Dáil Eireann

12/Apr/2005

Prelude

Ceisteanna — Questions.

Constitutional Referenda.

Priority Questions.

Security Industry.

Garda Investigations.

Prisons Building Programme.

Deportation Orders.

Other Questions.

Garda Equipment.

Human Rights Issues.

Prisons Building Programme.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Leaders’ Questions.

Request to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 31.

Order of Business.

Estimates for Public Services 2005.

Vote 17 — Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments (Revised)

Death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II: Motion.

Estimates for Public Services 2005: Message from Select Committee.

Disability Bill 2004: Second Stage (Resumed).

Private Members' Business.

Cancer Screening Programme: Motion.

Adjournment Debate.

Disabled Drivers

School Accommodation.

Site Acquisitions.

Schools Building Projects.

Written Answers.

Security Industry.

Illegal Immigrants.

Garda Recruitment.

Garda Deployment.

Youth Services.

Garda Recruitment.

Deportation Orders.

Garda Investigations.

Immigrant Services.

Commission on Policing and Crime.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Coroners Service.

Crime Prevention.

Garda Investigations.

Garda Deployment.

Omagh Bombing Civil Actions.

Victim Support.

Asylum Applications.

Child Care Services.

Law on Defamation.

Immigration Policy.

Reintegration of Prisoners.

Garda Liaison.

North-South Policing Protocol.

Immigration Policy.

Child Care Services.

Garda Stations.

Electronic Monitoring.

Deportation Orders.

Garda Stations.

Human Rights Issues.

Deportation Orders.

Asylum Applications.

Road Traffic Offences.

Youth Services.

Proposed Legislation.

Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Garda Operations.

Prison Committals.

Asylum Applications.

Firearms Offences.

Deportation Orders.

Security Industry.

Asylum Applications.

Garda Deployment.

Garda Recruitment.

Human Rights Issues.

Security Industry.

Prison Reports.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

Deportation Orders.

Security Industry.

International Terrorism.

Garda Investigations.

Garda Strength.

Prison Reports.

Garda Complaints.

Prisons Building Programme.

Crime Levels.

Prison Visiting Committees.

Garda Training.

Deportation Orders.

Proceeds of Crime.

Ministerial Travel.

Decentralisation Programme.

Grant Payments.

Departmental Records.

Lisbon Agenda.

Special Educational Needs.

Health Services.

Medical Cards.

Health Services.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Louth County Hospital.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Nursing Home Services.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Health Service Allowances.

Health Services.

Medical Cards.

Hospital Services.

Hospital Staff.

Hospital Services.

Nursing Home Charges.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Health Services.

Children in Care.

Health Services.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Health Services.

Mental Health Services.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Health Services.

Community Physiotherapy Service.

Disabled Drivers.

Migraine Treatment.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Health Services.

Medical Cards.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Medical Cards.

Ministerial Travel.

Hospital Staff.

Occupational Therapy Service.

Mental Health Services.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Mental Health Services.

Mental Health Tribunals.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Scientific Research.

Health Services.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Health Services.

Medical Cards.

Mental Health Services.

Hospital Staff.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Nursing Home Charges.

Medical Cards.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Health Reports.

Child Care Services.

Child Abuse.

Departmental Schemes.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Departmental Funding.

Hospital Services.

Patient Statistics.

Cancer Incidence.

Suicide Prevention.

Decentralisation Programme.

Health Services.

Child Care Services.

International Trade.

Child Abuse.

Health Services.

National Drugs Strategy.

Suicide Prevention.

Health Services.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Health Services.

Child Care Services.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Nursing Home Charges.

Departmental Schemes.

Children in Care.

Health Services.

Hospital Services.

Departmental Funding.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Health Services.

Hospital Services.

Hospital Budgets.

Health Service Staff.

Hospital Services.

Hospital Staff.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Nursing Home Charges.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ambulance Service.

Health Services.

Hospital Services.

Departmental Payments.

Departmental Funding.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Hospital Services.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Health Service Staff.

Health Services.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Departmental Correspondence.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Hospital Services.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Health Services.

Travers Report.

Cancer Incidence.

Health Services.

Hospital Accommodation.

Health Services.

Nursing Education.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Hospital Staff.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Medical Cards.

National Lottery Funding.

Disabled Drivers.

Tax Code.

School Remediation Works.

Garda Stations.

Flood Relief.

Asylum Support Services.

Debt Relief.

Tax Code.

Debt Relief.

Tax Code.

National Parks.

Tax Code.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Official Engagements.

Appointments to State Boards.

Site Acquisitions.

Vehicle Registration.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Debt Relief.

Disabled Drivers.

Tax Code.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Tax Code.

Disabled Drivers.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Tax Code.

Flood Relief.

Houses of the Oireachtas.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fairtrade Products.

Decentralisation Programme.

Financial Services Regulation.

Grant Payments.

Tax Code.

Tax Collection.

Departmental Bodies.

Money Laundering.

Tax Code.

Garda Stations.

Public Private Partnerships.

National Lottery Funding.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Salmon Fishing Licences.

Coastal Protection.

Harbours and Piers.

Telecommunications Services.

Departmental Meetings.

Ministerial Travel.

Offshore Exploration.

Mineral Development.

Search and Rescue Service.

Gas Terminal Safety.

Natural Gas Grid.

Dumping at Sea.

Harbours and Piers.

Natural Gas Grid.

Ministerial Appointments.

Gas Terminal Safety.

Offshore Gas Processing.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ministerial Responsibilities.

Fairtrade Products.

Foreshore Licences.

Energy Resources.

Grant Payments.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Electricity Generation.

Coastal Protection.

Telecommunications Services.

Departmental Bodies.

Natural Gas Grid.

Communications Masts.

Offshore Exploration.

Natural Gas Grid.

Post Office Network.

ESB Retail Offices.

Coastal Erosion.

Fishing Industry Development.

Mobile Telephony.

Human Rights Issues.

Departmental Websites.

Waste Disposal.

Departmental Investigations.

Ministerial Travel.

Telephone Helplines.

Biometric Passports.

Prisoner Releases.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fairtrade Products.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Grant Payments.

Foreign Conflicts.

Middle East Peace Process.

Overseas Development Aid.

Irish Language.

Departmental Bodies.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Ministerial Travel.

Sports Capital Programme.

Swimming Pool Projects.

National Aquatic Centre.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fairtrade Products.

All-Ireland Soccer Team.

Sports Capital Programme.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Grant Payments.

Sports Capital Programme.

Departmental Bodies.

Sports Capital Programme.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Property Management Companies.

Research Funding.

Job Creation.

Petrol Pricing.

Ministerial Travel.

Grocery Industry.

Job Initiative.

Work Permits.

Community Employment Schemes.

Job Creation.

Unsolicited Goods.

Work Permits.

Decentralisation Programme.

International Trade.

Industrial Development.

Community Employment Schemes.

Grant Payments.

Work Permits.

Departmental Bodies.

Industrial Disputes.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ministerial Travel.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fairtrade Products.

Social Welfare Code.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Grant Payments.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Grant Payments.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Departmental Bodies.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Parking Regulations.

Air Transport Agreements.

Regional Airports.

Driving Tests.

Official Engagements.

Driving Tests.

Road Traffic Offences.

Rail Services.

Road Safety.

Road Network.

Road Traffic Legislation.

Road Safety.

Road Network.

Public Transport.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fairtrade Products.

Driving Tests.

Departmental Funding.

Public Transport.

Road Safety.

State Airports.

Telecommunications Equipment.

Transport Subventions.

Public Transport.

Vehicle Standards.

Road Network.

Driving Tests.

Ministerial Appointments.

Rail Network.

Rural Transport Services.

State Airports.

Parking Facilities.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Security of the Elderly.

Inland Waterways.

Official Engagements.

Security of the Elderly.

Community Development.

Grant Payments.

Decentralisation Programme.

International Trade.

Departmental Funding.

Departmental Bodies.

Grant Payments.

National Lottery Funding.

Grant Payments.

Ministerial Travel.

Sheep Flock Restocking.

Afforestation Programme.

Grant Payments.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Grant Payments.

Milk Quota.

Grant Payments.

Milk Quota.

Afforestation Programme.

Potato Sector.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Departmental Decisions.

Pigmeat Sector.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Grant Payments.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Fairtrade Products.

Decentralisation Programme.

Agriculture Appeals Office.

Departmental Funding.

Biofuel Crops.

Grant Payments.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Live Exports.

Grant Payments.

Departmental Bodies.

Grant Payments.

Biofuel Crops.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Road Traffic Offences.

National Disability Strategy.

Anti-Racism Measures.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Deportation Orders.

Garda Deployment.

Garda Operations.

Citizenship Applications.

Registration of Title.

Deportation Orders.

Garda Stations.

Registration of Title.

Citizenship Applications.

Residency Permits.

Citizenship Applications.

Garda Recruitment.

Departmental Appointments.

Garda Recruitment.

Official Engagements.

Visa Applications.

Citizenship Applications.

Deportation Orders.

Child Care Services.

Travel Documents.

Traffic Fines.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Citizenship Applications.

Child Care Services.

Business Permission Scheme.

Visa Applications.

Departmental Correspondence.

Citizenship Applications.

Child Care Services.

Residency Permits.

Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme.

Business Permission Scheme.

Registration of Title.

Visa Applications.

Garda Recruitment.

Garda Stations.

Mobile Telephony.

Registration of Title.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Drugs Problem.

Garda Deployment.

Grant Payments.

Garda Investigations.

Deportation Orders.

Decentralisation Programme.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Departmental Staff.

Garda Operations.

Fairtrade Products.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Work Permits.

Visa Applications.

Judicial Appointments.

Prison Staff.

Drug Seizures.

Grant Payments.

Residency Permits.

Grant Payments.

Deportation Orders.

Citizenship Applications.

Visa Applications.

Citizenship Applications.

Departmental Agencies.

Grant Payments.

Garda Operations.

State Bodies.

Registration of Title.

International Agreements.

Courts Service.

Drug Seizures.

Crime Levels.

Garda Operations.

Visa Applications.

Asylum Support Services.

Child Care Services.

Asylum Applications.

Garda Deployment.

Citizenship Applications.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Citizenship Applications.

Garda Strength.

Courts Service.

Crime Prevention.

Money Laundering.

Crime Prevention.

Garda Deployment.

Garda Stations.

Garda Transport.

Garda Stations.

Crime Levels.

Prisons Building Programme.

Garda Deployment.

Special Educational Needs.

Human Rights Issues.

Deportation Orders.

Schools Building Projects.

School Staffing.

School Accommodation.

School Staffing.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Building Projects.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Refurbishment.

Special Educational Needs.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Special Educational Needs.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Abuse Allegations.

Grant Payments.

Special Educational Needs.

School Transport.

School Accommodation.

Parent-Teacher Meetings.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

School Transport.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Special Educational Needs.

Schools Building Projects.

School Accommodation.

Schools Refurbishment.

Higher Education Grants.

Special Educational Needs.

Schools Building Projects

School Accommodation

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

School Placement.

Schools Refurbishment.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Ministerial Travel.

Site Acquisitions.

Physical Education Facilities.

School Discipline.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Building Projects.

Institutes of Technology.

School Staffing.

Higher Education Grants.

School Accommodation.

Schools Building Projects.

School Curriculum.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Building Projects.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

School Placement.

Schools Building Projects.

School Transport.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

School Staffing.

School Accommodation.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Schools Refurbishment.

Schools Building Projects.

Higher Education Grants.

School Libraries.

School Staffing.

Higher Education Grants.

School Placement.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Building Projects.

Vocational Education Committees.

Educational Appointments.

State Examinations.

School Staffing.

Capitation Grants.

Schools Building Projects.

Modern Language Teaching.

School Transport.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Refurbishment.

School Staffing.

Schools Building Projects.

Decentralisation Programme.

Higher Education Grants.

Early School Leavers.

Education Welfare Service.

Fairtrade Products.

Schools Building Projects.

Educational Projects.

School Transport.

School Accommodation.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

School Capital Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Student Councils.

Third level Courses.

Adult Education.

School Placement.

Grant Payments.

School Staffing.

Psychological Service.

School Staffing.

Higher Education Grants.

School Staffing.

Special Educational Needs.

School Placement.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

School Curriculum.

Schools Building Projects.

Special Educational Needs.

Departmental Bodies.

Schools Building Projects.

Special Educational Needs.

Schools Building Projects.

School Enrolments.

Special Educational Needs.

School Staffing.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Refurbishment.

School Accommodation.

School Staffing.

Schools Building Projects.

School Accommodation.

Schools Building Projects.

Schools Recognition.

Schools Building Projects.

Special Educational Needs.

School Staffing.

Student Support Schemes.

Schools Building Projects.

School Staffing.

Schools Building Projects.

School Accommodation.

Schools Building Projects.

Schools Refurbishment.

Schools Building Projects.

Site Acquisitions.

Schools Building Projects.

Site Acquisitions.

Special Educational Needs.

Institutes of Technology.

Schools Building Projects.

School Enrolments.

School Staffing.

Special Educational Needs.

School Accommodation.

Schools Building Projects.

School Accommodation.

Special Educational Needs.

School Staffing.

School Services Staff.

National Lottery Funding.

Pension Provisions.

Ministerial Travel.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fairtrade Products.

Departmental Bodies.

National Lottery Funding.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Election Management System.

Local Authority Housing.

Register of Electors.

Local Authority Levies.

Waste Management.

Housing Grants.

Road Network.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Road Network.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Local Authority Housing.

Waste Management.

Registration of Title.

Waste Management.

Waste Disposal.

Planning Issues.

Asbestos Removal.

Ministerial Travel.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Register of Electors.

Planning Issues.

Local Authority Housing.

Serviced Land Initiative.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Departmental Offices.

Commercial Rates.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Tidy Towns Competition.

Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme.

Local Authority Housing.

Environmental Policy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fairtrade Products.

Building Regulations.

Local Authority Housing.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Recycling Policy.

Departmental Funding.

Social and Affordable Housing.

House Prices.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Recycling Policy.

Library Projects.

Homeless Persons.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Youth Services.

Seanad Elections.

Departmental Bodies.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Waste Disposal.

Local Authorities.

Road Network.

Local Authority Funding.

Planning and Development Regulations.

Library Projects.

National Lottery Funding.

Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.

Paidir.

Prayer

  1.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin    asked the Taoiseach    the constitutional referenda he plans for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3693/05]

  2.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Taoiseach    if the Government has plans for the holding of constitutional referenda during 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4633/05]

  3.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Taoiseach    the progress with regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4634/05]

  4.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Taoiseach    if he intends holding a constitutional referendum in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4636/05]

  5.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Taoiseach    the constitutional referendums the Government intends to [2]hold in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5703/05]

  6.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Taoiseach    if he plans to hold constitutional referenda during 2005. [6516/05]

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together.

There are no specific plans at present to hold any referenda during 2005. The treaty to establish a constitution for Europe was signed at a ceremony in Rome on 29 October 2004. Member states of the EU must have completed their ratification processes by 1 November 2006. As the Deputies will be aware, I have indicated my intention to hold a referendum on the matter.

The Government has acted on most of the key recommendations which have emanated from the All-Party Committee on the Constitution. In all, this and the previous Government have brought forward ten referenda. The Government will avail of appropriate opportunities to take forward further recommendations of the all-party committee. The complexities involved in holding a referendum require that careful consideration be given to the frequency with which referenda can [3]realistically be held and the significance of the issues in question.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  Fáiltím roimh an Taoiseach tar éis an sos. I welcome the Taoiseach back by giving him an assurance. If the electorate votes in favour of the proposed EU constitution in a referendum and, as the Taoiseach as indicated perhaps it may not be this year, I assure him that although my arguments will not have won I will not call for a second referendum. Will the Taoiseach reciprocate that assurance? Will he assure the House that in the event of the electorate rejecting the EU constitution in referendum that he will not again present the arguments in a second referendum? That would be a fair exchange at the outset of this term and I hope the Taoiseach will reciprocate the assurance I have given him.

If the referendum on the EU Constitution is not to be held in 2005 when is it proposed to hold it? Is it possible that the Taoiseach will hold off so it can be held in tandem with an early general election in 2006? We are all interested to hear what he has to say on that.

Will the Taoiseach ensure there is full access to information on the text of the EU constitution? I understand we are talking about 564 pages of text but I do not want that to sound prohibitive. Will the Taoiseach outline the steps he proposes to take to ensure full and fair access to all the relevant information in the document? Has he noted the steps the Spanish Government has taken in the lead up to its referendum? What measures does he and the Government propose to take? Will he give an assurance to the House and the electorate that a fair and balanced executive summary will be available, that it will not be the peddling of one line of argument but that all the pros and cons will be outlined in a fair and equitable way?

The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs says there is a publicly accessible fund for promoting information about the EU constitution. Will the Taoiseach assure the House the fund will be available to all sides in the argument and not to promote only one view on this important debate that has yet to get under way?

The Taoiseach:  As I stated there is no Government decision on the matter yet but the referendum has to take place before 1 November 2006. Preparations are already under way. Work on the legislation is under way. A Bill will come before the House sooner rather than later. The Referendum Commission will then put forward the balanced arguments as per the procedures. An explanatory document on the EU constitution has already been circulated. Work on a White Paper is well advanced. The EU constitution is available either from the Department of Foreign Affairs or the European Commission on demand. It is already on a number of websites. The Government is actively engaged in ensuring [4]people understand the contents and significance of the constitution. I note what the Deputy said in the context of the referendum being defeated. Naturally I want to see it passed. There is no other plan. Ultimately, it has to be passed in all countries. Last year the European Council laid down procedures in regard to the issues that have to be dealt with close to 1 November 2006. The Government will do all it can, as will the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs, to ensure all the information is available. Nobody has any interest other than to explain the information and the details of what is a significant document for the people to understand.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  Will the Taoiseach assure the House——

Mr. Quinn:  Arising from the question will the Taoiseach confirm that it is desirable to have the Referendum Commission established as soon as possible to address the issues raised by Deputy Ó Caoláin and others that there should be full, objective information available to as many citizens as wish to participate in obtaining that information? Will he agree that following that desirable objective it is necessary for the legislation to be initiated sooner rather than later in this House? Given that it is a constitutional referendum Bill it is required to be moved in this House rather than the other House. If that Bill was moved between now and June it would enable the commission to be established for the preparation of information and for factual objective documentation to be prepared in a format that maximises the transfer of information and minimises the delivery of confusion which happened in the past with some referenda.

I am aware that a referenda will be held on 29 May in France and in the Netherlands in June. Notwithstanding the prospects for those referenda, will the Taoiseach agree we should bring forward the legislation sooner rather than later for deliberation by this House and that the Referendum Commission should be established without delay? It is a matter for the Government to decide the appropriate time for a referendum to be held to ratify the European Union Constitution which is a good thing and which brings together the existing five referenda and five treaties which we have ratified.

The Taoiseach:  I agree with all the points made by the Deputy. The sooner the House deals with the legislation the better and, if possible, I would like to complete it. The establishment of the commission is crucial and that depends on the legislation. The information can then be dealt with in the manner outlined by the Deputy, with which I agree. A decision on the date for the referendum can then be decided.

An explanatory leaflet on the European constitution is available in public offices and places. Commissioner Wallström made it clear during a recent visit a few weeks ago that the European [5]Union would make the text of the European constitution available on demand through its offices. I accept that not many people will wish to read the entire text of the constitution but they may wish to read the White Paper and explanatory memoranda and consider the objective case made. In particular they should study the importance of the charter on fundamental rights because that will ultimately confer rights on the citizens which they have not been given under similar treaties. Other than that, everything else is similar to the position in the treaties already ratified.

Mr. Kenny:  Is the Taoiseach aware that a recent Eurobarometer research indicated — I do not know whether we can believe this — that 45% of Irish people had never heard of the existence of the EU constitution, never mind be aware of its content? If there is any relevance or truth in that report, it is obviously very serious. I ask the Taoiseach to outline the steps the Government intends to take on this matter.

Is the Taoiseach concerned that, in his Government’s consideration of the timing of the referendum, there will obviously be a very strong Eurosceptic lobby from elements of the UK media which would be contrary to the general perception here of the importance of the European Union and the constitution? What is the Taoiseach’s view on that matter? Will the Taoiseach take this into account in the Government’s consideration of the timing of the referendum?

The All-Party Committee on the Constitution discussed the matter of Northern Ireland representation in the Oireachtas. What agreement was reached on this by the Government last year? Before the talks broke down, was an agreed proposition put to the Northern Ireland parties in respect of such representation? If so, did it involve representation and speaking rights in this Chamber or at committee meetings outside the Chamber? If such a development is part of a package of Dáil reform, there seems to have been little discussion about it. Will the Taoiseach outline what elements of a proposal were put to the Northern Ireland parties in respect of representation in the Dáil and Seanad and at committees?

The Taoiseach:  The periodical Eurobarometer polls indicate a high level of support in Ireland for the European constitution. However, it is clear that a job must be done to ensure all citizens are informed. We have already published an explanatory guide to the constitution and will publish a White Paper. The Referendum Commission, which will be established shortly, will be given the resources to ensure that accurate and factual information is made available.

I do not wish to comment on figures, some of which are contradictory and depend on the manner in which questions are put. However, there is strong support for the constitution among those who express an interest. The 480-page constitution is a bulky document and the costs involved [6]in producing a copy for every voter may not be necessary. It is available for those who wish to acquire it and is posted on the website. As on previous occasions, the Government will bring forward a White Paper and resources will be provided to the Referendum Commission. After that it is for people to make the objective case for the constitution. There is a strong benefit for this country in supporting it and I will make that case in every way I can.

Referenda on the constitution are taking place in many EU states and each will have its own debate in this regard. Those who espouse a Eurosceptic view have targeted this country on previous occasions in recent years through media vehicles and otherwise. At least on this occasion such persons will be able to vote on the matter in their own country. We will not interfere in the debate in other states and we hope Eurosceptics will allow the Irish people to make their own decisions.

The discussion on Northern Ireland representation in the Oireachtas has been ongoing for some years. The proposals we brought forward last December emanated from the discussions that took place as part of the search for a comprehensive agreement. This was in a spirit consistent with the constitutional principles underlying the agreement and the conclusions of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution. I said at that time I would consult with party leaders with a view to establishing a mechanism whereby MPs elected in Northern Ireland constituencies could make an input into the deliberations of the Dáil with regard to Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement. I made it clear that any proposals that might be agreed by the Oireachtas would not involve the granting of any rights or privileges.

Regarding Seanad reform, I said I would support the holding of a referendum before a general election to increase membership to allow Northern representation. Such representation has been taking place for many years on an ad hoc basis. The appointment of such Senators would be done in consultation with party leaders in Northern Ireland and in such a way as to represent, where possible, a cross-section of public opinion. They were the two proposals. One was made about the Dáil and the other about the Seanad.

I also said that, in the context of a comprehensive agreement, I would ask the Leader of the Seanad to discuss with the parties taking the necessary procedural steps to facilitate allowing MEPs elected here and in Northern Ireland to speak in the Seanad on periodic debates on EU matters. I cannot say at this stage when we might get around to advancing any of these proposals because they were all based on the comprehensive agreement.

Mr. Sargent:  I have a number of questions, most of which could be answered with a “Yes” or “No”. Given the Progressive Democrats’ declar[7]ation that electronic voting was expensive, undemocratic and unworkable, is it now the view of the Government that electronic voting will not be used in any constitutional referenda? Can we look forward to a referendum without the complication or controversy of electronic voting?

Is the Taoiseach prepared to accept that the EU constitution cannot be accepted if the French reject it? As he stated, all countries need to ratify it. Is that the de facto position? It is certainly indicated in polls but we await the real poll.

Although the Taoiseach said the White Paper is well advanced, will he state the month, if not the day, when it will be produced? As Deputy Kenny said, there is a need for information. Will the Taoiseach listen to the Referendum Commission on this occasion? In the past it has been very dissatisfied over its being established so late in the day. Will the commission be established at such a time as to afford us the best opportunity to impress the reality of the constitution on the public mind?

Is it envisaged that another referendum or election will take place on the day set for the referendum on the EU constitution? Has the Taoiseach considered the legal arguments that the Irish Constitution may need to be amended to allow the EU battle groups, for example, to operate? Article 15.6 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states clearly that it is for the Oireachtas alone to raise or maintain a military or armed force. If other countries are involved in raising an armed force that is to train in Ireland, for example, a constitutional issue will have to be addressed. Has this been reflected upon and, if so, has there been any outcome? Will there be a referendum on the compliance of the battle groups with the Constitution?

The Taoiseach:  The question on the Referendum Commission being able to commence its work will be addressed when the referendum Bill is brought before the House. It is intended to introduce it as soon as possible. This is in everyone’s interest and will allow us to proceed with the debate and associated issues. It is the obligation of each member state to pass and ratify the EU constitution. Regardless of what other countries do, we have an obligation to deal with the matter ourselves. It is not for us to be watching what other countries are doing. Obviously we should take an interest but we have an obligation to try to ratify the constitution before 1 November 2006. This obligation was imposed on us when we agreed to the constitution. Our task is to ratify it and not to comment on what other countries are involved in.

It is obvious that the sooner we deal with matters in this House, the longer the Referendum Commission will have to deal with the issue. I agree with the Deputy’s remark on the timeframe. We have already said we will provide the resources then people can see the facts. The Minister for Defence said that the issue of the battle [8]groups is being considered to see whether it requires legislation or raises any constitutional issues. He will clarify that when the examination is finished.

When the Government decides on the date it will consider whether there are other issues to deal with. It is no use speculating but while at the time other issues may arise I do not know of any.

Mr. Sargent:  We are speculating. The Taoiseach is answering.

The Taoiseach:  I do not want to speculate on what decision we might make in the future. People ask me to put through some more of the issues with which the constitutional review group has dealt, on the basis that we cannot have costly referenda every month. Perhaps it makes sense to put them together but there is no particular proposal.

Mr. Cowen:  Then we will speculate on Deputy Sargent’s position on the constitution.

Mr. Kenny:  Has the Government discussed the question of discrimination against women in the home? The Irish Human Rights Commission called for a referendum on the deletion of Article 41.2 of the Constitution. The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution recommended the deletion of the article and its replacement with a different form of wording to the effect that the State would recognise that family life gives society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, and that the State endeavour to support persons caring for others within the home.

Has the Government considered the implications of that and has it contacted the Irish Human Rights Commission? Does the Government intend to hold a referendum on this other proposal, if accepted, on the same date as the referendum on the EU constitution?

What is the position on a referendum on the controversy surrounding the price of building land? Will there be such a referendum or has the Government considered that?

The Taoiseach:  The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution is carrying out a study of the family and children issue and any referendum will arise out of its report when completed. That will cover any other issues the committee has examined already in that area.

The committee said we do not require a constitutional amendment on the building land issue. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is bringing forward a collective package based on the proposal of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution and the PricewaterhouseCoopers and NESC reports. The Minister will bring forward proposals in the coming weeks.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Did the Taoiseach answer the question about what will happen if the indications [9]in France are borne out on the day of the referendum?

Mr. Sargent:  He ignores questions.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Will we proceed in any event? How many reports has the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution issued and how many parts of these have been implemented?

The Taoiseach:  In regard to France, the Netherlands and several other countries holding referenda we have an obligation to pass the European constitution here. In November 2006 the European Council will examine the position. If 90% of countries ratify the constitution by then it will decide on how to proceed. The outcome is not influenced by what happens in any one country. We have an obligation to fulfil and the European Council will make its judgment in November 2006. I would like all countries to pass it, particularly France, which is an important member of the European Union but that does not influence our work.

The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution has produced nine reports dealing with various issues, many of which have been implemented. We have a good record on the recommendations. Most of the significant proposals have been acted upon, for example, issues regarding the death penalty, judicial oversight — although the Dáil did not pass that — abortion and local government recognition. Many of the other recommendations did not require constitutional amendments but we dealt with the important matter of the scrutiny of EU business. Many other matters are under consideration in Departments. When we get an opportunity, we try to include them in the reports. The All-Party Committee on the Constitution is currently working on issues relating to children and the family.

  3 o’clock

Mr. Rabbitte:  I would like to pursue with the Taoiseach the question of the price of building land. Today Davy Stockbrokers predicted another boom year, which at least is different from the usual economists’ reports which, whenever there is a threat to the price of building land, state the prices of houses will tail off next year and that increases will be in line with inflation. We have been hearing this for approximately seven years but it has not happened. Given the Taoiseach has discovered what we on this side of the House told him, namely, that a constitutional amendment was never necessary, and that he has been assured of that by the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, what action, if any, does he intend to take on the question of building land?

The Taoiseach:  Whatever about outside economists’ reports on building land, over the last number of years we have proved the capacity in the country to build a record number of houses. The rate of price increase significantly reduced as [10]we dealt with the issues of supply and demand, which is significant.

The All-Party Committee on the Constitution report did not find that a constitutional amendment is necessary to allow for a reform of the existing system of compulsory land purchase. However, it suggested that the wording of the Constitution in this area could be improved. That also sounds like an economist’s report. There has been the NESC report, PricewaterhouseCoopers report and the All-Party Committee on the Constitution report. The Minister is bringing forward proposals on what further steps are necessary in this area, which I hope will happen in the next few weeks.

Mr. Morgan:  My hearing must be getting worse because I did not hear the Taoiseach’s answer to Deputy Ó Caoláin’s question on whether he will hold a second referendum in the event of the first one yielding a no vote. Perhaps he can clarify that matter.

Mr. B. Lenihan:  The Deputy should hang his head in shame.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Morgan without interruption, please.

Mr. Morgan:  The French might do the job anyway. Has the Taoiseach plans to hold a referendum this year or next year on the issue of a right to housing? Will he hold such a referendum in order to ensure such a fundamental right is available to the people of this State?

The Taoiseach:  We have a responsibility to hold a referendum in this country and to try to have it passed, which is what we are endeavouring to do. I will not speculate on anything else.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  The Taoiseach is keeping his options open.

The Taoiseach:  There is no other plan. The European constitution includes fundamental rights for citizens. It specifies what is already included in the treaties that people have passed democratically. I do not understand how people can be fundamentally opposed to what has already been passed by way of democratic referendum. There is no change involved in the constitution.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh:  There are changes.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Taoiseach without interruption.

The Taoiseach:  The people have already voted on these issues. The only aspect which is new is the fundamental rights issue. This gives people the right to protect themselves against either governments or institutions where they believe their rights are being withheld. That is the only change involved in the constitution.

[11]Aengus Ó Snodaigh:  The Taoiseach is hoping——

The Taoiseach:  If the Deputy is against fundamental rights for people, that is fair enough. He is entitled to be opposed to human rights and other fundamental rights for people.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  Is that the information that will be supplied?

The Taoiseach:  I am just giving the factual position of what is in the constitution.

(Interruptions).

Mr. Morgan:  I asked about people’s right to housing.

The Taoiseach:  The Government’s concern is building sufficient houses. For the first time, we are close to meeting the demand for housing.

Mr. Morgan:  There are enough reports to build a house.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh:  The majority of Irish people believe this Government has abandoned the policy of neutrality and that it only exists in name. Will the Taoiseach bring the issue of Irish neutrality before the public in a referendum? Will the Government propose any changes to sections 1 to 3 of Article 29 of the 1937 Constitution or to the so-called triple lock?

Mr. Cowen:  We are not going to war.

The Taoiseach:  The Seville declaration was built into the second Nice treaty. Protections with regard to this issue were clearly put forward to the Irish people. They are absolutely clear. The entire European Council, and subsequently the Irish people, agreed to them. This is the position on which people will be asked to vote again. There is no danger to Irish neutrality in any of this. We will continue to engage in the Petersberg Tasks with regard to peacekeeping and other issues as we have successfully done over the past 40 years.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I wish to return to the issue of the price of building land. The Taoiseach described the problem and told us about the various reports that have been produced. He also told us about the all-party committee. The Taoiseach’s analysis is much closer to my own than one might think from reading the newspapers. However, there is a difference when it comes to taking action. What does the Government propose to do to address the price of building land after all these reports and all party committees?

The Taoiseach:  As I stated earlier, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, will shortly bring [12]forward a detailed paper on the Government’s next set of initiatives. We brought forward many initiatives over recent years, which is why the supply of housing in this country has increased from a stagnant 20,000 to 25,000 homes to the current figure of 75,000. From the examination of these reports over the past year or so, there are a number of other useful initiatives, including affordable housing, and these will shortly be brought forward.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We are going outside the scope of the questions. Deputy Sargent has been waiting and we are running out of time.

Mr. Sargent:  I do not mind.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I have two questions and I did not intrude in any way.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I appreciate that, but the Deputy has asked four or five supplementary questions.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The purpose of asking questions is to get answers.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy must stay within the confines of the six questions before the House.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Can the Taoiseach name one of the initiatives that will be in the Minister’s paper?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That does not arise out of these questions.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Of course it does.

An Ceann Comhairle:  These questions specifically relate to the Constitution. Questions relating to other matters should be raised with another Minister in a different manner. Deputy Sargent has been patiently waiting for the past 15 minutes.

Mr. Sargent:  I am very happy to do so.

Mr. Rabbitte:  This question relates to the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution. It is a critical question regarding the price of land. Will the Taoiseach tell the House one measure that the Government will carry out? It is a simple question.

The Taoiseach:  I have already stated that arising from the reports we will bring forward another set of proposals. They must go through Government, so I will not announce them here. I can tell the House of the measures we have taken to date.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I know about all of that.

[13]The Taoiseach:  I am not going to announce a Government decision before we have considered it.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The Government is fantastic. Can the Taoiseach tell me of one measure?

Mr. Cowen:  The Deputy wants to be in Government but he cannot.

The Taoiseach:  Deputy Rabbitte wants to be ahead of a Government decision.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The Taoiseach has spent four years talking about the issue, but he cannot tell me of one Government measure.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Rabbitte should allow Deputy Sargent to ask a question.

Mr. Kenny:  The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Callely, announced a €16 billion programme recently without the Minister knowing of it.

Mr. Sargent:  I am seeking clarity on the range of answers given by the Taoiseach, particularly with regard to the European treaty. I took it to be the case, as stated by the Taoiseach, that every member state would need to approve the treaty for it to be fully accepted by the European Union. He mentioned that if 90% approval could be garnered the next stage could be planned. I would like some clarity on that because it seems that if the Irish, the French or the people of any other member state were on their own in rejecting the treaty that would not make a whit of difference; ratification of the treaty would proceed based on the 90% approval rate the Taoiseach mentioned. Will he clarify what he means by saying that a meeting would take place to plan the next stage if there was 90% approval of the treaty? Is 100% no longer the requirement for it to be fully acceptable?

The Taoiseach:  I thought the Deputy knew what was agreed at the time of consideration of the constitution. It was agreed that every country must ratify the constitution.

Mr. Sargent:  That is what I thought was agreed.

The Taoiseach:  If, on 1 November 2006, 90% of member states have ratified the treaty, the European Council would discuss the position. There is no commitment as to what it would do but it would discuss the position.

Mr. Sargent:  It would have a chat about it.

The Taoiseach:  It would then have to decide what to do. It was left open to see what would happen on that date; there will be a discussion on it. I assume that if only 50% of the member states have ratified it by that stage there would not be much point in having a discussion on it. That is [14]why a figure was inserted — there was no reason other than that.

Mr. Cowen:  If the Deputy’s party could conclude its discussions on it that would help.

Mr. Sargent:  There is democracy on this side of the House.

Mr. Cowen:  Is the Deputy in favour of the constitution?

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  What is the Taoiseach’s view of the appropriateness of members of the European Commission involving themselves in a debate on either side in the event of a referendum being called? Our Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, a former Minister, has already signalled his intention to do so in regard to a referendum on the European constitution. Is it not the case that unelected highly paid EU civil servants should not be directly involved in organising and directing public opinion——

Mr. B. Lenihan:  He was elected by the Parliament.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  ——on matters of such import at the heart of the EU?

The Taoiseach:  Some 30 groups participated in the convention on the European constitution, one of which was the Commission. It had representatives at the convention. The Commission signed up to the constitution. It had a major impact on the convention all the way through. I would expect the European Commission, which was part of the convention, would support its own constitution document in which it was fully involved.

As the Deputy will be aware, Commissioners actively involve themselves in such campaigns in countries throughout Europe. I would be glad to see the European Commissioners stand up for a document in which they were involved in negotiating. I would be disappointed if they did not do that.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That concludes Taoiseach’s questions.

  62.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the steps he took prior to 30 March 2005 to bring an end to the activities of gangs which have been robbing security vans and ATMs over the past 12 months; the directions he has given to the Garda Commissioner in this regard; the resources which he allocated for this purpose alone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11198/05]

[15]

  63.  Mr. Costello    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress which has been made in the Garda investigation into two robberies of security vans in Dublin during March 2005 in which more than €4 million was taken; the total amount taken in raids on security vans during 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; the number of such cases in which charges have been laid; if he is satisfied that the Garda has sufficient resources to deal with this plague of robberies and to bring those responsible to justice; the matters discussed at his meeting with representatives of the security industry on 31 March 2005; the reason he has opted to give the security industry four months to improve security rather than implement the powers to set standards under the Private Security Services Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10942/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 63 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the robberies referred to by the Deputies are the subject of ongoing investigations. I understand the Garda authorities have set up an incident room at Santry Garda station to investigate the two robberies of security vans in Dublin during the month of March and an extensive investigation is under way.

The available information regarding the total amount taken in raids on security vans and the number of such cases in which charges have been laid relates to 2004 and 2005 to date. With regard to 2004, approximately €3.4 million was taken in raids on security vans. Six people are before the courts in relation to these raids. I am further informed that since the beginning of 2005 approximately €5 million has been taken in raids on security vans and that three people are before the courts charged in relation to these raids.

In regard to action taken before the recent robberies, as the Deputies are probably aware, Operation Delivery was initiated in June 2004 in direct response to the increase in robberies of cash in transit in the Dublin area. The operation is under the control of a detective superintendent in the national bureau of criminal investigation. Among the activities undertaken are profiling and targeting of suspects; searching of premises associated with suspects; disruption of activities of suspects; surveillance of suspects; liaising with cash in transit companies; and intelligence gathering and analysis.

Operations have resulted in the arrest and charging of a number of suspects and the recovery of a number of firearms. The numbers of robberies of cash in transit have continued to decrease since the operation was established in June 2004. In the first three months of 2004 there were 12 robberies involving security vans compared with seven in the first three months of this year. While this represents a decrease of 40% in incidents, as Deputies will be quick to point out, there was an increase in the amount of cash taken quarter on quarter.

[16]I am assured by the commissioner that the necessary resources are being directed towards the containment and detection of such serious criminal activity. On Thursday, 31 March, following the armed robbery of a Brinks Allied security van early on 30 March at Artane when approximately €1.9 million was stolen, I met representatives of the main banks, An Post, the Central Bank and the major cash in transit service providers. I was accompanied by the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Noel Conroy, and the chief executive of the Private Security Authority, Ms Geraldine Larkin.

Many of the participants at the meeting, who are central to the movement of currency in the State, have been meeting as a forum since November 2004. The terms of reference of the forum are to co-ordinate the sharing and gathering of information on the security of delivery and collection of cash to bank branches and ATMs; identify strategic issues and promote best practice for the transmission and storage of cash; and develop an agreed code of practice.

At the meeting, I emphasised the massive social implications of these robberies when millions of euro find their way into the hands of organised crime gangs. Such robberies threaten the integrity and security of civil society. I informed the participants that the Government must ensure that proper procedures and standards are in place to combat the threat to security employees, their families and the public and that measures would have to be taken to ensure that the highest standards would be established and adhered to in cash escorts and cash holding centres.

I indicated my preference for voluntary agreement on a code of practice that would see the industry operating to the highest international standards. The forum has been considering such a draft code of practice since November 2004. If such agreement on a code of practice cannot be adopted voluntarily within the next 120 days, I indicated that I would have no choice but to regulate to ensure that standards are raised. However, my preference remains that key players acting in partnership voluntarily agree to act in the interests of their industry, their employees and the public. Agreement, if and when achieved, will represent the first time that the main stakeholders have committed themselves to operating to agreed standards of procedure and equipment.

In tandem with this, the Private Security Authority has a statutory responsibility to license companies operating in this area. The authority has decided to commence work on the development of a national standard in parallel with the work of the forum. The standard will form the basis of statutory licensing of cash in transit companies. As the authority is independent, I do not want to prejudge its deliberations on this matter. However, I would hope that if the voluntary code of practice is of a sufficiently high standard and concluded within the timeframe of the authority’s work, it could form the basis of the national stan[17]dard that would be required for the issuance of a licence. My officials are closely monitoring the 120-day period and activity in the area.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  I compliment the off-duty garda who foiled an armed robbery within the past 24 hours. While I do not have his name, we should acknowledge the exemplary courage shown on this occasion and I hope he is recovering from his injuries.

It is easy for us to criticise the Minister and we have many grounds for doing so. I point to the substantial number of robberies when compared with 1998, the first year in office of the previous Government, when for the entire year only 61 armed robberies took place. Is the Minister not alarmed at the large number of robberies? Even in the figures he published yesterday, robberies from the establishment or the institutions or robberies of cash and goods in transit number 370 in the first quarter alone as opposed to 61 armed robberies in 1998, the first year of the previous Government. Figures reported indicate that 17 gangs are involved. How many gangs are involved in these robberies, including the IRA and related gangs?

What steps are being taken to address the problem? The Minister referred to Operation Delivery and the first quarter reflected a reduction from 21 to 12 in robberies of goods in transit. On the other hand, the number of robberies of institutions increased significantly, from 282 to 358. Would it be helpful to adopt a process initiated in Canada and change the law to criminalise gangs and make it an offence to be a gang member? If so, what are the Minister’s proposals in this regard?

On a technical level, are security vans equipped with global positioning systems, GPS, and if so, why is it difficult to track them? I understand there has never been a robbery of goods in transport accompanied by a military escort? Who makes decisions on escorts? Why do the military and Garda Síochána not provide greater cover? If there is to be a concerted effort to end this type of armed robbery, surely action is necessary on all the areas I have raised, notwithstanding the general requirement to allocate more manpower and technological resources to the Garda Síochána, which I do not propose to address in detail at this stage.

Mr. F. McGrath:  The Minister should do his job.

Mr. McDowell:  I will deal first with the Deputy’s final point regarding escorts. The Garda provides a considerable number of non-military escorts in any given week. More than 600 movements of cash are escorted by gardaí so it is not the case that one must see a jeep and Garda cars travelling beside a vehicle to conclude that an escort is in operation. Many cash transits are escorted with little public profile. For obvious reasons, I do not wish to address in detail the [18]criteria for escorting cash but they are worked out in consultation with the security industry and its chief customers.

The Deputy asked if I am alarmed by recent events. Most certainly I am alarmed and I have made it clear to the industry that if it does not get its act together, I will do so for it and impose from the outside standards with which it must comply.

The Deputy asked about global positioning systems. Some of the participants have GPS in their vehicles while others do not, which is a clear case of underinvestment. Some of the participants use much more sophisticated vans for some transactions than for others and, again, there is major room for investment in this regard. As the Deputy can well imagine, there is also room for using proper strong boxes, perhaps carrying independent GPS, with a capacity to destroy the contents if they are interfered with and of such a design that the transit staff cannot, under any circumstances, either under duress or otherwise, open them and with codes provided only to the recipients upon delivery. There are many other technical standards which could be introduced.

I explained to the security industry and I am happy to state now that I am unwilling to have the banks drive a race to the bottom in terms of standards. Security company employees are entitled to a decent wage rather than the bare minimum, decent conditions of work and equipment of the kind I described, which would safeguard them. The banks in question must face up to the fact that they must pay for additional standards. I will not tolerate a race to the bottom on standards when the result would be that society will be impoverished and anti-social elements enriched. I made this so clear I was perhaps unusually blunt.

Mr. F. McGrath:  The Minister should have done so two years ago.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  Why is he only doing so now when he has been in office for three years?

Mr. McDowell:  I will conclude to allow the Deputy to speak. I wanted to get across the message that the industry has had a forum in place for some time and that, from what I gather——

Mr. F. McGrath:  The Minister has been too busy sending snatch squads into schools.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Allow the Minister to continue without interruption, please. The 12 minutes allotted for these questions have already been used by the Minister and Deputy Jim O’Keeffe. As Deputy Costello has yet to speak, I ask the Minister to be brief.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  Why is he only moving now?

Mr. McDowell:  I am not only moving now. As I told the Deputy, but he did not listen, a forum was convened by the Garda in 2004. I told him [19]exactly what happened, including the failures. He knows full well what happened last month when I called in representatives of the industry. It is not a matter of me only acting now. Operation Delivery has been in operation and has had success since June 2004.

Mr. F. McGrath:  The Minister should focus on his job.

Mr. Costello:  We need more than bluff and bluster from the Minister on this issue. We have heard a great deal of it in the House and on the media and perhaps we can now get some facts. The Minister had no difficulty identifying the culprits in a recent major bank robbery in Northern Ireland. In addition, in reply to a question from the media on what he intended to do about this issue he stated he would revoke the licences of the security industry. Suddenly, however, he realised the security companies did not have licences because he had not licensed them as he did not enact legislation in sufficient time to do so. What is the current position?

The Minister cannot allow any sector of the security industry to be self-regulatory now that legislation is in place and the Private Security Authority has been established. He cannot give the industry four months to get its house in order. The legislation prescribes and mandates that the Private Security Authority, established under law, provides standards and training——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy must ask a question.

Mr. Costello:  ——for all sectors of the security industry and that statutory guidelines must be introduced with the consent of the Minister. Has this been done? Is the reason he is allowing the industry four months that he has not got around to doing this?

Mr. McDowell:  As the Deputy is aware, last year I asked him and Deputy Jim O’Keeffe to assist me in pushing the private security services legislation through the Houses to ensure it would take effect. The Private Security Authority is independent and decides its own rate of progress. As the Deputy is aware, it does not take direction from me on this matter. It is not true that I ever suggested I would revoke anybody’s licence.

Mr. Costello:  It was widely reported in the media.

Mr. McDowell:  The Deputy asked whether I am in a position to identify the culprits in a robbery, as I had been with regard to another robbery. While I am not in a position at this stage to reveal to the House the state of Garda investigations, they are well advanced on one of the robberies and good progress is being made on the more recent robbery. It would be wrong of me to satisfy the Deputy’s desire for facts and figures [20]by putting into the public domain the names of suspects in these operations.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  How many gangs are there?

Mr. McDowell:  There are a number of them.

Mr. Costello:  On a question of a fact, as there is no self-regulation——

An Ceann Comhairle:  We have spent 15 minutes on these questions and must conclude.

  64.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason he is awaiting a further report into the Grangegorman murders from the Garda authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10507/05]

Mr. McDowell:  I thank Deputy Gregory for tabling this question. Deputies will be aware of the main facts of this distressing case. Sylvia Shiels and Mary Callinan were brutally murdered on the night of 6-7 March 1997. In July of that year the late Mr. Dean Lyons made an apparently full confession to investigating Garda officers of his alleged guilt in the double murder. Following consultation between the Garda and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, he was charged with one of the murders at Grangegorman. In August 1997 another person, whom I cannot name in the House, was arrested and detained during the investigation of another double murder and made a confession regarding the Grangegorman murders. As a result of the admissions made by the second person, the Garda Commissioner appointed an assistant commissioner to review all available evidence regarding these murders.

The Garda authorities state that this investigation indicated that Mr. Lyons did not commit the murders in question. Following completion of this review, a report was submitted by the assistant commissioner to the Director of Public Prosecutions. In April 1998, after consideration of the report, the DPP decided that criminal proceedings against Mr. Lyons be discontinued. In July 1999, Mr. Lyons presented a signed and witnessed statement denying any involvement in the Grangegorman murders.

As the House is aware, when the DPP decides not to prosecute in a particular case, the reasons for the decision are given to the Chief State Solicitor and the investigating gardaí. However, the director has stated that it is his policy not to disclose this information otherwise. The prosecution of alleged offences is the responsibility of the DPP alone. He is independent in the exercise of his functions and it would therefore not be appropriate to intervene or comment on his decisions.

On 24 February, the Garda Síochána press office published a notice on behalf of the Garda Commissioner in a number of newspapers which stated that the Garda was satisfied that Dean Lyons had no participation in the murders and [21]that it appreciated the embarrassment suffered by his family as a result of criminal charges preferred against him and subsequently withdrawn. It regretted and apologised to the family of Mr. Lyons for any embarrassment caused.

In recent days, I have received a comprehensive up-to-date report which I requested from the Garda authorities on all matters arising in this case. The report is a detailed one and is accompanied by a large volume of associated papers. I have also previously indicated to the House my reservations regarding a public inquiry into this case. The death of Dean Lyons has obvious implications for the effectiveness of such an inquiry. I must also be mindful that the criminal investigation into the two murders is not closed. In particular, a forensic “cold case” review is being conducted by the Garda on exhibits and samples to see if there is forensic material to support a prosecution against the other person. This has led to the re-examination of a large number of such exhibits and samples. The outcome of this review could lead to charges being made in future, and I am sure the House will appreciate that I cannot prejudice that decision.

Nevertheless, taking all these factors into consideration, I accept that there are understandable grounds for concern that Dean Lyons made an apparently inculpatory statement in this case. This is why, having taken the representations made by a number of Deputies, including Deputy Gregory, into account, I have decided in principle to refer the Garda papers in the case to outside counsel with a view to examining how Mr. Lyons came to make the confession and what lessons can be learned from that occurrence in an effort to ensure that something similar does not happen again in future. I expect to have the terms of reference for the examination finalised and a person to carry it out chosen shortly.

Mr. Gregory:  Will the Minister state if it is clear from the reports made available to him by the Garda that in the written statement taken by gardaí from Dean Lyons, there were specific details, including the murder weapon, that could only have been known to gardaí themselves and to the murderer? These details of the case have been in the public arena for the last five years. I have raised the case with the Minister since he became Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and he has prevaricated until now. Is it not a critical issue that a statement which was neither videotaped nor audiotaped but gave precise details of the murder weapon and scene was taken from Dean Lyons who was later shown to be innocent? Is it not the case that serious implications arise from this? Surely the Minister agrees that this fact alone necessitates a full public inquiry. He has stated that he will refer this case to counsel. What is the nature of the inquiry he will ask the counsel carry out? Will it be public, open and transparent or yet another private inquiry into the details of the case?

[22]Mr. McDowell:  To clarify matters for the Deputy, I will ask the counsel to go through the considerable volume of documentation which was furnished to my office, together with a report, by the Commissioner last Thursday. I have no doubt that this is a grave issue. I agree with the Deputy that the serious issue in question is whether the alleged inculpatory statement made without any form of recording contains detail which could only have been supplied to Mr. Lyons by his interrogators. This is the crucial issue. Rather than relying on what has appeared in the newspapers, I wish to have a person in whose judgment I have confidence to go through all the material, establish what substance there may be to that grave issue and report to me. I will then report to the House whether an inquiry is necessary.

If an inquiry is necessary, there are a number of possibilities. One, which I have already mentioned, is the appointment under the Dublin Police Act 1924 of a person to carry out a sworn inquiry and provide me with a report. This is one of several possibilities, but I do not wish to rule any out. However, I agree that the grave implications to which Deputy Gregory referred are the point of interest and public concern. I am taking steps to evaluate what steps I should take on foot of the issues raised by this inquiry.

Mr. Gregory:  Several points arise from the Minister’s reply. If it is shown to be the case that these details, which could not have been known to Dean Lyons, were in his statement, will the Minister arrange a full public inquiry or some other form of inquiry so that this is brought out into the open? The Minister is aware that the sister of one of the victims and Dean Lyons’s father have continually called for a full public inquiry. Given the length of time that has elapsed and the prevarications that have surrounded the case from the very beginning, they are entitled to it.

Mr. McDowell:  I do not wish to speculate about what I will be advised by the independent counsel regarding this matter. However, I accept it is a serious issue. I presume the Deputy would not ask the question if it were not a serious issue. I will report back to the House when I have the material available to me.

Mr. Costello:  The Opposition does not ask questions that are not serious.

Mr. Gregory:  I take it that under the Dublin Police Act 1924, the Minister will not appoint a garda?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We must proceed to Question No. 65.

  65.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he is satisfied that the acquisition of 150 acres of land at [23]Thornton Hall at a cost of €200,000 per acre represents good value for the taxpayer; his views on whether the sale of the 238-acre Grange farm four miles away at a cost of €26,000 per acre, the established market value for agricultural land in this area, shows that he paid €26 million too much for Thornton Hall; if he will reconsider the purchase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11199/05]

Mr. McDowell:  I am satisfied that the purchase of the 150-acre site at Thornton Hall in County Dublin will prove to be excellent value for money for the taxpayer and I have no intention of reconsidering the purchase. To put it in perspective, a survey carried out on behalf of the Office of Public Works in 2001 estimated the cost of refurbishing the 20-acre Mountjoy site at €336 million. At today’s prices, it would cost in the region of €418 million. With regard to the purchase price of the Thornton Hall site, I have received no advice from the OPW or the agents retained to advise on the matter that the price paid was in any way exorbitant. The Deputy can point to a particular site several miles away which is cheaper than Thornton Hall. Equally I would be able to point to many sites a few miles away which would be much dearer but that does not prove anything. Not all sites are suitable for a development of the type envisaged.

We were looking for a site that was suitable for the development of a major prison facility with sufficient open space for the proper recreation of prisoners, especially young offenders if they were to be sited there, to serve the Dublin area. Advertisements were placed in the national media inviting owners to put forward sites for consideration. All sites were examined on the basis of carefully prepared objective criteria. The site that met the necessary requirements and proved to be best value was selected.

The other site referred to by the Deputy was not offered to the Irish Prison Service as part of the formal selection process. In any event, I have been advised by the prison service that although a formal assessment was not carried out on the site, it would not have been considered acceptable from a number of important perspectives such as location, access and egress.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  Does the Minister accept that, at €200,000 an acre, he has purchased the dearest farm in Europe? Does he accept that this figure is eight times the market value per acre for a farm of that size? Does he agree the market value of the Grange farm was settled by a public auction? As he must be aware from his legal days, this is the true criterion of market value. I am not talking about suitability for a particular purpose, but about market value for agricultural land. The Minister was buying unzoned farm land. References in his committee report regarding land that was offered at a much higher price are not surprising as development land is bound to be offered at higher price.

[24]Does the Minister agree this deal represented extremely bad value for the taxpayer and that the decision to buy the farm was hasty, panicky and completed without half of the committee having examined the farm? The deal was first brought before the committee on 18 January, immediately agreed and approved by the Minister and announced the following week. This is a crazy way to conduct business by a member of a party that prides itself on being a watchdog regarding public finances.

Is the Minister aware that it is now extremely likely that Thornton Hall, which he purchased so quickly, may be designated an architectural conservation area? Is he aware that the local heritage association has produced a major report, which has been in gestation for the past two years, which confirms that this is a major heritage area, as evidenced by hill forts, ring forts, ecclesiastical enclosures, churches, a castle, a castle moat, a stone cross site, medieval settlements, ancient roadways, a Cromwellian battle site and an execution site? This last site is possibly the only part that is appropriate. Is the Minister not aware that it is very likely, arising from this report, that Thornton Hall and the adjoining area will be classified as an architectural conservation area by Fingal County Council and thus become off-limits to building development? How will the Minister retrieve the €26 million out of €30 million that he wasted on the purchase of a farm if he cannot build on the site?

Mr. McDowell:  The process was not rushed and took a considerable length of time.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  I am talking about the process relating to this farm.

Mr. McDowell:  The Deputy is well aware that a great number of locations in Dublin and adjoining counties were considered so the decision was not rushed. The Office of Public Works and the expert auctioneers and valuers who were advising it did not make a mistake of the kind the Deputy is suggesting and did not buy a pig in a poke. When the institution is built the Deputy will be the first to recognise that this site was the right place to build and has the right scale. He will also realise that the other farm to which he referred would be completely unsuitable. I ask the Deputy to ask the neighbours of that other farm for their views if he still has doubts about the matter.

This site was inspected for any features of archaeological or cultural significance and none was found. It was interesting to hear the Deputy speak about the many interesting features of the site as I do not believe it has any. We will find out in the fullness of time who is right on this issue. The Deputy used very careful language when he said the area contained these features. He did not say the site I bought had any of these features. I am not aware of the existence of ring forts, monastic remains or similar features on the land in question.

[25]Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  The area has these features.

Mr. McDowell:  If the Deputy was referring to features in the locality, he may well be right but I venture to suggest that the Office of Public Works was careful to have the land it was purchasing inspected and no such features were apparent to it.

  66.  Mr. Costello    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if there are plans to review the procedures used for the issuing and execution of deportation orders, in view of his decision to revoke the deportation order in respect of Mr. Olukunle Elukanlo; if the file in respect of this case had been read by him prior to the signing of a deportation order; if files in general are read by him prior to signing deportation orders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10943/05]

Mr. McDowell:  In my statement to the Dáil during the Adjournment Debate on Tuesday, 22 March 2005, I dealt with the deportation of the person concerned. In my statement during the Adjournment Debate in Seanad Éireann on Thursday, 24 March 2005, I dealt with the basis of my decision to allow the person to return. The proposal put to me to deport this person was made in the belief of the proposing immigration service official that the order, when made, would not be implemented before June 2005, when the young man in question would be able to sit the leaving certificate examination for which he had been studying at Palmerstown Community School since September 2002.

As is usual regarding persons in respect of whom deportation orders have been made, this person was instructed to present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 3 March 2005. He did not do so and, consequently, was classified as an evader. He subsequently presented himself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the day of a deportation flight rather than on the earlier date specified in the letter sent to him. Consequently, he was arrested as an evader and deported. The officials involved in the deportation were acting in good faith. The assumption that he would not be deported before June 2005 was not acted on. While the deportation was authorised, its actual timing was unfortunate and I believed that to leave matters as they were was inappropriate.

It is important to understand the general procedures that apply to the execution of deportation orders. The execution of every deportation order made by me is an operational order by An Garda Síochána. It is the Garda’s duty to enforce such orders in accordance with the law and it has never been my or my predecessors’ practice to assume a direct role in operational matters for a good reason. Under the laws enshrined in the Immigration Act 1999, a person who is the subject of a deportation order is under a legal obli[26]gation to leave the State. However, compliance with the law in this regard is minimal and enforcement is necessary if the integrity of the asylum and immigration system is to be maintained. As the Supreme Court has acknowledged, failed asylum seekers do not have a right to remain in the State but these people are not snatched arbitrarily or suddenly off the streets. Before I make a deportation order, the person in question is given three options. He or she can leave the State voluntarily, consent to the making of a deportation order or make representations within 15 days as to why he or she should be allowed to remain in the State. Assistance regarding voluntary departure is underpinned by special programmes established in co-operation with IOM. For three years, up to 31 December 2004, 1,879 voluntary returns have been accommodated by IOM in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Regarding all files submitted to me containing recommendations for deportation, it is plainly necessary for officials to collate and summarise all relevant information in order to present it in a coherent and consistent format for me to consider. Almost without exception, this involves a summary of all available information on the facts, as set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act and in consideration of the refoulement issues and-or other significant issues relating to the case. A recommendation is then made to me by an officer at a grade not lower than assistant principal.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The entire file is then submitted to my office for a decision. It is brought from Burgh Quay to my office at St. Stephen’s Green for that purpose. The volume of such files can be understood from the fact since January 2001, in the region of 10,200 deportation orders have been signed by me or my predecessor. During 2004, the number of individual cases varied from ten to 20 on each working day. This is a direct result of the Government’s overall asylum processing strategies and the commitment of resources to this area and is likely to continue to increase in scale.

