Dáil Eireann

15/Dec/2005

Prelude

Requests to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 31.

Order of Business.

Council of Europe Representatives.

Appropriation Bill 2005: Order for Second Stage.

Appropriation Bill 2005: Second and Subsequent Stages.

Employment Permits Bill 2005: Financial Resolution.

International Agreements: Motions.

Treaty of Amsterdam: Motion.

Defence Forces: Motion.

Development Banks Bill 2005: Order for Second Stage.

Development Banks Bill 2005: Second Stage.

Development Banks Bill 2005: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005 [Seanad]: Second Stage.

Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee.

Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005 [Seanad]: Financial Resolution.

Priority Questions.

Adult Education.

Special Educational Needs.

Multi-Denominational Schools.

Special Educational Needs.

Other Questions.

Schools Building Projects.

Adult Education.

Educational Disadvantage.

Education Policy.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Adjournment Debate.

Hospital Accommodation.

Industrial Relations.

National Drugs Strategy.

Climate Change.

Message from Seanad.

Written Answers

Third Level Education.

School Inspection Reports.

Stay Safe Programme.

Irish Language.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Irish Language.

Third Level Education.

School Curriculum.

Traveller Education.

Recruitment of Teachers.

Youth Services.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Vetting Procedures.

School Transport.

School Curriculum.

Area Development Plans.

Child Sexual Abuse.

Physical Education Facilities.

Site Acquisitions.

Psychological Service.

Educational Disadvantage.

School Transport.

Disruptive Students.

Education Welfare Service.

Multi-Denominational Schools.

Psychological Service.

School Curriculum.

Adult Education.

Education Welfare Service.

State Examinations.

School Accommodation.

Educational Disadvantage.

Tionscnamh Tógáil Scoile.

Weight of Schoolbags.

Drugs in Schools.

Special Educational Needs.

Adult Education.

Child Sexual Abuse.

School Enrolments.

Schools Building Projects.

School Curriculum.

Teaching Qualifications.

School Inspection Reports.

School Staffing.

School Accommodation.

Physical Education Facilities.

Psychological Service.

Schools Building Projects.

Physical Education Facilities.

Multi-Denominational Schools.

Third Level Education.

Irish Language.

Adult Education.

School Curriculum.

Schools Building Projects.

Third Level Education.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Pension Provisions.

School Curriculum.

Education Welfare Service.

Psychological Service.

Vending Machines in Schools.

Education Welfare Service.

State Examinations.

Health Services.

Hospital Services.

Health Services.

Clinical Indemnity Scheme.

Health Services.

Hospital Services.

Health Services.

Mental Health Services.

Civil Registration Service.

Health Services.

Hospital Parking Charges.

Nursing Home Subventions.

National Drugs Strategy.

Health Services.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Grant Payments.

Hospital Services.

Care of the Elderly.

Medical Cards.

Health Services.

Nursing Home Subventions.

State Claims Agency.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Health Services.

Community Care.

Health Services.

Care of the Elderly.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Medicinal Products.

Health Services.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Medical Cards.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Health Services.

Private Hospitals.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Hospital Accommodation.

Primary Care Strategy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Hospital Staff.

Medical Cards.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Computerisation Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Hospital Services.

Health Services.

Medical Cards.

Health Services.

Mental Health Services.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Health Services.

Tax Code.

Architectural Heritage.

Air Services.

National Parks.

Tax Code.

Garda Stations.

Schools Refurbishment.

Flood Relief.

State Property.

Decentralisation Programme.

Tax Code.

Financial Services Regulation.

Site Acquisitions.

Tax Code.

Child Care Services.

Departmental Programmes.

Communications Masts.

Tax Code.

Employment Protection.

Overseas Development Aid.

International Trade.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Community Employment Schemes.

Company Closures.

Employment Legislation.

International Trade.

Industrial Disputes.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Social Welfare Code.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Social Welfare Code.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pension Provisions.

Rail Network.

Property Damage.

Rail Services.

Public Transport.

Parking Facilities.

Air Services.

Rail Network.

Departmental Agencies.

Departmental Staff.

Road Traffic Offences.

Light Rail Project.

Rail Services.

Public Transport.

Road Safety.

Community Development.

Departmental Funding.

Community Development.

Grant Payments.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Animal Diseases.

Grant Payments.

World Trade Negotiations.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Food Safety.

Child Care Services.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Road Traffic Offences.

Drug Seizures.

Registration of Title.

Prison Medical Service.

Child Care Services.

Proposed Legislation.

Registration of Title.

Missing Persons.

Crime Levels.

Garda Deployment.

Visa Applications.

Registration of Title.

Visa Applications.

Youth Services.

Asylum Applications.

Visa Applications.

Residency Permits.

Refugee Status.

Residency Permits.

Citizenship Applications.

Refugee Status.

Citizenship Applications.

Crime Levels.

Deportation Orders.

Gangland Killings.

Visa Applications.

Citizenship Applications.

Departmental Correspondence.

Visa Applications.

Special Educational Needs.

Special Educational Needs.

Vocational Education Committees.

Special Educational Needs.

School Accommodation.

Institutes of Technology.

School Staffing.

Departmental Correspondence.

School Curriculum.

Schools Building Projects.

Overseas Students.

Schools Building Projects.

Psychological Service.

Schools Building Projects.

Site Acquisitions.

Schools Building Projects.

Schools Refurbishment.

School Accommodation.

School Staffing.

Schools Building Projects.

School Resources.

School Staffing.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

School Staffing.

Schools Refurbishment.

Schools Building Projects.

School Accommodation.

Schools Building Projects.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Schools Building Projects.

Special Educational Needs.

Schools Provision.

School Curriculum.

Special Educational Needs.

School Staffing.

School Accommodation.

Schools Building Projects.

School Accommodation.

School Staffing.

School Services Staff.

Educational Disadvantage.

Schools Refurbishment.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Air Services.

Archaeological Sites.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Animal Welfare.

Regional Road Network.

EU Directives.

Fire Stations.

Planning Issues.

Housing Grants.

Turbary Rights.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Vehicle Registration.

Site Acquisitions.

Departmental Schemes.

Local Authority Status.

Community Wardens.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Local Authority Staff.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Local Authority Funding.

Waste Disposal.

EU Directives.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Local Authority Staff.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Turbary Rights.

Housing Estate Management.

Noise Pollution.

Local Authority Procedures.

Noise Pollution.

Waste Management.

Heritage Sites.

Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar10.30 a.m.

Paidir.
Prayer.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Before coming to the Order of Business, I propose to deal with a number of notices under Standing Order 31.

Mr. Connolly:  I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 31 to discuss the following matter of urgent public and national concern, namely, the urgent necessity for a total ban on Brazilian beef and meat imports into the European Union in light of the serious foot and mouth disease outbreaks in that country, in which 11 outbreaks have been confirmed in the mid-western region of Matto Gross do Sul and another four in Paraná, causing the bordering countries of Argentina and Uruguay to declare sanitary alerts to prevent the spread of the disease and more than 50 countries to ban Brazilian beef imports; the lack of traceability and animal movement controls in Brazil in contrast with the traceability requirements of EU producers; and the need to protect both consumers and farmers by the compulsory withdrawal and incineration of all Brazilian beef currently in Ireland under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture and Food.

Mr. Sargent:  I seek that Dáil Éireann be adjourned under Standing Order 31 to raise a matter of urgent public importance, namely, to hear a statement from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the serious problem of water supply contamination by the parasite Cryptosporidium, which has become substantially worse in the past year according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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

The Tánaiste:  It is proposed to take No. 3a, Appropriation Bill 2005 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 13a, Employment Permits Bill 2005 — Financial Resolution; No. 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria on co-operation in combating organised crime and other serious crime, back from committee; No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus on co-operation in combating organised crime and other serious crime, back from committee; No. 16, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Poland on co-operation in combating organised crime and other serious crime, back from committee; No. 17, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council decision on the establishment of a mutual information procedure concerning member states’ measures in the area of asylum and immigration, back from committee; No. 18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the United Nations mission in Liberia, back from committee; No. 4, Development Banks Bill 2005 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 1, Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Second Stage; and No. 18a, Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005 [Seanad] — Financial Resolution.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) Nos. 3a, 13a, 14, 15, 16 and 17 shall be decided without debate; in the event of the proceedings on No. 1 concluding, No. 18a shall be taken immediately thereafter and shall be decided without debate; and in the case of No. 3a, the Second and Subsequent Stages shall be decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in respect of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance; (2) the proceedings on No. 18 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 25 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) subject to (ii), the speeches of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed five minutes in each case; (ii) Members may share time; (iii) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; (3) the following arrangements shall apply in respect of No. 4: (i) the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, [1111]be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes today; the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; (ii) the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in respect of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance; (4) the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 January 2006.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 1, 3a, 13a, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18a agreed?

Mr. Bruton:  It is agreed but our passing of the Appropriation Bill for the fifth year in a row without debate shows the poverty of the standards of scrutiny of public spending that have been established within this House. The reforms pressed by the Committee of Public Accounts should be taken on board by the Government. The process has become meaningless because the Bill is never debated in any shape or form. We need more meaningful systems in the House for achieving good value from public spending.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I want to make the same point. I produced the report for the Committee of Public Accounts on this issue. I agree with what Deputy Bruton has said.

The Employment Permits Bill 2005 was agreed at the end of October. Why is the financial resolution only coming forward today?

Mr. Stagg:  They forgot about it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I call Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Rabbitte:  That was a question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We will deal with the proposal first. The Minister will then respond. I call Deputy Sargent and then Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Mr. Sargent:  I agree with Deputies Bruton and Rabbitte. I would add——

Mr. Stagg:  On a point of order, Deputies who raise issues on the Order of Business are entitled to individual answers. The Ceann Comhairle is not entitled to lump them all together and get one answer with half of the questions forgotten about. They are entitled to individual answers.

[1112]An Ceann Comhairle:  I did not lump them all together. For the benefit of the Deputy, there is a proposal before the House dealing with Nos. 1, 3a, 13a, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18a. In accordance with the practice for as long as I can remember in this House, one member of each party is entitled to make a brief comment and we then hear a response from the member of the Government. There is no change. I call Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Sargent:  Whatever about getting individual answers, the idea of lumping together all of these proposals gives a new meaning to the phrase: “Like it or lump it.” The House is getting into a habit, which I believe is unprecedented, of passing financial resolutions before legislation has been passed. To put the cart before the horse in this way makes a mockery of the legislation. I ask that the practice be stopped, whatever about the other precedents being set here.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  To echo the point on the Appropriation Bill, the approach adopted is not satisfactory and does not allow for adequate scrutiny. The practice, as happened yesterday and as reflected again today in the Order Paper, of a financial resolution in regard to a Bill following the passage of Second Stage alone is an inappropriate way to do business. It should have been held until all of the Stages of the Bill were taken rather than pre-empting the views of the House. Although in this case it is safe to do so, I object to it because I think it wrong in practice.

The Tánaiste:  With regard to the Appropriation Bill, the recommendation of the Committee of Public Accounts has been referred to the Attorney General for his advice. As the House knows, the Minister for Finance announced in his budget speech that he is fundamentally changing the manner in which Estimates and the budgetary process will be conducted in future. This will have a major impact.

With regard to the financial resolutions, the intention is that the Employment Permits Bill, which has passed Second Stage, will be taken in committee in January. The committees do not have power to consider any legislation that has financial implications without this House first passing a financial resolution. The financial resolution in regard to the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will not be moved until Second Stage is concluded.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 1, 3a, 13a, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18a be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

Mr. Quinn:  On a point of order, the Ceann Comhairle may not be aware as his back is to it, but the Press Gallery has been emptied and nobody from the press is present. Can I take it that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law [1113]Reform has succeeded in intimidating the rest of the press corps?

Mr. F. McGrath:  He has gone to Colombia.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair has no control over that. We move to proposal No. 2.

Mr. Stagg:  I have a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I call Deputy Stagg on a point of order.

Mr. Stagg:  The fact that no members of the press are present in the House to report proceedings essentially arises from a decision of the Office of the Ceann Comhairle, as the chairman of this assembly, where the dress code being imposed without rules on members of the Press Gallery is such that members of the press were ordered from the gallery yesterday by the Ceann Comhairle’s staff.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It is certainly not a point of order.

