas period. I am happy to confirm that the design of the scheme and the necessary surveys are continuing and will be completed as quickly as possible. I expect, subject to it being possible to design an environmentally and economically viable scheme, which may be difficult, that work at Williamstown could commence later this year.

Several Deputies referred to the study of the unique problems of south Galway and possible solutions. I was surprised at Deputy Molloy's statement that the consultants' preliminary report was received with dismay in the area. The report which I received from the public meeting in Gort where the report was presented suggested that the consultants had demonstrated an excellent knowledge of both the area and the problems and had advanced some interesting and practical ideas about possible solutions.

It is clear that the basic causes of flooding in south Galway are sustained heavy rainfall and the inadequacy of the watercourses to carry it away quickly enough. It may be that at the end of the day drainage is the only solution. However, I am pleased that the consultants are also looking at other possibilities and look forward to reading their report. Deputy Molloy asked that I publish the report. It would be unwise for me to give a definite commitment before seeing the report, but my strong inclination is to publish the report unless there are some compelling reasons for not doing so in whole or in part. It was also suggested that the findings in the case of south Galway could be applied to other areas. The geology of the south Galway area is unique and the other areas where the report would [563] be directly applicable are likely to be limited. However, it is likely that some of the findings will be of wider relevance and significance.

Insurance companies were criticised during the debate. Deputies will appreciate that supervision of the insurance industry is outside my remit, but I will bring their remarks to the attention of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. Members referred to other matters, also outside my area of responsibility, which I will bring to the attention of the relevant Ministers.

A number of Deputies referred to the recent flooding in the south and south east, particularly in Wexford and south Tipperary. This flooding was caused by a number of factors. Exceptionally heavy and prolonged rainfall over the period from approximately 29 December 1995 to 14 January 1996, led to very high water levels in rivers which, combined with high winds and raised tide levels due to a severe low pressure system centred in the area, were the main causes of the extensive and unprecedented flooding.

I am aware from personal experience, following my visits to Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir, two areas which were particularly badly affected, of the extent of the hardship caused to families by the flooding of homes there. The Government is likewise conscious of the traumatising effect such flooding can have on individuals, particularly the elderly, and cannot but sympathise with the plight of the flooded victims. The Government recognises that individuals may require assistance from time to time to get them over particularly adverse circumstances and of their need to be treated on a humanitarian basis. I agree with Deputy Ahern that the trauma and other effects of flooding on people directly affected remains long after the semblance of normality has returned to the community in general.

Several Members commented favourably on the outcome of my visit to Brussels to seek humanitarian assistance for [564] the victims of this year's flooding and I thank them for their kind remarks. I appreciate the assistance of our MEPs from all parties in the matter. I have no doubt the fact that the European Parliament had, on its initiative, passed a motion calling for compensation for victims of flooding here and in Portugal was of considerable assistance in influencing the Commission in favour of our request.

I also pay tribute to Commissioner Flynn, his staff, our ambassador and permanent staff in Brussels, all of whom provided me with valuable assistance. We have not yet heard the result of this. The Commission recommended that a substantial payment should be paid to Ireland and Portugal, but as there is not a budget line to provide such funding it will be necessary for the Parliament and Commission to agree on moving moneys from another budget head into this area so that funds can be provided. I expect to have information in that regard in approximately a month's time.

When I receive that information consideration will be given to further humanitarian assistance from the Exchequer in the light of the provision which is expected from the European Union.

The Irish Red Cross Society supports the Government's application to the EU Commission for humanitarian assistance and stands ready to administer any funds which might be made available from EU or Exchequer sources. The society advises that as it may be some time before funds might come on stream, householders and others who suffered damage as a result of flooding and who intend to submit applications for humanitarian assistance, should ensure that they have sufficient evidence, photographic or otherwise, and adequate records of damages, cost estimates, etc., for examination by the society.

Deputies Nealon and Brennan referred to the problems of the Arrow and Owenmore river catchments. The major difficulty in that case was that the Office of Public Works was unable, [565] despite the co-operation of the local drainage committee, to devise an economically viable scheme. As I indicated in reply to a parliamentary question yesterday, areas within the catchment can and will be considered for localised flood relief schemes. While I cannot guarantee they will be at the top of the priority list which is to be drawn up shortly, I sympathise with both Deputies as flooding in that area has caused problems for many years.

Deputy Killeen also referred to the provision in the Bill whereby the Commissioners of Public Works will be empowered to demolish buildings or structures. He appeared to suggest that this power is excessive. There is no specific statutory provision whereby the commissioners are empowered to demolish buildings. Such powers would obviously be required, particularly in the context of the proposed home relocation scheme under which the commissioners may have to undertake or complete the demolition of flood damaged houses. Such powers would also be required from time to time in the exercise by the commissioners of their other powers and duties, such as site clearance for development of Government offices, Garda stations, etc. The commissioners would be, however, still bound by the full rigours of the planning laws and as such would be in a position no better or worse than any other developer or individual proposing to demolish a building.

Deputy Gallagher referred to the need for a co-ordinated response to the effects of flooding and similar catastrophic events. I agree wholeheartedly with him on that point. The House will recall that last year the Government established an interdepartmental committee, which I chair, for that purpose. Office of Public Works officials also maintain contact, as necessary, with local authorities and generally have a good working relationship with them.

When I went to Brussels to make the case for humanitarian assistance, I had available to me reports from all local authorities in the south and south east on the position in their respective areas. [566] I thank them for their quick response and for the excellent information they supplied.

Deputy Killeen expressed reservations about whether the proposed flood relief scheme in Sixmilebridge would be fully effective because of the tidal influence on the flooding problem there. While I do not intend to give hostages to fortune by saying flooding will never again occur in Sixmilebridge, whatever the weather, the tidal element has been taken into account in the design. I do not propose to make a specific provision in the home relocation scheme to provide that the residents of Sixmilebridge will be eligible at some point in the future if the works are not successful, and I am sure my successors, would, however, be sympathetic to their case in the unlikely event of that happening.

Deputy Browne inquired about the proposed flood relief scheme for Carlow. A preliminary design and report for a scheme for Carlow has been received from consultants and is being examined by the Commissioners of Public Works. It will be necessary to develop this design further before determining the extent of the works required to alleviate the flooding. Cost benefit analysis and environmental impact statements have also been commissioned and these reports will take some months to complete. All going well, it is envisaged that a scheme could be put on exhibition and, hopefully, work will commence later in the year. The Deputy also suggested that any scheme should start at the sea. That is not envisaged under the present scheme but the downstream effects of the work will be taken into account in its design.

Deputies Leonard and Boylan referred to the River Erne. In 1970 the commissioners prepared a scheme for the part of the Erne catchment lying within the State. That was not proceeded with at the time because of the high cost involved and there is no reason to believe that the economics of the scheme improved in the meantime, [567] particularly in the light of trends elsewhere. The implications of a scheme on the downstream reaches in Northern Ireland would also require careful consideration. That was not considered in the context of the EU funded cross-Border drainage programmes in the early and mid-1980s.

The Finn-Lackey tributaries were, however, considered at that time but after detailed consideration by the Commissioners of Public Works and their drainage counterparts in Northern Ireland, they were also rejected on economic grounds. However, individual areas within the Erne catchment area may be considered under the programme of works for localised flood relief and in drawing up our national priority list we shall bear that in mind.

I wish to pay a special tribute to the former director of engineering services in the Office of Public Works, Mr. Pierce Pigott who retired recently. Since I assumed office he has been of enormous help to me, showing boundless energy for a man of his years. In fact, I was astonished to hear he was retiring about one month ago. Mr. Piggott has been a most invaluable servant of this country and of the Office of Public Works and I wish him well in his retirement. I know he has many other interests and that his knowledge will not be lost as he has a Chair in the University of Ulster. He has left a gap in the Office of Public Works which will be difficult to fill. I also wish to thank the other officials, two of whom are with me in the Chamber, who have been of great assistance to me in dealing with drainage schemes in which I literally became immersed at short notice in the middle of last year.

I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate. I have tried to respond to most of the points raised but if there are any significant points I missed, I will be happy to respond directly to Deputies if they wish to contact me. I thank the Opposition parties in particular for their support for the Bill and I welcome their [568] assurances of co-operation to ensure its speedy passage through the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Coveney):  I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs pursuant to Standing Order 95 (1) and paragraph 1 of that Committee's Order of Reference.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

The main object of this Bill is to enable powers of attorney to operate when the donor of the power is, or is becoming, mentally incapable. It will enable people to provide in advance for the possibility that they may become incapable of managing their affairs by authorising a person or persons of their choice to act for them in that eventuality.

The need for legislation arises from the fact that under present law a power of attorney is automatically revoked when the donor becomes mentally incapable. This position, which developed under the common law, was obviously designed to protect a donor who had given a power of attorney to another on the basis that the donor would be able to supervise the conduct of that person in the operation of the power and to revoke the order if the person's conduct proved to be unsatisfactory. It offers no assistance, however, to a person who wishes to provide specifically for his or her affairs to be [569] managed on the onset of mental incapacity by someone in whom he or she has full confidence. Indeed, under present law the only possibility available is for such a person to be made a ward of court and that can be a lengthy and expensive process.

The solution proposed in the Bill is to provide for a power of attorney that will operate only when the donor is, or is becoming, mentally incapable. The advantage of this approach is that both parties to the new power of attorney — which is being called an enduring power of attorney — and also their advisers, are put on notice straightaway that the power is one that will be operated by the donee if and when the donor becomes mentally incapable and that it should therefore be granted only when the persons concerned have a full understanding of what it could involve for the management of the donor's property and affairs at that stage.

Accordingly, the Bill makes it a key requirement of an enduring power that the donor must intend the power to be effective notwithstanding any supervening mental incapacity of the donor. Section 5 (1) provides that the instrument creating the power must contain a statement by the donor to that effect. In addition, the power must comply with the other provisions of section 5 and with the regulations to be made under it.

These other provisions of the section contain further safeguards aimed at preventing as far as possible any abuses at the time an enduring power is created. For example, the donee of an enduring power, referred to in this Part of the Bill as the attorney, must be at least 18 and not be a bankrupt. In particular, the attorney must not be the owner of a nursing home in which the donor resides or an agent or employee of the owner, unless the attorney is a spouse, parent, child or sibling of the donor.

The main safeguards, however, will be contained in the regulations to be made under section 5. Subsection (2) of that section lists the various matters that [570] can be prescribed and the list gives a good indication of the kind of additional safeguards the regulations will provide. The first matter relates to the form of the enduring power. It is essential that such an important document should be in a prescribed form. Only in that way can it be reasonably ensured that enduring powers will be properly executed and contain fully adequate explanatory material as well as the various prescribed statements.

Another matter to be prescribed relates to the execution of the enduring power. An ordinary power of attorney does not require to be signed by the donee but it would be my intention to require that an enduring power should be so signed. The document creating the enduring power will also have to include adequate information about the effect of creating or accepting the power. This provision is complemented by a requirement that the document must also include a statement by the donor that the donor has read that information or has had it read to him or her.

Moreover, statements by a solicitor and doctor must be incorporated. The solicitor's statement must be to the effect that, having interviewed the donor and obtained any necessary reports, the solicitor is satisfied that the donor understands the effect of creating the power and is satisfied also that the solicitor has no reason to believe that the document is being executed as a result of fraud or undue pressure. A family solicitor would be particularly well placed to perform this function. The possibility is left open for a member of some other class of persons to make such a statement and I will certainly consider any suggestions that may be made in that regard. The doctor's statement will certify that the donor has the mental capacity, with the help of such explanations as may have been given, to understand the effect of creating the power.

The last safeguard to which I would like to refer is the requirement that the donor must give notice of the power to specified persons. It is important that [571] some relative of the donor should be made aware that an enduring power has been created and who has been appointed attorney under it. If relatives are told, as they have to be, of the execution of the power just before the attorney applies to the court, which may be a long time after the actual execution itself, to have the enduring power registered and brought into force, they are likely to become suspicious and may needlessly object to the registration. That has been the experience in other jurisdictions.

These are the safeguards proposed at the time an enduring power of attorney is being granted. It may be asked whether they are not too stringent and whether they could perhaps inhibit the creation of enduring powers. The answer, to my mind, is that, as in so many other cases, it is a question of striking a proper balance between, on the one hand, an over-complicated procedure and, on the other, the need to minimise possible abuse. Many enduring powers will be executed while persons, although lucid at the time, may be in the very early stages of declining mental capacity. They could be subjected to undue pressure and not fully appreciate that if they become mentally incapable the attorney could have more or less full authority in relation to the management and disposal of their assets.

The safeguards have a further advantage in that when the attorney applies to the court to have the power registered there should be little or no difficulty in having this done because the existence of the safeguards will minimise the possibility of relatives raising valid objections to the registration.

The registration procedure is an important element in the structure of the Bill. The enduring power will have no force or effect until it has been registered in the High Court by the Registrar of Wards of Court. However, once an application has been made for registration the attorney may take action under it to maintain the donor and the [572] attorney or other persons, so far as permitted. The attorney may also act to prevent loss to the donor's estate and may not apply for registration until the donor is, or is becoming, mentally incapable. Before doing so, the attorney must give notice of the application to various people who will have a period of five weeks within which to object to the proposed registration. These people will normally be the persons to whom notice of the execution of the enduring power was given in the first instance. If any of them have died in the meantime or are not otherwise contactable notice is to be given to relatives within the categories of relationships specified in the First Schedule.

Once registration has been effected the enduring power is of full force and effect and the donor can no longer revoke it unless the revocation is confirmed by the court. The donor cannot extend or restrict the scope of the authority conferred by the power but the court will have extensive powers over the exercise by an attorney of his or her functions. For example it may require an attorney to render accounts and produce records; it may give directions about the remuneration or expenses of an attorney, including directions for the repayment of excessive remuneration or the payment of additional remuneration, and it may also cancel the registration of an enduring power in various specified circumstances such as where the attorney proves to be unsuitable or where it is shown that fraud or undue pressure was used to induce the donor to grant the power. I should emphasise that these powers of the court can be invoked in a summary manner not only by the donor or attorney but also by any other interested party.

I have mentioned the importance of the powers that may be conferred on an attorney by an enduring power. Of course, a donor may wish to limit the extent of the powers. The Bill, in section 6, recognises this by providing that an enduring power may confer either a general or limited authority on the attorney and that in either case that [573] authority may be made subject to conditions and restrictions. However, the section goes on to provide for two over-riding limitations on the extent to which an attorney may benefit himself or herself or other persons. The first relates to the needs of the attorney and those other persons. In that case the attorney may meet those needs only if, and to the extent that, the donor might be expected to do so. The second limitation is concerned with gifts out of the donor's property to the attorney or other persons. These will be permissible only if the power specifically authorises the attorney to make such gifts and then only if they are seasonal gifts, or gifts on an anniversary, to persons related to or connected with the donor, or gifts to any charity to which the donor contributed or might be expected to contribute. The value of each gift must not be unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances and, in particular, the size of the estate. In both cases the enduring power itself may impose tighter restrictions and, if it does, they will prevail.

The power of an attorney to benefit himself or herself and others is obviously a very important one and, if abused, could reduce the value of the estate passing to the next-of-kin on the donor's death. The limitations in the Bill in this regard strike a reasonable balance, bearing in mind that the conduct of the attorney in this and other matters is subject to review by the court on the application of any interested party.

I have dealt thus far with Part II which relates to enduring powers and which breaks completely new ground. Part III, on the other hand, is concerned with the law governing powers of attorney generally, including enduring powers, and updates it in a number of respects. For example, section 15 abolishes the requirement that a power of attorney should be under seal and provides for a situation where a donor is physically unable to sign the power. In such a case the power will be valid if it is signed at the direction of the donor and in the donor's presence and that of [574] another person who must attest it as a witness.

Another feature of Part III is the provision of a simple statutory form of general power of attorney which, so long as it is expressed to be made under the Bill, will operate to confer on the donee or donees authority to do anything a donor may lawfully do by attorney. The form itself is set out in the Third Schedule and Deputies will see that it is very simple. It should be of practical value where the donor wishes to give general authority to the donee to act on the donor's behalf. Where the authority is to be confined to doing specified things, the form would be inappropriate but in those cases the limits of the power are usually easy to specify.

In preparing the legislation we have had the benefit of a Law Reform Commission report which has been of considerable assistance and which I gratefully acknowledge. We have also had the benefit of recent experience in other jurisdictions in relation to enduring powers. The Law Society has made a detailed submission on the Bill which contains a number of helpful suggestions for its amendment. Some of the suggestions were implemented during the passing of the Bill through the Seanad, but following a detailed discussion of the submission between representatives of the society and my Department I expect to table some further amendments when the Bill goes to the Select Committee.

I think the House will agree that this is a useful measure of reform which, if properly utilised, will relieve a great deal of anxiety among those elderly people who fear that their mental powers may be failing or who may have no such immediate fears but who wish to make sensible provision for such an eventuality. The Bill can be of benefit to young people too, for who can be sure nowadays that he or she will not be brain damaged in a traffic accident, as so many people have unfortunately been? The experience of other countries is that an increasing number of young people are drawing up an enduring [575] power of attorney at the same time as making a will. The main focus of the Bill will be on elderly people, many of whom are anxiously awaiting the enactment of the Bill so that they can proceed to execute an enduring power. I shall endeavour to have the detailed regulations prepared in time to enable the Bill to be brought into operation without delay.

I assure the House that I shall give most careful consideration to any suggestion Deputies may make in this debate for the improvement of the Bill and I will be prepared to move any such amendments when the Bill is being dealt with by the Select Committee.

I commend the Bill to the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.

Dr. Woods:  In welcoming the Bill I ask the Minister to make the procedures simple and inexpensive. This much needed social legislation will ease the difficulties which can occur in old age and, in particular, the problems of elderly people in the management and administration of their property and assets when they become mentally ill. It broadly reflects the proposals of the Law Reform Commission in its Second Report on Land Law and Conveyancing Law, with particular emphasis on enduring powers of attorneys. It is a reasonable response to the recommendations of the commissioners, although it contains the inadequate provisions. I will refer to these later.

At present there is no way in which a person can privately arrange in advance to give a relative or friend authority to handle his or her affairs if he or she becomes incapable at a later date. The only mechanism is for the person to be made a ward of court. This can cause stress for the family, it is expensive and results in that person's financial affairs being managed by the court or court officials. The Bill provides for an enduring power of attorney which can be acted upon later if the person becomes mentally incapable.

The legislation governing wards of [576] courts is ancient and totally unsuited to the needs of modern families and the society in which we live. Framed in the last century as the Lunacy Regulations (Ireland) Act, 1871, it has been supplemented by rules developed by the superior courts. Approximately one third of the wards of court suffer from senile dementia or other illnesses which affect their mental capacity to look after their affairs. We want to provide in the Bill for a more humane, compassionate and efficient system of caring for the elderly and other people who are no longer able to manage their affairs. We also want as far as possible to leave this to the family or specific friends through the creation of an enduring power of attorney. We want to privatise the arrangements and reduce the need for resort to the court. The system which results from the Bill must be simpler, less expensive and readily available. It is not enough to change the law, we must also change the package. We want to ensure that not only the law but also the administrative processes serve the elderly, the infirm and those who want to make sensible arrangements for their advancing years and their families who want to support them.

The Bill provides that applications for registration must be made to the High Court. This will make enduring powers of attorney prohibitively expensive. If there is to be a court application, it should be on appeal from the Registrar of Wards of Court to the President of the High Court. A court application is not necessary in the first instance. An application to the Registrar of Wards of Court should be sufficient.

It can be expected that numbers participating in enduring powers of attorney will greatly increase over those who avail of wards of court proceedings at present. Many who fear or suspect the onset of mental infirmity, Alzheimer's disease or senile dementia will want to protect their property and assets. This facility should be inexpensively and locally available. The Minister should consider a simple and inexpensive registration process with an appeal to the [577] Circuit Court. Every county has a registrar, and the Circuit Court sits in every area. An appeal to the High Court would still be available for the rare cases in which it will be needed. Seven new Circuit Court judges are being appointed at present, together with new facilities. The enduring powers of attorney could fit well into this new system. This is something we can discuss further on Committee Stage.

Every one of us has experienced in our constituencies, and some in a ministerial capacity, the severe difficulties faced by families, communities and financial institutions in dealing with the onset of mental infirmity such as Alzheimer's disease or senile dementia. How often have we come across distraught family members who are having difficulties catering for aged parents, whose money or assets are tied up and who, because of their growing mental infirmity, are unable to deal with their property. Because of the antiquated laws governing property, their children have no power to intervene.

Many people believed it was sufficient for a parent to exercise a power of attorney in favour of a family member, and that once the person became incapacitated the appointed attorney could act in their name. I understand that even some lawyers and bank managers thought they could operate on that basis. This is not the case. The reality of a power of attorney is that it was commonly created to cover a situation where a person was going abroad, or for a specific purpose, and it was revoked automatically on the insanity or mental infirmity of the person making it.

Let us look at the law in this area. The rules governing powers of attorney originated in the common law. While there was some statutory recognition of them in the Conveyancing Act, 1881, these have not been adapted to contemporary circumstances. People who wished to make provision for the administration and management of their affairs in old age or in mental infirmity were unable to cater for that possibility. [578] No matter how much or how little property was involved, the person had to hope that they would be made a ward of court if that became necessary. The rules which govern wardship are set out in the Lunacy Regulations (Ireland) Act, 1871 reflecting the creation of another age, another era and another jurisdiction.

In Ireland there are up to 25,000 people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This number is bound to increase with the ageing population. In 1991, 27,900 people were referred to the psychiatric services arising out of some form of mental illness.

The Wards of Court Office has on hands approximately 2,000 cases of which about 30 per cent involve people suffering from senile dementia or other illness which has been found under the present rules to affect their capacity to look after their affairs.

Not all of those suffering from one form of mental infirmity or another have property. Yet the problems associated with wardship, including the stigma of a formal finding of incapacity, i.e. lunacy as defined in the Act, and the procedures and expense involved, have led to a situation where the affairs of a great number of people have not been and are not being attended to properly. Consequently this legislation is very important.

Fianna Fáil welcome the fact that the Bill will enable any person to make provision while of sound mind for the administration and management of their affairs if they should lapse into dementia in the future. One has to be careful to ensure that any proposal that allows another person to deal with the property of somebody whose mind disimproves contains sufficient safeguards to protect that property and the rights of the owner.

The Law Reform Commission, having examined the position in Ireland and reviewed the law and the findings of similar bodies in other jurisdictions, made 19 main recommendations which are summarised in their report. I am not certain that the Bill makes provision for [579] all of these recommendations and I would be interested to know why the Minister, given the non-confrontational nature of the legislation, has not gone along with all of the proposals.

I am also concerned that in drafting the legislation the Minister, while defining an enduring power of attorney, has given in to the temptation of not specifying in the legislation important matters regarding their form and execution. Neither has he specified the information to be contained in any document creating an enduring power, dealt with the necessity to produce professional evidence in support of the granting of the power, dealt with the manner of the attestation of signatures, the number of attorneys that may be appointed or, finally, the giving of notice of the execution of the power.

He appears to do all these things in section 5 of the Bill but, in fact, subsection (2) merely allows the Minister to make provision — it is not mandatory — in respect of these matters. I see no reason that the legislation should not now set out the requirements so that the Oireachtas can debate them in the overall context of the legislation and not attempt to deal with them when regulations might be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course. The Minister has spelt out some of the safeguards here. Obviously he intends to put the safeguards into regulations in due course. However, we believe it is important that the Minister should put the principle safeguards into the legislation, giving himself power to add further safeguards if that is subsequently found to be necessary.

The enduring power of attorney entitles the donor to appoint one or more people to regulate their affairs at some time in the future when the donor has suffered a mental incapacity. I would like to draw a broad analogy between it and a will. An enduring power of attorney speaks during the lifetime of the donor in dealing with the [580] donor's property in certain circumstances. A will speaks from the testator's date of death. Equally, and definitively, it deals with the deceased donor's property. All the formalities governing the form, execution, content and effect of a will are set out in the Succession Act, 1965, which the late Brian Lenihan steered through these Houses. If the Succession Act which deals conclusively with the ultimate and final disposal of property is able to contain all relevant provisions regarding its subject matter why cannot the Powers of Attorney Bill do likewise?

Will the Minister require that the relevant document contains the following safeguards:

(i) a statement that the donor is aware of the effect of creating the power;

The Minister in his speech has indicated that it will.

(ii) a statement by a solicitor that he or she is satisfied the donor understands the effect of creating the power and it is not being executed under undue influence;

(iii) a statement by a medical practitioner that the donor had the mental capacity at the relevant time to execute the document or,

(iv) a statement by the attorney that he understands the obligation to register the power?

The Minister in his speech, as distinct from the Bill, has indicated that he intends to cover these areas. We would welcome that. We can look at this more closely on Committee Stage. Will the Minister require the document to be in a particular form or executed in the presence of one, two or three witnesses?