Deputies should be aware that litigation by way of judicial review proceedings is a regular consequence of deportation cases, with 361 such cases live at present.

In view of the volume of the deportation files it is clearly unrealistic to think it possible for me or any other Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to remember the precise details of every individual case. While, I have no recollection of reading the particular file to which the Deputy refers, my general practice is, in some cases, to read and consider the summary and, in other exceptional cases, to read and consider the entire file.

The approach outlined above is the only realistic way of dealing with the volume of cases fairly and efficiently and is in accordance with the Carltona principle which recognises that the [27]whole system of departmental organisation and administration is based on the view that Ministers, being responsible to Parliament, will ensure that important duties are committed to experienced officials. In every case, I sign the deportation order and the order is made by the Minister as a matter of law. This approach is typical of that taken in Common Law countries where ministerial decisions are made in accordance with the Carltona principle.

Finally, I refer briefly to our asylum determination process. Some commentators have referred to the fact that asylum determinations take a considerable period of time to complete and that large numbers of people are in the asylum process for a long duration. This is no longer true. Huge progress has been made in the area of asylum processing over recent years following the huge investment by the Government in this area. The progress made to date is illustrated by both the general reduction in processing timescales in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the substantial reduction in the number of asylum applications on hands.

In terms of timescales, a new accelerated process has been introduced for prioritised asylum applications with a first instance decision provided by ORAC within an average of 13 working days and an appeal on the papers, where applicable, provided in some six working days by the RAT. At present prioritised cases comprise some 54% of all applications.

In relation to cases on hand, only 900 cases are in the asylum system for more than six months. This can be contrasted with the fact that there were some 6,500 cases over six months in the system in September 2001 and that some 25,000 asylum applications have been received in total in the State since January 2002. We can be justifiably proud of this result.

As I mentioned earlier, the Government has made a huge investment in this area and this expenditure ranges across several Departments.

Overall, in the region of €375 million was spent on asylum related services in 2004, a small proportion of which also relates to services provided for other non-nationals. This figure was compiled following consultations with range of Departments and offices which provide services to asylum seekers, namely, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, including the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, the Reception and Integration Agency and the Refugee Legal Service, the Departments of Social and Family Affairs, Health and Children, Education and Science, the Office of Public Works and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

This scale of investment leaves us with an asylum determination system which compares with the best in the world in terms of fairness, decision making, determination, structure and support services. It is also worth pointing out that it still [28]remains a fact that over 90% of the applicants for asylum, after been through a system which is highly regarded internationally, including by the UNHCR, are found not to be in need of international protection.

Mr. Costello:  I thank the Minister for supplying me with all of this information but I would like him to answer my question. I asked him whether he is going to review the procedures used in issuing an execution of a deportation order, which he did not answer, and whether he had read the file himself prior to signing the deportation order regarding Mr. Olukunle Elukanlo. I also asked him whether in general files are read by him prior to signing deportation orders. I did not receive answers to any of those questions.

Would the Minister agree the process has become a debacle where he has been forced to do a U-turn regarding his oft-stated position that he would create precedents if he was to make any exceptions to his ruling? He has now very publicly and blatantly done a U-turn on this issue. What is the position regarding deportation orders now that the Minister has done this U-turn? We have people in Athlone, Monaghan and various other parts of the country who are looking for similar treatment to this young man.

Does the Minister agree it is not sufficient to say he issued a deportation order in the belief that the immigration service would not deport the young man before his examinations? Are members of the immigration service supposed to be mind readers? How were they to know that the Minister did not expect this young man to be deported before his examinations? Did the file contain anything that made it clear that he was not to be deported before his examinations? The Minister should let us know if it did. If the file did make it clear, the deportation would have breached the order that was issued.

Mr. McDowell:  If I had sufficient time, I would have said that the files are brought to my office for consideration, with a summary attached to each file. The volume of such files can be understood from the fact that since January 2001, 10,200 deportation orders have been signed by me or my predecessor. In 2004, the number of individual cases varied from ten to 20 on each working day, which is the result of the Government’s overall asylum processing strategies and the commitment of resources to the area. This is likely to increase in scale.

In light of the volume of deportations filed, it is unrealistic to think it possible that I or any other Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform could remember the precise details of every case. While I have no recollection of reading the file to which the Deputy refers, my general practice is to read and consider the summary of some cases or to read and consider the entire file in exceptional cases. The approach I have outlined is the only realistic way of dealing with the volume of cases fairly and efficiently. This is in accordance [29]with the Carltona principle which recognises that the system of departmental organisation and administration is based on the view that Ministers responsible to Parliament will ensure that important duties are committed to experienced officials. The deportation order in every case is signed and made by the Minister as a matter of law. This approach is typical of those taken in common law countries where ministerial decisions are made in accordance with the Carltona principle.

The Deputy asked whether this will set a precedent for other cases. It will not. In this case, the proposing immigration officer noted in the file his expectation that the young man would be able to finish his leaving certificate and then leave. The subsequent sequence of events that happened was unlikely in that he did not attend an interview to inform him of this expectation when he was requested to and was marked as an evader. Once he was classified as such, he subsequently appeared on the day a flight was leaving and other officials who acted in good faith but were unaware of the expectations of the first official decided to arrest and deport him.

It was harsh to stand over his deportation under these circumstances. On consideration, I publicly said that I must take personal responsibility for these decisions. I make no apology for saying this but the other cases to which the Deputy refers have nothing to do with this particular sequence of highly unlikely and unpredictable events or their results.

Entire families come to Ireland seeking protection as refugees and apply for asylum. When they fail, they must be deported. The Deputy has advanced in this House that, where children are in education, the question of their deportations should be deferred until their education is finished.

Mr. Costello:  Their secondary education.

Mr. McDowell:  Deputy Costello made this suggestion but if I were to follow his misconceived advice, 50% of the people involved would be able to avoid deportation according to the figures that are available to me.

Mr. Costello:  That is not true.

Mr. McDowell:  There is another point that is of significance to this discussion. The cost of providing asylum services across several Departments in 2004 was €370 million. Of asylum seekers, 90% are not found to be entitled to protection from the State. There is a considerable amount of money and deployment of resources by the State. I intend to enforce the law and wish the Deputies to know that the people back me in my stance on this matter.

Mr. Costello:  Will the Minister refrain from sending gardaí into classrooms within which youngsters are studying? Does he recognise that [30]any non-nationals entitled to education here can only have this entitlement until they complete their second level education, otherwise it would not be free? The people we are speaking of would not be able to afford it. This is what I referred to and not education to third level as the Minister has indicated. Does the Minister admit that he only reads the summaries of many of the files that are placed on his desk?

Mr. McDowell:  No. Between ten and 20 files per day on average are brought to my attention for decisions. Nearly all of them are summarised and it is my general practice to rely on the summary while having the entire file available to me in my office. I examine all the material in a minority of cases, some of which have files that are six inches thick, whenever I am in doubt or there is a particular matter raised.

The Deputy has raised this issue again, so I will reiterate that I am speaking about primary and secondary education. If I had a system wherein people with children of an age to be in primary or secondary education would be effectively immune from deportation until both educational cycles were completed, 50% of family asylum-seeking groups in Ireland would be exempt from deportation. This is not a practical——

Mr. Costello:  That is not true.

Mr. McDowell:  It is true. These are the figures that have been made available to me.

Mr. Costello:  Will the Minister show me the figures?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We must proceed.

Mr. McDowell:  I asked for these figures and I was told by officials in my Department——

Mr. Costello:  The majority of the asylum seekers are dealt with under the category of Irish-born children, which the Minister is speaking about. He is effectively giving an amnesty to 20,000 people in this context. The others are a proportionately small number.

Mr. McDowell:  That is not the case.

Mr. Costello:  It is the case.

Mr. McDowell:  As I promised the House in the face of a measure of scepticism, I am dealing in a generous and humane way with all parents of Irish-born children. Approximately 18,000 applications to reside in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish-born child were made before the deadline of 31 March under the relevant scheme and that approximately 3,000 of that number have been granted leave to remain.

Mr. Costello:  That is where the children are.

[31]Mr. McDowell:  The Deputy contradicts me but he is on the wrong ground. Of the family groups who seek asylum here and all of whose children are afforded education by the State, approximately 50% would be immune from deportation for up to ten years were I to accept the Deputy’s point that all questions of deportation should be deferred until all the family’s children have completed the two educational cycles. I am not willing to do this.

Mr. Costello:  Will the Minister show me the figures?

Mr. McDowell:  It is grossly irrational to expect a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to accept this as a way to conduct immigration policy.

  67.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason Garda recruits are required to pay €400 for their uniforms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10865/05]

Mr. McDowell:  I have been informed by the Garda that Deputy Gormley is wrong in this matter. Student gardaí are not required to pay for their uniforms. However, a notice is sent to students instructing them to bring a formal suit, two pairs of black regulation shoes of solid leather construction of a plain type, a track suit, two gym singlets, two pairs of shorts, gym shoes, a gym kit bag, four pairs of white gym socks, a swimsuit or swimming trunks of a navy colour, one pair of flip-flops, a duvet quilt, a pillow and various other items. Most of these items are available from the academy in Templemore and students are required to pay a cost of €400 for items three to ten. This may be the source of the Deputy’s misinformation.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  To be kitted out.

Mr. McDowell:  It is not the case the students pay for their uniforms. These are accoutrements and a part of the training process for which most students in any third level institution would be asked to pay.

Mr. Cuffe:  I am delighted that the recruits are so well kitted. It shames some of us to hear of the contents of their own kitbags. It is my understanding that it is a requirement to pay a sum of money for the uniform but that it remains the property of the Garda Síochána at all times. Will the Minister clarify whether the items he has mentioned or the uniform remain the property of the Garda Síochána or himself?

  [32]4 o’clock

Mr. McDowell:  I am not in a position to say whether I own Garda uniforms or whether the individual members do, but I have a feeling I do. I do not know the answer to that question and I will not mislead the Deputy. What the Deputy and I would generally refer to as “Garda uniform”, that is, tunics, caps, trousers, skirts and so on, is not required to be paid for by individual members of the Garda Síochána.

Mr. Cuffe:  I am delighted to hear that. I compliment the Minister on his decision to grant leave to remain to 3,000 individuals. I applaud him on what I consider a humane decision in that instance.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  It is not often we get the opportunity to discuss the uniform of the Garda Síochána but as it has been mentioned I wish to ask the Minister how long it has been since the uniform was redesigned. Is there any question of a redesign at present? Is it an issue that is looked at generally from the point of view of comfort, efficiency and so on, particularly bearing in mind the large number of women gardaí?

Mr. McDowell:  We will not be gender discriminatory in regard to this issue. There has been an ongoing redesign of the Garda uniform. Since I have been appointed Minister, zip-up jackets have been supplied as part of the uniform to individual members and various aspects of Garda equipment have been redesigned and modernised. It is not the case that it has been left in some frozen condition for a long time. There have been a number of changes in recent years, some of which have been modelled in public and referred to in the media.

The trend has been towards more comfortable but reasonably impressive looking attire suitable for modern use. It is difficult to remember back to the old, stiff collared tunics and so on, with which I grew up. Getting in and out of cars with such a uniform was, undoubtedly, a difficulty. The modern uniform available to members of the Garda Síochána is designed by a process which involves consultation with the affected ranks.

  68.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the recent findings of the Garda human rights audit report which contained serious criticism of the force; the steps being taken to deal with the shortcomings identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10775/05]

Mr. McDowell:  Following from a Council of Europe programme in 1997 entitled, Policing & Human Rights, 1997-2000, the Garda Síochána established a human rights office and a human rights working group in 1999. The human rights working group, on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, commissioned Ionann Management [33]Consultants to carry out a human rights audit of the Garda Síochána. This extensive work was conducted during 2003-04 and the audit has been finalised.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Commissioner for commissioning the human rights audit and for publishing the audit which identifies certain significant shortcomings in respect of the force in an open and transparent manner. In response to the findings and recommendations of the consultants, the Commissioner is drafting a comprehensive Garda action plan to respond, in particular, to the shortcomings the report identified.

The action plan can be summed up by saying that it will put human rights to the fore in all aspects of the management and operation of the Garda Síochána. Assistant Commissioner, Nacie Rice, head of human resource management, has been given specific responsibility to monitor, oversee and ensure the implementation of all aspects of the report. I understand that at a recent management seminar at the Garda College in Templemore, senior officers at chief superintendent and commissioner rank received an extensive briefing on the audit and the action plan which will arise out of it.

The Garda Síochána Bill, which is before the House, places emphasis on the importance of upholding human rights in the performance by the Garda Síochána of its functions. The Bill also provides for a revised form of declaration for persons joining the force, which specifically refers to the need to have regard for human rights in carrying out policing duties. I have also made provision in this Bill for the establishment of a code of ethics for the Garda Síochána. The purpose of the code of ethics will be to lay down standards of conduct and practice for members.

Mr. Costello:  I, too, welcome the fact the Commissioner has accepted all 15 recommendations and has agreed to take action to implement them. Let us be clear on what the independent human rights audit found. It found that procedures and operating practices within the Garda force can lead to institutional racism, particularly in relation to Nigerians, Travellers and Muslims. What will the Minister do? He is responsible for legislation covering the Garda Síochána, and the Garda Síochána Bill is before the House. Has the Minister studied these recommendations? Has he considered the need for some change in the structures in the Garda Síochána? For example, recommendations were made in respect of a police authority which would allow a greater level of monitoring of the operation of the police. It is not good enough to leave it to the Commissioner to implement recommendations. What about training and education? The Garda Síochána Bill is notably devoid of reference to those areas. I would like to know about the Minister’s responsibility rather than what the Commissioner will do.

[34]Mr. McDowell:  I appreciate that the Deputy welcomes the transparency with which the Commissioner acted in this matter. I can make the action plan available to the Deputy. He will see that each of the issues raised in the report is addressed and responsibility for and a method for dealing with them are identified in the Garda action plan. I back the Commissioner 100% in implementing that action plan.

As Minister, I can set the legislative context within which the Commissioner can act. The Garda Síochána Bill is very strong and clear on this issue. There will be an ethics package for gardaí which they will have to live up to. There will have to be an emphasis on human rights in their training which does not simply end when they leave Templemore. Each member of the Garda Síochána will be required to effectively take an oath to uphold human rights. The action plan combined with that new legislative framework and the fact that there will be annual reports and directives from the Government will adequately cover this matter. I have full confidence that the Commissioner will deal with this issue in a perfectly adequate way, especially in view of the way he has dealt with it to date. He will have my full backing in everything he does.

  69.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position with regard to plans to construct a new prison at Thornton Hall, County Dublin; if a contract has been signed for the purchase of the site; the estimated cost of the project; when he expects construction to begin; when he expects the project to be completed; if his Department or the Prison Service has met local residents to hear their concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10777/05]

Mr. McDowell:  A contract has been signed for the purchase of the site and plans are being formulated regarding the development of the site. These will be made available in conjunction with the statutory planning process. In accordance with the Department of Finance regulations, the Prison Service is preparing a business case regarding the development for submission to the Government. It is intended that construction of the prison development will commence in late 2006. The cost of the project will be determined following a procurement process in line with EU directives and public procurement guidelines. It would be inappropriate for me to give an indication in regard to costs at this stage as this would be commercially sensitive information which might affect the tendering process. One meeting has been held between officials of the Prison Service and a group of representatives from the local primary school. There will be a process of consultation with the local community as soon as outline plans for the new development are drawn up.

[35]Mr. Costello:  That is not quite what the Minister told us the last time I tabled a question on this matter. He told me he was agreeable to meet the residents but that they had not taken him up on his offer. He now tells me that officials met representatives of a local primary school and that some time in the future there might be a meeting with the local community. Is it not a fact that the Minister has refused to meet the local residents’ association and the local community which is questioning the approach he is taking in regard to many aspects of this development? Will the Minister meet the local community?

What is his response to Dublin City Council when one considers that some months ago, when he brought forward the proposal to close Mountjoy Prison, he had a notice posted on the gate of the prison stating that no official of the city council should be allowed past the portals to conduct any survey of the features of the prison? Will that notice be shredded given that the Office of Public Works made a submission on behalf of the Minister and that Dublin City Council rejected it out of hand, and that it has every intention of examining the architectural, historical, cultural and heritage aspects of the prison with a view to seeing what needs to be preserved? Can I take it the Minister will co-operate with the legal planning authority and the local authority?

Mr. McDowell:  The Deputy can be totally assured I will comply with my legal obligations. It should go on the record that the Deputy is pursuing his own policy which is to keep Mountjoy where it is.

Mr. Costello:  Will the Minister answer the question? I ask him not to mind my policy. Let us hear about his policy.

Mr. McDowell:  Will the Deputy please stop interrupting me? I am answering his question. It should be clearly understood that we are hearing that Mountjoy Prison is a heritage site and that the Deputy wants to keep it as it is. I am not prepared to have modern penology and the rehabilitation of prisoners carried out in a museum. If the Deputy has some ulterior motive to keep Mountjoy Prison in its present location and to make bogus arguments about retaining it as a campus, I do not accept them. Mountjoy is not suitable as a major prison and must be replaced. That view is supported by the governor, Mr. Lonergan, and by every independent person who has toured the prison. There is no reason to rebuild on the site because, as I indicated in an earlier reply to the Deputy, it would cost over €400 million to rebuild a prison on the Mountjoy site. Even in that context, the biggest prison in Ireland would be unusable for a major portion of the construction period. I am not going down that road.

I want to make it clear to everyone who will listen that I am going ahead with the relocation of Mountjoy Prison from a city centre site to a [36]site on the outskirts of Dublin and I have purchased a site for that purpose. The intention is that there will be recreational spaces, open spaces, decent buildings and decent facilities for the prison officers to work and the prisoners to exist.

Mr. Costello:  That is the reason the Minister closed down three prisons.

Mr. McDowell:  I intend to develop a campus in north county Dublin for the purpose and I intend not to be deflected by people who produce notions of fairy ring forts in north county Dublin or architectural details of interest in city centre Dublin. I will not be deflected by all this guff. The people of Ireland deserve that prisoners in Mountjoy should be imprisoned in humane circumstances. We must have drug free prisons. We cannot have a situation where drugs are catapulted over the walls. We must have circumstances where prisoners, especially the younger prisoners, can play a little football. Humane facilities will have to be available. The constant campaign to derail the relocation of Mountjoy will not succeed.

Mr. Costello:  I wish to ask a brief supplementary question. I asked two questions and the Minister had a side-swipe at one in regard to Dublin City Council. Will he allow the officials into Mountjoy Prison given that he refused to allow them in previously? My second question was whether he would meet the residents of Thornton Hall area. On the last occasion the Minister told me that an offer was made but that they refused to accept it. Will the Minister meet them?

Mr. McDowell:  I will explain the position. My Department offered to meet the residents but they did not take up that offer.

Mr. Costello:  No.

Mr. McDowell:  Since then we have had two letters, one from a firm of solicitors, whose services have since been disposed of, and another from a different firm of solicitors clearly making it obvious to my Department that the residents envisage the commencement of a legal action to restrain the building of the prison at Thornton Hall. I will not have a meeting if its purpose is to dredge for information to sustain a legal action to frustrate the project. I want to make that clear.

Mr. Costello:  Will the Minister answer the question?

Mr. McDowell:  When proposals are sufficiently developed to consult local residents I will certainly ensure they are consulted and that their viewpoint is listened to in regard to the construction of a prison on that site.

[37]Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  My main interest is in safeguarding the taxpayer. I have raised the issue of the €26 million wasted on the purchase of a site when it should have been acquired for approximately €4 million. Has the Minister taken lightly the local heritage report? Has he considered the possibility that an architectural conservation area order may be made by Fingal County Council? My understanding is that most members of the council are in favour of making such an order. Will the Minister accept it could have a serious impact on his plans if such an order is made? It is obvious he has not read the report. I am aware of the report but I have not read it in detail. If the site has, say, architectural significance of the order of the Céide Fields would that change the position? Would it mean the Minister would be left with a bad bargain on behalf of the taxpayer?

Mr. McDowell:  This site does not have the architectural significance of the Céide Fields.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  How does the Minister know? Has he read the report?

Mr. McDowell:  It is remarkable that the opponents of the removal of Mountjoy Prison from a city centre location, which is grotesquely over-crowded and unsuitable, including the members of Dublin City Council, to whom Deputy Costello is well connected, have argued that it should be kept in its present location because they want to make it a conservation area in Dublin.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The time for questions has concluded.

Mr. McDowell:  There is huge opposition to any change in Ireland. I am fascinated by the fact that it all ends up as a heritage argument for leaving it in its present location and for not putting it anywhere else.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  There will be other chapters on this matter.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 21 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Crawford — the need for a reappraisal of the structure being administered for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994; (2) Deputy Pat Breen — that the Minister address the erosion of Ennis as an industrial base and that he immediately renew an industrial investment programme for Ennis; (3) Deputy Burton — the crisis in primary school places in the Dublin 5 area with children failing to be offered a primary school place for September 2005; (4) Deputy Healy —[38]the need for the Minister to reverse the ongoing cutbacks on FÁS community employment schemes and to reverse the three year cap on these schemes; (5) Deputy Ó Snodaigh — the urgent need for a full public inquiry into the murder of an Irish public representative, Donegal county councillor, Eddie Fullerton; (6) Deputy Connolly — the proposed closure of the Teagasc office in Bailieborough, County Cavan; (7) Deputy Cowley — if the Minister for Education and Science has yet reached a decision on the allocation of a permanent site for a school in Westport, County Mayo; (8) Deputy Deenihan — the threatened withdrawal of Garda personnel from Castleisland Garda station, County Kerry, by July if no progress is made in acquiring a site for a new building in the town; and (9) Deputy Neville — construction of a new national school at Kilfinane, County Limerick.

The matters raised by Deputies Crawford, Burton, Cowley and Neville have been selected for discussion.

Mr. Kenny:  Today Irish nurses commenced their latest campaign to highlight the disgraceful scenes at accident and emergency departments around the country. At the Mater Hospital, Cork University Hospital and Roscommon General Hospital nurses were forced on to the streets to protest during their lunch break about the continuously bad situation in accident and emergency units. Their demands are not unreasonable. Like the rest of the people, they want an accident and emergency service that meets the needs of society. They want an end to hundreds of patients on trolleys in hospital corridors throughout the length and breadth of the country. Last week there were 404 patients on trolleys in hospitals throughout the country, today there are 350 patients on trolleys. Every few months the Government gives us a whole new raft of solutions to deal with the problem.

The Tánaiste, who has been in the Department of Health and Children for six months, building on the seven and a half years of prior service by the Government, has announced another ten-point plan, which is supposed to sort out this business. Will the Taoiseach give the House any reason to believe this plan will work where no others have worked? Will he give a definite timeframe as to when this ten-point plan will be implemented? Will he tell us what has happened to the accident and emergency agreement drawn up on the last occasion when the 2002 work stoppages took place to highlight the overcrowding in hospitals which has worsened since then? When will the additional acute and non-acute beds and primary care units promised by the Government in 2001 and 2002, which will only offer the long-term solution to this crisis, be provided? There are repeated incidences of people who leave their beds or trolleys in hospital corridors to use the toilet or to go outside for a smoke only to find [39]when they return that their bed has been taken. This is truly disgraceful. In a country rolling in money it is sad to have the nurses of Ireland out on the streets again in an effort to deal with a problem to which the Government committed itself to solving over the past eight years.

The Taoiseach:  As I have stated before, for one reason or another, accident and emergency facilities are not up to scratch but it is not the situation in all hospitals. New accident and emergency departments have been opened in hospitals such as St. James’s Hospital and Blanchardstown but problems still exist in a number of hospitals.

Deputy Kenny asked me to state the present position. Approximately 3,300 people a day are treated in accident and emergency departments which is 1.2 million a year. The Tánaiste’s ten point plan is a dedicated funding of an additional €80 million this year. The Government is confident that this plan has already achieved results in some hospitals but not in all. For example, the special home care packages to allow people to leave hospital are to help those who require better facilities at home and cannot leave hospital until these are provided. The first of the 500 step-down places are now being provided by the private sector. This is important as it releases acute beds in general hospitals. Nursing home places for long-term stay will soon be contracted. Several hundred beds need to be outsourced and this is under negotiation. Site visits to determine the suitability of facilities will be completed at the end of this week.

The GP out of hours service is operational in most parts of the country but not on the north side of Dublin. However, 150 north side GPs have now indicated they are prepared to work an out of hours co-operative and this will have an impact. It is the case that there is no GP service after 5 p.m. and people have no alternative but to go to accident and emergency units. Progress has been made in discussions with private hospitals to provide additional access to MRI and CT scans in order to reduce waiting times. This is important and it is happening now. The Health Service Executive is putting in place a permanent system of audit inspection for cleanliness in acute hospitals and which was previously identified by Tallaght, Beaumont and St. Vincent’s hospitals. The new St. Vincent’s Hospital will open shortly. Tallaght, Beaumont and St. Vincent’s hospitals are working to install new acute medical units and a number of other medical initiatives are being taken. These units are being funded by the €80 million funding announced by the Tánaiste. Others are already in place as I announced previously.

I acknowledge the frustration of the nursing staff in hospitals in particular. The accident and emergency consultants are now in place but some further work remains to be done because the difficulty is that accident and emergency consultants leave at 6 p.m. and the busiest time is after 6 p.m. [40]This is an industrial relations issue that will need to be negotiated. The Tánaiste is involved in this matter. It would be very helpful to the service if the accident and emergency consultants were in place. These are some of the issues.

Mr. Kenny:  The Taoiseach has not changed. He referred to the figure of 3,300 people. This is very much less than it was seven years ago. The position is that the Government is unable to deal now with a lesser number than there was seven years ago. The Department closed contracted beds 18 months ago and is now opening up contracted beds as if this was a brand new initiative. In those years the health budget has doubled but the Government is still unable to deal with this element of the crisis. Why is it that today I hear reports of businessmen ringing up radio stations offering money to buy prefab units for hospitals? People are phoning radio shows to give their views about how the problem should be sorted out. The Government is almost eight years in office and the situation is much worse than it was when it took office. The Taoiseach in his reply may refer to the ten point plan and the millions of euro.

What is the Taoiseach’s personal view of how to deal with the hundreds of drunks who turn up every weekend in accident and emergency units, with nothing more wrong with them than that they are completely out of their minds with drink? They upset nurses, doctors and other patients who have rights that are being infringed. Has the Taoiseach a view as to how the drunken community in accident and emergency units at weekends should be treated and dealt with?

The Taoiseach:  The numbers attending accident and emergency units have risen considerably over the past number of years.

Mr. Bruton:  That is not true. The Taoiseach should quote figures.

The Taoiseach:  There are reasons for this. Like me, Deputy Bruton is also a representative of the north side of Dublin. In the past there was a very good GP out of hours service. However if several hundred doctors decide to stop work at 5.30 p.m., which they are entitled to do, there is no alternative for people but to go to the accident and emergency department. It was not so in the past because a few years ago every community on the north side had a clinic. It is to be welcomed that the GPs have decided to work an out of hours service.

It is accepted that several hundred people occupying acute beds cannot go home for one reason or another and alternative beds must be found for them, which is what we are doing. It is not a question that they were always there. Step-down beds are not available. People are living longer——

Mr. Kenny:  It is an admission of failure.

[41]The Taoiseach:  ——and for one reason or another they cannot go home. In the past such people were able to go home but that is not the case now and step-down facilities must be used which puts much pressure on the system.

I will give my personal view in answer to Deputy Kenny’s question about the drunks. The ambulance crews and those who bring such people to accident and emergency departments both at weekends and other times, have no alternative but to bring them. The difficulty is trying to provide separate facilities for them in accident and emergency units in order to protect old people and others who may never have been in an accident and emergency unit before. Some units are able to do this but most units cannot. This is particularly the case in the Mater Hospital in Dublin because the facilities are old and separation cannot be made. This creates much hardship for the staff and also for elderly patients who have never experienced such behaviour. However, these people cannot be denied treatment for many medical and legal reasons and this creates great pressure.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I refer to the scandal originally revealed to the House by Deputy Joe Higgins, namely the disgraceful exploitation of a large number of workers employed by Gama Construction Ireland Limited. In the last intervention by the Taoiseach he accused Deputy Joe Higgins of not having complied with or produced the information to the investigation. We all now know that this is not true even though the report has been injuncted by the company. The facts are in the public domain. The Tánaiste, in keeping with the PD mantra, went to Turkey to recruit Gama Construction for public sector contracts in this country. Gama Construction were given public sector contracts which provided for the going rate in the building industry to be paid to their workers. The quality of work is not an issue. Far from introducing competition into the domestic market, Gama Construction was disgracefully undercutting Irish and EU employers and workers and siphoning off the greater part of the workers’ wages to Finansbank in Holland.

What action is the Government prepared to take as a matter of urgency to secure for these workers in this jurisdiction their rights and entitlements under the registered agreement for the building industry? The difference between €2.20 per hour, which is what the workers are paid as the general operative rate, and the construction industry rate of €12.96 is deposited in Finansbank Holland which in turn transferred it to a finance company called Ryder Investments. The bank has control over that money. What the workers need by this weekend is a clear statement from that bank of their entitlements. Is the Taoiseach prepared to instruct the Irish ambassador to take whatever measures are necessary, in co-operation with his opposite number in Holland, to secure the minimal entitlement of these workers, that is, a statement of their rights [42]and entitlements which they can examine over the weekend?

The Taoiseach:  There are many issues to consider in respect of this matter but lest I forget I will answer the Deputy’s specific question at the end of his contribution. We are looking for not only a statement but access to the records so we can ensure the workers’ rights and moneys are secured. The Government will use the offices of the ambassador and others to secure the money.

Prior to the allegations made by Deputy Joe Higgins in February — two sets of allegations were made — with which I have no difficulty and we dealt with them the last day in the House, reassurances were given by Gama’s auditors and legal advisers that workers were in receipt of the proper rates, and they were accepted by the CIF, SIPTU and BATU at the time. Following Deputy Higgins’s complaints, I assured him in the House that I would ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, to seek the involvement of the inspectors in this matter and to draw up a report. That was the approach agreed in the House and it has been undertaken. The Minister received the inspector’s report on 6 April. He informed me that he fully accepts the recommendations in the report, which need to be addressed by his Department and the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda Síochána and the other regulatory bodies, from which the Minister has sought and demanded support. The Government wishes to publish the report as soon as possible but is prevented from doing so by the High Court proceedings initiated by Gama. Our objective is to ensure all Gama workers, both Turkish and Irish, are given their full entitlements and that their terms and conditions of employment are according to the law and are fully implemented.

There are other issues to consider such as repatriation. The Minister met representatives of ICTU, SIPTU and the CIF today and intends to meet Gama delegates this week or early next week to discuss implementation of the recommendations of the inspector’s report.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I agree there are many issues outside the question I put to the Taoiseach, such as that these workers in the main worked 84 hours per week but the moneys deposited in Finansbank Holland cover 48-hour weeks at the standard rate. Almost as much more is owed to the workers because hours worked in excess of the 48-hour week should be payable at overtime and weekend rates. There are questions about enforcement, the deduction of taxes in this jurisdiction and so on. These issues are for another day, as is the disgraceful state of enforcement. The Tánaiste sat atop this mess for three years while preaching competition. Other building employers made representations to her about being undercut and so on but nothing happened. I am not filled with joy that she has been replaced by Deputy Martin as Minister for Enterprise, [43]Trade and Employment because he has a record of turning not one but two blind eyes to such difficulties.

It is helpful that the Taoiseach will have access to records and so on. However, the workers’ immediate demand is simple. Will the document which Deputy Joe Higgins was able to obtain for the four workers who accompanied him to Finansbank Holland, clearly setting out their entitlements, be secured for each worker, through the good offices of the Irish ambassador if necessary?

The Taoiseach:  All the issues that arise in this matter are being worked on. Departmental officials have been in touch with officials in Finansbank Holland to seek that information for each worker. This will ensure the individuals get the money to which they are entitled. We believe we can get those records.

Mr. J. Higgins:  Were it not for the hard work of the Socialist Party in the Tallaght area and the opportunity afforded me by Independent Deputies to raise the position of the Gama workers, the company would not have been outed. How could such a vile machine of shocking exploitation be transferred intact from the Middle East by Gama to Irish sites and how could the company get away with this exploitation for four and a half years? It is inconceivable that prestigious projects, including two ESB power stations, could be constructed without senior personnel noticing that workers never got a single wage slip. If there is some excuse in regard to wages, the slave regime of 80 hours per week with no stop for rain and cold could not have been invisible. This is not even to raise the depraved morality of Irish professionals who continuously and at a significant price whited the sepulchre of Gama and the rottenness within that company.

This State is deeply shamed that fathers who came here to support their families, leaving spouses and young children behind, and brothers and sons who came to work for their families’ welfare should be most criminally abused, exploited and duped in the course of construction of the Celtic tiger infrastructure. I invite the Taoiseach to look members of the Turkish delegation in the public gallery in the eye when he gives his response and tell them that Irish people do not condone and are ashamed of the abuse they have suffered.

Last year alone, €9 million of workers’ wages was deposited secretly and duplicitously in Finansbank Holland — it may hold €30 million in workers’ funds in total. When I arrived unannounced at the bank with four ex-workers, we were supplied within 20 minutes with full statements detailing the moneys deposited in each worker’s account. These were the documents which had not been furnished to a single worker in the course of three years.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, has taken action in [44]this matter and hopes to meet the workers tomorrow. Likewise, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, has been helpful in accessing these documents. However, will the Taoiseach guarantee through the intervention of the State that by this weekend there will be a full statement for each worker in Gama so that next week they can sign the documents to allow them access their accounts and have the money sent to their families or otherwise dispose of it as they desire?

Mr. Healy:  Hear, hear.

The Taoiseach:  I appreciate Deputy Higgins’s remarks about the work of both Ministers. It is the intention to get the statement as quickly as possible. However, I do not know if we will have it by this weekend. The Minister may have more information in this regard when he meets the workers tomorrow — he will meet Gama representatives later in the week.

Deputy Higgins asked me to address the Gama workers in the gallery. It is our intention to ensure that they receive their full rights and that Gama fully satisfies the obligations it owes to them. We are in direct contact in regard to securing the papers and believe we will receive full co-operation in this regard. The estimates of the departmental inspectors indicate the moneys involved may be even greater than the figures mentioned by the Deputy, although I cannot be certain about that. We will do everything we can to ensure the rights and money are secured and that we see this issue through.

I cannot answer the Deputy’s first question. When these issues were raised — as they were — assurances were made by Gama Construction, its auditors and legal advisers that workers were in receipt of proper pay rates. They were made not only to the secretariat or Government inspectorate but also to the CIF, SIPTU and BATU. Those assurances at that time were accepted but, as we found out, what was stated is not the case. The inspector’s report has shown this and the facts will be put forward as soon as possible, as soon as we can deal with the legal position.

Mr. J. Higgins:  “As soon as possible” is not good enough. The men in question are destitute. They got paid a maximum of €250 in cash four weeks ago and they have to be given the bus fare to come into town. That is how desperate they are. This is an incredible scandal by any stretch of the imagination. It is simple to address this and I have made a proposal to the Minister in that regard. Executives of Finansbank Holland should come to Dublin with all the information so workers can have access to it. Alternatively, each worker could sign a statement — this could be done tonight — which I or another representative of the workers could take to Holland on Friday. The bank could then give us statements for the accounts, as authorised by the workers, and we could bring these back. The workers would then [45]have a further document to sign and would get their money within ten days of it being submitted to the bank. That is what we need. I need that assurance for these workers by this weekend.

There are other issues.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy’s minute has concluded.

Mr. J. Higgins:  Incredibly, some contract workers with Gama Construction were not the beneficiaries of Finansbank Holland. They worked an 84-hour week for €800 per month. There is nothing provided for them. We must find the funds for those workers and, as Deputy Rabbitte stated, we must find the wages for the 84-hour weeks that were stolen from them.

Gama Construction has still not supplied a legal payslip to any worker. The company must be banged around the place by the Government to ensure that it complies immediately with trade union rates of pay and conditions and respects human and workers’ rights. An end must be brought to this regime of exploitation and intimidation which has made the company a fortune, but at enormous——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy should give way.

Mr. J. Higgins:  ——human expense to its workers.

Mr. F. McGrath:  Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Silence in the Visitors Gallery, please.

The Taoiseach:  I have already said there is to be a meeting tomorrow with the workers. Deputy Joe Higgins said he will be attending. It is important that we try to resolve the issues at that meeting.

Our legal view is that the accounts belong to the workers and therefore there is no way the banking authorities can withhold them. Our officials have stated that position and we hope they ensure the issues are addressed as quickly as possible. I cannot guarantee that the bank will make the accounts available. However, they are the accounts of the workers and the same criteria apply to them as to anyone else’s account. If an account is one’s own, how can it be withheld? That is our legal view. We do not believe the banking authorities can withhold the accounts and I do not believe they will.

On all the other matters, the labour inspectors in this area have done a very good job.

Mr. J. Higgins:  I agree.

The Taoiseach:  I compliment them on their very comprehensive report. It contains very good recommendations, which the Minister fully accepts. We will work on this. The Minister announced today a substantial increase in the [46]number of staff of the inspectorate. Following this matter, we need further people to work in other areas. The Minister has announced a 50% increase in staff, which will be very helpful in this regard.

On Deputy Joe Higgins’s point about the report, as soon as the High Court proceedings initiated thereon are dealt with, we can issue the full report.

Not only will the Minister meet the workers tomorrow but he will also meet Gama Construction before the weekend. On the basis of the Deputy having raised this issue and the work that has been done by the inspectorate, we should be in a position to ensure the workers’ rights are fully secured.

We did not discuss the issues raised by Deputies Rabbitte and Joe Higgins today. There is obviously a large number of questions associated with all the issues we have not discussed today and these must also be considered. I accept the issue at hand concerns trying to get the workers’ money and what they badly need as quickly as possible. All the other issues are addressed in the report and the Minister is fully involved in dealing with them.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Before coming to the Order of Business I propose to deal with a number of notices under Standing Order 31. I will call Deputies in the order in which they submitted their notices to my office.

Mr. P. Breen:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to debate the following matter of extreme importance: the need for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to address immediately the erosion of Ennis as an industrial base given the announcement last week that Microsemi Ireland Limited would close with the loss of 131 jobs; the need for the Minister to renew immediately an industrial investment programme for Ennis because of the lack of major investment in the town over the past 15 years and the danger of Ennis becoming a dormitory town.

Mr. Healy:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to debate the following urgent matter of national importance: the ongoing cutbacks in FÁS community employment schemes, involving the loss of jobs, the closure of schemes and damage to the fabric of community life. I urge the Minister to remove immediately the three-year cap on these schemes and to make a statement on the matter.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to discuss the following urgent matter of national importance: the continuing deterioration in our public hospital services, including the ongoing crisis in [47]accident and emergency units, the shortage of acute hospital beds and the shortage of nursing staff, as highlighted by the series of protest actions at hospitals throughout the State, beginning today and organised by the Irish Nurses Organisation.

Mr. Morgan:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to debate the following urgent matter of public concern: the necessity for legislation to be brought forward to reform the work permit system in light of the litany of revelations of exploitation of migrant workers which have come to public attention in recent weeks, including the cases of the Gama Construction workers, the farm labourers in the south east and the Philippino woman employed by Irish Ferries.

Ms Murphy:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to debate the undermining of local democracy. The Fianna Fáil and Labour Party members of Leixlip Town Council co-opted a Fianna Fáil member to fill the casual vacancy which arose following my election to the Dáil. Voters have clearly requested an independent mandate but this has not been respected.

Mr. F. McGrath:  They stole a seat.

Mr. O’Dowd:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to debate the following matter of national importance: the move by the European Commission to take legal action against the Irish Government for its failure to implement EU health and environmental regulations.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I call on Deputy Ferris.

Ms Lynch:  Níl sé ann.

Dr. Cowley:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to debate the following matter of major national importance: the failure of Government to establish a statutory registration system for alternative practitioners, and also the failure to amend the Coroners Act, which resulted in a paltry fine of €6.35 for non-attendance at a coroner’s court; and, in view of the case of Mineke Kamper, at whose hands two people died, the need for urgent action.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to debate the following specific matter of public interest requiring urgent consideration: the need for a full public inquiry into the murder of an Irish public representative, Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton, particularly given the evidence of collusion by British security forces in the case, the serious flaws in the original Garda investigation, including the failure to question suspects and a key witness, and the lack of PSNI co-operation with the present reinvestigation.

[48]Mr. Connolly:  I wish to propose the adjournment of Dáil Éireann under Standing Order 31 to discuss the following matter of urgent public and national concern, namely, the lack of consumer legislation to regulate the activities of companies advertising competitions and promotions that entice people to call premium rate phone lines at rates in excess of €2.40 per minute to claim illusory rewards, and to call on the Government to widen the powers of Regtel to introduce sanctions for companies involved in breaches of Regtel’s code of practice.

Mr. J. Breen:  I request the adjournment of Dáil Éireann under Standing Order 31 to discuss a matter of extreme local and national importance, namely, the failure of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to obey a Court Order of 3 December 2004. As it appears the Minister is in contempt of court will the Taoiseach explain to the House what action he will take on this matter?

Mr. Howlin:  Maybe the Taoiseach should call in the Captain of the Guard.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Having considered the matters raised they are not in order under Standing Order 31.

The Taoiseach:  It is proposed to take No. 8, the Revised Estimate for Public Service, Vote 17 back from committee; No. 9, motion re the death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II; No. 16, the Disability Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No.17, the Land Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that No. 8 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded thereon should be taken forthwith; No. 9 shall be taken today and proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to conclusion after one hour and the following arrangements shall apply: opening speeches by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Independents, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed five minutes in each case. The speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case and Members may share time. Private Members’ business shall be No. 45, motion re cancer screening programmes.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are two proposals to put to the House. Is proposal No. 1, dealing with No. 8, re Revised Estimate for public services 2005, agreed?

Mr. Sargent:  This relates to the decentralisation programme. It is not acceptable to us if this is going to become a pattern of runaway costs for [49]decentralisation based on a flawed policy and lack of thought.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Specific questions should be addressed to the line Minister.

Mr. Sargent:  I am opposed to it becoming a habit and pattern that we have Revised Estimates to give more money to the decentralisation programme. We were originally told it would cost a certain amount but it now looks like being a runaway cost. Will the Taoiseach tell us whether this will be a pattern or is it a one-off occurrence?

An Ceann Comhairle:  This does not arise.

The Taoiseach:  The Office of the Commission of Public Service Appointments was set up with effect from 19 October last year following the enactment of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. Having passed the Bill and set up the commission we needed €215,000 to pay the people employed there.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is the proposal agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 9, motion re the death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Rabbitte:  When will the long-promised Employment Permits Bill come before the House? This is the eighth successive Dáil term for which it has been promised.

The Taoiseach:  I am assured it will be in this session.

Mr. Bruton:  In regard to the Coroners Bill, an extraordinary situation arose recently in which a coroner who sought to have a witness attend could impose a penalty of only €6 for non-attendance. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was very quick to move and say he would amend this Bill yet it appears to languish on the Government’s third list of priorities. What is the Government’s intention in regard to this Bill? Has it been listed in the order of priority of the Government and will we see that soon?

The Taoiseach:  We need to provide a formula for the Coroners Bill which is over 40 years old. The heads of the Bill are expected in the coming weeks but the Bill will probably not be enacted until next year.

Mr. Sargent:  It is interesting to look at the list of promised legislation just published, particularly the date given for the charities regulation Bill. Is this Bill likely to be published in the term of this Government or of any Fianna Fáil-led Government? I have laid a bet to the effect that it will not be published under Fianna Fáil. Is my money safe?

[50]An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot discuss the Deputy’s betting habits.

Mr. Sargent:  It is interesting. The Taoiseach needs to respond given that his party is engaged in charitable fundraising for itself.

The Taoiseach:  The Bill is due next year but it is substantial and has many headings.

Mr. Boyle:  It was due for this year.

The Taoiseach:  It will involve revision of statute law and restatement in addition to the legislative reform provisions. Work is proceeding as speedily as possible. The Department is giving it priority but it is a large and complex Bill covering a great deal of old legislation. Hopefully it will be ready at the end of this year and will be taken in the House next year.

Mr. Sargent:  It has been waiting 15 years.

The Taoiseach:  I do not know how long it has been waiting but it is not a simple Bill. It should be in the House next year.

Mr. Crawford:  With regard to the electricity Bill there is a major problem in that people are waiting 12 months for power to be provided in their homes. Will there be a debate in the House to establish whether that can be rectified?

On 22 April the Minister for Agriculture and Food must reach agreement on the nitrates directive. Can the Taoiseach intervene? Otherwise poultry and pig farmers——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy’s second question does not arise.

Mr. Crawford:  Can we debate it in the House?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That does not arise.

Mr. Crawford:  It will arise anyway.

The Taoiseach:  The revised heads of the electricity Bill are being prepared and the legislation is listed for next year.

Mr. Gilmore:  This morning I met a family which is paying 60% of its net monthly income on rent. When will we have a debate on the outstanding reports on housing, the report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution dealing with building land, the NESC, ESRI, Goodbody reports and the review on housing policy published by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government?

The Taoiseach:  I answered Deputy Rabbitte on this question at Question Time today. I said the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will bring forward a comprehensive report on these matters. It would probably be better to wait for that report.

[51]Mr. Gilmore:  We waited for the NESC report.

Mr. Howlin:  That was the answer we received last year. We must wait for another report.

The Taoiseach:  I was trying to be helpful to the Deputy. I answered that question earlier this afternoon.

Mr. Gilmore:  I would like to know the answer.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy’s question does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Gilmore:  It does arise.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy may ask a question about debates in this House. Unless a debate is promised——

Mr. Stagg:  It was promised.

Mr. Gilmore:  I have been asking about this debate for the past year. Last year the Taoiseach promised we would have the debate when the NESC report was published.

Mr. Howlin:  There is no point asking questions if they are not answered.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The question is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Gilmore:  It is appropriate.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Questions appropriate to the Order of Business are on promised legislation or promised debates.

Mr. Gilmore:  This debate has been promised and I want to know when it will take place.

The Taoiseach:  I tried to answer the Deputy but he interrupted me five seconds into my reply. I will repeat it. The Deputy is correct, three reports have been published to which the Government’s response is due shortly. I have no difficulty in holding a debate before then but it would be more useful to wait until we have the reports which are due in a few weeks. We can have the debate before the release of the report but it would be more meaningful to wait for the report.

  5 o’clock

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  In the first legislative programme of this Dáil in 2002, it was committed that the nurses and midwives Bill would be published in 2003. In the last legislative programme, publication was expected this year. However, in the legislative programme circularised this morning, we note that it is not possible to indicate when the Bill will be published. The nurses and midwives Bill is very important legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Taoiseach on the legislation.

[52]Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  There is a crisis in nursing provision in this State. There appears to be more than just a crisis in nursing; there is a crisis in Government in terms of addressing the legislative programme in regard to nurses and midwives.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot debate the Second Stage of the Bill now.

The Taoiseach:  The heads of the Bill are due to be completed in the next number of months. In the normal course of events, it will be next year before we see the Bill.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  In the answer the Taoiseach has given, it appears to be a shambles——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Ó Caoláin, obey the Chair, please.

Mr. Gormley:  On promised legislation, will the Taoiseach tell the House why there is a delay until 2006 in introducing the strategic national infrastructure Bill? Has it anything to do with the dispute on incineration? Will the infrastructure include sewage treatment plants that do not work and stink people out of it?

The Taoiseach:  The Bill is being redrafted. I do not know if it will be ready for the autumn session or early next year.

Mr. Gormley:  Why?

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O’Donoghue):  I move the following Revised Estimate:

That a sum not exceeding €967,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December 2005 for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments.

Vote put and agreed to.

The Taoiseach:  I move:

That, as a tribute of respect to the memory of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Dáil Éireann sends an expression of its profound sadness and sympathy on the death of The Holy Father to His Eminence Cardinal Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals.

[53]It was an honour and privilege for me to attend the funeral of the late Holy Father as part of the national delegation led by President McAleese, in the company of the Tánaiste and Deputy Kenny as Leader of the Opposition. The sadness we have all felt at his passing has been lightened somewhat by the widespread celebration of his life and his achievements which we have witnessed around the world since his death.

The widespread sorrow at his passing and the unprecedented attendance at his funeral reflected the scale of his impact on the world of our time. In part, this reflected his long reign in the See of Peter, his personal charisma, tireless travel around the world, the depth of his wisdom and the clarity of his teaching, his forgiveness for his would-be assassin, his dignity in old age and infirmity and, above all, his capacity to connect with people of all ages, but especially with young people. Arguably, he was seen in person by more people than anyone else in history. In these encounters, he affirmed the good in people and challenged us all to live out that goodness. One obituary read as follows:

His is a heroic record. Here was one of the greatest men of the age. His principled stance, ethical leadership and evident holiness won respect and admiration, even from his enemies and critics.

On his election, he told the church and the world, “Do not be afraid”. He demonstrated his own fearlessness in addressing the challenges of the age. He did so with a profound sense of history, not least the history of his own nation. He was convinced, and lived the conviction, that history had a purpose, which was revealed in the act of redemption. That conviction inspired him to preach the centrality of the dignity of the human person. In turn, he saw that dignity as the basis for moral power in the face of unjust and oppressive systems. Nowhere was that demonstrated more than in his decisive contribution to the collapse of communism and the liberation of his beloved Poland and the neighbouring societies.

The reintegration of Europe was a cherished objective. He was particularly gratified by the accession of Poland and the other member states on 1 May 2004. With its Christian tradition, he saw Europe as offering great hope to the world well beyond the boundaries of the Continent. He was equally clear-sighted about the challenges to be met, not least in responding to materialism and aggressive secularism.

His, however, was a global vision. This was reflected, in part, in his firm if sometimes critical commitment to the multilateral approach to dealing with world problems, especially through the United Nations. His determination to establish good relations with the Jewish people reflected his historic sense of the injustice they suffered, not only at the hands of Christians and not least in his own country, and under Nazi occupation in his own home region. Equally, his engagement with other faith traditions, especially Islam, [54]showed that his respect for human dignity and for the right relations between people extended across all boundaries. In his life and action, he demonstrated that, far from being inevitable, a clash of civilisations would be a great evil and could be averted. In this he was surely offering a profound service to the world.

He, of course, will forever hold a special place in Irish hearts for his historic visit to Ireland so early in his term as Pope. We all have our own personal memories of the visit. Above all, I recall his moving words of passionate pleading uttered in Drogheda to persuade those engaged in violence in Ireland to find a new and more human way of pursuing their objectives. I have no doubt this moving appeal played no small part in the development of the framework for peace on this island, the completion of which was of such continuing concern to him, as he expressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Ahern, when he met him last November. His historical perspective led him to pay homage at Clonmacnoise to the Irish saints and missionaries who evangelised Europe, and their thousands of successors in the modern era who have served the church and their communities around the world.

Many have called for Pope John Paul II to be known as the Great. Many also look forward to his early canonisation. Others have pointed to areas of contradiction in his life and work, not least within the life of his own church. All that he did, however, he did in total service to his God, his church and the whole of humanity. He demonstrated conclusively that those who believe religious faith has no part to play in modern society, unlike earlier societies, are wrong. They fail to read the signs of the times. On the contrary, he demonstrated the liberating power of religious belief and practice. He demonstrated the hunger for spirituality and the response to authentic spiritual leadership to be found around the world, among young and old, even when the ideals which are preached cannot always be met.

Above all, he touched the lives and hearts of millions by his willingness to give, and to keep giving, in his work, his preaching, his life and, finally, in his suffering until there was nothing left to give. Many of us will at this time be thinking of and praying for Cardinal Desmond Connell and his brother Cardinals as they face into the difficult task of choosing a successor to this remarkable man. Pope John Paul II has gone to his rest, and the rewards of those who have run the race and who have kept the faith. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I wish to join with the Taoiseach in his tribute to Pope John Paul II. I want to reflect for one moment on the breadth of his vision and his personal experience. As a young man, his mother died and he was left in the guardianship of his father and was dedicated to Our Lady in a particular personal way. He became a loyal son [55]of the church in Poland at a time when that country was going through a mortal crisis. He saw his country invaded by the two great forces of totalitarianism at the time. He saw it being dismembered and must have seen all about him the naked evil of what can go wrong when people lose their moral compass and lose all contact with the higher things in life and the values by which we all hope to live. He saw terrible cruelty all around him. He must have felt despair for his country, of which he was so proud, as it was dismembered in front of his eyes.

Notwithstanding that, he became a priest in the Catholic Church. He stayed with his church in circumstances where it was the subject of huge oppression for many years. The wonderful thing about his life is that he showed eventually that by sticking to what he believed in, and by mobilising other people to follow his example, the power of ordinary people’s convictions and sense of what is right and wrong could endure one tyranny and overthrow a second tyranny.

As the Taoiseach said, he was an enthusiast for the creation of a Europe which is free from war. Not only that, his great project was that Europe should be a Continent in pursuit of the ideals by which he himself lived. Not everyone agreed with everything he said, but that is not the point. Everyone was struck by the fact that he constantly stood by his own personal beliefs.

As the Taoiseach noted, in a world in which some people have come to view greed and the absence of values as the hallmarks of our time, the Pope showed a completely different side to humanity in the past few years. The reaction of the world to his passing and the way in which he faced his final illness underlines the strength of human spirit against all forms of adversity.

He came to this country in 1979, one year into his pontificate. He performed an act of humility on his arrival to a country by kneeling down and kissing the soil to demonstrate to the people his sense of their dignity and pride in their land. He went on his knees for a second time in Drogheda to plead with the Irish people and anybody tempted to resort to violence to abandon violence and take the path of peace. He pointed out that while they might claim to be in pursuit of justice, he too sought justice but that violence was always subversive and destructive. We have all recently had the opportunity to reflect on these words. They have never been so true and everybody in this House would hold the view that this message, ignored for more than a quarter of a century, still speaks to us today.

On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I join the Taoiseach in paying tribute to this wonderful human being and the strength of his spirit. Everybody in this House will endorse the thought: Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Mr. Kenny:  I support the motion proposed by the Taoiseach. World leaders gathered in Rome last Friday for the burial of the Pope and to pay [56]tribute to a remarkable man who was a poet, actor, mystic, jet-setter, philosopher, anti-war campaigner, human rights activist and evangelist. He meant more to humanity than any other individual in the history of mankind. His university friends once pinned a note on his desk which read “Apprentice Saint”. Last Friday’s call of Santo Subito may yet be granted for one described as approaching the papacy with the constitution of a horse and the energy of a freight train.

I was deeply privileged and moved to be part of the Irish delegation at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, history’s most public and spiritual leader. He brought the gospel not only to the furthest edges of Catholicism and Christendom but also to the birthplaces of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. He brought it to the heartland of secularism and materialism and even to the bastion of communism for 40 years. He went head to head with Stalinists for what he referred to as the soul of Poland.

Pope John Paul II was a charismatic and controversial figure. However, even those who rejected his conservatism might praise his authenticity. Much has been said and will be said about the exterior of his 26-year pontificate which may yet be one of the most consequential through his advocacy of the poor, commitment to peace, challenge to communism and secularism, public promotion of spirituality in countries where religion was punishable and rehabilitation of Galileo into the church.

The interior dimension of his papacy was also important. The immense, profoundly spiritual aspect of the life of Pope John Paul II and his soul’s journey touched and inspired millions throughout the world. In the days before and after his death, millions began to think about the transcendent aspect of who we are, of finding a sense of life and meaning, about our own soul’s journey, the nature of human suffering and our higher selves. We seldom get an opportunity to consider such matters privately, never mind collectively, on such a global scale and in such a material world. It has been extremely good and helpful for a large swathe of humankind to get a sense of who we are as part of a global family. We have been able to step off the treadmill of day-to-day living and think and express ourselves in a remarkable and extraordinary way, both publicly and privately.

For Pope John Paul II the challenge of life existed in the gap between who we are and who we ought to be. Even if we were not totally preoccupied by this, it made us think beyond the habitual and banal at least once over the past two weeks. We should be grateful for that alone.

He urged politicians to have courage, hold our heads up and deal with the great challenges of humanity as identified by him on 10 January: life, food, freedom and peace. World politicians could pay the most fitting tribute, perhaps, by nominating him for a posthumous Nobel peace prize.

Pope John Paul II liked to watch the sunrise, even when ill. Some years ago, having broken his [57]thigh, he shuffled noisily into a room full of bishops. It was business as usual. Manoeuvring himself into place, he muttered, “Epper si muove— And yet it moves.” These were the words spoken by Galileo to the Inquisition after he was sentenced to life in prison for the heretical assertion that the Earth moves around the sun. The Pope’s spokesman, Joaquin Novarro-Valls, said that in the end his soul dragged his body. That was clear at his funeral last Friday. His soul still moves.

Ireland was one of the first countries Pope John Paul II chose to visit, and Knock was the goal of that journey. He set goals in his life and, more than anybody else of whom I have ever known, he exited this mortal world having delivered fully on his life’s commitments. He left behind goals for politicians to follow and attempt to achieve, and we should do our utmost to do so.

I share the sentiments expressed by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the death of Pope John Paul II. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Mr. Rabbitte:  On behalf of the Labour Party I extend our sympathy and regret on the death of Pope John Paul II. His death marks the end for a truly remarkable leader. He was not only the leader of the Catholic Church but also a most influential figure in world affairs.

He was the most dominant figure in the religious life of the world’s Catholics for more than a quarter of a century and also played a highly influential role in general world affairs. I am also glad to have had the privilege of meeting him some years ago.

The spontaneous and unprecedented outpouring of grief in Rome, Poland and throughout the world was testimony to the way in which he touched the lives of many. There are few great historical figures whose passing has had such a deeply personal and emotional impact. In our modern world, only Nelson Mandela will be as widely mourned when his time comes. Perhaps only Mikhail Gorbachev has had such a deep and lasting impact in tackling oppression and on the world around him.