Mr. Stagg:  The Ceann Comhairle should deal with that.

Mr. O’Donoghue:  The emperor has no clothes.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We move to the second proposal in the name of the Tánaiste, the proposal for dealing with No. 18——

A Deputy:  It was John Drennan.

An Ceann Comhairle:  ——the proposed approval of the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the United Nations mission in Liberia. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. D. Ahern:  It is a Parliament, after all.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4, conclusion of Second and Remaining Stages of the Development Banks Bill agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the Adjournment of the Dáil until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 January 2006 agreed?

Mr. Sargent:  It is not acceptable. We have reached the end of the Dáil term with more statements made than legislation passed. I ask that the Government be required, with all of us, to come back two weeks earlier, on 11 January. There is a general mood in the public mind that the Dáil is not delivering and not succeeding in responding to the issues that affect people in their day-to-day lives. I propose by way of amendment that we return on 11 January rather than on the date specified.

A Deputy:  At what time?

[1114]Mr. Durkan:  That has provoked total silence on the other side of the House. They might propose St. Stephen’s Day.

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

Mr. N. Dempsey:  Bring back the press.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We now put the proposal for dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil.

Question, “That the proposal that the Dáil, on its rising, shall adjourn until Wednesday, 25 January 2006 be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

Mr. Bruton:  The turkeys have not been saved by the Dáil. The House will welcome the fact that negotiations are about to begin on another round of social partnership deals. Is it satisfactory that the Dáil had no role in setting the agenda of the last negotiations, debating the agreement, approving it or monitoring any of the progress under it? Is it appropriate that the Dáil should be excluded to such an extent from this process? Are there proposals from Government to change this going forward?

In this season of goodwill, I do not like to strike a discordant note. However, looking back on the past 12 months, it is a major disappointment that in the Tánaiste’s brief, we have not seen the independent inspectorate Bill in respect of nursing, which the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach promised we would have before the end of the year. It is also disappointing that we have not seen the nursing home charges Bill which was to deal with the illegal deduction of charges. Moreover, while I welcome the recent announcement that the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, is taking charge of the introduction of the implementation of the Children’s Bill, it is hardly satisfactory that eight years after the introduction of that Bill to the House, we are still discussing its implementation. We have not decided to implement those provisions but instead are setting up a group to talk about implementing them. How many countless hundreds of young people have not been deflected from crime because we have not acted more promptly? It is a serious issue.

With regard to the Government decision on allowing the vote for people in prison, will the Government take on Deputy Gay Mitchell’s Bill in this regard? I note from the documentation that there is now a decision by the Government to support that approach.

The Tánaiste:  With regard to the social partnership process, it would be good to discuss the format of the discussion — if there is a new agreement — which would take place in this House. There is much emphasis on democratic deficits but it is clearly a negotiation between Government, employers, trade unions and other organisations, such as farmers and voluntary groups. I [1115]would personally like to see a greater role for the Oireachtas in the process, and it is a matter which could be discussed.

Legislation to make provision for the repayment of charges will come about next year. There is a unit in the Department of Health and Children working on this legislation, and it is not as simple as many people think. There are significant issues relating to wards of court and making provision for them. The matter has involved a considerable amount of work and is a much larger piece of legislation than anybody has anticipated.

The Government has cleared the legislation to provide for prisoners’ voting by way of postal ballot in their own constituencies. I apologise to Deputy Gay Mitchell as I am not familiar with his legislation on the matter. The Government cleared a Bill at the Cabinet meeting last week.

Mr. O’Dowd:  They probably copied Deputy Mitchell’s legislation.

Mr. Rabbitte:  It appears that Operation Freeflow is working well without a Minister of State. Perhaps this is a precedent that we could look at in the new year in other areas.

As the closing date is tonight for survivors of abuse in residential institutions to register claims, I ask the Tánaiste whether she intends any action to be taken in the case of Marie Therese O’Loughlin, who is currently outside the gate of Leinster House. She has been there for some weeks now.

Mr. Durkan:  Hear, hear.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Is it the intention of the Government to leave her there over the Christmas period?

An Ceann Comhairle:  As the Deputy knows, that question was raised by his colleague, Deputy O’Sullivan, on the Adjournment Debate yesterday.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Where will that get Ms
O’Loughlin? May I make my point?

Mr. Durkan:  She is still there.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot have a debate on something that does not arise out of the Order of Business.

Ms Enright:  That is not satisfactory.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  She is still outside.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The Taoiseach yesterday suggested that since she has a connection with another institution, it may be possible to bring her within the rubric of the scheme. If the woman were to apply today, will the Government allow her to come within the terms of the scheme, per[1116]haps by reference to another institution, as the Taoiseach suggested? Is there some way her plight can be alleviated?

An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot have a debate. The Deputy is reiterating the Adjournment Debate from before.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I am not attempting to debate the matter. I am asking a question on the matter as this is the last opportunity I will get.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I will allow the Tánaiste to deal briefly with it because it is the last opportunity, but it is repetitive. We have had the matter three times this week.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The Ceann Comhairle persists in referring to my colleague, Deputy O’Sullivan, but she has done everything she can possibly do within the rules of the House. It has not got Ms O’Loughlin anywhere.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I ask the Deputy to allow the Tánaiste to answer the question.

Mr. Rabbitte:  If the Ceann Comhairle had not interrupted me I would have made my point far more briefly.

Mr. J. O’Keeffe:  Is there room at the inn?

The Tánaiste:  As the Deputy is aware, the legislation gave a three-year cut-off point, which in all circumstances was reasonable. The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, has met with Marie Therese O’Loughlin. The other institution which the woman spent time in is included. She is free to apply on the basis of this other institution, which she should perhaps be encouraged to do.

Ms O’Sullivan:  Her injury was not in that institution.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I ask the indulgence of the Ceann Comhairle for 30 seconds.

Ms Enright:  Will she be left out there for Christmas? It will not be much of a Christmas for her.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot have a debate on the matter. If the Deputy wishes to submit the matter on the Adjournment Debate, I will allow it for the second time this week because it is Christmas.

Mr. Durkan:  We should have a debate on the matter.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We must have some order. The Deputy was allowed outside the Order of Business on a question that has been raised.

[1117]Mr. Rabbitte:  The woman is outside the gates of Leinster House. All I wish to do is put a supplementary question to the Tánaiste.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot debate the matter. There cannot be debate on any issue one chooses on the Order of Business. There are many opportunities for the Deputy to raise the matter.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The problem is the injurious experience of the woman concerned was not in the institution encompassed by the legislation. I am asking the Tánaiste about the matter.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot debate the matter now. I ask the Deputy to give way to Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I am not trying to debate the matter. I am attempting to find a pragmatic solution.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If we allow the Deputy to have a debate on some issue that he wants to raise which does not relate to Standing Order 26A, we cannot prevent any other Deputy on either side of the House doing the same.

Mr. English:  This is a different situation.

Mr. Bruton:  We should be reasonable.

Mr. Sargent:  It is Christmas. Is there no room at the inn?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Standing Orders are no different.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Does the Tánaiste believe this woman can be included? The problem is her injuries were not experienced in the institution encompassed by the legislation. The only point I wish to make is whether we are going to leave this woman outside Leinster House over Christmas.

The Tánaiste:  As the Deputy is aware, the first institution was not owned by the State and the State had no inspectorate role. Any injuries inflicted in that institution are not covered by the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

Mr. Costello:  It is not recorded, that is the problem.

Mr. Crowe:  That is all the more reason the State should cover it.

The Tánaiste:  If any damage was caused to Marie Therese O’Loughlin in the other institution she would qualify. We cannot make exceptions for individuals, difficult as this may be. If the State had no role, it should not be expected to——

[1118]Mr. Crowe:  The State should have had a role. That is all the more reason for the State to cover it.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  The State should answer.

The Tánaiste:  There will be many other examples with people in the same situation.

Mr. Crowe:  That is all the more reason the State is neglecting its own duties.

The Tánaiste:  We cannot cover all private institutions in the country, as that would be unreasonable.

Mr. Rabbitte:  It is asserted in this case that there was an inspector function, but there are no documents to establish this.

Mr. Costello:  The Minister has overused the word “record”.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. The issue has been discussed.

Mr. Sargent:  Before the Dáil rises for the Christmas recess, will there be any announcement from the Government on the appointment of a Minister of State at the Department of Transport? Will there be any opportunity to discuss the matter? Whether Operation Freeflow is working well or not, it is currently a headless operation.

I wish to ask about promised legislation, although legislation will unfortunately not help Marie Therese O’Loughlin. She has become a symbol for the reality of homelessness as well as abuse in institutions. I ask the Tánaiste, on the basis of there being no room at the inn, to intervene——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The issue has already been dealt with.

Mr. Sargent:  On legislation, seven of the 14 Bills promised in September for this session have been published to date. Two of these are the Appropriation Bill 2005 and the Social Welfare Bill 2005, which are routine anyway. Fourteen Bills promised in the January 2003 programme for publication for 2003 have still not appeared. There appears to be a reluctance to forge ahead with the legislation, when one considers the number of statements we have had in this term alone. Nine different issues have been subjects of statements. We had just one in the same term last year.

Is there a trend where time is being filled by statements where legislation is not being prepared? Is this not a cause for review by the Government to ensure legislation is produced, so we can be more productive? As important as statements are, they do not concern the changing [1119]of decisions and the work in which we are primarily involved.

The Tánaiste:  The commitment was to publish these Bills before the start of the next session. There is still over a month left and we believe most of the Bills will be published.

Mr. Sargent:  Some of the Bills are years old.

The Tánaiste:  One of the Bills, the Building Control Bill 2003, which Deputy Quinn has a special interest in, was cleared by the Government this week.

Mr. Quinn:  After two years.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I hope it is not a vested interest.

The Tánaiste:  The appointment of a Minister of State to the Department of Transport is a matter for the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach will make a recommendation to the Government. I understand the Taoiseach has stated his intent to do so in January.

Mr. Durkan:  On a point of order, with regard to Marie Therese O’Loughlin, will a Private Notice Question be allowed today on the issue? At this time it would be entirely appropriate to make that particular exception to the rules and allow the matter to be dealt with in some
form.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy knows how those matters are dealt with. If he wishes to submit a question the Chair will consider it. The Chair cannot give a guarantee as it must have regard to the number of times the matter has been raised already.

Mr. Durkan:  Will the Chair consider it favourably? In view of the sensitivity of the subject and the time of year——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The matter has been raised and discussed. As a result of the sensitivity we have had repetition on three days this week.

Mr. Durkan:  Will the Chair accept the Private Notice Question?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair will not discuss what will be accepted.

Mr. Durkan:  The Ceann Comhairle should not be like that. It is Christmas time. However, this is a serious issue which has aspects of compassion and caring. The Ceann Comhairle should be prepared to listen to it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I respect the Deputy’s right to hold any theory he likes but the
[1120]Chair must make an objective decision on the matter.

Ms McManus:  In the past few days a major survey was published on the concerns of patients, which many people found disturbing. We were promised that when the Health Service Executive was established a parallel organisation called the health information and quality authority, HIQA, would be established for patients. That promise has not been delivered on. The body has not been established under statute.

When will this body be properly constituted? Why has the State not provided a safeguard of this type? What is the justification for the long delay in the legislation? When exactly will we get it?

  11 o’clock

The Tánaiste:  Either the Deputy did not read the recent survey or she is more biased than I anticipated. An independent group surveyed 42% of patients who visited hospitals last year, of whom 91% were satisfied and would return to the same hospital. By any standards that is a very satisfactory rating.

The legislation is a major Bill. HIQA has been established and is recruiting a chief executive officer and some of the other staff. The legislation to give effect to that will be in the House before Christmas.

Ms McManus:  How can it be in the House before Christmas?

The Tánaiste:  I apologise. It will be in the House before next summer.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  The Tánaiste said earlier to Deputy Bruton that because of the complexities encountered in preparing the repayment scheme for charges for publicly funded residential long stay care Bill, the legislation is not expected before some time in 2006. In the list of this term’s promised legislation, dated 27 September, this legislation was anticipated before the end of this year. When did these complexities present themselves such that there is a further unacceptable delay in ensuring the repayment of moneys due to people who were illegally charged in long-stay institutions?