Why are these matters being left to possible future regulations? The relevant provision in section 5 (2) states: “the Minister may make provision”, not “the Minister shall make provision”. Why not include the requirements of these basic, central and fundamental matters in the Bill? I believe these are [581] essential requirements to protect the donor and indeed his or her dependants, but why leave it to the future? The Minister should amend section 5 by setting out the requirements to give effect to a valid, enduring power of Attorney.

The Law Reform Commission stated that the introduction of too many formalities could “(i) discourage people from creating enduring powers of attorney and (ii) result in many enduring powers of attorney being invalid on technicalities”. I agree, but given that there have to be formalities they should be specified in the legislation and not left to future additional regulations. There is a practical compromise in this regard in that the principal safeguards and formalities can be set out in the Bill leaving the Minister the power to add to them where this is found necessary in practice.

My final point on section 5 is whether the Minister is satisfied that he adequately identified in subsection (3) the classes of people who should not act, for example, a minor, a bankrupt or the owner of a nursing home in which the donor resides? Should not persons convicted of certain criminal offences be excluded or indeed a person who have been disqualified from acting as a director of a company? Again these are matters which can be taken up on Committee Stage and the Minister might look further at them between now and then.

Section 6, in dealing with the general authority an enduring power may give to the attorney, sets out certain parameters, but is silent as to a standard or obligation to be imposed on the attorney. I stated previously that there should not be too many formalities imposed on the creation of an enduring power, and in the context of obligations I believe we have to be careful not to be too onerous. However, is there any reason not to make a positive statement in the legislation by providing that the attorney must act in good faith? I accept the Law Reform Commission's views that such a duty is sufficiently reasonable and a practicable one to impose on an attorney.

[582] Sections 7 and 8 of the Bill set out the circumstances governing the coming into force and survival of the enduring powers of attorney and are not contentious. I might look at them more closely on Committee Stage. I accept in principle the necessity to allow the court, as provided in section 8, to exercise the actual powers set out in the document before it is registered where the court is of the opinion it is necessary to do so.

Sections 9, 10 and 11 deal with the registration of the enduring power, which arises when it appears the donor is becoming mentally incapable, and with the effect of registration. They encompass more detailed provisions as set out in the First Schedule, regarding the parties to be notified of the intended registration and the contents of any prescribed notices. The general thrust of these requirements is acceptable, but why can the form of any such notice not be prescribed in the legislation and not left to regulations to be prescribed at some time in the future?

This Bill has been awaited a long time. However, it appears to me even when it is passed by the Oireachtas it will not become operative as section 1 (1) states it will only come into force, and even then maybe only certain sections of it, when the Minister shall so appoint by order. In light of the regulations referred to in section 5 and the First Schedule, the Minister may well make an order purporting to bring it into force, but that may not realistically happen until yet a further Statutory Instrument issues.

The powers granted to the court to supervise the operation and functioning of the power are broadly welcome. Where disputes arise, the High Court is the relevant jurisdiction. Is there not a case for empowering the Circuit Court to deal with many if not all the matters governed by the Bill? We are dealing with the control, management and supervision of the property of a person during his or her lifetime. Under recent family law legislation the disposal and application of property is largely now vested in the Circuit Court which has [583] been granted extensive powers to consider an abuse of a dominant position in competition law. If the Circuit Court can be required to deal with such matters why not with the enduring powers of attorney, especially in cases where the value of the assets of the donor can be shown to be relatively modest? I do not wish to impose further on the Circuit Court, given its existing limited resources, but, equally, given the Government's continual promises to reform and radically alter and improve the courts and court structures, I suggest the Circuit Court could easily exercise some of the supervisory functions contained in the Bill if given sufficient resources to do so. This would also reduce considerably the costs incurred by all relevant parties, and in cases which come before the court it is likely that the costs will be awarded out of the estate of the donor and these would be considerably reduced if it were a Circuit Court matter.

The final sections 13 and 14 which also encompass the Schedule governing the relationship between the attorney and third parties and the application of the Bill to joint and several attorneys are broadly in order and in line with the Law Reform Commission recommendations. However, in the event of the actual instrument appointing two or more persons as attorney, remaining silent as to whether they act jointly or severally then there should be a positive statement that the Bill will presume they act and are appointed jointly. The Bill should clarify this point and not leave a possible vacuum.

Part III of the Bill which purports to amend and codify some of the general law governing powers of attorney appear to me, subject to what the Minister may say, not to do so as comprehensively as he intended. The explanatory memorandum issued with the Bill states that a power of Attorney is defined in section 15. It is not. There is a definition in section 2 (1), is that what the Minister intended and refers to in the memorandum?

[584] The memorandum also states that this section requires the power to be signed by a donee. I cannot see why that is the case. None of the three subsections contains any such requirement. The memorandum refers to subsection (4) when in fact there are only three. Was one left out in the printing block, or earlier on the drafting table?

Section 16 assists the point I made earlier about the nature of the enactment. It provides that if the form of a general power is in the form as set out in the Third Schedule, or one like it, it shall operate to confirm certain authority on the donor. The Minister has provided a specimen form, simple though it may be. Why could he not similarly set out a specimen form of enduring power of attorney in the First Schedule?

The following sections in Part III which generally tidy up, amend or extend the Conveyancing Act procedures and requirements, appear to be necessary and are acceptable subject to a closer scrutiny on Committee Stage.

As mentioned at the outset, we welcome the Bill, but there are some outstanding questions the Minister might deal with and clarify. The Bill deals with property. Under the wards of court procedures, which it is largely intended to replace in respect of the aged and mentally incapable — although it will of course be retained for other purposes — the President of the High Court exercises ultimate power and responsibility over the care being given to a ward. Does the Minister intend that the donee or Attorney can make decisions as to the welfare and care of the donor? Will the donee, whether he or she is a family member, decide whether the incapacitated person goes into one nursing home or another? Does he intend to leave it, as at present, that in some instances a family may decide what steps need to be taken and in other cases a more dominant member of the family makes the decision? These questions also touch on the form of guardianship. Does the Minister intend to deal with any of these points?

[585] This is important and overdue legislation. It will benefit a great many citizens, perhaps hundreds of thousands, because it will apply far more widely than the wards of court legislation. It will provide great peace of mind to many elderly people and people who fear the onset of mental incapacity. We welcome the Bill and will assist in giving it a speedy passage through the Oireachtas. We congratulate the Minister on bringing the Bill forward and assure him of our full support on its further stages.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Bill is worth-while and the need for it has long been recognised. I hope the recognition of enduring powers of attorney in the law does not detract from the protection now afforded by the courts to persons of unsound mind. I hope, therefore, that it does not in any sense excuse people completely from the protective power of the courts in wardship cases.

What I have in mind, in particular, is that it is possible to appoint a person as an attorney under the enduring power of attorney, who thereafter makes dubious decisions about one's estate. If the only persons concerned about your affairs are you and your attorney, as there are no relatives or other close connections to keep an eye on the attorney's activities, there might be an inadequacy of supervision. Will the Minister bear this in mind in progressing this legislation?

The wardship jurisdiction is not entirely without merit. It is cumbersome and perhaps old fashioned, but the idea that somebody who is incapable of managing his own affairs should have an absolutely impartial and uninterested supervisory body administering his affairs in future seems preferable to one in which an arrangement is made when somebody is in his 50s — say, in respect of a brother, sister, son or nephew — and 20 years later on, improvident decisions are made when nobody is there to intervene, there are no warning signals of any kind and nobody would know what is going on.

[586] What worries me about the enduring power of attorney is that I am not quite clear whether there is a red warning light mechanism that will indicate if something untoward is done. If people create enduring powers of attorney perhaps that is the risk they take on. However, the wardship jurisdiction has a value and people exercising enduring powers of attorney should have a positive duty to account at all times. I hope the Bill is strong enough to achieve that.

I also note that section 5 (6) might be amended to take account of the fact that following the High Court decision today, we now have a divorce jurisdiction. The provisions of that section should reflect dissolutions of marriage as well as domestic judicial separation orders and foreign divorces.

When the Minister replies to this debate will he deal with the issue that an enduring power of attorney is not effective until such time as it has been registered. It occurs to me that it might be possible in some circumstances for somebody to want to make an ordinary power of attorney capable of being turned into an enduring power of attorney. In other words, the instrument might operate during a period when a person is fully in command of his faculties and be designed to be extended after he lost his mental faculties. I wonder whether the provision to the effect that an enduring power of attorney shall not be effective until it is registered, is apt to deal with situations where one instrument is designed to deal both with ordinary powers of attorney and enduring powers of attorney? Is there a way to deal with that?

Deputy Woods asked whether there was a way to make this simpler. At present, whereas everyone wants to put all decisions, especially judicial ones, into the court of lowest competent jurisdiction in order to avoid costs — and no lawyer should be heard to say anything else — it is equally desirable to have a single central register of enduring powers of attorney. By consulting one register somebody could work out whether [587] such a power of attorney exists. It would be a mistake to have regional or local registers which would complicate life a good deal. I do not know whether what Deputy Woods said about the powers of the Circuit Court could be married to the proposition that there should be a single register as well.

I do not intend to speak at great length on this stage. I want to consider in detail the need for any amendments to the Bill but that can more properly be done on Committee Stage. The principle of the Bill is admirable and subject to providing adequate safeguards and making whatever amendments we can to improve the Bill, my party gives it its wholehearted support.

Debate adjourned.

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Flood:  I congratulate Deputy O'Donoghue on bringing forward this timely legislation and appreciate that the Government has accepted it. It speaks well of the House that parties co-operate in this fashion and follows the tradition properly established by Fianna Fáil.

The Bill is crucially important. If we are to make appreciable progress in the fight against drug abuse we must be prepared to surrender some of our freedom and put up with the inconvenience caused by the operation of this legislation. As a society we should be prepared to make such sacrifices. In our fight against drug abuse, we can seek to reduce supply and demand. The drug godfathers and pushers must be hit hard. This can be done by seizing assets and imposing long jail sentences without remission. Drug abuse is playing havoc with young people's lives and pushers [588] must pay the price. No country acting alone can fight this menace. We must co-operate with our EU partners and drug producing countries in an organised and formal way. Recent large drug seizures make us aware that many drugs are smuggled into the country undetected. It is estimated that seizures represent 10 per cent of the total amount of drugs imported into this country. We must amend the law. Part I of the Bill deals with detention after arrest. There is a serious problem with “stuffers” and “swallowers” who import drugs at the various points of entry to the State. I am glad the Deputy deals with that issue.

If we wish to reduce the demand for drugs we must educate our children from the earliest age, in the home and at school, against the misuse of drugs. We must be prepared to speak out about it, name and show the drugs to young people and encourage them to say “no” when they are offered them. For many that first time use of drugs leads to tragedy.

We must deal with socially deprived areas. I am not saying that drug abuse is confined to such areas but in some urban areas there is a great problem with drug abuse. We must adequately resource schools in such areas and provide recreational, employment and training facilities. The Garda must continue to work and develop relationships in those communities and help the people in their fight against drug abuse.

We do not have proper treatment facilities, residential places or day care facilities in terms of methadone treatment and counselling. Addicts must go on waiting lists and queue for long periods at clinics. That is not the way to tackle the problem. Society must be prepared to pay for services. At the end of the day drug abuse leads to an appalling level of crime. If we were in a position to remove drugs from society we would dramatically reduce the level of crime.

Mr. Ring:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Boylan. I compliment Deputy O'Donoghue for bringing in this Bill. Hopefully the Government will [589] bring forward its Bill in the near future. Drug abuse is no longer an urban problem. Drugs are now available in every town and village in the country and it is time to take on the drug barons. There is nothing worse than to see young people taking drugs. Last year there were a number of drug seizures with major finds in Galway and Clare. When we take over the EU Presidency I ask the Taoiseach to make tackling drug abuse a major issue.

Last year I suggested in the House, at county council and urban council level, that the Garda should have check points along the Connacht border. I was told that was not possible. Now such checkpoints have been put in place and they have worked. It proved to criminals that the Garda are serious and reassured the elderly.

The lighthouses around our coasts are empty. We have community and neighbourhood watch schemes. Why not have a lighthouse watch manned by the unemployed? They could watch the coastline and observe ships plying the seas. The Government could pay them to do this and it would be well worth it if it prevented the importation of drugs. I ask the Minister to raise at Government level the question of coastal policing. It is a serious proposal that should be considered. The Naval Service does a good job policing our coast but it has enough to do in protecting the rights of our fishermen from the Spaniards and others who cull and rob fish, depriving our fishermen of their livelihood. I call on the Minister to request the Garda and the Army, whose people are trained to use guns, to work together to tackle the drugs problem. Much time is wasted by the Garda Síochána collecting fines. The courts should work in conjunction with the Department of Social Welfare to ensure fines are paid, perhaps on a weekly basis. It is not the job of the Garda Síochána to collect fines; its job is to protect the people.

I welcome this Bill and hope the Government introduces its Bill soon. The greatest problem facing the country is drugs. The people to blame are those [590] who bring drugs into the country. The place for them is Spike Island or some other such place. These people must be dealt with immediately.

Mr. Boylan:  I thank Deputy Ring for sharing time with me. I wish to share my time with Deputy Derek McDowell.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sure that is satisfactory.

Mr. Boylan:  It is not often I support the Opposition but I commend Deputy O'Donoghue for introducing this important Bill. The root of the drugs problem is drug trafficking. Effective measures must be introduced to deal with drug barons or drug lords, as they are described. It is of great frustration to the Garda and annoyance to many people that lenient sentences are meted out to these people. The excuse has been given that there is no legislation to deal with them. There is sufficient legislation in place but it is improperly applied. I call on Judges at District Court and Circuit Court level to hand down the maximum sentences in these cases. Curtailing sentences for good behaviour and imposing concurrent sentences on persons who have committed a number of crimes is unacceptable. The penalty must fit the crime and the people involved must be put away for a sufficient period so that they learn a lesson. The Garda has sufficient information on drug barons and with the support of the courts it can succeed in taking these people off the streets.

That is not the full solution to the problem. It is very easy to blame the Garda and those in authority, but in many cases parents do not act responsibly. It is unacceptable that children of nine, ten and 11 years are allowed to attend discos unsupervised. There are many good parents but unfortunately there are many who do not meet their responsibilities. Children up to the age of 16 or 17 years need supervision. Parents have come to me complaining that the gardaí or proprietors of certain venues are not doing their job properly, [591] but in many cases it is the parents who are not doing their job. They should control their children and teach them about the dangers of drug abuse as well as alcohol abuse and smoking. That would curtail the problem to the extent that drug dealers would not have such a big market for drugs.

I was amazed to read in today's newspaper that children of six or seven years are subjected to sunbed treatment by their parents so that they will have a tan on their Communion day. To subject children to such treatment is outrageous. They are at risk of getting cancer because of the irresponsible actions of their parents, who should be ashamed of themselves. If in future I see a child with a suntan I will tell the parents to get their act together and be more responsible. It is unacceptable for parents to blame those in authority for their children's drink or drugs problems. It is time parents took their responsibilities seriously. It is easy to blame the Garda and the Minister for Justice. With the support of the courts the Garda can succeed in tackling the drugs problem, but judges must hand down sentences that fit the crime.

Mr. D. McDowell:  I wish to share the remaining time with Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sure that is satisfactory.

Mr. D. McDowell:  My constituency colleague, Deputy Callely, is in the House and I have always remarked that he tans very well. From Deputy Boylan's revelations the explanation is clear. It must have a great deal to do with what happened around the time of his Confimation.

I commend Deputy O'Donoghue for bringing this Bill before the House. It addresses many useful points and gives us an opportunity to consider the problem of drug trafficking and drug use. I am concerned at some of the contributions on this matter, particularly [592] those which concentrated on the drug issue as if it were purely a criminal justice issue. There is a criminal side to the problem and people who traffic in drugs must be put away as quickly as possible, for as long as possible and as effectively as possible. To achieve that we have a duty to marshal the forces of the State, the Army, the Naval Service, Customs and Excise and the Revenue Commissioners.

There is, however, another side to the problem which perhaps is less sexy in terms of soundbites, but which must be the subject of detailed study and on which money must be spent. For many communities in Dublin the phrase “drugs crisis” has a hollow ring to it. There are communities, including some in my constituency, who have experienced a drugs problem since the early 1980s. For them the current drugs problem is not a crisis or a temporary explosion; it is a problem that has existed for a long time and for which there are no quick fix solutions. Their experience has shown us that any attempt to address the structural problem of long-term chronic drug abuse must take place on several different levels. The health and education services must play a central role in what we are trying to achieve. Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill, and measures like it, fail to give an overall view of what we must do. It perpetuates the belief that the drugs problem can be addressed only by increased security measures. The Bill deals entirely with supply reduction. Deputy O'Donoghue is to be commended for the effort he put into preparing this Bill, but the Government's forthcoming criminal justice Bill which will deal with trafficking is probably a better means of bringing into effect more comprehensive laws to deal with this area.

Legislation is only one facet of the fight against drug dealers. Despite Opposition claims that the Minister for Justice has been slow to respond to this [593] issue, any objective analysis would suggest the contrary. She is to be commended on the reforms she implemented to tackle drug barons.

I hope the recently signed memorandum of understanding between the Garda and Customs and Excise and the joint task force to be established on foot of this will be an important operational reform that will co-ordinate the efforts of both services. Deputies and the general public have been concerned by reports that those two elements of the State apparatus have not been pulling in the same direction at the same time. I hope that memorandum will clear up any misunderstanding there may have been in the past.

The establishment of a Garda national drugs unit and the additional powers to be granted to the Naval Service will help to combat drug trafficking at sea. They are commendable measures and, as part of an overall package, I hope they will be effective.

Along with those measures the Minister for Justice indicated a report on the level of co-operation between the Garda and the Revenue Commissioners will be submitted soon. That is welcome, overdue and I hope it will help the Revenue Commissioners pursue thugs who live lavish lifestyles on foot of their earnings. Nothing galls the public more than people enjoying lavish lifestyles paid for out of criminal earnings and drawing the dole.

The issue of bail has exercised the minds of the public during recent weeks. I am on record as changing my mind on this issue. People involved in drug trafficking or drug abuse who are brought before the courts, and have no obvious means of feeding their habit other than by crime, should be refused bail by the judge. Judges should be allowed that discretion where there is an overwhelming likelihood that an offender will commit crime while on bail and, if necessary, the Constitution should be amended in a carefully delineated fashion to make that possible.

I welcome the Minister's announcement about prison places. The transfer [594] of paramilitary prisoners to Castlerea will provide an additional 105 prison places in Portlaoise. That measure, together with the planned refurbishment of Mountjoy Prison, Limerick Prison and the Curragh Detention Unit, will bring on stream an extra 223 prison places this year. This use of our prison facilities demonstrates the Government's commitment to tackling the revolving door syndrome, a practice that sickens many people outside this House and has bedevilled our criminal justice system for a long time.

I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I wonder whether a system which allows the Minister, on foot of a recommendation from the governor of Mountjoy Prison, to effectively negate a judicial decision within hours of it being made could be open to constitutional challenge. It would seem to be a straightforward clash between the Executive making a decision which overturns one made by the Judiciary.

While I welcome the provision of additional prison places, I urge the Minister to pay particular attention to the recent report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which details some serious breaches of discipline by certain members of the Garda and prison service. I accept those incidents are not widespread and I do not want to give the impression that they are typical of the behaviour of members of those services. Nonetheless, I am disturbed that disciplinary action has not been taken following those incidents. The Minister would be well advised to consider the opinion of the governor of Limerick Prison who stated that the lack of any sanctions in these cases led a small minority of prison officers to believe they are invincible and immune from any instruction from management. That is a cause of concern and cannot be tolerated in the prison system. I urge the Minister to examine measures to prevent that situation developing, particularly in new facilities that will be brought on stream during the next 18 months or so.

[595] These legislative and administrative reforms are part of the Government's overall package to tackle the drugs problem. They are important and I hope they will be effective. They draw on a wealth of research produced by professionals dealing with the drugs problem here. To complement this research it would be helpful if the Minister or a committee of this House were to examine the experience of some of our European partners who implemented other policies designed to tackle chronic drug abuse.

In some countries a distinction has been drawn between so-called hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, and other substances which have a less devastating personal and social effect. It is ironic and bizarre that we find the use and abuse of alcohol socially acceptable while we condemn and insist on legal sanctions against drugs which appear less personally or sociably damaging. The distinction made in other countries has allowed the authorities there to concentrate their efforts on the pursuit of individuals and gangs involved in the hard drugs trade. It would be of value to this debate to ascertain what effect those measures have had in other jurisdictions.

Any strategy to tackle the drugs problem here cannot rely solely on supply reduction measures. The grip drug abuse has on sections of our society has produced many victims. Foremost among those are the thousands of people whose young lives have been blighted by the tragedy of chronic drug addiction. Any policy that treats those people soley as criminals and incarcerates them in prison for drug use where, despite the best efforts of the prison authorities, drugs are freely available is destined to failure. The resources of the Departments of Health and Education must be channelled into helping those who are chronically addicted to opiates and other substances.

The State must make serious inroads into reducing the demand for addictive drugs. The scale of the problem and the [596] misery associated with it are so serious that resources must be invested in treatment and rehabilitation programmes. Currently the drug satellite clinics run by the Eastern Health Board at Baggot Street, Ballyfermot and Amiens Street, together with the drug treatment centre in Pearse Street and the Merchants Quay project, have substantial waiting lists. The services provided by those centres, such as methadone maintenance, needle exchange, HIV testing and counselling, are vital in tackling the drugs problem. The waiting lists for those facilities must be reduced considerably and the remit of those centres widened to treat young people who, although not currently taking opiates intravenously, wish to undergo addiction treatment.

The extension of the current number of drug satellite clinics is central to this programme. As a Deputy representing an urban constituency, I understand the concerns of many people who react with shock when they hear such a clinic will be situated near where they live. Most of this concern revolves around the belief that their locality will become a Mecca for drug users from all over the city. It is essential that the health boards co-ordinate and synchronise the establishment of such clinics. That would enable local residents to know the number of people who would use such clinics and the exact catchment area such a clinic would be designed to serve.

Satellite clinics must have the support of community drug teams. Such teams operate at community level in identifying the extent of the drug addiction problem, establishing a relationship between the individual drug addict and treatment services and monitoring the drug addict after treatment. They can use the skills of trained professionals, such as Outreach workers, juvenile liaison officers and social workers to address the needs of those who want to come off addictive drugs. Currently there is a lack of such a system. In my constituency a local youth project, that does not receive adequate resources, is [597] providing such a service to the best of its ability.

If we are serious in our efforts to tackle it this intolerable situation cannot be allowed to continue. The drugs trade is a nasty business, motivated by greed, sustained by poverty and controlled by fear. It is vital that the anger generated within the community at this scourge does not cloud our judgment. Though they may help in its resolution, measures such as those included in this Bill will not solve this complex problem. While additional powers may assist the authorities in their battle against drug barons the real fight against drugs must take place within our communities and include the treatment and rehabilitation of those addicted to drugs. It must involve treating drug addicts not solely as criminals but as patients suffering from a chronic disease.

Only when strategies along these lines are in place, properly funded, can we hope to prevent a new generation of young people falling into the living hell of chronic drug addiction.

Kathleen Lynch:  Members' contributions to this debate over the past week or so — to which I have listened — are an indication of the diverging views held on the misuse of drugs as it relates to crime, any two being totally different. I predict that mine will fall midway.

Judging from the comments over the past week on the upsurge of crime we should be very worried at people's perception of its solution, if not their perception of the problem itself, as some solutions advocated are very dangerous and worrying. Legislation enacted in times of crisis leaves behind a residual problem far greater than the original it set out to tackle.

Last evening an elderly farmer was gunned down in Stephenstown, Rosegreen, Cashel, County Tipperary, not that far from where I live, while his wife and daughter were tied up in another room. Last night's outrage was the latest in a series of atrocities which has stunned the public and caused people [598] inside and outside the House to search frantically for answers, many of which ventilated over the past couple of weeks were simplistic and, in some cases, downright dangerous. Deputy O'Donoghue made a valuable contribution to the current debate in introducing this Bill.

I should like to deal with the more extreme statements made by some public representatives in recent weeks from which no doubt Deputy O'Donoghue and other Members who have contributed to this debate will distance themselves. I do not believe that the rising rate of crime, or levels of violent crime, will be solved through the reintroduction of birching, flogging or hanging, remedies advocated over the last few weeks by people who should know better and who, when they make such statements, should be fully aware they will be noted.

I do not believe that prison should be viewed as a place of containment rather than rehabilitation or that arbitrary preventative detention is the answer. If that is what we believe, we might as well all hang up our hats, turn out the lights and go home. I do not believe either, as one of my colleagues on Cork Corporation said, that the simple provision of three square meals a day amounts to a life of luxury for prisoners. His solution on how we should treat prisoners was to cut down on one of their meals. I have never yet seen a prisoner refuse to leave prison because life outside was much worse; prisons are not luxury hotels. I invite anybody who believes they are to visit them.