Pope John Paul II transformed the image of the papacy. In a clear recognition of the demands of the modern era, he brought the papacy to the people and possibly travelled more than any other world leader in history, taking a message to the people in the most direct way. In doing so, he left an indelible imprint, not just on matters of faith and morals but also on world affairs. His influence and that of his office on issues of peace and justice throughout the world grew in each year of his reign.

The Pope held strong and sometimes controversial views on religious matters. In calm reflection, many will acknowledge that his unbending stance on issue such as contraception contributed little to the struggle against AIDS and HIV in Africa. The role of women was never enhanced in his church. The institution stumbled many times [58]before finally coming to terms, if it has, with the issue of sexual abuse.

Pope John Paul II was undoubtedly an authoritarian figure whose convictions left him unable to tolerate dissent, which meant that he was unable to respond to the movement for justice in South America, and this led to the stifling of liberation theology. However, nobody was ever in any doubt as to the strength and vigour of these convictions. For example, he will also be remembered as a strong opponent of war, a proponent of peace and a powerful advocate for the world’s poor. His unremitting opposition to the death penalty, for instance, will not always have sat comfortably with some of those who came to mourn his passing.

For many in this country, as the Taoiseach said, the most enduring image of the Pope’s reign will be his visit to Ireland in 1979, which left such a lasting impression on an entire generation of Irish people. Remembering the strong and charismatic figure who came to Ireland all those years ago, it is all the more poignant that the final years of the Pope’s life were marked by his courageous and dignified battle against painful and debilitating illness. Many in the church will look forward with hope to an era of change but that will not diminish the lasting reference, respect and affection with which Pope John Paul II will be remembered.

Mr. Sargent:  On behalf of the Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, I pay tribute and respect to the late Pope John Paul II who, as mentioned by previous speakers, was well known as a man of peace, opposing not only the violence of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland but also the bombing of Iraq and many other so-called legitimate wars. He was a man of reconciliation, and for that he has left a valuable legacy, reaching out to cultures and other religious traditions worldwide. As a man of forgiveness, he made many people sit up and take note when he embraced his would-be assassin. It is somewhat poignant that the day he died was the day after the 37th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, another world figure and renowned man of peace.

As also a man of justice in opposing greed and selfishness, many have commented on the need for his legacy to be emulated and to live on, but all too few have mentioned the strong, forthright words he said at the beginning of 2001 and at other times when he called and pleaded for an ecological conversion. It is clear that he meant his words to be taken seriously. He said:

. . . if we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations. Man, especially in our time, has without hesitation devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted waters, disfigured the earth’s habitat, made the air unbreathable, disturbed the hydrogeological and atmospheric spheres and turned luxuriant areas into deserts and undertaken forms of unrestrained industrialisation, humiliating
[59]the . . . garden of the universe to use the image of Dante Alighieri.

He also said:

We must therefore encourage and support the ‘ecological conversion’ that in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading. Man is no longer the Creator’s ‘steward’, but an autonomous despot, who is finally beginning to understand that he must stop at the edge of the abyss.

In 2001 in his pamphlet, God made Man the Steward of Creation, he made a plea which needs to be repeated and taken on board with the other legacies he left us. I thank God for people like Fr. Seán McDonagh who have championed those words and sentiments, as well as for Pope John Paul II. The Pope was not deaf to the cry of the earth but it appears that all too often the people to whom he was speaking overlooked it because it was too uncomfortable to take on board what he was saying.

Nuair a bhí me ag an aifreann i bPáirc an Fhionnuisce i 1979, ba léir go raibh meas ag an bPápa ar gach sórt cultúir agus ar theangacha éagsúla, mar labhair sé as Gaeilge chomh maith le Béarla ar an ócáid sin — agus ar ócáidí eile nuair a bhí sé ar cuairt in Éirinn. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go léirimidne an meas céanna ar na rudaí a dúirt sé agus ní amháin ar na rudaí ar mian linn a thuiscint agus a chloisint. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  Ba mhór an chailliúint do dhaoine ar fud na hÉireann agus ar fud na cruinne bás an Phápa Eoin Pól II. The death of Pope John Paul II was a cause of sorrow to people throughout Ireland and the world. He was the leader of the Catholic Church from 1978 and he spent his long life in the service of that church and the promotion of inter-faith relations. He was a man of deep faith. He had a strong personality and he made a deep impression on people individually and collectively. His intelligence, integrity and spirituality were clear to all, as were his courage and determination in the face of the long and very debilitating illness he suffered in the last years of his life.

The early life experience of Karol Wojtyla in Nazi-occupied Poland was hugely important in shaping his outlook and deepening his faith. It also meant that many people throughout the world felt a special affinity with him. It was no coincidence that he was recognised by people of the Jewish faith as the pontiff who did most to advance reconciliation and to make amends on behalf of the Catholic Church for the persecution of Jews over many centuries. His act of forgiveness of the man who tried to assassinate him was also of great significance and, more recently, his call for the cancellation of Third World debt and his opposition to the imperialist war in Iraq were widely welcomed.

[60]For many in the Catholic Church, the undoubted personal integrity, spirituality and leadership qualities of the late Pope cannot obscure the deep division among Catholics over doctrine, over the governance of the church. This is neither the time nor the place to go into those issues which are primarily the concern of members of the Catholic Church, but some of these matters have major social consequences which are of wider concern.

The ban on contraception and divorce, imposed by the State and based on Catholic doctrine, undoubtedly contributed very significantly to the second-class status of women. The church strongly opposed the lifting of those bans. The opposition of the Catholic Church to contraception is undoubtedly an obstacle to the fight against HIV-AIDS throughout the world today. On these issues the late pontiff was conservative and they will continue to be hugely challenging issues for his successor, as will the failure of Rome to deal justly with the scandal of widespread child abuse by clergy and the blind eye that was turned to it for decades.

The Pope’s visit to Drogheda has been recalled many times since his death. We have heard again of his appeal to those whom he called men and women engaged in violence. It is presumed that the main author of that section of the pontiff’s speech was the then Bishop of Down and Connor, Cathal Daly, who proved incapable of condemning the violence of the British state with the vehemence he reserved for others. I will conclude with another passage from the speech delivered by Pope John Paul II, which is also worthy of remembering. I nDroichead Átha, dúirt sé:

Every human being has inalienable rights that must be respected. Each human community — ethnic, historical, cultural or religious — has rights which must be respected. Peace is threatened every time one of . . . [those] rights is violated. The moral law, guardian of human rights, protector of the dignity of man, cannot be set aside by any person or group, or by the State itself, for any cause, not even for security or in the interests of law and order. The Law of God stands in judgment over all reasons of State.

As long as injustice exists in any of the areas that touch upon the dignity of the human person, be it in the political, social or economic field, be it in the cultural or religious sphere, true peace will not exist. The causes of inequalities must be identified through a courageous and objective evaluation, and they must be eliminated so that every person can develop and grow in the full measure of his or her humanity.

I wholeheartedly endorse the motion before the House. Ar lámh dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Mr. Connolly:  I wish to share time with Deputy James Breen.

[61]An Ceann Comhairle:  That is agreed.

Mr. Connolly:  I support the motion proposed by the Taoiseach. Pope John Paul II was one of the foremost figures of the 20th, or of any, century yet he was a humble giant, particularly in his final years of infirmity. He reached the highest stature when he could not raise his head, lift his arm or address his people, particularly in his final appearances at his Vatican apartment window. He faced down dictators throughout the world and drew immense cheering crowds around the world in places as far apart as Manila, Manchester, Boston and Bombay.

From the day of his election in October 1978, Pope John Paul II led the Catholic Church with strength and clarity, firm in his faith and boundless in his compassion. With a reign of more than 26 years, making him the third longest serving pope in the history of the world after St. Peter and Pius IX, it is likely that more than half the world’s population can barely recall any other pope. This pope was open, accessible and spontaneous in his gestures, frequently brushing away his security guards as he reached out to the people, particularly the disabled.

He was courageous and not afraid to tackle power head on by standing in solidarity with the people of his native Poland in their quest for political freedom. He changed the course of history and helped bring an end to the Cold War through his support for the Polish Solidarity movement, which started the landslide that wiped out communism in eastern Europe and eventually in the former Soviet Union. He brought it about in a non-violent revolution without bloodshed, confounding the conservatives who counselled violent confrontation and first strikes that would have cost the lives of millions.

His voice, weakened by illness, was nevertheless at its strongest and most forceful against the Iraq war. He repeatedly called on the world’s rich to share their wealth with the poor. He urged the young to take care of the old and the healthy to take care of the sick. He decried what he saw as the culture of death, particularly the tragedy of abortion and the death penalty. He was a prophet of peace and justice, especially in the Middle East and the Third World, balancing his concern for Palestinian rights with his condemnation of terror.

Mr. J. Breen:  I support the motion. Pope John Paul II will be sadly missed by millions of people throughout the world. During his life he offered people a sense of dignity and humanity that represents the human face of the Catholic Church. He appealed to both young and old and his method was one of simple honesty. In his many visits to different countries he was always seen as a likeable man with a sense of dignity and respect. People were touched that he chose to visit them and his willingness to leave the Vatican and travel throughout the world made him a universal figure [62]and allowed the Catholic Church to be seen as a global church.

Embracing millions of people from different cultures and backgrounds, he also possessed a great sense of humour as evidenced on many occasions which showed us that he was one of us, a man of the people with feelings just like ours. It was this honest expression of feelings that appealed to people and I respect him for that. When the Pope came to Ireland, I was in Galway with young people from Kilnamona youth club. It was an honour to be there to see the wonderful outpouring of emotion and real love for this man. His message to the young people of Ireland was simple. He told them he loved them, which was an honest and genuine message. This was really appreciated by young people who are so seldom treated with such respect in the public domain. Young people are not fools and they appreciate honesty as a quality in people.

The Pope was also not afraid to be honest on issues of faith, which were sometimes unpopular. He was not trying to win any popularity contest. He spoke with the same honesty on such issues and was thereby respected. His honesty allowed the Pope to communicate well with young people and to gain their trust and admiration. He earned their respect in a way that many adults find very difficult. To have earned the respect of so many young people was an amazing feat.

Pope John Paul II showed by his actions and words that young people were a vital part of society and the Church. Their continued involvement is both necessary and desirable. During his life the Pope gave a great example to us by his honesty and humility. He showed us how to respect others, not only by his words but also by his deeds. He reached out to many people of different faiths with the same warmth he showed in Galway. He was certainly a man of the people and he will be fondly remembered by millions for many years to come. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. M. Ahern):  I join the other Members of the House in supporting the motion. The Pope was a man who was respected worldwide not only because he professed the beliefs of the Catholic Church, which was his duty, but also because he was willing to listen to people of other religions, including other Christians, Muslims and Jews as well as those of no religion. This was based on his living out the two great commandments of Christianity: love of God and love of one’s neighbour. Those two commandments that he professed in action as well as in word formed the basis of his greatness. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Mr. Hogan:  With the death of Pope John Paul II, we have lost one of the greatest world leaders of our time. From his first day as Pope when he referred to having come from a far country to the [63]day of his burial last Friday, he made a huge impact not only on religious matters but also on world affairs. Earlier this year, readers of the Financial Times voted him the most influential figure on the European stage. In the past 12 months a UK poll rated him as among the three most admired living people in the world, ranking him alongside Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton. Few events in the world and particularly a funeral could lead the world to such a standstill as the people of all faiths and none paid their tributes to this great man last week. Countless world events were either postponed or changed to facilitate and mark his passing.

As the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said, his background is interesting. He worked in the Polish coalmines to earn the fees for a university education. He witnessed the invasion of his native Poland by Hitler which sparked off a war that was to affect the entire world. He witnessed one in six of his fellow countrymen facing a violent death in the following six years. He witnessed the takeover of his country by a communist regime. He experienced the effect nazism and communism had on the dignity of the human person. All of this along with his undoubted Christian faith moulded him into the type of leader the world came to admire greatly. His impact on world affairs was extraordinary. He is rightly credited with assisting in the fall in communism and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

While his influence on every country he visited cannot be measured in any quantitative sense, his impact was enormous. During his visit to this country in 1979, Pope John Paul II made a huge impact. Other speakers have indicated the remarkable esteem and outpouring of emotion that greeted the first visit of a pope to this country. However, the full impact of his visit has yet to be realised. His plea on bended knee in Drogheda to the men of violence to adopt peaceful means has yet to be fully answered. His words continue to have resonance today. In seeking an end to violence and criminality, the Government recently invoked his 1979 plea. Perhaps now is the time for strong leadership as epitomised in Pope John Paul II and to take control of the peace process, end ambiguity and appeasement and let the men of violence know the game is up. There can be no greater way for Members of this House to honour the late pope than by showing this type of leadership and ridding the country of the men of violence once and for all.

He appealed to both conservatives and liberals, to one with his heart and to one with his head. Regardless of whether one agreed with him, he was resolute and strong. People knew where they stood with him. I am sure his tenure as pope will continue to have an impact on religious and world affairs for many years to come. He deserves our gratitude and respect.

Ms O’Donnell:  I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to these expressions of sor[64]row and appreciation on the death of Pope John Paul II. As a champion and advocate of human rights and human dignity for the duration of his papacy, Pope John Paul II sought and achieved radical change throughout the world, including in some of the most difficult places and especially in his beloved Poland, throughout eastern Europe and in South America and Africa. The world has lost a true hero who personified all that is wonderful in the human condition. While I disagreed with the Pope on certain issues such as contraception and the role of women in the church — their absence from ministering the church diminishes the institution — he held his views sincerely and one must respect them.

As late as last year, when it was obvious his health was failing badly, the Pope continued to urge the world to help those most in need. In so doing, he proclaimed the essential message of Christianity and the church’s true mission of eradicating the scourge of hunger and chronic under-development in the world. He prayed that God would “sustain the efforts of the international community aimed at justice and solid development.” This, he stated, was the path which could guarantee to the world a future of peace, a view frequently cited by United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who points out that eradicating global poverty is not only a matter of charity but also of enlightened self-interest. This is an area in which we can best honour the Pope’s legacy. While words of tribute are well justified, those with the privilege of political office should act in areas under our responsibility.

Tonight, around the world, more than 800 million people will go to bed hungry. Approximately 3 billion people have no clean water or sanitation, while half the population of Africa lives in extreme poverty on less than one dollar per day. Deputies will agree that in a world of unprecedented plenty this is an unconscionable and reversible position. Every day, 15,000 people in Africa die from preventable and treatable diseases.

I and many other Deputies have seen at first hand the tremendous work being done by Irish and other international aid workers in Africa and elsewhere. Funding from the Irish Government and other rich countries makes a considerable difference to the lives of millions in the developing world, particularly in Africa where needs are greatest. Once one has seen suffering abated, hunger sated and fear give way to hope as a result of aid funding and education programmes, it is impossible to turn away. Once one has seen the scale of unmet needs and become aware that lives are saved by intervention, action becomes not a political choice but a moral imperative.

This House and the Government, in our full senses, made a solemn commitment to the international community to double the Irish aid budget to 0.7% of GNP within a timeframe which has, sadly, been allowed to slip. There could be no stronger testament to the deceased Pope than for Ireland to hold to our firm commitment to the developing world and urge others in the rich [65]world to reach the millennium development goals to which all rich countries signed up to mark the millennium.

John Paul II demanded of the church leadership in helping the oppressed of the world. Last February, in one of his last addresses, he told the world diplomatic community that providing food and ending hunger is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. Irish people, with our memory of the great famine, have a particular identification with the catastrophe of mass hunger and famine and an onerous responsibility to give world leadership in this area. That would be a fitting memory to our beloved Pope. May he rest in peace.

Mr. Kehoe:  I am grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to Pope John Paul II, known as John Paul the Great. I offer my sympathies to his brother priests and other brothers and sisters in religious life. As a young person, I recognise the respect in which our late pontiff was held. He is the only Pope of whom many young people aged under 35 years have memories and, as the first Pope to visit this country, he will always have a special place in the hearts of Irish people. It is a special thought that Ireland was among the first countries he visited and a large number of Irish people travelled to Rome last week to attend his funeral mass when Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily caught the heart of people across the world.

It is with sadness that we lost Pope John Paul II given his great leadership skills described by Deputy O’Donnell. I will always remember the simple words he spoke in Galway during a special mass for young people when he said: “Young people of Ireland, I love you.”

Last Wednesday night I attended a mass in my Wexford constituency lead by the Bishop of Ferns, Dr. Eamon Walsh. He spoke of the Pope’s visits to various countries across the world. The special and simple message he offered at every venue in each country will always live in the memories of those present.

On the evening the Pope passed away, I listened as Bishop John Magee, who spent many years with John Paul II, said that among the first words the Pope will hear when he approaches the gates of heaven for his eternal reward will be “Well done, good and faithful servant”, a fitting description of the late Pontiff. I hope the Catholic Church will canonise Pope John Paul II in the coming years. I extend my condolences to his brother priests, bishops and cardinals and send prayers and good wishes to the College of Cardinals in electing a new Pope in the coming weeks.

Mr. O’Connor:  I strongly support the motion and, like my colleagues, have personal memories of Pope John Paul II. I often think of the fateful autumn night in 1978, the year of three Popes, when the Polish Primate entered the Vatican. We could hear the bureaucrats in the Vatican say “enough” but the Pope proved that night and over the subsequent 26 years that he would not [66]be dictated to and went about his business following the Lord’s path as he saw fit.

Visiting Rome in April 1979 I had an opportunity to see the Pope at an audience. Later, I was an archbishop’s corps volunteer at the Apostolic Nunciature on the Navan Road when he visited Ireland. Having seen him on the Saturday and Sunday of the visit, we were woken early on the Monday morning to meet him, with some firemen, before his departure for Maynooth. I have often talked about the experience. I was struck by his presence and how he responded to people. People have reacted to his death in an amazing way. I was particularly impressed by many of the tributes paid to him this evening and compliment the Taoiseach and other speakers on their remarks. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s words on television on the night of the Pope’s death also struck a chord.

Deputies have made both negative and positive comments about the Pope. It must be remembered, however, that he was an 84 year old man who was regarded in church circles as an arch conservative, yet his death caused a huge outpouring of sympathy, particularly among young people.

I happened to be in Poland last week and was present for a mass attended by 150,000 in Warsaw on Friday. I spent Saturday, my birthday, in Krakow where I attended a concert in the evening to commemorate the Pope. I also had the opportunity of going a couple of times to the Curia house where he lived as the cardinal archbishop. One had to be impressed and touched to see the emotion evident, particularly of young people. I was glad to come home with recollections of the outpouring of grief from young people and the emotion felt on the streets of Krakow. I saw the Pope as a very positive influence on the world. In common with other Members and the Taoiseach, I wish Cardinal Desmond Connell well as he goes about the business of choosing a successor. That will not be easy.

Cecilia Keaveney:  I appreciate the fact that Deputy O’Connor has shared his time. I wish to lend my voice to those of the other Members. When this man was elected Pope, I was relatively young and many of us latched on to the fact that he had been a goalkeeper. It struck a chord with young people that this most important man was human. As time has passed, his incredible connection to youth has come to the fore. It was best seen last week, when even in his dying moments, his strongest connection was to young people. It has already been noted that for my generation and succeeding generations, he is the only Pope that can be remembered or that was ever known.

I was in the Philippines last week, and every moment of all the news channels was dedicated to his declining condition and to the events following his death. I have never seen such interest shown in an issue as there was to his health. There was a certain miraculousness about the fact [67]that throughout the world, everyone tuning in had the same interest in this very important man. As other Members have stated, many people met the Pope. I had the honour and privilege of shaking his hand in 1990 in the Vatican. It made an impression that has stayed with me. He wished for Ireland to be at peace and I hope that his wish will be granted and we will continue to move towards the peace he envisaged for us when he visited us so many years ago. I congratulate the missionaries from Ireland throughout the world who have done us proud.

All over the world, including the Philippines, people have the same impression of this strong resolute man. As everyone has stated, whether one shared his views, one knew where one stood with him. In many ways, it is an important characteristic to know where one stands with someone. I do not know how he will be replaced or how his successor will fill his shoes. The cardinals have a difficult job ahead of them. This man has made his mark with the young and old alike which was a vital characteristic that will be difficult to replace. We wish those who will follow the procedure to install John Paul’s replacement well. He visited Ireland and many other parts of the world. He made his mark everywhere and it will be difficult to replace him.

Mr. S. Ryan:  I am not afraid to say, as a practising Catholic, that I am pleased and honoured to have this opportunity to express my personal sadness and sympathy on the death of Pope John Paul II. During the last days of his life and up to his burial, the eyes of the world were focused on Rome via the media. It brought the death of a truly remarkable man into houses throughout the world. His critics will say that he was a conservative person. His opposition to abortion has been raised time and again as if to say that by virtue of that opposition, he was conservative. I am delighted to share his view on that issue. He was opposed to war, the death penalty and poverty, and in favour of human rights. He was opposed to communism and capitalism in its raw form. In this context, he was a person who stood up for his rights and for what he felt was his role in this world.

I appreciated that he said things as they were and people understood him. The Catholic Church has gone through a very difficult period in recent times, not only in Ireland but in America and other countries, because of sex scandals and abuses. His recent death and the outpouring of grief from many people in this and every other country in the world underlines the fact that people are looking for leadership. It would speak volumes if some of the leaders who were present at his funeral Mass took on board Pope John Paul II’s teachings and writings. There is much in them for world leaders to express and implement. If they did so in a humane way, the world would be a better place in which to live for many people who now live in poverty, despite the fact that [68]there is so much wealth available. He has set an example for us all. May he rest in peace.

Question put and agreed to.

Members rose.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimates for public services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2005: Votes 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

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

Mr. McCormack:  The stop-start manner in which Second Stage of this Bill is being debated leaves much to be desired. It is being taken piecemeal, which is akin to treating the matter with contempt. I hope this is not a deliberate attempt by the Government to dilute the issue and further frustrate the campaign for a proper rights-based Bill. Why did the Government get it so wrong? It was obliged to withdraw the 2001 Bill and it then introduced this Bill. Why did it not listen to the valid case put forward by the support groups for people with disabilities? That puzzles me greatly. Moreover, the manner in which the debate on this Bill is being conducted is most unsatisfactory. In reality, the Government is treating the Bill and people with disabilities with contempt.

  6 o’clock

We had a Bill in 2001 before the general election. That Bill was withdrawn because it was so inadequate. The Government then promised in the run up to the general election that a rights-based Bill would be introduced. It took three years to come up with this Bill which falls very short of what is required. The legislation was brought before the House on 4 November 2004. I spoke on it on 22 February 2005 and the debate was interrupted in the middle of my speech. Now the debate has resumed.

It is difficult to make sense of this type of debate. The way this Bill has been handled is farcical. We were promised a rights-based Disability Bill and more money for the disability sector. However, we now receive an excuse of a Disability Bill which has dashed the hopes of people with disabilities. Their hopes were raised only to be dashed by this Bill. The parents of children with disabilities are at their wits’ end as a result of the lack of necessary services for their children. This Bill is every bit as inadequate as the previous Bill, which was withdrawn. Does the Government believe it can slip this new Bill through without much fuss because there will be no general election this year?

[69]I and other Deputies have been lobbied extensively about this Bill. I received a letter from a group of parents in Galway whose children have autism and severe learning difficulties. The children are aged between ten and 11 and receive a respite service at Crannóg in the John Paul Centre in Ballybane. Unfortunately, this service will cease when the children reach the age of 12. In anticipation of this, their parents submitted a plan for respite and residential services to the Brothers of Charity in Tuam in 2002 and have been following up the matter since then. They are being further frustrated in their efforts.

I wish to quote a section from a letter sent by the Brothers of Charity to this group of parents on 25 February 2005:

The level of funding being provided by the Government and the Health Service Executive locally has not allowed in the last few years, and indeed will not in the years ahead allow for the provision of the additional services required. As a service, we are very concerned at the lack of funding available and continue to press locally and the Government about the needs of this group and other groups within our service.

This passage plainly spells out to the Government that services like those provided by the Brothers of Charity can be provided so long as the necessary funding is available. This responsibility lies with the Minister and the Government. It is perfectly acceptable for Opposition Deputies to be lobbied but the responsibility ultimately lies with the Government.

The same lack of funding and services applies in the case of older people with disabilities. When a person with a disability reaches the age of 18, he or she is excluded from the education system. Parents are concerned about what will happen to their children when they die or are unable to care for them.

This Bill falls far short of the rights-based legislation that was promised to people with disabilities. It fails to incorporate many of the core principles and recommendations of Equal Citizens, a report published by the disability liaison consultation group in February 2003. This report represents the collective and agreed vision of the disability sector on disability legislation. Given this level of activity, I am very disappointed by the current Bill.

The legislation requires major reconsideration and amendment if it is to vindicate the rights of people with disabilities. The Bill’s definition of disability is too narrow and inconsistent with other legislation like the Equal Status Act 2000. The definition of disability in that legislation is much more inclusive. The definition in the Disability Bill would exclude many people with disabilities, for example, people with epilepsy, who require services. Under the legislation, people with epilepsy would no longer be considered disabled and would lose their entitlement to services they currently qualify for such as disability allow[70]ance, occupational therapy and supported employment. The Bill does not confer a right to the independent assessment of need and does not adequately address an individual’s right to have his or her unmet needs addressed over time, as identified in the independent assessment report.

The appeals system set out in the Bill is excessively complex and cumbersome. Not only would the appeals procedure be difficult and frustrating to navigate, it would also create a great deal of expensive and unnecessary bureaucracy, resulting in resources being diverted from the provision of services. The appeals system should be independent of the Department of Health and Children and the Bill does not stipulate that Departments and public bodies must include people with disabilities in their plans and services with appropriate monitoring and accountability.

There are ten key issues in this Bill from the perspective of the members of the DLCG. The first is the definition of disability, which is too narrow. The use of such terms as “substantial restriction” and “enduring” and the exclusion of certain conditions and early intervention needs is a matter of concern. The Bill should provide a clear right to an independent assessment of need and for an individual’s right to progressivity in their unmet needs identified in their independent assessment report. This should be done annually or whenever there is a change in a person’s circumstances. The conveyance system is too complex and needs to be simplified. The appeals system should be independent of the Department of Health and Children and should be sited in another Department. The Bill should provide for a clear ring-fencing of disability specific resources. The Bill must provide for a clear statutory duty on the part of all Departments and public bodies to include people with disabilities in their plans and services with appropriate monitoring and accountability. The definition of public services in the Bill should encompass all public services provided in the public system by statutory or non-statutory bodies. The sectoral plan section of the Bill needs to take the wider needs of people with disabilities into account. For example, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has not addressed the housing needs of people with disabilities. The impact of the Disability Bill on section 14 of the Equal Status Act needs to be clarified. There should be a review of disability legislation at least within a set period of years. I think the DLCG mentioned a period of seven to ten years.

The Government will not get away with this Disability Bill because the electorate will not let it forget the cruel and shameful neglect it has shown in its dealings with the disadvantaged. A grave responsibility rests on the Independent Deputies in this House who normally support the Government and Government backbenchers. I heard a number of Government backbenchers during the debate five weeks ago. I heard Deputy Cassidy outline all the faults of the Bill and state at the end of his speech that he would support the Bill on Second Stage. A grave responsibility [71]rests on those members of the House who genuinely believe that this Bill does not address the needs of people with disabilities.

There are many anomalies in the Bill and so much could have been done to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. A particular hobby horse of mine which I have raised on several occasions in the House is a mother caring for a disabled family member who receives the carer’s allowance, which is welcome recognition of the year-round work that she does. An anomaly arises if the woman’s husband and chief breadwinner dies. She will qualify for the widow’s pension and lose her carer’s allowance the next week despite continuing to be a full-time carer 365 days of the year. That is cruel. I have asked the previous four Ministers to deal with this issue but I am still being ignored. I will continue to raise it for as long as the people send me back here to do so on their behalf.

The medical assessment of people on domiciliary care allowance must happen every year. Why is that necessary? It is a source of great frustration for the parents and the persons involved. The person’s situation will not improve if he or she is assessed. It is a cause of resentment for all concerned and is a waste of time and resources of the Health Service Executive which carries out the assessments. When will this legislation be examined or updated? We have been slow in abandoning the 2001 Bill and introducing this Bill, which will be inevitably passed by the Government.

I wish to raise the issue of the disabled person’s grant, which concerns public representatives at all levels. This is a farce because of the limited resources that have been made available to it. For example, I have encountered many cases in County Galway and Galway city in which people with disabilities who are unable to climb stairs due to advancing years or other reasons apply for a downstairs bedroom and bathroom. However, as there is so much red tape, delay and lack of funding for this essential service, the people involved have sometimes passed away before the work is completed. Several people have witnessed these instances and I submitted a parliamentary question on the subject recently.

The Bill addresses the health and education needs of people with disabilities, but they have many other needs, such as housing, transport, employment etc. For example, many people with epilepsy cannot drive due to uncontrolled seizures but are not entitled to a free travel pass unless they are in receipt of disability allowance. If they are capable of working but not driving, they must use public transport, which can be extremely expensive. Why should they not have a free bus pass? In the area of education, people often underperform by as much as two years in comparison to their peers despite having average ability. Most children are not psychologically or educationally assessed even if they experience significant difficulties. Access must be made [72]available to assessment to evaluate the impact on learning, memory etc. Where seizures disrupt school attendance, supplementary hours such as are provided for some disabled children in home tuition should be considered at another school and not as an alternative.

There are many other aspects of this Bill. I ask the Minister of State why he did not consult the representatives of people with disabilities. Why was the Government so careless, why did it think so little of this? It was aware of the campaign undertaken to have the 2001 Bill withdrawn. Why did it not listen on this occasion to the articulate case put forth by the representatives? It seems that the Government is completely ignoring this case and is only going through the motions of putting this Bill through after raising the hopes of those people with what was promised before the election by the former Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, who was banished to the back benches for her troubles. She promised the people a rights-based Bill but the Government had neither the guts nor the intention to deliver on it.

Mr. Sherlock:  I ask the Minister of State to note that I am not speaking for myself, as I have had much consultation with various bodies. So many people are doing such great work that he must take it into consideration.

I refer to Gorey Centre for Independent Living Limited. Its members stated that, though the Taoiseach said that the Disability Bill 2004 would be the best disability legislation in Europe a number of weeks before it was published on 21 September, it is a load of rubbish. Think of this statement coming from those who work with people with disabilities. They said that, for some time, people with disabilities have been calling for a rights-based Bill but instead were given one that was resource-based. One of the only rights in this Bill is what they claim is the “right to know what you already know”. It brings disabled persons no closer to the services they need and want. Currently, if resources are not available, one can be refused a service even if it is needed. The same situation will occur with this Bill.

This is not right. If their appraisal is correct, it is a waste of time to pass this legislation as it will change nothing for them. Accordingly, the centre’s members state that under this Bill the requirement that public buildings be accessible to people with disabilities will not come into effect until 2015. Think about that. The Bill seems to be based on the medical mode of disability rather than the social needs of disability.

The assessment of the needs of people with disabilities will be conducted by individuals in the Health Service Executive, as was stated previously. Any appeal will be conducted by individuals from the HSE. In essence, it will appeal its own decision. This is not an independent assessment of needs. The assessment should be conducted by a neutral body outside the Department of Health and Children and the HSE, such as FÁS, [73]and given to the HSE as a statement of needs. If it is appealed, the appeal should be undertaken by an independent organisation. That must be done to give a proper assessment of the needs. The Office of the Director of Equality Investigations is the HSE’s main source for these services. The matter should be referred to the Health Service Executive but as it is centered in Dublin, it is out of touch with local needs. I shudder to think of the service that will be provided in the future.

The Cork Centre for Independent Living Limited wrote to me about the national disability strategy and to express its deep concern about the disability legislation as currently proposed. It stated:

We welcome the recent Government announcement of an €894 million multiannual funding package, which will go some way in addressing the historic underfunding of services and supports for people with disabilities. This is an unprecedented and welcome development by Government. While this funding is an important and significant development it is only part of the solution. We believe that, if people with disabilities are to become truly equal citizens in Ireland, this can only be achieved through legislation that ensures, promotes and enforces their status as equal citizens.

In Ireland, people with disabilities have the same rights as everybody else. What we need is to be able to exercise those rights. If the Bill is adapted to provide for specialist services and secure the inclusion of people with disabilities in public policies and services it will vindicate in legislation these rights. People with disabilities will have become equal citizens in Irish society.

That is what this is and what the Bill should be all about. These questions should not have to be raised.

The organisation went on to state:

In our opinion, the Disability Bill, as it stands, falls well short of the commitments given by this Government. In 1997 our current Taoiseach and Tánaiste made a commitment, in the Programme for Government, ‘to ensuring that disability is placed where it belongs, on the agenda of every Government Department and public body’. They further stated that: ‘our policy is based on the core principles of promoting empowerment through appropriate, accessible and responsive services’.

That does not appear to be happening in this Bill.

The organisation further stated:

We welcome these statements and commitments, however they have not been incorporated into the legislation as currently proposed. [We have the evidence of that before us.] The Bill, as produced, fails to meet the expectations of stated Government policy in two key areas, firstly, the way in which it addresses the [74]specialist service needs of people with disabilities, and secondly, the manner in which it addresses the responsibility on public service policy, planning and delivery to include people with disabilities as equal members of the public. Ensuring that people with disabilities have the specialist support services they need is half the job done. Society must be able to fully include them.

Surely, that is what this Bill is all about, but it falls very much short of that.

The organisation also stated: “Therefore the Bill requires major reconsideration and amendment if it is to vindicate the rights of people with disabilities and to bring the needs of those members of the public who have disabilities into the centre of public policy and service delivery.” I quote this letter so the Minister of State will note the points made and make the necessary amendments to this legislation. The Cork Centre for Independent Living looks forward to hearing from the Minister of State and I will also reply to those people. I have had consultations with groups previously.

I come to my own area of north Cork. The Minister of State might have heard of Annes Grove in the Castletownroche area which is a great centre of excellence. I wish to quote from a letter from Patrick Annesley, the person in charge of that section of disability. It has done much with Clúid to provide accommodation in certain areas of north Cork. An accommodation unit will be provided at St. Patrick’s in Fermoy shortly and there is one in Mallow. The letter states:

Things are less good elsewhere, however, and so I am also writing to ask for your help in addressing the national deficit, by way of an amendment to the Disability Bill currently before the Oireachtas. The Disability Legislation Consultation Group has identified ten fundamental flaws in the Bill as it stands, and I am listing and enclosing these on a separate sheet. While we would welcome your support on any or all of these issues, I am asking you personally to address two specific points. [The previous speaker referred to the points stated by Mr. Annesley in this regard.]

1. Access to housing and the provision of appropriate levels of supported accommodation are of paramount importance in combating and mitigating mental ill-health, as in other areas of disability. At present there is no coherent policy for meeting accommodation needs, and the Bill fails to address this deficiency.

The Bill should impose a duty on the Department of Health and Children, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, to assess and quantify present and future accommodation needs. The Bill should also impose on the Department of the Environment a duty to work with the Department of Health and Children, Local Government and other appropriate [75]statutory and non-statutory agencies to provide the accommodation to meet those needs.

Unless this is done now, it is likely that accommodation needs will in many areas continue to be met, at best, haphazardly and often not at all.

I am therefore asking you to seek to amend the Bill.

I am using this opportunity to ask the Minister of State to note what has been said and to amend the Bill.

The letter goes on to state:

2. For many people, mental health difficulties are long-term or recurrent but acute illness is intermittent or episodic. The level of disability experienced in such episodes may be extreme and even life-threatening.

It is unjust that episodic disability is at risk of being excluded from the provisions of the Bill. It would be intolerable if a person could access services under the Bill only if he/she had already received a diagnosis of chronic disability. In any individual case, even if a clinician comes to believe that such a diagnosis could be justified, he may equally believe that, in the patient’s best interest, such a diagnosis should not be given at that time, if ever.

Therefore, I am asking you to seek to have the Bill amended.

Great work is being done by people in every parish. These people have made the effort to put in writing their observations, contentions and objections to much of the Bill. The Disability Bill has been awaited for many years. I hope the Minister of State will take these points into consideration. The great, voluntary effort by people must be recognised by this Government. I look forward to Committee and Report Stages of the Bill and hope amendments will be made by the Government to make it easy to implement. That is what people with disabilities need. I will back any case made in support of people with disabilities.

Mr. P. Breen:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Hayes. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this important Bill which I am sure is being watched closely by all concerned citizens as an indictor of how well the State intends to treat the most vulnerable and those most in need in society. There are 360,000 people with disabilities in this country with many thousands more caring and supporting them every day. Despite this statistic, this group often finds it difficult to have its voice heard by policymakers. I want to help put that right. These thousands of people have struggled to have their voices heard for many years. The House will recall the campaign for disability legislation by the Forum for People with Disabilities began as far back as 1990. Some 12 years later, the Government made a failed attempt to address the need with the 2002 Disability Bill. It was a Bill written in haste and without due consideration for those most affected.

[76]The Government’s latest attempt to remedy a situation it should have remedied years ago is before the House. Given that the Government has had 14 years to address concerns and has gone through the failed experience of the 2002 Bill, one would have thought that this Bill would have done the job. Unfortunately, it does not. Comprehensive and adequate legislation to address the needs of the disabled community and incorporating the excellently articulated requirements of their representative groups should include some essential elements such as a right to an independent assessment and services, an independent appeals and complaints procedure, meaningful targets in regard to employment and access to buildings and a wide definition of disability which would include those with mental health problems.

Since 1992, the Government has commissioned and paid for three consultative groups to make recommendations. Their output was the basis for a good disability Bill. However, the Government has ignored the results. While it employs the language in the reports of these groups, it does not employ the substance. The substance of the recommendations of three excellent consultative groups has been ignored.

The Bill does not contain the essential elements I have outlined. It is inadequate and forces disabled people into a bureaucratic nightmare. It forces people to search and scrape for essential services. When individuals like Séamus Green of the National Parents and Siblings Alliance say things such as “We are reasonable people” and “We don’t expect miracles”, it makes me wonder what world the Government lives in or wants us to live in. Carers, parents and siblings deserve reasonable treatment. Given the work they do day in, day out, they deserve miracles. Disabled people deserve better from the Government and deserve better legislation.

These people should certainly have a right to an independent assessment and, crucially, to services. They should have an independent appeals and complaints procedure. They deserve meaningful targets in regard to employment and access to buildings. There should be a wider definition of disability that would include those with mental health problems.

As legal experts on the subject have argued, there is a fundamental difference between the attitude to equality within European law and that adopted by the Government. The approach taken by the European Union is to enforce equality by means of a legal right not to be discriminated against, harassed or victimised and a right to reasonable accommodation. Should an employer or service provider not comply with the right to equality, the employee or service receiver may seek redress in the courts. The Bill does not deliver these rights to our disabled people. It is not as if the Government did not have the time to get this right. It had plenty of time.

The disability legislation consultative group met the Minister of State at the Department of [77]Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Fahey, last year to express its concerns. It also met the Taoiseach and had hoped for a positive response to the reasonable amendments. That group, which represents 597 organisations, said there were fundamental flaws in the Bill, yet the same legislation is before the House.

As with much of Government policy in recent years, the Bill appears to ignore the realities, for example, in my constituency of Clare, with which the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Killeen, is aware. The personal assistant service is vital for people with disabilities. This issue highlights a flaw in the Bill. There are 30 people in Clare who have been assessed for the personal assistant service and are on a waiting list two years later. The Bill will not help those 30 people or their families or any other family in a similar situation.

The Bill may guarantee the right to an assessment, but without rights to services, it is fundamentally flawed. Disabled persons cannot take up work with large employers such as the Army, the Garda or the Naval Service. The 3% employment targets points also to another flaw in the Bill. The definition of disability used to assess how this target is being met is less strict than the general definition in the Bill. Therefore, when the Government is being tested, a condition such as asthma can be considered a disability, but in the general context of the Bill, the disability must be persistent and ongoing. This excludes those in the early stages of conditions, for example, those with multiple sclerosis. It also excludes those with conditions that can seriously disable them. The Government wants it both ways; strict definition in terms of rights and looser definition in terms of assessing whether the 3% employment target has been met.

We had the shocking 50% cutback in the annual budget in the Mid-Western Health Board area for the special respite home purchased for the Brothers of Charity in Ennis. Some of the children need 2:1 staffing levels. The home was unable to provide respite care for the children who need it most. The inadequacies of the system and what it provides for people with disabilities and their carers are obvious and disgraceful. People are at the end of their tether. The position has deteriorated to such a degree that one of my constituents, who is in a wheelchair, resorted to telling the Minister that if it were physically possible, he would chain himself to the railings of Dáil Éireann and stay there until disabled people got the recognition they deserve.

In 1999, a ten-point plan drawn up by groups representing people with disabilities was published in Ennis. The plan, drawn up by the Centre for Independent Living in conjunction with the information age town project, the Central Remedial Clinic and the Disabled People of [78]Clare, called on the Government to bring forward changes for people with disabilities to achieve full social, civil and political rights. Those are needs and realities for the 360,000 disabled people in Ireland, those in Clare, and their carers, families and siblings. This is what was expected from the legislation. The assessment of the legislation is best carried out by those who will be most affected by it and they have handed down their assessment.

Some time ago, 700 disabled people, their families and carers packed the RDS and Leinster House at a public meeting. They highlighted ten serious flaws and described it as forcing disabled people into a bureaucratic nightmare. Let us take, for example, a disabled person who wishes to make a complaint about service provision. The Bill places four layers of bureaucracy between them and resolution of their complaint and the process can take up to 18 months. This is after years on a waiting list. When it comes to access to buildings, they face more bureaucracy. The Bill places the burden of proving inaccessibility on the disabled person. Any reasonable person can see that placing sole responsibility on the person in this case is wholly unsatisfactory and shameful.

Even if the Minister did not like what he was hearing from the representative groups of persons with disabilities when they made their assessment, the Government should have heeded the views of the Human Rights Commission. The State should set itself to be judged by the highest standards of international law given our economic status and the citizens’ desire to see fair treatment for the vulnerable in society. Instead, the President of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Maurice Manning, said the legislation was defective based on analysis of international law.

Those most affected by the Bill call it flawed while those charged with monitoring rights call it defective. In its current state, the Bill is an insult to disabled persons, their families and carers and is more evidence, if we needed it, of the Government’s detachment from the realities of people’s lives.

Mr. Hayes:  I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. The last Disability Bill was withdrawn because every organisation representing disabled persons opposed it. There was a public outcry that the Government, one of the richest in the world, was failing to give disabled people their entitlements. In examining the record of what has happened in recent years, it is clear that many voluntary organisations became involved in helping the disabled. Were it not for those voluntary organisations, the religious and others, where would the disabled be in society?

I refer to the work of the Tipperary association for the mentally handicapped. It has undertaken fund-raising efforts and set up throughout the [79]county schools and help centres such as the Moore Haven Centre. This is mirrored in every other constituency. When discussing this Bill we should not be afraid to applaud those people while also taking on board the many issues for which they have lobbied. The disability legislative consultative group has issued a list of ten requests which in its view are not addressed in this Bill. This is a matter for concern and the House should take cognisance of the views of these people.

Those who work in the disability sector must be commended. There is nothing as frustrating as working a system that could and should be improved. I refer to the situation in Australia which provides home support to people with disabilities. I have spoken to a person who worked in Australia and now works in the disability sector in this country. We have much to learn from their system.

The needs of young people with disabilities in schools and the lack of funding by the Department of Education and Science should be of concern to each of us. There is no Member of the Oireachtas who has not been lobbied by individuals and families on behalf of those with disabilities. They come from every part of the country and they are trying to help young people with disabilities.

On the subject of the disabled person’s grant, money was expended and wasted on electronic voting. The waiting list for assessment for the grant is at 180 in my constituency. This is deplorable when so much money is available and is being wasted.

Having consulted widely, the Government was true to its word. A long and detailed process of assessing various voluntary organisations and groups took place. Discussions and negotiations were held with Government officials in the hope that their members would receive the recognition and resources required to live a life where equality, independence and choice was as natural for people with disabilities as it is for each of us. Then came the long wait for the publication of the new Bill. This Bill had to be better; the Government had finally recognised that the people, by their nature, wanted to do the right thing for people with disabilities. Having taken such a long time, it was hoped the consultative process had produced a Bill that was better. On publication of the new Bill, it soon became apparent that the consultative process had not led anywhere. Those who had concerns about the delaying tactic were certainly proved right. Had the local and European elections anything to do with that?

The Government chose to ignore the majority of the recommendations made by the various organisations. It is arguable that this Bill is more restrictive than the previous one, although couched in better language. In the final analysis [80]its main objective is to indemnify the State against any obligation to treat people with disabilities equally. Everything is contingent on a certain amount of resources being made available. The public supports the efforts to make more resources available to those with disabilities.

Assessment will establish the need of every disabled person, but without a direct or binding line to the service statement, all it may do is raise expectations only to find that the resources are not to be made available. This would be very disappointing. A long drawn-out process has been undertaken to assess needs. This Bill should be made more amenable. The views of those who have worked in a voluntary capacity should be heeded because if not, this Bill will go nowhere. It is not the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to provide for the building of houses for those with disabilities. This should be addressed in the Bill. I appeal to the Government to take on board the views of the bodies and organisations who have made representations. Action is needed now to provide a better quality of life for people with disabilities.

Mr. Howlin:  I am privileged to have the opportunity to make a few observations on this important legislation. God knows it is a long time coming but it will have an impact in a substantial and measurable way on the lives of tens of thousands of citizens. It will impact on their carers, families and loved ones and on their quality of life. This cannot be said of much of the legislation that goes through this House. It behoves us to deal with this as the important legislation it is.

I come with the perspective of a former Minister for Health who saw, even in my time, the area of disability coming out of the shadows. I listened to the radio today to the celebrations of the origins of St. Michael’s House which happened because somebody put an advertisement in the newspaper for people connected to anyone with a mental disability to come together to see what could be done to support and help them. The prevailing view in this society and probably in every other society for a very long time is that people with disabilities or people who were less abled or differently abled were a cause for charity. In recent times we have moved beyond that and what is now at stake is the demand for full vindication of the rights of citizens, not tokenisms, sops or charity but a real understanding that differently abled people have a right to full citizenship and all that involves.

Campaigning groups have changed the public perspective on disability in recent years. There is more inclusiveness in the approach to education. Now schools do not think of excluding people because they are physically challenged or have an intellectual disability but rather see how that can be overcome to enrich the school environment in total by inclusion, not exclusion and compartmentalisation. Disabled people and differently [81]abled people are involved in the full gamut of public life as is right and proper. This change in perspective has impacted on planners although there are still too many side-door solutions to access. In general, people expect those who are unsighted or have sight or mobility difficulties to be able to access public buildings and conduct their business. We have not reached those goals but there is an expectation that this should be the case. Nobody argues it should be otherwise.

The most impactive event in recent years to engage and capture the public imagination was the Special Olympics. Each of us is disabled in some way. Those games copperfastened the notion that everyone, regardless of ability, has a right to full participation and, moreover, has great gifts that can bring significant enrichment to society. When I became Minister in the Department of Health and Children there was no accurate measure of the degree of intellectual disability. Groups campaigning for services and supports at that time found there was not even an accurate measure of the volume of need. We proceeded to set up the first register to measure the volume and degree of need accurately. Only when such information is available can one begin to put in place a structured response.

We have come a long way since then. We do not have broad strokes of need where whatever was available, whether day care or full-time residential care, had to be applied for by all because it might be the only care option. There is an understanding in modern times that what is required is the measurement of the specific needs of individuals and the responsibility and obligation of the State to respond to that analysis on a case-by-case basis.

What has been the political response to this development of public opinion in its recognition of the exclusion of some of our citizens from full participation in citizenship? The programme for Government promised legislation based on a commitment to rights:

We will complete consultations on the Disability Bill and will bring the amended Bill through the Oireachtas and include provisions for rights of assessment, appeals, provision and enforcement.

This is the promise the Government freely entered into and made publicly. There is an expectation that what is written into the programme for Government should be delivered.

Instead, there has been a shoddy welshing on this publicly and freely made commitment by the parties in Government. The broad-ranging consultations that were promised were delivered through a process which conveniently dragged on without exposing the Government’s real intent until last summer’s local and European elections were over. This meant there could be no public judgment on the delivery of the Government’s promises. The Government has made a mess of this situation once. After being forced to with[82]draw the legislation, one would imagine it would get it right on the second attempt.

Consultations did not involve a two-way system whereby views were taken on board. The National Disability Authority chaired the group set up by the disability advocacy movement to set out the views of that movement on this critical legislation. The disability advocacy groups made extensive representations to the Government, published detailed documents and set out their expectations of rights-based legislation that would provide assessment, provision and enforcement as of right. It is ironic that during this extended period of consultation which ran to two years, the Government was full of praise for the inputs of these groups. On several occasions in this House, the Taoiseach lauded the work of the advocacy groups and did not quibble to any degree with their expectations and proposals. The publication of the Bill represented a sham and a shameful disregard for the broad-ranging consultations and the contributions all those advocacy groups brought to the discussion table.

As part of the consultation process, the disability movement itself changed because it came to accept that rights could not just be laid out with the expectation that they would be delivered the next day. There was an understanding in this dialogue that there would have to be timeframes because all the necessary therapists, support staff and residential and day care facilities could not be provided immediately. All these developments required careful planning over an agreed timeframe and a resource allocation. The advocacy groups brought that understanding to the discussions. There was no short-changing of the Government with an expectation that was unreal. There was an understanding that, in a partnership way, historic change could be brought about and that supports to vindicate people’s rights could be introduced over time in a structured, feasible and affordable manner.

The disability movement had the courage to state this in its documents and to put it to its members, including families in urgent need of support, so it could dampen expectations that change could be achieved overnight or that there was any magic-wand solution to providing adequate resources and supports. Advocacy groups would have supported this Bill if it had outlined a set of rights in principle and set out a structure and process to achieve those rights on a planned, focused and individual basis. That would have been reasonable, affordable and morally right. It would also have been the correct approach in terms of keeping faith with the words of the Taoiseach and the promises contained in the programme for Government.

Unfortunately, the Government’s response was a Bill that meets nobody’s needs except that of the Government itself to pretend to be doing something on this issue. Even the Bill’s definition of disability is unclear and too narrow. What is lacking is a principle that should be at the core of the Bill. The required principle is that services [83]should be provided to allow the vindication of full citizenship as a right.

Debate adjourned.

Dr. Twomey:  I move:

That Dáil Éireann,

recognises that:

—there are approximately 1,700 cases of women with breast cancer each year;

—approximately 640 women die each year from breast cancer;

—cancer screening plays a significant role in reducing deaths from cancer;

—women in the Republic of Ireland are suffering because of the failure of the Government to extend BreastCheck nationally;

—the Government misled the people in the south and west of the country in relation to the timeframe of the roll-out of BreastCheck;

—the failure of the Government to roll out the national cervical screening programme has left numerous women in Ireland go undetected for cervical cancer; and

calls on the Government to immediately roll out BreastCheck and the national cervical screening programme together with a true and accurate timeframe.

I wish to share time with Deputies Hogan, Connaughton, Deenihan, Hayes and Ó Caoláin.

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

Dr. Twomey:  This motion concerns two cancers that affect women of all age groups. Breast cancer is more common in women over 50 and women with a strong family history of the disease. Cervical cancer, or cancer of the cervix, which is part of the uterus or womb, has a number of risk factors. These factors include smoking, the incidence of which is increasing among young women, and the human papilloma virus, the incidence of which is also increasing in the female population. The more sexual partners a woman has, the more likely she is to contract cervical cancer. In the treatment of all cancers, time is of the essence and early detection through screening is critically important.

In two years, Fianna Fáil will have been in power for ten years and we will still not have a [84]nationwide breast cancer screening programme. It is now five years since phase one of the service commenced in the eastern region. It is four years since the publication of the national cancer strategy, which promised that breast and cervical cancer screening would be extended nationwide. In the intervening period, we have had nothing but a litany of announcements that amounted to nothing. The former Minister for Health and Children was well known for the number of press releases he issued. He issued them almost on a daily basis. It is therefore no wonder that patients in the south and west were expecting breast cancer screening in 2005 but, sadly, as we now know, that will not be the case.

  7 o’clock

Serious questions must be asked about why the roll-out has been delayed so severely. For example, capital funding for the roll-out of BreastCheck was not allocated until 18 months after the Department of Health and Children announced its national extension. Why? Why have BreastCheck’s press releases indicated that its understanding of the roll-out timeframe was at odds with that of the Department? This kind of disarray has become increasingly common under the Government. Tragically, the implications of the delay in the roll-out of these services have been under estimated.

One of the former Minister’s press statements from February 2003 states:

In relation to the extension to the remaining counties, the Minister said that the Board of BreastCheck has submitted a Business Plan to his Department. A number of key issues have been raised by health boards and health professionals in relation to the national roll out of BreastCheck which need to be addressed in advance of further expansion. I am fully committed to the extension of the programme to the remaining counties in the West and South and I will be meeting with BreastCheck shortly to discuss these issues.

We on this side of the House would dearly like to know what those issues were and the concerns of the professionals and the health boards. In the two years since that announcement, there has been zero movement in regard to BreastCheck and breast screening in the south and west.

Women are being told they will have to wait until 2008 to be screened and treated for breast cancer on an equal basis. In 2008, women in Northern Ireland will celebrate 15 years of breast cancer screening and a reduction of one fifth in deaths from the disease. By that time, because of delays in the roll-out of the programme, hundreds of women in the Republic of Ireland will have lost their lives in their battle against breast cancer. This is not an exaggeration. Hundreds more will have endured devastating and radical surgery to control advanced breast carcinoma. This is terrible.

The late diagnosis of cancer will require more severe chemotherapy for the patients involved and women will suffer the terrible side effects of [85]the radiotherapy required to bring advanced cancer under control. At the same time, many women will have had their uteruses removed because cancers will have spread before treatment can be given, denying some women the chance to have children. This is because it is often a disease of young women. It will deny some children the chance of having a mother. These are the implications of a delay in the roll-out of a screening programme. Such a programme is taken for granted by our near neighbours in Northern Ireland.

The Government has no idea of the cost to the quality of life of all the women who endure cancer treatment, nor does it know what is entailed. This is the case for all cancer patients but I refer in particular to those who could benefit from two very vital screening programmes that would have been implemented long before now if the Government was really serious about the health service. It is not a question of what we have been reading in the papers for the past six months.

There are changes in our society and behaviour that make the roll-out of cervical cancer screening more urgent than is generally acknowledged. I have already pointed out some of these changes in regard to cervical cancer and the risk factors involved, such as smoking, the human papilloma virus and the number of sexual partners a woman may have. Given the risk factors, screening should begin six months after a woman becomes sexually active. Screening is relatively straightforward and involves a smear test. Thousands of these tests are carried out each year in many general practitioners’ surgeries. It is known as opportunistic screening because it is done by general practitioners when they offer the service to patients or when the patients request it from them.

Is it not strange that the smear test, which can be carried out in the general practitioner’s surgery by either the general practitioner or practice nurse, has been available for more than two decades in Northern Ireland? It is a good question to ask where we stand in the South. Five years ago, a pilot programme started in the Limerick region but five years later it has made precisely zero progress.

The national cancer strategy itself contains some inequalities which should be addressed and which I have raised before in the House with the Minister. For example, the cancer screening test, the smear test for cervical cancer, is not available to medical card patients or young women on low incomes. Young women are particularly at risk of cervical cancer.

The cavalier attitude of the former Minister for Health and Children and his Minister of State with responsibility for the elderly is reflected in the ageism associated with restricting the planned breast screening services to those aged between 50 and 64 and cervical cancer screening to those aged up to 60.

It is acceptable that there be a starting point for every screening programme but the end point [86]should be based on the same medical criteria. I would accept the Minister’s attaching an age limit to the programme if it was just to get it off the ground in two or three years. However, the age limit is unacceptable given that half the female population has had to wait five years for the programme to reach them. Cervical cancer can be diagnosed after the age of 60 and breast cancer can be diagnosed after 65. The average female lifespan in Ireland is approximately 82 years which should be reflected in any screening programme. Stopping a screening programme 22 years before the average woman may die is ageism.

Unfortunately, the Government has no commitment to any form of primary screening. The piecemeal and incoherent roll-out of a national programme for BreastCheck and cervical screening is a sad reflection on the Government and is leading to a devastating outcome for the women of Ireland.

Fianna Fáil has not only failed to provide cancer screening but it has also failed to provide proper facilities for the treatment of all cancers. It has failed to publish reports, including the radiotherapy report that sat in the Department of Health and Children for almost the full tenure of the former Minister, Deputy Martin. He received the report in 2000 and did not publish it until shortly before he left the Department. He almost made it his trademark to issue reports but cancer screening and treatment services are at Third World standard. This Government can have no excuse for this.

Just over half the population can avail of BreastCheck. It might be important for politicians in whose constituencies there is no BreastCheck facility to see what happens. An appointment for a routine mammogram can take between six and 12 months in an area which does not have access to BreastCheck. I have seen women who missed early diagnosis because the wait for the appointment was too long or because to make an earlier appointment they had to pay for it, and were later diagnosed with breast cancer. These women may not have had palpable lumps but had risk factors.

BreastCheck has made a dramatic improvement in patient care and reducing the morbidity associated with breast cancer. Morbidity refers to the side effects of cancer, for example, swollen arms, losing a breast and all the related psychological problems. Affected women may also die. The Government should take this on board and do something about it immediately. I hope the Government parties will accept the points we make tonight and demand that the Government roll out BreastCheck and the national cervical screening programme and stop the dallying of the past four years.

Mr. Hogan:  I thank Deputy Twomey for putting this motion before the House and facilitating a debate on such an important health issue. A great deal of money has been wasted on electronic voting, Abbottstown and Punchestown, [87]and has been scattered like confetti at election time. Promises have been made yet one of the major issues, the health service and, in particular in the context of this motion, women’s health have been taken for granted. In my constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny a roll-out of the BreastCheck programme and the national cervical screening programme was promised but it has not happened.

People took this political promise in good faith before the last general election and it has been thrown back in their faces almost three years later. The Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and Children and local government representatives promised a radiotherapy service for the south east, based at Waterford Regional Hospital, in advance of the 2002 general election, but that has been abandoned and there is no sign of its implementation.

People have taken to the streets in Waterford and the south east to ask for basic facilities for preventative medicine in the form of these two programmes. The failure to implement the programmes shows the low priority the Government assigns to women’s health. It is unacceptable when it has significant resources at its disposal that such low priority is given to a modest scheme that would help provide early and accurate diagnosis of cancer in women.

Families worry about health. No family has escaped tragedy of some kind, one of the greatest of which, apart from a sudden death, is the prolonged worry about and fear of cancer, its treatment and the services available. This trauma which women in particular have suffered, for want of the early diagnosis these schemes could provide, indicates the callousness of the Department, the Minister for Health and Children and the Government in general.