Where stands the judicial complaints Bill?

The Tánaiste:  I made it clear to the House in October that the repayment scheme for charges for publicly funded long-stay residential care Bill would not be ready until next year. I recall saying that one morning on the Order of Business. The complexity mainly revolves around the issue of the wards of court which the Law Reform Commission has been considering for some time. The heads of the Bill are about to go to Government and the legislation will be published early next year and hopefully go through the House then.

[1121]Mr. O’Donoghue:  The Deputy should have referred to the judicial council Bill not the judicial complaints Bill. It will be ready next year.

The Tánaiste:  The judicial council Bill will be ready next year.

Mr. Stagg:  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the Christmas card he sent me which bears an image of the bell on his desk. My wife, greatly respecting the Ceann Comhairle’s office, insists on putting the card in the centre of the mantelpiece. I must look at the bell for the whole yuletide fireside season.

Mr. Durkan:  For whom the bell tolls.

Mr. Stagg:  Next year the Ceann Comhairle might consider putting something else on the card. I appreciate receiving it but I thought during yuletide I might get away from the bloody bell.

Mr. Durkan:  The Ceann Comhairle might put a muffler on the bell.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The Deputy does not like the bell because it is a reminder to him.

Mr. Stagg:  The Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill 2002 and the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004 are still on the clár for some reason but the Government has not moved them. This year our sitting time was three weeks shorter than last year. Maybe that is because the Government Chief Whip is so efficient he can get the business done in three weeks less than his predecessor but these Bills are outstanding.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I assure the Deputy there was no intention to upset his Christmas. Now that he mentions the image on the card, it is an opportunity to reflect on how we should do business in the House.

Mr. D. Ahern:  We should have harmony.

Mr. O’Donoghue:  The Ceann Comhairle could get a triangle.

The Tánaiste:  The Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill is awaiting Committee Stage.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Some Ministers could do with looking at some of the paragraphs of the Bill.

Ms O’Sullivan:  If Marie Therese O’Loughlin, or anybody else, applies to the Residential Institutions Redress Board before the deadline, in respect of an institution that is not included on the schedules, and should subsequent information become available that a public body had an inspection function, would the Minister or the Government add that institution to the schedule by order? This is possible.

[1122]An Ceann Comhairle:  That question was dealt with already this morning.

Ms O’Sullivan:  That aspect of it has not been covered. The board can extend the time.

The Tánaiste:  In the unlikely event of that happening there will have to be a thorough investigation of all these matters, which the Government is willing to conduct. This is not the only such case. I am aware of other cases in private institutions and unfortunately we cannot open up every private institution in this situation.

Mr. Gilmore:  There is a report in the newspapers this morning that there was an earthquake off the coast of Bray the night before last. Which Minister is responsible for emergency planning, earthquakes and matters of that kind?

Mr. Timmins:  The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, caused it.

Mr. Quinn:  It used to be Deputy Jacob.

Mr. D. Ahern:  There were a few earthquakes in here this week prompted by Deputy Finian McGrath’s question.

Mr. Gilmore:  Should I take the absence of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to mean he is out there looking for the epicentre?

Mr. O’Dowd:  He is at the epicentre.

Mr. Cowen:  He is ringing Mr. Richter.

Mr. M. Higgins:  When will the necessary lodgements be made to ensure Ireland’s compliance with the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice? Has there been any further development on the signing and ratification of the optional protocol against torture?

The Tánaiste:  I compliment the Deputy on the very distracting tie he is wearing.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. M. Higgins:  I thank the Tánaiste. One does one’s best.

The Tánaiste:  I will ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to respond to the Deputy on that matter.

Mr. Broughan:  Over the past three or four months when I have sent the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children a letter on a policy matter I have received a response from Professor Drumm and the Health Service Executive. In the [1123]interest of efficiency and so on do we need a Minister for Health and Children?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Broughan:  Could Professor Drumm perhaps report to this House about how he runs the health service?

Mr. Stagg:  It is the Pontius Pilate syndrome: get a quango together and wash one’s hands of responsibility.

The Tánaiste:  Professor Drumm is accountable to the House under the legislation passed last year. If the Labour Party wishes to propose the abolition of the role of Minister for Health and Children in its next election manifesto we can have a good debate at that point.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I would like to make a brief reference to comments made yesterday concerning alleged omissions from the Official Report of Dáil debates. I wish to reiterate a ruling of the Chair on 11 May 1999:

It is a long standing tradition that the Official Report, although not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report with repetitions and redundancies omitted and obvious mistakes corrected but which, on the other hand, leaves out nothing which adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument. In this sense, the Official Report is intended to be a full report of the proceedings in the House. As Members are aware, the Official Report of the Dáil is published as unrevised and Deputies have up to 14 days after publication to bring corrections to the notice of the Editor of Debates who is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the report.

It is well-established that the Official Report is the authoritative record of what is said. Members who raised the matter yesterday in a jocose way during Christmas greetings were not casting any reflection on the Chair or the professionalism of our editorial staff who do tremendous work, often very late at night, to produce the report of the debates in a very short turnaround time.

Mr. Bruton:  On behalf of my party, I share the Ceann Comhairle’s view that the House is very well served by the editorial staff. Nothing we said was intended to reflect adversely on them. We wish to join them in our season’s greetings.

Mr. Stagg:  What words can we use other than “frig”?

(Interruptions).

Mr. Rabbitte:  I think it is unnecessarily precious. Nobody——

[1124]An Ceann Comhairle:  Sorry Deputy, there is a ruling——

Mr. Rabbitte:  I heard you. Now let me make my comments if you do not mind. Nobody on any side of this House cast any aspersion on the professionalism and extraordinary diligence of the editorial staff.

Mr. Durkan:  Absolutely.

Mr. M. Higgins:  No one was casting aspersions.

Mr. Rabbitte:  A jocose point was being made to which might be added that some changes indeed have been made down the years. It has gone beyond finessing of English. That is because we have experienced, as I said yesterday, a new form of linguistics being tried out in this House in recent years that is not known to other parliaments. It would be better for archivists and historians if they actually got the raw material as spoken in the House. I think the point is unnecessarily precious.

Mr. Durkan:  Good point.

Mr. M. Higgins:  We could have a seminar on it.

(Interruptions).

Mr. Durkan:  A week long one.

Ms Hanafin:  In-service courses.

Mr. M. Higgins:  They could be teaching the difference between a metaphysical and ontological outlook in linguistics in February.

The Tánaiste:  I wish to take the opportunity to wish the Ceann Comhairle, Members and the staff a happy Christmas. As this is our last sitting day before Christmas, on my and the Government’s behalf, I thank all the staff who serve the Members with great integrity, enthusiasm and dedication.

Mr. Quinn:  Since I made my first observation about the Press Gallery, an allegation has been made that I wish the Ceann Comhairle to investigate. I am not sure if it is proven but it would be disturbing if so. The allegation is that a member of the press was ordered from the Press Gallery because he was deemed to be wearing inappropriate attire, namely jeans. Will the Ceann Comhairle investigate this incident? It is obvious they have chosen not to come in here for some deliberate reason. We would like to be informed if that is the case. We want to know who did it and was it done on the Ceann Comhairle’s authority.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair is unaware of it but I will investigate it and communicate directly with the Deputy.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Kitt):  I wish to inform the House that the following persons have been selected and nominated as representatives and substitutes from Ireland to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the 2006 session: representatives, Deputies Noel Davern, G.V. Wright, Pat Breen and Eamon Gilmore; alternates, Deputy Paddy McHugh and Senators Paul Bradford, Paschal Mooney and Ann Ormonde.

Bill Entitled an Act to appropriate to the proper supply services and purposes sums granted by the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act 1965, to make provision in relation to deferred surrender to the Central Fund of certain undischarged appropriations by reference to the capital supply services and purposes as provided for by section 91 of the Finance Act 2004 and to make certain provision in relation to financial resolutions, passed by Dáil Éireann on 7 December 2005 and to amend section 3 of the Appropriation Act 1999 to provide for the payment to the Health Service Executive of certain moneys collected in respect of the duty of excise imposed by section 2 of the Finance (Excise Duty on Tobacco Products) Act 1977.

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I move: “That Second Stage be taken now.”

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  In accordance with the Order of the House today, I must put the following question: “That the Bill is hereby read a Second Time, that sections 1 to 5, inclusive, Schedules 1 and 2 and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is, accordingly, reported to the House without amendment, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed.”

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  This Bill, which is certified to be a money Bill in accordance with Article 22.2.1° of the Constitution, will be sent to the Seanad.

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I move:

[1126]

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution for the charging in accordance with the Act of certain fees, being fees for the granting or renewal of employment permits, for the purpose of permitting persons who require such permits to be in employment in the State.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Kitt):  I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria on co-operation in combating illicit trafficking in drugs and precursors, money laundering, organised crime, trafficking in persons, terrorism and other serious crime which was signed in Dublin on 31st January, 2002, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 21st February, 2002.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Kitt):  I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus on co-operation in combating illicit drug trafficking, money laundering, organised crime, trafficking in persons, terrorism and other serious crime which was signed in Dublin on 8th March, 2002, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 21st March, 2002.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Kitt):  I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Poland on co-operation in combating organised crime and other serious crime which was signed in Warsaw on 12th May, 2001, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 31st May, 2002.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Kitt):  I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion, provided by Article 3 of the fourth Protocol set out in the Treaty of Amsterdam, to notify the Pres[1127]ident of the Council that it wishes to take part in the adoption and application of the following proposed measure:

a proposal for a Council Decision on the establishment of a mutual information procedure concerning Member States’ measures in the area of asylum and immigration,

a copy of which proposed measure was laid before Dáil Éireann on 14th November, 2005.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister for Defence (Mr. O’Dea):  I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the despatch, pursuant to section 2 of the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1960, as applied by the Defence (Amendment) Act 1993, of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), established on 19th September, 2003, under UN Security Council Resolution 1509 (2003) in carrying out its additional role in relation to:

(i) the provision of security for the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the evacuation if and when needed of UNMIL military personnel and officials of the Court in the event of a serious security crisis affecting those personnel and the Court as set out in Security Council Resolution 1626 of 19th September, 2005; and

(ii) the apprehension and detention of former President Charles Taylor in the event of a return to Liberia and the transfer of him or the facilitation of his transfer to Sierra Leone for prosecution before the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the keeping of the Liberian Government, the Sierra Leonean Government and the Council fully informed as set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1638 of 11th November, 2005.

In commending the motion to the House, I will briefly outline the Defence Forces’ participation in the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, to date and the background to the request. UNMIL was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1509 of 19 September 2003, to support the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement, signed by the Liberian parties on 18 August 2003.

UNMIL was designed to support the establishment of peace in Liberia, which had been ravaged by civil unrest, and a brutal civil war involving child soldiers, horrific acts of barbarity and complete disregard for human life. The effect of the ongoing conflict over decades had completely destroyed the Liberian economy, ranking it at the bottom of the world development index. The [1128]situation in Liberia was also responsible for fomenting general unrest across the region.

UNMIL is a Chapter VII peace enforcement operation, which means that it is authorised to take all necessary measures to fulfil its mandate. Ireland has participated in UNMIL since December 2003. Together with an infantry company group from Sweden, it provides the quick reaction force to the UNMIL force commander. The Irish contingent comprises 427 personnel. The quick reaction force initially acted in a pathfinder role, going into the countryside, stabilising the situation, establishing contacts with local leaders and preparing the ground for the follow on deployment of the larger UN forces. Once this was completed, the quick reaction force became the rapid response element within UNMIL, responding to any crises that arose within the area of operations and supporting deployed contingents through long range patrols into the countryside. While it has been a difficult mission, particularly in terms of the operating environment, it is working very well for the Defence Forces.

On 19 September 2005, the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter unanimously adopted Resolution 1626 extending the mandate of UNMIL until 31 March 2006, at which time it will be reviewed. The resolution further authorised UNMIL to deploy personnel to Sierra Leone to provide a continuing security detail for the special court for Sierra Leone in Freetown, to deploy an adequate number of military personnel to Sierra Leone, if and when needed, and to evacuate the security detail, as well as officials of the special court for Sierra Leone, in the event of a serious security crisis.