Many statements made by those jumping on the crime bandwagon in recent weeks have been reminiscent of the type of rhetoric engaged in at a Tory Party Conference before the main act; those who do not join in the general chorus of “hang them all” are automatically labelled as soft on crime, which is why it is very difficult to raise one's voice from time to time.

I want to make it quite clear that Democratic Left is not soft on crime or its causes, a fundamental difference. We [599] are not soft on the social disintegration that has marginalised whole communities and helped foment the type of urban restlessness witnessed last Hallowe'en. Neither are we soft on sentencing policy which at times appears to be arbitrary, or on a temporary release policy which allows convicted criminals out of prison having served just a few months to make room for more convicted prisoners who, in turn, will be released early, thus making room for more. The sentence should fit the crime, be served in its totality and, whenever temporary release is considered, should form part of a rehabilitation package rather than a convenient instrument deployed by the Department of Justice to relieve pressure on prison places.

Once again, I urge the Minister to examine the establistment of a parole board promised in the programme, A Government of Renewal.

The attitude of Democratic Left to drugs is similar to that outlined by Deputy Derek McDowell, 80 per cent of so-called petty crime is thought to be drug-related — muggings, handbag snatchings, opportunistic break-ins, while deemed petty, are anything but petty in the eyes of their victims. Anybody who has been mugged, burgled or terrorised while walking along the street will be appalled at being treated as a mere petty crime statistic. Equally, those who commit such crimes should be pursued with the full rigour of the law. After due consideration, if it is felt that the law in this area needs to be strengthened, so be it.

We need to catch drug addicts at the beginning of their abusing cycle, which is where the knee-jerk reaction comes into play. Some statements lead one to believe the present crime rate is a product of last week's mismanagement whereas it is a product of mismanagement over decades.

We need to be extremely careful about any legislation we introduce in this area; sometimes quick-fix solutions can leave problems in their wake that can remain long after this or any other [600] serious crime wave will have been reduced to no more than a headline.

Mr. Callely:  I would like to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Mr. Callely:  I congratulate my colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, on having introduced this Bill, when he may have felt somewhat like a drug pusher, wondering how he could get an Opposition Bill accepted; how far could he go in putting the rainbow Government on the spot, what measures would they accept? Given the opportunity, I have no doubt that Deputy O'Donoghue would have drafted even tougher provisions for presentation to the House. I support the view that we should be tough in the overall fight against misuse of drugs. This crime wave has not resulted within the short space of time to which Deputy Kathleen Lynch referred; all Members are aware that drug-related and violent crimes have increased dramatically over a considerable period. Thus we must gear our efforts to fight the general drugs scene.

I am disappointed that many questions I posed to the Government on this matter to date have been fudged, the clear reality is that drug dependency has had detrimental effects on the very fabric of our society, absentee drug barons getting away with murder, indulging in luxuries, enjoying their financial gains while targeting the vulnerable, in particular, the young. Because of the cost of addiction drug abusers have been known to engage in criminal activities to acquire cash to satisfy that addiction. Over the years we have seen changing trends, fashions and costs in the types of drugs abused and, as sure as night follows day, the future will bring further changes. However, there is one certainty: drugs will, if permitted, continue to devastate our society.

The last speaker referred to knee jerk reactions and recent trends. Statistics [601] suggest that the misuse of hard drugs did not materialise as a serious problem until the late 1970s. With the arrival of the drug barons, we experienced a ten year growth in use between 1978 and 1988. Since 1989 the drugs problem is out of control and has placed a heavy burden and strain on all our services. What has been the Government response to date? In the early years, special committees and working groups were established. In 1983 a special Government task force looked at the question of drug misuse. We have had its recommendations as well as a series of legislative measures, specialised Garda drug units, the introduction of modern technology and communication systems, and the establishment of a national co-ordinating committee on drug abuse to advise the Government on general issues regarding the prevention and treatment of drug misuse. I acknowledge attempts to address the escalating problems and pay tribute to all those involved in the delivery of our services, particularly the voluntary groups and Outreach workers.

We should now clearly recognise that these measures have failed. We need to reconstitute and strengthen services. In 1991 we published a Government strategy to prevent drug misuse. We recognised that there is a problem and that it is complex and difficult. We have a multi-disciplinary approach. We identify areas requiring action as well as the areas of supply and demand reduction and access to treatment and rehabilitation programmes and combine this with a comprehensive co-ordinated structure geared towards effective implementation.

Since 1991 there has been a further escalation of drug misuse. We are not different from any other country. Governments all over the world are continually grappling with the problem of drug misuse and its associated problems. It is vital that this House deals with this dreadful problem. The buck stops in this House. The drug barons and pushers have had free rein and we [602] have failed to meet the challenge in the escalation of drug abuse.

Our communities have been savaged by drug barons and pushers. Tonight there will be more savagery and again this weekend. Night after night and day after day communities are under siege and the nightmare continues. We have a crisis that must be confronted. Even the paramilitaries are offering to come in and clean up. Communities are entitled to real Government commitment to tackle this dreadful problem. They have put up with more than enough. We have an organised ruthless criminal underworld which resorts to murder, violence and intimidation without compunction. Statements of intent by Government are no longer acceptable. We need a comprehensive plan of action now and we need to build confidence in the criminal justice system.

I have listened to the debate knowing what people would say depending on the side of the House from which they spoke. It is regrettable that this is the case. This is an important issue which warrants us coming clean, recognising that successive Governments have failed to address this problem and standing back from any political gain.

We must ask what is in it for the absentee drug lords. There is an enormous financial benefit from drug dependency for the drug lords. It makes the issue a difficult one with no easy solution. It will take guts and radical measures to stop drug pushing and, at this stage, it is too late to eliminate the drug problem. Fashion drugs cannot be eradicated completely and they will continue to exist as long as they give people the required satisfaction.

The general public have had enough. They are prepared to travel the extra mile, explore new measures and see the efficacy of them. We should recognise the size of the problem and encourage registration of addicts. It may be a thorny subject but, if necessary, we should supply hard drugs free of charge. This will take the financial gain to the [603] drug lord out of the equation. We must rehabilitate the drug addict to remove the demand. We need special squads to confront changing trends and we must improve our education and detoxification facilities. We require a “hands on” community approach adapted to meet the needs of the community in dealing with those at risk and helping those addicted. Most importantly we need mandatory ten year sentences for people found in possession of drugs in excess of the amount required for their own consumption. We need prison places and a clear message should be sent out to the abuses of our criminal justice system.

I tabled a question to the Minister for Justice on today's Order Paper. It was:

To ask the Minister for Justice if she supports the view that the perpetrators of crime should be given a clear message that they will go to prison, stay there until they have paid their debt to society and an example must be made of those who are convicted by the courts to others who may be of like mind; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

I am more than disappointed with the Minister's response. She fudges the question to the very end stating that she has no doubt that the public interest is best served when a range of effective alternatives to custody are employed to the full and prisons are only used as a last resort. Will the Minister of State tell the Minister that this is not what the public wants? The public wants convicted criminals behind bars paying their debts to society.

The public does not want to hear the answer to a question I asked the Minister for Justice about recreational facilities. The answer was:

There is a wide range of recreational facilities... These include a fully-equipped, supervised gymnasium and an outdoor exercise area. [604] The gymnasium is widely used by the inmates for a range of activities including exercise classes on a group and individual basis. Supervision is provided by a qualified instructor. The outdoor facility is used for basketball, netball and other activities. In addition, the prisoners have access to television and video facilities.

Many families in our society are paying through the nose, trying to survive by working hard, paying their taxes and cannot avail of these facilities but our prisoners can. The answer continues:

They also engage in crafts activities and have access to a fully stocked library. They are also encouraged to avail of a varied educational programme under the guidance of teachers from the Vocational Education Services.

I asked if any special arrangements had been made for recreational facilities. It disappoints me to say that the final line of the answer was: “Recent initiatives in respect of recreation for female prisoners include swimming lessons on a weekly basis at a facility in the community. It is disgraceful, sickening and a scandal.

As I indicated there are no easy solutions. The measures I mentioned would create the necessary impetus to smash the drug scene. This is one area where initiative and action must be taken and real progress must be seen. We must learn from our past.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Heroin seizures were up by 200 per cent in 1994. Cocaine seizures were up by 300 per cent and ecstasy seizures were up by 1,300 per cent. One would say it was an extraordinary success if one was not aware that this country is awash with drugs. It was a problem in our cities — Dublin, Cork and Limerick — but unfortunately drugs are now available in every town and village desecrating our young people and causing terrible [605] social problems for parents and children.

The Minister promised to do something about the control of drugs when she assumed office but nothing has happened. She was prompted into action by the activities of Deputy John O'Donoghue through his pronouncements here and the introduction of Bills of this nature. I say shame on her, because only 10 per cent of all drugs coming in are seized. We are all aware of the oversupply. Three years ago ecstasy cost £35 per tablet, now it can be bought on the streets for anything from £3 to £5. This is an indication that they are readily available and everybody knows that. Untold misery is caused when my child or anybody's child is caught up in the drugs scene. Many deaths and much trauma have been the result of the misuse of drugs. We owe it to parents and young people to take serious note of this problem. I congratulate Deputy O'Donoghue on his initiative in introducing this Bill which indicates that we on this side of the House are serious about dealing with this morass.

I congratulate the State solicitor in Cork, Mr. Barry Galvin, on the fearless approach he has taken by naming individuals in court who he said were involved in drugs and racketeering. He opposed the granting of a licence to that public house. This is an example that could be followed throughout the country. I wish there were many others who had the same courage as that demonstrated by Mr. Galvin on the Cork scene.

I have heard references here to the memorandum of understanding signed last week by the Customs authorities and the Garda Síochána. This will allow Customs officials to seize drugs, to preserve the scene and then to hand it over to the Garda. Later those involved will be charged under the Customs Act. Will the Minister say if there is a properly integrated approach between the Customs authorities and the Garda? Is she [606] satisfied we have the necessary co-ordination of activities to ensure that those who are importing drugs cannot get away scot free?

I ask the Minister to check in her Department the number of hours the national drugs team spend in the detection of drugs on the Waterford to Kerry coastline which extends for hundreds of miles. My information suggests that those involved work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week. In the Cork area there is no overtime working or rostering to take note of what is happening in that area. I believe the major drugs intake is in that area, yet we are not willing to provide the necessary resources to ensure it is properly monitored. Because of the lack of resources, our drugs team has asked the local fishermen to report suspect activities. That is laudable but it is not the answer to the problem and it is not the type of resource we would like to see in place.

My understanding is that the maritime unit in the Cork area is practically grounded because of a lack of resources. My information suggests that in Waterford the maritime unit has been taken out of the water because of a lack of funding. Is that the type of commitment by the Government that is needed to seriously tackle the scourge of drugs importation?

Another speaker referred to the Revenue Commissioners and their role in tracking down the drug barons who are not officially employed but who own big houses, Mercedes cars, property, hotels and bars. When the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Mr. Mac Domhnail, was before the Committee of Public Accounts I was surprised to hear him say: “Our function is to collect revenue. If we have evidence which suggests an undercharge of tax, we get the tax that is part of our normal activity but nothing else”. Effectively, what we heard from Mr. Mac Domhnaill on that occasion was that it is the duty of the Garda and Customs officials to track [607] down the drug barons and give us the information. I concluded from that episode that the type of co-ordination which is absolutely necessary in this instance may not exist. It is time there was proper integration and co-ordination between every unit involved in drug seizures, drug prevention and treatment of victims and that they came together to share their experiences. There should be no lack of resources to combat the importation of drugs.

I had a motion down to the Southern Health Board last Monday relating to ecstasy. The reply I received and the response from the press conference which the Southern Health Board held this week was that the parents were the missing link. There are hundreds of thousands of leaflets explaining the drugs problem produced by voluntary groups who mean well and want to do a proper job. Will the Minister say if there is a co-ordinated effort between the Departments of Education, Health and Justice in terms of the education of parents and children in schools? The private alcohol centres, the Garda the health boards and the schools all have their own programmes but it is a hit and miss endeavour. There is not a co-ordinated approach. There must be co-ordination to ensure we make some impact on the massive amounts of drugs being imported. I wish to share my time with Deputy Quill.

Miss Quill:  In the brief time at my disposal I congratulate Deputy John O'Donoghue for displaying initiative and expertise in bringing forward this Bill. I am encouraged by the attitude of the Minister for Justice in finally agreeing to take this Bill on board. I was disheartened on the opening day of the debate when the Taoiseach said the Government could not accept the Bill. His reason was that there were issues of civil liberties that might be infringed if [608] the Bill were accepted. It is an indication of the power of public opinion that there was a major shift in attitude between the morning and the evening. That is a healthy sign. More concern is shown for the perpetrator of crime than the victim. That is the hallmark of a sick society. I am glad the Government has seen the light and is not opposing this Bill.

I make a strong appeal to the Minister to introduce the long promised juvenile justice Bill and steer it through the House without delay. The Government cannot claim with credibility to be concerned about the drugs problem on the one hand and on the other to continue to drag its feet in the introduction of proper, up-to-date and enforceable law to deal with juvenile justice issues. Drugs are part of youth culture. How can we successfully tackle the drugs problem if we continue to operate with legislation enacted in 1908?

It is almost four years since an all-party committee painstakingly prepared a report on juvenile justice which was to form the basis of legislation. We are still awaiting its introduction. In the meantime there has been a rise in the incidence of juvenile crime not to mention the damage the most vulnerable of our young people have done to themselves by getting caught up in the drugs culture.

The Government stands condemned — it amounts to criminal negligence — for its failure to introduce the juvenile justice Bill considering that much of the work was done by the all-party committee. It is of overriding importance to prevent a child from slipping into a life of crime and very often nowadays drugs are the gateway.

Not alone must society be protected, young people have a right to a legislative framework under which they can be protected. There is a need for good crime prevention strategies and early intervention programmes to save young [609] people who dabble in crime from getting trapped in its net and, in the process, doing irreversible damage to their health and life prospects. Seán O'Casey once described Ireland as an old sow that eats its farrows. When I consider our failure to enact proper legislation to protect our young people, this is about to come true. There is no justification for delaying and dragging of feet on this issue.

It is well known, as illustrated by Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, that Cork is vulnerable because of the length of its coastline. Despite this there are 24 fewer gardaí on duty in Cork city than there were four years ago. When the Progressive Democrats left office in 1992 there were 537 gardaí on duty in the city. Today there are 513, despite the rise in the incidence of crime and drug taking.

Will the Minister introduce the juvenile justice Bill and steer it through the House without delay and restore the number of gardaí on duty in Cork city to the 1992 level? After parents, gardaí are the next line of defence in the fight against crime and the protection of society.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Mr. Currie):  I join other Members in paying tribute to Deputy O'Donoghue for the work he has put into this Bill. As the House will be aware, the Government is not opposing it on Second Stage, but when replying to Deputy O'Donoghue last week the Minister for Justice made it clear that the Government intended to introduce its own Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill. I am pleased to inform the House that yesterday the Government approved the text of that Bill and it will be published tomorrow. As the Minister for Justice mentioned during debate, speedily progressing that measure through the House is likely to prove the best way to put effective laws [610] on the Statute Book in this area as quickly as possible.

The debate on this measure has at times strayed from its direct contents to more general criminal justice issues. I cannot respond to all the points made, but it is worth emphasising that the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill is only one of a number of important criminal law measures which will be introduced this year. I will mention but a few.

A non-fatal offences against the person Bill will replace with modern provisions much of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861. A Criminal Law Bill will abolish outmoded distinctions in our criminal law and provide the Garda Síochána with a modern statutory code dealing with the powers of arrest and entry to premises. A Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will free up gardaí from spending much time in the courts rather than on the prevention and detection of crime.

The House will understand that, given my special responsibilities in relation to children, I am anxious to introduce a juvenile justice Bill — the Children Bill — as quickly as possible. Deputy Quill was unfair to me. She said the Government stands condemned for its failure to introduce this Bill and that this amounts to criminal negligence. She said that I was dragging my feet——

Miss Quill:  I said the Government was.

Mr. Currie:  The Deputy is aware, having played her part at an earlier stage, that updating the 1908 legislation is a major exercise. She is also aware that successive Governments since the 1970s have failed to reach agreement on serious core issues. I am glad to say that in less than 12 months matters with which successive Governments have been grappling have been worked out, that the general scheme of the Bill which consists of 240 sections has been [611] approved by the Government and that substantial progress has been made in drafting it. Considering that we have been waiting since the 1970s the Deputy can wait a little while longer for the process to be completed. Perhaps she will take the first opportunity to be fair to me.

Miss Quill:  I will cheer on the Minister of State when the Bill is introduced and buy him a coffee in the restaurant.

Mr. Currie:  I look forward to that. The question of bail was raised by a number of contributors. The Minister for Justice has explained fully to the House on a number of occasions the position on it. Examination of the Law Reform Commission report on the law of bail is at an advanced stage in the Department with a view to putting proposals before the Government as quickly as possible.

The Minister for Justice pointed out in her response to the Bill that there were a number of substantial problems with it. We will all be interested in how Deputy O'Donoghue addresses these points in his reply to the debate. In particular, does he now accept that there are well-founded concerns that this Bill would be likely to give rise to constitutional difficulties, fall foul of our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and prove unworkable in practice?

I will refer to just a few of the specific issues which arise. Does the Deputy accept that the definition of the offences to which the Bill relates is too narrow? Is it not the case that providing under section 1 that court hearings would be ex parte, irrespective of its constitutionality, would be likely to breach the European Convention on Human Rights? Will the Deputy explain what he has in mind in that section when he refers to “substantial” and “serious” offences? How would the courts be [612] expected to deal with those concepts? What is the rationale behind applying some but not all the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 to persons detained under the Bill? There is no provision in the present Bill which would allow gardaí demand the name and address of the person being detained.

The Deputy will be aware of the many other points raised by the Minister for Justice about his proposals and I am sure he will address them in his reply. There is broad agreement in the House about the type of measures necessary to deal with the scourge of drug trafficking. To a large extent this debate — which has been a useful one — is about how best to bring those measures about.

The Government's drug trafficking Bill attempts to address the issues in the Deputy's Bill which would give rise to difficulties. The Government's Bill will be published tomorrow and its speedy progress through the House will place the most effective laws in this area on our Statute Book. When Members have had an opportunity to consider that Bill I am confident they will reach a similar conclusion.

I commend the Deputy for the work he has put into preparing this Bill and I thank the Members who participated constructively in the debate.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  I thank Members who contributed to the debate, many of whom made kind remarks about the Bill.

The Minister last week and the Minister of State tonight criticised it on a number of grounds, one of which was the fact that it excluded a reference to an offence under section 21 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. The Minister for Justice challenged me to explain how this Bill would pass the constitutionality test. She referred, in particular, to the right of access to a solicitor and stated that this was not referred to in the Bill. [613] This was a deliberate omission based on sound legal argument and reason.

At the time of the passing of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 the courts had not clarified the exact status of a right of access to a solicitor. At that time it was unclear whether it was a legal or a constitutional right. It does not give me pleasure to say that the Minister's comments demonstrate that she does not understand the difference between a legal and a constitutional right or the jurisprudential development of the right of access to a solicitor which was ambiguous for a long time. That ambiguity was resolved by the Supreme Court in the case of the Director of Public Prosecutions v. Healy, reported at page 73 of the 1992 Irish Reports, where the right of access to a solicitor was held to be a constitutional tright, not a legal right or a right conferred by statute. As it is a constitutional right it need not be included as a statutory right in this or any other legislation. To do so would be meaningless and superfluous to requirements.

The Minister's criticism demonstrates a lamentable lack of understanding of the criminal law. She might as well have criticised the Bill for failing to accord a detained person the right to bodily integrity or life, which is also absent from the Bill. That is a constitutional right and does not depend on any statute for legitimacy; it derives from the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. The Minister's suggestion that to exclude a constitutional right from a Bill would increase the risk of it being found unconstitutional is nonsense, even from the perspective of the most biased of observers. That suggestion does not have a legal basis and was made to the Minister by somebody who has as little understanding as she of the criminal law.

The Minister also demonstrated a comprehensive lack of knowledge of the case law that has arisen from the provisions of section 4 (5) of the Criminal [614] Justice Act, 1984 which requires that a person be charged where there is enough evidence to do so. If the Minister had examined the law in detail she would know that decisions of the Court of Criminal Appeal in The People v. O'Toole and Others and in The People v. Hannon and Reddan permitted detention following sufficient evidence to charge, if it is necessary for a proper investigation of the offence for which the person is arrested. All detention under the Fianna Fáil Bill would be to enable proper investigation of the offence for which the person is arrested. To detain for any other reason would be unlawful and unconstitutional and would add nothing to the Bill.

I reserve my strongest criticism of the Minister's contribution for what she described as this Bill's “most serious flaw”, the fact that any application to detain a person beyond 48 hours would be made ex parte. She objected to this and stated it was illegal and unconstitutional. From my perspective and from the perspective of anybody with a knowledge or interest in this area, it is obvious that the Minister envisages that for a period of detention to be lawful it must happen subsequent to the arrested person being afforded a right to be heard at a hearing. In other words, before a person could be detained there would have to be a hearing. If that is the criterion, why is the member in charge of a Garda station permitted to detain a person under the provisions of section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994?

Why is a superintendent entitled to extend that detention ex parte? Why is a member of the Garda entitled to arrest and detain a person under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939 without giving the person the right to be heard? Why is a chief superintendent entitled to extend that period on an ex parte basis? The Minister for Justice, in asking questions of me in relation to ex parte detention, raised [615] more questions about herself than about my Bill.

One of the reasons the Minister gave for this power of detention being necessary was that there is often an international dimension in these cases. That is true and one of the main reasons for the proposed detention is to ensure that the gardaí have time to ascertain the evidence available internationally in regard to a suspected drug trafficker. I can understand how gardaí could arrest and detain a person as part of an ongoing operation, but the Minister suggested that after a period of ex parte detention, which can be extended to 48 hours, the gardaí would have to go to court and divulge before the world all the information they have on the suspected drug trafficker. This is one of the most nonsensical suggestions ever made in this House. On what legal basis did the Minister make such a suggestion? She must be unaware that on every day of the week gardaí, in the proper exercise of their duty, obtain orders at ex parte hearings which affect the rights of others. Hundreds of search warrants are issued each year at ex parte hearings. Thousands of arrest warrants are obtained each year at ex parte hearings. What legal basis does the Minister have for determining that detention for up to 48 hours on an ex parte basis is lawful but that detention beyond that time on an ex parte basis is unconstitutional? That does not make any sense.

The criticism the Minister made of my Bill shows, unfortunately, how much she is at sea in relation to this problem. Has she contemplated the consequences of the type of hearing she suggests as being necessary? The detained person would have to be given adequate notice of the hearing and told of the intended Garda evidence. We are talking about a suspected drug trafficker peddling in death. He or she would have to be given an opportunity to consider the evidence and prepare a defence. He or she could [616] call evidence and be legally represented. For cases with an international dimension, the Minister proposes disclosing the entirety of Garda information in relation to the alleged drug trafficker in open court. The Minister might as well have gone the whole way and require the Garda to publish the up-to-date state of confidential information in Iris Oifigiúil, the national newspapers or on the electronic media. That is nonsensical and nobody can deny that.

I repeat my question to the Minister: what magic occurs after 48 hours that requires ex parte detention to become detention on foot of a contested hearing? If the Minister believes her objection to be valid, how does she contend that the existing detention provisions are valid? The answer is that these are spurious objections raised in an attempt to justify the Minister's failure to introduce this legislation to date.

The Minister, in as transparent an attempt at obfuscation as I have ever seen, suggests that a court would be unable to ascertain what a substantial offence is and that that is a valid reason for criticising the Bill. To my surprise, the Minister of State joined in that criticism tonight. Courts are presided over by experienced lawyers capable of understanding ordinary language. The canons of construction of statutes require words to be given their ordinary meaning. Can the Minister understand the concept of a substantial offence and, if so, and I am not suggesting she cannot, it would be fair for her to presume that the Judiciary can understand it as well. If she cannot understand it, she should abandon all hope of understanding criminal law and managing its reform.

In relation to the power to issue search warrants contained in the Bill, the Minister has again misunderstood the fundamental import of the section. The provisions of section 26 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977 are law; they do not need to be re-enacted in this Bill. [617] They form part of what the Minister described in her contribution as, “the huge corpus of criminal law”.

I will avoid using the word “criticism” in relation to the Minister's comments but as she frankly admits she does not understand the effect of the section in relation to section 4, it is strong testimony to the fact that she has little grasp of what she is dealing with. Customs officers are persons in authority. They currently do not have any statutory power to question; if they do so, they must be governed by the judge's rules as are other figures in authority such as agricultural officers. This section gives them the necessary powers and sets the conditions so that what is said may be admissible in evidence. It is a necessary power and if the Minister examines the most fundamental aspects of the law of evidence, she will see that this section was necessary too.