The former Minister for Health and Children commissioned many consultancy groups and reports but regrettably took no action. The present Minister seeks to hide behind a commitment to develop cancer services further without indicating the timescale for the implementation of the two programmes. The Government should stop making promises about these schemes. They should implement the programmes promised years ago, particularly before the last general election. I call on them to roll out the BreastCheck programme for my constituents in Carlow-Kilkenny and implement a proper public radiotherapy service for the people of the south east on the campus of Waterford Regional Hospital without delay.

Mr. Connaughton:  I congratulate Deputy Twomey on tabling this motion. I am pleased to see the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, here. As I drove here today I heard an advertisement on the radio extolling the virtues of BreastCheck and inviting women to apply, but it was of no use to the 57,598 [88]women in Connacht, Tipperary North Riding and County Clare. There are no BreastCheck facilities in those areas and there will not be. A total of 150 women aged between 50 and 64 years of age in that cohort of women have the potential to contract the disease. For every subsequent year between 70 and 80 women will be so diagnosed. That is a potential death sentence for those women. Why five years ago were women in an area around Dublin and the midlands given the opportunity to come forward for BreastCheck while those in the rest of the country were sent to the back of the queue? How can that be justified? Women are infuriated by this. If the women about whom I am speaking can pay for a check, they will get it, but what about the thousands of women who cannot pay for it? These women are condemned as second-class citizens.

The Government and the Minister for Health and Children are involved in a PR stunt. They are giving the impression throughout the country that the service is available to everyone. Every now and again, a Minister promotes this idea which everyone knows is very important when women reach that stage in their life. However, the money is not being put into the system. Those involved in the national screening programme and I believe that if funding was made available, every area would be covered within the next year. There is no need to further test the waters in this area. This has been going on since 1998. All the facilities and procedures have been put in place.

The Minister of State is being most unfair to the 57,000 women who live in the area I know best, namely, Connacht, Tipperary North Riding and County Clare. Funding is available to the Minister and the Government to provide this service because Exchequer returns the week before last indicate the Government never had more money at its disposal. It is not good enough to say to that cohort of women, who have reared their families and helped this economy, that they must wait for this service until 2007, 2008, 2009 and God knows how long more. There will be a backlash as a result of this and I am pleased to have had an opportunity to make my views on this important matter known to the Government parties. People are not prepared to gamble with their lives. It would be different if everyone was in a financial position to pay for a breast check, but that is not the case.

It will be interesting tomorrow night to see what Members will do when the Government parties vote on this matter. They will take a different stance from the message they portray when they are in the constituencies throughout the country. We will see the colour of their money when they vote. Many of them are giving the impression that this matter will be solved within the next year, but my understanding is that people in the west, who should be able to have such a check tomorrow morning, cannot expect a free breast check until 2008 or 2009, which is a disgrace.

[89]Mr. Deenihan:  It is recognised that the early detection of cancer by screening is one of the strategic areas of cancer prevention. Clinical trials of specific screening methods have been shown to be effective in detecting breast and cervical cancer.

Breast cancer has now overtaken both lung and bowel cancer to become the second most common cancer in Ireland. Women in the Republic are suffering because of the failure to extend BreastCheck nationally. The national breast screening programme commenced in February 2000 and to date it has only been rolled out in very small pockets of the country. We know from our neighbours in Northern Ireland, where the cancer screening programme was rolled out some time ago, that the rate of cancer there is considerably lower than in the South.

I would like to refer specifically to County Kerry. Deputy McManus recently organised a seminar in Tralee which was attended by approximately 250 people. Women in County Kerry are very concerned about their health, and rightly so. The rate of breast cancer in Kerry is among the highest in the country. Treatment in the county is symptomatic because women are only treated when they find a lump or when their GP refers them for a mammogram to Tralee. There are no screening services in the county. As the Minister of State will be aware, if cancer is undetected, it will get larger and spread. However, if it is detected early, it can be treated successfully, and there is less need for mutilating surgery, which is very important for women. Lack of screening services in Kerry is leading to more deaths and more mutilating surgery, which is very distressing for women.

The number of full mastectomies in Kerry is much higher than in the rest of the country. This is another factor which should be considered seriously. Each year, approximately 60 new cases of breast cancer are presented in the county. Given the population of the county the fact that there are no screening services means at least another 30 people do not present themselves for a check. Unfortunately, it is too late for many of these people when their GP becomes suspicious that a lump in the breast could be cancerous.

I appeal to the Minister of State, who comes from the southern area, to use his influence to ensure the current timescale of the end of 2008, when it is expected to have a screening programme in Kerry, is brought forward considerably. There is no doubt that this will be a big issue in the next election. Commitments in this regard were given by the Government. Prior to the last election, the people of Kerry were told that a screening programme would be put in place within two years, but now they must wait for more than six years for such a programme. At the time, a clear commitment was given to the women of Kerry, but it has not been honoured and people are furious. While people may not be affected themselves, they know of women who have died unnecessarily from cancer.

[90]I thank Deputy Twomey for raising this issue. As a medical doctor, he is well aware of the distress and the number of deaths breast cancer causes throughout the country. Deputies from many parts of the country will be aware of people who have died from breast cancer or who have had their breast removed. From discussing the issue with women, we know at first-hand and can relate in the House this evening the stories of women who have breast cancer. I hope the Government will take note of what has been said.

Mr. Hayes:  I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this important motion. I commend Deputy Twomey for tabling it and bringing his knowledge in the medical field to the House. We as politicians need to be reminded of the urgency of treating cancer and the frightening experience many families have had to endure because of a close relative, neighbour or friend who has suffered from this deadly disease. We have had many reports and consultations. However, if we are worth our salt we should give people the opportunity to have proper breast checks. It is unfair to allow such a situation to arise.

I recently received a note from a 25 year old lady who has found a lump on her breast. She said she will be visiting the doctor in the next few days but she thinks screening should be made available. A close relative had both breasts removed last June. She is 50 years old and her doctor ordered a priority mammogram. She got an appointment for November 2005. Recently, a woman in her fifties, who has worked in nursing since she left school, came to my clinic to get her appointment at a Dublin hospital brought forward. It is deplorable to put people in this situation. We could talk about the issue for hours but this is a deadly disease and the Government should be upfront with people and do something that will help them. They are at a vulnerable stage in their lives.

I represent a constituency formerly represented by the late Ms Theresa Ahearne who died from cancer. Prior to her death she spoke about the poor state of services. She was complimentary about the hospital she attended but very vocal with regard to what she saw as the problems experienced by people with cancer.

A campaign for improved cancer services is ongoing in the south east. There is no commitment with regard to that. The Government does not take the issue seriously. Money is wasted on an endless list of initiatives such as e-voting. We have a duty and a responsibility. As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, I see money wasted on a weekly basis. It is deplorable that money is not made available for people with cancer. It affects many people and families, which is why I fully support this motion.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an rún ar son Theachtaí Shinn Féin. This is a timely and important motion which I fully sup[91]port on behalf of Sinn Féin. I thank my Fine Gael colleagues for the opportunity to speak.

The Irish Cancer Society is to be commended for its current campaign which calls for the roll-out of a national cervical cancer screening programme. On the day the Dáil rose for its Easter recess, 23 March, I questioned the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, on this issue. In response, she stated she favoured the roll-out of such a national programme. She also stated that she would support cross-Border co-operation in this area. I welcome that and hope she keeps her word. However, the Government amendment to this motion is disappointing in that regard and I cannot support its request for us to have blind faith in the Tánaiste or any other Minister.

I call on the Government to act in accordance with this motion, as tabled by Deputy Twomey. It should also heed the call of the Irish Cancer Society and 24 organisations, including trade unions, professional bodies and women’s networks which joined together on 24 February in a unanimous call for a national pre-cancer screening programme.

In 2000, there were 1,090 cases of in situ cervical cancer, a pre-cancerous state, 193 cases of invasive cancer and 65 deaths. Comprehensive screening leading to early detection and treatment can dramatically reduce both the development of cancer and the death toll arising from the disease. The Minister should therefore roll-out a screening programme as soon as possible. Screening should be available free of charge to all women over the age of 25. There should not be a ceiling age of 65. We must recognise that women beyond that age are equally entitled to full access and all necessary treatments. There should be a register of women to facilitate such a programme.

The Government will cite the costs of such a programme but the Minister should explore ways in which these can be reduced, including economies of scale. This is where all-Ireland co-operation has a role. The Minister has described such co-operation as a good idea and she should act accordingly.

As stated in the motion, the roll-out of the BreastCheck service has not happened as promised and, as a result, cancer will go undetected and lives will undoubtedly be lost. According to the National Cancer Registry one in 13 women in Ireland will develop breast cancer and a woman living in Ireland is four times more likely to die from the disease than her European counterparts. These are very worrying statistics and affect every family. Every Member knows the harrowing reality of cancer within their own family, as I do.

By failing to put these programmes in place, the Government is operating a false economy. Comprehensive cancer screening programmes will save massive resources for the health services through early detection and prevention. Above all, it will save women’s lives. This must be the key motivation and central focus for each of us. [92]There is no excuse for failing to deliver on this issue. In the regrettable absence of the Minister’s support for the motion, I urge the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O’Malley, to ensure the Minister proceeds with the indications she gave on 23 March. I welcomed them at the time and continue to urge and encourage her in that regard.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  I apologise on behalf of the Tánaiste who cannot be here as she has a prior engagement.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and to substitute the following:

“commends the Government for the significant increases in investment in cancer services, in particular the development of services for women with breast cancer and cervical cancer, and supports the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children in her commitment to further develop cancer services nationally.”

There have been significant increases in investment in cancer services since 1997. In parallel, we have also seen major improvements in cancer across all modalities of care, specifically medical oncology, oncology surgery, radiation oncology and supportive care.

Overall relative survival from cancers increased for men and women between 1995 and 2002. With regard to women, there were increases in survival of the four most common cancers: breast, lung, colorectal and lymphoma. With regard to men, survival improved for almost all cancers, notably for cancer of prostate and stomach, as well as lymphoma and leukaemia. By far the best survival rate for the commonest cancers was for female breast cancer. The overall true risk of developing cancer, allowing for the effects of population changes and ageing, is not increasing for women and is increasing by only 0.6% for men. The true risk of dying from cancer is decreasing by about 1% per annum. We have seen a substantial increase in oncology related activity in hospitals. The number of patients with a diagnosis of cancer rose from 58,000 in 1998 to over 80,000 in 2002. The number of day cases increased by 68% between 1998 and 2002.

International evidence demonstrates the proven efficacy of population-based screening programmes that are effectively managed and meet quality assurance standards. The Tánaiste is fully committed to implementing screening programmes which have proven efficacy in line with best international standards. The European Commission’s recommendations on cancer screening were adopted by the European Council in December 2003. These recommendations proposed that screening tests which have demonstrated their efficacy should be seriously considered, and that the decision to implement such programmes should be based on available professional expertise and priority setting for health [93]care resources in each member state. Population-based screening programmes for breast and cervical cancer have been proven to reduce mortality, with subsequent improvements in population health in terms of survival, morbidity and quality of life. Screening aims to improve survival from cancer, limit morbidity from cancer and improve the quality of life of those who have developed cancer.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to outline the considerable investment that has been made in recent years in the national breast screening programme and the Irish cervical screening programme. I take this opportunity to set out the current position on the development of these services nationally. The extension of the current breast screening programme to the remaining counties in the country is a major priority in the development of cancer services nationally, as is the extension of the pilot cervical screening programme. The Tánaiste has committed to making sure that BreastCheck will be available to women in all parts of the country. I am confident that during 2007 screening will commence in the western and southern counties.

BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme, commenced in the eastern, north-eastern and midland regions in February 2000. Screening is offered free of charge to women in the 50 to 64 age group in these regions. From the commencement of the screening programme to September 2004, 167,000 women were invited for screening and 120,000 women availed of the service. Under the national expansion, all women in the relevant age group will have access to breast screening and follow-up treatment, where appropriate. It is estimated that the cancer detection rate is approximately 7.8 per 1,000 screened and to date over 1,000 cancers have been detected. Screening uptake among eligible women is almost 77%, which is in excess of the 70% required to reach the target of reducing mortality by 20%.

The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford is under way. Screening commenced in Wexford in March 2004. BreastCheck expects to commence screening in Carlow in April this year and screening will follow in County Kilkenny when the first round screening in Carlow is completed. There are approximately 18,000 women in the target age group in the south-eastern area.

The national roll-out of the programme required detailed planning for the development of essential infrastructure to provide for two clinical units, one in Cork and one in Galway. This detailed planning involved considerable work by BreastCheck, University College Hospital, Galway, the South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, Cork, and the Department of Health and Children. There are approximately 130,000 women in the target population for screening in the southern and western regions.

The planning of two static clinical units necessitated the establishment of two capital project [94]teams to develop briefs for the construction of the two units. The former Western Health Board prepared detailed option appraisals for the BreastCheck development at University College Hospital, Galway. The brief proposals, with cost and phasing options, were then submitted to the Department for consideration. After careful evaluation the most appropriate option was selected. The South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital considered it necessary to commission a site strategy study to ensure the integration of the breast screening service into the present and future developments at the hospital. The Department made a capital grant of €230,000 available for the study to be undertaken by professional architectural, engineering and quantity surveying experts. This study was completed in mid-2004 and brief proposals were submitted to the Department.

After the evaluation of both briefs the Department was in a position to determine the capital funding requirements for the progression of both developments. These requirements were considered in the context of the overall capital investment framework and in September 2004 approval for a capital investment of approximately €21 million was given for the construction of the units. This investment will also provide for the mobile units which will be available to screen women throughout the country.

Subsequently, discussions took place between BreastCheck, the South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, the former Western Health Board and the Department in regard to design issues surrounding the development of the static units. In addition, it was decided to relocate and develop the symptomatic breast service back to back with the BreastCheck development at University College Hospital, Galway. In December 2004 the Tánaiste approved additional capital funding of €3 million to support this development.

Capital funding for the facilities at Cork and Galway has been identified under the capital investment framework 2005-09. Funding has also been approved for the relocation and development of the symptomatic breast disease unit at University College Hospital, Galway. This unit will be developed in tandem with the BreastCheck development. The Health Service Executive, in conjunction with the Department, is examining the health capital investment framework with a view to initiating, as quickly as possible, new capital commitments for this and subsequent years.

It is intended to progress the developments at Cork and Galway simultaneously and it is anticipated that the advertisement of the appointment of a design team will be placed in the EU Journal shortly. Given the scale of the investment involved, EU tendering procedures will apply. The design construction and commissioning of projects of this nature generally take approximately two and a half years.

Since February 2000, cumulative revenue funding of approximately €60 million and €12 million capital funding has been allocated to support the [95]programme. Additional revenue funding of €750,000 was provided by the Department in 2005 to further support the national roll-out to counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny.

BreastCheck requires highly skilled specialists working together to ensure best outcomes for patients. A key requirement and dependency for the national roll-out of BreastCheck is the recruitment of a wide range of specialist staff. The largest single requirement in terms of staff numbers is specially trained radiographers who will provide screening services both at the static centres and at mobile clinics.

Until now specialist mammography training for both screening and symptomatic breast services has been undertaken overseas. The Department is supporting the development of a national training centre in mammography to be operated under the auspices of BreastCheck adjacent to its Eccles unit on the campus of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin. This facility will greatly enhance our training capacity and enable Ireland’s needs to be met here at home. The physical infrastructure for this centre requires an investment of more than €750,000 and BreastCheck is now seeking tenders for this work. The centre will be led by a specialist tutor and will provide training for BreastCheck and symptomatic services. The centre will open at the end of this year and will be in position to support the roll-out of BreastCheck.

Interim proposals regarding a limited screening service through the deployment of some mobile units and the deployment of temporary facilities have been considered by BreastCheck, pending the roll-out of the national breast-screening programme. BreastCheck is primarily a radiological, as opposed to surgical programme, with fewer than eight women per 1,000 requiring surgical interventions. The competence of the radiologist is crucial in the detection of screened cancers.

Radiological quality assurance for breast cancer screening dictates a minimum viable screening throughput of 22,500 mammograms per annum. Based on a 75% uptake this requires an eligible population of 30,000 per annum or 60,000 over two years. The 2002 census shows that the total eligible population in the western region is 57,288 and is 71,888 in the southern region. It would not be possible to quality assure a population-based screening programme for a smaller population than this within quality assurance parameters. BreastCheck has advised the Department that to ensure that a quality assured breast-screening programme is available to all women here, the optimum approach is to work towards the development of the two static clinical units referred to earlier.

The current priority is to progress the roll-out of breast screening to women in the target age group throughout the rest of the country. When the national roll-out of the programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that quality service is being delivered at national level, con[96]sideration will be given to including older women and continuing screening of women in the programme who have reached 65 years of age. More than 60% of women diagnosed with cancer here are under 65 years of age. However, we have no plans to target women below the age of 50 years. This position is consistent with the report, Development of Services for Symptomatic Breast Disease, which states that clear proof of the value of population screening has up to now been confined to women over the age of 50 years. This is also consistent with the recent recommendations adopted by the European Union, advocating the introduction of cancer-screening programmes, which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for health care resources.

The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be diagnosed and treated outside of the BreastCheck programme. It is necessary therefore that we support both the symptomatic breast disease services and the screening services to ensure that comprehensive breast cancer services are available for all women. The report, Development of Services for Symptomatic Breast Disease, which was published in 2000, recommended the development of new organisational structures for the provision of symptomatic breast disease services to improve the quality of care. It made a number of recommendations based on the requirement of good care, which included the establishment of specialist breast units throughout the country. The report recommended that each unit should be based on a population of 250,000 to 300,000 from which it is expected to identify a minimum of 100 new primary breast cancers per annum. The report concluded that this level of workload is necessary to sustain the collective workload of the multi-disciplinary team involving surgeon, radiologist, pathologist, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and clinical nurse.

Breast cancer is the individual site-specific cancer which has received the most investment in recent years and more than €60 million has been made available for development of these services since 2000. The benefit of this investment is reflected in the significant increase in activity, which has occurred with inpatient breast cancer procedures increasing from 1,386 cases in 1997 to 1,812 in 2003, an increase of more than 30%.

The Government is also committed to the national roll-out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. International evidence demonstrates the proven efficacy of programmes that are effectively managed and meet quality assurance standards. Careful planning and consultation with relevant professional and advocacy stakeholders is required before definite policy decisions are made on a national roll-out. The pilot cervical screening programme commenced in October 2000 and is available to eligible women resident in counties Limerick, Clare and Tipperary North. Under the programme cervical screening is being offered, [97]free of charge, to approximately 74,000 women in the age group 25 to 60, at five-year intervals. Almost 83,000 smears have been processed through the programme.

To December 2003 histology findings relating to pre-cancerous indicators were reported in 747 women screened. Carcinoma was diagnosed in a further five women. The national roll-out of the cervical screening programme is a major undertaking with significant logistical and resource implications. The former Health Board Executive commissioned an international expert in cervical screening to examine the feasibility and implications of a national roll-out of a cervical screening programme. The examination included an evaluation of the pilot programme, quality assurance, laboratory capacity and organisation and the establishment of national governance arrangements. The evaluation of the pilot programme is a key element in informing the development of a high quality cervical screening model for Ireland. The expert’s report was published in December 2004. The report reviewed the operation of the pilot programme in the mid-western region and identified improvements that may be needed in the context of a national expansion.

The Department is now consulting the Irish College of General Practitioners, An Bord Altranais, the Academy of Medical Laboratory Science, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the faculty of pathology of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Women’s Health Council and the Irish Cancer Society. Consultation with these key stakeholders is well advanced and will be completed in a matter of weeks. The Department has also met representatives of the Well Woman Centres. All the groups consulted so far are fully committed to a national cervical screening programme. Following completion of the consultation process the Department will examine options for the roll-out of a national cervical screening programme.

A key concern for the pilot programme and any future national roll-out was the need to provide a quality service in line with best international standards. In this regard, a national expert advisory group on cervical screening was set up to oversee the implementation and operation of the pilot programme. This group produced quality assurance guidelines for the national cervical screening programme. These guidelines established standards and targets for the main stakeholders involved in the delivery of the screening programme, including GPs or smear-takers, laboratories, colposcopy service and the register office.

  8 o’clock

Outside of the programme many women present for opportunistic smear tests, the number of which has increased substantially in recent years. Overall, more than 230,000 smear tests were carried out in laboratories throughout the country last year. To meet this increased demand additional cumulative funding of approximately €14.5 mil[98]lion has been provided by the Department since 2002 to enhance laboratory and colposcopy services. This funding has enabled the laboratories to employ additional personnel and purchase new equipment, thereby increasing the volume of activity. These initiatives have resulted in a reduction in waiting times for smear test results.

The programme also supports opportunistic services, particularly in the area of quality assurance and new technology. Additional revenue funding of €1.1 million was allocated to the programme this year to support the introduction of liquid based technology in laboratories where it is not available and support the development of quality assurance and training programmes. The introduction of this technology will result in fewer unsatisfactory slides which require women to come back for repeat smears and will, therefore, substantially improve throughput in the laboratories. It will also enhance the capacity of the laboratories to deal with any expansion of the current cervical screening programme. The transition of the remaining laboratories to new, more effective testing methods are essential preparatory elements in a national roll-out.

With regard to cancer services generally, there has been a cumulative investment of approximately €720 million in the development of appropriate treatment and care services for people with cancer since the implementation of the national cancer strategy commenced in 1997. The key goal of the national cancer strategy 1996 was to achieve a 15% decrease in mortality from cancer in the under 65 year age group in the ten year period from 1994. The Deloitte evaluation of the 1996 national cancer strategy demonstrated that this figure was achieved in 2001, three years ahead of target.

This substantial investment has enabled the funding of 109 additional consultant posts in key areas such as medical oncology, radiology, palliative care, histopathology and haematology. An additional 245 clinical nurse specialists have also been appointed in the cancer services area. This investment includes the sum of €23.5 million, including €11.5 million for radiation oncology services, provided in 2005 to ensure we continue to address increasing demands in cancer services throughout the country.

The Government’s policy on radiation oncology is based on the report, The Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland. Considerable investment will be provided for radiation oncology services in the coming years. The central aim is to ensure access by cancer patients throughout the country to high quality radiation oncology in line with best international standards. Significant progress is being made in implementing the report’s recommendations.

Immediate developments in Cork and Galway will result in a significant increase in the numbers of patients receiving radiation oncology in the short term. Two additional linear accelerators are being provided at the supra-regional centre at Cork University Hospital at a capital cost of more [99]than €4 million. The first of these linear accelerators has been installed and the second is expected to be commissioned by the autumn. Last year, approval issued for the appointment of 29 staff for this unit and additional ongoing revenue funding of €3 million to cater for this expansion.

Two additional consultant radiation oncologists will be appointed at Cork University Hospital with sessional commitments to the south-eastern and the mid-western health areas. Cork University Hospital is also in the process of recruiting to fill other key posts required for the commissioning of the new linear accelerators.

The supra-regional centre at University College Hospital Galway commenced treatments for radiotherapy recently. Last year, approval issued for the appointment of 102 staff for this unit, together with ongoing revenue funding of €12 million to cater for this expansion. Approval issued for the appointment of an additional consultant medical oncologist and three consultant radiation oncologists, two of whom have significant sessional commitments to the north-western and mid-western areas. Key staffing is in place and the first two consultant radiation oncologists have taken up their posts.

In addition to revenue funding, approximately €95 million in capital funding has been allocated specifically for the development of cancer related initiatives since 1997. This investment includes €60 million for radiation oncology and €11.9 million for the BreastCheck programme.

Data from the National Cancer Registry show that the overall survival rate from cancer increased between 1995 and 1997 and between 1998 and 2000, with the five year survival rate from breast cancer increasing from 73% to 79% over the period. This reflects the level of investment made by the Government in cancer services. The developments I outlined in cancer services generally and in both screening programmes are a clear indication of the considerable progress made in addressing the burden of cancer in our community. I am glad of the opportunity to put on record the substantial developments which have taken place and to outline the extensive preparatory work necessary before a national screening programme can be implemented. The Government is fully committed to the extension of both programmes to all women throughout the country.

Ms McManus:  I wish to share time with Deputies Moynihan-Cronin, Lynch and O’Sullivan.

I would also like to share my chance of life with them but cannot because I am the only female Labour Party Deputy present who can avail of free breast cancer screening. The reason is that I happen to live in Leinster while my colleagues live in Munster. BreastCheck has been available in County Wicklow where I live for a number of years. I and other women in the county have been called and screened twice under the programme, [100]while the women of 13 counties are still waiting for their first visit.

For reasons of geography the chance of early detection of breast cancer among women is diminished. Given that early detection means better outcomes, women in the 13 counties in question are being denied the best chance of surviving breast cancer. We have seen significant political and resource investment in cross-Border efforts between North and South arising from the Troubles. There is, however, an east-west divide which can literally be a divide between life and death. An invisible border extends down the middle of Ireland and a form of apartheid persists for those west and south of the line.

Breast cancer screening is an essential and, at times, life-saving service, yet thousands of women are being denied it because they live at the wrong address. Why did this happen and why is it allowed to continue? The answers can be reduced to one simple problem, namely, a lack of willingness on the part of the Government to provide the resources needed to roll out a nationwide service.

The national breast cancer screening programme was started in 2000. The Government, particularly the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, set deadlines which it promptly ignored. Initially, the Minister promised a national roll-out for 2002, after which he promised the programme would be extended in 2005, but we are still waiting. Shamefully, the new Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, has set a new deadline of 2007, with no guarantee the programme will be rolled out by that date.

It is important that the Minister for Health and Children understands that women refuse to wait any longer. The Labour Party has been running a campaign in Connacht and Munster to highlight the issue. The latest meeting in the campaign was headed by Deputy Moynihan-Cronin in Tralee and attracted hundreds of women as well as many men. At the recent annual Progressive Democrats Party conference in Cork, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children as well as the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O’Malley, were met by cancer survivors demanding screening services there.

It is worth noting that a new cancer support group has been established this evening in County Donegal. Women in particular are desperately concerned about the breast cancer statistics whereby women who present late have less chance of surviving breast cancer and a greater chance of being obliged to have a mastectomy. There is also a campaign underway in the south-eastern part of the country regarding radiotherapy services. In various parts of the country, despite the Minister’s statements about investment in cancer services, people are organising to ensure the chance of life for themselves and their loved ones is improved by better cancer services.

[101]To put it mildly, it is disturbing that a Government with unprecedented resources available to it seems to believe it is all right to keep women waiting which, as a result, puts their lives at risk. Somehow, this Government has not got around to giving this issue the priority it needs. We understand there are not always simple answers in the provision of cancer services and that choices must be made and standards of excellence must be balanced with accessibility. However, as far as breast cancer screening is concerned, there is no difficulty. Everyone understands the issue and wants to see a nationwide roll-out of the programme. However, time and again, the Government promises the implementation but does not deliver. The wonderful thing about BreastCheck is that it works and is a very fine service. The people working in BreastCheck can take pride in what they are doing. They deliver a high quality service and have been able to reach many of their targets. It is a part of our health system that works well. The problem and shame is that so many women are denied it.

It is also important to observe that while many women might be fearful of coming forward for breast cancer screening, it is an experience that should not engender fear. It is a very professional and accessible service and no woman who qualifies should feel any worry or anxiety about coming forward for breast cancer screening. This is demonstrated by the high numbers of women who come forward where the service is available. There is a twin benefit in screening in that in areas where it takes place, a higher level of awareness and information about breast cancer, how it can be tackled and how women can assist in protecting their own health exists. However, where screening is not available,a lack of information and to a degree, a lack of knowledge persists.

I will defer to my colleagues who are directly affected by the issue as they represent constituents who are denied the service. I represent a county that has the service. I want to support the people and women in particular who are denied access to a screening service to which they are entitled by right, that literally protects lives and would ensure a reduction in the death rate from breast cancer, as we have seen in Northern Ireland, Britain and other countries that have done what this Government should have done but has yet failed to do.

Ms O’Sullivan:  I welcome the opportunity to speak on this debate. I speak, as Deputy McManus noted, as a representative of a constituency where breast screening has not been rolled out. If it had been rolled out according to the original timetable which envisaged its introduction in 2005, I would be one of 12,976 women in County Limerick who would be screened this year, the constituency also represented by the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O’Malley. According to the statistics provided by BreastCheck, [102]approximately 30 of that 12,976 women could expect to have early detection symptoms, had the implementation in County Limerick proceeded. However, the roll-out of the programme has not taken place and as it appears that we must wait until 2007, we will not be screened and will not know whether we have early symptoms of breast cancer which could be detected by BreastCheck. It is extraordinary that women in the west and south should be obliged to live with this. If the screening programme was in place, we would know if we were safe.

Our lives are as important as the lives of women in other parts of the country and there is a deep anger in this region that the issue has not been given the priority it deserves. Many other issues have been prioritised by this Government in a time of wealth in our Celtic tiger economy. However, despite the fact that this programme was planned and announced many times by the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, it has not happened, as Deputy McManus noted. We are now expected to wait until 2007, which is not good enough. It is not good enough for someone like me, with no reason to believe that I might have breast cancer. However, it is particularly unacceptable for women coming from families with a high incidence of cancer, for women who have an internal fear that they might be one of the 30 women who could be detected this year in County Limerick. I speak for County Limerick, as my other colleagues will discuss the statistics in other areas, where if cancers were detected at an early stage, women would have a very good chance of complete recovery. This is how serious the issue is and why people are so angry that the programme has not been rolled out in accordance with the timetable.

We listen to an advertisement on radio featuring Marian Finucane which tells women to be tested, that it is a positive thing with nothing to fear and that early detection is vital. However, at the end of the advertisement, she states that this only applies if one lives in the eastern or midland regions. Women in our region listen to this advertisement and come to us as public representatives to ask why they cannot be included in the screening programme. We listen to it on national radio and yet it is not available to us. On the other hand, people know the statistics from Northern Ireland for example, where breast cancer has been reduced by 20%. We are aware of the statistics and the value of the service but it is not available to us.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, has been in office for nearly six months. However, she has not seen fit to further this programme to any great extent. As far as I understand, it is a question of resources. There is no reason why the headquarters buildings in Cork and Galway could not have proceeded at this stage, or could not have gone ahead during Deputy Martin’s tenure as Minister. It was simply a lack of political will to deploy the resources to ensure that women in our regions are [103]screened for breast cancer. This is what is most unacceptable. It is quite clear from reading the reports of BreastCheck that it was willing to proceed and had the internal resources and skills to do so, if given Government resources. Clearly, it was a matter of political decision-making and we will not accept any further delay. It is not sufficient to make announcements every six months or year that the programme will be implemented when it still has not been.

Women in these regions will not be satisfied until we see the screening buildings and programmes up and running and we will no longer tolerate any delay. The campaign referred to by Deputy McManus in which the Labour Party is involved will continue to escalate until such time as we see real progress. Good government is about making decisions that matter to people’s lives. Unfortunately, in this case, we do not see good government and we will not tolerate it. We will continue to campaign until such time as BreastCheck is rolled out throughout the country.

Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin:  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I am amazed at the amendment commending the Government. If anyone from the Government parties attended the public meeting referred to by Deputy McManus in Tralee two weeks ago, which I organised, they would have seen very little commendation for the Government. Hundreds of men and women attended the meeting. Some of them did not understand the issue prior to attending the meeting. However, when they learned about the apartheid-like practices in the area of women’s health, they understood that people in the south west are again being treated differently from those on the east coast.

At the meeting, people whose lives have been affected by cancer, particularly breast cancer, spoke publicly about their frustration and outrage at the failure of this Government to extend BreastCheck to Kerry, Cork and the Munster region. What really annoyed them was the fact that the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Micheál Martin, had promised that the BreastCheck programme would be extended to the entire country by 2002. We now hear the scheme will only be extended in 2007 or 2008. However, people in Kerry are not prepared to wait any longer for the roll-out of BreastCheck and will mobilise because they have accepted this system from this Government for too long.

A woman who was born in Germany and who spoke at the meeting could not believe that she was denied access to a service simply because she chose to live in County Kerry. It is not only the people of Kerry, Cork and Limerick who are frustrated about the lack of action over BreastCheck. The PRO of BreastCheck is also exasperated with the Government’s delay in sanctioning the roll-out of the programme to the rest of the country. He said recently:

[104]

We are ready to go but we need approval from the Department of Health and we have not got the go-ahead. Each week that we have no decision from Mary Harney, the later this will happen.

This statement puts the ball in the Government’s court. I assure the Minister for State and all his Cabinet colleagues that we will pursue this matter until the extension of BreastCheck is delivered.

What is the Minister for Health and Children saying to the women of my county who rightly ask why they are being discriminated against because of where they live? What makes the lives of these women — and my life — less valuable than the lives of women on the east coast, including my colleague Deputy McManus? It would only cost €25 million to extend the scheme to the rest of the country, which is not a huge amount in the order of things. I ask the Government to take the opportunity tonight to announce the provision of the money to deliver the scheme to the rest of the country because the Minister will rue the day if it does not. Irish women now realise that a form of apartheid exists regarding access to health services and they will not tolerate it anymore.

Ms Lynch:  It is interesting to examine the issues this Government considers important —€18 million was allocated for stables for horses without the issue coming before the Cabinet and €56 million was allocated for electronic voting, disregarding the cost of storing the equipment. The overall cost must be approximately €70 million at this stage. Yet this same Government cannot spare €25 million to extend the BreastCheck programme to the entire country. If this had taken place approximately 15 years ago, the Government’s reluctance to sanction the release of an amount like that would be understandable. However, it is not understandable given the country’s current wealth. The Government is prepared to put the lives of women outside Leinster at risk for a paltry amount of money.

It was not just in 2000 that promises that BreastCheck would be extended to the rest of the country were made. The former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, made the same promise in 1999 on a local basis. He again announced it in 2002 and 2004. Just before he left office, he again assured us that the programme would be extended in 2007. These dates are significant because they were election years. The former Minister played politics with BreastCheck. The willingness of people in the rest of the country to believe Deputy Martin because he was from Cork always worried me. He did as little in Cork as he did in the rest of the country.

Ministerial promises on the delivery of linear accelerators go back to 1998. A linear accelerator, which is now about to be installed in CUH, is at the end of the pipeline. We hope that there would be many women who would never need to be [105]treated with a linear accelerator if BreastCheck was rolled out to the Munster area. We will all be using linear accelerators if we have to wait as long for the delivery of promises by the current Minister as we did for those of the previous Minister. I do not think that is a pleasant experience.

Last weekend, the Progressive Democrats had their conference in Cork. The only thing I looked forward to was listening to Deputy Harney’s speech, which had to be more entertaining than “Friends”, for example. However, I received a telephone call on Wednesday from a woman called Noreen who had never attended the meetings and demonstrations about BreastCheck because she believed the Government’s promises and who is now being treated for breast cancer. She told me that she had asked to meet the Minister for Health and Children when she arrived in Cork and planned to give her a letter. However, the Minister was refusing to meet her and she was at a loss as to what to do. She asked for my help and I provided her with assistance. If one looks at the demonstration outside Silver Springs Hotel, it was made up of women who are non-political but who had either been recently diagnosed with, were being treated for or had survived breast cancer. They are articulate women with no political bent who realised very early on that the political will to ensure the early detection of breast cancer in their cases was not present and who are now worried for their daughters. They are worried that their daughters will have to endure what they did. All the Minister has to do is sanction the release of the money to BreastCheck. The site survey has been done, the building is in place and everything needed to run the BreastCheck programme is present. BreastCheck is prepared to roll-out the programme in the morning. The only thing missing is the money.

We received a visit from a Progressive Democrats politician who I will not name and who told us the decision was imminent. She would not specify which decision was imminent. Maybe she meant the decision to extend BreastCheck and that it would be announced tonight. We are all hoping that the decision regarding the money to extend BreastCheck is imminent for the sake of the women of the country.

Debate adjourned.

Mr. Crawford:  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this important issue. I hope the Minister of State has some good news for us at the end of it.

One must ask significant questions about the Government’s commitment to the disabled. Why is there so much difficulty for the disabled drivers in getting tax concessions? The Taoiseach and many Ministers attended the launch of the Disability Bill 2004. The Taoiseach stated clearly that millions if not billions of euro were available to [106]deal with the problems of the disabled, yet on the issue of tax concessions for disabled drivers we are given poor answers to our questions. The delivery of tax concessions is a matter for the Minister for Finance. If the rules are not correct, the Minister and this House have the right to change them.

In case the Minister of State or others believe this is an isolated issue, I wish to bring to the attention of the House a number of different cases. One man living near the N2, which the Minister of State travels from time to time, made an application for a medical certificate, but was turned down. This man’s right arm is completely useless. It hangs by his side and cannot be used. His wife was seriously ill at the time and I advised him to apply in her name. Thankfully, it worked. He has since lost his wife and made another application but was told that there was no point as he was previously turned down. We are appealing this case and hope that someone will have common sense on the issue.

Another young man who is the carer of his invalid sister and aged mother applied but because they do not meet the so-called criteria of missing limbs or whatever, the authorities have seen fit to turn him down. For this young man, who lives on a carer’s allowance and the benefits of the two social welfare payments for his mother and sister, there is not much spare cash and this certificate would be of much benefit to him.

Another man from my county has been refused the certificate under the 1994 disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concession scheme. While he retains his right leg he experiences severe problems with it. That he cannot use it is unimportant as far as this scheme is concerned. Another man with a wife and young family suffered a severe stroke and has neither the use of his left leg nor arm. It is unlikely he will regain their use. He has been turned down because he does not meet the criteria. In an attempt to get an answer I submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister for Finance on the matter.

In another case, a young man has very short legs and a full-grown body. However, anyone who sees him can tell there is no way he can drive a normal car. The car must be changed for him. He did not wish to write the word dwarfism on his initial application as he felt it was not right, but I encouraged him to do so. He holds down a first-class job but there is no bus service to the town in which he works. He must have his own car, yet he has been refused.

It does me no good to read out this litany, but that is the situation on the ground. The only answer I received from the Minister, Deputy Cowen——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy must conclude.

Mr. Crawford:  ——was that he does not have control over this. There are special rules that a person must be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs. The people in some of the cases I have mentioned do not have the use of their limbs. Persons who are wholly without the [107]use of one of their legs and almost wholly without——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy should please conclude.

Mr. Crawford:  The Minister for Finance’s final comment was that he has no function in deciding whether individual certificates are issued either by the area medical officer or the medical board. I accept that, but surely the Minister of State should clarify the situation. Where billions of euro are available to people in these circumstances——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy has gone over his time.

Mr. Crawford:  ——surely it is time to change the regulation.

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  I apologise for the Minister for Finance who is unavoidably absent. I am pleased to take this opportunity to clarify matters concerning the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concession scheme.

Deputy Crawford has raised two issues that will be addressed, the eligibility criteria for the scheme and the operation of the board of appeals. The disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme of 1994 provides for certain tax concessions for the purchase and running of a vehicle for persons who meet particular medical criteria relating to physical disability. The tax concessions include remission or replacement of VRT, repayment of VAT on the purchase of the vehicle to be used and a repayment of VAT on the cost of the vehicle’s adaptation. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also allowed.

The medical criteria set out in legislation are as follows. The applicant must be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs, wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted in movement of the lower limbs, without both hands or without arms, without one or both legs, wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg, or has the medical condition of dwarfism and has serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

It is a fundamental requirement for admission to the scheme that the applicant meets the specified medical criteria and is in possession of a primary medical certificate to that effect, issued by the appropriate senior area medical officer, an official of the local Health Service Executive. I repeat Deputy Crawford’s comments that the Minister for Finance has no function in deciding whether individual certificates are issued. Where the issue of the required certificate is refused, this can be appealed to the disabled drivers medical [108]board of appeal, an independent body whose decision is final.

Mr. Crawford:  That is taking the long way.

Mr. Gallagher:  I will deal with that. I do not disagree. As the Deputy may be aware, an interdepartmental group reviewed this scheme. It examined all its aspects, including the qualifying medical criteria, the benefits and the appeal process. The report made a number of recommendations that were considered by the Government in June 2004. The report was published on the Department of Finance website in July 2004. The Government decided to implement the recommendations in respect of the board of appeal, which will be addressed separately. On the other recommendations, the Government decided that they would be considered by the Minister for Finance in the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme.

The medical board of appeal is regulated by the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 and 2005. The 2004 regulations were signed by the Minister for Finance on 23 July 2004 and incorporated the following changes to the previous legislation: first, expansion of the panel of medical practitioners serving on the medical board of appeal from three to five and, second, amendment of the appeals process by introducing a six month waiting period between an appeal and a subsequent application and introducing the requirement for a second application to be certified by a registered medical practitioner to the effect that there has been material disimprovement in the medical condition since the previous application.

These changes were introduced on foot of recommendations of the interdepartmental review group report. They were recommended to improve the operation of the appeals process and enable the backlog of appeals to be tackled. In addition, last week the Minister for Finance brought in further regulations that will allow him to appoint an additional five medical practitioners to the board of appeal, which will now allow for ten medical practitioners to be on the board compared with the situation prior to July of last year when there were only three doctors on the board of appeal.

It is true that the appeals process has not operated effectively but this problem has been comprehensively addressed and the solution is being implemented. The Departments of Finance and Health and Children have been engaged in the process of reconstituting the board following a number of staff changes late last year and a number of administrative issues. Significant progress has been made and it is expected the board will resume its meetings in the National Rehabilitation Hospital shortly. On 14 March, the Minister appointed a new chairperson — senior level doctor — to the board. It is understood a new secretary is being recruited and will be in place shortly.

[109]As a public representative, I appreciate there have been long and inordinate delays. We have all experienced this and it is not acceptable. The Minister has now dealt with this and I hope with the new board, chairman and secretary, this can be expedited.

In respect of the waiting list for an appeal, there are in excess of 600 appellants. The new chairperson of the board has been asked to address the backlog as a priority and the increase in the number of doctors who can participate in appeal hearings will allow for appeals to be heard much more frequently. The necessary new appointments to the board will be made over the coming weeks to facilitate the process of dealing with the waiting list.

These new arrangements being put in place should lead to an improved and streamlined operation of the board of appeal in dealing with appeals for the scheme.

Ms Burton:  Yet again I raise the issue of school places at primary level in Dublin 15. It is hard to believe the Minister for Education and Science and this Government can act so callously as to deprive small children of a place in primary school. However, this is precisely what the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, and her junior Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, are doing in Littlepace, Castaheaney, Ongar, Diswellstown, Tyrellstown and in many other areas of Dublin 15. Parents are being left in limbo as to whether their child will get a place in primary school in September 2005. What is happening is not acceptable in any country least of all in a wealthy country such as Ireland.

The Minister for Education and Science seems to have a callous disregard for the needs of the children of Dublin 15. For Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, the needs of millionaire property developers seem to come before those of school children and their parents. I have been inundated with complaints from very distressed parents who in good faith put their child’s name down in the local school — in some cases, the month their child was born four and a half years ago — expecting to get a place but who have now been told that because of the huge number of children looking for places, their child cannot be accommodated even though they have visited the school every year for four years since the child was born. This is a crisis.

Mary Mother of Hope national school, Littlepace, Dublin 15, has only been able to accept 90 children, that is, three streams of junior infants, while more than 200 children applied for places. More than 100 children have been told to go away and that there is no place for them. St. Patrick’s national school, Diswellstown, Castleknock, has only been able to accept 90 junior infants while at the moment, its applications are running between 140 and 160.

The new Castaheaney Educate Together school is also facing an uncertain September. The number of places is oversubscribed. At present the school children are being bussed to Lucan. [110]The Minister has said she will get a school site but as yet neither she nor her Department has moved to acquire a site. It is getting very late in the year even to put a prefab on a site and get it ready for September. Other primary schools throughout Dublin 15 are inundated with requests from parents for places next September.

The Minister for Education and Science, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have allowed the situation with primary school places in Dublin 15 to slide into chaos once more with huge upset being caused to children and parents. Given what we were told the Government learned during the by-elections in Meath and North Kildare about the increased population and all the new building and housing, we thought that something would have been done. I call on the Minister for Education and Science to establish a task force as a matter of urgency to deal with the crisis in school places manifesting itself in the Dublin 15 area and which will be truly dreadful for parents and children come next September.

I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, has come to the House with good news rather than more hand-wringing and saying he is sorry but the Government did not know an extra 10,000 houses were being built over the past five years in this school catchment area.

Mr. Gallagher:  I apologise to the House and Deputy Burton for the Minister, Deputy Hanafin’s, inability to attend. However, on her behalf, I thank the Deputy for raising this matter and for giving me the opportunity to outline the actions being taken by the Department of Education and Science to address the school accommodation needs of the Dublin 15 area in general.

The Minister is fully conscious that the Dublin 15 area is one of the most rapidly developing areas in the country and, as a result, there has been a marked increase in the demand for school places, particularly at primary level. The Department is taking a number of immediate measures to increase the capacity of existing schools in the area concerned along with the development of new schools to meet this growing demand.

A building project at Sacred Heart national school, Huntstown, will increase its capacity to 32 classrooms. This project is nearing completion. In addition, a building project to provide a new school building for Mary Mother of Hope national school is currently on site and should be ready for use this September. To further expand capacity at this school, the Department has approached the school’s board of management to discuss the possibility of expanding the school to cater for a four stream intake at junior infant level for next September. This could be achieved by the school expanding to a 32 classroom school or reorganising to form a junior and senior school.

The area in question is also served by Castaheaney Educate Together national school. The Department is currently pursuing the issue of site acquisition for this school and the provision of a permanent school building for it will be prioritised in the Department. It is envisaged [111]that the demand for places will be such that this school may need to grow to a 24 classroom school which would facilitate an annual intake of three junior infant classes. In the interim, temporary accommodation will be provided to meet the school’s immediate needs for next September.

Recently the Department met the management authorities of St. Patrick’s national school, Diswellstown, and St. Francis Xavier junior national school to discuss enrolments for September 2005. Following this meeting, the Department sanctioned provision of a fourth temporary classroom for St. Patrick’s which will enable it to offer places to a further 30 children on its waiting list.

The Department also sanctioned provision of two temporary classrooms for St. Patrick’s junior national school, Corduff, to cater for the increased demand for junior infant places. An application to establish a new Educate Together primary school in Tyrellstown is under consideration with the new schools’ advisory committee and a decision on this will be made in the near future. The Department is confident the implementation of the measures I have outlined will alleviate the demand for pupil places in this rapidly developing area.

As to the political charge that the Minister is callous, any neutral observer will appreciate she is very caring and most anxious to facilitate the many children in this growing and developing area of Dublin 15. I thank the Deputy for raising the matter.

Dr. Cowley:  I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this important matter on the Adjournment. Gaelscoil na Cruaiche has been in existence since 1 September 1995, having commenced with seven pupils. It obtained temporary recognition in 1996 with an enrolment of 30 pupils and the sanctioning of two permanent teaching posts. Since then the school has gone from strength to strength and has moved to three different premises. The date 15 May 2000 was a historic day for the school because it received permanent recognition from the Department of Education and Science. There are almost 200 pupils enrolled in the Gaelscoil and there are nine permanent teachers on the staff. The Gaelscoil has resource and remedial teachers. The board employs ten additional part-time teachers of French, German, music, accordion, flute, sports and dance.

During the past nine years, the Gaelscoil enrolled 30 pupils each September which resulted in the sanctioning of a permanent teaching post in the school each year. If the performance is an indication of the future enrolment it will have a ten-teacher school with well in excess of 200 pupils in 2006. It has a learning atmosphere second to none in which teachers, parents and children co-operate in realising the potential of an all-Ireland national school in Westport.

The problem is that the school is on a temporary site in five prefabricated classrooms and since the lease will soon expire it will have to prepare for another move. The position is desperate because almost 200 pupils and nine teachers [112]could be out on the road. The school has been expanding and for the school year 2005-06 more than 12 children are booked.

The school has received notice to quit by 2006 and the lease is non-renewable. That means that almost 200 pupils will be on the street in 13 months’ time unless alternative accommodation is provided. The reply I received to a question I tabled on the matter in December 2004 was that the OPW was examining the site. The OPW was asked in 2001 to examine the site but it decided in 2004 that it was not successful in finding one. This is a major problem in an area which has an important job to do in the education of children through Gaeilge. This is a matter that requires urgent action.

I am aware of a shocking report on conditions and the health and safety aspects of the school, which was commissioned by the board of management. It paints a terrible picture of dry and wet rot and so on. The five prefabricated buildings were bought second-hand six years ago and are falling apart. Taking into account eviction notices, dry and wet rot and so on, the position is critical. I raised the matter with the Minister for Education and Science in February and was informed that the property management section of the Office of Public Works was exploring the possibility of acquiring a site for the school referred to by me. The Minister was unable to give me more information because of commercial sensitivities. The position is desperate. It appears OPW has to appoint a site, which it has not done so far. I am hoping for some news on that issue.

The OPW has done its final assessment and has told the school this would be ready soon. That was nine weeks ago but yet the school has heard nothing. Nothing has been done about the provision of a school site, the shape of the school to come or the financial allocation, and it has to open on 1 June 2006. The Department has said it cannot do anything until it receives the report from the Office of Public Works. So far there is no sign of the design or planning stages. Can we please have some news on the school as the parents and pupils are desperate? Will almost 200 pupils be out on the street in 13 months’ time?

Mr. Gallagher:  I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to outline on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, the Department’s proposals in regard to the provision of a new facility for Gaelscoil na Cruaiche in Westport, County Mayo.

Since the beginning of the year the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, has made a number of announcements relating to the schools building and modernisation programme. This year alone, €270 million will be allocated to primary schools and €223 million to post-primary schools for building works. This represents an increase of 14% on the 2004 allocation.

The programmes supported will include 141 major building projects already on site and more due to go on site in the near future; 122 major school building projects countrywide which will go to tender and construction during 2005 or early 2006; 192 primary schools which have been [113]invited to take part in the small and rural schools initiative and the devolved scheme for providing additional accommodation; approximately 120 schools which have been given approval to rent temporary premises pending delivery of a permanent solution to their long-term accommodation needs; 43 schools which have been authorised to start architectural planning of their major projects; and 590 schools which were recently given approval to complete essential small scale projects under the summer works scheme.

The new Schools Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009 will be underpinned not just by a significant increase in overall funding but also by major improvements in the administration of the funding. Devolving more funding to local level through the summer works scheme and the small and rural schools initiative will allow schools to move ahead more quickly with smaller projects.

Gaelscoil na Cruaiche opened in September 1996 with provisional recognition and was granted permanent recognition in 2000. The school is accommodated in prefabricated classrooms on a three-quarter acre site in the town. The cost of site and classroom rental is grant-aided by the Department of Education and Science at the rate of 95%.

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which purchases sites for new schools on behalf of the Department, is exploring the possibility of acquiring a site for the school in question. Following a recent advertisement placed by the Office of Public Works, seeking proposals of possible sites, a number of responses have been received. As Deputy Cowley has stated, these sites have been visited and a technical report is being prepared. I shall convey the Deputy’s views to the Minister that he is anxious that this be provided as quickly as possible. Of course, when sites are being examined there are commercial sensitivities and the Department is unable to comment further on specific site acquisitions.

I assure the Deputy that the permanent accommodation needs of the school are being addressed as expeditiously as possible but, perhaps, not as quickly as the Deputy, teachers, parents and children would wish. The provision of a permanent building for the school will be progressed in the context of the school buildings and modernisation programme when a site has been acquired.

The Department will continue to grant-aid the use of temporary accommodation at the rate of 95% of the cost pending the delivery of permanent accommodation.

I thank Deputy Cowley for raising the matter. I shall bring his views to the attention of the Minister and the Department at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Neville:  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise an important issue on the conditions for teachers and students at Kilfinane national school, County Limerick. I have been raising this issue for the past six years. There is an increased urgency for the construction of a [114]new school at Kilfinane. I have seen at first hand the conditions pertaining there, which are continuing to deteriorate, as the school is very old. The promises made some three years ago that a school would be built immediately after the general election should now be honoured.

  9 o’clock

The report to the INTO made it clear that the facilities at the school are unsatisfactory and have been so for several years. The school is the base for a remedial teacher who is shared among five schools. Her classroom is a cubicle partitioned off a room also used as a staff room, library and office. The resource teacher works in similar conditions. The disruption is continuous and not conducive to a learning experience. It renders the teacher’s job particularly difficult and places the children who learn in that environment at a further disadvantage. There are no indoor PE facilities, no general purpose room and no place for children to leave their gear for outdoor games. The staff is enthusiastic in encouraging the use of computers but with so little space this is extremely difficult. Toilet facilities for staff are inadequate while the outdoor facilities for children are Dickensian. I doubt that the school building would pass examination by the Health and Safety Authority. The school was forced to close for two days recently because of concern for the safety of the children.

It is more than eight years since representations were first made regarding the provision of this school. The feasibility study carried out clearly shows that a new building is the only viable option. A site was acquired for this purpose and the Department of Education and Science commissioned a feasibility study on the site and found it suitable. The staff wants what is best for the children of the parish. They also need practical working conditions to enable them to carry out their professional duties. They have found themselves frustrated over the years. The school has a shared remedial teacher, a full-time resource teacher and a part-time resource teacher. In January 1998 the board of management applied to the Department of Education and Science to carry out structural works on the old school. The Department and the board of management decided that a new school was required. Approval was granted in 2001.

The existing building dates back to 1909. The school is housed in a converted church. It consists of six small classrooms, three of which are only 25 square metres in area. There is a tiny ancillary room used as the library and a tiny office and cloakroom. There is also a small central hall that can be accessed from the classrooms. Part of this hall has had to be sacrificed to accommodate the secretary’s office. There is no staff room and the toilets are situated outdoors. The outdoor playing space is very limited and teachers are concerned for the safety of the children. Three other classrooms measure seven by five metres in area and house classes of between 25 and 30 pupils. Partitions between classrooms are wafer-thin, consisting of narrow timber boards or glass and [115]are not sound-proof which causes difficulties for teaching and learning. The timber floors have begun to sag in many areas due to the building design. Ceilings are very high and temperature extremes are common. The present school is situated on a steep slope, which creates safety problems. There are many unavoidable drops and steps within the site, which are dangerous and always a concern to teachers and parents.

The delay in acquiring the site was claimed as a reason for not providing the school. In November 2002 the site was acquired. The Department knew of the school’s problems and the need for a new school back in 1998. There is evidence of dry rot and many of the windows cannot be opened, leading to a lack of ventilation. Sinks are provided in only three of the rooms. There is no staff room.

Kilfinane is a developing community. In the past three years there have been 220 planning permissions for dwelling houses within a radius of three miles. The projected estimate is for 250 dwellings within the next three years. It is an expanding community in need of a new school, not alone for the present pupils and teachers but for future pupils and teachers.

Mr. Gallagher:  I thank the Deputy for raising the matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the House the strategy of the Department of Education and Science for capital investment in education projects and to outline the position regarding the application received in the Department for improved accommodation at Kilfinane national school, Kilfinane, County Limerick.

Since the beginning of the year the Minister for Education and Science has made several announcements relating to the schools building and modernisation programme. This year alone, €270 million will be allocated to primary schools and €223 million to post-primary schools for building works. This represents an increase of 14% on the 2004 allocation.

The programmes supported will include 141 major building projects already on site and a further 28 due to commence in the coming weeks; 122 major school building projects country wide which will prepare tenders and move to construction during 2005; 192 primary schools which have been invited to take part in the small and rural schools initiative and the devolved scheme for providing additional accommodation. This scheme is in its infancy but already it is deemed to be very successful. Approximately 120 schools have been given approval to rent temporary premises pending delivery of a permanent solution to their long-term accommodation needs. Forty-three schools have been authorised to start architectural planning of their major projects and [116]590 schools were recently given approval to complete essential small scale projects under the summer works scheme. I am pleased to confirm that Kilfinane national school was successful in securing funding under this scheme to carry out essential roof works to part of the school building, at a cost of around €12,000.

Kilfinane national school is a co-educational primary school with a current enrolment of 130 pupils. Enrolments have decreased in recent years, from 162 pupils in the school year 1998-99 to 130 pupils in September 2004 and this downward trend has necessitated a further examination of proposed school size to ensure that any capital funding being provided is appropriate to meet the need. I take note of Deputy Neville’s point that Kilfinane is a developing community with 220 planning permissions and increasing to 250 developments within a radius of the village. If this information is not already in the hands of the Department, I will bring it to the attention of the Minister.

Arising from an application for an extension from the school authority in 1998 it has been established that the school, which was constructed in 1909 and is located on a restricted site, is subject to a preservation order. Following a feasibility study it was considered more appropriate to address the needs of the school by way of a new school. The OPW, which acts on behalf of the Department of Education and Science in respect of site acquisitions, was requested to address the issue of site purchase but the diocese decided to purchase the site for the school. I understand the site is now in the ownership of the diocese.

The application for a new school at Kilfinane national school is being reassessed on the basis of the actual size of school to be provided. Once this has been completed the project will be banded in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria with a view to being considered for the appointment of a design team to commence architectural planning of the new school.

The Deputy will be aware that the Department has made a series of announcements in respect of the 2005 school building programme and will make further announcements on projects to go to architectural planning in the course of the year. I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the method used by the Department of Education and Science in determining in an open and transparent way the inclusion of projects in the school building programme and to assure the House that this school and all others will be treated in a fair and equitable manner.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 April 2005.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].

Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 7 to 61, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 62 to 69, inclusive, answered orally.

  70.  Ms Lynch    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the matters discussed at his meeting with representatives of the security industry on 31 March 2005; the reason he has opted to give the security industry four months to improve security rather than implementing the powers to set standards under the Private Security Services Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10771/05]

  91.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will introduce regulations governing the transport of cash by security companies on behalf of banks, which would include mandatory GPS tracking of vehicles, explosive pellet, money marking devices; his views on whether the practice of Garda and Army back up security to banking institutions should be self financing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10411/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 91 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Questions Nos. 62 and 63 of today’s date.

In brief, on 31 March last, I met with representatives of the main banks, An Post, the Central Bank and the major cash-in-transit service providers. I convened this meeting in the immediate aftermath of the armed robbery of a security van at Artane early the previous day, with a getaway haul of approximately €1.9 million.

I indicated to the companies involved that my preference would now be agreement on a voluntary code of conduct that would see the industry operating to the highest international standards. This would include using the latest technology available to ensure the safety of the cash, the security employees and the general public alike.

I informed the industry representatives that they had 120 days to reach agreement and to implement a voluntary code. If such an agreement cannot be reached, I indicated that I will legislate to ensure that standards are raised.