On 11 November 2005, the UN Security Council further extended UNMIL’s mandate to include the apprehension, detention and transfer to the special court for Sierra Leone of the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, in the event of his return to Liberia. The special court is an independent tribunal established jointly by the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone in 2002. Its function is to bring to justice those who bear greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996. The court is presided over by six trial judges, including one Irish judge, and five appeal judges. Thirteen persons have been brought before the Court, nine of whom are in the court’s custody in Freetown and two of whom are deceased. A further indictee, whose current whereabouts are unknown, is also believed to be deceased. The final indictee, former President of Liberia, Mr. Charles Taylor, has been in exile in Nigeria since he relinquished the Liberian presidency in August 2003. The Nigerian authorities are willing to hand over Mr. Taylor to the democratically elected Government of Liberia. They are, however, not prepared to send him directly to the special court.

[1129]On 22 September 2005, the UN Secretariat informed the Irish mission to the UN that UNMIL would assume responsibility for the security of the special court for Sierra Leone from 1 December 2005. The UN requested Ireland’s support in expanding the area of operations of UNMIL to include Sierra Leone and in particular the special court of Sierra Leone in Freetown.

A joint Irish-Swedish reconnaissance team visited UNMIL and Sierra Leone from 9 to 13 November 2005. The purpose of the visit was to assess the situation on the ground. The military authorities have advised that an evacuation of the special court, were it required, would be a complex and difficult operation given its location and the diverse make-up and nationalities of the forces involved. Security at the court is provided by a private security firm. In addition, police and military personnel of Sierra Leone are part of the overall security network, while UNMIL has provided a guard company currently comprising 150 Nigerian military personnel until mid-January 2006 when it will be replaced by a military guard of 250 Mongolian personnel.

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces is of the opinion that the envisaged operation in Sierra Leone, should it come to pass, is within the Defence Forces’ competence to perform from within the resources currently deployed in the quick reaction force. Subject to Dáil approval, deployment to UNMIL’s additional roles would take place as soon as possible.

The current level of risk is estimated to be relatively low, while the financial costs of the additional role are relatively minor. The Secretary General of the UN has indicated that a review of the UNMIL mission will take place in March 2006 and, depending on the political and security position in Liberia at that time, a downsizing schedule for the UNMIL mission will be agreed.

The Government is of the view that the current deployment of the United Nations Mission in Liberia is critically important in providing continuing support for the comprehensive peace agreement, the political and economic recovery of Liberia and stability in the region as a whole. UNMIL is playing an extremely positive role in ensuring a secure environment for the holding of elections and in the run-up to the installation of the new government next January. A positive response by the House to the current United Nations request would be consistent with Ireland’s commitment to UN peacekeeping, particularly in Africa. I commend the motion to the House.

Mr. Timmins:  The number of Irish troops serving overseas stands at 750. I also served overseas, including at Christmas. On behalf of the Fine Gael Party and its leader, Deputy Kenny, I wish all those serving overseas a happy and peaceful Christmas, which can be a difficult time for [1130]families and troops, particularly married soldiers, both male and female, serving abroad.

Yesterday, the Minister commemorated 50 years of Irish involvement with the United Nations. As was outlined, approximately 54,000 tours of duty have been completed by Irish forces. Four veterans of the Congo were also honoured yesterday, two of whom, Sergeant Gerry Higgins and Corporal Mike Connolly, I once knew well. It is amazing that these two men who served in the Congo are still serving in the Defence Forces. I wish the four veterans well.

The Fine Gael Party supports the motion, as outlined in committee. Ireland has made a marvellous contribution to overseas missions. The Liberian mission is difficult, while Sierra Leone has the potential to be difficult and dangerous. The Minister assured my party, based on the comments of the Chief of Staff, that the necessary security, equipment and human resources are in place. My party is always supportive of the principle of Irish involvement in peacekeeping and supports the involvement of Defence Forces in Sierra Leone, if such involvement is necessary.

Eighty-five members of the Defence Forces have lost their lives on UN service, some murdered and some by tragic accident. The feelings of many of their families, particularly of those who died recently, are still sore and raw. I ask the Minister to address any outstanding issues arising from these deaths. Unfortunately, some members of the Defence Forces were murdered by their own. I recall several individuals who lost their lives at Tibnin Bridge. When I served in Lebanon Fr. Sean Conlon, currently the parish priest of Ballinakill, was the chaplain. Fr. Conlon used to regularly visit Tibnin Bridge late at night. He had been at the bridge just a few minutes before several of our troops were murdered by one of their own in the early 1980s. It is important to remember those who lost their lives, particularly at this time.

Many of our troops were murdered by different sides to the various conflicts. One case, which was given considerable publicity recently, was the Niemba ambush, an event commemorated with a plaque unveiled at Goresbridge to Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson. His brother Fergus served in the Army for many years and I think of his extended family at this time.

I also think of several individuals who were murdered. If memory serves me correctly, Private Stephen Griffin was the first Irish soldier murdered in Lebanon. He was killed at At-Tiri in 1980. Shortly afterwards, Privates Smallhorn and Barrett were killed in an incident which has received publicity on occasion over the years. Will the Minister try to bring some closure to the families of those who were murdered, particularly as we approach Christmas? I do not blame the Minister but these events are frequently resurrected in the media which builds hope among loved ones that those who committed the mur[1131]ders will be brought to justice. We should try to bring closure in these cases.

I knew several of those murdered in Lebanon, including Lieutenant Aengus Murphy. His father is retired Brigadier General Kevin Murphy and his brother Conal served in the Army for many years. Each time I drive into Galway I think of Aengus Murphy who is buried in Bohermore cemetery. Despite being issued with a threat by local militia, he continued to do his job of clearing bombs on a roadside and, unfortunately, was murdered by being blown up one morning in the mid-1980s. It is important to remember that behind the statistics on the lives lost on United Nations service are families who will continue to suffer from their loss. While they may have learned to live with the pain, we must acknowledge the sacrifice they have made.

Others were murdered by the other side in the Lebanon conflict. The Israeli backed Christian militias and the Israeli Defence Forces were also involved in some incidents. For example, Corporal Fintan Heneghan from Mayo, whose father was a public representative for the Minister’s party, was blown up with Privates Mannix
Armstrong and Tom Walsh, all of whom I knew well. I also served overseas with Corporal Heneghan. The three men were murdered when a landmine exploded not far from their base in south Lebanon in the late 1980s. The body of Private Kevin Joyce, who disappeared in 1981, has never been found despite trojan efforts by the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, and several other former Ministers.

The Minister will also be aware of the sensitive ongoing case of Private Kevin Barrett. I ask him to try to bring closure to this case during his period in office by doing everything in his power to ensure charges are brought and people brought to justice for these murders. If, in his view, this is not possible, I ask that a line be drawn under this and other cases to prevent the hopes of the families being raised every few years. The families will always hope that someone will be brought to justice or, in the case of Private Kevin Joyce, that his body will be found.

Our commitment to UN missions in recent years has been significant and the Minister will need to address increasing pressure on some areas of the Defence Forces to supply personnel for missions. Nevertheless, the Fine Gael Party wholeheartedly supports the motion. I remember the families who lost loved ones at this time and extend my best wishes to those serving overseas and those preparing to serve overseas in the months ahead.

Mr. Sherlock:  I join in wishing all those currently serving abroad a peaceful Christmas. The Labour Party welcomes the opportunity to discuss the deployment of extra Irish troops to Liberia, both in the context of recent comments by the Minister about the strength of our commit[1132]ment of officers to international overseas missions in general and in terms of the general security situation in Liberia, with the consequent threat to the safety of Irish troops.

I will address the position in Liberia in due course but it is somewhat ironic that this proposal has come before the Dáil at a time when the Minister is telling anyone who will listen that he wishes to reduce Ireland’s commitment of officers to overseas missions. Highly critical comments were made about the Minister’s actions by a number of senior figures at the recent RACO conference. As he chose to absent himself from ministerial questions in the House last Wednesday, Deputies did not have an opportunity to raise questions with him on this issue. I intend to raise questions the next time the
Minister appears in the House to take questions.

Mr. O’Dea:  I look forward to it.

Mr. Sherlock:  The Minister’s substitute last week, the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, indicated it was the Minister’s view that the long-term sustainability of Ireland’s current level of commitment to overseas peacekeeping activities at officer level, which currently stands at 140, is “open to question.” Will the Minister outline the specific reasons this level of commitment cannot be sustained in the future? What are his plans for officers who are currently deployed on overseas missions? What specific tasks does he want them to undertake, other than those now being carried out on peace missions? Is all this an excuse to get more officers to desk jobs with many of the international organisations in which the Defence Forces are represented, as opposed to doing work on specific missions to which Ireland is committed?

If the RACO conference is anything to go by, a conflict is clearly emerging between the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers and the Government on future plans for officers. We are told that a review of Ireland’s overseas commitments and the resources those missions draw from the Defence Forces is being carried out, specifically addressing the role of officers. To what extent will officers be consulted in this process?

While this issue may not be pertinent to the motion, it is something we will have to bear in mind and it is a subject the Minister cannot duck. I will return to this matter when the Minister faces questions shortly.

Turning to the situation in Liberia, the House will be aware of the recent disturbances that have broken out following the outcome of that country’s presidential election in October. The defeated candidate, the former international soccer star, George Weah, who is linked to former President, Charles Taylor, is stirring up trouble in an effort to destabilise the installation of Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was victorious in the election.

[1133]The situation in the country is extremely volatile, with Mr. Weah promising to block the inauguration of the new president, despite international observers having generally concluded that the elections were fair. There were serious clashes in Monrovia on Sunday night between police and Mr. Weah’s supporters following a rally he held that day. This is the situation Irish troops will face when they arrive in Liberia to support those members of UNMIL already stationed there. I note that the Minister, Deputy O’Dea, has already indicated that a serious security crisis is likely during the troops’ term of service in Liberia.

As these Irish troops are being deployed specifically to provide security for the special court established to consider war crimes, and to assist in the apprehension and detention of Mr. Taylor should he return to Liberia, it seems inevitable that they will face a highly dangerous situation. The Minister has indicated it is general policy that deployments of Defence Forces operate for a specific period, but for how long does he expect these troops to be stationed in Liberia and what will their main functions be?

The UN Secretary General indicated previously that the UNMIL mission may be downsized in early spring 2006. Is that still the case? Or is it the case that the potential threat of violence posed by those still loyal to Charles Taylor, the establishment of this special court and the need for security services to be provided, mean UNMIL’s remit will be extended ever further? If so, this is not the last time we will meet to discuss the deployment of more Irish troops to Liberia.

Mr. F. McGrath:  I wish to share time with Deputy Ó Snodaigh.

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

Mr. F. McGrath:  I strongly support this motion to send our troops on this serious United Nations mission to Liberia. It will be a dangerous mission concerning which issues of safety arise. In supporting this motion, we should reflect on what is currently happening in Liberia, as well as what has occurred there in the past and the delicate nature of that country’s political situation.

I commend and thank our soldiers, particularly those who have served with the United Nations for many years. I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the families of members of the Defence Forces who have died on UN peacekeeping duty. All Members of the House have respect and admiration for their courage, vision and determination. I commend the 750 soldiers who are currently involved in overseas projects.

We have seen the civil war unfold in Liberia with its barbarity and viciousness. We have also seen the sad and evil situation of boy soldiers who are drawn into violence there. Our soldiers will be going into that area with the respect of the [1134]international community. Irish soldiers have always acted with integrity in such situations. It presents an opportunity for us to inform other security forces and armies around the world that they too have a onus to act in a responsible manner. Security forces which do not do so are not only a disgrace to their own countries but also damage the integrity of international peacekeeping forces.

In the last few days, I have received information from Colombia where paramilitaries assassinated 22 campesinos in the municipality of Carami. On 4 and 5 December, a group of approximately 200 armed and uniformed men, presenting themselves as members of the north block of paramilitaries, entered that area. They carried out all manner of violations, including humiliating acts against the civilian population in those locations. They detained a indeterminate number as well as killing 22 innocent people. The people involved in this massacre were directly connected to the security forces of the Colombian army. I am stating this in light of an earlier debate during the week. It is a serious situation when the Colombian army is colluding with and assisting right-wing death squads.

I support the motion and strongly support the United Nations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh:  I wish to share the remaining time with Deputy Cuffe.