In relation to Part II of the Bill, the Minister mentioned unspecified concerns about the way in which it was drafted. She seeks to justify the continued presence of this unconscionable provision of the 1977 Act by virtue of the fact that it is desirable that a decision be made at an early stage as to whether there is a case to answer. Has the Minister any idea as to the number of cases thrown out at preliminary examination stage? If she did, she would not have made this rash, irrational and ill-considered statement. This area of law is in need of reform and the Minister has no idea how it should be tackled.

The final failure by the Minister to understand the extent and scale of public dissatisfaction is the speed with which she pushes the revolving door. I am not surprised that once a measure intended to introduce transparency into the prison system is brought forward, the Minister voices her opposition. The legislation to be published tomorrow had to be dragged out of the Minister for Justice in the same way as reform of [618] our bail laws will have to be dragged out of her.

Everybody will agree that no domestic cause in modern Ireland is deserving of greater support and encouragement than the fight against crime. No Government will have a better opportunity to confront crime and plan the future of its criminal justice strategy than this Government, confronted as it is with the opportunity of accepting one of the most enlightened measures ever to come before this House. I acknowledge the Government will not vote down the Fianna Fáil Bill but I urge the Minister for Justice and the Government not to bury it for eternity either beneath their own Bill or in some committee of the House but to have it discussed immediately by the Select Committee on Legislation and Security with a view to enactment into law.

In the light of yet another horrific murder last night, the time has come for the message to go out from this House that we are all united in bringing acceptable levels of criminality in our society to an end. We on this side of the House are open to all and any reasonable amendments from the Government but neither we nor the Irish people are prepared to accept indifference, indolence or incoherence which would be tantamount to political opportunism from this or any other Administration. The Government, through this Bill, has the unique opportunity of sending out a clear message to hardened criminals that the net is closing in and that it will not in future reject appropriate tough measures, irrespective of their source be it political or otherwise.

Recently we have witnessed horrific killings and other vicious criminal offences committed by unscrupulous and brutal criminals. For these and many other reasons, people are entitled to be satisfied that this House has grasped the fundamental fact that a coherent criminal justice strategy is a [619] necessity and not a luxury. Any Government which rejects that glaring truth will do so at its peril. The matter has become far too serious for even a hint of political opportunism. The rainbow coalition Government must now answer the hard question: is it prepared to commence a unified fight against vicious, cruel and depraved criminals?

The Minister's proposals to be published tomorrow are contained in this Bill. Part I gives legal effect to the three statutory amendments of the criminal law which the Minister announced in her initiative last July. We improve upon those proposals in Part II of the Bill by providing for a fast track approach to certain drug offences by eliminating the preliminary examination phase. Furthermore, in Part III of the Bill we amend the law in relation to temporary release by prohibiting the release of prisoners convicted of certain drug offences and provide that certain information regarding prisoners on temporary release be published in Iris Oifigiúil.

We have been constructive in Opposition. When the Minister announced a referendum on bail we supported it when others, far closer to her, were less than forthcoming. When the Minister said she would proceed with Fianna Fáil's plans to build new prisons at Castlerea and Mountjoy, we endorsed her proposal but her partners in Government ignored her. When the Minister proposed tough legislation to help put away drug traffickers, we were the first to support her. Where we saw a need to voice the concerns of citizens, we did so. Where we saw deficiencies, we moved to rectify them. Where we saw a need to criticise in order to force the Government's hand, we were obliged to do so.

The vast majority of our legislative and practical proposals have been ignored by the rainbow coalition [620] Government. Even this crucial legislation has been greeted with vague and begrudging interest. Such a response is no longer sufficient. Political expediency must be replaced by magnanimity. This is the very least the public expect and to which they are entitled.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  I move: “That the Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1996, be referred to the Select Committee on Legislation and Security pursuant to Standing Order 95 (1) and paragraph 1 (iii) of that Committee's Terms of Reference.”

Question put and agreed to.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Tá mé buíoch as ucht deis chun an cheist seo a ardú ar an Athló. It is little surprise that one of the groups representing victims of the hepatitis C scandal has decided to boycott the Minister's compensation tribunal. The other main group which represents victims who contracted hepatitis C from blood transfusions remains deeply unhappy with the tribunal and has expressed serious dissatisfaction at the Minister for Health's handling of its concerns.

For the past five months the groups representing victims have expressed serious concerns about the Minister's proposals. However, he has failed to listen to them and has instead rail-roaded his ad hoc tribunal. The tribunal is fundamentally flawed and I have argued from the outset that a statutory tribunal is the best way to proceed for numerous reasons. It is becoming apparent that individuals appearing before the ad hoc tribunal will be dissatisfied with the justice they receive.

[621] There are numerous deficiencies with the ad hoc tribunal. For example, the terms under which it is established do not allow victims as a right to have medical oral evidence presented even though hepatitis C can cause many complications and is a potentially life threatening disease. There is not a medical expert on the tribunal to compensate for this. In addition, victims do not have an absolute right to give evidence to the tribunal, witnesses cannot be compelled to attend and while the tribunal can make provisional awards women must accept the ruling of the tribunal to grant a provisional or final award even though hepatitis C is a most uncertain disease and the victim's health can deteriorate considerably over time.

There are numerous other deficiencies with the tribunal. For example, its terms require victims to prove on the balance of probabilities that they contracted hepatitis C through blood transfusions or the administration of anti-D. This onus of proof may be impossible for many legitimate victims to discharge. For example, their records could be lost or the chain of evidence may be impossible to complete because testing for hepatitis C was only introduced after October 1991. There are also difficulties in regard to the way the tribunal was established. The Minister says it will continue indefinitely but there is no guarantee that a future Government will not try to abolish it. There is also no guarantee of a judicial review of decisions, while a constitutional issue surely arises in relation to the ability of one Government to bind future Governments to an ad hoc scheme.

Without doubt, the tribunal fails any reasonable fairness test on many counts. This leads me to believe the terms of the tribunal have been deliberately fashioned so that the State's liability is minimised. The argument put forward by the Attorney General in recent weeks in the High Court that victims of hepatitis C who use an alias should use their own names and addresses so that everyone knows who they are is an attempt by the State to cajole other victims of [622] hepatitis C away from the courts and back into an ad hoc and unsatisfactory tribunal. Given that the State is fully responsible for this scandal — it was a State agency which was at fault — this treatment of the victims is shameful.

The Minister suggested that cases at the tribunal would go through almost on the nod and that victims would be treated fairly. However, the truth appears to be far from this. Victims will run up against all kinds of evidence difficulties and will find that the tribunal does not function in their favour.

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The first appropriate point to make is we will wait and see. The tribunal, which has heard two cases only, is independent in the exercise of its functions and I have confidence in it. It is also inappropriate to refer to a case which is before the courts and to criticise the side being carried by the Attorney General. This is not the normal practice in the House.

I welcome the opportunity to confirm to the House the Government's continuing commitment to fair compensation for those who have contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion or blood product. I very much regret the decision taken by Positive Action not to recommend the tribunal to its members. On numerous occasions, I outlined the many advantages of the tribunal as opposed to proceedings before the courts. I will reiterate these advantages: speed, informality, flexibility and privacy; negligence need not be proved; the right of court action is completely preserved unless and until an award is accepted; proceedings before the tribunal are not excluded from judicial review; the concept of a provisional award, which is not available in Irish law, allows a claimant to return to the tribunal for future specified unexpected consequences of the hepatitis C infection — this is a particularly important option for claimants given the uncertain nature of the infection — and the [623] scheme is entirely optional and imposes no disadvantage.

I fully respect the decision of individual women to pursue their legal cases before the courts. I established the compensation tribunal on 15 December 1995 following detailed discussions with Positive Action, to offer an alternative to court proceedings to persons who contracted hepatitis C from the use of blood or blood products. It is entirely a matter for each individual to choose the avenue which they consider most appropriate to their individual circumstances. However, I hope that each person's decision will be made in the light of informed, accurate and complete information on the advantages of the compensaton tribunal. It is clear from some of the recent media coverage of the tribunal that there is a degree of misinformation abroad in relation to the compensation scheme.

I understand that two priority cases have already been heard by the tribunal and awards have been made in both cases. I am not aware of the detailed circumstances of these cases and I regret that there has been comment in the media with regard to the level of awards in the absence of knowledge of the circumstances of the cases. This may have given rise to undue distress to the claimants and their families. It can also serve to cause anxiety and confusion to other persons diagnosed positive for hepatitis C who may wish to make application to the tribunal.

Approximately 600 application forms have been forwarded to individuals and solicitors, on request. The scheme of compensation provides that claimants have six months to make their application to the tribunal from the date of the establishment of the tribunal or the date of a positive diagnosis for hepatitis C, whichever date is the later. A total of 72 applications have been received by the tribunal which I understand will recommence hearing cases in early [624] March. No application has been withdrawn from the tribunal.

Mr. T. Kitt:  I extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Seán Kelly on his tragic death following the use of a fast tanning unit. I trust that the debate and discussion that has followed this tragedy will lead to the public being much more informed about the dangers of sunbeds and help save lives. I ask the Minister, having investigated this case, to immediately introduce appropriate legislation to regulate the use of sun beds. In particular I urge him to strictly control the use of what are called “stand up” units which, I understand, use 34 160 watt tubes as compared to the traditional sun beds which use an average of 25 100 watt tubes. We are told that these “stand up” units are brighter, faster and more powerful. What we are not told is that the consumer, in using this equipment with professional advice and assistance, is playing Russian roulette with his or her life. Concerns have been expressed about the level of emissions from the lamps and the quality of lamps. These issues should be dealt with by legislation and regulation.

There is a stark lack of public awareness of the dangers of sun beds. This is evident from the revelations in the media that parents are sending children for tanning sessions before their Holy Communion and Confirmation. If this is true — and we are led to believe it is — I can only describe this practice as no more or no less than reckless behaviour on the part of parents. This practice should be outlawed which is the case in the United Kingdom where persons under 18 years are not allowed to use sun beds.

I also ask the Government to strongly support the Irish Cancer Society's awareness campaign, which will be launched in May this year, on the dangers of exposure to ultraviolet radiation from tanning equipment. It issued [625] guidelines today, and the central message is that too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation can damage one's skin and general health.

In drawing comparisons between the UK and Ireland in relation to the use of sun-tanning equipment it is clear that Ireland has, unfortunately, no proper system of controls to protect the consumer at either national or local level. In the UK the Health and Safety Executive issues specific guidelines for those operating ultraviolet tanning facilities and provides specific information for the customer. At local level there is a special skin treatment licensing system which allows for local authority environmental health inspectors to monitor and inspect the operation of these businesses at local level. The Minister should replicate the UK system of controls by introducing the necessary legislation as a matter of urgency. The local authorities should be involved in licensing premises, and the remit of the Health and Safety Authority could be extended to provide for the safety not just of the workers but also the consumers using this equipment. There is an onus on the industry itself to self-regulate and ensure that all operators of sun-tanning equipment are professionally trained and provide proper medical care and attention for the customer. The British legislation I referred to is the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1992. It is time for us to follow suit.

A young man who lived in my constituency died tragically having used tanning equipment. There is widespread public concern following this sad event. It is incumbent on us as legislators to respond to that legitimate concern and bring a sense of order to the operation and use of this equipment which is urgently required. This should be done without delay.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): I thank Deputy Kitt for raising this matter. The [626] issue has arisen in the context of a specific tragic death, and I would like to be associated with Deputy Kitt's expression of sympathy with the family of Seán Kelly, the individual involved.

However, Deputies must understand that the circumstances of this individual case are being fully investigated at present by the Coroner. He will hold a public inquest in due course and it would not be appropriate for me to draw any conclusion at this time in relation to the unfortunate death or to make any other comment on the specific issue.

As regards the more general issue, however, I fully agree that there is a need to introduce controls on the operation of sun beds. A number of Government Departments have an interest and a possible role in this, such as the Department of Enterprise and Employment which deals with consumer safety, and the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications which deals with radiation.

I have asked the officials in my Department to meet the Departments concerned as soon as possible to discuss how such controls should be implemented. It may be that the regulations can best be made under legislation already in place, such as consumer protection or radiological protection legislation, or it may transpire that a new Act is necessary. In any event, these discussions will take place without delay so that the best approach can be put in place as soon as possible.

Quite apart from the question of statutory controls, it is important that the general public should heed the advice which is issued by the Department of Health and by groups such as the Irish Cancer Society. Sun beds should be used in moderation, and people should seek the advice of their family doctor before doing so for the first time. The use of sun beds is particularly inadvisable for children, people who burn easily, people who do not tan [627] or tan poorly, those taking drugs or using cosmetics thought to be photoactive, those suffering from a skin disorder induced or aggravated by exposure to sunlight, those with a history of skin cancer, and those with risk factors for cutaneous melanoma. The special risks for such groups will obviously have to be taken into account in framing whatever controls are put in place.

Miss de Valera:  I have initiated this Adjournment debate on the National Library as this national cultural institution continues to be neglected by the Government. In 1992 its strategic plan was launched by Deputy Reynolds, Taoiseach at the time, and given support by the Fianna Fáil-led Administration. Now, under this Government the National Library does not feature very highly on the agenda.

No doubt we will hear from the Minister that there has been a handsome percentage increase in the funding for the National Library from his Government. However, such an argument is disingenuous considering the low base on which this percentage is measured.

The service position remains exactly the same as that of 1992. The library has to close two mornings per week to enable opening those nights. The manuscript room is also closed at lunch hour and tea time. Its present allocation of funds means that the National Library is in the news more often on the basis of collections it has failed to acquire rather than on its notable acquisitions. The lack of financial resources means that the acquisition, preservation, conservation and exploitation of its collections are severely hampered.

In December 1993 an on-line public access catalogue was launched. However, a researcher using the library [628] now has to search through three separate catalogues. Retrospective conversion of these catalogues is an urgent requirement and a project which needs funds on a once-off basis.

Similar injections of moneys, again on a once-off basis, are needed to convert the library's rich holding of maps, prints, drawings and manuscripts to machinereadable format. The library needs funds to explore the prospect of the Internet as well.

At present large collections of valuable manuscripts remain unavailable because of lack of staff to catalogue it. When the Minister refers to the percentage increase which this library received, I call on him to assess his position in the light of the following figures. I would like to compare three national libraries — the National Library of Wales, the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Ireland. The National Library of Wales has five million collections, the National Library of Scotland has 6.5 million and the National Library of Ireland has five million. Staffing for the National Library of Wales numbers 225, for the National Library of Scotland it is 252, and for the National Library of Ireland it is 65. The budget for the National Library of Wales is just under £6 million, the budget for the National Library of Scotland is £9.23 million plus £2.1 million for capital projects, and the budget for the National Library of Ireland is £2.1 million. The population these libraries serve is 2.8 million for the National Library of Wales, five million for the National Library of Scotland and 5.5 million for the National Library of Ireland. Surely on foot of these figures the Minister can no longer claim that his stewardship has greatly improved the lot of the National Library in financial or staffing terms. The Minister made some play out of the photographic archive in Temple Bar which is almost finished but where are the extra staff required to run the project? Temporary [629] cataloguers employed to deal with a considerable backlog of material have had to be let go due to the public service embargo. Although capital development projects have been planned and are well advanced, where is the money to come from for them?

The National Library deserves the financial support of this Government as it provides a very valuable service to the people and to many overseas readers— approximately 30 per cent of the library's annual total number of readers are from overseas. I hope the Minister will recognise the need for once-off funding for the projects mentioned and will commit himself and his Government to addressing and resolving the serious problem of funding and staffing in the National Library without further delay. These persistent problems can lead only to frustration and the lowering of morale among an expert and dedicated staff.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  I am grateful to Deputy de Valera for raising this matter and providing me with an opportunity to clarify a number of matters and speak on the position in the National Library.

On the figures the Deputy gave for Wales, Scotland and Ireland, the comparisons would have been much more difficult if she had made them in 1992. They are certainly an indictment of my predecessors' support for the National Library. It would be unusual to suggest that the difficulties have arisen in the past three years.

Miss de Valera:  The Minister has had three years to try to improve the situation.

Mr. M. Higgins:  In so far as the Deputy encourages me in that regard, this is just another example of Members suggesting greater public expenditure while on the Estimates and in the [630] budget debate suggesting that we cut it back.

Miss de Valera:  It is up to the Minister to fight for his own Department.

Mr. M. Higgins:  There was not a gig out of the Deputy in relation to the period before this.

Miss de Valera:  That is the responsibility of the Minister.

Mr. M. Higgins:  It is the Deputy's responsibility to be far more accurate than she has been. I would not argue that the National Library or any of the national cultural institutions under my aegis has the full resources I would like and consider necessary for institutions of their stature. However, developments in the public sector must take place within overall budgetary and staffing parameters determined by Government policy. Even the strategic plan for the National Library, published in 1992, to which the Deputy refers, intended to cover the period 1992-97 explicitly recognised that there would be severe constraints on public expenditure during the period covered by the plan and that it would have to be implemented in this context.

In the broader context, the factual position with regard to the National Library since the establishment of my Department at the beginning of 1993 does not bear out certain impressions given in recent press coverage. Presumably the Deputy's question is a reflection of these impressions, that for example no increased resources have been provided to enable the National Library to fulfil the objectives set out in its strategic plan and that the library has a low priority in the allocation of resources. These impressions are quite erroneous. I am strongly committed to the development of the national cultural institutions as a central part of Irish life.

[631] The facts are as follows. Funds provided by my Department's Vote in 1995 in respect of the National Library, excluding salaries and the library's own income were three times the funds provided in 1992. What a legacy I inherited when I started in 1992. That is an increase of 227 per cent in three years during a time of relatively low inflation. Excluding grants for specific items and administrative expenses, the library's grant-in-aid increased by 120 per cent in the same three year period. This increase of 120 per cent compares with a 46 per cent increase in the combined funding available to the national cultural institutions funded from my Department's Vote by way of grant-in-aid.

Miss de Valera:  Why does the Minister give us percentages instead of the figures?

Mr. M. Higgins:  If one takes it that the baseline is low, the baseline is the same for the other cultural institutions and one is still comparing an increase of 120 per cent with a 46 per cent increase. If the funding for specific projects is included, the increase in the grant assistance for the national cultural institutions funded by my Department's Vote is of the order of 66 per cent whereas the increase for the National Library for the same period is 250 per cent.

On staff resources, I am the first to recognise the inadequacy of the basic levels, a problem with a long historic background reaching back to the foundations of the State and beyond, a central problem holding back the development of all the national cultural institutions. Even in this most intractable of areas, there has been tangible improvement for the library. At the end of 1995 there were over 68 staff employed compared with just over 60 at the end of 1992 when my Department was established. I [632] would wish that this increase was much greater. A proposal initiated by my Department to provide a deputy director is under examination. I place on record my appreciation and admiration of the commitment, professionalism and contribution of the director of the library.

The library facilities are also being developed. The new photographic archive building provided for the National Library in Temple Bar was recently completed at a total cost of £2.92 million, including £1.6 million through the Vote of the Department of the Environment, of which 75 per cent was funded from Structural Funds, £825,000 through the Vote of the Office of Public Works and £495,375 provided by my Department's Vote. This important new facility is to open in the autumn of this year. Another major capital development at an advanced stage of planning and costing £1.5 million involves the conversion of a building at the back of the library, known as the Racquet Hall. This facility will provide long needed space for conservation work, potential accommodation for the newsplan project and an in-house bindery service. The other significant project in train relates to the planned conversion of the National College of Art and Design building partially for use by the library. This will provide, among many other facilities, much needed visitors' services.

Quite separate from these specific developments, expenditure on accommodation in the National Library was 123 per cent higher in 1995 than 1992.

Miss de Valera:  Percentages again.

Mr. M. Higgins:  They are percentages. The baseline is low, but the questions should be put to those who were responsible for the low and inadequate baseline. When we have the next discussion on public expenditure, will the Deputy stand up and honestly say she [633] wants an exception made of the library? If so, then she will be taken for real.

Miss de Valera:  The Minister has to make the argument to make an exception of his Department when dealing with the Department of Finance.

Mr. M. Higgins:  My Department has done well in its allocation.

Of course, the development of our national cultural institutions should not be seen purely in terms of the monetary or staff resources available to them, however critical they are. My role also is to nurture and facilitate these institutions to realise their full potential. Deputies will be aware that the preparation of legislation on the national cultural institutions, which will among other things establish the library as an autonomous State body, is at an advanced stage. I have been heartened at the library's initiatives in recent years to heighten its public profile and deepen a sense of its importance within the national psyche. Partly as a result of this effort, what might have been acceptable a few years ago is no longer the case. I welcome this deepening of concern and am prepared to meet the challenge posed by it.

The Deputy can be assured that my ongoing efforts in all aspects of my role in the library's activities, ranging from the improvement, reform and development of its governance and administrative structures to recent major assistance for acquisitions of heritage material, to funding its operation and development are geared towards assisting the National Library to fulfil and expand its role as one of the country's premier repositories of our heritage.

Mr. Cowen:  Sir, I am obliged to you for allowing me to raise this matter and have the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry clarify the implications of [634] the beef management committee meeting of last Friday for the beef industry. The Minister will be aware of the widespread concern about the situation that has developed in the past number of months and which is causing a deepening crisis in the beef sector, not only for producers but for processors. He will also be aware of the implications that will have on agricultural incomes in the months ahead.

The Minister, Deputy Yates, contends that last week's decision of the beef management committee to increase a band of 5 per cent to 7 per cent to restore the level of export refunds was an interim one. Is that correct, given that the decision is final for the duration of the current price regime which expires in April? I understand that the agreement reached by the Minister's representative at that committee meeting, which he regards as inadequate, is to be extended until April, thus depriving us of the opportunity to negotiate for much needed further increases to restore export refund levels.

Any change after April will be no comfort to the many specialised winter finishers who have effectively been abandoned because of the serious reduction in export refund levels so far.

The Minister bears full responsibility for the huge mistake of allowing the beef management committee off the political leash. Coming into this round of export refund cuts the Minister held the high ground when, last April, the Council of Ministers took the decision on the guide price for beef for the coming year to next April. This is a matter of political incompetence. The Minister has failed to stop Commission officials undermining the political decision of the Council, leaving us in a much more disadvantageous position than any other EU beef producers.

Because of the appalling handling of relations with the Commission and lack of support from other Ministers, a bureaucratic committee with no political mandate has effectively slashed the [635] price of beef as a result of the export refund cuts and the crisis of confidence it has generated in the market place. The Minister's failure to go to Brussels in advance of last Friday's decision is unpardonable, he is so preoccupied with being a big fish in a small pond at home he has not learned that in Brussels he is very small fry indeed.

His histrionic and long-distance grandstanding with the Commission has cost Irish agriculture dearly. In his statement last Friday, the Minister suggested this would have a great psychological effect on farmers. This is the first time I have ever heard a Government Minister claim that psychology will pay the bills between now and April.

The Minister must repair relations with the EU Commission and the Council. Continually finding ourselves in a minority of one, as we have with this Minister, represents a complete political failure to transact the necessary business and defend our national interests. Over 100,000 farmers are affected by these decisions which have been taken since last October. All we have had from the Minister are statements reacting to these decisions expressing his own surprise at the level of export refund cuts and suggesting there is little or nothing he can do about it.

Farmers have been the losers in this stand-off. Winter finishers, losing well over £70 a head on cattle bought last autumn, have been abandoned because there will be no further discussion on this matter until April. By then, of course, at least 50 per cent of the winter kill will have been completed. This affects cattle farmers who simply have to dispose of their cattle having bought them in the autumn for the purpose of finishing them over the winter.

A serious situation has developed and the Minister seems incapable of doing anything about it. The “too little, too late” measures adopted in Brussels last Friday, and which are acknowledged by [636] the Minister himself as being inadequate, may have provided a psychological boost to him but they have done nothing for the beef industry. The political challenge to the Minister is to develop a cohesive Irish agenda in Brussels and build support for our position in the Council and the Commission.

I would like to know to what extent the Minister has any room to manoeuvre between now and April given that the beef management committee has suggested there will be no change in the level of export refunds until April. The Minister's failure to think beyond the next news bulletin has brought totally avoidable losses to the beef industry.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  I am glad that Deputy Cowen is in his usual generous spirit in dealing with the difficulties facing me. I agree with him about the gravity of the situation. I am concerned about the specialist group of winter fatteners, numbering about 13,000 farmers who sell cattle fit to slaughter in the springtime. I reiterate that I am extremely unhappy with the EU Commission which has handled the beef regime in a ham-fisted manner. They panicked in dealing with the excessive levels of prefixation and licence that were taken out in the autumn of last year in trying to manage the GATT quota.