It is also important to point out that the newly established Private Security Authority has a statutory responsibility to licence companies operating in the cash-in-transit sector of the security industry. The authority has decided to commence work on the development of a [118]national standard in parallel with the voluntary programme being carried out by the main banks and service providers. This national standard will form the basis of statutory licensing of cash-in-transit companies. As I have already said, the authority is independent and it is not for me to prejudge its deliberations on this matter. However, I would hope that if the voluntary code of practice is of a sufficiently high standard and concluded within the time frame of the authority’s work, it could form the basis of the national standard that would be required for the issuance of a licence.

In relation to the recoupment of costs associated with the provision of armed escorts by the Garda Síochána, following consultations, my Department secured the agreement of the banks to increase their contribution to these costs to €3 million per annum, up from a mere €952,000 in previous years. This €3 million per annum contribution meets, on average, approximately 85% of the costs incurred by the Garda Síochána in providing armed escorts. Further negotiations are being conducted by my Department with the banks with a view to increasing this proportion still further in future years.

With regard to costs incurred by the Defence Forces, although this is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Defence, I understand that his Department is also in negotiations with the banks to secure a proper recoupment of costs.

  71.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of migrant workers he estimates are working here illegally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6210/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I assume that the Deputy’s question refers to work which in itself is lawful — in other words, work which an Irish citizen, a citizen of an EEA country or a citizen of Switzerland is entitled generally, as of right, to undertake in this jurisdiction.

There were approximately 88,000 non-EEA or non-Swiss nationals registered with the Garda Síochána as authorised to engage in employment of one sort or another in the first two months of 2005. Consequently, the following analysis covers persons other than those referred to above. Illegal working and illegal immigration are two sides of the same coin and the issue raised by the Deputy covers a spectrum of practical possibilities. This is because persons engaged in illegal employment are either persons who never had permission to remain in the State; persons who had such permission but whose permission has expired; persons who have current permission but who are in breach of a condition of that permission which prohibits employment; persons who have current permission but who are in breach of a condition which only authorises employment of a particular type, for example, for [119]a designated employer with an employment permit; or students who have current permission but who are in breach of a condition which only authorises part-time employment.

All countries such as ours which have experienced significant economic growth have great difficulty in sizing both their illegal immigrant populations and the extent to which non-nationals engage in employment unlawfully. This is because such persons do not manifest their identities to the immigration authorities or, in the alternative, the entire circumstances of their presence in the State — for obvious reasons.

As a result any attempt on my part to put a figure on the number of persons in question would be purely speculative. However, I intend to commission research on the complex topic of illegal migration in the near future.

  72.  Ms O’Sullivan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of members of the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available; the number expected to be recruited during 2005; the anticipated membership at the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10778/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as at 8 April 2005 was 12,209, all ranks.

The House will be aware that in October 2004, the Government approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

As a basis for implementing this commitment the Commissioner has drawn up a project plan which has three key elements: the recruitment of sufficient additional Garda trainees to achieve the target strength; relocating the in-service training facilities from the Garda College so that the college can concentrate on training recruits; and expanding the facilities at the Garda College.

A new recruitment campaign for the Garda Síochána was launched in November 2004.

It is proposed to induct 1,100 Garda recruits to the Garda college in 2005, consisting of four intakes of 275 recruits. The first of these four intakes, 275, commenced training on the week commencing 7 February 2005. The remaining three intakes of 275 recruits are scheduled to commence training on 3 May 2005, 2 August 2005 and 7 November 2005.

It is estimated that 523 Garda trainees will become attested members of the force in 2005. Current projections indicated that the total [120]strength of the Garda Síochána as at the 31 of December 2005 will be 12,299, all ranks. Taking into account the projected number of retirements, the new recruitment drive will lead to a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 as early as end 2006.

The Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

  73.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the figures and locations for the deployment of Garda mountain bike units; his views on their efficiency to date; and the plans for their future expansion. [10863/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda mountain bike unit was introduced on a pilot basis, on 5 June 2001, in the Tallaght and Raheny Garda districts of the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR. In February 2002, a review conducted by the Garda authorities found that the deployment of Garda personnel on mountain bikes was proven to be successful in tackling and responding to certain types of crimes and offences. Their mobility and versatility is recognised as a method of high visibility crime prevention.

Since that time the Garda mountain bike unit has been expanded both inside and outside the Dublin metropolitan region. The total number of mountain bikes available to the Garda Síochána is 85, of which 55 are allocated to districts within the DMR and 30 are allocated to districts outside the DMR.

I am also informed that the Garda Commissioner has approved the further expansion of the Garda mountain bike unit to Letterkenny Garda station, which will take place later on this month. Further expansion of the mountain bike unit will also take place at other locations, nationally, throughout 2005.

Mountain bike units have been very successful in tackling anti-social disorderly behaviour in local parks and estates and work well in conjunction with other units. Overall, the units have proven to be very successful to date due to their commitment, ability to respond quickly and [121]effectively and capacity to provide a high visibility presence.

Mountain bike units have made a significant and positive contribution to a proactive approach in tackling crime. Garda management has received very positive feedback from the community in relation to the work of these units.

  74.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of young persons currently involved in Garda youth diversion programmes; the success of these programmes in reducing crime in these communities; the plans he has to expand these programmes to other areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10887/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As the Deputy is aware, there are currently 64 Garda youth diversion projects operating in both urban and rural areas. Approximately 3,150 participants are currently involved in the Garda youth diversion projects.

The Garda youth diversion projects are a crime prevention measure which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social and-or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects of participants. The type of crime that the projects were set up to address has diminished significantly in their respective areas, as reflected in crime data relating to the areas where the projects are located. There is also evidence of a reduction in anti-social behaviour and an improved quality of life for people in the catchment areas of projects. While this reduction cannot be ascribed entirely to the work of the projects, they have contributed to it. The success of each project is achieved through a close match between local problems and tailored solutions. An evaluation of the projects by the Children’s Research Centre TCD, published in 2000 as The Impact and Effectiveness of the Garda Special Projects, indicated a positive experience by the young people involved and concluded that the positive impact of the projects overall justifies their retention.

Proposals made by the Garda Síochána to my Department on establishing additional projects are examined within the context of available resources.

  75.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons who applied in the recent Garda recruitment drive; the breakdown of applications by gender; the number that sat the examination and the number that passed it; the number that were interviewed; the final number of applicants that were accepted; the number that are now in train[122]ing in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10796/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities that recruitment to the Garda Síochána is carried out by the Public Appointments Service. However, the Garda authorities have informed me that the total number of applications lodged in respect of the recent Garda recruitment competition was 10,601. In addition, 6,989 applicants sat the exam and 3,761 applicants passed the exam. To date, a total of 765 persons have been called for interview. The Garda authorities have not been provided with details of the gender breakdown of applicants for the competition.

The total number of applicants who will be recruited to the Garda Síochána from the current competition will not be known for some time. Recruitment from this and future competitions will proceed in a manner and at sufficient pace to ensure that the Government target of 14,000 members will be achieved within the timescale I have already outlined.

I am further informed that the total number of student gardaí in training under Phase I, II and III of the student-probationer training programme as at 8 April 2005 was 689.

  76.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the basis upon which he has the power to delegate to his officials the power to adjudicate on an application for leave to remain which is made to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10890/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  There is a solid basis in legislation and case law for the delegation to officials of authority to adjudicate on applications for leave to remain. On the other hand, the power to make a deportation order is never in practice delegated to officials. In every case deportation orders are made by the Minister.

Perhaps this distinction is best illustrated by the case of P.L and B v. the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2002] 1 ILRM 16, where the Supreme Court characterised the position of failed asylum seekers as persons who “lacked any entitlement to remain in the country save that deriving from the procedure they were operating i.e. a right to await a decision not to be deported”. In other words, while a person who does not have permission to remain in the State does not have a right to remain here, he or she may submit to those administrative procedures which are necessary before a deportation order can be made.

In the case of Tang v. the Minister for Justice [1996] 2 ILRM 46, a question arose in relation to the propriety of decisions taken by civil servants in the name of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform under the provisions of immigration law. In that case the Supreme Court [123]stated that the Aliens Act 1935 and orders made thereunder, conferred extensive powers on the Minister for Justice to make orders in relation to non-nationals. The court found, in line with the Carltona principle, that it could not be supposed that it was the intention of the legislature that the Minister should personally exercise these powers. The court upheld the decision of an assistant principal officer in the Department of Justice to refuse to extend permission to remain but impugned a purported decision by that same officer to order the applicant to leave the State.

In the case of Kanaya v. the Minister for Justice [2000] 2 ILRM 503, the High Court held that the delegation of power to an immigration officer by the Minister to refuse leave to land was not ultra vires the power of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

In the year 2004 there were approximately 133,000 persons who had permission to remain in the State at any time during that year. The main body of such persons dealt with on a given day are persons seeking an extension in permission to remain. It is clear that I could not possibly personally intervene in all these cases. The statutory provision now governing such extensions — section 4(7) of the Immigration Act 2004 — specifically acknowledges that such decisions are made by immigration officers on behalf of the Minister.

Section 17(6) of the Refugee Act 1996 empowers the Minister, at his discretion, to grant permission to remain to a failed asylum seeker. This provision came into force in November 2000. It has been the practice in the vast majority of cases that such decisions are made by officials of my Department acting on my behalf. In fact the legislative provision itself did no more than give specific statutory expression to the reality as enunciated in the aforementioned Tang case which was heard in 1994.

A decision to refuse permission to remain or a decision not to extend permission to remain is not the same as a decision to make a deportation order. Every such order, as I have already pointed out, is signed by the Minister himself.

It has always been the case that decisions to grant or refuse leave to remain are made by officials of my Department. This practice has been repeatedly upheld by the superior courts in accordance with the Carltona principle. However, in every case where the ultimate step, that of deportation, is undertaken this is only with the express authority of the Minister in the form of a signed deportation order.

  77.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress made with regard to the Garda investigation into the major money laundering operation uncovered earlier in 2005; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10773/05]

[124]

  120.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has held discussions with his Bulgarian counterpart with regard to recent reports that an illegal organisation here was attempting to use Bulgaria as a destination for money laundering or other illegal activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7627/05]

  744.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the recent contacts he has had with his counterpart in Bulgaria; if his counterpart has expressed concerns regarding companies or persons from this country setting up business in Bulgaria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7708/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 77, 120 and 744 together.

The Deputies will be aware that, commencing on 16 February last, a number of searches were conducted at various locations in furtherance of a criminal investigation into suspected PIRA-related money laundering activities. These searches led to the seizure of significant sums of money and the arrest of a number of persons.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that this Garda investigation, which involves personnel from the southern Garda region, the Garda bureau of fraud investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau, remains ongoing and active. In due course, files seeking directions will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I am further informed that all possible avenues of information that might assist in furthering the case are being explored, and a key focus is the links between the money seized and the robbery of the Northern Bank last December.

Moreover, on 25 February last, officials of my Department met, on a confidential basis, a representative of the Bulgarian authorities to consider media reports allegedly linking the suspected money laundering operation to Bulgaria and Bulgarian nationals. The Bulgarian representative expressed concern at these reports and committed the full co-operation of the Bulgarian authorities to the Garda Síochána in the latter’s ongoing investigations.

As the Garda investigation remains ongoing, I do not consider that further, detailed comment on the matter would be appropriate.

  78.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his proposals for the establishment of a new one-stop shop for dealing with all immigration matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10769/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  In March 2005 the Government approved the establishment on a non-statutory basis of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, as an executive office within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law [125]Reform. It is intended to provide a one stop shop approach to services relating to the admission of migrants. This decision provides a platform for the establishment of the service. It is expected to take up to a year for the new arrangements and structures to be put in place.

The service will incorporate the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform’s asylum, immigration and citizenship functions and structures. The visa section of the Department of Foreign Affairs will transfer to the service in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Responsibility for the provision of visa services at diplomatic and consular missions abroad will remain with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The service will aim to develop a cohesive system for the issuing of work permits and visas through a virtual link between the work permit system in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the INIS. The overall effectiveness of these arrangements will be reviewed within two years. The economic migration policy function will remain with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The service will include a new immigrant integration unit to promote and co-ordinate social and organisational measures across the whole spectrum of Government, for the acceptance of lawful immigrants into Irish economic and cultural life.

The proposed new structure will have significant benefits from the point of view of customer service and the strengthening of the effectiveness and integrity of the State’s immigration system, specifically a single contact point or one stop shop for applications for entry to the State combining the current work permit and visa application processes; a clearer system involving more streamlined processes; improved sharing of information in linked systems to simplify decision making; improved service times as applications do not have to be submitted to a number of organisations; and improved control and enforcement mechanisms.

  79.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has completed his consideration of the report of the Dublin Lord Mayor’s Commission on Policing and Crime; if he intends to act on the recommendations contained in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10781/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have now had an opportunity to consider the recommendations of the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Crime and Policing. The Lord Mayor and the city council are to be complimented on a very useful report, which makes a wide range of recommendations, a number of which fall within the city council’s area of responsibility. I have already made a comprehensive response to the Lord Mayor.

[126]The Garda Síochána Bill, which I have introduced and which is currently being considered by the Dáil, addresses many of the commission’s recommendations on policing. The Bill proposes arrangements which will have general application in all local authority areas throughout the State but at the same time have the capacity to adapt to the particular needs and circumstances prevailing in the areas concerned. Furthermore, changes already made to the Bill in the other House go some considerable way towards meeting the commission’s proposals. These include changes to how the joint policing committees will be structured, their membership and how they will be chaired, the application of qualified privilege, the attendance of bodies and persons before the committee and the circumstances in which meetings of the committee may be held other than in public. For the most part the committees will now comprise public representatives and senior members of the Garda Síochána.

These changes address the commission’s desire to enhance the democratic mandate for policing by ensuring that policing matters are driven by elected representatives. The commission’s proposals in relation to local policing structures are not significantly different from the provisions contained in the Bill and, in terms of the outputs to be achieved, I believe the provisions in the Bill will deliver on the commission’s recommendations.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is accountable to Dáil Éireann and through it to the electorate and therefore would exercise democratically the powers which the Bill proposes be conferred on him or her. I am therefore not convinced that a national Garda board, which the commission proposes, would enhance democratic policing more than the arrangements proposed in the Bill.

The joint policing committees, their sub-committees and the local policing fora provided for will be involved in everything that the commission proposes for the community, safety and policing teams, the area committees and the community safety fora, although there are some differences between the Bill’s provisions and the commission’s proposals in so far as demarcation of responsibilities is concerned. Provision is made in the Bill for drawing up guidelines relating to the establishment of the joint policing committees and subcommittees. The commission’s proposals are helpful and will be further considered in the context of the preparation of these regulations when the Bill is enacted.

A number of issues which the commission raises, such as the lack of a policing presence, problems of police numbers, responsive policing, embedding policing within the community and supplementing the gardaí are the sort of issues which I would see the joint policing committees dealing with. Addressing these issues will require a partnership approach. I believe in maximising the input of local authorities in matters which impact on crime and anti-social behaviour, such [127]as by-laws, design of housing, public spaces, public lighting, estate management and getting the balance right in mixing social and affordable housing and avoiding ghettoisation in communities.

I am in favour of the commission’s recommendation that in areas with distinctive policing needs, community safety fora are set up, with as wide a membership as necessary, to develop and implement local crime reduction strategies. I have provided in the Garda Síochána Bill for the establishment by a joint policing committee within specific neighbourhoods of local policing fora to discuss and make recommendations to the committee as they affect those neighbourhoods.

Some of the commission’s recommendations, such as the development of community policing fora, the extension of the pilot drug court and the integration of the Government’s policy on drugs and alcohol, are being examined in the context of the mid-term review of the Government’s national drugs strategy 2001-2008.

With regard to the commission’s recommendation that community safety personnel with powers appropriate for dealing with low-level disorder be established, provision is made in the Garda Bill for the recruitment of volunteer reserve Garda members who will have the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as members of the rank of Garda. Furthermore, on foot of the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government to examine the potential of the community warden service to enforce new and existing functions so as to release gardaí to operational duties, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government established wardens in five pilot areas. The pilot will be in place until the beginning of next year, so as to allow for negotiations on how to integrate the service into the outdoor activities of local authorities and for best practice in the pilot areas to be shared among all local authorities.

The issue of community policing is central to the development of co-operation between the Garda Síochána, local authorities and local communities. With regard to the commission’s recommendations regarding community policing, the Deputy will be aware that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights recently invited written submissions on community policing from interested parties and held hearings, and I look forward to its report with interest.

The commission recommends that a problem-solving court in the Dublin District Courts to deal with low-level crime be piloted. The concept of community courts, to which this recommendation is similar, is receiving ongoing consideration in my Department. Officials have met the director of the New York based Centre for Court Innovation, the body responsible for the development of the Midtown Community Court referred to in the report. As the report recognises, the concept has some similarities with the pilot drug court [128]programme which was launched in the Dublin District Court in 2001. Dublin’s north inner city was chosen as the location from which to operate the pilot drug court. The project has been evaluated by consultants, who recommended that the pilot project be extended and the catchment area be widened. I welcomed the recommendations of the consultancy report and support the extension of the drug court to the catchment area proposed. Further evaluation of the operation of the court in the extended area will be carried out by the Courts Service shortly, after which a decision can be taken in relation to its further expansion.

The commission recommends the extension of the use of the temporary closure order against premises found guilty of offences under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000. That Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 provide for a compulsory temporary closure order in the case of convictions for the supply of intoxicating liquor to under-age persons and for a range of behaviour, including permitting drunkenness and disorderly conduct. I am not at present convinced that an extension of these strong provisions is necessary to combat public disorder, but if it does become necessary I will do so.

The commission makes a number of recommendations on the control of liquor licenses. Matters regarding the availability of liquor licences and procedures for obtaining them will be dealt with in the liquor licensing codification Bill which I will present later this year. The Bill will make a number of proposals as regards planning and consequently the role of the local authorities. I would urge local authorities to support and implement these proposals.

As regards the current role of local authorities, I would point out that section 11 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 already gives local authorities a new role in relation to the duration of special exemption orders. It allows them to adopt a resolution, following consultation with relevant interests, regarding the duration of such orders in their areas and the District Court is then required to have regard to any such resolution in relation to applications for special exemption orders in the area concerned. However, despite the frequently expressed concerns of local authorities regarding public disorder and other issues, it appears that no local authority has actually availed of this provision to date.

The commission recommends a public information campaign directed against anti-social behaviour. I share the concern about incidences of anti-social behaviour in society. I therefore have in mind to provide for anti-social behaviour orders in the current Criminal Justice Bill. The gardaí could be able to apply to the courts by way of civil procedure for an anti-social behaviour order which would prohibit any person from the age of ten years upwards from behaving in the offending way. Such an order could last for up to two years, but it could be altered or discharged on application to the court. Although the order would be a civil order, breach of the order would [129]be a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment or both. There would be provision for an appeal against the making of an order.

  80.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the action he proposes to take in view of the growing level of alcohol abuse among young people and the links between this and assaults and murders here; if a comprehensive programme in which co-operation between his Department and other Departments such as the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism will actively work together to reduce the central role given to alcohol in socialising by young people in particular. [10151/05]

  130.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the plans he has to implement new strategies on a cross-departmental level to address the issue of under age drinking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10248/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 130 together.

The position is that while I have general responsibility for the liquor licensing system in my capacity as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, several other Ministers, and their respective Departments, have responsibilities in relation to particular aspects. For example, the Minister for Health and Children has responsibility for public health policies, while road safety legislation comes within the ambit of the Minister for Transport.

The intoxicating liquor legislation for which I have overall responsibility is essentially concerned with the number and nature of licensed outlets and the persons who may hold licences, as well as the times at which, and the persons to whom, intoxicating liquor may be supplied.

As regards consultation and co-operation with other Ministers and their Departments, the position is that I and my Department have worked with the relevant Ministers and their Departments as part of the process of preparing proposals to amend and reform the licensing laws. Extensive consultations took place, for example, during the preparation and drafting of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 which contains measures aimed at combating drunkenness and disorderly conduct and tackling the problem of under-age and binge drinking.

The provisions in the 2003 Act, which gave effect to certain recommendations of the commission on liquor licensing and the strategic task force on alcohol, include a strengthening of the provisions prohibiting the sale or delivery of alcohol to persons under the age of 18; restrictions on the presence of persons under the age of 18 in bars of licensed premises, and a new requirement that persons aged 18 to 20 must carry an ‘age document’ in order to be in the bar [130]of licensed premises after 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the period from 1 May to 30 September.

I should add that the Government legislation programme makes provision for the publication of an Intoxicating Liquor Bill later this year. It will repeal the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004 as well as liquor licensing provisions in other statutes — about 100 statutes in total — and replace them with updated provisions geared to modern conditions. During the process of preparing this Bill, my Department has been consulting widely with other relevant Departments and statutory bodies. I have also consulted with the other Ministers who have responsibilities in this area. Subject to the approval of the Government for its drafting, I intend to publish shortly details of the proposals which will be included in the Bill.

In relation to murder and manslaughter, I would inform the Deputy that there were 45 such incidents in 2004, the lowest recorded number in ten years. I would further inform the Deputy that Ireland has one of the lowest rates of murder in Europe.

In relation to assault causing harm, I would advise the Deputy that there was a reduction of 21% in assault causing harm in 2003 compared to 2002 and a reduction of 1% in assault causing harm in 2004 compared with 2003. This trend has continued in 2005 with a 15% reduction in assaults causing harm in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

  81.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his attention has been drawn to the outcome of two recent inquests relating to the deaths of two persons; if he will make urgent changes to the Coroners Act in view of the case of a person (details supplied); his views on whether the Coroners Act is adequate to deal with the proper evaluation of the situation; his further views on whether urgent reform of the Coroners Act is necessary to address this situation before there are further fatalities; the steps being taken to address the serious risk to public health which exists from such deficiencies in the Act; and the progress being made towards reform of the Act. [10894/05]

  96.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress which has been made in implementing the report of the working group on the coroner service published in December 2000; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties created for coroners by the lack of appropriate penalties for those who refuse to attend when summonsed to attend inquests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10795/05]

  137.  Mr. English    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason for the delay in implementing the recommendations of the report of the working group on the coroner service, published in 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10891/05]

[131]

  743.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on whether €6.35 is a grossly inadequate penalty for persons who refuse to attend a coroner’s court when summonsed to do so; his further views on whether there is a need for urgent reform of the Coroners Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10759/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 96, 137 and 743 together.

I take this opportunity to express my condolences to the family of the deceased person referred to in these questions.

The report of the coroners review group published in December 2000 recommended a comprehensive overhaul and modernisation of the coroners service in Ireland, with regard to the legislation governing the work of coroners, the support services available to coroners and the structural organisation of the coroner service.

In keeping with the commitment in the Government legislation programme, it is my intention to shortly bring to Government detailed proposals providing for that comprehensive reform. The proposed new coroners Bill will seek to address all of the issues highlighted by the review as well as taking account of any significant developments since then. Necessary consultations, including consultations with the Coroners Society of Ireland, are ongoing. I can confirm that increased sanctions for those who refuse to co-operate with an inquest, the ending of the restriction on the number of medical and other witnesses and a more coherent statement of the scope of the provisions for mandatory inquests will form part of my proposals for a Bill.

However, regulation generally of medical practice and persons engaged in para-medical activities does not come within the area of responsibility of my Department and is not a subject for coroners legislation.

  82.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the action he intends to take to deal with vandalism and anti-social behaviour which is causing major problems in many communities with families harassed and property vandalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10794/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I can assure the Deputy that strong provisions have already been put in place to combat the causes of public disorder and anti-social behaviour countrywide. Reductions in violence and public order offences have followed the enactment, during 2003, of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act, which give significant additional powers to the gardaí to deal with public order and street crime.

One of the main strategic goals of the Garda Síochána is ensuring public safety by reducing the [132]incidence of public disorder and anti-social behaviour.

I am pleased to note a reduction of 21% in assault causing harm in 2003 compared to 2002 and a reduction of 1% in assault causing harm in 2004 compared with 2003. This trend has continued in 2005 with a 15% reduction in assaults causing harm in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. The reduction in the number of offences in this category reflects an improving public order situation and a curbing of some of the excesses in the abuse of alcohol. An improving public order situation is to be welcomed by all those concerned with the preservation and maintenance of law and order.

However, I am taking a number of initiatives to strengthen the powers available to the Garda Síochána to combat anti-social behaviour. I have proposed a fixed charge procedure in relation to certain public order offences in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which is currently awaiting Second Stage in the Dáil. Section 29 of the Bill amends the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to provide for a fixed penalty procedure in relation to certain public order offences under that Act. The procedure will apply to an offence under section 4 — intoxication in public place — and section 5 — disorderly conduct in a public place. It is intended that the fixed penalty procedure will be an alternative to criminal proceedings being taken in the first instance.

In general, section 29 provides that a member of the Garda Síochána who has reasonable grounds for believing that a person who is not less than 18 years old is committing, or has committed, an offence under section 4 or section 5 of the 1994 Act may serve on the person personally or by post a fixed charge notice. In default of payment the person will be prosecuted for the offence.

I am concerned that people, particularly the elderly, feel threatened by forms of harassment which of themselves may not be criminal offences but which may cause distress. I intend to include in the Criminal Justice Bill a provision which will empower the gardaí to apply to the courts, by way of civil procedure, for an anti-social behaviour order which would expand the court to deal with the matter as it sees fit.

Last September, I relaunched the Crimestoppers initiative which is an imaginative partnership between the gardaí, the business community and the community which has been in place for a number of years. It operates a confidential freephone Crimestoppers number which is available to the public to alert the gardaí about crime or suspicious activity and to offer information in relation to ongoing Garda investigations. The confidential number is staffed by specially trained gardaí who are able to assess the value of the information being offered in the battle against crime. Crimestoppers is providing funding for the CrimeCall RTE programme which is a proven effective method of identifying the perpetrators of crime based on the assistance of the public.

[133]Garda youth diversion projects are funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. They are a crime prevention initiative designed to engage with young people who have been identified as being at risk of involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour. Each project is managed by a multi-agency and community based committee, which is responsible for the strategic direction of the project.

As the Deputy will be aware, this year I succeeded in securing an all-time historic high level of funding for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and its associated agencies. The gardaí, the courts and the prisons, together with the Department itself, have never been better resourced or equipped. This funding will enable a number of key public policy initiatives to go ahead next year. Included in these are the recruitment of additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force by 2000 within two years bringing its total complement to 14,000.

Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic law enforcement duties. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

This Government is strongly committed to the reduction and prevention of crime through strong and effective crime prevention methods. However, I cannot stress enough that while legislative measures can help to curtail the problem of anti-social behaviour, they cannot be viewed as the only solution. In reality it falls on all those with an interest in this area to play their role in helping to address the problem of anti-social behaviour.

  83.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has raised or will raise the issue of the strong evidence of British security forces collusion in the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton. [10852/05]

  101.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will raise with the British authorities the lack of full co-operation from the PSNI in relation to the reinvestigation of the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton. [10850/05]

  106.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on whether the murder of an Irish elected representative, Donegal County Councillor Mr. Eddie Fullerton, demands a full public inquiry. [10851/05]

[134]

  109.  Mr. Crowe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the questions regarding the Garda investigation into the murder of Donegal County Councillor Mr. Eddie Fullerton arising out of the TG4 documentary, Fullerton; including the failure to question suspects and a key witness. [10849/05]

  110.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has received a report from the Garda Síochána regarding the re-examination of the Garda investigation into the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton which was completed in 2004; if not, the reason for the delay; if so, when he intends to publish its contents. [10853/05]

  757.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the opinion of the British Labour MP and former spokesperson on Northern Ireland, Kevin McNamara, that the matter of the murder of Mr. Eddie Fullerton should be vigorously pursued by both the RUC and the gardaí and not left to gather dust, in view of the claim made in a TG4 documentary that the Garda Síochána’s attention had not been drawn to the existence of a key witness until recently, and that even after having completed their re-examination, the gardaí still do not know the identity of the garda whom the witness claimed he met; and the steps he plans to take in this regard. [10908/05]

  758.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he received a report from the Garda Síochána in relation to the re-examination carried out by the gardaí at his behest into the Garda original investigation of the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton; and if so, when he intends to publish its contents. [10909/05]

  759.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has not received a report on the matter of the murder of Mr. Eddie Fullerton, considering the recently aired TG4 documentary on the matter stated that the Fullerton family had been informed last year that the gardaí had completed their re-examination; and the reason for this delay. [10910/05]

  760.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the claim made by a documentary by TG4 that Garda sources had informed it that the gardaí were not receiving full co-operation from the PSNI in relation to the inquiry into the case of Mr. Eddie Fullerton; and when he will raise this matter with the British authorities. [10911/05]

  761.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    when he intends to raise the case of Mr. Eddie Fullerton with the British Government. [10912/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions [135]Nos. 83, 101, 106, 109, 110 and 757 to 761, inclusive, together.

I would first like to state unequivocally my abhorrence at the murder of Mr. Eddie Fullerton, then Sinn Féin councillor on Donegal County Council, on the morning of 25 May 1991. The attack was callous and cold-blooded, and it also involved the taking hostage of another family in Buncrana. The so-called Ulster Freedom Fighters subsequently claimed responsibility for the murder. Unfortunately, to date, no person has been made amenable for this appalling crime.

In June 2003, solicitors acting on behalf of the family of the late Mr. Fullerton submitted to me what was described as a ‘preliminary memorandum’ setting out the concerns of the family in relation to the murder and the ensuing investigations and calling for an inquiry into the matter. These concerns had, to some extent, already been raised directly with the Garda Síochána in April 2002.

In any event, I referred the submitted memorandum to the Garda Commissioner. In response, the Commissioner directed the establishment of a review team led by a chief superintendent to conduct a thorough and concise investigation into all matters of concern raised, inter alia, either directly with the Garda authorities or as part of the memorandum submitted by the Fullerton family’s solicitors.

The Garda review is drawing to a conclusion. Outstanding matters relate to the awaited results of a mutual assistance request to the British authorities and certain police-to-police inquiries with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

I am recently in receipt of a report from the Garda authorities on the current, incomplete status of the review. However, no final conclusions can be drawn until such time as replies from the British and Northern Ireland authorities are received, evaluated and acted upon, as appropriate, by the Garda Síochána. Nevertheless, I can state that the Garda review itself was extensive, involving the taking of more than 150 statements and the interview of more than 120 people, including a person characterised by the Fullerton family’s solicitors as being a new, key witness.

I do not intend to publish the Garda report which I recently received. However, as soon as all outstanding matters are clarified by the Garda Síochána upon the receipt of responses from the British and Northern Ireland authorities, I have already undertaken to contact the Fullerton family’s solicitors with a full response to their concerns, including any action that I deem appropriate or necessary by way of further investigation or inquiry.

I should add that I have no reason to believe — nor have I received any indication — that either the British or Northern Ireland authorities [136]have failed or will fail to co-operate with the requests made of them.

It should be noted that the Garda chief superintendent in charge of the review met the Fullerton family and their solicitors last December to provide them with an up-to-date briefing on developments with the review.

  84.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has plans to review the practice of providing members of the Garda Síochána as full-time drivers for Government Ministers, former Ministers and judicial figures in view of the significant commitment of Garda personnel required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10785/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  Ministerial State cars are placed at the disposal of Government Ministers and others pursuant to a long standing arrangement and are supplied to the following: Taoiseach; Tánaiste; 13 Government Ministers; President; Chief Whip; Ceann Comhairle; Attorney General; Director of Public Prosecutions; Chief Justice; and former Taoisigh and Presidents.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there are currently 73 gardaí attached to the ministerial pool of which 56 are allocated on a full-time basis as drivers for the ministerial fleet. The remaining 17 gardaí are on a relief panel and cover periods of absences through annual leave and illness.

These drivers are tasked with providing close personal protection to Government Ministers and other designated protected VIP’s, in addition to their driving duties. There are currently no plans to replace them with civilian drivers.

  85.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the assistance the Government intends to offer the survivors and relatives of the Omagh bombing in pursuit of justice through the civil courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10791/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I can assure the Deputy that the Government and I remain willing to assist the survivors and relatives of the Omagh bombing with their civil action to the greatest extent possible, in accordance with law.

In particular, I have agreed that the costs associated with accommodation and security in relation to the taking of evidence on commission in this jurisdiction will be met by the Irish Government. The details will be worked out between the Courts Service and the relevant court in Northern Ireland.

[137]In so far as the funding of the civil action is concerned, I would remind the Deputy that this civil action has been initiated in another jurisdiction and is already being substantially funded by the British Government. I believe it would be inappropriate for additional funding to be made available from this jurisdiction.

  86.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the main functions of the new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime; the budget and staffing arrangement for the new commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10774/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime has as its terms of reference to: (a) devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future; and (b) disburse funding for victim support measures.

The commission’s term of office will be for three years and its members are: Mr. Jim Mc Hugh, retired Assistant Commissioner, the Gárda Síochána — chairman; Ms Nora Owen, former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Mr. Sean Lowry, former head of the probation and welfare service; Mr. Michael Whelan, Gemini Consulting; and Ms Marian Finucane, broadcaster.

The commission’s remit includes the examination of all aspects of the provision of services for victims of crime. These services are currently set out in the Victims’ Charter, published in 1999, and the commission will undertake a review of [138]the charter. The commission will also have regard in the course of its work to the EU framework decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings (2001), and other international advances in relation to provision of services for victims of crime.

In addition, the commission will supervise the disbursement of funds to community and other voluntary groups providing victim services, with a particular emphasis on the funding of activities on the ground that provide direct supports for victims of crime. An applications process has been initiated in respect of this funding, and almost 100 expressions of interest have been received after a public advertisement in March.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will provide administrative support for the commission. Its budget will be of the order of €0.75 million in 2005.

  87.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of applications for asylum received during 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; the number of applications approved by the refugee appeals commission; the number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number of such appeals upheld; the number of applications for leave to remain and the number of such applications granted; the number of deportation orders made and the number of such deportations carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10761/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The information requested is contained in tabular format set out below.

Table 1: Number of applications for asylum received and the number of recommendations by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner* to grant Refugee Status (at first instance) in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005**.

2002 2003 2004 2005*
No. of applications received 11,634 7,900 4,766 1,259
No. of recommendations to grant refugee status (at first instance)*** 893 345 430 94

Table 2: Number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number upheld (at appeal stage) in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005*.

2002 2003 2004 2005*
No. of appeals received** 5,157 5,015 4,810 1,138
No. of appeals upheld (granted refugee status)** 1,099 832 708 143

[139]Table 3: Number of Deportation Orders Signed and Number Effected in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005*.

2002 2003 2004 2005*
No. of Deportation Orders signed 2,430 2,411 2,915** 440**
No. of Deportation Orders effected** 521 590 599*** 74***

Table 4: Number of Applications for Leave to Remain received from current or former asylum applicants

2002 2003 2004 2005*
No. of applications received 6,887 1,272 269** 73**

Table 5: Number of Applications granted for Leave to Remain

2002 2003 2004 2005*
Parentage of Irish Born Child 3,113 172 0 **
Marriage to an Irish National 86 132 144 30
Dependent of EU Citizen 138 77 112 25
Other Grounds 158 86 175 15
Total 3,495 467 431 70

Table 6: Number of Applications for permission to remain made by the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January 2005, and the number of such applications granted permission to remain.

2005
No. of Applications for permission to remain made by the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January, 2005* 17,648
No. of Applications for permission to remain granted** 3,663

  88.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his plan of action to tackle the crisis in child care services. [5536/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I reject the Deputy’s assertion that there is a crisis in child care services. As the Deputy will be aware, there have been significant improvements in the provision of supports for the development of child care over the last number of years as the Government took steps to develop a child care infrastructure in Ireland by assisting the voluntary community sector and the private sector to develop capacity in the child care area. This Government has brought investment in child [140]care in Ireland from a benchmark of approximately €1 million per annum to €499 million for a seven year strategy.

Child care was identified as an investment priority under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. This was in direct response to the recommendations of the expert working group on child care established under Partnership 2000 to develop a strategy for the development and delivery of child care to support parents in employment, education and training.

My Department has been designated as the lead Department with respect to the development of child care to meet the needs of parents in employment, education and training. The programme for Government, and the progress of my Department’s equal opportunities childcare prog[141]ramme, are confirmation of the Government’s commitment to developing child care services and to remaining focused on child care issues.

The current seven year equal opportunities child care programme, EOCP, has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities to address the needs of parents, in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, education and training. The EOCP 2000-2006 aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 55%, some 31,372 places, by programme end. It also aims to provide support and assistance to the many childminders who are providing a childcare service across the country. The programme also encompasses many quality issues which were identified in the childcare strategy, and aims to ensure that there is co-ordination in the delivery of child care services nationwide.

Since its inception in 2000, the funding for the programme has increased from €318 million to €499.3 million or by 57%, the most recent increase being €50 million in budget 2005. The multi-annual capital envelopes announced on budget day include increases that will give an increase of €50 million in the availability of capital under the 2000-06 phase and also the injection of a further €40 million in additional capital funding into child care between 2006 and 2009.

Total funding committed under the EOCP in the period to the end of March 2005 amounts to €347.8 million, of which €292.2 million has been allocated to child care facilities and €54.7 million to quality improvement measures. It is projected that this will create some 36,000 new child care places, and will support over 30,200 existing places. By the end of 2004 over 24,600 of these new child care places were already in place. A significant part of the remaining funding will be required for continuing support to existing projects and for the provision of capital grant assistance for the development of child care facilities in areas where there are gaps in service provision.

The above measures relate to the supply of quality child care, but I would also like to draw the Deputy’s attention to Government policy in the area of child benefit which aims to provide assistance to parents in paying for child care in whatever care options their parents choose for them. In the 2005 budget, this benefit was increased by €10 to €141.60 per month, per child, for the first two children and by €12 to €177.30 per month for the third and each subsequent child, from April 2005. Effectively since 1997, child benefit has almost quadrupled. This clearly indicates the Government’s commitment to assisting all parents in relation to the care of their children irrespective of income and employment status.

  89.  Mr. Costello    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position regarding his consideration of the recommendations of the [142]legal advisory group on the defamation law, particularly in regard to the proposals for the establishment of a statutory press council; when he intends to bring proposals on this matter to Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10760/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I intend to bring forward proposals for the reform of the law on defamation to the Government in the near future on completion of the extensive consultations in which I have engaged on the matter.

  90.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the unilateral decision of the Spanish Government to validate over 500,000 illegal immigrants in Spain; if any consultation took place with the Irish Government before the decision was taken; his views on whether there is a need for a unified EU approach to immigration policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8062/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  In January of this year the Spanish Government announced a regularisation programme for illegal migrants living in Spain. The programme which began on 7 February 2005 will run for three months to 7 May. While it is expected that there will be significant numbers involved it is not possible to obtain final numbers as the programme is still ongoing.

The Irish Government was not consulted prior to the announcement of this decision and I am not aware of any prior consultation with other EU members.

In recent times there have been discussions at EU level concerning the setting up of a system of mutual information and early warning on important decisions to be taken in member states between those responsible for migration and asylum policies. It is expected that the Justice and Home Affairs Council will shortly adopt conclusions on such a system for the future.

My views on whether there is a need for a unified EU approach to immigration policy is that we should be wary of harmonisation for its own sake. Member states are at different stages of migration development and the economic situations are diverse. For example, the unemployment rates vary widely between member states.

While Article III — 267 of the draft constitutional treaty states that “the Union shall develop a common immigration policy aimed at ensuring, at all stages, the efficient management of migration flows and fair treatment of third country nationals residing legally in Member States”, it also adds that this “shall not affect the right of member states to determine volumes of admission of third-country nationals coming from third countries to their territory in order to seek work, whether employed or self employed”.

[143]Question No. 91 answered with Question
No. 70.

  92.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress made to date towards implementing the recommendations of the report of the NESF, published in 2002, on the reintegration of prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10786/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As the Deputy may be aware, the NESF itself has, in November 2004, presented a report to the Taoiseach entitled Fourth Periodic Report on the Work of the NESF, which the forum had prepared for the purpose of reviewing implementation and follow-through, mainly by Government Departments and State agencies, on several particular reports it had undertaken and submitted over the period 2001-03 and including its January 2002 Forum Report on the Re-integration of Prisoners. In compiling this periodic report the NESF had available to it a detailed and comprehensive update on progress in implementing the various recommendations in the 2002 report, as advanced by my Department, the Irish Prison Service, the probation and welfare service, and other agencies in the criminal justice sphere.

In setting its conclusions in its fourth periodic report, the NESF welcomed the progress made in implementing the main thrust of its 2002 report. The NESF had, in particular, noted a number of encouraging steps including the establishment of the Irish Prison Service’s regimes directorate with a dedicated director of regimes as an important first step in rebalancing the custodial and care-rehabilitations functions of the service and the establishment in prisons, in partnership with the probation and welfare service, of initiatives in outreach and inreach services to improve prisoner reintegration. These initiatives have included in-reach initiatives providing advice, referral and support to prisoners on housing, including local authority, private rented and transitional, training and employment, income maintenance, and general social welfare. In the particular context of social welfare, the probation and welfare service has contributed to the information booklet ‘What Now?’ published by the Department of Social and Community Affairs, and is continuing to develop information and resources to assist prisoners on release from custody through its network of 74 funded community and voluntary projects and initiatives throughout Ireland.

The probation and welfare service has, in conjunction with local communities, funded and fostered the two significant restorative justice initiatives for offenders before courts: restorative justice services in Tallaght, County Dublin, and Nenagh Reparation Project in County Tipperary. Under the Children Act 2001 the probation and welfare service also convenes family conferences [144]which are directed by the court where it considers that the preparation of an action plan would be desirable in an individual case.

The NESF fourth periodic report also recognises the establishment of HOST, homeless offenders strategy team, as a notable contribution to the development of the necessary implementation and supportive structure. HOST is a probation and welfare service led multi-agency unit established to address homelessness among offenders. A senior official from Dublin City Council is seconded to HOST, with the support of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Since its establishment in 2002 on foot of the homeless preventative strategy, HOST works at a national level to prevent and minimise homelessness among offenders and to improve access to accommodation by offenders. The work of HOST is informed by Government strategy on adult and youth homelessness.

Among other positive advances noted by the NESF were the inclusion of prisoner integration in future prison business plans and the inclusion of prisoners in social inclusion strategies, such as the national anti-poverty strategy, and developments in relation to meeting the accommodation needs of prisoners on release.

The probation and welfare service has funded and commissioned major research on prisoner homelessness. This research, carried out by the Centre for Social and Educational Research at the Dublin Institute of Technology, tracked the progression of a sample of offenders in Dublin through the courts and prison, with particular reference to accommodation issues facing them. The research, which will be published shortly, will make a valuable contribution to the planning and provision of services in this area.

The Irish Prison Service have taken on board the suggestion made in the fourth periodic report that the option for a pilot positive sentence management project be explored and this approach is being actively reviewed at present in the Irish Prison Service.

I welcome the NESF’s broad conclusion that the essential foundation work is nearing completion,in consequence of which the pace of progress will increase and positive sentence management will become a reality. My Department will continue to advance the relevant recommendations of the NESF report No. 22 regarding the effective reintegration of prisoners, in partnership with the Irish Prison Service, the probation and welfare service and other services, agencies and community groups.

  93.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if the promised Garda liaison officer to go through investigation files with the families of car-bombing and shooting victims in the State has been [145]appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10776/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that Assistant Commissioner Martin Callinan, Garda national support services, has been appointed by the Garda Commissioner to be the liaison officer to the families.

  94.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his attention has been drawn to the recent decision of the AGSI to withdraw co-operation from the North-South policing protocol that allows for members of the Garda Síochána to be seconded to the PSNI and vice versa; if, in view of the implications of the decision, he intends to have discussions with the AGSI on the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10793/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I am pleased to have this opportunity to inform the Deputy that the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI recently signed protocols which provide for the implementation of a programme of personnel exchanges and secondments between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The signing of these protocols is clear evidence of the continued commitment of both Irish and British Governments to the successful implementation of the intergovernmental agreement on police co-operation and, in turn, to the implementation of the recommendations of the Patten commission.

Secondments will enable members of each police service to be seconded with full police powers to the other police service for periods not exceeding three years. Legislation is already in place in both jurisdictions to enable these secondments to now proceed.

Personnel exchanges will result in a programme of placements to enable the transfer of experience and expertise, particularly in the area of training.

The implementation of these protocols will take co-operation between the two police forces to a new level and will bring benefits to both jurisdictions in the form of improved effectiveness in crime prevention and detection. In addition, the implementation of these protocols will provide a two-way flow of experience and expertise which will enhance policing standards in both organisations.

The payment of allowances to members of the Garda Síochána who participate in personnel exchanges or secondments is the subject of ongoing discussions at the Garda Síochána Conciliation Council. For the record, I should say that I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has not informed them that they will refuse to co-[146]operate with the implementation of the above protocols.

  95.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on his reported statement that the immigration system could not be run on arbitrary sentimentality; his policy in ensuring that the immigration policy, especially in regard to deportation, is informed by a humane and compassionate approach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10766/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  Under the law as set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, I am obliged to take humanitarian considerations into account in determining whether or not a deportation order should be made. The question of disregarding such considerations, therefore, does not arise.

I am also obliged to take into account a range of other factors, including the common good. As the Supreme Court has stated the common good may have a bearing on an individual case even though there is nothing known or relied on which reflects badly on the individual concerned. Specifically, the Minister is entitled to have regard to the State’s general policy in relation to immigrants and asylum seekers; the jurisprudence on the same subject as it evolves; the volume of persons seeking asylum and the social and economic demands which this imposes; changing patterns in this volume; the matters he is required by statute to consider; the constitutional rights of all persons concerned; and the requirement of a coherent and efficient immigration and asylum system and to our international obligations.

Thus, while humanitarian considerations, which arise in almost all cases, must be taken into account, they are not the only considerations.

Question No. 96 answered with Question
No. 81.

  97.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of projects in the equal opportunities childcare programme which have progressed to sustainability since the beginning of the programme; the number of projects expected to progress to sustainability after the initial three year staffing grant; the number expected to require ongoing support; the number of projects which are delivering their agreed targets of child care service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10888/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The current seven year Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, EOCP, 2000-2006 has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities [147]to address the needs of parents, in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, education and training.

The EOCP aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 55%, some 31,372 places, by programme end. It also aims to provide support and assistance to the many childminders who are providing a child care service across the country. In addition, the programme encompasses many quality issues which were identified in the child care strategy, and aims to ensure that there is co-ordination in the delivery of child care services nationwide.

Total funding committed under the EOCP in the period to the end of March 2005 amounts to €347.8 million, of which €292.2 million has been allocated to child care facilities and €54.7 million to quality improvement measures. It is projected that this will create some 36,000 new child care places, and will support over 30,200 existing places. By the end of 2004 over 24,600 of these new child care places were already in place. A significant part of the remaining funding will be required for continuing support to existing projects and for the provision of capital grant assistance for the development of child care facilities in areas where there are gaps in service provision.

Staffing funding under the EOCP is only made available to help support the staffing costs of those community based-not for profit projects which can demonstrate that they are providing child care in areas of significant disadvantage and that they are supporting disadvantaged parents to access employment, education or training. It is not intended that EOCP funding will meet the full costs of running a service.

Over 800 community based not for profit groups receive ongoing staffing grant assistance, with over €30 million of EU and Exchequer funding going to this measure each year. It was originally envisaged that some groups would receive such funding for a period of three years, as they move towards sustainability which would normally be achievable when the service is operating at full capacity and with an appropriate fee structure.

In a number of services, the levels of disadvantage among parents are such that the families would be unable to pay economic fees and therefore those services are likely to require ongoing State support towards their staffing costs. Supporting such services is particularly important in assisting families to break the cycle of disadvantage.

The Deputy may be aware that I have approved the existing levels of staffing grant assistance until 31 August 2005, for all groups whose first three year funding had elapsed. These groups have been informed of my decision and that this funding is subject to maintaining their forecast levels of service and implementing any conditions associated with the development of the service in relation to previous grant [148]approvals. The amounts awarded are deemed sufficient to enable the groups to maintain their approved level of service.

My Department is currently reviewing arrangements for the ongoing support of services in cases where they will have received staffing grant assistance for three or more years at any date prior to 31 August 2005. Included in the review will be an analysis of the number of services expected to require ongoing support; the number of projects which are delivering on their agreed targets; and the progress made by groups towards sustainability. When this review is completed, I expect to be in a position to take firm decisions regarding future funding arrangements. Information regarding the introduction of these new arrangements will be forwarded to the relevant groups as soon as it is available.

  98.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position in relation to having the replacement of Buncrana Garda station advanced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10249/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to her parliamentary question — ref. 8943/05 — on 22 March 2005 when I specified the various proposals being considered by the Garda authorities in relation to this station. I am advised by the Garda authorities that these proposals are still under consideration.

  99.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his proposals for electronic tagging for certain offences; the research his Department has done to establish the effectiveness of such a procedure; if his attention has been drawn to a report of the system in Canada that found that electronic monitoring had no effect on recidivism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10780/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 107 and 222 of 16 February 2005, the use of electronic tagging systems to monitor offenders in other jurisdictions is an issue which my Department has kept under review for some time. My Department has looked at the experience of a number of countries in the operation of these systems. These include the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Sweden and Australia. In addition, my Department is aware of the experience in Canada as outlined in the report referred to by the Deputy.

As I have explained in my previous replies to the House on this matter, difficulties have been encountered in other jurisdictions in developing fully effective electronic tagging systems, but [149]recent developments in technology may provide solutions to these.

These developments are now being considered by my Department, in consultation with the prison and probation and welfare services, with a view to drawing up an enabling legislative provision to allow me to introduce electronic tagging in appropriate cases when the technology has advanced sufficiently. It is my intention to bring forward this proposal by way of an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which is currently on Second Stage in the Dáil. Details of the proposal will be announced in the normal way.

  100.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons in respect of whom deportation orders have been signed but who have not yet been deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10764/05]

  712.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of deportation orders issued since June 2002; the number of deportations carried out; the number of deportation orders which have failed to be executed; and the number of deportations pending. [10517/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 712 together.

A total of 11,270 deportation orders have been made under the Immigration Act 1999 since its commencement in November 1999. Of these, 2,268 deportation orders have been effected to date — 1,546 in the period 1 June 2002 to 31 March 2005 — and approximately 100 cases are with the Garda national immigration bureau for arrangements to be made for their removal from the State. The majority of these have been carried out using scheduled commercial flights on numerous dates throughout the period in question.

The balance of the orders have not been effected for various reasons. Approximately 6,000 persons are evading deportation. It is not known how many of these are still in the State but it is believed by the Garda national immigration bureau that a large number of these have already left of their own accord.

The remaining orders have not been effected because, variously: they have been revoked or have not been acted upon because of changed personal or legal circumstances, for example, the persons may have married an Irish national; they may have acquired residency rights by virtue of being a parent of an Irish born child; they may have been nationals of the ten states which joined the EU in May 2004; they may have initiated judicial review proceedings challenging the deportation orders; or the return of the persons concerned may have to be negotiated with their country of origin.

[150]Question No. 101 answered with Question
No. 83.

  102.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress made to date with regard to the recommendations contained in the report of the implementation steering group on the review of Garda Síochána structures; if he is considering proposals for the full closure of some stations and the closure of others during night hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10782/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have no plans to reduce opening hours or close any Garda station.

The use of Garda stations was considered as part of the major review of the Garda organisation structures under the strategic management initiative programme of modernisation which looked in detail at a range of areas within the organisation. The Garda SMI implementation steering group’s final report, which I have laid before the House and which is available on my Department’s website and from the Government Publications Office, does not refer to the closure of any specific Garda station but rather makes recommendations to assist policy making in respect of the management and use of all available resources, including Garda stations.

It is also the case, however, that the position has changed significantly since the consideration of these issues under the strategic management initiative in that the Garda Síochána Bill 2004, which proposes the most fundamental modernisation of the Garda Síochána since the foundation of the State, provides that the Commissioner will have enhanced responsibilities in preparing proposals for organisational reform. It would be premature to anticipate at this stage what proposals, if any, might be developed by the Commissioner in this context.

  103.  Mr. M. Higgins    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the steps which are taken by this country to meet the commitment contained in the readmission agreement between Ireland and Nigeria regarding deportations to safeguard the human rights and dignity of those returned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10768/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on immigration matters, which was signed at Abuja on 29 August 2001 provides, inter alia, for a mechanism for the repatriation of persons between the two states. Article 20 of the agreement provides that nationals of the contracting states shall not be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment in relation to repatriations carried out under the [151]agreement. The agreement also provides guarantees in relation to access by embassy officials of the receiving state to the intended deportees in order, inter alia, to verify the identity of the persons concerned.

While procedures to give effect to the agreement have been completed in Ireland the process of ratification is still ongoing on the Nigerian side. Nonetheless, the Nigerian authorities are operating the spirit of the agreement. I am satisfied that all deportation operations to Nigeria fully respect the human rights of the persons involved and that the agreement is being honoured in every way.

It should be further noted that the making of a deportation order is subject to section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which absolutely forbids the sending of a person “in any manner whatsoever” to a place where the life or freedom of the person would be threatened on account of that person’s race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This overarching principle is the bedrock of Ireland’s repatriation framework and exists independently of the provisions of any repatriation agreement to which the State becomes a party.

  104.  Mr. M. Higgins    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his attention has been drawn to serious concerns expressed by teacher unions at a number of recent reported cases in which members of the Garda were reported to have entered schools in an attempt to execute deportation orders in respect of children attending such schools; if he intends to ensure that this practice is halted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10767/05]

  733.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the persons who ordered Garda snatch squads into classrooms to remove non-national children from schools for later deportation; and if this barbaric practice will end immediately. [10712/05]

  772.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform,    further to correspondence (details supplied), if he will take steps to ensure that the situation is never repeated again, whereby gardaí enter schools to secure deportations, particularly when there is a self-evident need for sensitivity around the issue and when there are other children involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11010/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 733 and 772 together.

I am in receipt of correspondence concerning this matter from a number of sources, including the vice-principal of the school concerned and the joint managerial body of the Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools.

[152]I should first point out that Garda Síochána is tasked with the execution of deportation orders. In enforcing these orders, it is a priority, as far as operationally possible, that family units which are the subject of such orders are not broken up in the process. All persons subject to such orders are required to present at Garda stations for the purpose of their removal from the State. It is only where there is a failure to comply with such orders that the Garda Síochána is obliged to take measures to enforce same. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that, in the circumstances which gave rise to these questions, members were obliged to call to school properties to enforce deportation orders because of a failure by the parents concerned to comply with a lawful request to present the family unit to the Garda.

A complaint has been made to the Garda Complaints Board in respect of this matter which precludes me for commenting further at this time.

  105.  Mr. Eamon Ryan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will re-examine, in a careful and compassionate manner his policy of refusing leave to remain to the majority of young non-Irish applicants who are integrated into Ireland but who are being deported once they reach 18 years of age, with a view to allowing more of these individuals to remain in the State. [10867/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  It is assumed that this question refers to unaccompanied minors who arrive in the State seeking asylum, whose claims for refugee status are refused following consideration of their cases by two independent bodies — the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal — and who subsequently reach the age of majority.

In such circumstances, the person is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent is afforded three options, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of the deportation order, or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons a deportation order should not be made and why temporary leave to remain in the State be granted instead.

Under section 3(6) of the Act, the Minister, in determining whether to make a deportation order, shall have regard to 11 specified considerations, one of which is the duration of residence in the State. Further, the Minister must have regard to section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement— which forbids the sending of a person in any manner whatsoever to a place where the life or freedom of the person would be threatened on account of that persons race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion. This refoulement provision does not mean that persons may not be returned to countries which would have inferior [153]welfare, educational and health services to ours. This is not in itself a basis for allowing them to remain here. It is not the case that there is a policy not to grant leave to remain to persons in the circumstances cited above. All applications are dealt with on a case by case basis, taking account of the Minister’s obligations under the law.

Question No. 106 answered with Question
No. 83.

  107.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of prosecutions for speeding that may be deemed invalid following the High Court judgment that the laser guns used by gardaí to monitor speed were in breach of the requirements of the Road Traffic Act 2002; if any such prosecution will remain valid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9698/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The Garda authorities inform me that advice has been received from the law officers on the implications of the recent decision of the High Court on section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 and on the taking of prosecutions utilising section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 2002, as amended by section 15 of the Road Traffic Act 2004.

The Garda authorities further inform me that the information requested on the number of prosecutions that cannot be proceeded with in the light of the recent High Court decision is not readily available and could only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate use of staff time and resources.

  108.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of juvenile liaison officers in the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available; if he has plans to extend the scheme given its proven success in dealing with juvenile offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10783/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that as of 8 April 2005 there were 86 juvenile liaison officer — JLO — gardaí and eight JLO sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country. In addition to this, the national juvenile office has a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors and two sergeants.

The Children Act 2001 provides a statutory basis for the operation of the Garda juvenile diversion programme. Included in that Act is the introduction into the criminal justice system of the concept of restorative justice and family conferencing, which provisions are being put into [154]effect by the Garda Síochána. The Garda authorities estimate that in the year 2004, the Garda juvenile office received between 17,000 and 20,000 referrals under the juvenile diversion programme. Early assessments indicated a very high level of satisfaction from those involved in the process.

Ongoing evaluation of restorative justice practice is being carried out by the Garda research unit. All Garda juvenile liaison officers have received training in restorative justice and over half have received training in mediation skills. It is expected that the ongoing development of restorative justice within the juvenile diversion programme will lead to a significant reduction in the incidence of recidivism.

The diversion programme already exists on a nationwide basis and is delivered throughout the country by specially trained gardaí. Details of the areas in which the programme is in existence is set out in the attached table. Resource implications are constantly under review and applications for additional resources are made on a case by case basis when and where necessary.

Juvenile Liaison Officers by Division

Division Garda Sergeant Total
Dublin (South Central) 4 1 5
Dublin South 7 1 8
Dublin West 7 1 8
Dublin North 9 1 10
Dublin (North Central) 3 1 4
Dublin East 6 1 7
Louth/Meath 5 5
Longford/Westmeath 3 3
Laois/ Offaly 2 2
Kildare/ Carlow 3 3
Wexford/ Wicklow 3 3
Waterford/ Kilkenny 5 5
Tipperary 2 2
Cork City 6 1 7
Cork North 2 2
Cork West 2 2
Kerry 2 2
Limerick 2 1 3
Clare 1 1
Roscommon/ Galway East 2 2
Galway West 2 2
Mayo 2 2
Sligo/ Leitrim 1 1
Donegal 3 3
Cavan/ Monaghan 2 2
TOTAL 86 8 94

In respect of Garda resources generally, the House will be aware that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An [155]Agreed Programme for Government in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

The Commissioner will be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources and, in this context, due consideration will, inter alia, be given to the resourcing of the juvenile liaison scheme. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Questions Nos. 109 and 110 answered with Question No. 83.