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh:  Last year, I supported a motion to send an Irish contingent to Liberia. It operated as a rapid reaction force together with Swedish forces and the mission has gone well so far. Yesterday, I missed the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the United Nations. I am sorry I was absent because I had intended to be there. That was a good day and hopefully we will have another 50 years of the same endeavours to come. We should celebrate that proud tradition of UN service around the world. The mission in Liberia and other missions in which Ireland has participated over the years, demonstrate what can be achieved through our neutrality and the United Nations in particular. Hopefully, the special court will be successful, so that Mr. Taylor and the nine other accused will face the penalties of that body.

Like Deputy Sherlock, I also wonder about the Minister’s decision to reduce the number of officers serving overseas on peacekeeping missions. I suspect the move may be linked to the Minister’s intentions regarding battle groups. I ask the Minister to outline the domestic commitments that made him announce this reduction in officers serving overseas. Those numbers need to be retained at their current levels.

Molaim an rún.

[1135]Mr. Cuffe:  I compliment the Minister for Defence for attending an important ceremony yesterday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the United Nations. The UN has a proud history and I think it will have a proud future. We should compliment the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, and all those working with him. I also wish to compliment all the Irish troops for their participation in the forthcoming UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia. The situation is still very volatile there. Our thoughts are with them as they embark on an onerous, dangerous but very patriotic tour of duty.

Minister for Defence (Mr. O’Dea):  I thank the Members from all sides who spoke on this very important motion and join with Deputy Timmins in his Christmas wishes to the families of the approximately 746 troops serving overseas. I agree with the Deputy regarding troops who have been killed that closure should be brought to their families; I fully accept that. I also reassure him and the rest of the House that all outstanding matters relating to injured troops are being dealt with. If anyone has any difficulty in that regard, I will be more than happy to help.

Deputies Sherlock and Ó Snodaigh referred to a decision to reduce the number of officers overseas. As yet, there has been no decision to do so. We are merely examining the ratio of officers to men overseas and how that relates to the ratio in the Army generally. Concern has been expressed that the proportions among overseas troops tend to favour the officer class. There may be a very good reason for that, but I will consider it over Christmas.

Regarding Deputy Sherlock’s comments, I am aware of last Sunday’s unrest in Monrovia. We are keeping the situation under very close review. The threat assessment in Liberia is still relatively low. In reply to Deputy Sherlock’s other questions, the United Nations itself will review its commitment to Liberia in March. If everything is in order in Liberia, the newly elected Government is settling down and peace is returning to the country, they will probably start the process of downsizing UNMIL. We have told the UN very clearly and unequivocally that we intend to have left the country by 31 December 2006. In very unlikely circumstances, that may change, but I can safely say that we are on course to be out of there by that time.

I thank Deputies Finian McGrath, Ó Snodaigh and Cuffe for their very kind remarks regarding the troops and the service they have provided to the UN over a 50-year period. I appreciate them and will ensure they are communicated to the troops. I thank the House and the committee for facilitating this motion at short notice. I also thank Deputies on all sides for their support. It is great that the message can go out to the troops on a very dangerous mission in Liberia that there [1136]is unanimous support behind them in the national Parliament.

I wish the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and all the Opposition spokespersons a very happy Christmas and successful new year — not in politics but in other ways.

Mr. Timmins:  We want more than good wishes; we want acts of good faith.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill entitled an Act to provide for approval of the terms of the agreement establishing the Asian Development Bank, to provide for matters (including payments) related to that agreement, to amend the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Act 1991, the Bretton Woods Agreements Act 1957, the International Development Association Act 1960, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency Act 1988 and the Council of Europe Development Act 2004.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I move: “That Second Stage be taken now.”

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

The Development Banks Bill 2005 provides for Ireland’s future membership of the Asian Development Bank, the extension of the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD, to include Mongolia, and amendments to existing legislation governing Ireland’s membership of several multilateral financial institutions to facilitate Ireland in meeting its obligations to those bodies.

Membership of the Asian Development Bank, ADB, is an important element of Ireland’s strategy to join several regional development banks, which was recommended to the Government in the 2002 report of the Ireland Aid review committee. Membership of the bank will contribute significantly to Ireland’s bilateral development programme in the region, providing further impetus to the role played by Ireland in supporting economic development and social progress in Asia, and in particular reducing poverty.

The Asia strategy responds to the need identified for a concerted and strategic approach to the development of trade with Asia. Membership of the ADB was identified as a key objective of the Asia strategy. Henceforth, China and other Asian countries will, to a progressively greater degree, influence political and economic developments throughout the world. Ireland’s mem[1137]bership of the ADB will provide an opportunity to strengthen Ireland’s voice and contribution to Asian development. It will confer economic benefits in providing greater opportunities for Irish companies and consultants to tender for projects funded by the ADB and in helping to develop greater awareness of business and commercial opportunities in Asia. The Government’s primary motivation, however, is our belief that Ireland should, building on the progressive improvements in our national prosperity, deepen and widen its contribution towards helping the less fortunate people of the world improve their position.

The Asian Development Bank is a multilateral development finance institution dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific. It aims to improve the quality of people’s lives by providing loans and technical assistance for a broad range of economic and social development activities. It was founded in 1966 to promote social and economic progress in the region and to make loans to more developed member countries at market rates of interest. The ADB is owned by the existing 64 members, of which 46 are from the region and 18 are non-regional members, including EU states. It is a well established and highly respected development agency fostering progress in the Asia region.

Japan and the United States are the equal largest shareholders, each with almost 16% of the bank’s total subscribed capital. I will outline briefly the governance and management structures of the bank. Each member country nominates a governor to the board of governors, often the Minister for Finance, to vote on its behalf. The board of governors meets formally once a year at the ADB’s annual meeting. They elect the president for a term of five years. Four vice-presidents are appointed by the board of directors on the recommendation of the president. The board of governors also elects the 12 members of the board of directors. Eight are elected by member countries from within the Asia-Pacific region, and four others are elected by member countries from outside the region.

The board of directors performs its duties full-time at the ADB headquarters in Manila and holds formal and executive sessions regularly. Members are arranged in constituencies headed by one of the 12 directors. Ireland will, after membership, join an existing constituency as part of a group of members from outside Asia. Ireland will not have any permanent staff assigned to the ADB.

The scale of the bank’s operations is very significant. In 2004, the bank’s loans amounted to $5.3 billion. An excellent and timely example of the work of the Asian Development Bank, as we approach the first anniversary of the disaster, is its response to the Asian tsunami. The bank moved rapidly to assist those countries most directly affected by the disaster, providing assistance of more than $750 million. It established a [1138]$600 million Asian tsunami fund and identified $175 million in funding to be redirected from ongoing projects and programmes, bringing the bank’s total financial commitment to $775 million.

Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and India requested the ADB’s assistance in their rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. In those countries the bank’s assistance packages support disaster management, help to restore critical infrastructure such as water supply, sanitation, solid waste management, power, agriculture and fisheries, and rehabilitate and reconstruct roads and railways. Disbursement priority areas include housing reconstruction, micro-finance for livelihoods, and coastal protection.

The support of the bank, alongside national efforts and the work of the international community, has made an enormous contribution to the recovery of those countries severely affected by the tsunami. More recently, the Asian Development Bank has been playing a significant role in the earthquake disaster in Pakistan. The bank has already completed a preliminary damage and needs assessment report in association with the World Bank. That estimates that Pakistan needs approximately $5.2 billion to implement a relief, recovery and reconstruction strategy effectively. Of that, $3.5 billion is for physical reconstruction of housing, schools, health facilities, roads and other public infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank has already established a special Pakistan earthquake fund, with an initial contribution of $80 million. The fund is similar to that set up by the bank in response to the tsunami. It will pool and promptly deliver emergency grant financing for projects that support immediate reconstruction, urgent rehabilitation, and other associated development activities. In addition, the bank has announced that it will provide approximately US$1 billion in concessional support for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of earthquake-hit Pakistan with a focus on transport, power, health and education, and governance and institution building.

The initial cost to Ireland of entry to the Asian Development Bank will be in the order of US$40 million or €33 million, depending on the rate of exchange prevailing at the time. This is made up of the following commitments which will be assumed by Ireland: a 12,040 shareholding in the ADB, of which 847 will be paid-in capital shares, at a cost of US$10 million or some €8.4 million, and 11,193 will be callable shares. This is the shareholding structure required of new members from outside the region; an initial contribution of some US$28.046 million or €23.102 million to the Asian Development Fund, which is a key resource and a major instrument of concessional financing available for development from the ADB; and an initial contribution of some US$2 million or €1.6 million to two trust funds operated by the ADB which support specific objectives.

[1139]It is proposed that Ireland’s contribution to the bank’s share capital and to the Asian Development Fund will be paid in equal instalments over four years. A once-off payment will be made into the two trust funds, namely, the Governance Co-operation Fund and the Gender and Development Co-operation Fund.

The Governance Co-operation Fund supports government-led governance reform activities to improve transparency, accountability, predictability and-or participation.

The objective of the Gender and Development Co-operation Fund is to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Asia Pacific region, and to implement programs and projects to narrow gender gaps in order to meet the millennium development goals. Ireland will also have to give the conventional legal immunities to the ADB which other international agencies have in respect of staff and other matters.

The House will wish to note that at the UN summit in September of this year, Ireland recommitted to achieving the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for overseas development assistance by 2012. Given current economic projections, this implies a tripling of Ireland’s ODA above current levels. Fulfilling the financial obligations which membership of the ADB entails will help achieve the objectives set for the coming years.

I will now refer to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, of which Ireland was a founder member. The EBRD is a multilateral financial institution established in 1991 following the collapse of communism. It was a response to the recognition that the emerging democratic states in central and Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet republics required significant investment in businesses and financial institutions that underpin the development of market economies in 27 countries of operation from central Europe to central Asia. In 2004 alone, the bank invested €4.1 billion in 129 projects. Investments are designed to foster and accelerate the transition to open market-oriented economies and to promote private sector development. The span of operations of the EBRD encompasses some of the less developed countries in Europe and central Asia.

Mongolia lies in the heart of the Asian continent and has existed for decades as a buffer state between the Soviet Union and China. Amid the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union’s disintegration, Mongolia underwent rapid change. In January 1992, a new constitution was adopted that renounced socialism and made Mongolia a republic with parliamentary government and a directly elected president. Mongolia has remained neutral in international affairs.

Until 1990, Mongolian economic development had been directed by a series of Soviet-led central plans. Since then, Mongolia’s economy has suffered substantially due to the withdrawal of Soviet aid for development. At the time of establish[1140]ment of the EBRD, Mongolia was neither part of the Soviet Union nor a founding member of the bank.

Since Mongolia’s needs for assistance are consistent with the needs generally faced by the EBRD’s countries of operations, it was deemed appropriate that Mongolia should become a member of the bank. This took place in October 2000. Since early 2001, the EBRD has been providing technical assistance to Mongolia, using donor funds made available through the Mongolia Co-operation Fund. However, the Mongolian authorities considered that the involvement of the bank should not be limited to technical assistance, but should also include financing of specific projects.

In July 2003, the Prime Minister of Mongolia formally expressed an interest that Mongolia be granted “country of operation” status. However, being non-European and located outside the territory that the bank’s founders had originally intended for its activities, Mongolia could only become eligible for EBRD financing after an amendment of the agreement establishing the bank.

In January 2004, the board of governors unanimously adopted a resolution establishing an amendment to the agreement establishing the bank in order to admit Mongolia as a country of operations. The resolution must, however, be ratified by all members of the bank. Passage of this Bill will enable Ireland to ratify that resolution.

Ireland is currently a member of several multilateral financial institutions. These are the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, and, most recently, the Council of Europe Development Bank. A significant element of this Bill is the proposed amendment to the current legislation governing Ireland’s participation in these international financial institutions. This will allow for future changes in the articles of agreement of those institutions to be approved by resolution of the Dáil, rather than through primary legislation, but only where this is consistent with constitutional requirements. I will outline briefly the constitutional and legal position.

Article 29.5.1° of the Constitution requires that every international agreement to which the State becomes a party shall be laid before Dáil Éireann. However, under Article 29.5.2° the State is not bound by an international agreement involving a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement have been approved by Dáil Éireann.