I do not believe, however, that there is an underlying problem. Since November we have sought to get these refunds increased and in mid-December they were increased by 14 per cent. Last week they were increased by 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent but as much again is needed to resolve the issue. An amount of prefixations are in the system.

I had meetings with all beef processors and their representatives last week and we estimate that a volume of some 85,000 cattle are prefixed at the pre-November cut rate. This means that [637] the weekly kill at the moment is rising to about 17,000 which would get us through to the end of February at least.

Deputy Cowen referred to the fact that in making the decision the Commission said there would be no further increase. On 26 January when it made no increase it said that nothing would be done before the end of March. However, we succeeded in getting an emergency meeting — the normal meeting was not scheduled until 16 February — to deal with the issue of shorter validity periods, speculation and giving a higher level of refunds to male hind-quarter cuts on which Ireland is uniquely dependent, as it is on steers to third country markets.

I am having detailed discussions with some of my ministerial colleagues. It is a bit rich and hyprocritical of Deputy Cowen to berate the fact that I am not rallying political support in Europe and that I did not go to Brussels last week. In Fianna Fáil's tenure it was agreed at the Council of Ministers that all such decisions on sheep, arable aid, and management of the grain, dairy and beef committees, would not be handled by the most senior civil servants in each member state. There is no political context to them because the Commission has total autonomy and authority to increase or decrease refunds.

Notwithstanding the fact that I, with the German, French and Austrian Ministers, have raised this matter at every Council meeting since September — we received very strong support and I led the charge in that direction — the following week the Commission cut refunds in total disregard not only to the Irish position but also to all those countries dependent on beef and the CAP.

Mr. Cowen:  So there is no political accountability, is that it?

Mr. Yates:  The Commission has not handled this well.

[638]Mr. Cowen:  The Council does not have the power and can do nothing.

Mr. Yates:  The Council does not have the power, that is correct.

Mr. Cowen:  They can do nothing about it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Cowen was heard without interruption.

Mr. Cowen:  It is clarification.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us give the same courtesy to the Minister in respect of his reply.

Mr. Yates:  The Council has no direct function in this and, obviously, the riding instructions each member state's representative gets on that is a political matter. At all the meetings the member states I referred to, including ourselves, have railed against proposed cuts or the inadequacies of increases. However, the Commission only needs about two or three countries to get a measure through. It does not even need a majority to get items through on the management structure.

We got some response last week but I made it clear it was inadequate. Some response is better than none. The meat factories' public relations people have been predicting an imminent collapse in prices — 10p per lb. has been mentioned but I see no justification for that. While not resolving the problem, last week's increase staves off a price decrease.

On the technical assessment we have of the level of prefixations in the system and the level of refunds that would now apply, there is no basis for paying less than the present price. In fact, we believe they should have been paid a much higher price, the way they were in December, when worked off the same prefixations. It confirms many farmers' suspicions that when the live trade does [639] not have the same level of refunds as the beef trade, the beef trade tends to collapse the scrum, to use an analogy, in relation to trying to increase their own margins. I am less than inspired by the meat factories' response to this period of great difficulty.

I understand we will be debating this matter in Private Members' time next week when we can pick up on any other issues that cannot be dealt with in this [640] rather truncated debate. I am committed to trying to resolve this issue. The full political, diplomatic, and administrative resources of my Department and the Government will be clearly focused on the Commission concerning this issue in the coming weeks. Next week I may be able to announce further initiatives in that regard.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 8 February 1996.

  13.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Finance    the investigations, if any, he has instigated in relation to the widespread budget leaks prior to 23 January 1996; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1965/96]

  30.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Finance    the inquiries, if any, he carried out into the recent budget Cabinet leaks; and his policy in this regard. [1482/96]

  46.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Finance    the action, if any, he intends to take regarding the leaking of confidential budgetary information in advance of the 1996 budget: his views on whether Cabinet confidentiality was breached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1794/96]

  67.  Mr. McCreevy    asked the Minister for Finance    the investigations, if any, he intends to carry out into the leaking of budget proposals; the action or measures, if any, he will put in place to ensure that future proposals will not be in the public domain prior to budget day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2552/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 13, 30, 46 and 67 together.

On foot of the report of the investigation into 1995 budget leaks, my [439] Department issued a confidential circular to all Departments on 10 April 1995 about unauthorised disclosure of information. This circular sets out general measures to minimise the likelihood of unauthorised disclosure of confidential information, along with actions to be taken where such disclosure occurs.

The report of the investigation into 1995 budget leaks was co-ordinated by the Secretary of my Department, and copies were laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas in June last year. Following that report, my Department issued an internal circular on 19 September 1995, which was copied to other relevant Departments. The circular effectively implemented the recommendations in the 1995 budget leaks report.

In accordance with existing procedures, the Secretary of my Department has initiated an internal inquiry into leaks in relation to those budgetary matters for which my Department is primarily responsible and he will ask his colleagues in other relevant Departments to co-operate with this inquiry.

The Secretary of my Department will co-operate with other Departments in whatever investigation they may carry out in relation to leaks of budgetary matters for which those Departments have primary responsibility.

  14.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    whether he feels optimistic that Britain will join Economic and Monetary Union in 1999 with our EU counterparts as per the Taoiseach's reported statement before the Madrid European Council Meeting in December 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19235/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I understand that the Deputy is referring to remarks made by the Taoiseach in an RTÉ radio interview given in Madrid on 15 December during the European Council.

[440] In this remarks the Taoiseach reiterated the Government's commitment to ensuring that Ireland will qualify for Economic and Monetary Union along with the other member states moving to Economic and Monetary Union from the outset. He also indicated his belief that the United Kingdom will decide not to stay out of the single currency when the UK decision comes to be made. The Taoiseach based his belief on the UK's history in relation to Europe of hanging back and being sceptical but, when the time comes for a decision, of taking that decision in favour of Europe. I share the Taoiseach's belief that, based on history, it would not be prudent to assume the UK will decide to stay out of the single currency in 1999.

I would stress, of course, that the UK Government has indicated that a final decision on Economic and Monetary Union participation will not be made until closer to the commencement date of 1 January 1999. Between now and that commencement date my priority as Minister for Finance is to ensure that the Irish economy continues to perform in a way which will ensure that we qualify for Economic and Monetary Union and in a way which will ensure that our participation in Economic and Monetary Union, when formed, will be successful. The Deputy will be aware of the striking progress we have made in this regard. Last year was the seventh successive year when our general Government deficit as a percentage of GDP was comfortably below the 3 per cent Maastricht reference value and my recent budget provided for a deficit comfortably below 3 per cent again in 1996. We have continued to make significant reductions in our ratio of debt to GDP, the other key measurement for Maastricht purposes, which is expected to fall to 81 per cent in 1996. The Government is committed to continuing this sound performance in 1997: it is the fiscal outturns for 1997 which will form the basis for the European Council's decision in early 1998 on which member states qualify for participation in Economic and Monetary Union from 1 January 1999.

[441]

  15.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Finance    the justification, if any, he would envisage in restoring the 10 per cent dividend, abolished in the Finance Act, 1992, and restricting it to private companies. [18402/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I do not consider that restoring manufacturing dividend relief, even on a restricted basis, would be justified in the circumstances. Previous experience with this type of relief has shown that it is of limited value in generating additional equity investment, that it is prone to widespread abuse and that, at best, anti-avoidance safeguards may only be partially effective. Also, the provision of dividend relief, even on a restricted basis, could be very costly. Revenue estimate that its reintroduction for the manufacturing sector would cost a minimum £14 million in a full year, but the cost could be substantially higher due to tax avoidance.

In any case, in addition to the wide range of direct grant assistance for businesses, there are already significant tax incentives available to encourage enterprise development. In this respect, my recent budget introduced a new lower rate of corporation tax on the first tranche of profits, relaxed the rules relating to the 27 per cent rate of capital gains tax on equity gains, renewed the business expansion scheme for a further period and increased the capital acquisitions tax relief on the transfer of a business.

  16.  Dr. McDaid    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will ensure the redirection of funds from other areas/sections on a temporary basis in order to draw down maximum European funding, INTERREG II Delors package, for the Border regions. [17644/95]

[442]

  21.  Dr. McDaid    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has in place to guarantee the drawing down of maximum funding to the Border regions from the European Union. [17640/95]

  28.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Finance    the new initiatives, if any, he proposes to take in the Border region to attract inward investment and encourage existing industry to grow; the additional funding, if any, that will be provided from the Exchequer, the EU INTERREG and peace initiative moneys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2458/96]

  32.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will make a statement regarding the additionality of EU funding for Border areas in view of the Taoiseach's recent statement in Letterkenny, County Donegal. [17853/95]

  59.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    if there will be no additionality in respect of the INTERREG II programme and other special EU Border funding in view of the Taoiseach's statement at a meeting of the northwest region cross-Border group on 27 October 1995 in Letterkenny, County Donegal. [16700/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 21, 28, 32, and 59 together.

In addition to expenditure under the Community Support Framework (CSF) operational programmes and from the Community initiatives, the Border region comprising the six counties of Cavan, Donegal, Letrim, Louth. Monaghan and Sligo, is benefiting specifically from the Special EU programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border counties and the Ireland-Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme 1994-1999. These programmes are co-ordinated by my Department and delivered through a variety of appropriate sectoral departments and agencies.

Under the Peace Programme a total of 300 MECU (approximately £240 [443] million) of EU funds is being provided over the period 1995-1997. At least 20 per cent of these funds, amounting to approximately £48 million, is being made available for the six Border counties.

Under INTERREG II a total of 156 MECU of EU funds has been allocated to the Border counties and Northern Ireland for cross-Border projects in infrastructure, environmental protection, natural resources, human resources and economic development. Of this amount 89.5 MECU (approximately £72 million), significantly over half of the EU funding approved, has been made available for the six Border counties, and, as in the case of the Peace Programme, matching funding will come from central Government, local authorities, the private sector and community groups depending on the nature of the project being funded.

As the Deputies will know, an INTERREG office was established in Monaghan in December last and an INTERREG development officer has been appointed with the specific remit of assisting with the promotion of this programme on the ground both in the Border counties and in Northern Ireland. He will also inform interested groups and individuals on other sources of EU funding for their particular projects.

Deputies who were present at the formal opening will recall that I used it to specifically address the concerns of Border Deputies in relation to additionality and I am glad to get the opportunity again today.

Expenditure under the peace programme and INTERREG II will be additional to spending in the Border counties under the 1994-1999 CSF operational programmes for Ireland and under other Community initiatives. In order to verify this additionality the Department of Finance has requested Government Departments to compile details of forecast expenditure under [444] each operational programme and community initiatives for each of the eight regions. These forecasts, which are now being finalised, will provide the baseline reference data for establishing additionality of expenditure under the INTERREG II and the Peace Programme over the period of these programmes. Rest assured that procedures are being put in place to ensure that additionality of funding under INTERREG II and the Peace Programme will be verifiable and transparent.

In the context of the Peace Programme the Department of Finance has already asked Departments responsible for CSF operational programmes to examine the possibilities for refocusing these programmes in order to accommodate the new demands and challenges which have arisen following the cessation of violence. While a major recasting of operational programmes should not prove necessary, Departments are examining possibilities such as advancing the timing of projects located within the Border region and increased opportunities for cross-Border co-operation.

Given the number and variety of funding programmes both specifically aimed at and involving the Border counties I welcome the Taoiseach's proposal to ask the Minister of State, Deputy Donal Carey, to recommend whatever steps may be appropriate so that the maximum effectiveness of funding is achieved. My Department, which has the overall responsibility for co-ordinating the Community Support Framework and the Community initiatives, will be co-operating fully in whatever additional measures are found to be necessary.

[445]

  17.  Kathleen Lynch    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on the need for greater harmonisation of centralised EU institutions in view of the fact that under the Maastricht Treaty responsibility for the management of exchange rates is split between the European Central Bank and the Ecofin Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2640/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I assume the Deputy is referring to the management of exchange rate policy in stage three of Economic and Monetary Union. The arrangements for such management are set out in the Treaty on European Union and are briefly as follow:

Article 105 provides that the primary objective of the European System of Central Banks, or ESCB, which comprises the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks, shall be to maintain price stability.

Article 109 provides that the Council may, acting unanimously on a recommendation from the ECB or from the Commission, and after consulting the ECB in an endeavour to reach a consensus consistent with the objective of price stability, after consulting the European Parliament, conclude formal agreements on an exchange rate system for the Euro in relation to non-Community currencies. In the absence of such an exchange rate system in relation to one or more non-Community currencies, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, either on a recommendation from the Commission and after consulting the ECB or on a recommendation from the ECB, may formulate general orientations for exchange rate policy in relation to these currencies. These general orientations shall be without prejudice to the primary objective of the ESCB to maintain price stability. When these Article 109 decisions are being taken, the voting rights of the member [446] states not participating in Economic and Monetary Union shall be suspended.

In implementing its tasks within these arrangements, Article 107 provides that neither the ECB nor a national central bank shall seek or take instructions from Community institutions or bodies, or from the government of any member state.

The Deputy will see from the above that the Treaty provides for a substantial degree of co-operation and consultation between the various Community institutions concerned with exchange-rate policy, while also ensuring the necessary independence of the ECB and national central banks. Preparations at EU level for stage 3 are currently intensifying, following the adoption by the Madrid European Council of the reference scenario for the transition to a single currency, and co-operation among the various institutions, including the European Monetary Institute, the forerunner of the ECB, is satisfactory. I am confident that the necessary degree of co-operation between the various institutions, as provided for in the Treaty, will also be achieved in stage three of Economic and Monetary Union.

  18.  Mr. D. Wallace    asked the Minister for Finance    the total number of employees in his Department by grade and geographical location. [2592/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The total number of employees in my Department on 1 February 1996 was 545.5. The following is a listing by grade of those employees, all of who are serving in Dublin:

Grade Numbers
Secretary — Department of Finance 1.0
Secretary — (PSMD) 1.0
Second Secretary 3.0
Chief Medical Officer 1.0
Assistant Secretary 10.0
Principal — Higher Scale 41.0
Principal — Standard Scale 1.0
Assistant Principal — Higher Scale 111.0
[447][448]Teachers 4.0
Assistant Principal 2.0
Information Officer 1.0
Administrative Officer 43.5
Inspector of Taxes 1.0
Higher Executive Officer 84.5
Executive Officer 46.0
Staff Officer 17.0
Clerical Officer 51.0
Head Services Officer 1.0
Paperkeeper 3.0
Services Officer 24.0
Services Attendant 2.0
Clerical Assistant — Clerical 34.5
Clerical Assistant — Shorthandtypist 1.5
Clerical Assistant — Typist 31.0
Clerical Assistant — Data Entry 12.5
Cleaner 1.0
Special Adviser to Minister 1.0
Personal Secretary to Minister 1.0
Personal Assistant to Minister 1.0
Special Adviser to Minister of State 2.0
Personal Secretary to Minister of State 1.0
Personal Assistant to Minister of State 1.0
Programme Manager 1.0
Blind Telephonist 4.0
Civilian Drivers 2.0
Temporary IT Students (Until February 1996) 2.0
Total 545.5

  19.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Finance    the examination or study, if any, he has carried out in to the implications for the Exchequer of the cost of implementing the recently published White Paper on Education; and if he will make the results of such a study or examination public in the context of controlling public expenditure in 1996. [2631/96]

  53.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Finance    the examination or study, if any, he has carried out in to the implications for the Exchequer of the cost of implementing the recently published White Paper on Education; and if he will make the results of such a study or examination public in the context of controlling public expenditure in 1996. [2632/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 53 together.

As the Deputy will be aware the White Paper on Education, Charting our Education Future, was published by the Minister for Education following consideration and approval by the Government. In accordance with normal procedures, my Department prepared observations on the White Paper including its cost aspects, in so far as these could be assessed.

However, as I have already stated in reply to previous questions on this matter, these costings were, of necessity very tentative. The decision taken by the Government in regard to funding is clearly set out by the Minister for Education in her foreword to the White Paper — essentially that the amount of funding which can be made available in any year will be a matter for the [449] Government to determine in the context of its budgetary position.

There are two principal reasons why the cost or proposals in the White Paper are tentative. First, as already indicated by myself and the Minister for Education in reply to previous questions, the cost of implementing the White Paper is contingent on a number of factors including the time scale in which proposals contained in the White Paper are to be introduced. All the initiatives in the White Paper will have to be considered by the Government within the framework of the budgetary parameters and the Maastricht Treaty convergence conditions. Second, because of the various imponderables involved in the implementation of initiatives outlined in the White Paper, including aspects which may involve negotiations with concerned interests, it would be difficult if not impossible to say with any certainty what the cost of implementing the White Paper will be. Accordingly publication of the tentative costings carried out by my Department as part of its function of providing observations for the Government's consideration of the White Paper would not be appropriate.

However, in accordance with normal practice my colleague the Minister for Education will provide costings as appropriate on proposals to complement specific aspects of the White Paper as and when they are submitted to Government for approval.

  23.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for Finance    the total value of deposits in Irish-based banks, building societies, post office accounts and other relevant institutions; and the percentage of such accounts which are in the name of non-nationals. [2595/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Central Bank of Ireland that at end-1995 total non-Government deposits (excluding any accrued interest payable) at banks and building societies in Ireland (including [450] ICC and ACC Bank and TSB Bank) amounted to £37.2 billion. Deposits of non-residents amounted to £9.9 billion, or some 26.6 per cent. At the same time, deposits with the Post Office Savings Bank, other than Special Savings Accounts, amounted to about £405 million, of which less than 1 per cent are deposits from non-residents. Taking these figures together, there is a total of £37.6 billion in deposits with credit institutions and the POSB, of which non-residents account for around 26 per cent.

The Deputy will be aware that the Government raises funds through small savings products such as savings certificates, savings bonds and national instalment savings. The amount of investment in these products, together with POSB special savings accounts, at the end of 1995, was around £3.05 billion. Since these are either tax free or subject to 15 per cent DIRT, it has not been necessary for An Post to differentiate between holders of these products on the basis of residence.

  24.  Mr. Cullen    asked the Minister for Finance    the proposals, if any, that are currently being considered or prepared for the sale of shares in semi-State Bodies and/or the sale of State-owned assets; the criteria being used to assess their value in the commercial market; the purposes for which the proceeds are to be applied; whether capital or current expenditure is involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2542/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  As I indicated in the House last year, there will be a further securitisation operation this year of £50 million to pay for the balance of the arrears of equal treatment to social welfare recipients. This securitisation of local authority mortgage receipts will be on the same basis as the scheme last year which raised close to £140 million. Details of the scheme were [451] fully debated in the context of the passage of the Securitisation (Proceeds of Certain Mortgages) Act, 1995 last year.

The Telecom Éireann Strategic alliance process, which will involve the sale of up to 35 per cent of the State's stake in the company, is well under way and is expected to be completed by the end of the summer of this year.

The process is not fundamentally driven by financial considerations. It is concerned with finding a partner to make a long-term commitment to the transformation of the company to help it to compete successfully in a market which is becoming increasingly competitive.

As to the use of the receipts, the first priorities will be the company's development plan and the Exchequer's liabilities to the Telecom Éireann superannuation fund.

Receipts from the sale of State assets are deemed capital items in the Exchequer's accounts. The structuring of receipts arising from the Telecom Éireann alliance, and consequential discharge of liabilities, is currently under active consideration.

  25.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Finance    the procedures and safeguards adopted in the destruction of illegal drugs seized by Custom Officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18937/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that up to now Customs themselves arranged for the destruction of illegal drugs seized by them where, for example, they discovered the drugs in the parcel post or drugs where found on the seabed and the question of criminal prosecution did not arise. In those cases, a senior customs officer was responsible for the custody and destruction of the seized drugs under controlled [452] conditions and the Revenue Commissioners are satisfied that no security lapses occurred in such cases.

In any cases where the question of possible prosecution of offenders arose the seized drugs were handed over to the Garda who were responsible for prosecution and the destruction of the drugs.

Under a memorandum of understanding concluded recently between the Customs Service and the Garda to standardise and refine the working relationship and practical co-operation between both agencies in combating drug smuggling, it has been agreed that in future all illegal drugs seized by Customs will be delivered to the Garda authorities. In those circumstances, the Garda will be responsible for the destruction of the drugs.

  27.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of applications received for peace initiative funding for the Border region; the way in which it is intended to manage the fund and process the applications; when the moneys will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2459/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Under the Peace Programme a total of 300 MECU (approximately £240 million) of EU funds is being provided over the period 1995-97. At least 20 per cent of these funds (amounting to approximately £48 million) is being made available for the six Border counties. Matching funding will come from central Government, local authorities, the private sector and community groups depending on the nature of the project being funded.

To date, more than 1,500 copies of the Peace Programme information pack have been issued to inquirers and a total of 76 applications have been received in respect of the Border counties. My Department has responsibility for the overall co-ordination of the programme [453] and has established a computer database to log and track each application. The applications are then passed on to the relevant implementing body.

Most of the measures are being managed by Intermediary Funding Bodies who are independent of Government departments and funded by means of global grants. In addition, sub-programme 2 — urban and rural regeneration — involves the participation of county council-led task forces across a wide range of actions. Where measures do not involve intermediary funding bodies or the local authority task force applicants are advised to apply to the relevant Government department directly. Full information in relation to the implementing bodies are issued to applicants and I have arranged to have a copy of the relevant leaflet circulated given to the Deputy.

The innovative implementing mechanisms adopted for the Peace Programme were required by the European Commission to ensure the greatest possible participation and involvement of the local communities. It has been the case that the intermediary bodies, drawn from the community and voluntary sector, took somewhat longer to get organised to carry out the functions required for them than would have been the case if the central departments had been directly involved. However, they are now in place and are in the process of assessing the first batch of applications under the programme. Decisions are expected shortly.

An important feature of the programme is the assistance available at local level through the intermediaries to assist intending applicants, particularly those who, for example through reasons of social exclusion have a reduced capacity to avail of the opportunities available.

[454]

  29.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Finance    if his Department sanctioned the payment of £600,000 in advance overtime payments in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. [2546/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  My Department's sanction for the payment was neither sought nor obtained.

  33.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on the situation whereby it is more tax efficient for farmers with disposable income to invest in section 35 films or section 23 apartments rather than re-invest in their own business. [1873/96]

Minister for Finance: (Mr. Quinn):  First, the argument that it may be more tax efficient for a farmer to invest in films or urban renewal than in his own business is not confined to the farming community. The same would apply to any self-employed businessman or professional. This is because the film relief and the urban renewal incentives were specifically designed to promote investment in those areas. They were not meant to be used as a standard against which all other investment scenarios would be measured.

Second, I would point out to the Deputy that the position for farmers reinvesting in their own business contains several positive elements. Farmers have the same level of capital allowances for investment in plant and machinery as other sectors, i.e. 15 per cent per annum for 6 years and 10 per cent in the seventh year. Similarly, with regard to investment in farm buildings including sheds, fences, yards, roads, holding yards, drains or land reclamation, the farmer can write off the cost over seven years. These capital allowances for farm buildings are highly favourable — industrial buildings are written down at 4 per cent per annum over 25 years, while commercial buildings (outside the designated areas) have no capital allowances.

Finally, I would like to remind the Deputy that the farmer has several factors operating in his favour with [455] regard to re-investment in his own business. Substantial investment aid is available under EU programmes. In 1995 there was an estimated £60 million in EU aid, of which £48 million was for on-farm investment, £10 million for general structural improvements and £2 million for rural development. Investment aids include installation aid for young farmers, grants for purchase of milk quota, grant aid for diversification into non-conventional farm enterprises, including agri-tourism as well as grants for investment in pollution control, dairy hygiene and animal welfare. These grants as a general policy favour the smaller farmer. Farmers also have income averaging over three years and stock relief at 25 per cent with no clawback as well as an enhanced stock relief scheme for certain young trained farmers. Stock relief is not available to any other sector of the community.

  34.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Finance    the memorandum or advice, if any, he has circulated to other Departments and State agencies on the need for economy in relation to printed publications and newsletters. [2630/96]

  56.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Finance    the memorandum or advice, if any, he has circulated to other Departments and State agencies on the need for economy in relation to printed publications and newsletters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2629/96]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance: (Mr. Coveney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 56 together.

In order to put this matter in perspective I have set out as follows the cost of printing ordered by Government Departments through the Government Supplies Agency of the Office of Public Works in the years 1991 to 1995.

[456](£000)
1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
7,140 6,991 6,858 7,697 8,626

While the increase in costs between 1993 and 1994 and between 1994 and 1995 were in both cases just over 12 per cent the bulk of these increases are due to substantial increases in the cost of paper rather than to a growth in the quantity of printing. Labour cost increases would also account for a relatively small percentage increase.

Since January 1990 responsibility for funding for printing has been transferred to individual Departments. At that time Standing Instructions were issued to all Departments to ensure the most stringent economies in printing costs and a reminder to this effect was issued again by the Minister for Finance in March 1995.