  111.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    when he expects that the long promised judicial conduct and ethics Bill will be published; if he has brought proposals to Government on the matter; if the heads of a Bill have been approved by Cabinet; the general approach he intends to adopt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10789/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I expect to be in a position shortly to bring the scheme of a judicial council Bill to Government for approval with a view to publishing the Bill itself in the first half of this year. The preparation of the scheme of the Bill is at an advanced stage. I am engaged in a number of necessary consultations on the draft scheme at present.

The Bill will establish a judicial council with responsibility for a number of matters. Among these will be the devising of a code of ethics and the management of a process, to be set out in the Bill, for the investigation of complaints about judicial misbehaviour. An important feature of this disciplinary process will be provisions requiring lay participation, that is to say people who are not judges or lawyers, in the process. Other matters to be included in the council’s functions will be responsibility for judicial education and training and the exchange of information among judges on such matters as sentencing. In these regards, the Bill will build on the report of the committee on judicial conduct and ethics
chaired by the former Chief Justice, Ronan Keane.

[156]It is my intention that when the scheme of the Bill has been approved by Government, I will make it available to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights. Any views that may emerge from the joint committee can be taken into account during the drafting of the Bill, which will be proceeding at the same time.

  112.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the criteria used for the appointment of members to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10859/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The Refugee Appeals Tribunal is an independent body established under the Refugee Act 1996. The tribunal comprises a chairperson and, at present, 35 ordinary members appointed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The criteria used in making appointments to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal are set out in the Second Schedule to the 1996 Act. Ordinary members of the tribunal, who are part-time, hold office for a term of three years and, as in the case of the chairperson, are required to have had not less than five years’ experience as practising barristers or practising solicitors before appointment.

The tribunal continues to play a vital part in the Government’s overall asylum strategy, with a huge volume of appeals processed and dealt with in a timely, fair and effective manner in line with the State’s international obligations.

The existing arrangements are working well and there are no plans to review procedures for appointing ordinary members of the tribunal.

  113.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if the Garda uses caller identification when receiving emergency and other telephone calls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10864/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána does not as a matter of routine receive caller identification from the emergency services operator. For all other calls, caller identification is received only if the caller has enabled the facility on their telephone.

  114.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons committed to prisons during 2004 for alleged breaches of immigration laws without having been charged with a specific offence; if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by the Irish Refugee Council that in some cases [157]such persons were being held for weeks or months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10765/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  It is not clear if the Deputy is referring to a specific area of immigration law. There is a wide range of offences created within the overall legislative framework dealing with immigration and asylum. Data on the number of persons in detention for breaches of those laws are not maintained in a manner to enable me provide the information sought by the Deputy.

I am aware that particular concerns have been expressed by the Irish Refugee Council and other organisations about the detention of persons under section 9(8) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. That Act sets out very specific safeguards in relation to the use of that provision. For example, detentions under section 9(8) are made by judicial authority and are subject to regular review for periods not exceeding 21 days and are made for specific reasons as set out in the said statute.

It should also be pointed out that persons in detention, for whatever reason, have remedies open to them to challenge their detention including, in particular, an application for an inquiry by the High Court in accordance with Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution.

This State, like every other sovereign state, has immigration laws to ensure that there is some degree of control over who enters our country and for what purposes. Our courts have reviewed various aspects of immigration laws over the years, including the power to detain persons for breaches of those laws, and it is beyond doubt that this State is entitled to and is obliged to take responsibility for the control of immigration. In certain circumstances that will involve detaining a person.

The European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 requires every organ of the State to perform its functions in a manner compatible with the State’s obligations under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. That convention protects the liberty of every person but acknowledges that there may be a lawful arrest and detention of a person in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.

  115.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of applications to remain in the State received to date from non-national parents of Irish-born children; the number of such applications that have been determined to date, giving those granted and those refused; if there is an appeals process in respect of applications turned down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10762/05]

[158]Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The closing date for receipt of applications for the IBC/05 scheme was 31 March 2005. Some 18,000 applications were received. Of this number, some 3,600 applicants have been granted temporary permission to remain and 13 applicants have been refused temporary permission to remain. It should be noted that a number of incomplete applications are currently under examination or are being held pending the submission of documents.

With regard to the issue of appeals, it is anticipated that some of those who may not be successful under this scheme will otherwise have a right to remain in the State, for example, they may be here on work permits or on study visas. However, it is anticipated that most applying under the scheme will not have any other right of residence. Where an applicant has his or her application refused, he or she will be informed by letter, as applies to all persons who have no right to be in the State, of a proposal to make a deportation order in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended.

The person will be given the option at that stage of making representations setting out the reasons he/she should be granted permission to remain temporarily in the State. The person’s case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under the various criteria set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and under section 5 — prohibition of refoulement— of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended.

  116.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his attention has been drawn to the alarming growth in gun crime; his views on the need to take immediate legislative or other steps to ensure stiffer prison sentences for those found in possession of, or proven to have used firearms in the pursuit of crime; if his attention has further been drawn to the significance of the increased use of sawn-off shotguns and automatic assault weapons; his plans to address this increasingly serious threat to the lives and property of the citizens of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10818/05]

  776.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of gun crime incidents so far recorded in the past six months; if the type and nature of the weapons used is of particular significance; the action he plans to take to address this most serious issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11224/05]

  777.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the action he proposes to take to address the increasingly serious situation regarding the use of guns for criminal purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11225/05]

[159]Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 116, 776 and 777 together.

While the number of cases of possession of firearms has decreased, it is a matter of concern to note a further increase in cases of discharge of firearms. I am conscious of the recent increase in violent crime involving firearms and the particular overriding necessity to ensure that public safety and security are given priority in any review of policy and legislation in respect of firearms. With this in mind, I have decided to bring forward at an early stage certain proposals for inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004. The Bill as published contains one of those proposals, namely, to provide for the secure custody of firearms. Other provisions will be brought forward in the form of amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. The Bill is currently on Second Stage in the Dáil. These amendments will deal with better controls on the type of firearms which may be certified. They will further specify certain additional requirements which will have to be [160]met by applicants for certificates and allow for the imposition of conditions on the granting of a certificate. They will include a provision allowing the deeming by order of firearms which may not be certified. I am considering increasing the sentences for the more serious range of such offences, including the possibility of mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, as well as new offences of illegally modifying a firearm, for example, sawing off a shotgun, and the imposition of severe penalties for this offence.

I am satisfied that the necessary resources are being directed towards the containment and detection of such serious criminal activity. Investigations are undertaken by divisional and district garda officers at local level. All the necessary national support services are available to supplement these investigations, such as the Garda national bureau of criminal investigation.

The following table gives figures for the number of headline offences recorded and detected. With regard to the weapons involved, 40% are recorded as shotguns and 37% as pistols.

Headline Offences Recorded and Detected with a Firearm Involved 2004/2005*

Year October November December
Recorded Detected Recorded Detected Recorded Detected
2004 49 16 46 16 59 12
January February March
Recorded Detected Recorded Detected Recorded Detected
2005 53 33 39 7 47 13

  117.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will consider the immediate suspension of mass deportations to allow for an audit of the policy by the Human Rights Commission. [10854/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I cannot agree to the suspension of our deportation process on the basis outlined by the Deputy. Deportations take place within the provisions of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and after each case has been fully considered by me with regard to the 11 considerations contained in section 3(6) of that Act and section 5 — prohibition of refoulement— of the Refugee Act 1996. I cannot accept the term “mass deportations” in this context, as each case is individually considered on the basis of its own facts and circumstances before a decision to deport is made.

A deportation process, after a person’s case has been dealt with fairly, is central to the proper functioning of any immigration and asylum system. This fact is recognised universally by bodies such as the UNHCR. I am not aware of any country which does not have at its disposal [160]the final sanction of deportation. Our asylum and repatriation system compares favourably with the best in the world in terms of fairness, decision-making and determination structures.

The deportation process is also subject to the scrutiny of the courts. It is open to a person to challenge a deportation order, by way of application for judicial review to the High Court, within 14 days of the notification of the making of the deportation order.

  118.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress which has been made in the Garda investigation into two robberies of security vans in Dublin during March 2005 in which more than €4 million was taken; the total amount taken in raids on security vans during 2004 and to date in 2005; the number of such cases in which charges have been laid; if he is satisfied that the gardaí have sufficient resources to deal with this plague of robberies and to bring those responsible to justice. [10770/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 62 of today.

  119.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons granted leave to remain in the State in each of the past three years; the number granted leave to date in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10861/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I presume the Deputy is referring to applications for leave to remain made pursuant to section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended.

Leave to remain in these circumstances arise where a non-national is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent is afforded three options, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent [162]to the making of the deportation order, or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons a deportation order should not be made and why temporary leave to remain in the State be granted instead.

Under section 3(6) of the Act the Minister, in determining whether to make a deportation order, shall have regard to 11 specified considerations, one of which is any representation made by or on behalf of the person. The determination as to whether a deportation order is made or whether leave to remain is granted is not dependent on whether, in fact, the person has made representations for leave to remain. Thus, statistics are not maintained to distinguish between cases where representations have been made for leave to remain from those where no such representations were made.

The relevant statistics for the past three years are as follows:

Year 2002 2003 2004 2005 (until 31 March)
Temporary leave to remain granted under the Immigration Act 1999 158 86 175 15

[161]In my reply to Question No. 94 on Wednesday, 16 February 2005, I gave the number of such temporary leave to remain as 140 for 2004. The correct figure should have been 175, as indicated above. I apologise for this incorrect information which was due to an incomplete transfer of data from an old database to a new management information system in my Department. I wrote to the Deputy concerned and to the Editor of Dáil Debates to correct the record of the House.

Question No. 120 answered with Question
No. 77.

  121.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he still proposes to have 1,000 gardaí on duty as part of his promised traffic corps; when he proposes to set up this corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10792/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As the Deputy is aware, I announced the establishment within the Garda Síochána of the traffic corps on 23 November 2004. The Deputy will also be aware that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. As each cycle of recruit training is completed, the Garda Commissioner will assign these new members to the areas of greatest need with particular regard to certain priorities, which include the traffic corps.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of gardaí assigned to the traffic corps will increase from the current level of approxi[162]mately 530 to 1,200 by 2008. The assignment of gardaí to the traffic corps will be done on a phased basis in tandem with the recruitment of almost 1,100 recruits in each of the next three years.

I also published a strategic review of traffic policing on 23 November 1994, which is a blueprint for a transformation in the enforcement of road traffic law. A key recommendation of the strategic review is that a new position of assistant commissioner in charge of all aspects of road traffic law should be created. The position of assistant commissioner, traffic was filled on 22 February 2005. The Commissioner has tasked the assistant commissioner with implementing the recommendations contained in the strategic review in line with the implementation plan contained in the report.

  122.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of extra gardaí which will be provided in the year 2005 that will be additional to those who retire or take early retirement; if he is satisfied that there is a sufficient number of gardaí on the beat in view of the ongoing robberies and general violent activity in the Border area; if he will take further steps to utilise civilian personnel for office duty to make sure that all possible gardaí are available for what they are best trained for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10424/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel that the personnel, strength of the Garda [163]Síochána as of 7 April 2005 was 12,209 — all ranks.

It is anticipated that a total of 411 recruits will be attested to the Garda Síochána during the remainder of 2005. It is also planned that a total of 1,100 recruits will be inducted to the Garda college during 2005. The first intake of 275 recruits to the Garda college commenced training in the week beginning 7 February 2005.

It is projected that approximately 321 members — all ranks — of the Garda Síochána will leave the organisation between 7 April 2005 and 31 December 2005. This figure includes a total of 20 gardaí— all ranks — who are due to retire from the force on compulsory grounds between 7 April 2005 and 31 December 2005.

Current projections indicate that the total strength of the Garda Síochána as at 31 December 2005 will be 12,299 — all ranks. Taking into account the projected number of retirements, the new recruitment drive will lead to a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 as early as end 2006. I am further informed that local management is satisfied with current resource levels in the Border divisions, which are regularly reviewed.

As regards civilianisation, which is but one aspect of making more gardaí available on the streets, my Department is reviewing the position with the Department of Finance and Garda management as to how it will proceed further with the civilianisation programme in the context of the overall constraints of civil and public service numbers. The purpose of the review is to enable to the greatest extent possible the redeployment of desk-bound gardaí from administrative and technical functions to operational duties. This is in keeping with the general policy that civilianisation allows certain jobs to be done at a more economic cost and allows gardaí to focus on work more suited to their training and skills, thereby increasing overall operational capacity within the Garda Síochána.

  123.  Mr. Cuffe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the concerns raised by a company (details supplied) in the human rights audit report on the operations of the Garda Síochána; his plans for addressing same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10857/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 68, tabled by Deputy Breeda Moynihan-Cronin for today, in the above regard.

  124.  Ms Lynch    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position with regard to the operation of the Private Security [164]Authority; the number of staff recruited by the authority; the services it is offering; the powers under the Private Security Services Act 2004 that it is implementing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10772/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The Private Security Authority was established in October 2004 and is located in Tipperary town. The authority currently has a staff complement of five persons. It is envisaged that staffing levels will be increased appropriately over the coming weeks and months.

Since its establishment, the Private Security Authority has been formulating strategies for the implementation of the Private Security Services Act 2004. In particular, the authority intends to commence the licensing in October 2005 of companies where a nationally recognised standard for such companies already exists. The sectors concerned are security guarding, door security and event security. The licensing of these sectors will also facilitate future planning as it will generate high level statistics on the numbers of people involved in the various sectors of the industry. The authority is paying particular attention to issues arising in the context of cash escorts following my recent meeting with representatives of the security companies and financial institutions.

Licensing of companies in other sectors will be commenced on a phased basis as appropriate standards to support the relevant sectors are developed jointly by the PSA and the National Standards Authority of Ireland.

The provisions of the Private Security Services Act 2004 that have been commenced are detailed in S.I. 685 of 2004. These are: (a) Part 1; (b) sections 6 to 12, inclusive, 17 to 20, inclusive; and (c) Schedule 1.

  125.  Mr. English    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the extent to which the reports which have been submitted to him by Mr. Justice Kinlen have been implemented by him in an effective and speedy manner; the reasons for the delay in implementing them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10892/05]

  751.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 488 of 22 March 2005, the recommendations in the Kinlen reports published to date which he has implemented; and the timescale for the implementation of the other recommendations made in the reports. [10902/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 751 together.

The Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention has made a considerable number of recommendations in his reports aimed at improving prison services and conditions. The position as of end-2003 in regard to implementation of the [165]inspector’s earlier recommendations is set out in detail in the Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2003, which was published last year. A copy of that report is in the Oireachtas Library. The status of implementation of the inspector’s more recent recommendations will be similarly addressed in the service’s 2004 annual report which will be published in the coming months.

Overall, I am satisfied that the inspector’s recommendations are being implemented on an ongoing basis as circumstances and resources allow. This is particularly the case in respect of the more straightforward recommendations such as appointment of additional psychologists, improvements to prison accommodation, provision of additional safety and other equipment, improvements in record-keeping and measures to frustrate the efforts of people who seek to make illicit drugs available to prisoners. Progress towards implementation of other more complex recommendations such as the replacement of Mountjoy and Portlaoise prisons and the provision of new library, medical and other facilities at Limerick Prison is ongoing. Construction of the new accommodation at Limerick Prison is under way and tenders are under consideration for provision of new prisoner accommodation at Portlaoise Prison as part of the next phase of redevelopment there. A contract was recently concluded for purchase of a site for a new prison complex to replace the existing prisons on the Mountjoy campus.

  126.  Mr. Sherlock    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress which has been made with regard to the implementation of the commitment contained in An Agreed Programme for Government to end all heroin use in prisons; if he intends to proceed with plans to introduce mandatory drug testing in prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10787/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  Mindful of the commitments in the programme for Government, a group comprising Irish Prison Service management, prison governors, health authority representatives and clinicians have been consulted in relation to a drugs policy for the Irish Prison Service. The intention is that the drugs policy will facilitate consistent regulatory and operational structures in pursuing both supply and demand reduction.

The policy will have regard to the commitment in the programme for Government to end all heroin use in Irish prisons and my commitment to achieving a drug-free prison system. Working to fulfil these commitments will involve implementation of stringent measures to prevent drugs from getting into prisons while, at the same time, continuing to invest in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population and meet prisoners’ treatment needs.

Central to supporting future supply and demand reduction will be the introduction of mandatory drug testing as envisaged in the prog[166]ramme for Government. Already, prisoners accommodated in the training unit, the open centres at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House and in the designated drug free areas of Wheatfield Prison and St. Patrick’s Institution in the Mountjoy complex are required to undergo frequent drug tests to confirm their drug free status. Mandatory drug testing will, however, soon operate all across the prison system. It will enable identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enable enhanced focusing of resources and act as a deterrent to drug misuse. The new prison rules, which are almost finalised in my Department, will include specific provision for mandatory drug testing and in this context it is intended that later in the year, the Irish Prison Service will commence implementation of a new strategy of mandatory drug-testing, addiction counselling and treatment, and increased measures to prevent drug usage to provide a more complete system of rehabilitation.

  127.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the company which was contracted to undertake charter flights for deportees out of Ireland prior to the appointment of a company (details supplied) in March 2005; the number of flights since May 2002; the costs for the charter of aeroplanes and the number of deportees; the breakdown by nationality of those deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10860/05]

  131.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of occasions since June 2002 on which aircraft have been chartered to facilitate the deportation of persons from this country; the total cost involved in such charters; the total number of persons deported in this way and the number who were children; the overall costs involved, including Garda man hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10763/05]

  711.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of deportations which have occurred since June 2002; the date of each such deportation flight; the destination of same; the number of deportees; the number of gardaí on each flight; the number of other security personnel on each flight; and the total cost of each flight. [10516/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 131 and 711 together.

From January 2002 to date, 13 charter flights have been engaged for the purpose of deportation of persons illegally residing in the State. A total of 376 persons were deported in this way at a total cost of €1,628,201. Details of these charter flights, that is, dates, destinations, numbers deported — broken down into adults and minors, in so far as this information is available — and individual costs are as shown in the table supplied at the end of this answer.

The above costs include Garda expenses associated with these removal operations. I am [167]advised by the Garda Commissioner that, given the wide range of immigration duties performed by the Garda Siochána and the Garda National Immigration Bureau in particular, it is not possible to identify the particular pay and overtime costs incurred by the Garda in relation to these charter flights. However, the Commissioner informs me that charter flights involve a lower ratio of Garda escorts to deportees than is the case using conventional schedule flights, resulting in savings to the Garda budget.

The number of escorting gardaí on each flight varies as it is dependent on a prior risk assessment of each removal operation carried out by the Garda National Immigration Bureau and on the policy of the particular airline. Given the large number of removal operations, it would involve a disproportionate use of Garda time and resources to provide details of the exact escort numbers used in each case. However, it is usual for two escorts to accompany a single deportee with a lower ratio used where more than one person is being removed to the same destination and on board charter flights.

There are two main categories of repatriation charter flights. Smaller charters that are organised to remove disruptive deportees that commercial airlines will not take on account of previous disruptive behaviour on board aircraft and bigger charters organised to return larger numbers of deportees in a more efficient way than using schedule flights. It should be stated that Ireland does not have direct flights to the destinations where these charters have taken place. The alternative to chartering is transiting through hub European airports involving longer transfer times, more inconvenience to deportees and the attendant risk of deportees absconding in transit.

[168]The use of charter flights, including joint charters shared by two or more countries, are accepted and used widely across the European Union as an effective and efficient means of returning persons illegally present on the territories of member states following individual consideration of their cases. The European Council of Ministers adopted a decision in April 2004 facilitating the greater use of joint repatriation flights as a means of demonstrating solidarity among member states, increasing the rate of returns and making more effective use of resources.

Ireland has carried out two such joint operations with the Netherlands on 28 November 2003 to Romania and Bulgaria and with the UK to Romania and Moldova on 18 November 2003 — details of which are provided in the table set out below.

It is well established that an effective deportation process is a necessary element of an immigration system. The lack of an effective means to deport persons not granted permission to remain in the State would call into question the integrity of the entire immigration and asylum laws. Failure to enforce deportation orders in the case of disruptive behaviour would produce two main outcomes. First, it would send a clear signal that deportation can be avoided by simply being disruptive. Second, disruptive behaviour by deportees on scheduled flights would become the norm leading to concerns for the safety of passengers and staff on aircraft and cause further difficulties for the gardaí in the already problematic task of enforcing deportation orders.

Two companies were involved in the provision of suitable aircraft for the removal of deportees by charter flights prior to the appointment of Air Partner Plc as approved service providers in February 2005. These companies were Fly Ireland and Swiftair Aviation Limited. The companies were contracted individually for each charter flight.

No. of non-nationals deported

Date Destination Adults Minors Total Cost
9 January 2002 Algeria 2 Nil 2 29,833
28 March 2002 Nigeria 6 Nil 6 241,250
14 November 2002 Nigeria N/A N/A 12* 191,730
18 November 2003 Romania and Moldova N/A N/A 24* 92,490
28 November 2003 Romania and Bulgaria N/A N/A 20* 31,989
12 February 2004 Romania N/A N/A 62* 93,609
20 February 2004 Gambia 1 Nil 1 50,200
31 March 2004 Romania 49 4 53 71,590
6 April 2004 Nigeria 26 3 29 146,500
26 August 2004 Nigeria 24 1 25 248,610
17 November 2004 Romania and Moldova 56 10 66 82,700
15 December 2004 Romania and Moldova 39 2 41 82,700
15 March, 2005 Nigeria 26 9 35 265,000

  128.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the discussions he has had with the Garda authorities following the spate of well organised robberies in the past four months; if he has identified countermeasures to be taken; if he has intimated any such views to the Garda authorities or other security agents or agencies; if he has had discussions with any such bodies in the aftermath of the Brinks Allied heist; the reason this event was not anticipated and preventative measures put in place in view of the obvious growth of organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10817/05]

  778.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he took action arising from the first major robbery in this jurisdiction this year with particular reference to payroll transport, bank and post office security; if he issued any instructions directly to the Garda or other authorities regarding the need to step up security in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11226/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 778 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 62 of today.

  129.  Mr. Sherlock    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will report on the most recent advice given to him by Garda authorities regarding the current level of threat to Ireland from international terrorists; the way in which the level of threat to Ireland compares to the level of threat to Europe in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6707/05]

  135.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the steps being taken to protect the State from terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6743/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 135 together.

I take it both questions relate to threats arising in relation to international terrorism rather than from indigenous terrorist groupings. Responsibility for internal national security is a matter for the Garda Síochána, with the support of the Defence Forces, as appropriate. The Garda authorities maintain an up-to-date assessment of the threat of attack from national and international terrorist groupings through analysis of intelligence gathered from domestic and international sources.

[170]The Garda involvement for many years in fora within the European Union and further afield has ensured that excellent lines of communication and co-operation have been developed and fostered with police and security services worldwide. This facilitates the ongoing sharing of intelligence concerning terrorist groupings and enables a rapid operational response to be put in place where circumstances dictate.

Security threat assessments on the risk level to Ireland of terrorist attack are furnished by the Garda authorities at regular intervals to the Government and me. Although it is not the practice, and it would be contrary to the public interest to reveal the content of these threat assessments, the Deputy will appreciate that it is vital that the resources of the State are fully used to combat the real, ongoing threat posed by both national and international terrorism.

Question No. 130 answered with Question
No. 80.

Question No. 131 answered with Question
No. 127.

  132.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has received the detailed report from the Garda Síochána into the Garda investigation of the murder of two women in Grangegorman, Dublin 7, in March 1997 which led to the wrongful charging of Dean Lyons; when he will be in a position to make a decision on the further investigation which may be required; if he will consider using the range of powers available to him under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10788/05]

  731.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of reports he has sought since his appointment as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform from the Garda to date regarding the Grangegorman murders and the specific details sought on each occasion. [10694/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 731 together.

I, and the officials of my Department on my behalf, have been in regular communication over a significant period with the Garda authorities in relation to issues arising from the investigation of the double murder in the Grangegorman area on 6-7 March 1997.

Each such communication could be regarded as a request for a report. In view of the volume of written and oral contacts which have taken place, it is not possible to provide the Deputies with the number of requests for reports, however defined, [171]or any specific details requested on the occasion of such contacts.

  133.  Ms O’Sullivan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda Training College as full Garda members since 6 June 2002; the number of gardaí who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force since 6 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10779/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that 1,421 recruits have graduated from the Garda College since 6 June 2002. The figure refers to those who have successfully completed the student-probationer education and training programme.

I am further informed that a total of 1,235 members, all ranks, have resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002. A total of 1,679 recruits have been attested to the Garda Síochána in the same period. The figure of 1,421 who have graduated from the Garda College are those members who have successfully completed the student-probationer education-training programme.

Garda trainees are attested to the force on successful completion of phase three of their training. On attestation, Garda trainees become serving members of the force. Thus the serving strength of the force at any given time includes those who have been attested following completion of phase 3 of their training but have not yet formally graduated; formal graduation takes place following the completion of the fifth and final phase of training. The strength of the force has therefore increased by 444 members since June 2002.

  134.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reports which have been submitted to him by Mr. Justice Kinlen; the reports which have been published; the longest period of time which has elapsed between the date a report was submitted to him and the date it was published; the reasons for the delay involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10889/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The formal reports received by my Department from the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, since his appointment, are as follows: First Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention; Report of [172]the Inspection of Cloverhill Prison; Report of the Inspection of Mountjoy Prison and the Dóchas Centre; Report of the Inspection of Portlaoise Prison; Report of the Inspection of Limerick Prison; Report of the Inspection of Wheatfield Prison; Report of the Inspection of Fort Mitchel, Place of Detention; Report of the Inspection of Loughan House, Place of Detention; Report of the Inspection of Arbour Hill Prison; Report of the revisit Inspection of Cloverhill Prison; Report of the revisit Inspection of Limerick Prison; Report of the revisit Inspection of Portlaoise Prison; Report of the Inspection of Castlerea Prison; Report of the Inspection of St. Patrick’s Institution; Report of the revisit Inspection of Mountjoy Prison and the Dóchas Centre; Report of the Inspection of Cork Prison; and Second Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention.

All of these reports, with the exception of the last two, have been published and are available on my Department’s website, www.justice.ie. The longest period of time which has elapsed between the date a report was submitted to my Department and the date it was published was approximately six months. It is necessary to have all reports submitted by the inspector and examined before publication and this sometimes involves a number of bodies. However, I have directed that such examinations should be completed as quickly as possible to prevent delays of this type occurring in the future.

Question No. 135 answered with Question
No. 129.

  136.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the amount paid out either in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the Garda Síochána in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breach of a citizen’s right in respect of 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; the number of cases in which awards were made by the courts and the number of cases which were settled out of court; the number of such cases pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10784/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The information requested by the Deputy in relation to court awards and out of court settlements in actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breaches of citizens’ rights is set out in the table below.

As of 31 December 2003, there were approximately 750 civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána in hand. A detailed breakdown of these actions in the form of the number of allegations of assault, unlawful arrest and other [173]breaches of citizens’ rights is not readily available. However, a database introduced in 2002 for the purposes of recording civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána indicates that in 2003, the first complete year for which a detailed breakdown is available, of the 142 actions initiated or received in that year by my Department there were 34 cases of alleged assault recorded and 38 cases of alleged unlawful arrest recorded. The remaining 70 cases recorded included allegations of defamation and harassment. In the year 2004, 127 actions were initiated-received. They included 40 cases of alleged assault and 26 cases of alleged unlawful arrest. In the year 2005 to date, 35 actions have been initiated-received. They include 12 cases of alleged assault and six cases of alleged unlawful arrest.

Civil actions may be taken by the general public against members of the Garda Síochána for compensation for alleged wrongs and personal injuries inflicted on them by Garda members in the performance of their duties. The [174]highest percentage of these types of civil actions against the Garda Síochána is in relation to assault and unlawful arrest. The majority of these cases have been settled for less than €25,500. Settlement of cases takes place on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor, the Attorney General and State Counsel.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that incidents which result in claims against the State in respect of the actions of gardaí are examined as appropriate with a view to identifying and implementing operational strategies to eliminate or reduce similar claims in the future. The Garda Commissioner has also informed me that the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989 are invoked in appropriate cases where the actions of individual Garda members come into question. One of the principal aims of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 is the establishment of a new mechanism for dealing with complaints against members of the Garda Síochána which will secure public confidence and which will address the acknowledged shortcomings in the existing law and procedures on complaints.

Year (Total Amount) Assault Unlawful Arrest Other
2001 €1,619,746.83 Awards 1,904.61 (1) 20,950.68 (2) 22,220.42 (1)
Settlements 123,164.59 (5) 33,965.49 (3) 162,782.25 (9)
Costs 244,665.35 123,199.41 886,894.03
Total 369,734.55 178,115.58 1,071,896.70
2002 €1,240,388.40 Awards 1,270 (1) 3,809.21 (1) 56,500 (2)
Settlements 166,924.48 (6) 106,835.58 (10) 185,078.82 (11)
Costs 230,769.67 148,714.19 340,486.45
Total 398,964.15 259,358.98 582,065.27
2003 €1,276,127.55 Awards 11,000 (1) 10,000 (2) 4,870 (2)
Settlements 75,000 (4) 303,011 (5) 112,814.84 (4)
Costs 145,561.70 71,794.28 542,075.73
Total 231,561.70 384,805.28 659,760.57
2004 (Provisional) €938,799.09) Awards 15,000 (1) 0 3,215.06 (1)
Settlements 198,697.48 (5) 73,007 (5) 50,500 (3)
Costs 231,646.62 100,019.36 266,713.57
Total 445,344.10 173,026.36 320,428.63
2005 (Provisional) €649,286.35 as at 08/04/05 Awards 250.00 (1)
Settlements 35,000 (1) 9,113.00 (2)
Costs 20,570 (1) 583,748.35(6) 605.00 (1)
Total 55,570.00 593,111.35 605.00

[173]Question No. 137 answered with Question
No. 81.

  138.  Mr. Cuffe    asked the Minister for Justice, [174]Equality and Law Reform    his views on the financial criteria and any other criteria used in the selection of a site for a new prison in the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10855/05]

[175]Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The criteria employed in the assessment of the site are set out in the minutes of the selection committee which have been published. I am satisfied that proper procedures were followed and I reject any suggestion to the contrary.

  139.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the low level of detections, prosecutions initiated and convictions secured in respect of rape cases; the steps he intends to take to achieve a higher level of detection and convictions in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10790/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I was pleased to note decreases in aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, rape of a female and unlawful carnal knowledge in the provisional headline crime figures for the quarter ending 31 March 2005 which I have just released. I was concerned, however, to see a recorded increase in the number of cases of rape section 4.

With regard to the number of detections, I can assure the Deputy that any incident of rape or sexual assault reported to the Garda Síochána is fully investigated, as much evidence as possible is gathered and, subsequently, a file is forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a direction as to whether a prosecution should proceed or not.

The Garda Síochána actively encourages people who are the victims of any crime to report the offence to the gardaí. In addition, a number of established initiatives underpin this policy, such as the Garda confidential telephone number, Crimestoppers and Crimecall.

I have outlined to the House on a number of occasions that there is a high attrition rate in rape cases in Ireland, and a large number of cases reported to the gardaí do not reach prosecution stage for a variety of reasons. As the Deputy is aware, the Director of Public Prosecutions is statutorily independent in the performance of his function and it would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on his decisions.

My Department has approved joint funding for comprehensive research into attrition rates in rape cases. The research, which is entitled The Understanding of Attrition, Early Withdrawal, the Trial Process and Identifying Possible Changes to Support Complainants in Rape Cases, is being carried out by the Department of Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and the Rape Crisis Network Ireland. It is being conducted over three years and is expected to be completed in 2007-08.

This research should provide a greater understanding as to why some victims choose not to report cases to the gardaí, what can be done [176]about under reporting and why, of the cases that are reported, only a relatively small percentage result in a court hearing. It is important to note that, with regard to conviction rates, the courts are independent in their function and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment on their decisions.

Following completion of this research, action will be taken, as appropriate, to resolve any issue that may arise.

  140.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the mileage claimed by members of jail visiting committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10870/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The number of miles recorded on the financial management systems in my Department for members of the prison visiting committees for the period January to December 2004 is 282,629 at a cost of €295,432.69. As I have previously explained, a visiting committee is appointed to each prison under the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act, 1925 and Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order, 1925.

Vouched expenses for travel and subsistence are paid, on the authorisation of the prison governor, in line with Civil Service rates. The Deputy will be aware that it is my policy to appoint all new members of prison visiting committees to a prison in their home county or a neighbouring county. In past years, each visiting committee has undertaken an annual visit to another prison institution for instructional purposes in order to compare facilities and conditions in other institutions against their own prison. I have instructed that such visits should now only take place where the majority of the members of the visiting committee have been newly appointed, thereby reducing travel and subsistence expenses.

These new policies have resulted in significant savings for the Irish Prison Service. The total travel and subsistence expenses paid to members of the prison visiting committees in 2004 amounted to €338,540.58 as compared to €656,435.53 in 2002, which represents a drop of 48%.

  141.  Mr. Eamon Ryan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the detailed breakdown of the staff numbers employed in training and other duties at the Garda College, Templemore currently and at end of 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10868/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the detailed breakdown of staff numbers currently employed in training and other duties at the Garda College, Templemore, as sought by the Deputy is as set out hereunder:

Garda Training Staff

Rank 31/12/02 31/12/03 31/12/04 8/04/05
Chief Superintendent 1 1 1 1
Superintendent 6 5 5 5
Inspector 7 8 9 9
Sergeant 61 60 59 60
Garda 73 73 68 66
Total 148 147 142 141

Civilian Training Staff

Role 31/12/02 31/12/03 31/12/04 8/04/05
Head of T & D* Unit 1 1 1 1
Teachers 6 7 6 8
Video Officer 1 1 0 0
Total 8 9 7 9

Clerical Staff

Role 31/12/02 31/12/03 31/12/04 8/04/05
Staff Officer 1 1 1 1
Librarian 0 0 1 1
Finance Officer 0 0 2 2
Clerical Officer 21 21 18 18
Telephonist 1 1 1 1
Total 23 23 23 23

General Operatives

Role 31/12/02 31/12/03 31/12/04 8/04/05
Tradesmen 2 2 2 2
Operatives 13 13 13 13
Total 15 15 15 15

Cleaning Staff — Full time

Role 31/12/02 31/12/03 31/12/04 8/04/05
Cleaners 24 24 24 24
Total 24 24 24 24

Restaurant Staff

Role 31/12/02 31/12/03 31/12/04 8/04/05
Restaurant Staff 19 19 19 19
Total 19 19 19 19

Shop Staff

Role 31/12/02 31/12/03 31/12/04 8/04/05
Shop Staff 2 2 2 2
Total 2 2 2 2

  142.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will further examine the situation regarding the deportation of persons; if he will evaluate each such case directly before deportation orders are signed; if he will reconsider and allow those persons return who have already been deported without proper scrutiny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10423/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  In relation to all files submitted to me containing recommendations for deportation, it is plainly necessary for officials to collate and summarise all relevant information and present it in a coherent and consistent format for me to consider. Almost without exception, this involves, first, a summary of all available information on each of the 11 factors in section 3(6) of the 1999 Act and, second, a consideration of the refoulement issues under section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, and-or other significant issues relating to the case. A recommendation is then made to me by an officer at a grade not lower than assistant principal. The entire file is then submitted to me for a decision. I have before me both the summary submissions and all relevant supporting papers before deciding whether or not to sign the deportation order.

The procedures described above have been closely followed in each case where a deportation order has been made and the person deported. I cannot accept the inference in the Deputy’s question that persons have been deported without full and proper scrutiny of their cases.

It should also be remembered that where deportation orders are made in regard to asylum seekers, their applications have already been considered and rejected within the independent asylum determination process comprising, the Refugee Applications Commissioner, ORAC, and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, RAT.

The details of the Deputy’s question refers to persons who have been involved in the Irish education system for some time. I ask the Deputy to consider what the consequences would be of a policy not to deport persons involved in the education process and, by implication, their families. I draw attention to the fact that in 2003, of the 7,900 asylum applicants almost 1,100 were accompanied minors between the ages of four and 18. Similarly, in 2004, of the 4,766 asylum [180]applicants, over 700 were accompanied minors between the ages of four and 18.

By adopting a policy of non-deportation in such circumstances, Ireland would be sending out a message to the world that it is assuming an obligation to provide education for those who, having been found not to be in need of international protection, have otherwise no right to be in the State.

  143.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has explored the possibility of using money seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau for volunteer projects as a means of reinvesting in communities; if he has had further discussions either within his Department or with colleagues on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11401/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The Criminal Assets Bureau enforces the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 which provides statutory procedures of restraint. The effect of restraint orders made by the High Court is to freeze, for at least seven years, property deemed to be the proceeds of crime. After that period, a disposal order may be sought from the court to vest the property in the Minister for Finance. It is only where the court directs that such property be transferred that funds accrue to the Exchequer.

While I have raised the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, the proposal that assets, which are determined by law to be the proceeds of crime, be committed directly towards volunteer projects as a means of reinvesting in communities would involve a significant departure from Government accounting principles. These provide that it is a matter for the Government, with the approval of the Oireachtas, to determine the optimum allocation of Exchequer receipts in accordance with agreed priorities. The position of the Department of Finance is that any departure from such principles could set a precedent which would be difficult to resist in those circumstances and which, no doubt, would reactivate long-standing demands for “ringfencing” receipts in other sectoral areas.

  144.  Mr. Allen    asked the Taoiseach    if he travelled abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in [181]his official party; the duration of the visit and the cost involved. [10171/05]

The Taoiseach:  I travelled to the United States on 15 March for St Patrick’s Day, returning on 18 March. My programme included visits to Syracuse, New York, Baltimore and Washington. The official party consisted of the Second Secretary General of my Department, the Director of Northern Ireland Division, Government press secretary, special adviser, private secretary, personal assistant, security officer and myself. The Minister for Foreign Affairs travelled separately to the US and joined me in Washington. He accompanied me on the return journey. The overall cost of the visit is not yet available.

  145.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Taoiseach    the sections of his Department currently based outside Dublin which will be moved to other non-Dublin locations under the decentralisation programme; the location from and to which officials are being transferred; the numbers and sections involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10524/05]

The Taoiseach:  There are no sections of my Department based outside Dublin and there are no proposals to decentralise any section of my Department or any of the bodies or agencies operating under its aegis. A significant part of the Central Statistics Office is already located in Cork.

  146.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Taoiseach    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to men’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for men including the name of the organisation or group; the amount paid; and the purpose for which it was paid. [10700/05]

  147.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Taoiseach    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to women’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for women including the name of the organisation or group; the amount paid; and the purpose for which it was paid. [10701/05]

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.

My Department has not paid grants nor awarded financial assistance in the past three years to any groups such as those referred to in the Deputy’s questions.

  148.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Taoiseach    the annual [182]fees paid to each chairperson and director in each statutory board under the remit of his Department. [10872/05]

The Taoiseach:  The annual stipend fee for the Chairperson of the National Statistics Board is €7,618.43. The other bodies under the aegis of my Department are non-statutory.

  149.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Taoiseach    the coordination arrangements he proposes to put in place to implement the Lisbon Strategy as agreed at the recent European Council summit and if he will make a statement on the matter [10921/05]

The Taoiseach:  The European Council agreed at its meeting on 22 to 23 March that each member state will draw up a national action programme to implement the Lisbon Agenda and that member states will enhance their internal co-ordination arrangements to support national implementation.

In the light of the European Council conclusions, I have been considering the co-ordination process which is in place here to progress the Lisbon Agenda. While responsibility for implementing individual elements of the Lisbon Agenda lies with relevant Ministers and Government Departments, my Department has an active role in co-ordinating and overseeing the overall implementation of the Lisbon Agenda. I consider that the current arrangements are appropriate to the needs of our administration and will enable us to deliver the Lisbon reforms effectively.

Consultations on our proposed national reform programme will be held with the stakeholders over the coming months.

  150.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the average waiting period for primary school children to receive speech and language therapy; her proposals to address this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10658/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for speech and language therapy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  151.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the steps being taken by her Department to ensure that [183]sufficient resources are available to deal with the large number of pupils in primary schools in the Ballyfermot area who are presenting with speech difficulties. [11258/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal services. This includes responsibility for speech and language therapy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  152.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an orthodontic assessment. [9944/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  153.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a medical card will be issued on medical grounds to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who applied in February 2005 and are still awaiting a response. [9945/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  154.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if the Health [184]Service Executive will review the level of support being given in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow with a view to granting them twilight and night nursing; the assistance which is required; and if the public health nurse will interview this person to determine their requirements. [9946/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  155.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    further to Parliamentary Question No. 281 of 26 January 2005 if orthodontic treatment will be arranged in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that this person has been examined in the county clinic; the waiting list for this treatment; the exact timeframe relative to this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9947/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services. Accordingly, my Department has again requested the chief officer for the executive’s south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  156.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when funding approval will be made available for a neurologist to the Health Service Executive northern area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9948/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of neurology services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s north western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy. Last [185]December my Department provided additional revenue funding of €200,000 to the North Western Health Board for the development of neurology services.

  157.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position of the application for special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied); when the application will be processed or works commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9949/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Wexford, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  158.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she has received a request from Dundalk Urban Council to meet her to discuss issues in relation to Louth County Hospital, Dundalk; the date this request was made and when the requested meeting will take place. [9988/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I have received a number of requests in recent months to meet a delegation representing Dundalk Town Council to discuss issues in relation to Louth County Hospital, Dundalk. In this regard, I have advised the council that I have agreed to a meeting which is scheduled to take place on 18 May 2005.

  159.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when two doors will be replaced for a person (detail supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9989/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered [186]on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  160.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the Government’s attitude to the entitlement of persons who hold medical cards and who are in need of nursing home services but who have had to avail of private nursing home services due to the lack of a public place in view of the recent Supreme Court judgment; the Government’s position in relation to paying for the cost of the private nursing home; the Government’s position in relation to meeting the various requirements for care, such as chiropody service and so on while the patient is in a private nursing home. [9990/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  My Department is currently studying the Supreme Court judgement in detail and will take on board all the consequences for policy and law arising from the judgement. A special Cabinet sub-committee comprising the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, the Attorney General and the Tánaiste has been established to consider the issue of repayment in light of the judgement.

Persons who were in publicly contracted beds in private nursing homes are covered by the terms of the Supreme Court judgment. The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 regulates the private nursing home sector. Under the nursing home subvention regulations the HSE makes a financial contribution to an individual towards the cost of his/her private nursing home care provided they qualify on means and dependency grounds. The provisions of the Supreme Court judgment do not apply to individuals in private nursing homes who have entered these homes under the nursing home subvention scheme.

A medical card issued by a Health Service Executive, HSE, area enables the bearer to receive certain health services free of charge. Everyone over 70 years of age who is normally resident in Ireland, is entitled to a medical card regardless of means. A medical card granted to a person with full eligibility entitles them to free GP, family doctor, services; prescribed drugs and medicines, with some exceptions, under the GMS Scheme; inpatient public hospital services; outpatient services; dental, optical and aural services; medical appliances; maternity and infant care services; and a maternity cash grant. Where community-type services such as chiropody are con[187]cerned, there is no statutory obligation that automatically entitles a person to such services although some health boards do provide a level of these services. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, which devises guidelines from time to time for the administration of the medical card scheme.

  161.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when planning permission for the new development at Fermoy Community Hospital will be sought; when work will commence on the psychiatric hospital on the grounds of Fermoy Community Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9991/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services.

As part of the executive’s responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under Section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors.

The Health Service Executive’s national capital plan is currently being examined by my Department.

  162.  Mr. Healy-Rae    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding the payment of a curam home care grant for a person (details supplied) after being assessed as maximum dependency and approved but due to allocation of funding for this scheme has been placed on a waiting list for payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9994/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s [188]southern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  163.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason orthodontic treatment has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who was identified as being in need of treatment eight years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9995/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  164.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the card will be backdated to the original application submission date of January 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9996/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  165.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if there are problems in respect of public patients at Temple Street Hospital; and if the consultants are carrying out their work on waiting lists in a professional and impartial manner. [10007/05]

  167.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she has satisfied herself that public patients in Temple Street Hospital are treated the same way as private patients; and if complaints have been received from parents on this issue. [10009/05]

[189]Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 167 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Services at the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

  166.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding the dismissal of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if their case was handled in a professional and fair manner. [10008/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I wish to inform the Deputy that as the person in question was not an employee under the Health Service Executive or under the former Eastern Regional Health Authority or the former Area Health Boards this matter does not fall under my jurisdiction. However, the majority of employees of voluntary hospitals who have twelve months’ continuous service are covered by the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2001. Should they be aggrieved by the process followed during a dismissal they are within their rights to seek redress via the statutory provisions of employment law.

Question No. 167 answered with Question
No. 165.

  168.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she is satisfied that procedures at Temple Street Hospital, Dublin in relation to the national treatment purchase fund are being implemented in a fair manner. [10010/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter.

  169.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the East Coast Area Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that the nursing home charges were illegal. [10021/05]

  170.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the South Western Area Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10022/05]

  171.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the Northern Area Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10023/05]

  172.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the Midland Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10024/05]

  173.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the Mid-Western Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10025/05]

  174.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the North Eastern Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10026/05]

  175.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the North Western Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10027/05]

  176.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the South Eastern Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10028/05]

[191]

  177.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the Western Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10029/05]

  179.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of letters received by the Southern Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10031/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 to 177, inclusive, and 179 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive which was established on 1 January 2005. Under this Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy outlining the number of letters received by each of the former health boards and the ERHA between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal.

  178.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 173 of 1 March 2005, if it is reasonable to have this Deputy’s question referred to the chief executive officer of the southern area to investigate the matter and still have no response received by 21 March 2005. [10030/05]

  315.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 84 of 8 December 2004, 179 of 26 January 2005 and 173 of 1 March 2005 and the failure of the chief officer for the Health Service Executive’s southern area to reply directly to this Deputy on the matter, the way in which the person (details supplied) in County Cork could receive an outpatient’s appointment within a matter of weeks and have surgery carried out within days of the outpatient’s appointment on the payment of €4,700; and if she will investigate the situation. [10984/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 315 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and [192]personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Cork University Hospital. My Department has been advised that the executive’s southern area has responded to the Deputy on this matter.

Question No. 179 answered with Question
No. 169.

  180.  Mr. G. Murphy    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when work will commence on the promised extension to Kanturk Community Hospital, County Cork. [10032/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services.

As part of the executive’s responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors.

The Health Service Executive’s national capital plan is being examined by my Department.

  181.  Mr. Noonan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when the funding and staffing recommendations of the Joe Wolfe report into St. Joseph’s foundation will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10064/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January, 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s southern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

  182.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of immigrant children who have gone missing while in the care of the State in 2004 and to date in 2005. [10067/05]

[193]Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that the number of unaccompanied minors who have gone missing while in the care of the State in 2004 and 2005 is as follows:

Health Service Area Children Missing 2004 Children Missing 2005 to date
Eastern Region Area 66 11
Midland Area 1 0
Mid-Western Area 0 0
North Eastern Area 0 0
North Western Area 0 0
Southern Area 1 1
South Eastern Area 0 0
Western Area 0 0
Total 68 12

I share the Deputy’s concerns regarding the welfare of these children and the Deputy may be interested to know that I recently sought a meeting with representatives of the Health Service Executive to discuss this very issue. This meeting will take place in the very near future.

  183.  Ms Fox    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by a group (details supplied) in the allocation of residential places and training programme places for 2005 due to the delay in the allocation of funding; if her attention has further been drawn to the effect this delay has on the families awaiting places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10075/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

  184.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regard[194]ing work to be completed to house under special housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10076/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Limerick, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  185.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position in relation to an invoice and application for funding for continued care from a person (details supplied); if payment will be made to the centre for their treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10078/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  186.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position in relation to an application for funding for a company (details supplied); if in view of the number of people whose lives have been altered by this treatment funding will be put in place to allow this person to carry out their work and to train people to carry out their work effectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10079/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the Health Service Executive’s eastern regional area [195]to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  187.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a hip replacement operation. [10086/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  188.  Dr. Upton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if long overdue funding will be allocated for Beaumont Hospital to provide Cochlear ear implant operations for adults; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10121/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I am aware of the work done by the Cochlear implant programme at Beaumont Hospital. I had the pleasure of visiting Beaumont Hospital recently and also met the director of the programme. The future development of the programme is under active consideration by the Health Service Executive.

  189.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the regulations, orders, and guidelines from her Department limiting the community physiotherapy service to adults under the age of 65 and children with a disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10128/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Department of Health and Children has no regulations, orders or guidelines that pertain directly to eligibility for community physiotherapy services. However, eligibility for such a service may be accessed by those who are entitled to a medical card. Under the Health Act 1970 determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically eligible for a medical card.

  190.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the health service executive regions that have a community physiotherapy service available; if a community physiotherapy service is available in the HSE mid west[196]ern region; and if not, the reason therefor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10129/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act, 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January, 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This include the provision of physiotherapy services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Executive’s national director for primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  191.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the regulations from her Department regarding the motorised transport grant; the reason this grant is limited to those aged between 17 and 65; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10130/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The motorised transport grant was introduced in 1968 by way of Circular 7/68. It is a grant which may be made payable by the Health Service Executive towards the purchase of a car and or adaptations to a car being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and up to 65 years of age, where such a car is essential for him or her to obtain or retain employment. Self-employed persons who satisfy the criteria for eligibility may also be considered, subject to the above age limits. In cases where application is made on the basis of obtaining or retaining employment, the Health Service Executive must be satisfied that the applicant is capable of holding a job, has the physical capacity to drive the vehicle and is qualified to hold a drivers licence, full or provisional. The grant may also be considered in exceptional circumstances for a person with a severe disability, subject to the above age limits, who lives in a very remote location and whose disability impedes him or her from using public transport.

  192.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her views on whether migraine is a disabling illness. [10137/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  Migraine is a debilitating condition characterised by severe headache and a range of other physical symptoms. It is estimated that 10% of the UK population suffer from migraine, according to Bal and Hollingsworth in 2005. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men and is most commonly experienced between the ages of 15 to 55 years.

[197]There are two types of migraine: migraine without an aura, common migraine, and migraine with aura, classical migraine. Common migraine consists of a severe throbbing headache usually located on one side with abdominal symptoms, including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dislike of food, constipation or diarrhoea. This affects about 80% of sufferers. Sufferers may also experience sensitivity to smell, light and noise which leads them to rest in a quiet, darkened room.

In classical migraine, the headache is preceded by visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines and blind spots or tingling limbs. The average length of a migraine attack is 22 hours and sufferers generally feel washed out for another one or two days afterwards. The average number of attacks suffered is 13 per year.

The exact reason migraine occurs is unknown. However, research suggests that attacks are linked to chemical changes in the body, serotonin release, and that blood vessels and certain nerve endings within the brain are involved. Many factors can trigger migraine attacks such as stress; physical fatigue or lack of sleep; too much sleep; certain foods such as cheese or alcohol; extreme emotions; missed meals and hormonal factors. Avoidance of identifiable trigger factors reduce the number of headaches a patient may experience. Healthy lifestyles including regular exercise and avoidance of nicotine may also enhance migraine management. Non-pharmacological type interventions for control of migraine are helpful to some patients. These include biofeedback and counselling. These, as with most elements of migraine, need to be individualised to the patient.

Pharmacological control of migraine includes the use of analgesics, anti-inflammatory agents, ergotamine preparations and 5HT drugs such as sumatriptan. Due to the severity of the headache, some patients may also require a narcotic analgesic but if the patient is experiencing frequent migraine attacks, habituating analgesics should be avoided. If patients have frequent migraine attacks and if the attacks do not respond consistently to migraine specific acute treatments, or if the migraine specific medications are ineffective or contraindicated because of other medical problems, then preventive medication should be given to reduce the migraine frequency and improve the response to the acute migraine medicines. In summary, migraine is a common condition which in most cases can effectively be treated by conventional medication. However, in a small percentage of patients, migraine is a debilitating condition whose symptoms are very difficult to control.

  193.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the date when the BreastCheck screening programme will be extended to the whole of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10139/05]

[198]

  216.  Mr. Coveney    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding the provision of the BreastCheck service in the former Southern Health Board area; and when this new service is now expected to become operational. [10309/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 216 together.

The roll-out of the national breast screening programme to the remaining counties is a major priority in the development of cancer services. This will ensure that all women in the relevant age group in every county have access to breast screening and follow up treatment where appropriate.

A capital investment of approximately €21 million has been approved to construct and equip two static clinical units, one in Cork and the other in Galway. Design briefs in respect of the capital projects have been completed. It is anticipated that the advertisement for the appointment of a design team will be placed in the EU Journal shortly. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the expansion of BreastCheck nationally will be met. Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should consult her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

  194.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her attention has been drawn to the European Parliament resolution on breast cancer 2003, the third edition of the European Code Against Cancer 2003 and the European Commission recommendation of 2003, adopted by the Council of Ministers, all calling for the extension of breast cancer screening to all women up to the age of at least 69; if her Department will be extending breast cancer screening to those over 65; and if so, the timescale involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10140/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I am aware of the recommendations on breast screening contained in the documents referred to by the Deputy. The national breast screening programme currently covers the eastern, north eastern, midland and parts of the south eastern areas of the country. Screening is being offered, free of charge, to all women in those areas in the target age group of 50 to 64 years of age. More than 60% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in this country are under the age of 65.

The current priority of BreastCheck and my Department is to progress the roll-out of breast screening to women in the target age group in the rest of the country. Following the national roll-out and when the programme is sufficiently developed and quality assured, consideration will be given to extending the upper age limit. Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who [199]has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

  195.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if extra funding will be offered to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin to expand facilities for persons who suffer with epilepsy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10143/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services to persons with epilepsy.

Services at Beaumont Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

  196.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be admitted to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin for further tests relating to their medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10144/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in Kildare, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  197.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding the provision of a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10162/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department [200]has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  198.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding the provision of a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10163/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  199.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding provision of work under special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10164/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Limerick on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  200.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when medical card renewal will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10165/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  201.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she travelled abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with her in her official party; the duration of the visit and the cost involved. [10172/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I travelled to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina to undertake a number of duties in relation to St. Patrick’s Day. I travelled with my husband, Mr. Brian Geoghegan, the deputy Government press secretary, Mr. Iarla Mongey, and my acting private secretary, Mr. Michael Corban. The delegation left on Wednesday, 16 March and returned on Sunday, 20 March. The costs in relation to the trip are not yet available.

  202.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when funding will be made available towards staffing of the high dependency unit in Letterkenny General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10187/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for services at Letterkenny General Hospital. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s north western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  203.  Mr. Wall    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) for occupational therapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10195/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act, 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January, 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes the responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  204.  Mr. Carey    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if, in view of the fact that no psychiatric service intervention has been made [202]to persons (details supplied) in Dublin 11 if she will establish with the Health Service Executive the measures been taken to overcome the difficulty posed by the reluctance of these persons to meet their referring general practitioner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10200/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the Health Service Executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  205.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason a special bed and mattress for a person (details supplied) with terminal cancer approved in October 2004 have still not been delivered to them; if this is unacceptable treatment of a person; if the officials will provide the required special bed and mattress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10206/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of cancer services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  206.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if there is a record of the use of valium and ativan used in psychiatric hospitals; the quantity of each product used at a hospital (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10216/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the [203]Health Service Executive’s south eastern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  207.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if the mental health tribunals which were to be established under the 2002 Act will be established in order that persons who are aggrieved at their treatment would have a proper course of action for redress. [10238/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The main vehicle for the implementation of the Mental Health Act 2001 is the Mental Health Commission which was established with effect from 5 April 2002. The detailed work programme of the commission is a matter for the commission itself to determine, in accordance with its statutory functions under the Mental Health Act. However, the commission has indicated that one of its main priorities is to put in place the structures required for the operation of mental health tribunals. I understand that the commission is working closely with all stakeholders within the mental health services to ensure that the mental health tribunals are commenced as soon as possible.

  208.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she has plans to increase public information about inflammatory bowel disease; if she put inflammatory bowel disease on the long-term illness list; and if free medication or a medical card will be offered to adults and children who have been diagnosed with same. [10239/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition through the long term illness scheme, LTI. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness for people under 16 only, phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. Parkinsonism, acute leukaemia, muscular dystrophies and multiple sclerosis were added to the scheme in 1975. The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. There are no plans to amend the list of eligible conditions.

Other schemes provide assistance towards the cost of approved drugs and medicines for people with significant ongoing medical expenses. People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves [204]and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief officer of the relevant Health Service Executive area. In determining eligibility, the chief officer has regard to the applicant’s financial circumstances. Income guidelines are used to assist in determining eligibility. However, where a person’s income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may be awarded if the chief officer considers that the person’s medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis.

Non-medical card holders, and people with conditions not covered under the LTI, can use the drugs payment scheme. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. My Department has established an editorial group to review, inter alia, the provision of health promotion information. I will ask the group to review the need for information referred to by the Deputy. It is a matter for the GP in consultation with the patient to decide on the most appropriate course of treatment.

  209.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will confirm that none of the botox being safety tested on mice here with LD50 or other testing procedures will be used for anti-wrinkle treatments in this country or elsewhere. [10240/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, as amended by the European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations 2002, provides the legislative framework for control of the use of live animals in scientific research and other experimental activity. Under the Act the Minister for Health and Children is designated as the “Authority” and has responsibility for granting licences to perform specified experiments on an animal of specified description in accordance with the restrictions imposed by the Act.

The Act, as amended, provides that an experiment shall not be performed except for one of the following purposes: the development, manufacture, quality, effectiveness and safety testing of drugs, foodstuffs and other substances or products for the avoidance, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of disease, ill-health or other abnormality or their effects in human beings, animals or plants, or the assessment, detection, regulation, or modification of physiological conditions in human beings, animals or plants; the protection of the natural environment in the interests of the health or welfare of human beings or animals or the illustration of lectures in medical schools, hospitals, colleges or elsewhere.

The Irish Medicines Board, IMB, has advised that botox is authorised as a prescription only medicine and is indicated for the management of [205]a number of specified conditions. The IMB has also advised that the product information specifies “botox should only be given by physicians with appropriate qualifications, and documented expertise in the treatment and the use of the required equipment”. The Deputy may wish to note that it is the practice in Ireland not to licence experiments for the testing of cosmetic products.

  210.  Ms Shortall    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 22 March 2005, if she will answer the question posed; and when she intends to reply to the letter referred to. [10243/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  In response to the Deputy’s question of 22 March 2005, I advised that the Health Service Executive, HSE, has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services, including responsibility for health services for patients with cystic fibrosis. My Department has been in touch with the executive’s eastern regional area and is advised that a detailed response is being prepared for issue by the HSE to the Deputy and the person concerned.