Traditionally, our participation in these organisations, and related entities such as the International Development Association, has been provided for exclusively by primary legislation, thus necessitating the passage of new primary legislation to ratify every and any change in the establishing agreements. These changes could [1141]encompass, for example, the requirement for additional financial contributions or the extension of operations to new member states. Legislation cannot be drafted until the change has been agreed by the members of the bank. There is then significant pressure for the agreed change to take effect immediately, or for Ireland to meet agreed financial commitments. The required legislation has been delayed, in many cases, due to other legislative priorities and as a result Ireland has, in some instances, had to seek time extensions or has been unable to make timely payments.

Accordingly, the Bill will provide that in future, where appropriate, approval of an international agreement to which Article 29.5.2° applies would be done by way of Dáil resolution in accordance with that provision of the Constitution, rather than by way of primary legislation and that the definitions, in those existing cases already dealt with by way of primary legislation, be amended to allow any future changes to be approved by resolution of Dáil Éireann.

The advice of the Attorney General will be sought in relation to each future amendment to an existing agreement to ensure it does not require substantive changes in primary legislation or substantive Irish law for effective domestic implementation.

I will now turn to the specific provisions of the nine sections of the Bill. Section 1 sets out the definitions used in the Bill. Section 2 provides for the approval of the terms of agreement for membership of the Asian Development Bank. The articles of agreement establishing the Asian Development Bank are set out in a Schedule to the Act. Section 3 sets out the financial and other provisions associated with joining the bank.

Section 4 provides for an extension of the definition of “agreement” in section 1 of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Act 1991 to take account of the EBRD’s resolution dated 30 January 2004 providing for the extension of the bank’s activities to Mongolia. In the case of section 2 and section 4, the Bill provides for future changes to the terms of agreement to be approved by resolution of Dáil Éireann, and for publication in Iris Oifigiúil of notice of any such approval.

Sections 5 to 8 amend the Bretton Woods Agreements Act 1957, the International Development Association Act 1960, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency Act 1988 and the Council of Europe Development Bank Act 2004 in a similar fashion.

This Bill will allow Ireland play a much more significant role in supporting Asian development through membership of the ADB and the extension of the EBRD activities to Mongolia. It will facilitate meeting Ireland’s international obligations in a timely fashion, more consistent with constitutional Oireachtas requirements. This will be critical in enabling us to provide our contribution to debt relief in Africa in line with the World Bank’s multilateral debt relief initiative, [1142]which builds on the proposals that emerged from the G8 Summit in Gleneagles. It also contributes in an important way to the delivery of the Government’s objective of increasing Ireland’s overseas development assistance towards the UN target. I recommend the Bill to the House.

  12 o’clock

Mr. Bruton:  I welcome the Bill. While the Government’s commitment to overseas development aid falls short of its initial promise, it is welcome that targets are at least now set and it is hoped that there is a greater determination to honour those targets than was the case in the past. Like any Bill that addresses development issues, this Bill throws into stark relief the attempt to balance economic liberalisation and globalisation, which can confer many benefits, with the need to achieve progress on alleviating global poverty. The failure to achieve this balance to date is a serious affront to basic decency.

There is considerable popular support for more cogent global approaches to development support. There have been many popular manifestations of this desire. All too often, this groundswell of public opinion is not reflected in negotiations over international agreements where attempts are made to develop the policy of large institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. Ireland has unique insights which it needs to bring to bear on these debates. The misapplication of the development thinking of the time has occurred throughout our history. All of us remember the reference to Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, assistant secretary to the Treasury at the time of the Famine, in the song, “The Fields of Athenry”. He believed that Irish poverty and starvation should be tackled with liberalisation, free markets and external trade and, as a result, grain was exported from Ireland at a time when people starved. We must reflect on the results of the misapplication of popular thinking in this country and apply the same scepticism to the occasional eager application of crude ideological market solutions in countries which do not possess the institutional underpinning to make them work.

There have been undoubted improvements in the way in which institutions like the IMF and the World Bank approach poor countries. The millennium development goals have been produced and tackling poverty has been factored into these institutions’ thinking to a greater extent. However, policies drawn up thousands of miles away from the coalface are often imposed on poor countries and often have perverse effects.

I do not pretend to be an expert on Ghana, which is regarded as a model for developing countries, but I know that an attempt has been made to force it to privatise its water supply system. It is difficult to see how the privatisation of the water supply system in a country like Ghana serves the interests of its people. I have the read the work of individuals like Joseph
[1143]Stiglitz, who has examined the policies applied by international institutions. The application of privatisation has often resulted in the establishment of semi-criminal monopolies in key areas. We have also witnessed the misapplication of the deregulation of capital markets and the banking sector, which has made matters more difficult for small emerging enterprises in developing countries to cope because international banking tends to become very alarmed at any sign of turbulence in a country and looks to have very high levels of reserves, which are often wasteful from the perspective of development.

Ireland must support development aid and examine whether the policies being framed are sufficiently tailored to local needs. It appears that we still have a long way to go with regard to getting the broad-based representation within global institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank or development banks. There needs to be some level of global governance of this process, which will continue to develop because globalisation will not go away. We need to develop better policies and take on board the criticisms of the past.

The work of Joseph Stiglitz has highlighted the fact that the World Trade Organisation is dominated by trade ministers and the domestic lobbies that build up around these ministers, while the IMF is dominated by finance ministers and the lobbies that accompany them. These two organisations tend not to reflect the broad-based development interests of the wider public in those countries. The issues and concerns reflected in these international organisations tend to be attenuated. We must move to a more broad-based understanding of what we are pursuing when we go to meetings of the IMF or WTO. The Government has possibly not been as successful in this area as it has been in examining development aid. From a long-term perspective, the correct balance must be attained so that international institutions do not impose policy solutions that do not work because of conditions within the countries in question.

I welcome this Bill. The recent catastrophes that have befallen Asia cannot fail to move us. We must put our shoulder to the wheel in a structured fashion that will deliver progress. I understand the Asian Development Bank has a good record and has been successful in a number of areas. However, the Government must maintain a healthy scepticism, continue to scrutinise the spending of money and ensure that policies do not serve some narrow interest which can occasionally colour the stances assumed.

I have not tabled any amendments to this Bill and support its speedy passage through the House. The inclusion of Mongolia is to be welcomed as its former status appeared to leave it in limbo. I know that former Members of this House with strong commitments in this area have been very keen to see this Bill move forward so that [1144]Mongolia would no longer be left in this limbo. I am glad to be able to facilitate this change.

Ms Burton:  Now that the Government has reinstated the promise that Ireland would reach the 0.7% target, it is time that the policy drift in our overseas development aid programme, the spending of money by Development Cooperation Ireland and the positions assumed by the Department of Finance on the spending of taxpayers’ money on development were examined. My views on the objectives of the Ireland aid programme when I was Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, which were shared by my successors, focused on poverty alleviation and capacity building.

I fundamentally disagree with the review of the Irish aid programme, which was accepted by this Government. The review’s message is that the Government should effectively issue large blank cheques to multilateral organisations and UN organisations without any precise sense of how the money spent will advance poverty alleviation and capacity building for developing countries. Various UN organisations, such as UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme, have attempted reform processes with some degree of success. We have also heard that the World Bank has attempted some process of reform, owing to the influence of people like Joe Stiglitz, to whom Deputy Bruton referred. However, in the White Paper and in the Estimates, the Government is committing a record €79 million to the International Development Association and €7.4 million to the Asian Development Fund. That total of almost €87 million, as well as the consequent annual rises, will effectively be without almost any scrutiny, either by this House, by development agencies in Ireland or by the experts in development issues in this country, that is, Development Cooperation Ireland. These significant amounts of money will be entirely under the supervision of the Department of Finance. When the finance committee visited Washington some time ago, we took the opportunity to meet the World Bank and to meet the Irish representative in the IMF. The IMF gave us the oldest of neoliberal, free market, globalisation rhetoric that I have ever heard. This is what the agenda for Ireland is in practice, in its participation in the fund and the agencies dominated by the fund, such as those agencies mentioned today.

We will make significant increases in public money and the Department of Finance has an agenda of putting money into the various development banks around the world. Our aid programme will rise by more than €100 million per annum to €670 million. In Irish domestic terms, this is significant but we are not a big player internationally. As we spread this money around like jam across the development banks, there is no coherent strategy on what this is meant to achieve for poverty alleviation and [1145]capacity building. We know about the scandals that have emerged over the years surrounding the fund and the agencies that are creatures of the fund. We know what has happened with so many World Bank projects. Can the Minister of State give an undertaking that the Government honours its obligation under section 10 of the Bretton Woods Agreement (Amendment) Act 1999 to produce an annual report on Ireland’s participation in the World Bank and the IMF? Can he give an undertaking that that annual report should include particulars of policy positions taken by Ireland at the bank and the fund? The Government has never fully honoured this obligation. The latest annual report gives no details of policy positions taken by this country on our key objectives in development aid, which are poverty alleviation and capacity building. Requests that have been submitted under the Freedom of Information Act by those who are experts in development issues have not even been answered.

We enter this process just as the branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs with the expertise in the field is to be moved to Limerick and is to lose 100% of its management. Mr. Finbarr Flood, the chairman of the decentralisation implementation group, acknowledged that the DIG has no idea what will happen to Development Cooperation Ireland when it loses 100% of its management. Nothing has been done about this.

I want a commitment from the Minister of State that the participation and role taken by finance officials on the IMF and the World Bank will be made fully accountable to the Dáil, as it ought to be. The Taoiseach has made many headline noises about being fully behind the campaign to make poverty history, but why have we no information about how these amazingly powerful organisations operate in an increasingly globalised world? The Department must put a mechanism in place to tackle this deficit. The joining of the Asian Development Bank is an opportunity to put in place such a mechanism, covering both moneys given and policy positions taken. When I visited the bank and the fund with the finance committee, I put very specific questions to the bank about the situation in Zambia and the privatisation of key elements of public services and banking, which were part of the IMF conditions on reforming the Zambian economy. The bank was not able or willing to answer my questions. I was told I would receive details, but I am still waiting for the details of the bank’s response to the enormous flow of information provided to it on how damaging its proposals were. The Irish Jesuits in Zambia have produced detailed reports and have even held conferences here about what the bank is doing in countries like Zambia. Deputy Bruton highlighted the situation in Gambia following the privatisation of water services there. I would like to highlight the privatisation of the water supply in Dar es Salaam. In large areas of Dar es Salaam in
[1146]Tanzania — one of the poorest countries in the world — the supply of water is a disaster because of the attempts by the bank and the fund to have it privatised. Can the Minister of State give an undertaking that our money will not be used to privatise the key public services in desperately poor developing countries in the disastrous way——

Mr. Parlon:  Privatisation has proved to be a very positive, efficient way of delivering services around the world.

Ms Burton:  Is the Minister of State saying that privatisation of water is successful?

Mr. Parlon:  If the Deputy is talking about privatisation as a principle——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Interruptions are out of order.

Ms Burton:  I am talking about the privatisation of key public services in developing countries, such as sewerage and water services, which are absolutely essential to the maintenance of the life of the poorest people.

Mr. Parlon:  The privatisation of water supply is a regular feature in the UK.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  These interruptions are out of order.

Ms Burton:  It is valuable that the Minister of State should state that the UK privatisation model in a developed country should——

Mr. Parlon:  The Deputy should not put words in my mouth.

Ms Burton:  The Minister of State has just stated that he approved of the model of privatisation of water in the UK.

Mr. Parlon:  I am saying that privatisation is not necessarily a bad thing. I know the Labour Party is completely against it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Burton, without interruption.

Ms Burton:  The privatisation of water and sewerage in desperately poor Third World countries where so many children die before reaching their second birthday has been almost an unmitigated disaster. That is the conclusion not just of labour parties around the world but many of the Minister of State’s colleagues in right wing parties who have looked at conditions in such countries. I suggest the Minister of State looks at some examples on the ground at some stage. I do not believe he is without compassion and if he saw what was happening I do not doubt he would respond in a fair manner. One cannot compare [1147]what has happened in America or some European countries with what is going on in some of the poorest countries in the world — the rapacious greed and corruption as regards some of the privatisation programmes.