Notwithstanding what I have said above, the Deputies should be aware that I am very interested, on an ongoing basis, in achieving economies where possible in the area of State procurement. I have therefore asked my officials to examine this and let me have proposals.

  35.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for Finance    the approximate individual and cumulative net value of all semi-State companies. [2594/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I take it that the Deputy's interest concerns the main commercial State bodies. The latest official information regarding the net worth of commercial State bodies is that published in table 7 of the Public Capital Programme, 1995. That table covers 18 bodies and gives their cumulative net worth as £2,839 million. The net worth for each of the companies concerned and two others besides is contained in the following.

[457] Net Worth of Commercial State Bodies¹

State Body Net Worth
£'000
Irish National Petroleum Corporation 22,696
Irish Steel 7,526
Aer Lingus 114,850
ICC Bank 67,389
Bord Telecom 481,429
An Post 35,459
RTE 63,694
ESB 883,505
Bord na Móna –64,649
CIE 124,536
Aer Rianta 97,186
Bord Gáis Éireann 167,458
ACC Bank 44,384
Coillte 778,877
Racing Board 8,082
National Stud 3,804
Arramara Teo 563
Bord na gCon 3,149
Sub-total 2,839,938
£000
NET –80,136
VHI 57,448

¹ The first 18 companies listed above are those covered in Table 7 of the Public Capital Programme 1995.

  36.  Dr. Woods    asked the Minister for Finance    if Government tendering procedures require the maintenance of an arms-length relationship to all companies until the contract is awarded; and if it would be improper for a company to be assured that it has obtained the contract before all procedures and interviews with other companies have been completed. [1292/96]

  42.  Miss Quill    asked the Minister for Finance    the specific procedures that exist for the awarding of public contracts. [1231/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 42 together. The national guidelines which govern the award of contracts by public sector bodies, are set out in a booklet entitled Public Procurement.[458] These run to 46 pages, but the basic principle is that competitive tendering should always be used unless there are exceptional reasons for proceeding otherwise. This is to ensure the maximization of value for money for taxpayers and an open and fair regime for suppliers of goods and services, since all suitable suppliers should be given an equitable opportunity of competing for public business. The range of public procurement is very wide and there are specific rules covering specialised areas but the fundamental policy, which should be adhered to in all cases, is that appropriate market testing should take place and basically fair, non-discriminatory, procedures be applied.

The specific procedures governing procurement depend, inter alia, on the nature of the contracting body, and the value of the contract in question. There is a legal obligation to advertise throughout the European Community and to follow specific procedures set out in the relevant EU directives for contracts above threshold values specified in the directives. These are obviously too lengthy to list here but, again, their essence is that open, non-discriminatory competitive procedures apply on a community-wide basis.

In the case of contracts which do not fall within the scope of EU directives, and where the contracting authority is a Government Department or office, then the national procedures apply. As I mentioned, these also specify a competitive tendering process, except in the most exceptional circumstances. The competition may be based on an open advertisement, or on restricted tendering, where a number of firms are invited to apply. In the latter case, the number of firms invited to tender should not be less than five. Where the contract exceeds a certain threshold, and the proposed award is exceptional in some way (such as passing over the lowest bid; award on the basis of a single tender) then the award must be approved by the Government Contracts Committee.

In the case of State bodies the same [459] general principles of contract procedures apply. In addition, my Department issues general guidelines for the operation of State bodies which provide, inter alia, that competitive tendering should be normal procedure save in exceptional circumstances. In general, it would be the boards of these bodies which are responsible and accountable for their procurement policies.

As regards relations with tenderers before a contract is awarded, a company could not be validly assured that it had obtained a contract until the evaluation process was complete (including any necessary clarification, interview, and other discussions). I do not know what specifically the Deputy means by an “arms-length relationship” in this context — obviously, there can be no discriminatory treatment but, equally obviously, detailed discussions may be needed in clarifying and developing the proposals of any or all tenderers.

  37.  Mr. N. Treacy    asked the Minister for Finance,    in view of the creation of five additional advisory posts for the Minister for Social Welfare to support his work in the Cabinet, the plans, if any, he has to create an equivalent number of advisory posts to assist each other Cabinet Minister; the costs involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1102/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  As the Deputy will appreciate, special institutional arrangements were devised by the Government of which he was a member to provide the Tánaiste, as leader of a Government party, with the means of ensuring an appropriate input into all items coming before Government. The arrangement to which the Deputy alludes has been introduced in recognition of the position of the Minister for Social Welfare as the leader of the third party in Government and for a similar purpose.

[460] The total cost of the special advisory contract posts is, as the Minister for Social Welfare has already stated in this House, £91,718, including PRSI.

There is no intention of changing the established arrangements for advisory posts for other Cabinet Ministers.

  38.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Finance    the discussions, if any, that have taken place with his British counterpart regarding the economy of Border counties. [18299/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  As the Deputy knows, my Department is responsible for the Ireland/Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme and the Special EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border counties. Following Government approval of my proposals in respect of both of these Community initiatives the Department of Finance and Personnel in Belfast and my own Department drew up the draft Operational Programmes which were subsequently approved by the European Commission. The relevant counterpart in Britain involved in the process is the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and, indeed, it would not be out of place for me to thank them for their positive contribution in ensuring that our Border counties were considered an essential part of the equation in response to the Commission's desire to support the peace process in Northern Ireland. In drawing up the Operational Programmes every facility was given to local interests, North and South of the Border to have an impact on the proposals.

I can assure the Deputy that through the various fora provided, including the joint monitoring Committees of the INTERREG and Peace Programmes and the joint Chapter on North/South Co-operation in the National Plan 1994-99, every opportunity will continue to be availed of to advance the economic development of the Border region. [461] Other questions that are down for answer today give more specific detail in relation to other initiatives under way.

  43.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Finance    whether he has participated in the inter-departmental review on the imposition of PRSI and levies in maintenance payments between separated spouses. [2628/96]

  54.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for Finance    whether he has participated in the inter-departmental review on the imposition of PRSI and levies in maintenance payments between separated spouses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2627/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 54 together.

Until 6 April 1995 where an individual made an enforceable maintenance payment to an estranged spouse, PRSI contributions, health contribution and employment and training levy were chargeable on the paying spouse's income at the time it is earned and again on the maintenance payments on their receipt by the receiving spouse. In 1994 a review of the treatment of maintenance payments for the purposes of levies and PRSI was undertaken by officials of my Department, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Departments of Social Welfare, Health and Enterprise and Employment.

Following that review it was agreed that the health contribution and the employment-training levy should not be imposed on that part of the payer's income which is paid to his-her separated spouse under an enforceable maintenance agreement. The appropriate changes in the law were included in the Social Welfare Act, 1995 and had effect from 6 April last. This brings the treatment of maintenance payments for the purposes of the levies into line with [462] their treatment in the income tax system.

The review also concluded that there should be no change in the PRSI treatment of maintenance payments. The payment of separate PRSI contributions enables each spouse to build up a social insurance record in their own right and they can both, in due course, qualify for a pension. Entitlement to a social insurance pension is a valuable right and affords protection to separated spouses. It is, therefore, important for the protection of their individual pension rights that social insurance contributions be made by the recipients of maintenance payments.

  44.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Finance    the reason for the delay in developing the old Garda Headquarters in Monaghan town in view of the need for accommodation for State agencies in that region. [1121/96]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Coveney):  The former Garda station in Monaghan is to be refurbished as offices for Government Departments located in the town. The required accommodation briefs have now been received from the Departments concerned. A design team has been appointed to prepare a scheme in accordance with these briefs. It is expected that these refurbishment works will commence later this year.

  45.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Finance    the specific procedures that exist for the appointment of consultants to Government Departments. [1232/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The procedures for the engagement of management consultants are, broadly, as follows. A project brief, also known as a request for tenders, should be prepared by the individual Department concerned and issued to a number of consultancy firms. The number of firms [463] invited to tender generally depends on the estimated value of the contract. Where it is expected that the value of the contract will exceed £160,000, approximately, projects must be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Communities in compliance with the Services Directive 92/50/EEC. Projects with an estimated value of less than that amount need only be advertised within Ireland either by means of advertisement in the national or trade press or by issuing request for tenders to a number of firms. Interested firms then submit tenders which are evaluated by the Department commissioning the project. Where the contract is subject to the EU Services Directive 92/50/EEC the award criteria to be employed must be clearly set out from the beginning. The contract may require to be referred to the Government Contracts Committee for approval, if it is exceptional in some way, for instance, the proposed passing over of the lowest bid.

Department of Finance sanction need only be sought by Departments for expenditure on consultancy projects which exceeds the delegated levels set out in departmental administrative budget agreements. Once Department of Finance sanction has been obtained, where appropriate, a contract or exchange of letters should normally take place between the contracting Department and the successful firm.

The national procedures which should be followed by Government Departments, local and regional authorities, and other bodies in the public sector or dependent on State funding as appropriate, in the award of public sector contracts in general, are set out in a booklet issued by my Department entitled “Public Procurement”. The lastest edition was published in 1994 and it is available from the Government Publications Sales Office.

[464]

  47.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Finance    the percentage of persons with a disability employed in the civil service on a Department by Department basis; the number of persons with a disability employed at each grade; the proposals, if any, he has to ensure that the 3 per cent quota is implemented throughout all Departments and at all grades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18273/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  As of 1 October 1995, the most recent date for which data are available, the proportion of people with disabilities employed in the Civil Service was 3 per cent. A tabular statement listing by Department the percentage of staff with a disability employed on 1 October 1995 is as follows.

Information regarding the grades in which people with disabilities are serving is not held centrally. Even if it were, I would be reluctant to publish details by grade in view of the extreme sensitivity of the data, particularly as, in the case of grades with a small number of staff, the information could result in the personal identification of staff with a disability.

Each head of Department is fully aware of the Government policy in relation to the employment of people with disabilities, which was reiterated in the Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Civil Service, a copy of which is issued to all staff. The code of practice calls on all Government Departments to continue to play their full part in employing people with disabilities. In addition, since 1993, the Civil Service Commissioners have assigned a member of their staff as liaison officer for the recruitment of people with disabilities into the Civil Service to liaise with candidates, Departments and relevant specialised organisations.

The quota of 3 per cent applies to the Civil Service as a whole, not to individual Departments or grades. However, as can be seen from the list, the majority of Departments had a percentage of 3 per cent or higher of disabled people on their staff as of 1 October 1995.

[465] The policy in relation to the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service is implemented by (a) from time to time holding competitions confined to people who are registered with, or entitled to be registered with, the National Rehabilitation Board as having a disability; (b) facilitating people with a disability when competing in open competitions not confined to people with a disability; and (c) where possible, retaining staff who become disabled after their recruitment.

Percentage of Staff with Disabilities in the Civil Service as of 1 October 1995, shown by Department.

Department/Office % of Staff with a disability
Agriculture, Food and Forestry 2%
Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht 4%
Defence 5%
Education 3%
Enterprise and Employment 4%
Environment 3%
Equality and Law Reform 6%
Finance Group (i) 3%
Foreign Affairs 3%
Health 3%
Justice Group 3%
Marine 5%
Office of Public Works (ii) 4%
Office of the Tánaiste 0%
Revenue Commissioners (ii) 2%
Social Welfare 3%
Taoiseach's Group (iii) 5%
Tourism and Trade 3%
Transport, Energy and Communications 3%
Overall Total 3%

(i) includes the Civil Service Commission, the Offices of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Ombudsman's Office, the President's Establishment, the State Laboratory, the Valuation Office and the Ordnance Survey in addition to the Department of Finance.

(ii) under the aegis of the Minister for Finance, but shown separately in view of the numbers of staff employed,

(iii) includes the Offices of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor, the Central Statistics Office and the Office of the [466] Director of Public Prosecutions, in addition to the Department of the Taoiseach.

  48.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Finance    the efforts, if any, that are being made by his Department to develop EU funding strategies to replace the current round of EU Structural Funds. [1449/96]

  76.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Finance    if Ireland will lose its Objective I status after 1999. [19272/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 76 together.

The Government is monitoring and will continue to monitor all aspects of Ireland's continuing eligibility for Structural Funds after 1999 when the current round of funding expires, including the retention of Objective One status. The Government is developing its strategy for the next round of Structural Fund negotiations to ensure the best possible outcome for Ireland in the negotiations on the financial perspective for the period 2000-2005 which are expected to commence in the second half of 1997. Notwithstanding the improvement in Ireland's relative position within the EU in terms of GDP per capita, since the initiation of Structural Funds, the aim of the effort is to ensure that Ireland will derive the maximum benefit from these EU transfers after 1999. It must be acknowledged, however, that the improvement in Ireland's GDP per capita as a percentage of the EU average is a development to be welcomed and is a tribute to the successful implementation of our stabilisation policies and to the productive use which has been made of the EU Structural Funds.

[467]

  49.  Mr. D. Wallace    asked the Minister for Finance    the total cost of computer hardware purchased by Government Departments during 1995; the ten leading manufacturers; and their relevant sales. [2593/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Under the administrative budget arrangements each Department is responsible for its expenditure on computers and related purchases. I am not, therefore, in a position to supply the details sought by the Deputy for Departments other than my own. The details for other Departments may be requested from the relevant Ministers.

The cost of computer hardware (i.e. computers, printers, tape units etc.) for my Department and the offices under its aegis amounted to £8,623,000 (including VAT) in 1995.

The ten leading manufacturers are as follows:

Manufacturer Amount (£ incl. VAT)
Bull 2,917,000
Siemens Nixdorf 2,126,000
Dell 471,000
AST 412,000
Data General 341,000
Lexmark 269,000
Oki 203,000
ICL 168,000
Compaq 162,000
Nipson 100,000

  50.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the tendering procedures required by him for moneys spent by Government Ministers for public relations/media advice and consultancies; the total moneys spent in this area in 1995; the tendering procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2461/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  It has not been the practice, under successive administrations, to insist on specific competitive tendering procedures for the selection of public [468] relations and media advisers to Ministers. Because of the unique nature of the services provided in the area I would accept that it is not appropriate to require a specific tendering process, subject of course to Departments ensuring that good value for money is obtained at competitive rates for the services provided. Under administrative budget agreements, my Department's sanction is only required for expenditure above a certain threshold — accordingly my Department does not have a record of total expenditure on these services in other Departments. Expenditure in my own Department in 1995 was £2,900 — in respect of other Departments the Deputy would have to put down a question to the individual Ministers concerned.

  52.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the consideration, if any, given to abolishing the residential property tax in preparation of the 1996 budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2460/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The programme, A Government of Renewal, indicated that the future of residential property tax would be considered in the context of a professional study of local Government financing which is at present being undertaken by my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Brendan Howlin.

A steering committee made up of representatives from the Departments of Environment and Finance has been set up to oversee the professional study which is being carried out in two stages. A team of consultants was appointed in July 1995 to carry out stage 1 involving a review of existing literature, arrangements in other countries, taking submissions and highlighting viable options. A report of the findings of stage 1 will form the basis for the stage 2 study to commence. It is expected that the professional study will conclude with the [469] publication of a White Paper later this year.

I will evaluate all aspects of residential property tax in light of the findings of the study when completed.

  55.  Mr. Dempsey    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has to change his Department's policy which precludes many professional grades from competing for senior positions in the Civil Service for which they are suitable and qualified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19159/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Competition for the most senior posts within the Civil Service — those filled through the Top Level Appointments Committee — is, in fact, open to civil servants, within a certain salary band, regardless of whether they belong to the general service or the professional structure.

In relation to competition for posts at principal level, which is I presume the area of particular concern to the Deputy, some years ago my Department made proposals which would have broadened eligibility, but it was not possible to secure the agreement of the relevant staff interests to the proposals.

I have already put on record in this House my personal support for the removal of traditional promotion barriers in the Civil Service. This matter has been received by the Co-ordinating Group of Secretaries in the overall context of proposals for reform of the Civil Service and the Government is completing its deliberations on this matter at present. Until this process is completed, I am not in a position to indicate any plans in this regard.

As the Deputy will be aware, there are established procedures in the Civil Service within which previous changes in promotion arrangements have been agreed with the staff side and any proposals which may emerge in relation to the specific issue raised by the Deputy [470] will also be discussed within this framework.

  57.  Mr. M. Brennan    asked the Minister for Finance    the current position regarding arterial drainage of the Arrow/Owenmore Rivers and when it is hoped that work will commence on these rivers under the Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Act, 1995. [1667/96]

  58.  Mr. M. Brennan    asked the Minister for Finance    the amount of money that has been made available in the 1996 budget for drainage of the Arrow/Owenmore Rivers. [1665/96]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Coveney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 58 together.

I am aware that there has been a long history of flooding in the Owenmore/Arrow river catchment and that many representations have been made over the years both by private landowners, through the local drainage committee, and public representatives, all of whom advocated the undertaking of a comprehensive arterial drainage scheme under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945 for the catchment. Indeed, a design for a comprehensive scheme for the Owenmore/Arrow catchment was prepared and subjected to a detailed cost benefit analysis and environmental impact assessment to assess the economic merits of the scheme and the environmental effects of scheme proposals.

The Commissioners of Public Works and the Owenmore drainage committee co-operated and worked actively together in the identification and maximisation of the potential benefits to be derived from such a comprehensive scheme. However, in spite of their combined best efforts, it is evident from the results of the CBA that it was not feasible to determine an economically worthwhile scheme for the Owenmore/Arrow catchment. Indeed, variations of a number of scheme [471] designs which were also considered proved uneconomical. It is not therefore proposed to undertake a catchment drainage scheme and consequently no provision has been made in the 1996 Estimates.

It is considered that individual areas within the Qwenmore/Arrow catchment which are subject to localised flooding could be considered for flood relief schemes under the Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Act, 1995, which empowers the Commissioners of Public Works to carry out such schemes. Such areas can be identified and will be considered for inclusion among other such areas when the Commissioners are drawing up the new priority flood relief programme to be undertaken under the 1995 Act.

Schemes carried out under the 1995 Act must also pass economic and environmental assessments.

  60.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has to publish a White Paper on the future of the semi-State sector. [17440/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I have no plans to publish a White Paper on this subject. The Government's policy regarding the semi-State sector is set out in the document A Government of Renewal. The Deputy will be aware that in recent years this Government and its predecessors have paid considerable attention to the State body sector and there have been a number of important developments in this area viz. the publication of the 1992 State bodies guidelines, the Government's response to the Culliton and Moriarty reports on industrial policy as it related to the commercial State body sector and the recent report of the task force appointed by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.

At this stage the most important issues in the commercial State sector are the challenges facing each individual [472] body, which would include some or all of the following: transition from protected State monopoly to competitive business; operating in an increasingly competitive environment; an accelerating rate of technological change; increasing customer demands; an EU “open markets” ethos.

These challenges are best addressed on a case by case basis, through the setting of a commercial mandate in each case and the adoption of a corporate plan, rather than on a broad front, which the publication of a White Paper would involve.

  61.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, there are to increase the number of staff in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in order to speed up proceedings following the appointment of additional judges. [2392/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  As the Deputy may be aware, some additional staff were authorised by me for the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions late last year, pending a review of that office which is at present under way by officials of my Department. Two additional legal assistants are being recruited, preliminary interviews have already been held and staff should be in post shortly.

That review exercise in the office of the DPP is nearing completion and immediate consideration will be given to any recommendation that it may contain relating to staffing or other matters.

The appointment of additional judges recently announced, should have the welcome effect of speeding up civil and criminal business before the courts, so that cases are resolved more quickly. It will have little direct effect on the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, whose work, in the main, relates to giving directions as to whether a prosecution should or should not be brought in criminal cases.

[473]

  62.  Dr. Upton    asked the Taoiseach    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding under the URBAN Community Initiative Programme of the second round of the Structural Funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2714/96]

The Taoiseach:  The European Union URBAN Initiative is intended to help find solutions to the serious social problems caused by the crisis in many depressed urban areas through supporting schemes for economic and social revitalisation, the renovation of facilities and infrastructures and environmental improvement. It is intended for areas within cities which have a population of more than 100,000 and suffering from high rates of unemployment, a decaying urban fabric, poor housing and a lack of social facilities. The Department of the Taoiseach has responsibility for URBAN because of the close links between the process and objectives of the Initiative and those of the Local Urban and Rural Development Programme.

A sum of 15.5 million ECU or around £12.5 million has been made available to Ireland under the Initiative in the period to 1999. Co-financing of approximately 5 million ECU (£4 million) will be provided by the Exchequer. As previously announced, agreement was reached with the European Commission that URBAN would apply in Cork and Dublin. In Cork the area is to be the northside of the city and in Dublin the areas are west Tallaght/Clondalkin and Finglas/Ballymun/Darndale. The funding in the case of the latter area is to be concentrated on Ballymun.

An additional allocation of 4.82 mecu (£3.85 million approximately) will be made to the Initiative in the near future. Finglas and Darndale will be given priority for this further funding. The allocation of this total funding will be [474] considered by the Government in due course, in consultation with the European Commission.

  63.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    the European Conventions, if any, that Ireland has not signed or ratified; and when these conventions will be signed or ratified. [2720/96]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  There are 160 Conventions and Protocols in the European Treaty Series of the Council of Europe. Twenty-eight of these cover subjects which come under the auspices of my Department, the remaining 132 are the responsibility of other Departments.

Of the twenty-eight under the auspices of my Department Ireland has ratified 16, signed but not ratified four, and not signed eight.

Some of the Conventions not adhered to by Ireland are old instruments which are now essentially moribund (some never having entered into force) while some others are considered not relevant for Ireland.

Signed but not ratified

1. European Convention for the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes (1957). This Convention was signed by Ireland in 1957 but never ratified. This Convention does not appear to be active: Liechtenstein is the only signatory since 1970. Ratification is not under active consideration.

2. 7th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (1984). This Protocol confers additional civil rights, notably concerning rights of lawfully resident aliens. The Protocol will be ratified at the earliest possible date.

3. 11th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (1992). This Protocol replaces the Commission and Court with a single permanent [475] Court. The Protocol will be ratified at the earliest possible date.

4. Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Ratification is under consideration.

Not Signed.

1. Third Protocol to General Agreement on Privileges & Immunities (1959). This Protocol is only for members of the Council of Europe Resettlement Fund, Ireland is not a member.

2. European Convention on Consular Functions (1967). This Convention has never entered into force; there have been only four ratifications to date.

3. Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Consular Functions (1967). This Protocol has never entered into force.

4. Second Protocol to the European Convention on Consular Functions (1967). This Protocol has never entered into force.

5. European Convention on State Immunity (1972). This involves restrictions or limitations on the diplomatic privileges enjoyed by State offices and diplomatic missions in cases of, and only as regards, their engagement in commercial activities. It is felt to have very limited application in Irish circumstances. The normal methods of redress in the Irish courts are felt to be more convenient and useful for both the State and the parties concerned (e.g. traders with claims against an Embassy in Ireland) than the fact-finding and arbitration machinery envisaged in the Convention. In short, it is not considered to be needed in Irish circumstances.

6. Additional Protocol to the European Convention on State Immunity (1972). This Protocol cannot be signed unless the Convention itself is signed.

7. European Agreement on transfer of responsibility for refugees (1980). This Convention relates to States taking [476] responsibility for refugees especially in regard to issuing of documents. Adherence to this agreement is not felt to be a priority, as refugees in Ireland already receive a higher degree of protection than that envisaged in the Agreement (most settled refugees here receive Irish citizenship by naturalisation and thus receive full Irish passports).

8. European Convention on the recognition of the legal personality of international non-governmental organisations (1986). Consideration was given to the possibility of becoming party to this Convention in 1988. It was considered that the intention and meaning of much of the Convention was unclear, and its implications potentially very wide.

  64.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    the British Members of Parliament who were lunched by the Irish Ambassador prior to the issue of the Mitchell report; and the documents presented to them. [2717/96]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  As part of the Embassy's normal contacts with British public and political opinion, several members of the Conservative Backbench Committee on Northern Ireland attended a private luncheon in the Irish Embassy on 23 January hosted by the Ambassador. The engagement was a long-standing one. The members of Parliament were invited on the basis of their involvement in Anglo-Irish affairs and plans by some members of the Committee to visit Ireland in the near future.

Discussion at the lunch covered a range of topics of mutual interests to Ireland and Britain, including developments in the Northern Ireland peace process. The Ambassador took the opportunity to outline the Government's policy on the peace process and to respond to questions and points [477] raised on the basis of the Government's publicly stated position. There was no formal briefing; no documents were exchanged, circulated or quoted from; and no breach of confidence occurred.

The Deputy will appreciate that it is not normal practice to name those attending private functions of this kind.

  65.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    when it is proposed to remove the British Army checkpoint at Aughnacloy, County Tyrone. [2718/96]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  As I have indicated in reply to previous questions on permanent vehicle checkpoints on the Border, the Government's view is that these should be removed as soon as possible. I have put this view to the British side in the framework of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Concerns about particular checkpoints, including that at Aughnacloy, are also raised through the Anglo-Irish Secretariat.