  211.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the date it is expected that the national action plan for rehabilitation service, commissioned by her Department and referred to in a parliamentary question of 2 December 2004, will be delivered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10252/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  No date has been set for the completion of the rehabilitation action plan, which is being considered as part of my Department’s overall review of services for people with disabilities.

  212.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason the Dunne inquiry costs €20 million; her views on the lack of public sessions, the lack of a special adviser, and the lack of press media briefings by the chairperson had a negative part to play in the result in this jurisdiction of the Dunne report; if there are lessons to be learned as regards future inquiries such as this; the steps necessary to prevent a repeat of this fiasco; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10275/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  To the end of December 2004, the total cost of the post mortem inquiry was approximately €20 million. Total legal and administrative costs were approximately €11 million. The [206]remainder of the costs include establishment and office rental costs of €2.29 million, grants to the former eastern regional health authority of just over €5 million, grants to Parents for Justice, PFJ, organisation of €977,210 and legal fees to Kelly Noone, solicitors for PFJ, of €800,942. Subject to the terms of reference, the conduct of the inquiry was a matter for the chairman to determine. On 31 March last, I received the report of the inquiry in relation to paediatric hospitals. The report is being examined by my Department, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General.

  213.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will confirm the dates within which a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was a patient; the way in which their bank account was managed and by whom; the details of the balances at the date of death; if this person’s brother can claim under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10306/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under this Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the issue raised by the Deputy and accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer of the HSE south-eastern area to investigate this matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  214.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the medical and financial circumstances of the person and their need for the card and if she will expedite a response. [10307/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  215.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will expedite a response to an application for funding submitted to the health office, Kilkenny, for [207]treatment of alcoholism at Colliga House, Glen of Imaal, in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that all other treatment has failed; if treatment of this kind is funded or has been funded before; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10308/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the Health Service Executive’s south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 216 answered with Question
No. 193.

  217.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her response to the resignation of a consultant oncologist at Cork University Hospital recently; the steps she is taking to deal with the consequences for cancer patients in County Kerry. [10310/05]

  300.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if steps are being taken to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of a consultant oncologist at Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10936/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 300 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of cancer services and the recruitment and replacement of consultant staff. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s southern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  218.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the situation regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10311/05]

[208]Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  219.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the status of an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme. [10312/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  220.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when replacement windows will be installed under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10313/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  221.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 223 of 26 January 2005, if the application has been processed under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a per[209]son (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10314/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  222.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 80 of 8 December 2004, if the application has been processed; if the various reports have been completed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare for a replacement back door and the installation of a shower under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10315/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  223.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 246 of 19 October 2004, if the community welfare officer has carried out a report regarding the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10316/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer [210]for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  224.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be assessed for a wheelchair; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10317/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for aids and appliances. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  225.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 1 February 2005, when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive a full assessment of their needs in order for equipment to be issued from the Health Service Executive mid-western region, and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10318/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services in County Clare. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  226.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 is entitled to claim following the recent Supreme Court judgment on nursing home charges; and if she will give the maximum support and advice on this matter. [10339/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  My Department is studying the Supreme Court judgment in detail and will take on board all the consequences for policy and law arising from the judgment. A special Cabinet sub-committee comprising the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, the Attorney General and the Tánaiste has been established to [211]consider the issue of repayment in light of the judgment. Persons who were in publicly contracted beds in private nursing homes are covered by the terms of the Supreme Court judgment.

The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 regulates the private nursing home sector. Under the nursing home subvention regulations the HSE is empowered to make a financial contribution to an individual towards the cost of his or her private nursing home care provided they qualify on means and dependency grounds. In the case of private nursing home care the contract of care is between the individual and the private nursing home owner.

The provisions of the Supreme Court judgment do not apply to individuals in private nursing homes who have entered these homes under the nursing home subvention scheme. My Department has recently received counsel’s advice on the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the regulations made thereunder, which is privileged and is being examined in consultation with the Attorney General’s office.

  227.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when an application for the renewal of a medical card will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10378/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  228.  Ms McManus    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her response to the advice received by the IMO that the introduction of the yellow pack free GP cards are a change in the GPs contract; the way in which she intends to resolve this impasse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10393/05]

  271.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the situation regarding the doctor-only medical cards in view of the IMOs attitude to their introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10689/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 271 together.

The necessary legislation to allow members of the public to apply for the new “doctor visit”[212]cards has been enacted. Funding of €50 million required to introduce this development in 2005 has been made available to the Health Service Executive. The objective of this measure is to use resources to benefit as many people on low incomes as possible, in particular families, in order to take away any worries that parents may have about the cost of bringing their children to the doctor.

The services which general practitioners will provide to people who qualify for the “doctor visit” card will be the same as those provided to people who presently hold medical cards. Therefore, there will be no change in the provisions of the current general medical services general practitioner contract. The Health Service Executive has put in place the necessary administrative arrangements for this measure and has offered to meet with the Irish Medical Organisation on these arrangements on a number of occasions, and it remains available.

  229.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will consider the introduction of a disability card which will be issued to those deemed to be disabled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10395/05]

  230.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if the Government will bring into force a special blue card system similar to that in force in Great Britain and Northern Ireland whereby persons with disabilities over the age of 18 years of age are issued with a blue card; if she will consider the introduction of this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10396/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 230 together.

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the need to minimise the degree to which people with disabilities are required to undergo repeated medical eligibility assessments. I would support measures to address this matter. I envisage that this matter will be considered in the context of the needs assessment process being developed under the Disability Bill.

  231.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if and when the report on the national expert group on domiciliary births will be published; and if she intends to act upon its recommendations. [10407/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The domiciliary births group was established by the health board chief executive officers in 2003 and the group’s final report was presented to the CEOs in December 2004. The CEOs discussed the report at their January 2005 meeting and decided to recommend it to the [213]Health Service Executive and to the Department of Health and Children. I understand that the report is being examined by the HSE corporate. Publication is a matter for the HSE.

The report was received by my Department early last month and it is being examined. The Department’s views will be forwarded to the HSE once this examination is complete.

  232.  Ms Enright    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if the Child Care Act 1991 will be used to protect children against institutional neglect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10420/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. The provision of services under the Child Care Act 1991 as amended by the Health Act 2004, including the provision of family support and child protection services, is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the executive’s national director of primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  233.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 140 of 15 December 2004 and further to her responses to this Deputy dated 23 March 2005, if the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2005 will serve to deal with the fact that the High Court found that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000 (Additional Functions) Order 2001 was ultra vires; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10431/05]

  234.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason the Ryan commission will not process complaints by those subjected to vaccine trials without permission; the action she is taking to address this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10436/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

A number of complex issues have had to be considered regarding this matter. These issues are now approaching finalisation and discussions have taken place with a number of involved parties. It is hoped to conclude all considerations in the short term in order for the matter to be finalised. It is not envisaged that the Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2005 will address the issue of the vaccine trials.

  235.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 333 of 26 January 2005, the progress to date on the issue; if a detailed examination of the schemes has taken place; the reason for the delay in performing this examination; if it will be included in her Department’s business plan for 2005; when she intends to publish this plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10440/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  A preliminary review of the vaccine damage compensation schemes in place in a number of other countries was undertaken by my Department in order to establish general details of schemes already in existence. My officials are now carrying out an investigation to identify the most relevant models from a clinical, administrative and fairness point of view. On completion of this investigation, I will be in a position to consider the available options. The completion of this work has been included in the Department’s 2005 business plan, which was posted on the Department’s website on 6 April 2005.

  236.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the progress to date in the provision of residential services for people with a mental disability in the Athlone area of County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10441/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act, 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January, 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s midland area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  237.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when capital funding will be given to the Irish Wheelchair Association. [10449/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal services. This includes responsibility for the allocation of capital funding to voluntary agencies. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for [215]the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  238.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a CAT scanner will be provided for Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, County Louth. [10456/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January, 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Louth County Hospital, Dundalk. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s north-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  239.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of patients in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, who have been on trolleys each week in each hospital since 1 September 2004. [10457/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s north-eastern area to examine the issues raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  240.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the action she intends to take following the findings of the national cancer registry report into cancer rates in County Louth which found that Drogheda has cancer rates in excess of the national average; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10458/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of cancer services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the [216]chief officer for the executive’s north-eastern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  241.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the progress of the national suicide review group in the implementation of the recommendations of the national task force on suicide; and if she will make a statement on the group’s contribution to suicide prevention. [10496/05]

  242.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the annual budget for each year since its inception of the national suicide review group. [10503/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 242 together.

In response to the recommendations of the report of the national task force on suicide, which was published in 1998, the national suicide review group was established by the chief executive officers of the health boards. Membership of the group includes experts in the areas of mental health, public health and research. The main responsibilities of the group are to review ongoing trends in suicide and parasuicide, to co-ordinate research into suicide and to make appropriate recommendations to the Health Service Executive. The group also liaises with the suicide resource officers in each region.

The annual report of the national suicide review group meets the requirement of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2001 that the Minister for Health and Children will report annually on the measures taken by health boards to prevent suicides in the previous year. The report outlines the measures taken to help prevent suicide and reduce the impact of suicidal behaviour; facilitates the sharing of information regarding suicide prevention projects; and provides accurate and current information on the patterns of death by suicide in Ireland.

Additional revenue funding was provided by my Department to the national suicide review group since it was established as follows: 1999 —€63,000; 2000 —€127,000; 2002 —€63,000; and 2003 —€50,000.

Work is now under way on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention, which will be published later this year.

  243.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the sections of her Department based outside Dublin which will be moved to other non-Dublin locations under the decentralisation programme; the location from and to which officials are being transferred; the numbers and sections involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10525/05]

[217]Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The General Register Office in Roscommon is the only section of my Department based outside Dublin. This office will not be moved to another location under the decentralisation programme.

  244.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when orthodontic treatment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10547/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  245.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 156 of 26 January 2005, the reason there is not a proactive follow-up by the consultants who examined the person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if a full programme of treatment and care for this person will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10548/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Carlow, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

  246.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the assistance her Department will give to the parent of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [10550/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. [218]This includes responsibility for child welfare issues. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

The Minister for Education and Science will reply to the Deputy on the education related issue.

  247.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her attention has been drawn to the campaign to have fair trade products widely available and used; her views on the objectives of this campaign; and if she will endeavour to have such fair trade approved products used in her Department. [10556/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I am aware of the campaign to have fair trade products widely available and used and of the benefits of such a campaign.

The purchase of any products by my Department would have to be in accordance with the procedures governing public procurement. Regarding services such as the restaurant in my Department or catering for events organised by my Department, it is a matter for the catering companies concerned to make their own decisions on purchasing supplies.

  248.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will report on the HSEW response to allegations of abuse between 1993 and 1995 at a school (details supplied); and the action which has been taken on this matter. [10575/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  The Eastern Health Board was dissolved on the establishment of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the area health boards and these bodies were in turn dissolved on the establishment of the Health Service Executive. The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for child welfare issues. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  249.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details [219]supplied) in County Mayo will be called for orthodontic treatment. [10589/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  250.  Mr. English    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when the review dealing with the treatment of those under 18 who are misusing drugs will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10603/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  Action 49 of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 called for the development of a protocol for the treatment of those under 18 presenting to drug services with serious drug misuse problems. In response to this action a working group was established, which was chaired by an official from my Department and comprised members of the statutory and voluntary sectors.

To fulfil its remit, the group undertook a number of initiatives, including: an examination of the legal issues surrounding treatment; a literature review carried out by the Addiction Research Centre; a review of services and service gaps nationally; the establishment of focus groups of services misusers within and outside the eastern region; a review of the treatment issues raised in the focus groups by a consultant adolescent and child psychiatrist in substance abuse. The report of this group was finalised in 2004 and arrangements are in place for its publication in the coming weeks.

  251.  Mr. English    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the measures in place and remain to be implemented to ensure that all drug misusers have immediate access to professional assessment and counselling by regional health services as promised under the national drugs strategy; if she will provide information on the existing waiting times for access to such services in each regional health office area; when she envisages that these waiting times will be eliminated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10604/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act [220]2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for drug treatment services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the executive to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  252.  Mr. English    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason a pilot community pharmacy needle and syringe exchange programme in the ERHA area promised under the national drugs strategy has not been established to date; when she expects this facility will be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10605/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for drug treatment services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  253.  Mr. English    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of suicide resource officers employed nationally; the regional health centres they are located in; the amount of funding allocated to this resource; the location of each regional health centre that does not have a suicide resource officer; the steps being taken to rectify this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10606/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the employment of suicide resource officers. Accordingly, my Department has requested the interim chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  254.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is unable to have an emergency amputation to treat rampant gangrene of the leg; her views on whether this is [221]acceptable; the steps she will take to resolve the situation; if she will restore 3,000 beds taken out of the system in recent years; if she will provide the extra beds needed for the needs of 500,000 people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10608/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

The health strategy contains a commitment that a total of 3,000 acute beds will be added to the system over ten years. In this context, funding has been provided for an additional 900 beds in acute hospitals throughout the country, 713 of which were in place at the end of the first quarter of 2005. It is envisaged that the remaining 187 beds will open before the end of 2005.

  255.  Ms Shortall    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the steps that are being taken to improve capacity at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, in respect of cataract operations; and the reason the earliest date a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 can be offered an appointment is February 2006. [10609/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Services at the Mater Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Cases such as these would be advised to contact the national treatment purchase fund when the patient has already waited more than six months, or in some cases, more than three months, for a procedure.

  256.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the situation regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10617/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act [222]2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Clare, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  257.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the system of reporting made by individual consultants in respect of the mix of public and private patients receiving procedures in public hospitals to hospital chief executive officers and if this information is publicly accountable and monitored in Beaumont, the Mater Hospital and the Children’s Hospital, Temple Street. [10620/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Services at Beaumont Hospital, the Mater Hospital and Temple Street Children’s Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  258.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the ratio of staff to child which is appropriate at the different stages of approved child care facilities. [10621/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  The Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and Amendment Regulations 1997, which give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 provide for notification to, and inspection by, health boards of pre-school services. The regulations apply to pre-schools, playgroups, day nurseries, crèches, childminders looking after more than three children and other similar services which cater for children under six years of age.

Article 7 of the regulations provides that “A person carrying on a pre-school service shall ensure that a sufficient number of competent [223]adults are supervising the pre-school children in the service at all times.” The explanatory guide [224]which provides guidance on the regulations recommends adult child ratios as follows:

Full Day Care Sessional Services Drop In Services
0-1 year1 : 3
1-3 years1 : 6
3-6 years1 : 8
0-6 years1 : 10 1-6 years1 : 8
Under 12 months1 : 3

  259.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a special chair will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a decision will be expedited in the case. [10677/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for aids and appliances. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  260.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of hospitals that have failed to co-operate with the request from the Health and Safety Authority to provide compulsory risk assessments of conditions in their accident and emergency units; the action that will be taken to ensure compliance with the requirements of the HSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10678/05]

  262.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of accident and emergency units visited by the Health and Safety Authority team of inspectors to examine safety levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10680/05]

  265.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of accident and emergency units in Cavan and Monaghan hospitals, respectively, examined by the HSA; the hospitals considered unsafe; the action proposed to ensure compliance with HSA regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10683/05]

  266.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of accident and emergency units in Louth and Meath hospitals, respectively, examined by the HSA; the hospitals considered unsafe; the action proposed to ensure compliance with HSA regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10684/05]

[224]

  267.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of accident and emergency units considered unsafe by the HSA, arising from the recent inspections; the action taken to enforce compliance with HSA requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10685/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 260, 262 and 265 to 267, inclusive, together.

In January of this year the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, asked hospitals to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of their accident and emergency units. The authority reported that it was satisfied with the level of response it received to its request. The HSA then decided to undertake a targeted programme of inspections in the following hospitals: Beaumont Hospital, James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Mater Hospital, Mercy University Hospital, Naas General Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, Sligo General Hospital, South Tipperary General Hospital, University College Hospital, Galway, and Wexford General Hospital. The authority’s review is expected to inform priorities for action by the National Hospitals Office on health and safety issues.

  261.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of persons who have applied for repayments in respect of charges which were illegally applied for publicly funded long-term residential care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10679/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive which was established on 1 January 2005. Under this Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy outlining the number of persons who have applied for repayment of charges for publicly funded long-term residential care.

Question No. 262 answered with Question
No. 260

  263.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her plans for the introduction of a no-fault compensation scheme for psychiatric service personnel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10681/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The report of the task force on assaults on psychiatric nurses was completed in 2003. In addition to quantifying the level of assaults and making recommendations on prevention, the report contained proposals for a scheme of compensation for psychiatric nurses who have been seriously injured as a result of an assault by a patient in the workplace.

Government approval would be required for the introduction of any new State compensation scheme, which would be additional to the existing serious physical assaults scheme, last revised in 2001. This scheme provides enhanced sick pay arrangements for nurses assaulted at work. Medical expenses are also refunded. In circumstances where a nurse is certifed permanently unfit to resume duty he or she may be paid five sixths of full salary until retirement.

In 2003 a draft memorandum for Government was circulated and during the consultation process, complex legal and financial issues emerged regarding aspects of the scheme proposed by the task force and their implications for the health service and the wider public service.

In March 2004 the Psychiatric Nurses Association and SIPTU were advised that serious concerns that had been raised about the proposed scheme. Officials from my Department have been in ongoing consultation with the Department of Finance and the office of the Attorney General, with a view to addressing the issues raised. The issues involved are very complex and have far reaching implications for the health service. I am in the process of consulting with my colleagues in Government on this issue and I expect to be in a position to provide more definite information shortly.

  264.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason for the decision of the Health Service Executive, north-eastern area, to take into permanent care a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10682/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for services for the welfare and protection of children.

[226]While it would not be appropriate for me to comment on an individual case, I would like to state that under the Child Care Act 1991 as amended by the Health Act 2004 the Health Service Executive has a duty to act in relation to any child who requires care or protection. The national standards for foster care also require that the executive must put the interests of children in foster care before any other consideration.

Questions Nos. 265 to 267, inclusive, answered with Question No. 260.

  268.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of patients awaiting audiology services in the Health Service Executive north east area in Counties Cavan and Monaghan, respectively; the average waiting time in each county; her proposals to address the waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10686/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for audiology services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s north-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  269.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of patients awaiting speech and language therapy services in the Health Service Executive, north east area, in Counties Cavan and Monaghan, respectively; the average waiting time in each county; her proposals to address the waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10687/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal services. This includes responsibility for speech therapy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s north eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  270.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position on the provision of a CAT scanner for Monaghan [227]General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10688/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January, 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Monaghan General Hospital. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s north-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 271 answered with Question
No. 228.

  272.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by her Department in each of the past three years to men’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for men, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10690/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  It is not possible in the time allowed to compile all of the information requested by the Deputy. The information is being collated in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  273.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by her Department in each of the past three years to women’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for women, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10691/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  It is not possible in the time allowed to compile all of the information requested by the Deputy. The information is being collated in my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  274.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position with regard to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is waiting for a hip operation; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10731/05]

[228]Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Wicklow, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  275.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position with regard to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if their appointment will be brought forward; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10732/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive is required to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Carlow my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

  276.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if transport will be provided by the Health Service Executive western area to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10740/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive is required to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

  277.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the action she is taking to provide a flexible system to meet the needs of patients with lifelong conditions who have to obtain emergency meetings their consultants when the need arises; if she has considered establishing a protocol for such situations in all public hospitals to force consultants or members of their teams to meet with patients in such a category as the need arises; the current waiting list for out patients to see consultants in respect of lifelong [229]conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10798/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The management of chronic conditions is a matter for decision by the doctor or doctors treating the individual patient. With regard to the treatment arrangements and support services in place for persons with chronic conditions the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. My Department has therefore requested the director of the national hospitals office to reply directly to the Deputy on the matters raised.

  278.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the annual budget allocated to Mullingar General Hospital, Tullamore General Hospital and Portlaoise General Hospital in each of the past five years. [10799/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  My Department is advised that the Health Service Executive, which has responsibility for the funding of the hospitals concerned, responded on 11 April to the Deputy’s Question of 22 March 2005.

  279.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding barriers to entry in the dental profession; her proposals to alter the arrangements under which a person may enter training to become a dentist or may be recognised as competent to provide dental services here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10800/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for undergraduate training of dentists lies with my colleague the Minister for Education and Science. I have been informed that on access to dental education the Higher Education Authority has recommended that consideration be given to placing a range of health science courses on a graduate entry rather than undergraduate entry basis. This will potentially address the very high levels of competition among school leavers to access these courses and should provide more flexibility of access to non-traditional higher education students such as mature students and disadvantaged students. The Minister for Education and Science has asked the working group on undergraduate medical education to consider a graduate entry approach to medicine in the first instance. I understand that [230]there are no plans at present to actively consider the extension of this approach to other courses.

Furthermore, I understand that the Competition Authority has announced its intention to consider issues of competition arising in a number of professions, including the dental profession. While a background paper has been published the Authority has not completed a formal study.

As the Deputy may be aware, in order to practise as a dentist it is necessary for an individual to register with the dental council, which was established under the Dentists Act 1985. I am informed by the dental council that under the terms of Directive 78/686/EEC and other relevant agreements that EEA nationals who hold a scheduled dental qualification are entitled to register and practise in Ireland. In 2004 the dental council registered 58 dentists from other member states of the EEA.

I have been informed that the dental council holds an annual examination in order to facilitate dentists from outside the EEA who wish to practise their profession in Ireland. Success in this examination confers entitlement to full registration in the register of dentists for Ireland. A total of 24 dentists from various countries such as the Philippines, India, Nigeria and Ukraine have been accepted for the 2005 examination which is being held this week.

  280.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10801/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal services. This includes responsibility for admissions to the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  281.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her plans to fill a vacancy due to the imminent retirement of a person (details supplied) at the Mercy University Hospital, Cork in May 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10802/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and [231]deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of cancer services and the recruitment and replacement of consultant staff. Accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s southern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  282.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason a new wing of St. Vincent’s Hospital, completed for the past 18 months, has not been opened for patients; the date on which patients will be allowed into the wing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10803/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. Services at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin are provided under an arrangement with the executive. Accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  283.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    if he has sought legal advice regarding the possible entitlement of elderly persons to a refund in cases in which they had medical cards and were placed in private nursing homes due to the fact that no public places were available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10804/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  My Department has received counsel’s advice on the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and regulations made thereunder. This advice, which is privileged, is currently being examined in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office and it would be inappropriate at this stage to comment on the advice.

  284.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    if assistance will be offered to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare who have an autistic child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10829/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to [232]manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  285.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when funding will be allocated to replace the existing ambulance base in Thurles. [10843/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of ambulance services. Accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  286.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    if he will provide each carer of an elderly or terminally ill relative a minimum of four hours per week of respite care to allow him or her a break from caring duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10845/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. Home help, home care grant and other community services are a matter for the HSE, depending on the assessed circumstances of each individual case. There are no plans to introduce a general four hour per week respite break for carers.

I understand from my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, who has responsibility for carers allowances, that persons in receipt of carer’s allowance receive an annual respite care grant in recognition of the importance of respite services to carers. This grant is also payable with carer’s benefit. Provision was made in the 2005 budget for three improvements to the respite care grant scheme. These are: the extension of the respite care grant, which is currently paid only to those who qualify for carer’s allowance and carer’s benefit, to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care from June 2005; an increase in the amount of the respite care grant from €835 to €1,000; and a respite care grant in respect of each care recipi[233]ent for those full time carers who provide care for three or more people whereas at present a double respite care grant is paid to those who are caring for two or more people.

  287.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to Merlin Park Hospital. [10866/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  288.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be admitted to St. James’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10869/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Clare, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  289.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be admitted to the Rehabilitation Unit in Dún Laoghaire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10871/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Clare, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  290.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the annual fees paid to each chairperson and director in each statutory board under the remit of her Department. [10873/05]

[234]Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  My Department is currently undertaking a review to confirm the current position on payments to members of all state boards under its aegis. I will revert to the Deputy on this matter as soon as the review has been completed.

  291.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    if additional funding will be provided to a group (details supplied) for the provision of follow-on respite placements for autistic children over 12 years of age as the current level of funding will not adequately provide all the residential or part-time residential places required over the next few years and parents are very anxious about the uncertainty regarding future services after their children reach 12 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10896/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive in the western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  292.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    if the maximum support and assistance will be given to Down’s Syndrome Ireland with its national resource centre building project, including financial support. [10917/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes the provision of funding for capital projects. Accordingly, my Department has requested the executive’s national director for primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  293.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason transport is not being provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo with severe mental and physical disabilities; and if it will be arranged. [10919/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the [235]executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  294.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    further to Parliamentary Question No. 371 of 5 October 2004, if funding will be made available to continue the programme of the inner ear cochlear department of Beaumont Hospital; if the proposed implant for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10923/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I am aware of the work done by the cochlear implant programme at Beaumont Hospital. I had the pleasure of visiting Beaumont Hospital recently and also met with the director of the programme. I can assure the Deputy that the future development of the programme in under active consideration by the Health Service Executive. My Department is advised that the former Eastern Regional Health Authority wrote to the Deputy in November 2004 in response to his question of 5 October, advising him of the position at that time with regard to the programme.

  295.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding the extension of the accident and emergency department of Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10931/05]

  298.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a day ward at Kerry General Hospital is lying idle and fully equipped due to the employment ceiling in the health service; the steps she will take to ensure that this day ward is opened and fully staffed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10934/05]

  301.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if consideration is being given to the provision of a medical assessment unit at the accident and emergency department at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10937/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 295, 298 and 301 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 [236]January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Kerry General Hospital. My Department has therefore requested the chief officer for the executive’s southern area to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter raised.

  296.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    the position regarding the provision of a new community hospital in Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10932/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  As the Deputy will be aware, the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of a new community hospital in Tralee, County Kerry. At present the project is being processed through the detailed design stage and it is expected that this stage will be completed towards the end of this year.

  297.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the way by which she reconciles the employment ceiling in the health services with the Government’s commitment to provide 850 new community nursing home beds; the number of these beds which have been provided; if the staff allocated have been provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10933/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  Work has been under way in the Department of Health and Children on a proposal for a public private partnership investment scheme for 850 community nursing units. There have been discussions between my Department and the Department of Finance in the development of this PPP scheme. These are complex schemes and it is important to have a clear view of the benefits that will accrue given the complexity of the PPP contracting structure. The work that has been done so far has helped to clarify a number of issues.

I am very aware that additional long stay bed capacity is required to relieve pressure on the acute hospital and community care programme and I will be pursuing the need to deliver such capacity with the Minister for Finance as a matter of high priority. The provision of these additional long stay beds must be considered in the context of the capital investment programme and the employment ceiling.

[237]Question No. 298 answered with Question
No. 295.

  299.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    the reason applicants for the curam home care grant are being advised that they have qualified for the grant but that there is insufficient money available to award to grant; if applicants who are awarded the grant will receive it immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10935/05]

  308.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    the number of persons in County Kerry who have been approved for a curam home care grant and are still awaiting payment; the length of time an applicant has to wait from the time of approval to the actual payment date; the longest period of time an applicant has been waiting for payment; if approved applicants will be assured that payment will be backdated to the date of approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10977/05]

  309.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    the amount of funding provided to the Health Service Executive’s southern area for the provision of curam home care grants in 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10978/05]

  310.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    the amount needed to issue payment immediately of curam home care grants to all approved applicants in the Kerry area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10979/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 299, 308, 309 and 310 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1st January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the home care grant scheme in the southern area. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s southern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 300 answered with Question
No. 217.

Question No. 301 answered with Question
No. 295.

  302.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    [238]when it is intended to publish the capital funding programme for hospitals for 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10938/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, established on 1 January 2005, to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for progressing the health capital programme for hospitals.

The HSE service plan for 2005 was recently approved by me and as required by relevant legislation laid before the House. The detailed capital funding programme for hospitals for 2005 is currently being finalised in the context of the capital investment framework for 2005 to 2009. This process will be concluded in the near future and the HSE will then be in a position to progress its capital programme in line with overall funding resources available for 2005 or beyond. While elements of the capital programme will of course be commercially sensitive, the question of publishing the details sought by the Deputy will be a matter for the HSE.

  303.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    the position regarding the provision of a new hospital for Dingle, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10939/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive is required to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As part of the executive’s responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors. The Health Service Executive’s national capital plan is currently being examined by my Department.

  304.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    if she will meet with a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10940/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  A request to meet with this group was received in the Tánaiste’s office and I understand that a letter has issued to arrange a meeting.

  305.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    the position regarding the extension of Kenmare Community Hospital in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10941/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive is required to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As part of the executive’s responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors. The Health Service Executive’s national capital plan is currently being examined by my Department.

  306.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason an operation did not take place for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. [10975/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  307.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children    if he will meet the president and a delegation of members from Down’s Syndrome Ireland over the next few weeks and make this a priority issue. [10976/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have recently written to Down’s Syndrome Ireland suggesting a possible date for a meeting with them.

Questions Nos. 308 to 310, inclusive, answered with Question No. 299.

  311.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister [240]for Health and Children    if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [10980/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Cork, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s southern area to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter raised.

  312.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Clare regarding a refund for bedroom furniture; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10981/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for aids and appliances. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  313.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the date on which the Travers report was submitted to her; the date on which the printed version of the Travers report became available for purchase in the Government publications sales office; if she will provide a full explanation for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10982/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I recieved the Travers report on Friday, 4 March 2005. Before being published it was considered by the Cabinet at its next meeting on Tuesday, 8 March 2005. Copies of the report were given to each Member of the Dáil on Wednesday, 9 March and the Dáil then referred it by resolution to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. The committee published it subsequent to its meeting that day. It was available on the website www.oireachtas.ie also on 9 March 2005. The printed version was made available for purchase in the Government Publications sales office on 16 March 2005. There was, therefore, no inordinate delay in publishing the report.

  314.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a copy of the full report of the study group regarding cancer in the Summerhill area of Dublin 1 will be made available to local public representatives; if a meeting will be arranged with local public representatives and representatives of the residents and the study group to clarify issues arising from that report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10983/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the issues raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 315 answered with Question
No. 178.

  316.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [10985/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Cork, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s southern area to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter raised.

  317.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if the full complement of beds is in use in the Maynooth community care unit, Maynooth, County Kildare; if not, the number of beds in use; the reason for the delay in bringing the unit to full capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11110/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services in the Maynooth community care unit. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern [242]regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  318.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her attention has been drawn to the continuing serious overcrowding in recent weeks in the accident and emergency unit at Naas General Hospital, Naas, County Kildare; the way in which she intends to improve matters at the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11113/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for services at Naas General Hospital. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

I have identified the delivery of accident and emergency services as a priority area for attention. I have announced a ten point action plan on accident and emergency services which is being financed with €70 million current funding and €10 million capital funding. My Department is liaising with the HSE to progress the implementation of the plan.

  319.  Mr. Curran    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the future plans for Brú Chaoimhin, Cork Street, Dublin 8. [11130/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  320.  Mr. Curran    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason entry to public health nursing has been changed; if she and An Bord Altranais have satisfied themselves that without general nursing, a public health nurse can deliver a quality service to a typical community population base. [11131/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Commission on Nursing considered that registration as a midwife should no [243]longer be a mandatory requirement for entry to the higher diploma in public health nursing or registration as a public health nurse, PHN, as follows:

. . . in light of the range of services offered by public health nurses and the ongoing development of nursing and midwifery services in the community, registration as a midwife should no longer be a mandatory requirement for entry to the higher diploma in public health nursing or registration as a public health nurse. An alternative education programme relating more closely to the core generic maternal and child care service requirements of public health nursing should replace the mandatory midwifery requirement. The Commission recommends that the Board establish a working party composed of PHNs, health service providers and nurse educators to determine the content and duration of a course in maternal and child health, as an alternative to the mandatory midwifery qualification.

In direct response to this specific recommendation of the commission, An Bord Altranais established a working group to devise the content and duration of a course in maternal and child health. It was proposed, as set out by the commission, that this course should be offered as an alternative to the mandatory midwifery qualification for PHN students. Those with midwifery registration would not be required to undertake the course. This course addresses the professional and practice issues as they relate to maternal and child health in a primary health care setting as a dimension of the role of the PHN. The course includes both theoretical and clinical requirements.

In November 2004, the board approved a number of changes to the nurses rules, including the following amended rule in relation to admission requirements for nurses wishing to train in public health nursing.

Before admission to the programme for education and training leading to registration in the Public Health Nurses Division of the Register, the name of the candidate for the registration must already be entered in the Register of Nurses and the candidate must have two years clinical experience in nursing. Unless the candidate’s name is entered in the Midwives Division of the Register, the candidate must complete an An Bord Altranais approved module or unit of study on Maternal and Child Health as part of the programme.

My approval is required under section 26 of the Nurses Act 1985 and these rules were formally approved by me in December 2004 as soon as they were submitted by the board. Regulation of the nursing and midwifery professions, including the setting of requirements and standards in relation to the education programmes for registration in a division of the register of nurses main[244]tained by An Bord Altranais, including the public health nurse division, is the statutory responsibility of the board itself. I understand that, at a recent meeting, the board decided to develop a consultation process on the implementation of the rule change.

  321.  Mr. Ó Fearghail    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if an enhanced nursing home subvention will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [11132/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of enhanced subvention. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive’s eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  322.  Ms McManus    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if any senior staff of the HSE or health boards have been retained as consultants while on career breaks from their posts; if so, the positions or grades concerned; the rate of remuneration for any such persons retained and the way in which this compares with their original pay grades; the guidelines which govern such procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11133/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provides for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the management of the executive’s human resources.

My Department has, therefore, requested the acting national director of human resources in the HSE to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy on the retention of senior staff of the HSE and health areas as consultants while on career breaks and reply directly to her.

  323.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason for the continuing delay in providing the long promised extension to Bandon Community Hospital; and the further reason the request of September 2004 for approval to appoint a design team has not been granted. [11134/05]

[245]Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services.

As part of the executive’s responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors. The Health Service Executive’s national capital plan is currently being examined by my Department.

  324.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her views on whether funding should be made available to the parents of a child from west Cork, with a medical card, to cover the cost of travel for regular visits for treatment in Dublin hospitals. [11135/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards.

A medical card holder with full eligibility is entitled to receive general practitioner services and a range of approved prescribed medication under the general medical services scheme from the local community pharmacist free of charge. Decisions in regard to any other funding which might be made available would be a matter for the chief officer of the Health Service Executive’s local area to decide.

  325.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the amount of lottery funding advanced to date on a yearly basis to projects outside this State; the number of such lottery grants on a yearly basis [11526/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  Applications for funding from the health and children national lottery allocation are received primarily from individuals, groups and organisations with an involvement in the provision of health services to specific client groups, national groups providing information and support regarding disability and illness and groups with a specific interest. To date, national lottery [246]funds have been allocated to organisations within the State.

  326.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Finance    if an application for a primary medical certificate will be reconsidered in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that the specific request made by their orthopaedic surgeon and their general practitioner that they be granted a certificate; if the Health Service Executive will examine their case to determine the support or grant assistance will be given should the certificate be refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10273/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I assume the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers — tax concessions — scheme. The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concession under this scheme are set out in the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them.

The six types of disablement are as follows: persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one of their legs and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that they are severely restricted as to movement of their lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

It is a fundamental requirement for admission to the scheme that the applicant meets the specified medical criteria and is in possession of a primary medical certificate to that effect, issued by the appropriate senior area medical officer, who is an official of the local Health Service Executive. I have no function in deciding whether individual certificates are issued. Where the issue of the required certificate is refused, this can be appealed to the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, an independent body, whose decision is final.

  327.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will offer tax incentives for companies (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10475/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The Government’s taxation policy is designed at max[247]imising the employment and economic benefits of industrial development by creating an attractive climate for investment. In this respect Ireland offers one of the most beneficial corporate tax environments in the EU with a corporation tax rate of 12.5% applying since 1 January 2003.

This is a general measure which applies across the board to companies located in all areas and regions in the State. As such, it does not conflict with EU state aid rules. A proposal to offer tax incentives to companies in a specific region or specific towns would be state aid and would have to be examined and approved by the European Commission.

  328.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    when the asbestos remediation works to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11105/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  Planning is in hand for a scheme to replace the asbestos based roofs at the school in question. Works will commence as soon as possible following completion of this process and the necessary tendering and contractual procedures and subject to agreement on programming with the school authorities.

  329.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has approved the revised sketch scheme for the new Garda station for Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11159/05]

  386.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    if negotiations with Kildare County Council for the acquisition of a small portion of land to the front of the site for the new Garda station for Leixlip, County Kildare, have been concluded; if a revised sketch scheme has been submitted to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval; if approval has issued from this Department; when construction is likely to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11151/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 and 386 together.

Officials from the Office of Public Works met officials of Kildare County Council on 16 March 2005 to discuss directly the acquisition of an additional plot of land for this development. It is understood that Kildare County Council has agreed in principle to dispose of the plot of land in question to the OPW and has commenced the process to effect this disposal. When Kildare County Council has completed the process of disposal, a revised sketch scheme reflecting the expanded development site can be issued to the [248]Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval.

  330.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Finance    the position in regard to the provision of the proposed new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare; if all the obstacles and difficulties in relation to the project have been resolved; if contracts have been signed; if a completion date has been set; if discussion has taken place regarding the number of gardaí likely to be assigned there after completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11238/05]

  387.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Finance    if all the issues relating to the provision of the proposed new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare have been finally resolved; when he expects the works to be completed and the station open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11219/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 387 together.

Officials from the Office of Public Works met officials of Kildare County Council on 16 March 2005 to discuss the acquisition of an additional plot of land for this development. It is understood that Kildare County Council has agreed in principle to dispose of the plot of land in question to the OPW and has commenced the process to effect this disposal. When Kildare County Council has completed the process of disposal, a revised sketch scheme reflecting the expanded development site can be issued to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval. The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel.

  331.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Finance    the position in relation to negotiations between his Department and Kildare County Council regarding the permanent resolution of the flooding problems at Mill Lane, Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11445/05]

  383.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has received a report from Kildare County Council in relation to flood alleviation measures in Leixlip, County Kildare; if funding is available from his Department to carry out the work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11108/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 331 and 383 together.

The Office of Public Works received a report from Kildare County Council in relation to flood alleviation measures in Leixlip, County Kildare, on 5 April 2005. The Commissioners of Public Works are considering this report.

  332.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Finance    the details of the settlement reached regarding the lands at Dublin Road, Kilkenny which were leased by his Department to be used as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers; the legal costs to date; the amount paid to date to the land owner in question; if the agreement has been terminated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9950/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  Proceedings in the case of Thomas Rothwell and Others v. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and another were withdrawn by the applicants on the following settlement conditions: the applicant to receive €25,000 plus VAT for costs; the current licence with the landlord, Mr. Alex Wilsdon, to be terminated; that advance notice be given to the applicants regarding any future intention of the respondents to enter into another licence agreement with the landlord with regard to the same site. The total rent paid for the duration of the licence, which was terminated with effect from 18 October 2004, was €490,643.52. The legal costs involved have not yet been determined.

  333.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Finance    the progress which has been made following recent meetings in London to cancel the debt of the poorest countries in the world and as Ireland’s Governor of the IMF and World Bank, if there are proposals to sell IMF gold to fund the debt cancellation of these countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9965/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I assume the Deputy is referring to discussions within the G7. Ireland is not a member of the G7-G8 but I understand discussions are continuing there. I refer the Deputy to my reply to the House on this subject of debt on 8 March 2005 and subsequently.

Adequate financing for debt relief is essential to help reduce poverty in many parts of the world. It is important to adequately finance the relief of debts owed to the International Monetary Fund in order that the fund can continue to play a role in the poorest countries. The managing director has stated that he will, as requested, bring forward proposals at the spring meetings, covering the fund’s gold and other resources. These resources are part of the assets of the IMF. These proposals are awaited and they will be assessed when available, not least from the need to ensure that the IMF has the resources necessary to carry out its critical functions in future. The sale of part of IMF gold reserves to cover the costs of additional debt relief has been proposed, in addition to a number of other mechanisms, to fund the relief of the debts of poor countries. Agreement on any such mechanisms may be [250]problematic given possible opposition by certain states to gold sales.

  334.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Finance    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny is being assessed each year for income tax in view of the fact that their only source of income is a UK employment pension and an Irish old age pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9967/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer’s income for the past few years has been below the exemption limits and that as a result he paid no tax. In view of this and of the increases in exemption limits in recent budgets the taxpayer is now being advised that he no longer needs to file an annual return of income.

  335.  Mr. Carey    asked the Minister for Finance    when a tax refund in respect of medical expenses will be made to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9987/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The medical expenses claim for 2004 has been processed by the Revenue Commissioners. A PAYE balancing statement for the year 2004 together with a cheque for the refund due issued to the taxpayer on 1 April 2005.

  336.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Finance    if his Department has received the submission from Sligo County Council 2005 review of tax reliefs; if a decision has been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10045/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  In budget 2005, I announced that I had directed my Department, together with the Revenue Commissioners, to undertake a thorough evaluation of the effect of all relevant tax incentive reliefs. This review will evaluate the impact and operation of certain incentive schemes, including their economic and social benefits for the different locations and sectors involved and to the wider community. In addition, the review will examine the degree to which these schemes allow high income individuals to reduce their tax liabilities. The review will involve external consultancy work on the evaluation of various property tax incentive schemes, including the urban, town and rural renewal schemes.

In addition to the above, as well as examining relevant international approaches, the review includes a public consultation process seeking submissions on measures that could be introduced to limit the extent to which reliefs and exemptions can be used by high earners to reduce or eliminate their tax bill. The deadline for [251]receipt of these submissions was 31 March 2005 and my Department has received a significant number of submissions, including one from Sligo County Council. As the Deputy will appreciate this review process has just begun. It is, however, expected that this process will be complete by September 2005 to enable the conclusions of the review to be considered in the context of next year’s budget.

  337.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will consider the views expressed in correspondence (details supplied) when he attends the IMF-World Bank spring meetings in April 2005; if he will build on previous work in 2002 and encourage the sale of IMF gold to fund debt cancellation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10092/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to the House on this subject on 8 March 2005 and to subsequent questions on the same subject. In those answers, I said that adequate financing for debt relief is essential to help reduce poverty in many parts of the world. It is important to adequately finance the relief of debts owed to the International Monetary Fund in order that the fund can continue to play a role in the poorest countries. The managing director has stated that he will, as requested, bring forward proposals at the spring meetings, covering the fund’s gold and other resources. These resources are part of the assets of the IMF. These proposals are awaited and they will be assessed when available, not least from the need to ensure that the IMF has the resources necessary to carry out its critical functions in future.

The sale of part of IMF gold reserves to cover the costs of additional debt relief has been proposed, in addition to a number of other mechanisms, to fund the relief of the debts of poor countries. Agreement on any such mechanisms may be problematic given possible opposition by certain states to gold sales.

  338.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of beneficiaries for each year from 1997 to date in respect of exemption in relation to income from artistic activity exempted from tax; the number of such beneficiaries with annual earning from exempted artistic activity below €50,000; the number of beneficiaries with annual incomes above €50,000 in bands of €10,000 and the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the tax forgone for each income band. [10107/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant available information relates to the [252]exemption of certain earnings of writers, composers and artists as included in income tax returns filed for the four income tax years 1998-99 to the short tax year 2001, the latest year for which information is available.

It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for the short year on 74% of the profits earned in a 12-month accounting period, data provided for the short tax year 2001 may not be directly comparable with those of earlier years.

The information requested is set out in the following tables. However, because of the Revenue Commissioners’ obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of individual taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers, the precise breakdown by income bands requested by the Deputy is not provided in relation to exempt incomes exceeding €150,000 due to the small numbers of income earners with incomes in excess of that level.

A married couple which has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

INCOME TAX 1998/1999

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income Totals
From To Number of cases Estimated Tax Foregone
€m
50,000 749 1.21
50,000 60,000 14 0.22
60,000 70,000 15 0.24
70,000 80,000 9 0.18
80,000 90,000 7 0.18
90,000 100,000 7 0.20
100,000 110,000 8 0.29
110,000 120,000 5 0.20
120,000 130,000 4 0.16
130,000 140,000 3 0.13
140,000 150,000 5 0.24
150,000 170,000 4 0.22
170,000 200,000 5 0.32
200,000 250,000 8 0.61
250,000 300,000 4 0.38
300,000 400,000 7 0.86
400,000 500,000 4 0.66
500,000 1,000,000 6 1.50
Over 1,000,000 13 16.70
Totals 877 24.50

[253]INCOME TAX 1999/2000

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income Totals
From To Number of cases Estimated Tax Foregone
€m
50,000 788 2.01
50,000 60,000 19 0.32
60,000 70,000 12 0.22
70,000 80,000 16 0.38
80,000 90,000 9 0.24
90,000 100,000 10 0.30
100,000 110,000 7 0.23
110,000 120,000 3 0.13
120,000 130,000 4 0.17
130,000 140,000 2 0.09
140,000 150,000 5 0.25
150,000 170,000 8 0.42
170,000 200,000 4 0.27
200,000 250,000 10 0.75
250,000 300,000 6 0.59
300,000 400,000 8 0.96
400,000 500,000 3 0.48
500,000 1,000,000 12 3.15
Over 1,000,000 15 18.95
Totals 941 29.90

INCOME TAX 2000/2001

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income Totals
From To Number of cases Estimated Tax Foregone
€m
50,000 1,029 2.23
50,000 60,000 25 0.37
60,000 70,000 19 0.34
70,000 80,000 11 0.24
80,000 90,000 14 0.32
90,000 100,000 10 0.26
110,000 120,000 7 0.23
120,000 130,000 3 0.11
130,000 140,000 6 0.23
140,000 150,000 2 0.08
150,000 170,000 10 0.51
170,000 200,000 15 0.88
200,000 250,000 6 0.43
250,000 300,000 7 0.62
300,000 400,000 11 1.29
400,000 500,000 6 0.85
500,000 1,000,000 4 0.85
Over 1,000,000 20 27.05
Totals 1,212 37.10

INCOME TAX 2001 (short “year”)

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income Totals
From To Number of cases Estimated Tax Foregone
€m
50,000 1,150 2.24
50,000 60,000 19 0.28
60,000 70,000 17 0.29
70,000 80,000 17 0.34
80,000 90,000 9 0.21
90,000 100,000 13 0.36
100,000 110,000 8 0.26
110,000 120,000 4 0.13
120,000 130,000 5 0.19
130,000 140,000 4 0.15
140,000 150,000 9 0.39
150,000 170,000 4 0.19
170,000 200,000 5 0.28
200,000 250,000 8 0.55
250,000 300,000 7 0.60
300,000 400,000 8 0.83
400,000 500,000 8 1.18
500,000 1,000,000 14 2.83
Over 1,000,000 14 12.18
Totals 1,323 23.50

  339.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will provide as previously requested by the Deputy, a children’s playground at the Dublin 15 end of the Phoenix Park, particularly in the vicinity of Farmleigh, in order to make provision for the tens of thousands of children now in the catchment area for such a playground for whom there are almost no public playground facilities; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the playground at the Infirmary Road end of the park is not accessible by public transport from the Dublin 15 direction, except with great difficulty. [10108/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  The principle governing the management of the Phoenix Park is its conservation and presentation as a national historic park. [255]Within these parameters, the Office of Public Works in managing the Phoenix Park maintains a careful balance between competing interests for the optimum benefits for all users. In this context, it is considered that the existing playground in the People’s Gardens, which was recently comprehensively upgraded, is adequate. The provision of further public playgrounds in the vicinity of the Phoenix Park is more properly the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

  340.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has proposals to provide additional pedestrian crossings in the Phoenix Park given the speed of traffic through the park and the fact that, other than at roundabouts on the main road, there are no specific pedestrian crossing points. [10109/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  Chesterfield Avenue was not originally constructed to deal with the current intense traffic volumes. As a result, it now needs both major repair works and the introduction of design features with a view to increasing safety and reducing the speed of traffic.

A fully integrated plan for the renovation of Chesterfield Avenue has accordingly been prepared by my office, and it is intended to submit the scheme for planning permission later this year. The safety of all park users has been paramount in the preparation of this plan, which has been developed in consultation with the Dublin Transportation Office, and will involve a variety of traffic calming measures, including pedestrian zones in the vicinity of the zoo, together with the construction of a roundabout at Mountjoy Cross. These features will be sensitive to the special ethos of this national historic park. It is proposed to implement the project on a phased basis in order to minimise disruption to park users and subject to the availability of funding.

  341.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    the situation with respect to the proposed traffic calming measure to be introduced in the Phoenix Park; if there is a proposal to provide one way traffic systems at the Cabra and Ashtown Gates as previously advertised by the OPW; the reason for the cancellation of such works; if the works have now been abandoned or if they will proceed in the future; and the estimated cost of such works. [10110/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  Chesterfield Avenue was not originally constructed to deal with the current intense traffic volumes. As a result, it now needs both major repair works and the introduction of design features with a view to increasing safety and reducing the speed of traffic.

As part of the proposed fully integrated plan for the renovation of Chesterfield Avenue, which was developed in consultation with the Dublin Transportation Office, a number of traffic calming design features are envisaged with a view to reducing traffic speeds and enhancing the safety of all users of the Phoenix Park, including a [256]roundabout at Mountjoy Cross and a pedestrian zone in the vicinity of the zoo. These features will be sensitive to the special ethos of this national historic park. It is proposed to implement the project on a phased basis in order to minimise disruption to park users and subject to the availability of funding.

A number of ramps were installed recently on the back road in the Phoenix Park, between the zoo and the Ashtown Gate, a stretch of road particularly badly affected by speeding traffic. The proposal to implement a one-way system at the Ashtown and Cabra Gates of the Phoenix Park has been deferred pending further research into its likely impact on traffic flows outside the park, particularly at rush hour, and to facilitate consultation with Fingal and Dublin City Councils. Apart from staff time spent on planning for the new system, no major significant costs are associated with the implementation of the one-way system.

  342.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    the cost to the Exchequer, in terms of tax forgone, for each year from 1997 to date in respect of approved retirement funds, ARFs, for persons with incomes in excess of €100,000 in bands of €10,000, setting out the numbers of such beneficiaries in each income band and the cost of the tax forgone for each income band. [10111/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The Finance Act 1999 made a number of changes to the structure of pension arrangements by introducing additional options for the holders of personal pensions and certain holders of occupational pension schemes. Traditionally the types of benefits available on retirement for such persons comprised a lump sum, a pension for life and an annuity for dependants. Under the new arrangements such a pensioner can on retirement, subject to conditions, use his or her accumulated pension fund to purchase an annuity, have it paid directly to him or herself or have it placed in an approved retirement fund, ARF, or, in certain circumstances, into an approved minimum retirement fund, AMRF.

Funds placed in an ARF, or AMRF, can only come from an individual’s approved pension arrangement. Thus, it is not possible to pay funds directly into an ARF. Tax relief is available for contributions made to an approved pension arrangement prior to retirement. Funds placed in an ARF have, therefore, already been tax relieved at the time the contributions to those pension products were made. In the same manner as for pension funds generally, income and gains arising in an ARF are exempt from income tax and capital gains tax so long as they are held within the ARF. Any withdrawals from the ARF are subject to tax at the person’s marginal rate of income tax. The same rules apply to AMRFs except that the capital, as distinct from the income, may not be withdrawn from an AMRF until the individual reaches the age of 75.

As there is no requirement in law for qualifying fund managers in relation to ARFs to provide the [257]Revenue Commissioners with details of the amount of funds held in such investment vehicles or of the income and gains arising on such funds, information along the lines requested by the Deputy is not available to the Revenue Commissioners.

  343.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    the cost in terms of tax forgone for each year from 1997 to date in respect of pension fund expenditure by employers on behalf of their employees for people with incomes in excess of €100,000 in bands of €10,000 setting out the number of employees so benefiting in each income band and the cost to the State of the tax forgone for each income band. [10112/05]

  344.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    the cost in terms of tax forgone for each year from 1997 to date of the provision of the various pension tax reliefs; the beneficiaries of such tax [258]reliefs for persons with income in excess of €100,000 in bands of €10,000 setting out the numbers of employees so benefiting in each income band and the cost to the State of the tax forgone for each income band. [10113/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 343 and 344 together.

It is not possible to provide disaggregated figures in regard to the take-up of the tax relief for all pension contributions across different income categories because the relevant data in regard to contributions is not captured in such a way as to make this possible.

Disaggregated data is only available in respect of the tax relief for contributions to retirement annuity contracts, RACs. RACs are personal pensions used by the self-employed and by employees who are not in pensionable employment. The data are as follows:

Estimated Costs
1997/98 1998/99 1999/2000 2000/01 2001
‘Retirement Annuity Contracts’ available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes €91.3m €116.2m €180.8m €205m €170m
Numbers 72,200 92,900 104,500 109,300 109,600

[257]For the short income tax year of 2001 a distribution by income ranges of the claim amounts, amounts of tax relief and average deductions for [258]tax relief for retirement annuity contracts is contained in the following table.

Income Tax 2001 (short “year”)

Retirement Annuity — by range of Gross Income

Range of Gross Income Totals
From To Number of cases Amount of deduction Reduction in tax Average deduction
6,000 1,258 1,301,889 76,588 1,035
6,000 8,000 1,217 1,131,858 159,747 930
8,000 10,000 1,976 2,066,245 318,130 1,046
10,000 12,000 2,779 3,131,978 538,747 1,127
12,000 15,000 5,489 6,725,589 1,228,558 1,225
15,000 17,000 4,446 5,613,493 1,067,199 1,263
17,000 20,000 7,513 10,476,115 2,039,761 1,394
20,000 25,000 12,222 19,723,266 4,505,791 1,614
25,000 27,000 4,567 8,276,351 2,214,991 1,812
27,000 30,000 6,350 12,331,704 3,457,396 1,942
30,000 35,000 9,441 20,838,925 6,506,746 2,207
35,000 40,000 7,942 20,490,572 7,354,258 2,580
40,000 50,000 11,427 37,038,299 14,847,501 3,241
50,000 60,000 6,807 29,985,541 12,417,840 4,405
60,000 75,000 5,741 35,653,618 14,883,125 6,210
75,000 100,000 4,543 41,479,867 17,310,850 9,131
100,000 150,000 3,951 56,115,725 23,514,956 14,203
150,000 200,000 1,753 38,561,305 16,149,432 21,997
over 200,000 2,635 98,693,919 41,399,977 37,455
Totals 102,057 449,636,259 169,991,594 4,406

[259]On the other hand, with regard to occupational pensions, that is, schemes set up by the employer, the figures in respect of employee and employer contributions are particularly tentative and are available only in aggregate form.

Tax relief for pension contributions by employees is normally given by way of a deduction from total income in arriving at income for tax purposes, that is, the income for tax purposes of employees is net of their pension contributions, the “net pay” arrangement. The [260]employer’s contributions are an allowable deduction from profits and are not specifically recorded in Revenue statistics. However, provisions were included in Finance Act 2004 with a view to improving data quality and transparency without overburdening taxpayers-employers. The Act includes provisions that require employers to provide data on superannuation contributions in the P35 form to be filed by employers in February 2006. The following table outlines the very tentative figures currently available to the Revenue Commissioners.

Income Tax Relief relating to Pension Contributions

Estimated Cost
Income Tax Relief 1997/98 1998/99 1999/2000 2000/01 2001
Contributions by employers* €436m €533m €595m €646m €498m
Contributions by employees* €257m €329m €421m €472m €389m
Numbers of employees contributing to approved superannuation schemes** not available not available 569,220 629,800 670,500
Exemption of Net Income of Approved Superannuation Funds (Contributions Plus Investment Income Less Outgoings)* €823m €967m €1,226m €1,292m €938m

  345.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    the conditions that accompany the maturing of SSIA accounts and the withdrawal by investors of the sums invested plus Government bonuses at maturity; if there are any conditions in regard to declarations and disclosures accompanying such accounts, as reported on a number of occasions recently in various media; and if he will publish all such conditions and disclosures for the benefit of investors well in advance of the maturity dates. [10114/05]

  373.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Minister for Finance    the position in regard to disclosure declarations by SSIA depositions prior to the maturity of their accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10672/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 345 and 373 together.

Special savings incentive accounts, SSIAs, will mature between May 2006 and April 2007 depending on when the account was originally opened. For an account to be matured, the account holder will be required to make a maturity declaration to his or her financial institution at any time within a period of three months ending on the maturity date. Accordingly, no action by account holders is necessary until next year.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that information regarding SSIA maturity is already published on the Revenue web site at www.revenue.ie. Furthermore, Revenue has arranged for the form on which the declaration is made to be issued to each SSIA holder by the [260]relevant financial institution in advance of the maturity date.

The form will simply require the saver to confirm that the conditions of the scheme were met from the date on which the SSIA started until the date the declaration is made, that is, they will be asked to confirm that they — were the beneficial owner of the assets in the SSIA, had only one SSIA, were resident or ordinarily resident in the State, subscribed to the SSIA from funds available to them or their spouse without recourse to borrowings, or the deferral of repayment, whether of capital or interest, of sums borrowed when the SSIA started, and did not assign or otherwise pledge SSIA assets as security for a loan.

The Revenue Commissioners are in discussion with the financial institutions to ensure that the maturity arrangements will be implemented in an efficient and practical manner.

  346.  Mr. Walsh    asked the Minister for Finance    when the office of public works will provide office accommodation for the 180 people who have already volunteered to decentralise to Clonakilty under the central application facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10122/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The Office of Public Works has identified a particular site in Clonakilty and this land is now the agreed solution at this location. The Office of Public Works is proceeding with the acquisition of the land in question. The current indicative construction [261]completion timeframe for the new office in Clonakilty is early 2007.

  347.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Finance    if he travelled abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit and the cost involved. [10173/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I visited Savannah and Atlanta, in the United States, for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and to attend at a number of other events promoting Ireland abroad. My wife, Mary, and my special adviser, Mr. Gerry Steadman, travelled with me in my official party. The visit covered the period 13 March to 20 March. The overall cost of the visit is not yet available.

  348.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Minister for Finance    when an appeals officer will be reappointed to a board (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10188/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I assume that the Deputy is referring to the Medical Board of Appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. In this regard, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that significant progress has been made in the reconstitution of the Medical Board of Appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. It is expected that the board will resume its meetings very shortly. I appointed a new chairperson to the board on 14 March 2005 and I understand that a new secretary is being recruited and will be in place shortly.

In respect of the waiting list for an appeal, I understand that there are in excess of 600 appellants. The new chairperson of the board has been asked to address the backlog as a priority. To facilitate this, I brought in new regulations on 7 April which will allow for the appointment of an additional five medical practitioners to the board of appeal. I hope to make the necessary new appointments to the board over the coming weeks.