I do not know how familiar the Minister of State is with Mongolia. I am not particularly familiar with it, but he probably has heard of a remarkable Irish woman, Ms Christine Noble and the Christine Noble Foundation. I do not know whether he knows, but after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, Mongolian society in many ways collapsed. Mongolia has the highest number of children in the world living in sewers. Many Irish people and businesses have given enormous support to the work of the Christine Noble Foundation. This support has come right across the business community for the work the foundation is doing. Corruption in Mongolia, as I have been told by people involved with the foundation, is probably on a scale that we can barely comprehend.

We are asking for accountability. The Irish aid programme needs to take a quantum leap of imagination with extra money coming in. I appeal to the Minister of State on the grounds that aid only works well where it is planned and above all, where it is accountable. The Minister of State has rightly referred in his speech to governments being accountable and said that was part of the fund’s objectives. However, if the International Monetary Fund and its agencies have no accountability for what they do, then there is an enormous risk. I lived in Dar es Salaam when the men from the IMF arrived with briefcases to shut down free primary education to make the budget balance. It meant that girls were knocked out of primary school because families that had boys and girls opted to keep the males in school.

Such policies have a catastrophic impact on developing world countries. I ask the Minister of State to give a commitment in his response to accountability. An enormous amount of money, €80 million, will be spent this year through fund mechanisms, reflecting a major increase of thousands of per cent. I urge him to please not make this a blank cheque for the World Bank and IMF institutions. Make it accountable and make it useful.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  I propose to share time with any representative of the Green Party or Independent Deputy.

I welcome this Bill, to put the Minister of State at his ease, from the outset, as it provides for further assistance from Ireland to developing countries to help redress the gross economic imbalance on our planet. The Asian Development Bank is a multilateral development finance institution dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific. Established in 1966, it now has 64 members, I note, mostly from the region. Of the non-regional members, most are from Europe. [1148]With this Bill this State will now be included in that number. I hope in future we can make a valuable and constructive contribution.

I welcome also the extension of activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to include Mongolia. I see no difficulty with the more technical parts of the Bill to allow for changes to administrative and financial arrangements regarding multilateral institutions to be made by Dáil resolution. I record my acceptance of that.

I want to deal with a number of issues concerning overseas development aid. The European Union Financial Perspectives 2007-13 currently being negotiated is a cause of major concern. If adopted in its current form, it will reduce the development aid allocation as a proportion of spending, while increasing the security orientated budgets. It will increase spending on the European Common and Security Policy and include development aid within this remit. It would allow the Commission more discretion to reallocate resources and diminish the European Parliament’s role, making it difficult to know how much the EU is spending on development, with the grouping of developing and non-developing countries together, making allocations more difficult to monitor. These are among the concerns I have.

Sinn Féin, as my colleagues and I have recorded here on many occasions, rejects the securitisation of EU official development aid and the financing of security and counter-terrorism measures from already stretched EU overseas development aid budget lines. We also reject the inclusion of military expenditure in ODA, which will create a distorted picture by inflating formal ODA levels without strengthening poverty reduction activities in developing countries. I urge the Government to oppose this trend. It should advocate instead the development of clear and objective criteria for the allocation of EU aid and do everything possible to ensure poverty eradication remains the overarching goal of EU development assistance in the period 2007-13.

People in developing countries throughout the world are attempting to oppose the undemocratic and unaccountable neo-liberal agenda of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation and the transnational corporations which, in the pursuit of profit, are undermining attempts by such countries to pursue economic and social agendas more suitable to their own development and interests.

Our overseas development aid and that of the EU can never be effective in the absence of real change in world economic institutions. We contend that this should include the replacement of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation with international institutions which are democratically controlled and whose policies are accountable to and in the long-term interests of developing countries rather than the agendas of [1149]rich nations and transnational corporations. We recommend the ending of crippling debt repayments to the World Bank by the poorest countries. We recommend the breaking of the link between international aid packages and the economic agenda of neo-liberalism, which prevents poor nations developing forms of social and economic provision most suited to their interests.

I hope the Minister of State takes on board several of the points I have made. Perhaps in his response he might reflect on them. More importantly, I urge him and his colleagues in Government to take guidance from them and other points made by Opposition voices in the course of this debate on the Development Banks Bill. As I said at the outset, I welcome the Bill and will be supporting it on all Stages.

Mr. M. Higgins:  This legislation provides one of those rare windows of opportunity for reflecting on the Bretton Woods institutions. When these were instituted in the 1940s, the structure of accountability went from them through the United Nations to an assistant secretary general. They were specifically described in the founding statutes as development institutions and just that. I need to repeat this point in the House far too often but as time evolved, the institutions spun away into a kind of self-articulated autonomy. For example, even when there was a fine moment in an ambience of bad moments at the United Nations, people spoke about the needs of development, the elimination of poverty and so forth. These institutions were no longer in the same relationship with the Secretary General as they were in their founding.

The Minister of State will need to give an assurance to the House on this matter. I refer to the eight millennium development goals. The eighth goal as it relates to trade is being debated in Hong Kong. There is no guarantee from the International Monetary Fund or from the different agencies that are related to the development banks that they are constructing their proposals in accordance with the poverty elimination principles of the eight millennium development goals. It may be said that this is a finance measure and has nothing to do with development. I argue it has everything to do with development and I refer to the previous, very minor debt relief schemes. Four things hang together and they are aid, trade, development and debt. To some extent, forms of technology transfer should be included. The conditions that have been imposed repeatedly are such as to frustrate the poverty reduction strategies that may be made possible by either debt relief or by increased aid or by changes in technology.

Practical measures can be achieved regarding accountability. It was announced at the meetings of the Heads of State at the United Nations that an attempt will be made to reconcile the poverty development issues and the structure of the international financial institutions. Why can the House [1150]not be provided with details of the policy positions taken on behalf of the Government at the meetings? Why does the House not have advance notice of the policy positions that are likely to arise at forthcoming meetings? Why is there such minimal reporting in the innovative report? Why are so many of the worthy non-governmental organisations having such difficulty in extracting information under freedom of information? Is it not the case that there is a suggestion that matters financial take precedence over matters of development, poverty reduction and everything else? Is it not the case that it is a special kind of non-accountability?

I refer to the nomination of the representatives to these governing bodies. I could have spent the small amount of time available to me dealing with the merit of including the Asian Development Bank. It was an aspect of how little transparency attaches to these issues that when the meetings were taking place in Edinburgh and there was significant debt relief, the exclusion of the Asian Development Bank from the meetings was hardly noted. The countries that were heavily indebted were effectively ignored.

I am concerned about some terms used in this Bill. The Minister of State’s contribution did not refer much to the founding principles of the Bretton Woods institutions. They are contained in page five of the Bill where reference is made to the bank agreement. If we have noted the previous shortfall in the legacy of non-accountability, we also have a difficulty about how the accountability from agreements can be constituted. I see the case that can be made for flexibility as one moves out from the founding statute and giving status to such agreements as may be brought before the Dáil. It should be noted that there is a serious shortfall on accountability.

I have a straightforward question about the lending policy. What evidence is there that the lending policy will take account of the wider goals expressed at the United Nations? This is not an abstract argument. I refer to countries such as Ghana and Zambia, for instance. The commercial banks are used by peasants to purchase seeds, some of which are retained for a further harvest. For a heavily indebted country, the price of obtaining debt relief in the previous round was the privatisation of the national commercial bank that provided seeds and implements and so forth. These are conditions that will frustrate any attempt to reconcile debt relief with increased aid to improve the lives of the people.

This Bill provides no guarantee on services. Such services are necessary for the instant development of a state that may be 40% reliant on aid to meet its annual budget. There must be a provision that such aid can be retained by these states.

An OECD report stated that education was to be the next big thing. This was included in an OECD report five years after the organisation stated that water was to be the next big thing by [1151]way of private, commercial investment. It is outrageous that institutions which take their sources from 1940s development institutions would be putting conditions in place which are not accountable back to this Parliament more than any other, that speak about the privatisation of water and education and the right of countries to put together their economies that may spring from an agriculture that is heavily labour intensive.

There is a need for accountability in lending policies. The Minister of State or his colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development, should return to inform the House of the structure of the spending as it stands with regard to the forms of technology transfer. If loans are given for the high end of technology transfer, the deal is between multinationals and western governments and receiving elites. However, if it is crafted and takes its purpose from the development agenda, it may well be towards the lower cost of technology and may be of much more benefit to the 80% of the population in these countries that are reliant on simple agriculture. There are issues of sovereignty for these countries which they must negotiate all the time in terms of the conditions they will have to meet to bring in the flow of aid or debt relief or technology transfer.

It is wonderful that we are willing to give as much as we do. I question the reason that trade must be divided from development in this House. Why is it that the financial side of matters must be kept in such a hegemonic relationship to the development, trade and justice issues of international relations?

The answer is this. What proposals has the Minister of State for future representation at the meetings of these banks? How will the people who will represent Ireland be chosen and is he happy with the pool from which he draws? How many days will we be allowed in the Dáil and Seanad to debate the issues coming up on the agenda? Will we have an opportunity, and in which committee, to discuss the policy issues that will be decided? These are fundamental issues on which I would appreciate a reply. The questions are quite clear and I am sure the Minister of State will want to reply.

Mr. Boyle:  I am grateful to Deputy Michael Higgins for ceding time to me. I feel almost guilty at interrupting his flow, because he was making all the points I wish to put on record for the Green Party.

In general, there is support for the principles behind this Bill, but there is a concern, noted by other speakers, that our responsibilities with regard to international institutions of this type have not been met by the Government reporting regularly to this House and seeking accountability for our membership of these institutions. It is unfortunate that this Bill will not be debated more widely on Committee Stage as that would [1152]allow us to include legislative mechanisms that would force the Government to do that.

The Bill has been sold on the basis of allowing the membership for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to include Mongolia, which might be taking globalisation to an absurd length. However, there is no doubt Mongolia is a developing country people here would fully agree meets the goals of our overseas development aid programme. If participation in that bank and membership of the Asian Development Bank assist that, the Green Party is in favour of our participation.

Having heard the Minister of State’s speech, I have a degree of concern as to the extent to which he emphasised the trade element. While it is important to encourage trade in a fair trading environment as a mechanism for getting countries out of poverty, the policies pursued by many international institutions, in particular the IMF and the World Bank have been towards a narrow focused definition of commercial activity. This drives developing countries to see natural resources such as water and the right to housing and education as something that the private sector alone can and should provide.

This is not a philosophy many of us in the House or the country share. We should articulate a different point of view. It could be that the Celtic tiger virus has embedded itself so deeply in our psyche that we can only see international development in terms of trade and commerce. I may be wronging the Minister, but what is particularly worrying about the subtext of what he seems to suggest outside the formalities of stressing our development agenda is that it is to our economic and trading advantage that we go down this road. If that is our motivation in supporting legislation of this type and our participation in bodies of this type, we need further debate and longer consideration of the issue because that is not a direction my party or many of the people here would like to see us take.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I thank all the Deputies who contributed on this issue and welcome the positive statements and support for our involvement.

Deputy Bruton raised the issue of governance and this was a general theme. He did not suggest any amendments and was warm in his welcome of the admission of Mongolia. He suggested we should have a healthy scepticism with regard to our monitoring of how the money is spent. Deputies Michael Higgins and Burton added that this should extend further than a healthy scepticism.

The IMF does not dominate the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank or the EBD. The IMF does not have any agencies. In terms of our influence, we have a single representative on the IMF, and this is generally our Minister. If the Minister does not attend, the Governor of the Central Bank attends. Therefore, we have a voice [1153]there. Our report is presented on an annual basis and comes up for scrutiny. The suggestion that we should report more often or on a daily basis does not make sense, but clearly Deputy Michael Higgins has some misgivings in this regard.

Mr. M. Higgins:  I assure the Minister of State there is room for improvement in the report.

Mr. Parlon:  The Deputy is no doubt correct. I am sure he will bring about some improvement by asking the right questions and querying the report on an annual basis.

I regret that Deputy Burton has not been able to stay for my reply. She raised some issues with regard to FOI requests. That is not policy and my Department responds to FOI requests immediately. I regret that some of the responses and news items she has made out of them recently and the use of dated information can give a very skewed view of a particular situation. All FOI requests to the Department of Finance are responded to immediately.