While some progress has been made towards restoring normality at Border crossings, particularly through the reopening of previously closed crossings, the situation in regard to the removal of the static vehicle checkpoints is disappointing. Only a small number of static checkpoints have been completely removed.

In the Joint Communiqué of 28 November 1995, the two Governments reaffirmed their willingness to continue to take responsive measures, advised by their respective security authorities, as the threat reduces. This broad approach has been endorsed in the recent report of the International body. The removal of the remaining Border checkpoints, including the installation at Aughnacloy, should form part of these responsive measures and I will continue to press the British authorities for early progress in this regard.

[478]

  66.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Finance    the steps, if any, he proposes to take to ensure a better uptake of EU funding for Border counties in view of the EU audit service report. [17216/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The reference relating to the INTERREG programme in the Court of Auditors report related to the perception that only 39 of the 270 projects funded under the programme were of a cross-frontier nature, and that, therefore, the objectives of the programme had not been met.

The content of the report has already been discussed with the European Commission. The Commission agreed with our view that the programme objectives were not restricted to developing cross-Border linkages but also aimed to assist the eligible areas to overcome their special development problems; that there was no evidence of ineligible projects or areas being funded; that the interim evaluation of the programme carried out by independent assessors was positive and had noted that the programme was effective in meeting both of its objectives; that a more difficult set of political, social and economic circumstances pertained during INTERREG I (i.e. prior to the “ceasefires”) which may have constrained the cross-Border element of the programme; and that we, following a review of the experience of INTERREG I, had made appropriate adjustments to the follow-up programme. It was further accepted by the Commission that the Court of Auditors had taken a very narrow interpretation of cross-Border projects, counting only those where joint actions on both sides of the Border were concerned and not including development on one side or the other which had made a positive contribution to the economic development of both.

The Regional Affairs Commissioner, Monika Wulf-Mathies, incorporated, on behalf of the Commission, the above [479] points in a speech she made in Armagh on 8 December 1996 on the launching of the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.

On that same day, the Commissioner opened the local INTERREG development office in Monaghan, the function of which is to ensure that every possible assistance is given to applications for grant assistance under the programme.

  68.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on the imbalance that exists with regard to residential property tax between Dublin and the rest of the country; if he supports the view that there should be greater equity if residential property tax is to remain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2463/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Revenue statistics confirm that a higher porportion of residential property taxpayers reside in the greater Dublin area. However, this simply reflects the reality that the majority of houses valued in excess of the exemption threshold are located in Dublin.

The Programme, A Government of Renewal, indicated that the future of residential property tax would be considered in the context of a professional study of local government financing which is at present being undertaken by my colleague Deputy Brendan Howlin.

I will evaluate all aspects of residential property tax in light of the findings of the study when completed.

  69.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the total number, value and location of residential property tax returns and payments received by 1 October 1995, and other late payments received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2464/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of people in [480] each county who paid residential property tax together with a breakdown by county of the receipts from residential property tax for the 1995 valuation date is as shown in the following table.

Total payments in respect of the 1995 valuation date amounted to £9.5 million, as set out in the table. Additional residential property tax payments of approximately £2.3 million were also made in 1995 in respect of valuation dates for previous years but a breakdown of these payments is not available.

TABLE*

County Number of Taxpayers Tax Paid £
Dublin 14,325 7,381,344
Cork 1,158 487,873
Wicklow 817 382,139
Galway 510 216,096
Kildare 452 208,937
Limerick 409 152,679
Meath 337 140,592
Waterford 183 74,363
Kerry 142 51,845
Tipperary 133 77,163
Louth 124 45,900
Clare 113 35,715
Wexford 97 33,083
Kilkenny 96 32,238
Donegal 89 41,011
Sligo 88 21,316
Westmeath 88 24,153
Mayo 61 25,698
Carlow 59 16,929
Offaly 48 18,675
Monaghan 43 21,533
Laois 41 7,039
Cavan 25 12,052
Unclassified 21 13,480
Roscommon 20 4,537
Longford 15 2,954
Leitrim 6 2,215
Total 19,500 9,531,559

* Position as at 5 January, 1996.

[481]

  70.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the progress, if any, that has been made on the principle of licensing a casino in Ireland; the considerations, if any, that have been taken into account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2465/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  No decision has yet been taken by the Government on the principle of whether or not to approve casino licensing.

As I have previously indicated to the House, the Government has asked my Department to prepare a report, in consultation with the other Government Departments and agencies involved, on the pros and cons of licensing casino gaming on its merits.

I expect that the report which is now at an advanced stage will provide me with an overall assessment of all the relevant issues including, for example, legislative considerations, the social and economic implications, revenue aspects and the potential impact on other forms of gaming.

  72.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has to reduce the high level of VAT on newspapers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2712/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I have no plans to reduce the VAT rate, currently 12.5 per cent, which applies to newspapers.

The position is that, under EU VAT law, member states have the option of applying one or two reduced rates, which may be as low as 5 per cent to a specified list of goods and services. However, while newspapers are on that list, a move to such a low rate would be very costly in terms of revenue foregone. While a separate 5 per cent rate solely for newspapers would be technically possible, it would inevitably give rise to immediate pressure from other sectors to be allowed the benefit of that rate. Moreover, the creation of a new reduced rate would be contrary to the policy, implemented by successive Governments over recent years, of consolidating and streamlining the VAT [482] rating structure, where it is possible to do so.

I am well aware of the difficulties faced by the Irish newspaper industry. In particular, I recognise that there is stiff competition from UK publications sold here. However, this competition arises because UK newspapers enjoy greater economies of scale and lower production costs. The fact is that the competition involved does not arise from the rate of VAT on newspapers in Ireland, which applies equally to both Irish and to foreign publications. A reduction in the VAT rate here, even if that were possible, would not solve the core problem for Irish newspapers which is related to their costs structure and other commercial non-tax factors.

The Deputy will be aware that last year the Minister for Enterprise and Employment established a commission on the Newspaper Industry. I await the findings of that commission with interest.

  73.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Finance    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding under the INTEREG Community Initiative Programme of the second round of the structural funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2713/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  INTERREG is a Community initiative under the Structural Funds which is aimed at assisting Border areas of the Community in overcoming their special development problems and at promoting cross-Border co-operation.

Under the joint Ireland/Wales INTERREG Programme, which was approved on 28 July 1995 and runs to the end of 1999, the EC is providing 84 million ECU (approximately IR£67 million) of which 70 million ECU (approximately IR£56 million) represents the Irish share.

The programme covers expenditure [483] in the areas of transport, transport information systems, environment and emergency planning, tourism and culture, economic development, human resources.

There is also a small technical assistance measure to underpin the operation of the programme.

The eligible area comprises the regions of Dublin, Mid-East (counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow) and South-East (counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South-Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford), and the counties of Gwynedd and Dyfed in Wales.

The programme is jointly managed by the administrations in Dublin and Cardiff, and projects are considered under joint working groups. At present 44 applications are currently undergoing assessment by the various working groups and it is expected that announcements of project approvals will be made in the near future.

  74.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has satisfied himself that the agreement regarding the disposal of Verolme Dockyard, Cobh, County Cork, entered into by the State with Damen Shipbuilding Company has been adhered to in all respects, particularly in relation to the retention of shipbuilding capacity at the yard, job creation and financial arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2715/96]

  75.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Finance    whether ongoing monitoring of the operation of the contract regarding the disposal of Verolme Dockyard, Cobh, County Cork, to Damen Shipbuilding Company took place; the evaluation, if any, of the deal that has been undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2716/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 75 together.

[484] The Verolme Cork Dockyard was sold by Foir Teoranta to Cork Dockyard Holdings Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of a Dutch company, Damen Shipyards, for £1 million in 1991. When Foir Teoranta was dissolved its responsibilities in this matter were transferred to ICC Bank.

While the purchase agreement contained no reference to the achievement of specified job targets, it was hoped that up to 450 jobs could be realised within five years if shipbuilding could be revived at the yard. While I can appreciate the disappointment that these hopes did not come to fruition, we must acknowledge that following Damen's acquisition of the yard, the European shipping industry went into a cyclical downturn. Furthermore, following the political changes in Eastern Europe, that region's large shipbuilding and repair industry has aggressively pursued western business with very low labour costs, combined with newly introduced western management. This has given them a major competitive advantage. These market changes, which could not have been anticipated when Damen purchased the Cork yard, effectively precluded the development of the yard on the scale originally expected. It must also be said that their effects are likely to be long-term and that there is now no realistic prospect of a conventional shipbuilding operation being carried out at the yard.

IDA/Forbairt has been working closely with the company in attempts to attract tenants for the yard for the purpose of developing it for all types of engineering work. These attempts have yielded results and I understand that about 90 people are currently employed by various businesses on the site. It is hoped that employment can increase significantly as further projects come on stream.

The Deputy will appreciate that because the sale was a private agreement between two parties, I am unable to disclose all the details of the contract. I can, however, say that the contract contains an anti asset-stripping clause [485] designed to inhibit the sale of the yard or the disposal of major items of equipment for a period of five years from the date of sale. In this regard, I am informed that any assets sold have been disposed of in accordance with the agreed procedure.

  77.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the concerns felt by many women concerning inappropriately mixed hospital wards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2669/96]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): In my reply to Questions Nos. 175 and 194 on Tuesday, 23 January 1996 I stated the current policy in relation to mixed hospital wards and I also indicated that I am presently carrying out a review of mixed hospital wards in each health board area.

  78.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Health    the reason he has delayed the publication of the review group on physical and sensory disability; and the resources, if any, he has set aside to implement the review group report during 1996. [2677/96]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): In reply to a question from the Deputy in November. I said that I hoped to publish the review group report on Services for People with Physical or Sensory Disabilities within the following three months. The draft report of the group will shortly be circulated to interested organisations involved in the provision of services to people with disabilities for discussion at a consultative seminar on 21 February 1996. This seminar will allow organisations and people with disabilities to examine the report in detail with a view to making any necessary revisions or [486] improvements prior to its formal publication.

Additional revenue funding of £1 million has been made available in 1996 for the development of services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. The question of providing further additional funding will be examined in the light of the review group's recommendations and available resources.

  79.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Health    if he will amend the Tobacco (Health Promotion and Protection) Regulations, 1995, first schedule part 1, section XIV, to facilitate a number of associations and clubs which were set up by smokers to facilitate smokers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2688/96]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. O'Shea):  The reference is to the prohibition on smoking in specific areas, including playing areas and circulation areas, in premises which are used for the playing of bingo and bridge. These are among a wide range of indoor entertainment venues, as well as other facilities, in which smoking is prohibited as part of the Government's comprehensive policy to discourage the consumption of tobacco. This policy is necessary because smoking-related disease causes over 6,000 deaths in Ireland each year; indeed, smoking is the chief cause of premature death.

The proposition has been put to me that I should allow an exemption from such prohibitions for clubs which set out to cater specifically for smokers. However, this would mean that the law would effectively be encouraging the formation of clubs geared towards smokers and this would be directly counter to the objectives of the Government's overall policy on smoking. It would also mean that other facilities such as restaurants and sports halls could seek to evade the restrictions by declaring themselves to be smokers' clubs, and I [487] have no doubt that such a development could seriously undermine the important public health objective which the Government is pursuing.

I am anxious to implement the Government's policy in a balanced way which takes account of the requirements of smokers as well as non-smokers, but I would not favour the proposed exemptions for the above reasons.

  80.  Kathleen Lynch    asked the Minister for Health    the moneys allocated for implementation of the Child Care Act, 1991, following the Kilkenny Incest report; the proportion that was allocated to administration, buildings and fabric, recruitment and training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2743/96]

  85.  Mr. Flood    asked the Minister for Health    the parts, if any, of the Child Care Act, 1991, he proposes to commence in 1996; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2748/96]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 85 together.

Sixty-one of the 79 sections of the Child Care Act, 1991 have been brought into operation to date, including those core provisions which strengthen the powers of the health boards, the Garda and the courts to intervene on behalf of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection.

The remaining 18 sections of the Act are contained in Parts VII and VIII which deal respectively with the supervision of pre-school services and the registration of children's residential centres. New regulations are required to give full effect to these provisions. In accordance with the timescale set by the Government for the full implementation of the Act, it is my intention that Parts VII and VIII will be commenced by the end of this year. Since 1993, the year in which the Kilkenny Incest [488] report was published, in the region of £30 million on an annualised basis has been invested in the development of new child care and family support services. The scale of this investment is unprecedented and is specifically designed to ensure that a proper infrastructure to support the Child Care Act is in place and that the health boards are equipped with the resources required to enable them to cope with the new demands imposed on them under the legislation. A range of new services and facilities have been put in place in each health board area and some 850 new posts have been approved for the child care services. Funding has also been made available to the boards for the training of front line staff who are involved in the operation of the new statutory provisions. I regret that the information is not available in the format requested by Deputy Lynch.

I should also mention that the Health Estimate for 1996 includes provision for a further round of new service developments in the child care area.

  81.  Kathleen Lynch    asked the Minister for Health    the number of childcare social workers allocated to each health board area; and to each community care area within the health board areas for each of the years 1990 to 1995. [2744/96]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie):  The detailed information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. I have asked the health boards to collate the information and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  82.  Mr. Flood    asked the Minister for Health    if he will introduce a charter for children in hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2745/96]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): As the Deputy will be [489] aware, a charter of rights for hospital patients has been in place since 1992 and its provisions apply to all acute hospitals, including children's hospitals. The Programme for Competitiveness and Work contained an undertaking by the then Government to review the effectiveness of the charter of rights for hospital patients so as to make any necessary improvements and to ensure that it provides a properly structured system of patient rights. This work is ongoing and is now being undertaken in the context of the health strategy's provisions in relation to service quality. The strategy gives an undertaking to reorientate the health services so that they are more responsive to patient's needs. I would like to say that this Government is committed to the whole area of service quality from clinical outcome to patient satisfaction. This commitment is shown in A Government of Renewal which has endorsed the health strategy as a basis for Government policy in the health area.

I see the charter of rights for hospital patients as a first step in making the health service more consumer responsive. The question of introducing further charters, including a charter for children in hospital, is currently being examined by my Department in the overall context of the health strategy.

  83.  Mr. Flood    asked the Minister for Health    the plans, if any, he has for the reorganisation of the Eastern Health Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2746/96]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I will be seeking Government approval shortly to outline proposals for new structures for the administration of health services in the Eastern Health Board area. I will make a further statement when the Government has taken decisions in the matter.

[490]

  84.  Mr. Flood    asked the Minister for Health    the concerns, if any, he has regarding the increasing numbers of out of control children and the appalling lack of special care facilities for these children; the action, if any, he proposes to take on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2747/96]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie):  I am aware of the problem of a small number of very unmanageable or out of control children. The health boards have developed a variety of responses to try to cope with these children, including the establishment of special fostering schemes and other special care arrangements.

In response to a number of High Court judgments, emergency facilities for individual children who have been found to be out of control have been developed by the Eastern and the Southern Health Board.

It is intended to make legislative provision for detention of children who are out of control but not offenders under the Juvenile Justice Bill. In the meantime a project team has been established in the Eastern Health Board area to prepare a model brief for a purpose built special care unit for such children. The project team is to complete its work by the end of April 1996 and every effort will be made to proceed with the planning and construction of a special care unit in the Eastern Health Board area as quickly as possible after that date.

[491]

  86.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health    the guidelines given the health boards regarding the portion of the old age pension that should be retained from patients in health board residential homes; the normal practice, if any, that currently exists; and his views on whether it is in order for health boards to retain the Christmas bonus given by the Department of Social Welfare. [2750/96]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): At present long-stay charges can be made under two sets of regulations. Charges can be made under the Institutional Assistance Regulations, 1965, where the patient receives “shelter and maintenance” rather than treatment. These charges apply from the date of admission and are payable by all patients who are in receipt of incomes including medical card holders and persons with dependants. Charges can also be made under the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations, 1976, as amended by the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) (Amendment) Regulations, 1987. These regulations enable charges to be made towards the cost of providing hospital in-patient services for persons with income who have been in receipt of such services for thirty days or for periods totalling thirty days within the previous twelve months.

The over-riding consideration in applying long-stay charges is that persons with means who are in receipt of long-term care should make a contribution towards the cost of their maintenance. In deciding the amount to be contributed health boards have regard to the person's individual circumstances. Allowance is made for any financial commitments the person may have and a reasonable amount is left to meet the person's personal needs. When assessing a person's means all sources of income may be taken into account. In this regard the health boards are entitled to take additional payments, such as the Christmas bonus, into account.

[492]

  87.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will have arrangements made to de-rate all rates due on GAA fields and stadiums in cases where the relatively small income accruing to the committee does not enable rates to be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2821/96]

  89.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for the Environment    the proposals, if any, he has to extend remission of rates to voluntary sporting organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2671/96]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 89 together.

Land used for sporting purposes is exempt from rates by virtue of the Valuation Act, 1986. There are no proposals to extend rates remission to stadia or other premises used by sporting organisations over and above those covered by the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act, 1978.

  88.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of many people concerning the need to effectively deal with noise pollution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2670/96]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Powers have been provided in the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992 to address problems of noise pollution. Under section 108, a person may seek an order in the District Court to have noise abated. An information leaflet has been published by my Department on the procedures involved and is widely available. I have already stated my intention to make regulations under section 106 of the Act to deal with further aspects of noise pollution.

[493]

  90.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will make a specific allocation to Cavan County Council for non-national roads under subhead F 12 of his Department's Vote. [2672/96]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I have notified a grant of £80,000 to Cavan County Council under subhead F12 of my Department's Vote, under which a total of £500,000 will be available for non-national roads as part of the Peace Process initiative. The grant amount is indicative pending the issue of guidelines to local authorities setting out details of how the initiative will operate in relation to non-national roads, I hope shortly to be in a position to issue these guidelines.

  91.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for the Environment    whether he will immediately sanction the appointment of a consultant engineer to prepare plans for a sewerage scheme for Waterville, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2705/96]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Given the existing level of commitments under the water and sewerage programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve this proposal.

  92.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will sanction payment of disabled persons grant to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [2707/96]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  Leitrim County Council is responsible for the administration of the disabled person's grant scheme to which this application relates. The provision of funds for the payment of these grants is primarily a matter for the local authority concerned. My Department recoups a proportion of the expenditure [494] incurred by the local authority in the payment of individual grants.

In this case, the county council has been informed that the Department will recoup the appropriate portion of any grant paid in respect of the works proposed to this house.

  93.  Mr. Nolan    asked the Minister for the Environment    the proposals, if any, he has to set up a register of driving instructors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2709/96]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 33, 46 and 55 of 7 November 1995. The voluntary national register of driving instructors which is being developed jointly by the two national associations representing motor schools and driving instructors will, I understand, be launched fairly soon. I have indicated to those involved that, subject to certain conditions, I will be prepared to make a grant available towards the initial set-up and operational costs of the register.

  94.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for the Environment    the proposals, if any, he has for county and regional roads in County Galway; and the amount of money to be made available. [2710/96]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I have announced a major expansion of the special restoration programme for regional and county roads which I launched in 1995 and details of the non-national road grant allocations for 1996 to each local authority. A booklet containing these details is available in the Oireachtas Library.

I have notified grant allocations of £8.563 million to Galway County Council this year for non-national roads, which represents an increase of £1,078,000 or 14 per cent on the total allocations for 1995. That figure, in turn. [495] was £1,350,000 greater than the 1994 total, bringing the overall increase since 1994 to 40 per cent.

  95.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for the Environment    the reason for the delay in giving sanction to Drogheda Corporation, County Louth, for the sale of premises to persons (details supplied) in Drogheda, County Louth; and when sanction will be approved. [2711/96]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  The outstanding documentation which had been sought in this case was received yesterday. A decision in the matter will be made as soon as possible.

  96.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    when legislation will be introduced to regulate private education to ensure proper educational standards, consumer protection and employee rights. [2654/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The 1995 Finance Act provides for tax relief from income tax in respect of tuition fees paid to private colleges in respect of approved courses. The Act provides that “approved colleges” and “approved courses” will be approved by the Minister for Education having regard to a code of standards laid down by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The tax relief will take effect in the 1996-97 tax year in respect of fees paid in the 1996-97 academic year.

I have established a working group to make recommendations to me on a code of standards for the purposes of approving colleges and courses which would be eligible for the tax relief for fees. The code will encompass, inter alia, the criteria for recongition of colleges and courses including admission and quality standards and provisions for academic [496] and financial bonding and consumer protection.

  97.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    whether it is the Government's aim to encourage fee-paying schools to enter the free education system. [2655/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  As outlined in the programme, A Government of Renewal, the Government is committed to the encouragement of free-paying schools to enter into the free education scheme.

Progress on this matter will involve discussions with the managerial authorities and trustees of the schools concerned, through their representative associations.

  98.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Education    if she will approve at an early date the application made by schools (details supplied) in County Cavan for a remedial teaching service on a shared basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2657/96]

  103.  Mr. Kenneally    asked the Minister for Education    the primary schools in County Waterford which do not have any access to a remedial teacher; the number of pupils in each of these schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2692/96]

  107.  Mr. Kenneally    asked the Minister for Education    if a remedial teacher will be provided as a matter of urgency for a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2700/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 103 and 107 together. I am not in a position at present to make remedial teacher posts available to the schools mentioned by the Deputies.

[497] Fifty-five remedial teacher posts were allocated to primary schools with effect from September 1995. These posts were allocated on the basis of priority of need following the collection and analysis of data by my Department's primary inspectorate.

This allocation brings the total number of remedial teachers now in place in the primary sector to 1,188.

I am keeping the question of further appointments in this area under regular review as resources become available. I can assure the Deputies that the needs of the schools in question will be taken fully into account as part of this process.

The information requested by Deputy Kenneally regarding the primary schools in County Waterford which do not have any access to a remedial teacher and the number of pupils involved is presently being compiled within my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  99.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Education    whether a review of the staffing of Youthreach Programmes has been undertaken; if so, the outcome of that review; the plans, if any, there are to provide permanent employment for co-ordinators and resource staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2658/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The review in question began in late December 1995 and a report from the consultants is expected by the end of March 1996. The report will make recommendations on the duties, staffing structure, qualifications profile and status of employment of staff on Youthreach, having regard to the needs of the client group, the objectives of the programme and the provision in comparable services.

[498]

  100.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Education    the total allocation available for youth services in 1996; and the percentage increase this represents on the 1995 allocation. [2659/96]

  101.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Education    when the 1996 allocation will be notified to voluntary youth organisations. [2660/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 101 together.

Grant-in-aid funding for general expenses of youth and sports organisations amounts to £20.681 million in 1996. This represents an increase of 4 per cent approximately on the 1995 funding.

The allocation of this amount between the youth and sports sectors is at present under consideration in the light of competing needs and priorities.

Initial examination of the applications to my Department for grant-aid under the youth services budget is under way. Further consideration will be necessary in the context of overall youth sector funding when finalised. Decisions will be conveyed to the individual youth organisations and other agencies as soon as possible.

  102.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Education    the new initiatives, if any, that were undertaken in 1995 within the youth services allocation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2661/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Four new initiatives have been undertaken by my Department in 1995 under the grant scheme for special projects to assist disadvantaged youth. These new projects are providing youth work services for disadvantaged young people in the following areas: Bishopstown, Cork city; Ballyphehane, Cork city; Listowel/North Kerry; and Dolphin House, Rialto, Dublin City. There were no new initiatives in 1995 under the youth service grant scheme.

[499]

  104.  Mr. Power    asked the Minister for Education    if she will protect schools from the intrusion by the Irish Musical Rights Organisation into the school curriculum; and if she will have arrangements made that demands on schools for payment for music or songs used during the school day will cease. [2695/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department is involved in ongoing exploratory discussions with the Irish Musical Rights Organisation and school management authorities in relation to this matter.

[500] The Deputy will appreciate that any resolution of this matter must take account of existing legislation or any review of such legislation.

  105.  Miss Coughlan    asked the Minister for Education    the schools, if any, that have been allocated funding to provide escort services under circular 30/94. [2697/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I recently allocated grants under the terms of Circular 30/94 to the management authorities of the following schools.

County Roll No. Schools
Cork 18458 St. Bernadette's Special School, Montenotte
Cork 18486 School of the Divine Child, Ballintemple
Cork 18586 Scoil Eanna, Montenotte
Cork 19291 Our Lady's School for Deaf Children, Cork
Dublin 16583 St. Mary's School for Visually Impaired, Merrion, Dublin
Dublin 16864 St. Joseph's School for Hearing Impaired, Cabra, Dublin
Dublin 17944 St. Mary's School for Hearing Impaired, Cabra, Dublin.
Dublin 17971 Holy Angels Special School, Glenmaroon, Chapelizod, Dublin
Dublin 18317 Central Remedial Clinic Special School, Clontarf, Dublin.
Dublin 18379 Sandymount Clinic Special School, Dublin
Dublin 18417 St. Joseph's School for Visually Impaired, Drumcondra, Dublin
Dublin 19590 Scoil Mochua, Clondalkin, Dublin
Limerick 19603 St. Gabriel's Special School, Limerick
Wicklow 18281 Marino Clinic Special School, Bray.