  349.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Finance    if the transfer of a small parcel of land adjoining a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny from their ownership to the school for use as a playing field for the school and broader community will be considered; and if a decision in the case will be expedited. [10205/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The Commissioners of Public Works are dealing with legal aspects concerning this property. When these are completed the intention is to dispose of the property.

  350.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of second-hand vehicles cleared in Bridgend, County Donegal, by revenue in the year 2004 compared to 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10215/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of second-hand vehicles registered in their Bridgend, County Donegal, office were as follows: 2003, 672; 2004, 1,190. The increase in registrations of second-hand vehicles in Bridgend in 2004 is generally in line with national trends.

  351.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Finance    when the SSIA accounts are due to mature; the average contribution which savers have made to the scheme; the minimum and maximum contributors will receive on maturation of the scheme; the costs incurred if you exit the scheme; the number of subscribers nationwide; the cost of the scheme to the Exchequer on a monthly basis; the number of maturing accounts on a monthly basis from May 2006 and the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the top-up payment. [10258/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that all qualifying savings managers are furnishing their 2004 SSIA annual returns at present. The Revenue Commissioners are analysing these returns and it is expected that final details of this analysis will be available at the end of April 2005. However, all qualifying savings managers have, in advance of the annual return, provided a declaration indicating the number of active accounts held at 31 December 2004. Based on these 2004 declarations, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total number of active accounts at 31 December 2004 was 1,094,188 and the average monthly subscription was €175 at that date. Revisions may be necessary if amendments are received at a later date.

The minimum monthly contribution that could be made to an SSIA on commencement was €12.50. An individual paying this amount over five years would contribute €750 together with the Exchequer tax credit payout of €187.50, that is, 25%. Where an individual saved the maximum monthly amount of €254.00 from the outset the total contribution over five years would be €15,240 as well as the Exchequer tax credit payout of €3,810. Only the profit earned on this investment will be subject to a once-off tax of 23% on maturity provided the individual saver complies with certain conditions laid down in the legislation governing the scheme. Where an individual fails to comply with the conditions of the [263]scheme, or exits the scheme prematurely, all the money in the account is taxed at 23%.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the monthly tax credit pay-out, made in the [264]month following the month of subscription, to investors in the special savings incentive accounts since the introduction of this savings scheme is as follows:

Month 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
€m €m €m €m €m
January 17.8 44.4 45.2 47.1
February 19.3 44.8 44.8 47.9
March 21.0 44.1 44.2 48.1
April 25.6 44.0 45.6
May 43.1 44.2 45.1
June 2.0 44.4 44.0 45.8
July 6.1 43.5 44.3 46.0
August 9.1 44.1 44.3 45.3
September 11.0 43.6 44.1 46.3
October 12.6 43.6 44.9 46.3
November 14.2 43.5 44.8 46.4
December 16.0 43.5 44.0 47.0
Total 71.0 433.0 531.9 548.0 143.1

[263]I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on the most recent information available, that is, the return for 2003, the number of SSIAs due to mature in the period May 2006 and April 2007 is as outlined in the table below. These numbers can be expected to reduce marginally between now and the respective maturity dates due to account closures in the interim.

Table: SSIA accounts maturing in 2006/2007 (Based on 2003 data)

Commencement Date Maturity Date No of SSIA accounts (000’s)
May-01 May-06 41.9
Jun-01 Jun-06 82.9
Jul-01 Jul-06 58.6
Aug-01 Aug-06 41.8
Sep-01 Sep-06 34.2
Oct-01 Oct-06 34.3
Nov-01 Nov-06 39.1
Dec-01 Dec-06 38.5
Jan-02 Jan-07 34.1
Feb-02 Feb-07 52.6
Mar-02 Mar-07 101.1
Apr-02 Apr-07 554.8
Total 1,113.9

As indicated in replies to previous questions, it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to the eventual cost of the scheme as it is subject to a number of variables such as participants dying, withdrawing from the scheme or varying their monthly contributions. The cost of the scheme to date is as outlined above. The estimated cost in 2005, based on the average tax credit payout in [264]the first three months of 2005, is €572 million but this is not a conclusive figure, and the final figure may be different if account holders change their monthly contributions. The total gross cost over the period of the scheme will be reduced by the exit tax to be received at the end.

  352.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has plans or proposals for maturing SSIA account holders to reinvest their savings or to encourage citizens to continue to save after the expiration of the SSIA. [10259/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007. A total of 1.17 million accounts were opened during the period outlined.

The specific goal of the SSIA scheme was to encourage people to save over a period of at least five years. Its effect has been to stimulate such savings over varying income ranges which is evident in the extensive take-up by many low income earners. The scheme has been a success in those terms. The scheme has a specific duration. Any proposals for tax-based incentives for the reinvestment of SSIA savings or continuation of savings would be considered as part of the normal annual budgetary process taking account of public policy objectives and Exchequer cost implications. The use to which the moneys arising on maturity of the SSIAs are put is ultimately a matter for the individual account holder.

  353.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for Finance    his views in regard to a submission (details supplied); the plans he has to deal with the matter at the forthcoming meeting of the IMF-World [265]Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10276/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to the House on this subject on 8 March 2005.

Adequate financing for debt relief is essential to help reduce poverty in many parts of the world. It is important to adequately finance the relief of debts owed to the International Monetary Fund so that the fund can continue to play a role in the poorest countries. The managing director has stated that he will, as requested, bring forward proposals at the spring meetings, covering the fund’s gold and other resources. It will be for the board of the IMF and the IMFC initially to decide what action to take. These resources are part of the assets of the IMF. These proposals are awaited and they will be assessed when available, not least for the need to ensure that the IMF has the resources necessary to carry out its critical functions in future. The sale or revaluation of part of IMF gold reserves to cover the costs of additional debt relief has been proposed, in addition to a number of other mechanisms, to fund the relief of the debts of poor countries. Agreement on any such mechanisms may be problematic given possible opposition by certain states to gold sales.

  354.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Finance    when the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme will be reconstituted; when staffing and administrative charges will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10302/05]

  355.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of persons on the waiting list for assessment by the medical board of appeal under the disabled drivers tax concessions scheme 1994; the average length of time that persons have to wait to be assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10303/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 354 and 355 together.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that significant progress has been made in the reconstitution of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. It is expected that the board will resume its meetings very shortly. I appointed a new chairperson to the board on 14 March 2005 and I understand that a new secretary is being recruited and will be in place shortly.

In respect of the waiting list for an appeal, I understand that there are in excess of 600 appellants. The new chairperson of the board has been asked to address the backlog as a priority. To facilitate this, I brought in new regulations on 7 April which will allow for the appointment of an additional five medical practitioners to the board of appeal. I hope to make the necessary new [266]appointments to the board over the coming weeks.

  356.  Mr. N. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Finance    if a person’s (details supplied) tax credit will be amended to include a widow’s tax credit; and if he will back-date this person with the allowance to 1999 when they were widowed. [10338/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  It is a matter for individual taxpayers to ensure that they claim the relevant tax credits to which they may be entitled. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the appropriate tax credit for a widowed person has now been granted to the person concerned for the current tax year. Following the granting of the credit for each of the tax years 1999-2000 to 2004 inclusive, overpayments of tax have arisen for each of those years. A refund of these overpayments will issue to the person shortly.

  357.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of SSIA’s due to mature at the end of each month from 31 May 2006 to 30 April 2007. [10368/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  Special savings incentive accounts, SSIAs, will mature between May 2006 and April 2007 depending on when the account was opened. Based on the most recent information available to the Revenue Commissioners, that is, the returns for 2003, the number of SSIAs due to mature in that period is as outlined in the table below. These numbers can be expected to reduce marginally between now and the respective maturity dates due to account closures in the interim.

Table: SSIA accounts maturing in 2006-07 — based on 2003 data

Commencement Date Maturity Date No. of SSIA accounts (000’s)
May-01 May-06 41.9
Jun-01 Jun-06 82.9
Jul-01 Jul-06 58.6
Aug-01 Aug-06 41.8
Sep-01 Sep-06 34.2
Oct-01 Oct-06 34.3
Nov-01 Nov-06 39.1
Dec-01 Dec-06 38.5
Jan-02 Jan-07 34.1
Feb-02 Feb-07 52.6
Mar-02 Mar-07 101.1
Apr-02 Apr-07 554.8
Total 1,113.9

  358.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on whether the €900 million promised for disabilities will only amount to the equivalent of €250 million after staff and administration charges have been deducted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10390/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  As part of budget 2005, I announced a special disability multi-annual funding package with a total value of close to €900 million over the years 2006-09. While this package includes guaranteed additional current spending of almost €600 million, it also includes capital spending of €300 million.

The bulk of the new funding package will go to the health sector where it will be invested in services for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism, services for persons with physical or sensory disabilities and mental health services. It will focus, in particular, on the provision of extra residential, respite and day places, extra home support and personal assistance, and extra places in community based mental health facilities.

The balance of the disability funding package is being allocated between the Departments of Education and Science, Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Office of Public Works where the funding will be used to enhance education services for adults with disabilities and expand pre-school provision; support projects which demonstrate an innovative and cost-effective approach to service provision and improve accessibility to public buildings and amenities.

Services in the disability area are particularly labour intensive, relying on highly trained and skilled staff for their effective provision. It is only to be expected, therefore, that a high proportion of the current expenditure involved will relate to staffing. It will be a matter for the service providers to ensure that the programmes are implemented in a manner which will ensure effectiveness, efficiency and value for money.

  359.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Finance    if the Government will consider offering employers tax incentives to employ persons with disabilities as applies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10392/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  There are no proposals at present to introduce new tax incentives for employers who employ persons with disabilities. Persons returning to employment after being unemployed, including persons in receipt of certain disability payments, can claim the Revenue job assist allowance where certain conditions are satisfied. The Revenue job assist scheme provides an incentive to the long-term [268]unemployed to take up employment and employers to employ the long-term unemployed.

The scheme is available to persons who have been continuously unemployed for the immediate period of 52 weeks prior to taking up a qualifying job and in receipt of an unemployment payment, unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance, the one-parent family payment, the blind persons allowance or the disability allowance.

Under the scheme, a qualifying employee may, in addition to his or her normal tax credits, claim an additional tax deduction at the marginal rate of tax for three years after taking up a qualifying employment. The allowance in the first year of employment is €3,810 plus €1,270 for each qualifying child, reducing to two thirds of these amounts in year two and one third in year three. The second part of the scheme provides a double wages deduction and a double PRSI deduction for employers who employ the long-term unemployed.

Apart from the Revenue job assist scheme, my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, continues to develop policy for vocational training and employment of people with disabilities on a three dimensional basis by developing the skills of people with disabilities to enable them to access employment; stimulating awareness amongst employers of the contribution which people with disabilities can make to their businesses and encouraging companies to more actively consider recruiting people with disabilities; and providing specific employment supports for people with disabilities and employers.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has a commitment under Sustaining Progress to “. . . develop actions and a policy framework aimed at enhancing the potential of sheltered employment to provide better employment opportunities for people with disabilities”. The Department sought to address this commitment through a more mainstreamed approach by developing a new full-time employment support scheme, FTESS, which would also be applicable to sheltered employment enterprises. The underlying objective of the scheme is to increase the numbers of persons with a disability in employment by creating, as far as practicable, a level playing field for them in seeking out or remaining in employment. The mechanism proposed is the payment of a wage subsidy to the employer to compensate for the reduced productivity of the disabled worker. A budget line of €10 million has been established for the scheme for 2005 — this figure includes the current years provision of approximately €5 million for the combined employment support scheme and the pilot programme for the employment of people with disabilties, PEP. FÁS has been requested to implement the proposed scheme as early as possible this year. It is hoped that the new scheme might be launched by the end of June.

  360.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Minister for Finance,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 9 March 2005 regarding an appeal for the disabled drivers allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Clare, when the new secretary of the board will make contact with this person. [10405/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  Significant progress has been made in the reconstitution of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. It is expected that the board will resume its meetings very shortly. I appointed a new chairperson to the board on 14 March 2005 and I understand that a new secretary is being recruited and will be in place shortly. As indicated in my reply to the Deputy on 9 March, I will arrange for the new secretary to the board, when in place, to contact the individual concerned in regard to his appeal.

  361.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Minister for Finance    the circumstances in which an SSIA holder would be liable for 23% of the entire moneys in the scheme due to recourse to borrowings by a person to fund any part of the investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10406/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The SSIA scheme introduced by the Government in 2001 contains conditions which each SSIA account holder must comply with when opening, maintaining, ceasing or maturing their accounts. These conditions are contained in Part 38A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 as inserted by section 33 of the Finance Act 2001.

One of these conditions is that the subscriptions made to the SSIA by the SSIA holder must be funded from funds available to the holder or both the holder and the spouse of the holder without recourse to borrowing. Where this condition is not complied with, the SSIA is treated as ceasing and the account thereafter shall not be an SSIA and the value of all assets in the account is liable to tax at 23%.

  362.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will work with the Department of Finance in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if this person will qualify for VAT exemption or any other assistance. [10410/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme is open to people with disabilities who meet the specified criteria and have obtained a primary medical certificate to that effect. The senior area medical officer attached to the relevant local health area is responsible for both the [270]medical assessment and the issue of the medical certificate.

The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them. The six types of disablement are as follows: persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; and persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

An individual who qualifies under the medical criteria, as set out above, is issued with a primary medical certificate. Possession of a primary medical certificate qualifies the holder for remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax, VRT, a repayment of value added tax on the purchase of the vehicle and a repayment of VAT on the cost of adaptation of the vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also allowed.

  363.  Mr. Carey    asked the Minister for Finance    when a tax rebate will be paid to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 in respect of emergency tax and medical expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10425/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the spouse of the person in question changed employment in November 2004. Revenue was not informed and as a result a tax credit certificate was not sent to the new employer. The employer was, therefore, obliged to operate the emergency basis of tax.

The liability of the person and his spouse has now been reviewed for 2004 taking into account the emergency tax suffered and a claim for medical expenses. A PAYE balancing statement together with a cheque for the refund of tax due issued to the taxpayer on 8 April 2005.

Amended tax credit certificates for 2005 issued in respect of the person and his spouse on 21 March and 17 February respectively. Any tax which has been over-deducted for the year 2005 has been, or will be, refunded by their respective employers.

  364.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Finance    the money his Department will give to Dublin City Council to provide essential flood [271]defences as outlined in the Dublin coastal flooding protection study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10429/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The Dublin coastal protection study, which is being carried out by Dublin City Council and part funded by OPW, is a study which is examining the causes and impacts of flooding from Portmarnock to Booterstown. A draft report has been received by OPW in the past few weeks and is being considered.

OPW met officials from Dublin City Council recently and the council highlighted some of the recommendations contained in the draft report, which they propose to prioritise. OPW has agreed in principle to consider more detailed proposals, which the council will submit in due course. The flood defence proposals contained in the draft report are estimated to cost over €100 million. Requests for funding from the OPW will have to be carefully considered in the context of OPW’s annual budget for flood relief projects, the large number of flood alleviation projects currently being advanced by OPW and the urgency attaching to the various measures recommended in the report.

  365.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Finance    when the temporary carpark on Leinster lawn will be removed and when the lawn will be reinstated. [10430/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  Restoration of Leinster Lawn has been contingent on the completion of the refurbishment of Kildare House for the Houses of the Oireachtas. As this project is nearing completion, consultations with the Houses of the Oireachtas have commenced regarding a landscaping scheme to effect the reinstatement of Leinster Lawn and the scheduling of associated works. Works to the lawn could be carried out during this year’s summer recess.

  366.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Finance    the sections of his Department currently based outside Dublin which will be moved to other non-Dublin locations under the decentralisation programme; the location from and to which officials are being transferred; the numbers and sections involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10526/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  There are no sections of my Department based outside Dublin.

  367.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the campaign to have fair trade products widely available and used; his views on the objectives of this [272]campaign; and if he will endeavour to have such fair trade approved products used in his Department. [10557/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I am aware of the fair trade campaign and its positive objective of raising consumer awareness regarding the purchase of products from less developed countries and in making such products more widely available.

Any decision by my Department to use Fairtrade products would have to comply with normal public procurement rules. In regard to the supply of services such as cafeteria services in my Department, it is a matter for the companies providing such services to make their own commercial decision in sourcing their supplies.

  368.  Mr. Walsh    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will provide and update on the progress made in implementing the 2003 decentralisation programme; the locations at which facilities have been provided by the OPW to accommodate the persons who have volunteered under the CAF; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10641/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The two reports of the decentralisation implementation group, DIG, dated 31 March 2004 and 30 July 2004 provide detailed accounts of the progress made in implementing the decentralisation programme announced in December 2003. An analysis of the applications registered with the Central Applications Facility by 7 September 2004 has also been published. All of these reports can be accessed at www.decentralisation.gov.ie.

In addition the DIG report published on 24 November, 2004 contains proposals on those organisations-locations which, in the group’s view, should be included in the first phase of moves and the DIG will report to me again in the spring of 2005 about progress in relation to implementation of the programme. The group will also deal in that report with the locations and organisations not covered in the November 2004 report.

Each organisation produced a first iteration of its implementation plans by end May 2004. The implementation group rated the plans overall as good. Updated versions of the plans are being submitted at various dates in early 2005. Overall, I am pleased with the progress which has been made in driving forward implementation of the programme.

The Office of Public Works has been given primary responsibility for delivering the property aspects of the decentralisation programme. Following the requests for property proposals, the Office of Public Works received in excess of 700 proposed property solutions in regard to the various locations around the country. Detailed evaluation of these proposals was undertaken and the Office of Public Works has made significant pro[273]gress in sourcing possible sites at the locations concerned.

To date 15 property solutions have been agreed in principle and a further 20 plus locations are at an advanced stage in the acquisition process. I can also confirm that the balance of the sites for the remaining locations in the programme are being pursued by the OPW.

The locations where solutions have been identified are as follows: Athlone, Birr, Carlow, Clonakilty, the Curragh, Donegal, Dundalk, Furbo, Killarney, Knock, Longford, Newcastle West, Portarlington, Sligo, and Thurles. Sites in Longford and Newcastle West have been acquired. The Chief State Solicitor is processing a number of contract documents in respect of sites and it is expected that the associated acquisition phase will be completed as quickly as possible.

State-owned land will accommodate the decentralised buildings scheduled for Athlone, the Curragh, and Sligo, while the proposed location of the Dundalk building will be on land at the Dundalk Institute of Technology. It is proposed to locate the staff relating to Furbo in an extension to an existing building.

  369.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Finance    the steps he has taken to warn and protect citizens who purchased endowment insurance mortgage products; the actions, including financial restitution, he is contemplating against companies which sold these products and misled the public; and if he will seek the appointment of inspectors to carry out an inquiry into this scandal. [10668/05]

  370.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Finance    the number and value of endowment insurance mortgage products which exist; and the estimate of likely shortfalls in mortgage repayments facing the holders of these products over coming years. [10669/05]

  371.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Finance    the position with regard to legislation on and the regulation of endowment insurance mortgage products. [10670/05]

  372.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will report on any investigation or inquiry which his Department carried out in relation to endowment insurance mortgage products over the past 25 years, especially since June 1997. [10671/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 369 to 372, inclusive, together.

The Consumer Director of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the financial regulator, is encouraging people to complain in the first instance to the company from whom they bought the policy if they are concerned about the possibility of having been missold an endowment [274]mortgage. The recently appointed Financial Services Ombudsman, whose office was established by the 2004 Act, is statutorily independent and is empowered to deal with complaints from customers of financial service providers. The ombudsman can deal with complaints related to conduct occurring up to six years before the complaint was made.

The financial regulator is studying the situation with regard to endowment loan shortfalls, having commenced a survey last year, to determine whether and to what extent there will be difficulties for customers. It would be inappropriate to reach any conclusions on this issue in advance of IFSRA’s consideration of the outcome of the survey.

There is no definitive information available to my Department on the overall numbers of cases where a shortfall may arise. Endowment loan approvals in the past five years represented just 3% of the overall mortgage market, although it has been considerably higher in the past. Since 1989, a total of 90,000 endowment loans were approved, comprising 10% approximately of total loan approvals.

As regards the legal framework, there is a substantial volume of legislation in place relating to these financial products. Following the enactment of the Insurance Act 1989, a code of conduct for insurance intermediaries and guidelines were drawn up by the industry in consultation with the then Department of Industry and Commerce. Key requirements of the code were that the intermediary should know the client and give best advice.

The Consumer Credit Act 1995, which commenced in May 1996, contains specific provisions in regard to endowment loans and in particular prescribes certain information which must be included in any application form or information document issued to consumers applying for such loans. For example, since the commencement of the Act all endowment loan application forms must contain a prominent notice to the effect that: “There is no guarantee that the proceeds of the insurance policy will be sufficient to repay the loan in full when it becomes due for payment”.

The Act also obliges that in instances where the borrower may be required to increase premium payments on the insurance policy during the lifetime of the loan, any document approving the loan must contain a prominent statement of this possibility. Similarly, obligations apply where a policy is surrendered early resulting in a net loss to the consumer.

The Act also places an obligation upon insurers underwriting policies relating to endowment loans to issue a statement to the consumer every five years setting out not only the value of the policy at the time of issue but also a comparison of this valuation to the valuation at such date projected at the time the policy was first written and a revised estimate of the valuation at maturity.

[275]In addition to the provisions of the Consumer Credit Act, the Life Assurance (Provision of Information) Regulations, which came into being in 2001, oblige insurers to provide policy holders, including holders of policies relating to endowment mortgages, with an annual written statement containing inter alia information on the current surrender or maturity value of the policy.

More recently, the Government has already considerably enhanced the regulatory and supervisory regime governing the financial services industry, primarily through the enactment of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003, which established the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority.

The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004 complements the Act passed in 2003 and further enhances the financial regulator’s powers and strengthens the regulatory environment. This Act provides for an enhanced structure for dealing with consumers who have complaints about financial institutions and also provides consumer and industry consultative panels for the financial regulator. The consumer panel will have an important role in ensuring that the regulator is correctly reflecting the interests of consumers in its protective — issue of codes of conduct — and educational — information pamphlets and so on — roles. These provisions will help the financial regulator to ensure that consumers have all necessary information to allow them to make considered and informed choices between different financial products including in relation to mortgages.

Question No. 373 answered with Question
No. 345.

  374.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Finance    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to men’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for men, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10673/05]

  375.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Finance    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to women’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for women, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10674/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 374 and 375 together.

The Deputy will appreciate that given its functions, my Department has not awarded grants or other financial assistance to organisations or groups of the type mentioned in any of the past three years.

  376.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Finance    the total VAT charged on the sales of the Band Aid DVDs and CDs launched at the end of 2004; and the way in which this compares to the money donated to the Band Aid Foundation by the Government. [10751/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  As I set out in my answer of 30 November 2004, an amount equivalent to the VAT paid on sales of the Band Aid CD and Live Aid DVD is to be paid from the Vote for International Co-operation to the Band Aid Trust.

Because the VAT collected from the sale of such goods is accounted for by retailers based on the totality of their sales over a taxable period, it is not possible for the Revenue Commissioners to specifically quantify the VAT in respect of an individual CD or DVD. However, I understand from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is the accounting authority for the Vote for International Co-operation, that it is awaiting certified sales figures from the distributors before payment of the VAT content of the sales is made to the Band Aid Trust.

  377.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Finance    when a P21 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for year ending 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10828/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this person’s tax affairs are currently dealt with in the Kildare, Meath and Wicklow customer services district in Grattan House, Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2, telephone number 01-6474000, and tax details are held there.

A form P21 balancing statement would normally issue to a taxpayer who is subject to PAYE on submission of a return of income. The records of the Revenue Commissioners show that the taxpayer commenced self-employment in September 2002. A return of income for 2003 was received on 18 March 2005. A notice of assessment issued for this year on 6 April 2005. On submission of a return of income for 2004, a statement of liability can then be issued for the year 2004.

  378.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Finance    the annual fees paid to each chairperson and director in each statutory board under the remit of his Department. [10874/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The following table sets out the fees payable, where appropriate, to the chairperson and directors-members of each statutory board operating under the aegis of my Department. Fees are not paid to civil servants, and normally not to other public servants, as directors-members of such boards.

Name of Body Chairperson’s fee Director’s-Member’s fee
Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Nil 12,697.38
Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority 19,046.07 12,697.38
Financial Services Ombudsman Council 15,236.86 10,157.90
Credit Union Advisory Committee 1,904.60 1,269.72
National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee 25,394.76 12,697.38
National Development Finance Agency Nil 10,000
National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission 57,138.21 38,092.14
State Claims Agency Policy Committee 15,236.86 10,157.90
Ordnance Survey Ireland 10,157.90 6,348.69
An Post National Lottery Company Nil 10,157.90
Public Appointments Service 10,157.90 6,348.69
Interim Board of the Civil Service Childcare Agency Nil 5,078.95
Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal Nil* 159.19 per session

  379.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has contemplated any legislative changes with a view to preventing money laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7145/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  Irish legislation on money laundering is set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1994, as amended. Primary responsibility for legislation in the area of money laundering rests with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

In regard to regulation of the financial sector the role of the Minister for Finance is to bring forward legislative proposals under which the financial regulator, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority can adequately supervise and regulate financial service firms including their compliance with their obligations under the anti-money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. The financial regulator is independent in the exercise of its powers.

It is clearly important that the effectiveness of the existing regulatory framework for the financial sector in combating money laundering is kept under review on an ongoing basis.

The Deputy may also be aware that a third money laundering directive is under consideration within the EU. It received political agreement from Finance Ministers last December and is currently before the European Parliament. If agreed it will require amendments to our domestic legislation in relation to money laundering.

  380.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will make a statement in respect of reports of parents of children at a primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 4 having been asked for voluntary contributions of €1000 per term; and if [278]such contributions qualify for tax relief as charitable donations. [10964/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  Without commenting on the individual tax affairs of the school concerned, the general position is that the scheme of tax relief for donations to approved bodies is governed by section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Approved bodies include primary schools where their programmes are approved by the Minister for Education and Science. A voluntary contribution to an approved body qualifies for tax relief under the scheme provided it meets the conditions set out in section 848A. One such condition is that neither the donor nor any person connected with the donor receives a benefit, either directly or indirectly, as a consequence of making the donation. Accordingly, a voluntary contribution in exchange for education being provided to the donor’s child would not be regarded as genuinely voluntary and would not qualify for tax relief.

  381.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Finance    the cost to the Exchequer for each year from 2000 to date of tax relief on charitable donations; if contributions to entities such as private schools, golf clubs and other sporting organisations qualify for such relief; the circumstances in which they so qualify; and the cost of such relief in respect of such bodies. [10965/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The original scheme for tax relief on donations made to charities was governed by section 8, Finance Act 1995, and applied only to certain designated Third World charities. The current scheme for tax relief on donations to approved bodies, which includes donations made to charities, is governed by section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The scheme was introduced in Finance Act 2001 and claims under the scheme arose from 2002 onwards.

[279]A separate donation scheme is provided for under section 847A in relation to donations to approved sports bodies for the funding of certain approved projects. This scheme was introduced in Finance Act 2002 and claims under the scheme arose from 2003 onwards. Private schools qualify as approved bodies under the section 848A scheme, once the programme of education being provided is approved by the Minister for Education and Science. Golf clubs and other sporting organisations are likely to qualify in the context of the section 847A scheme once the project (for which the donations are sought) has been approved by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

[280]As provided for in the relevant legislation, different tax relief arrangements apply in relation to donors paying tax under PAYE and those paying tax under the self assessment system. In the case of PAYE donors, the charity, approved body or sporting body recovers the tax associated with the donation on a grossed-up basis from Revenue. Donors who pay tax on a self-assessment basis claim the relief in their own tax returns.

The following figures of the cost to the Exchequer for the years 2000-01 to 2004 inclusive are in respect of the original charities donation scheme, Finance Act 1995, and of the current scheme for donations to approved bodies, Finance Act 2001.

Cost to the Exchequer of tax relief on donations made to Third World charities under section 8 of Finance Act 1995 and on donations to approved bodies under section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997

2000/01 2001 2002 2003 2004
PAYE €1.2m €1.8m €11.2m €21.4m €14.8m
Self Employed Not available Not available €3.8m Not yet available Not yet available

[279]The basis for compiling the figures in respect of donations made by PAYE taxpayers under the 2001 scheme was changed from a tax year basis to a calendar year basis for 2002 and later years and an unavoidable result of this transition is that the bulk of a cost of €13.3 million which was initially attributed to the income tax year 2001 has been reclassified under calendar year 2002 and later years.

The cost to the Exchequer of tax relief on donations by self-employed taxpayers to approved sports bodies within the meaning of section 847A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 is estimated to be of the order of €0.1million for income tax year 2002, the latest year for which an estimate is available. Figures for corresponding donations by PAYE taxpayers are not readily available and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted examination of the Revenue Commissioners’ records; however, on the basis of some limited indicative figures available, the cost to the Exchequer of these donations is unlikely to exceed €0.1 million for income tax year 2002 and may be less.

As figures of donations made by companies are not captured in corporate tax returns there is, therefore, no basis on which an estimate of the associated cost to the Exchequer can be compiled.

  382.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a member of the Garda Síochána and their family are waiting to occupy the living quarters of a Garda station (details supplied) in County Wexford and that works have to be carried out on the residence first; the stage of these works; when they will be fully completed; when the resi[280]dence will be ready for living in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10995/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the OPW Waterford regional office is currently preparing a report, with costings for the necessary works to make the married quarters habitable. This report would be available by the end of this month when it will be forwarded to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for their direction.

Question No. 383 answered with Question
No. 331.

  384.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of times the public private informal advisory group has met from 2002 to date; the work programme and recommendations made by the group; the number of times the group has met officials from his Department and with the members of the inter-departmental group on PPPs from 2002 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11147/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The public private informal advisory group on public-private partnerships, which is chaired by the Department of Finance, has met on 17 occasions since 1 January 2002. The membership includes representatives from the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Construction Industry Federation, the members of the interdepartmental group on PPPs and officials of the Department of Finance.

The framework for public private partnerships, November 2001, developed under the terms of [281]the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and via the informal advisory group, sets out a statement of principles for the development of PPPs in Ireland. The advisory group has been very helpful in developing the PPP process in Ireland and it provides a forum for relevant officials and social partners to meet. The role outlined for the informal advisory group in the 2001 framework is to help to develop partnership arrangements with the private sector by reflecting the interests of the relevant social partners in the area of PPPs and to facilitating the parties involved to exchange views and information.

The work programme of the group from 2002 to date has focused on consultation in regard to the programme of technical guidance brought forward by the central PPP unit in the Department of Finance, on the exchange of views in regard to issues affecting the development of the PPP process to date and in providing clarifications as necessary in regard to progress on individual PPP projects. To date, the guidelines issued following consultation with the informal advisory group and the inter-departmental group on PPPs include:- interim guidelines on the procedures for the assessment, approval, audit and procurement of PPP projects; Revenue guidelines on the corporation tax treatment of PPP agreements; guidelines on the role and function of the process auditor; guidelines on stakeholder consultation for employees and their representatives.

  385.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Finance    if his Department remains committed to advancing PPP projects in information communication technology, the tourism and leisure sector, urban development and renewal and public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11148/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The Government is committed to developing the PPP process as a viable procurement option for appropriate projects within the overall context of public investment in infrastructure and public services. PPPs are one procurement tool to be used alongside traditional approaches. I believe that the PPP approach has benefits when applied to projects of the right scale, risk and operational profile.

In support of Government policy, the role of my Department is to facilitate the PPP process, to develop the general policy framework within which PPPs operate and to provide central guidance to Departments and other State authorities in that context. Within a particular sector, a decision on the suitability of any individual project for the PPP approach is a matter for the relevant Minister or State authority in the first instance.

Question No. 386 answered with Question
No. 329.

Question No. 387 answered with Question
No. 330.

  388.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Minister for Finance    the amount of lottery funding advanced to date on a yearly basis to projects outside this State; the number of such lottery grants on a yearly basis [11524/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The Deputy will be aware that funding from the national lottery is disbursed by a number of Departments, including my Department. The only national lottery funds which are disbursed directly by my Department are payments to the promoters of certain charitable lotteries, whose revenue-earning capacity has been adversely affected by the national lottery, to supplement their charitable income with funding from the national lottery surplus. Funds are not allocated to the promoters of such charitable lotteries in respect of specifc projects and all such charities are required to be registered in the State in order to be eligible for funding.

  389.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    his views on direct grant aid to meet capital start-up costs for bioenergy producer groups, as is the case in other EU states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10945/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The only capital grant support is that provided by Sustainable Energy Ireland through its renewable energy research, development and demonstration programme. It is open to a wide range of research, development, and demonstration projects under the support mechanism categories proposed in the Green Paper on sustainable energy, including shared cost demonstration — projects demonstrating particular renewable energy technologies or applications which although at or near commercial viability and having potential for replication, currently face market barriers due to lack of expertise, knowledge or market confidence; shared cost research and development — research and development into innovative technologies, systems or marketing approaches which support the commercial exploitation of renewable energies; commissioned public good activities — activities directed at increasing the value and impact of the programme results, which will ultimately be used to inform policy. To date the programme has committed approximately €7 million in grant support, with bioenergy accounting for the majority of the spending.

I am advised by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, that her Department introduced an energy crops scheme in March 2004 in accordance with the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. Under this scheme, aid of €45 per hectare is granted for areas sown under energy crops and used for the production [283]of products considered biofuels and electric and thermal energy produced from biomass. Any agricultural raw material, with the exception of sugar beet, may be grown under the energy crops scheme. From 1 January 2005, farmers may claim the energy crop payment in addition to their entitlement under the single farm payment scheme. In addition to this scheme, set-aside land can be used for a variety of non-food uses, including growing of crops for energy purposes, and will therefore qualify to activate set-aside entitlements under the single payment scheme.

  390.  Mr. Grealish    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if the Government has plans to buy salmon drift net licences from drift net fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9962/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  The Government has consistently ruled out buyout as an effective means of achieving the restoration of salmon stocks and has instead, since 2002, promoted the application of quotas on commercial fishing and bag limits on angling to achieve catch reductions as the best instrument available to achieve this objective.

Moreover, no convincing case has been advanced as to the public good that would be acquired by the State in the context of a publicly funded buyout of commercial salmon licences nor why stakeholders benefiting from increased numbers of salmon entering the rivers should not contribute in whole or in part towards achieving that increase.

As a result, and as I have previously and consistently indicated to the House, I have no plans to introduce a buyout of commercial salmon fishing licences but I intend to keep the matter under review in the context of the policy outlined above. In this regard, I would be open to any relevant proposals presented to me whereby stakeholders benefiting from any reduction in commercial catch would engage in the first instance with licence holders and indicate a willingness to address any compensation issues that might arise.

  391.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if a decision has been taken by the European Commission with regard to a feasibility study of the establishment of a European coastguard dedicated to pollution prevention and response; if such a feasibility study will be conducted; the part Ireland will play in such a study and when it will begin. [9963/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  I indicated to the House in my reply to a question on 8 March on the subject of [284]the establishment of a European coastguard that a draft directive of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of sanctions for infringements, which is under consideration, calls for the Commission to undertake a feasibility study of the establishment of a European coastguard dedicated to pollution prevention and response, making clear the costs and benefits.

To date the Commission has not sought any views on the matter from the Department but, as I have already indicated, Ireland will participate in any feasibility study that the Commission might undertake and will examine any proposals forthcoming in this regard.

  392.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the progress made on the funding for permanent works at the mouth of Dunmoran river and on the barrier sea wall along County Road in Aughris, Templeboy, County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10044/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  Responsibility for coastal protection rests with the property owner, whether it be a local authority or a private individual. In July 2002 the Department requested all coastal local authorities to submit proposals, in order of priority, for consideration in the context of the 2003-06 national coastal protection programmes. Sligo County Council submitted a proposal for coastal protection works at Ardnaglass river outfall structure at Dunmoran strand at an estimated cost of €325,000 and this was their number one priority. The Department had no funding available for these works in 2003 or 2004. The 2005 coastal protection programme is under consideration.

The Department has not, to date, received an application from Sligo County Council in relation to the barrier sea wall along County Road, 17A, in Aughris, Templeboy, County Sligo.

  393.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if the monitoring of departmental funding for the roll-out of broadband takes cognisance of the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act, 1997; if all contractors appointed under departmental funding of broadband roll-out projects adhere to the provisions of this Act. [10061/05]

  394.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if his Department has made any inquiries or received any information regarding disputes arising from departmental funding of broadband roll-out projects across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10062/05]

[285]Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr N. Dempsey):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 393 and 394 together.

Compliance with the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act, 1997, as amended by the European Communities (Late Payment in Commercial Transactions) Regulations 2002, is a specific requirement in all of the grant agreements drawn up between my Department and the local and regional authorities, and, in turn, of all agreements entered into by local and regional authorities and contractors in respect of the broadband roll-out projects funded by my Department. All invoices submitted for payment to my Department in respect of broadband infrastructure funding have a process time of between two and three weeks.

Disputes between contractors are a matter for the contracting authorities, that is, the local and regional authorities, and the disputing parties. This is not an area in which I have a direct function.

  395.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the context and content of a meeting held between representatives of a group (details supplied) and an official of his Department which took place at a midlands location in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10148/05]

  400.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    his views on the context and content of a meeting held between representatives of a group (details supplied) and an official of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10285/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 395 and 400 together.

I have been informed that no such meeting took place.

  396.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if he travelled abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit and the cost involved. [10174/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr N. Dempsey):  I wish to advise the Deputy that I did not travel abroad for the purpose of attending St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. However, I did travel to Israel from 14 to 16 March to represent the Taoiseach at a ceremony to inaugurate the new Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem.

  397.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if Shell’s 345 bar Rossport pipeline runs alongside the public road over significant portions of its length contrary to NSAI standards which require a distance of 70 metres from areas in which people reside. [10244/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  I am unaware of any requirement in a NSAI standard to have a minimum distance of 70 metres from gas pipelines to any road. The Corrib gas pipeline was designed to standard BS 8010-2.8.

  398.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if his consent for the Rossport section of the pipeline was founded on both the risk assessment QRA and expert’s report which are not subject to fundamental review by order of him; if the consent itself is invalid and the contingent compulsory acquisition orders null and void. [10245/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The consent to construct the Corrib gas pipeline given by my predecessor was based on my Department’s assessment, inter alia, of the design codes proposed by the developers for the construction of the pipeline. In this context, my Department commissioned an independent pipeline expert to evaluate the onshore pipeline design code. The study addressed design methodology, operating conditions, pipeline corrosion, public safety, welding and testing, pipeline material quality and protection from interference. The recommendations of this evaluation indicated that the design code has been selected in accordance with best public safety considerations, and is appropriate for the pipeline operating conditions, and subject to the developers undertaking to comply with a number of conditions laid down in the then Minister’s approval and consents the design is generally in accordance with best national and international industry practice and the pipeline is considered to meet public safety requirements.

In addition, a quantified risk assessment was undertaken by the developers on the onshore section of the pipeline, which included a detailed analysis of the risk of damage to the pipeline and consequences of any such damage. The content of the QRA report was taken account of in the evaluation of onshore pipeline design code carried out by an independent expert. The conclusions and recommendations of the evaluation of onshore pipeline design code report were taken into consideration in the decision making process for the granting of consent to construct the pipeline.

There is no justification to revisit the consents to construct a pipeline granted by my predecessor on 15 April 2002, which is extant.

[287]I am satisfied also that the compulsory acquisition orders remain valid. I refer the Deputy to Question No. 94 of Thursday, 10 March 2005.

  399.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    his views on the difference in levels of compensation paid by his Department in the form of royalties to his Department in respect of mining activity; the way in which it compares to the quarrying of rock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10284/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  Minerals are usually developed by private enterprise through a lease or licence issued under the Minerals Development Acts 1940-1999. The rate of royalty is settled by negotiation between the Department and individual developers, and, in agreeing a rate of royalty, attention is paid to such factors as the economics of the project, international practice and the need to ensure equitable returns to the parties.

Full details of all State mining leases and licences are set out in the six-monthly report on exploration and mining laid before the Oireachtas. In instances where privately owned minerals are developed, the State is statutorily required to compensate the owner, but any compensation paid is recoverable from the lessee or licensee of the minerals.

I have no statutory function regarding extraction or quarrying of rock, and consequently have no information on the subject. If the Deputy is seeking information on a specific matter, I will be glad to check it out.

Question No. 400 answered with Question
No. 395.

  401.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the efforts which will be made to assist the RNLI access at a location (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10287/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  The incident that the Deputy refers to occurred off Buncrana slipway when a car was pushed into the water. It was not known initially that the car was unoccupied. When tasked by Malin Head coastguard, the RNLI local operations manager selected the inshore lifeboat to respond to the incident. The RNLI says it decided to use the inshore lifeboat instead of the all-weather lifeboat due to the prevailing depth of water at spring low tide. The RNLI has confirmed, however, that the selection of the inshore lifeboat did not delay the arrival time on scene.

[288]The Department provided funding of €127,500 for Donegal County Council in 2004 towards the dredging of Buncrana harbour costing a total of €170,000. The county council also requested the Department to provide for the carry-over to 2005 of the allocation unspent in 2004 to complete the dredging. The question of providing Exchequer funding in the current year to complete the dredging at Buncrana harbour will be considered in the context of the amount of Exchequer funding available and overall national priorities.

  402.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if he proposes to consult the public on the matters as referred to in reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 179 and 181 of 23 March 2005 as required under the EIA Directives 85/337/EEC and 97/11/EC. [10354/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The non-technical summary of the quantified risk assessment, QRA, is being prepared by Shell to provide the general public with a self-explanatory layman’s understanding and interpretation of the QRA. It will not be subject to any assessment by me. The QRA non-technical summary does not come within the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, Directives 83/337/EEC and 97/11/EC.

  403.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if the granting of a compulsory purchase order to Shell in regard to the route of the proposed Corrib pipeline is unique; and the legal basis on which it was granted. [10355/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  Section 32(1)(a) of the Gas Act 1976 as amended provides that “any person may apply to the Minister for an order under this section to acquire compulsorily any land or right over land which is required by that person for or in connection with the performance of any function of that person.” In accordance with this section, compulsory acquisition orders were issued to the developers.

  404.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if he has satisfied himself that the dredging and associated works at Dingle Pier were carried out in accordance with EU and other regulations to include the disposal of excavated rock and silt and sludge in 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10356/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The dredging and associated [289]works at Dingle were carried out in accordance with the relevant legislation in respect of disposal of dredge materials. Planning permission was granted by Kerry County Council for the development in December 1998. A foreshore licence, in accordance with the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 1998, was granted for the pier development and dredging works in 1999. Dumping at sea licences were granted for the disposal of dredge material on the foreshore at sea, in accordance with the Dumping at Sea Act 1996.

The licensing processes included full public consultation, as required, and included discussion and correspondence with the Environmental Protection Agency on the disposal proposals.

  405.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the contractor or contractors employed in 2000 and 2001 in the development of the pier at Dingle; the amount paid to each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10357/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  There was only one contractor employed in the development of the pier on the Dingle Harbour development project in 2000 and 2001. Irish Enco Construction Limited was awarded the contract on 2 November 1999 following a tender process.

The amount paid to Irish Enco Construction Limited for the project was £2,759,586.04, €3,503,951.48, including VAT. This figure included the works as specified in the contract documents, carried out per alternative tender proposals, as accepted, and includes payment for a variation to the contract for provision of an extension to the slipway wall at Dingle. A separate payment of £40,500, €51,424.39, was made to Irish Enco Construction Limited for piling works for a separate development involving provision of new pontoons, a PESCA grant assistance project, which was completed in 2000.

Other contractors were employed during the project for environmental monitoring work, for example, Valerie J. Keeley, archaeologists, and Aquatic Services Limited, but these were not involved in the provision of the construction works.

  406.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the plans in place to extend the gas line from the Corrib gas field to the north west; if there will be a joint initiative on a cross-Border basis between Bord Gáis and its counterpart in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10412/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  Any intending supplier of gas to the north west is free [290]to apply to the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, for the necessary consent.

A preliminary evaluation in 2001 by Bord Gáis Éireann, BGE, which considered network extensions to the north west, found that none was commercially viable and even the least expensive option would cost more than what might be recovered over the lifetime of the pipeline. The CER must be satisfied that a proposal to extend the natural gas network is an economic proposition, as otherwise uneconomic projects will increase costs for all gas consumers. BGE is also required by the Gas Act 1976 to demonstrate that any pipeline investment by it will be an economic business operation.

That said, there is a long-standing Government commitment to examine the feasibility of bringing natural gas from Corrib to Sligo. The decision to grant planning permission for the Corrib onshore gas refinery and pipeline is the subject of two proceedings before the High Court and a decision will be made in April whether or not to grant leave for judicial review.

Work on preparing the specification for a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis of possible routes to Sligo is under way. However, considering the costly nature of this study, it will not be proceeded with until there is a measure of certainty on the Corrib appeals process. Taking this into account, it is hoped the study will proceed later this year.

As regards a joint initiative of the kind the Deputy suggests, it is not clear there is a counterpart for BGE in Northern Ireland. BGE itself constructed the pipeline from Belfast to Derry. It is intended to link the two gas grids with a South-North interconnector to be put in place next year and to which the Government has agreed to give a substantial grant.

  407.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the reason he has not yet ratified the appointment of the chairman of Dundalk Urban District Council to the Dundalk Port Company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10460/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  I have appointed the person referred to by the Deputy as a director of Dundalk Port Company with effect from 5 April 2005. The principal reason for the delay in making this appointment is that neither Dundalk Port Company nor Dundalk Urban District Council informed the Department of the nomination until recently.

  408.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if the Government will guarantee the safety of the Corrib gas refinery project in north Mayo; and if [291]he will make a statement on the matter. [10522/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The safety of the gas terminal is in the first instance a matter for Shell E & P Ireland Limited. The plan of development approval, including the consent to construct a pipeline, took account of safety matters. It also incorporates the permits and licences to be issued by other regulatory authorities.

The plan of development approval was given subject to a number of conditions, one of which stipulates:

Approval by me for first gas, commencement of commercial production operations, will be subject to amongst other things the receipt of a letter(s) of acceptance for all Corrib installations, pipelines and associated engineering infrastructure from an auditor to be appointed by my Department indicating that third-party independent verification has been carried out and completed satisfactorily in relation to the development.

In addition the planning process takes due account of all safety aspects, including public safety, in its determination. In this regard, the Deputy’s attention is drawn to condition 15 of An Bord Pleanála’s planning decision, which stipulates:

Before the commissioning of the gas terminal, the developer shall submit to the planning authority a certified safety audit in relation to the installation of the combined upstream pipeline and terminal elements of the development within the planning application site, and the agreement of the planning authority shall be received.

The Safety Audit shall be prepared and certified by an independent qualified and competent person or body. Such body or person and the precise form of the safety audit, which shall include qualitative and quantitative risk analysis of the specified combined components, shall be agreed with the planning authority.

The safety audit shall also be submitted to the Health and Safety Authority and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources at the same time as it is submitted to the planning authority.

  409.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the reason the Corrib gas refinery will not be treating and cleaning gas offshore, as is being done in Kinsale and elsewhere throughout the world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10523/05]

[292]Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The Corrib gas field is a sub-sea development with gas processing at a terminal onshore. Offshore processing for the Corrib gas field is not the preferred development option as it would mean that production would be weather-sensitive, a serious drawback in the hostile environment at Corrib, and there would be greater capital and operational expenditure compared to a sub-sea development. The Deputy will accept the increased capital and operational expenditures that would be needed could make the development uneconomic and that there would be increased safety concerns as the offshore facilities would have to be manned.

In January 2001, the developers submitted to my Department a plan of development for the Corrib gas field. This states that, in terms of facilities engineering, the area in which Corrib is located is characterised by a harsh marine environment, being directly exposed to the Atlantic fetch, a lack of existing hydrocarbon production infrastructure and the presence of active fishery industry interests.

Section 4 of the plan of development sets out the proposed concept, onshore terminal, and the alternative offshore concepts that were considered. The offshore alternative concepts were eliminated in the plan of development due to a number of considerations. The water depth and hostile nature of the environment at Corrib do not favour the use of a fixed steel jacket or guyed tower. The latter has not been used outside the benign environment of the Gulf of Mexico. The floating production concepts are similarly not ideally suited to extended field life in the prevailing harsh environment, with large bore high-pressure gas export risers being a particular design issue. Remote control buoy technology has not been developed for the extreme environmental conditions experienced at Corrib. Development of an acceptable and reliable system could not be guaranteed within the proposed project timescale.

Furthermore, all the proposed manned facilities options incur high operational expenditure and have increased adverse safety implications, particularly with respect to offshore transfer of personnel. High capital cost of all the floating or fixed platform options combined with the requirement for extensive gas transport infrastructure rendered the options sub-economic with predicted Corrib reserves and envisaged gas sale price. The relatively dry nature of the Corrib gas, eliminating the need for offshore processing, and high reservoir productivity, educing the number of wells, allow the use of much simplified production facilities with high reliability. This permits the practical adoption of sub-sea production technology for Corrib.

In December 2000, my Department requested from the developers the results of its alternative concept studies. These were examined and [293]reviewed in January 2001 by the consultant petroleum engineer advising my Department. He advised the Department that the developers of the Corrib gas field should not be required to change or consider changing the Corrib development scheme.

  410.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the sections of his Department currently based outside Dublin which will be moved to other non-Dublin locations under the decentralisation programme; the location from and to which officials are being transferred; the numbers and sections involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10527/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The Government’s decentralisation programme involves the relocation of the Department headquarters and functions to Cavan, the seafood and coastal zone functions to Clonakilty and the maritime safety directorate and the Irish Coast Guard to Drogheda. All these functions and the posts involved in the decentralisation programme are currently based in Dublin.

The Department already has a well-established decentralised dimension with staff and services based in 25 coastal, regional and rural locations throughout the country. The Department’s services and the related posts currently located outside Dublin are not included in the decentralisation programme.

  411.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if his attention has been drawn to the press release issued by his Department on 24 March 2005 headlined, “Minister Pat the Cope Gallagher officially launches report on future development of Letterkenny town centre”; the relevance of this event to the Minister’s departmental duties; if it is normal practice for his Department to issue press statements on behalf of Ministers relating to constituency matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10542/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The Minister of State was invited to launch this report in his official capacity. It is normal for the Department to issue press releases for all such events. This practice has been in place through previous administrations.

  412.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if his attention has been drawn to the campaign to have Fairtrade products widely available and [294]used; his views on the objectives of this campaign; and if he will endeavour to have such Fairtrade approved products used in his Department. [10558/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  I do not have responsibility within the Government for trade issues, including Fairtrade products and the fair trade campaign, and my Department as a corporate entity is not involved generally in purchases of products of the type promoted under the Fairtrade campaign.

  413.  Mr. Walsh    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if a decision will be made on an application (details supplied) for a foreshore licence in County Cork. [10610/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  I understand Cork County Council has drawn up revised proposals for the tidal barrage. It will be necessary for the local authority to apply for planning permission for the revised proposals. Following completion of the planning process, further consideration will be given to the application made to the Department for the necessary foreshore consent.

  414.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if a serious oil supply crisis is imminent; and the plans in place to deal with a potential crisis. [10611/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  Ireland is a member of the International Energy Agency, IEA, an OECD body which, inter alia, monitors developments in the international oil market. The IEA keeps the oil market situation under constant review. While international oil prices are currently high, the IEA considers that the supply-demand fundamentals should not lead to a supply crisis.

As a member of the IEA, Ireland is required to maintain emergency oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days of net imports of crude oil equivalent in the previous year. The EU imposes a similar requirement based on consumption. At the end of December 2004, the combined stocks of IEA member countries, including Ireland, were equivalent to 114 days of net imports. Ireland’s stocks were estimated at 115 days’ net imports on 1 February 2005.

My Department has contingency arrangements in place to deal with major oil supply disruptions. In the event of a significant global oil supply crisis, Ireland’s oil reserves would be eked out over an extended period to supplement commercial supplies which would continue to be avail[295]able, albeit at a reduced level, in the normal course. In this context, reserves provide cover for periods far in excess of their expression in terms of number of days.

There would be no question of Ireland or any other oil-consuming country attempting to deal on its own with an international oil crisis. If such a crisis were to occur, the response, including the release of emergency stocks and the identification of alternative sources of supply, would take place primarily within the framework of the formal emergency regime developed and maintained by the IEA. Under this regime, member states would be entitled to a share of available IEA oil stocks in the event of a reduction of at least 7% in normal global supply levels. There are also provisions for a co-ordinated international response to an emerging crisis, without the oil-sharing component, in advance of the 7% trigger.

I am satisfied Ireland’s emergency stock levels are more than sufficient to ensure that we would be in a position to participate effectively in an internationally co-ordinated response in the event of an oil supply crisis. In addition, it is clear that if all countries and all users turned their attentions in a focussed way to increased energy conservation, this would impact on market sentiment which is a key driver of the crude oil price.

  415.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to men’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for men, including the name of the organisation or group; the amount paid; and the purpose for which it was paid. [10651/05]

  416.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to women’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for women, including the name of the organisation or group; the amount paid; and the purpose for which it was paid. [10652/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 415 and 416 together.

My Department has made no grants or other financial assistance available in the past three years to any groups or organisations of the types referred to by the Deputy.

  417.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the number of meetings which the bioenergy [296]strategy group has held to date; the progress it has made; when the publication of its recommendations is expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10709/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  In December 2003 my Department, in association with Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, set up a bioenergy strategy group, BSG, to consider the policy options and support mechanisms available to Government to stimulate increased use of biomass for energy conversion, and to make specific recommendations for action to increase the penetration of bioenergy in Ireland. Membership of the BSG comprised representatives of various Departments as well as State agencies in the agriculture and energy sectors and industry representatives.

The BSG held 11 meetings during the course of 2004. The work of the group was recently completed and a report including recommendations has been produced. These recommendations are being considered within the context of overall renewable energy policy development.

In tandem with this development, the renewable energy development group was established on 6 May 2004 to consider the future development of renewable energy generally in Ireland. This group is chaired by my Department and comprises relevant experts from the administrative, industry and scientific sector including the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, SEI, ESB National Grid and the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, among others.

The renewable energy development group is at the end of its current work phase and is expected to report shortly. This report will form the basis of my future policy decisions on the increased penetration of renewable energy technologies, including biomass, in the electricity market and will seek to ensure that developers can make a reasonable rate of return on renewable energy projects while ensuring that the interests of national competitiveness and the ultimate burden of cost to the final consumer are all fully taken into consideration.

  418.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    his views on whether Ireland can meet its target, as set out under EU law, to have 13.2% of its electricity consumption needs supplied by renewable energy sources by 2012; the steps being undertaken to ensure that this target will be met; the percentage of electricity needs currently serviced by renewable energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10715/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  Directive 2001/77/EC on the promotion of renewable [297]energy sources in the internal electricity market addresses an obligation to Ireland to increase the consumption of electricity from renewable energy sources to 13.2% of total electricity consumption by 2010.

This target has been incorporated into the alternative energy requirement, AER, programme administered by my Department to encourage the construction of new renewable energy-based electricity generating stations. I am confident that a combination of projects already built, projects which will be built under the current rounds of AER support and a new support programme offering fixed-price support contracts which I have indicated I will launch shortly will deliver, if not exceed, the EU target.

The contribution of renewable energy to gross electricity consumption in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, was 4.4%, a drop of one percentage point on 2002, due to lower rainfall levels affecting hydro production. I am satisfied recent decisions by the CER restoring connection offers for new renewable energy projects will see accelerated developments of new projects in the short term.

  419.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    further to Parliamentary Question No. 155 of 23 February 2005 when decisions will be communicated to Waterford County Council regarding the 2005 coast protection programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10819/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  The allocation of the funding available under the 2005 coastal protection programme is under consideration and a decision will be made in the near future.

  420.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    further to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 23 February 2005 the amount of the €20 million expenditure identified under the coast protection measure of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 and not expended by the end of 2004 which will be expended in 2005 in addition to the €2.882 million already announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10820/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher):  Under the coast protection measure of the National Development Plan 2000-2006, €52.01 million is identified for expenditure. Expenditure on this measure is not co-funded by the EU and is, accordingly, totally Exchequer-funded. Expenditure under this measure up to the end of 2004 was €32.2 million and €2.882 million is the amount of Exchequer funding made [298]available in 2005 for the coast protection measure of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The question of allocating additional funding for this measure this year does not arise.

  421.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if his attention has been drawn to any proposals by Eircom to acquire a company (details supplied); if he has examined the possible implications for the consumer in the event of such an acquisition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10846/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  Any proposals by Eircom, or any other commercial operator in a fully liberalised market, to acquire another company is a commercial decision for those involved and not one in which I have a function. The telecommunications market is fully liberalised and regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, which is the body responsible for consumer protection in this area. ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions.

  422.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    if his attention has been drawn to any plans to divide Eircom into a number of separate companies; if all such companies would remain within the same ownership; if so, the way in which this would benefit the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10847/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, recently published a consultation document entitled Forward-looking Strategic Review of the Irish Telecoms Sector. This document sets out a number of possible scenarios for the telecommunications sector, one of which includes the vertical separation of Eircom in the interest of competition. ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions and it would not be appropriate for me to comment in detail on this matter.

  423.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the annual fees paid to each chairperson and director in each statutory board under the remit of his Department. [10875/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  Fee levels for chairpersons and board members of State-sponsored bodies under the aegis of all Departments are prescribed by the Minister for Finance following a Government decision. The current [299]levels as indicated in the following tables in respect of the State-sponsored bodies under the [300]aegis of my Department have been in force since July 2001 on foot of the Government decision of 28 May 2001.

Standard Fee
Category 1 bodies* Chairperson 19,046.07
Directors 12,697.38
Bord Gáis Éireann Standard fee only
ESB Special fee of €31,743 sanctioned for chairperson, plus per diem allowance of €635 to overall level of €63,487 p.a. Standard fee applies to board members
An Post Special fee of €50,000 sanctioned for chairperson. Standard fee applies to board members
RTE Standard fee only
Category 2 bodies* Chairperson 15,236.86
Directors 10,157.90
Bord na Móna Standard fee only
Port companies (Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Cork) Standard fee only
EirGrid A special allowance of €637 per diem was sanctioned for the chairman for service in executive capacity, to end-March 2005. Standard fee applies to board members.
An Post National Lottery Standard fee only
Irish National Petroleum Corporation National Oil Reserves Agency Standard fee only
Category 3 bodies* Chairperson 10,157.90
Directors 6,348.69
Sustainable Energy Ireland Standard fee only
Bord Iascaigh Mhara Standard fee only
The Digital Hub Standard fee only
Marine Institute Standard fee only
Port Companies (Waterford, Shannon/Foynes) Standard fee only
Category 4 bodies* Chairperson 7,618.43
Directors 5,078.95
Port Companies (Drogheda, Galway, New Ross) Standard fee only