  106.  Miss Coughlan    asked the Minister for Education    if she will provide grant aid to ALT national school, Castlefin, County Donegal, for the purchase of a computer or alternatively if she will provide a computer for this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2698/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  There is no scheme at present whereby my Department supplies computers to primary schools and therefore I am not in a position to assist the school in question.

The Deputy will be aware, however, that the day to day running costs of primary schools and provision of general school equipment are funded by means of the capitation grant scheme and the contribution from local sources.

The allocation for the capitation grant was increased from £22.572 million to £22.848 million in 1995 and to £24.880 million in 1996. This allowed for an increase of £5 per pupil bringing the per capita grant to £45.

  108.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Education    when the construction of a new national school at Tulloma, Bonane, Kenmare, County Kerry, will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2703/96]

[501]Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I am not yet in a position to allow the project at Tulloha N.S. to proceed to construction. My Department is currently reviewing all of its financial commitments for 1996. On completion of that review, I will be able to assess whether the project can be accommodated within the financial allocation available for this year.

My Department will be in touch with the school as soon as possible in the matter.

  109.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Justice    if she supports the view that the perpetrators of crime should be given a clear message that they will go to prison and stay there until they have paid their debt to society and an example must be made of those who are convicted by the courts to others who may be of like mind; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2467/96]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  The law gives the Minister for Justice the discretion to manage prison sentences handed down by the courts. I believe that the Minister should be able to implement the law, freed to the greatest extent possible from the constraints imposed by the shortage of prison accommodation.

However, I acknowledge that, due to demands on prison accommodation, some offenders serve a smaller proportion of their sentence than would otherwise be the case. This has been the case for several years. There is, therefore, a need to increase our prison capacity. My recent proposals, and the Government's consequent decisions on them in this regard, should bring about a significant improvement in the situation.

The Deputy will be aware that there is also a wide range of alternatives to custody in operation in this country including fines, probation, compensation orders, deferment of sentence, [502] suspended sentence and community service. I wish to place on record that I wholeheartedly endorse and encourage the use of alternatives to custody in appropriate cases. I have no doubt but that the public interest is best served when a range of effective alternatives to custody are employed to the full and prisons are used only as a last resort.

  110.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Justice    the response, if any, of the Garda to the increase in vandalism, car thefts and break-ins in the Oxmantown Road/Carnew Street area of Dublin 7; the resources, if any, that are available to the Bridewell Garda station, Dublin 7, to patrol the area on an effective basis; the number of gardaí available for foot patrol; and if she intends to make additional resources available in view of the concerns of local residents. [2673/96]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area in question is regularly patrolled by both foot and mobile patrols attached to the Bridewell Garda station, the present strength of which is 144 members (all ranks). The community policing unit is actively involved with the local community and receives the full co-operation of the vast majority of the residents. In addition, crime and vandalism in the area is targeted by the divisional task force unit. The area also receives attention from the divisional drugs unit.

The Garda authorities are satisfied that the area is receiving an adequate Garda service. In this regard, the situation regarding the deployment of gardaí is kept under continuous review.

[503]

  111.  Mr. N. Treacy    asked the Minister for Justice    the reason for the delay in concluding a decision at a location (details supplied) in County Galway; if she will conclude this matter immediately; the date on which it will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the ongoing saga. [2690/96]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  Proposed refurbishment works to the station and the married quarters at this centre were held up pending agreement between the Office of Public Works and the owner of the property on the terms for renewing the lease.

I am informed that agreement has now been reached and that tenders for the refurbishment works have been invited. It is expected that a contract will be placed shortly.

  112.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Justice    the rules applied by the Garda Carriage Office in granting public service vehicle licences in relation to the employment status of the applicant; the number of public service vehicle licences that were issued in the last three years; the number of applications refused; and the analysis, if any, done of those granted licences in relation to those that were unemployed, in casual/part time work or in full time employment. [2749/96]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  The Road Traffic (Public Services Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations, 1995 (S. I. No. 136 of 1995), which came into force on 1 September 1995, provided for the transfer of the function of licensing taxis and hackneys, including the grant and renewal of all licenses, to local authorities (county councils, county borough corporations, borough corporations, and urban district councils). In these circumstances, the rules in relation to the issue of such licences is no longer a matter for the Garda authorities or indeed for me as Minister for Justice.

The Garda authorities have, however, retained the function of licensing of drivers of public service vehicles. The Garda authorities have informed me [504] that applications for such licences are processed by them in accordance with the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations, 1963, as amended. Applications are not approved unless the applicant satisfies the Garda authorities that he is not engaged in any occupation which, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is likely to impair his efficiency or to conflict with his responsibilities or to be incompatible with his employment as a driver of small public service vehicles.

A total of 3583 new public service vehicles drivers licences was issued in the DMA from 1 January 1993 to 31 December 1995. 120 applications were refused during the same period. Of these, 21 were refused because of employment status.

Where an application is refused or an existing licence is revoked by the Garda authorities an appeal against such a decision can be made to the District Court.

No analysis has been carried out on those granted public service vehicle licenses.

  113.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will consider reducing the age requirement for people accompanying a person with a physical or sight disability under the free travel pass companion scheme. [2676/96]

Minister for Social Welfare (Prionsias De Rossa):  Free travel companion passes have been available since 1990 to persons who qualify for free travel as the recipients of social welfare type payments in respect of a disability and who, on account of their disability, are unable to travel alone. The free travel companion pass enables a person 16 years of age, or over, to accompany the pass holder free of charge. The majority of companion pass holders are either blind or mentally handicapped. As announced in the budget, the free travel companion [505] pass is being extended to blind or visually impaired children with effect from next July.

Currently, the passes are available to the following: recipients of blind person's pension from my Department; people getting disabled person's maintenance allowance from a health board who are medically certified that they are unfit to travel alone; recipients of invalidity pension from my Department who are medically certified that they are permanently wheelchair bound; and free travel passholders who are being cared for by a recipient of the carer's allowance.

I have no plans, at present, to lower the minimum age of the companion below 16 years. However, I will keep the Deputy's suggestion in mind in the context of the future development of the free travel scheme generally.

  114.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    when it is intended to open a full-time social welfare office/labour exchange in Kenmare, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2678/96]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  The Social Welfare local office in Kenmare is currently open to the public on one day a week and provides an information service as well as claim-taking and signing facilities for unemployed people in the area. Arrangements are being made to extend this to a full time service and I expect to have the service in operation very shortly.

  115.  Mr. Hughes    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the cost of increasing the current base levels for entitlement to full non-contributory pension for a single person to £3,500, £4,000, £5,000 in savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2679/96]

[506]Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  A single person can have means of up to £6 per week and still qualify for an old age non-contributory pension at the maximum rate of payment. Weekly means above £6 per week, whether from capital or otherwise, are dealt with in bands of £2. For example, people assessed with means between £6.01 per week and £8.00 per week all receive £2 per week less than the maximum rate of old age non-contributory pension, people with means between £8.01 per week and £10.00 per week all receive £4 per week less than the maximum rate of old age non-contributory pension and so on.

A single person with capital of £2,987 is treated as having means of exactly £6 per week and qualifies for an old age non-contributory pension at the maximum rate of payment, in cases where he or she has no other means or income.

Because of the treatment of means in bands of £2 per week, the assessment of capital between £2,987 and £4,027 leads to a reduction of £2 per week in the rate of old age non-contributory pension payable. For this reason, the cost of increasing the current base for entitlement to full non-contributory pension for a single person to £3,500 or to £4,000 is the same.

The assessment of capital between £4,027 and £5,067 leads to a reduction of £4 per week in the rate of old age non-contributory pension payable.

As capital is only one of a number of items which can be counted as means, it is not possible to isolate the cost of changing the current method of assessing capital. However, it is estimated that the cost of increasing the amount of capital a single person can have without affecting their entitlement to the maximum rate of old age non-contributory pension is as follows:

from the current level of £2,987 to £4,027: £3.3 million per annum

from the current level of £2,987 to £5,067: £6.2 million per annum.

[507] Any such changes in the treatment of capital would, of course, have to be extended to married people also. It is estimated that this would increase the overall cost to the levels shown as follow.

from the current level of £2,987 for a single person to £4,027: £3.7 million per annum

from the current level of £2,987 for a single person to £5,067: £7 million per annum.

  116.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will extend the free telephone rental allowance to persons who are in receipt of pensions as a result of their employment in the public service but who are not in receipt of a pension from his Department. [2681/96]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  The free telephone rental allowance scheme is available to people, usually aged 66 or over, who are in receipt of a welfare type payment and who are either living alone or who otherwise satisfy the living alone condition.

In last month's budget I announced a number of improvements in the free schemes of telephone rental allowance, electricity allowance and colour television allowance. From next July these schemes will be extended to low income pensioners who do not qualify at present because they do not get a social welfare pension. The weekly income limit that is being fixed for this purpose will be the new maximum personal rate of old age contributory pension at £75 per week plus any increases for dependants, plus £30. Pensioners whose means are under these limits who only have access to free travel at present, will now, for the first time, have access to all the free schemes.

[508]

  117.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will ensure that return tickets are issued for free travel pass holders in view of the fact that it would save tax payers in the long term and would be more convenient for the elderly in our society. [2762/96]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  The free travel scheme operated by my Department is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years, or over, as well as certain incapacitated people in receipt of social welfare type payments. The scheme provides free travel at off-peak periods for eligible people on the main public and private transport services. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by semi-State companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as services provided by some 46 private transport operators.

Current arrangements allow for the issue of single tickets to free travel passholders. There are no plans to issue return tickets to the passholders as experience has shown that such a development can contribute to abuse of the free travel scheme generally.

  118.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding under the SME Community Initiative Programme of the second round of the structural funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2662/96]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The SME initiative aims to stimulate small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly in less developed regions (e.g. Ireland) to adapt to the single market and to ensure that they become internationally competitive. All member states were invited to draw up proposals for funding on the basis of guidelines set out by the Commission in June 1994.

Ireland's response to the initiative was drawn up having regard to the recommendations of the Task Force on [509] Jobs in Services which was published in December 1993 and the Report of the Task Force on Small Business which was published in March 1994. A number of measures were selected under the Initiative and we set out in detail in the Small Business Operational Programme, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Small Business Operational Programme was approved by the European Commission on 26 July 1995 and launched in September 1995. The overall aim of the programme is to contribute to improving the operating environment of small business through the pursuit of 5 specific measures supported by standard technical assistance under measure 6 of the programme. Details of funding broken down by measure and including Irish, European and private funding are given in Annex 1 of the Operational Programme.

Further details of the measures included in the Operational Programme are set out in my reply (Ref. No.: 19322/96) to Deputy Colm M. Hiliard on 23 January 1996 in this House.

  119.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding under the Youthstart Community Initiative Programme of the second round of the structural funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2663/96]

  121.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding under the Employment/Now Community Initiative Programme of the second round of the structural funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2665/96]

[510]

  122.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding for disadvantaged people under the Employment/ Horizon Programme of the second round of the Structural Funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2666/96]

  123.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding for disabled people under the Employment Horizon Programme of the second round of the Structural Funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding allocated. [2667/96]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 119, 121, 122 and 123 together.

The Employment Initiative encompasses three strands — NOW (New Opportunities for Women), Horizon and Youthstart. In July of last year, I approved 134 projects to proceed to a development phase, during which the project sponsors refined and developed their plans and objectives and consolidated their transnational partnerships. During this project development phase, the various Technical Support Units — the National Women's Council (NOW), Work Research Co-operative (Horizon/ Disadvantaged), the NRB (Horizon/ Disabled) and the National Youth Council of Ireland (Youthstart) — worked closely with all project promoters to ensure, for example, that they had the capacity to deliver on planned activity, to ensure meaningful transnationality, to rationalise proposed budgets and to ensure generally that all criteria were being strictly adhered to. While most of the projects successfully completed this phase, problems have arisen in relation to a small number of projects and, in many such instances, the development phase has been extended [511] for a further short period to enable them sort out difficulties. In recent days, I have approved the projects which have successfully come through the development phase for inclusion under the Employment Operational Programme for the period up the end of 1997. I will forward the list of the approved projects to the Deputy which will include the name, the purpose and location of each and the amount of Irish and European funding involved.

  120.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding under the Adapt Community Initiative Programme of the second round of the structural funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2664/96]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  In July of last year, I approved 49 projects under Adapt to proceed to a development phase, during which the project sponsors refined and developed their plans and objectives and consolidated their transnational partnerships. During the project development phase, Léargas, the Exchange Bureau, the Technical Support Unit for Adapt, worked closely with all project promoters to ensure that they had the capacity to deliver planned activity, to ensure meaningful transnational partnerships, to rationalise proposed budgets and to ensure generally that all criteria were being strictly adhered to. Projects submitted revised plans at the end of December 1995. I expect in the next few weeks to approve a significant number of projects to proceed to implementation under Adapt. The balance of projects will have their project development phase extended for a short period, as they sort out any difficulties or do some more development [512] work. When approved these projects will form the Adapt programme in Ireland up to the end of 1997. I will forward the list of approved projects to the Deputy when available and this will include the name, purpose and location of each project and the amount of Irish and European funding involved.

  124.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the allocation in respect of each County Enterprise Board in 1996. [2668/96]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The Government has allocated a sum of £19.736 million to the county enterprise boards for 1996. I am at present examining proposals for the differentiated allocation of this funding between each county enterprise board. A final decision on the allocation for each CEB in 1996 will be communicated to each board as soon as possible.

  125.  Mr. N. Treacy    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the system operated by his Department for the certification of concrete manufacturing; the role, if any, his Department played in this matter; if he has satisfied himself with the current system of certification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2689/96]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The Department of Enterprise and Employment does not operate any certification scheme for the manufacture of concrete.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland, which is responsible for the development and promulgation of Irish standards for products manufactured in this country or placed on the Irish market, operates a certification scheme in respect of those standards when requested by Irish industry. I understand that no such request has been received by them. [513] I am informed by the National Standards Authority that a private certification scheme has been operated since 1985 by the member companies of the Independent Concrete Manufacturers Association. This scheme would appear to be working satisfactorily as I have received no complaints as to its operation.

I understand from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry that each farm building grant-aided by them must be covered by a “Concrete Manufacturers' Specification Certificate” produced by the Concrete Manufacturers Association of Ireland, details of which, I believe have already been supplied to the Deputy by my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

  126.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the projects, if any, that are funded or have been approved for funding under the Leader Community Initiative Programme of the second round of the Structural Funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2649/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  I am sending directly to the Deputy details of the names, addresses, operational areas and funds allocated to each of the 34 local action groups and 2 sectoral groups approved for funding under Leader II. The total public funding under the programme is £77 million (£46.2 million EU and £30.8 million national contributions). Further funding of £18.27 million (£12.75 million in EU and £5.52 million national) will be allocated later in the year.

Agreements have been signed with 31 of the 36 groups to implement their business plans. The remaining agreements will be signed as soon as possible. In accordance with the underlying philosophy of Leader, decisions on the selection and funding of local projects [514] are a matter for the groups operating within rules set down by my Department. As the groups are in the early stages of implementing their plans, only a limited number of projects have been approved at this stage.

  127.  Dr. Moffatt    asked the Minister for Agriculture. Food and Forestry    when he will announce the transfer of the five acres at the Black Gates, Killala Road, Ballina, County Mayo, to the local residents associations for further development of the area in view of the fact that they have formed a limited company for this purpose and also to comply with his wishes on this issue. [2650/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The Deputy will be aware that in November, 1995 officials of my Department met with a delegation which included representatives of the Killala Road Residents' Association to discuss the position regarding the lands in question. At that meeting, it was agreed to afford the residents' association time to bring forward proposals, possibly in conjunction with Ballina Urban District Council, for acquisition of the property with a view to its subsequent development for public amenity purposes. It was further agreed that in the meantime the property would not be offered for sale. I have honoured that commitment. Within the past few days, my Department has received proposals from the residents' association. These will have to be assessed before any further decisions can be taken.

  128.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for Agriculture. Food and Forestry    whether applicants for the REP scheme are required to obtain a herd number and flock number; and if so, his views on whether this is in conflict with the objectives of this scheme. [2651/96]

[515]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  In general applicants under the rural environment protection scheme will have a herd or flock number. This, however, is not an essential requirement. In fact many REPS participants are engaged in farming activities, such as tillage farming, which do not require them to hold a herd or flock number.

Accordingly I do not see any possible conflict.

  129.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when new applications under the control of farmyard pollution scheme will be accepted by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2652/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  There are no proposals to reopen the scheme at this stage.

  130.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the total volume of beef sales to the United Kingdom for each of the years 1994 and 1995; the percentage decrease; and if he will make a statement on the reason for the decline in sales. [2684/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The total volume of beef sales in carcase weight equivalent to the United Kingdom for 1995 is estimated at 100,000 tonnes which represents a 12.3 per cent decrease on 1994 sales of 114,000 tonnes.

The decline was mainly due to weak market conditions, an unfavourable exchange rate, an 8 per cent increase in UK production and lower cattle prices on the UK market. The BSE scare at the latter end of 1995 also had an adverse impact on UK beef consumption. The decline in UK sales was more than offset by increased sales both to [516] other EU and international markets with Irish beef exports increasing by 7 per cent on 1994 levels to 420,000 tonnes.

  131.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the changes, if any, to be made to the Leader II Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2686/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The Leader II Community Initiative which was published by the European Commission on 1 July 1994 is designed to promote bottom-up development with an emphasis on innovation in the local context, the ability to serve as a model and transferability.

In accordance with the terms of the initiative, my Department prepared an Operational Programme for the implementation of Leader II which was approved by the Commission. Based on the European Commission's requirements and the experience of implementing Leader I, a comprehensive set of operating rules under which approved groups must operate was drawn up. The operational programme and the operating rules include provision for improved control procedures to ensure greater transparency and accountability.

The main changes between Leader I and II are:

(a) a strong emphasis on animation, capacity building and training

(b) provision for funding for a pre-development stage and for sectoral groups as well as local action groups

(c) greater co-ordination of effort in programme delivery at local level

(d) the statement of objectives and targets by groups at the outset

(e) administratively a number of [517] changes have been introduced including, for example, a requirement in relation to rotation of Board members and the compilation of a Register of Directors' Interests.

  133.  Mr. Cullen    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    the expected yield to the ESB over the next three years of the recent price increase agreed by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2751/96]

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry):  The recent approved average price increase of 2 per cent in 1996, 1.5 per cent in 1997 and 3 per cent in 1998 is expected to result in the following additional revenue for the ESB:

Year Additional Revenue IR£m
1996 13
1997 29
1998 56

This estimated additional revenue [518] assumes implementation of the price increases from May of each year.

  134.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for the Marine    what projects, if any, which are funded or have been approved for funding under the PESCA initiative of the second round of the structural funds; the name, purpose and location of each project; and the amount of Irish and European funding provided. [2691/96]

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Barrett):  A total of 22 projects have been approved to date under the PESCA Community Initiative. These involve total investment of £1,023,954, involving £81,940 in national grants and £550,404 in EU aid. Details of these projects are set out in the Appendix.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), which is implementing the Pesca Programme on behalf of the Department of the Marine, is currently evaluating a second group of applications for PESCA funding. This process is expected to be completed shortly at which stage recommended projects will be submitted for my approval.

Appendix — PESCA Projects Approved to date

Zone 1 — Louth to Waterford (IR£)
Project Applicant Project Grant Approved
Cost Exchequer EU
1.2Training Programmes and Workshops for the implementation of a revised Quality Manual which takes account of ISO 9000 and HACCP. I.S.G.A. Naas Road, Dublin 12 18,000 900 9,000
1.3R & D feasibility study for a community-based fishermen's co-op to diversify into marinerelated activities. Ring Co-Op Helvick, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford 34,000 1,700 17,000
1.4(1) Socio-economic study of the fishing areas in County Waterford. Waterford Development Partnership Ltd., Lismore, Co. Waterford 5,300 265 2,650
(2) Multi-tier training programme to address the needs of fishermen. 12,280 614 6,140
[519][520]1.5Harvesting, collecting, notching,tagging and placing of femaleadult lobsters in the local fisheries. South Wexford Lobster Co-Op, Kilmore Quay, Co.Wexford 22,500 1,125 11,250
1.6Extensive bottom cultivation of mussels in Waterford Harbour. South-East Shellfish Co-Op, Passage East, Co. Waterford 152,500 7,625 76,250
1.7Harvesting, collecting, notching, tagging and placing of female adult lobsters in the fisheries along the East Waterford coast. East Waterford Lobster Co-Op Society, Kilmacleague, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford 9,000 450 4,500
1.8PESCA Development Officers September-December 1995 14,750 3,687 11,063
Total Zone 1: 268,330 16,367 137,852
Zone 2 — Cork and Kerry (IR£)
Project Applicant Project Grant Approved
Cost Exchequer EU
2.1Replacement of the existing vessel which operates a passenger ferry service in the Sherkin Island, Cape Clear and Schull area. K. & M. Molloy, Skeagh, Schull, Co. Cork 170,000 8,500 85,000
2.2Tuna canning feasibility study. BIM/IS & WFO, East End, Castletownbere, Co. Cork 25,000 6,250 18,750
2.3To establish a management/administration structure for a mussel co-op as well as monitoring to improve supply and production of rope mussels in Kenmare Bay. Kenmare Bay Aquaculture Co-Op, Lehud, Tousist, Killarney, Co. Kerry 63,200 3,160 31,600
2.4Harvesting, collecting, notching, tagging and placing of female adult lobsters in the fisheries from Courtmacsherry to Sheeps' Head. South-West Cork Fishermen's Co-Op, c/o Nigel Towse, (Chairman) Kilmoon, Sherkin Island, Skibbereen, Co. Cork 40,000 2,000 20,000
2.5Scallop enhancement programme in Bantry Bay. Bantry Bay Inshore Fisher-Association, Bantry, Co. Cork 5,000 250 2,500
Total Zone 2: 303,200 20,160 157,850
Zone 3 — Clare, Galway and Mayo (IR£)
Project Applicant Project Grant Approved
Cost Exchequer EU
3.3Feasibility study on the potential of developing Belderrig Harbour for marine tourism. Belderrig Development Association, c/o Julie Scully, Meitheal Mhaigheo, Lower Main Street, Foxford, Co. Mayo 18,114 906 9,057
[521][522]3.4Harvesting, collecting, notching, tagging and placing of female adult lobsters in the fisheries of the Inishbofin Island area. Inishbofin Lobster Fishermen's Association, c/o Michael Murray, West Quarter, Inishbofin, Co. Galway 20,000 1,000 10,000
3.5(1) Construction of a marine fuelling installation, baitholding premises and gearstorage facilities. BIM/West Clare Co-Op, Carrigaholt, Co. Clare 28,000 7,000 21,000
(2) Development of a marine tourism programme at Carrigaholt. 15,960 3,990 11,970
Total: 43,960 10,990 32,970
3.6(1) Training Programme BIM/Forum, 30,000 7,500 22,500
(2) Aqua Tourism Course Connemara, 10,000 2,500 7,500
(3) Shellfish Cultivation Course Co. Galway 30,000 7,500 22,500
Total: 70,000 17,500 52,500
3.7Promotion of Aquaculture Development (Quarterly Information Booklet and Tidy Fish Farm Competition) Cáirde na Mara Teo, Lettermore, Co. Galway 9,100 455 4,550
Total Zone 3: 161,174 30,851 109,077
Zone 4 — Sligo and Donegal (IR£)
Project Applicant Project Grant Approved
Cost Exchequer EU
4.1Net mending facility. Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Killybegs, Co. Donegal 35,400 1,770 17,700
4.2Harvesting, collecting, notching, tagging and placing of female adult lobsters in the fisheries of the North-West. North & West Lobstermen's Co-Op Society, c/o John Gavigan, Creevy, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal 28,500 1,425 14,250
4.3Conversion of second-hand vessel for passenger cruising in the Sligo Bay Area. John Dwan, Rondavel, Doonally, Co. Sligo 139,950 6,995 69,975
4.5Mussel transplantation programme. Shellfish Services, c/o Ronan D'Doherty, Buncrana, Co. Donegal 39,900 1,995 19,950
4.6Extensive bottom cultivation of mussels in Louth Swilly. Gilbert Brown, Grange, Inch Island, Co. Donegal 47,500 2,375 23,750
Total Zone 4: 291,250 14,562 145,625
Total for all Zones: 1,023,954 81,940 550,404