Mr. M. Higgins:  Several NGOs were unhappy with the quality of information they got, not us.

Mr. Parlon:  She specifically referred to some FOI requests she submitted. Ireland is quite a small player in the international institutions. We will influence as best we can, but it would be unfair to hold us responsible for some decisions of the bodies which might not follow our suggestions. We have been very positive on the issue of debt cancellation. This has been accepted and we have contributed to this to the tune of €60 million this year.

Overall, this Bill will bring substantial improvements. Our involvement with the Asian Development Bank and its recent performance, in the context of the immediate response to the tsunami, is timely. It is important we are there in terms of developments and amendments in allowing decisions to be taken on a timely basis. I accept the support of the House for that. I know some former Deputies involved there have lobbied the House and the institutions, in particular for the inclusion of Mongolia. This is very positive. While Mongolia is a place about which I know little, I appreciate the investment of funds there will be important to its development.

With regard to the issues raised about governance, in terms of the Asian Development Bank it is the people who are involved and who pay the money that are on the committees and board of directors. Therefore, there is a strong bias in favour of the Asian contributors.

I am heartened by the commitment of all sides of the House to development issues. I acknowledge, despite the criticisms of our economy, that the affairs of the less well off countries of the world are something on which we are all agreed [1154]we should be more involved. I thank the Members for their comments.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2.

Question proposed: “That section 2 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. M. Higgins:  I will not delay proceedings because I am happy with this Bill, by and large. However, on section 2, Articles 29.5.1° and 29.5.2° of the Constitution refer to the obligation to place orders before the Dáil. I am only saying this so it will be on the record. In respect of the placing of notices in Iris Oifigiúil or even the placing in the Oireachtas Library of agreements that might emerge, we might for the future consider including a requirement that extends the constitutional requirement such that there would be a possibility to discuss such documentation in the Houses. I am not pressing it on this occasion but simply making the point because I have seen the form of this Bill so often.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 3 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 8.

Question proposed: “That section 8 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. M. Higgins:  In section 8(1) the Table refers to the “Articles of Agreement of the Council of Europe Development Bank, the text of which is set out in Schedule 1 to this Act”. The previous reference in this regard mentions such purposes as the development of open market policies and applying the principles of pluralism and democracy, of which we are all in favour. However, I would like the Minister of State to assure me this is not an imposition of a Single Market model to the exclusion of other development models that might apply.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  No, absolutely not.

Mr. M. Higgins:  Is the Minister of State saying it is not an imposition?

Mr. Parlon:  Yes.

Mr. M. Higgins:  I thank the Minister of State.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk):  Does the Deputy agree to section 8?

[1155]Mr. M. Higgins:  I cannot do anything about it.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 9 agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk):  The Bill will be sent to the Seanad.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan):  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

I am very pleased to introduce Second Stage of the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005. This Bill has already completed all Stages in the Seanad where a number of amendments to the Bill as initiated were accepted.

In general terms, the Bill allows for the transfer of certain functions regarding controlled drugs from my Department to the Irish Medicines Board and for the improved operation and enforcement activities of the Irish Medicines Board in respect of medicines and the control of clinical trials. It amends the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995 regarding medicinal products, cosmetic products, veterinary medicinal products, drug precursors and medical devices. It allows for the making of regulations for nurse prescribing and for information to be provided by the retail, restaurant and catering sectors on meat sold or served to consumers where this is not already a requirement. It enables officers of Customs and Excise to exercise surveillance of medicinal products at ports, airports and land frontiers. It clarifies the legal position on eligibility for dental, aural and ophthalmic services and extends eligibility for dental, aural and ophthalmic examinations to all children.

This Bill encompasses a number of different areas and many aspects of it are technical in nature. I will attempt to steer Deputies through its main provisions as clearly as I can. The Bill provides for the Irish Medicines Board to act as the licensing authority for controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Acts. The designation of the Irish Medicines Board for this purpose is consistent with my Department’s strategy whereby executive functions that are not directly related to the mission or objective of the Department should be devolved to an appropriate executive agency. This Bill formalises the arrangements that have been put in place whereby staff at the Irish Medicines Board carry out this work, and it amends the Irish Medicines Board Act to transfer [1156]legal competence to the board to carry out licensing and inspectorial functions under the Misuse of Drugs Acts.

The Bill also updates and consolidates the functions carried out by the Irish Medicines Board to conform to European Community legislation on medicinal products, veterinary medicinal products and medical devices. The authority to enforce legislation relating to medicinal products is set out in a number of different regulations. The introduction of new provisions under the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995 will ensure that the enforcement provisions for all of the regulations will be contained in a single Act.

On clinical trials, the Bill allows for appropriate provisions to be included in the Control of Clinical Trials Act 1987 to enable the requirements of the Act to be supervised and enforced.

Part 1 of the Bill deals with the preliminary matters, including the standard citation and construction sections. Part 2 amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, Part 3 amends the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995, Part 4 amends the Control of Clinical Trials Act 1987, Part 5 amends the Health Acts 1947 to 2005, and Part 6 deals with consequential amendments to regulations made under section 32 of the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995 or referred to in section 34(4) of that Act.

On Part 2, section 3 defines certain expressions that are used in the Bill. Section 4 amends section 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Act and allows regulations to be made to permit registered nurses or classes of registered nurses to prescribe certain controlled drugs in specified circumstances. There are a number of amendments throughout the Bill which provide for an enabling provision for nurse prescribing and I will go into these in greater detail later.

Section 5 extends the powers available in the Misuse of Drugs Act to prohibit bodies corporate involved in the practice of community pharmacy and their officials from having controlled drugs following a conviction for an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Acts or the Customs Act. These powers are available in respect of practitioners and pharmacists convicted of such an offence.

  1 o’clock

A new section is being inserted to amend section 8(7) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, as amended. Section 8 provides that the Minister may issue a special direction against a practitioner. This new section provides that where the Minister has issued a special direction against a nurse, he or she should send a copy of the report to An Bord Altranais. This is a consequential amendment to the enabling provision for nurse prescribing.

With regard to section 7, section 14 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 allows the Minister to grant licences or issue permits or authorisations for any of the purposes of that Act, or to attach or vary conditions to such licences, permits or authorisations and to revoke any such licence, permit or authorisation. It provides for the making of regulations requiring the payment of pre[1157]scribed fees in respect of the granting or issuing of such licences, permits or authorisations. Section 7 of the Bill amends section 14 to transfer these functions, which were previously carried out by my Department, to the IMB. This section also provides that licences, permits and authorisations issued prior to the commencement of this section continue to be valid when the amendments being made by this Bill come into effect.

Section 8 amends section 17 of the Misuse of Drugs Act to confine the prohibition in regard to poppies to the cultivation of poppies for the purpose of producing opium. It in effect tidies up a situation where technically the range of poppies covered by the current definition includes many poppies grown for decorative or ornamental purposes.

Section 9 amends section 24 of the Misuse of Drugs Act to enable the IMB to authorise officers to carry out inspections under the Act and allows the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland to authorise officers to inspect pharmacy shops. The term “practitioner” is included in this section to ensure that registered practitioners — medical and dental — fall within the remit of this section so that records held by them with regard to their prescription, possession and use of controlled drugs can be subject to inspection should the need arise. Section 9 also provides that the appropriate warrants of authorisation are issued by the Minister, the IMB or the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland to authorised persons carrying out inspections and that appropriate transitional arrangements for those persons with existing certificates of authorisation are in place.

Part 3 of the Bill contains all the amendments that are being made to the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995. Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Bill update the functions carried out by the IMB to conform to European Community legislation in regard to medicinal products, veterinary medicinal products and medical devices. The principal functions of the IMB are being extended to include its designation as competent authority for the purposes of EU directives relating to medical devices, cosmetic products and precursor drugs and in respect of clinical trials for medicinal products for human use. The IMB is also being designated as the competent authority for EU Directive 2004/23/EC which sets standards of quality and safety for the donation, procurement, testing, processing, preservation, storage and distribution of human tissues and cells for human applications. The scope of the directive does not apply to blood and blood products, organs or in vitro research.

In addition, provision has been made within section 11 of the Bill for the IMB to issue various export certificates in respect of medicinal products, veterinary medicinal products, cosmetic products and medical devices as are required by manufacturers exporting such products to other countries. The IMB in discharging these functions is also required to have regard to the provisions [1158]of any national legislation that would be applicable to such products.

Section 13 provides that the chairperson of the advisory committee for medical devices be an ex officio member of the board of the IMB. There is a similar provision in the Irish Medicines Board Act for the chairpersons of the advisory committee on human medicines and the advisory committee on veterinary medicines. Section 14 expands section 9 of the Irish Medicines Board Act to ensure that no refusal of a licence, authorisation or certificate in respect of medicinal products, on the grounds of safety, quality or efficacy, may be made unless the appropriate advisory committee has been consulted. Section 15 amends section 13 of the Irish Medicines Board Act to make better and more appropriate provision for the IMB to charge fees in regard to its activities.

Section 16 amends section 32 of the Irish Medicines Board Act. It provides a clarification that sale and supply will not include administration and at the same time introduces a provision whereby regulations may be made to control administration if required. It provides for the specific control of prescription medicinal products and for non-prescription medicinal products in pharmacies and, in the case of some products, for their availability in non-pharmacy outlets. This section enables the making of regulations relating to medical devices and in respect of the implementation of EU directives relating to medicinal products, medical devices and cosmetic products. It takes account of the Supreme Court decision in the Vincent Browne v. Attorney General and others case where, in the context of the creation of indictable offences, the Supreme Court expressed a view about how we should implement EU legislation. The provisions in the Bill ensure that breaches of any regulations made to give effect to acts of the institutions of the European Community relating to medicinal products for human use, cosmetic products or medical devices may be prosecuted on indictment, where appropriate.

Section 16 provides an enabling provision for nurse prescribing, which was introduced on Committee Stage in the Seanad. It is an important amendment. The intention is to introduce prescriptive authority for nurses in circumstances where it is safe to do so, to give greater accessibility and convenience for patients and to help community services and acute services. The Department will conduct consultation with all stakeholders on the implementation of this provision before regulations are drawn up. This will assist us to ensure that the necessary safeguards and controls are put in place. An Bord Altranais will play an important role in setting the educational and clinical standards to be required of nurses who will be permitted to prescribe.

Section 17 inserts new sections, 32A to 32F, into the Irish Medicines Board Act to improve enforcement powers with regard to medicinal products, cosmetic products and medical devices. [1159]Section 32A defines the expressions used in the new sections. Section 32B provides for the appointment of authorised officers and sets out the various powers available to them for carrying out inspections in regard to the products and devices. These include additional powers to authorised officers to enable appropriate inspections to be carried out, including the effective supervision of the activities of those persons selling medicinal products by mail order, including the Internet. Section 32C provides for the taking and handling of samples of these products and devices. Section 32D provides for the certificate stating the results of any test, examination or analysis carried out on a sample to be accepted as prima facie evidence in court.

Section 32E sets out the penalties for offences created by this Bill and allows the IMB, where it has seized stocks under the Act, to seek orders from the courts to appropriately dispose of these stocks and where appropriate to recover the costs incurred from the offending company. Section 32F provides that summary proceedings for an offence can be instituted under the Irish Medicines Board Act up to two years after the date of the offence. These sections provide for better regulation in respect of medicinal products and ensure that the penalties available for breaches of the regulations are the same for all regulations relating to medicinal products.

Part 4 of the Bill amends the Control of Clinical Trials Act 1987. Section 22 provides that the Act will not apply to clinical trials that are controlled under the European Communities (Clinical Trials on Medicinal Products for Human Use) Regulations 2004. Section 23 permits proceedings for an offence under the Control of Clinical Trials Act to be instituted up to two years after the date of the offence and invests capacity in the IMB to bring summary proceedings for an offence under the Act. Section 24 inserts a new section into the Control of Clinical Trials Act to provide appropriate enforcement and supervision powers in regard to clinical trials falling under those Acts. These also include powers to inspect records held by practitioners in respect of clinical trials.

With regard to clinical trials it is likely that most if not all of these records would be held for use in the course of a practitioner’s professional practice and that if a warrant had to be obtained for each occasion an inspection was required it would render the supervision of clinical trials impractical if not impossible. Therefore, warrants from the District Court are only required where a private dwelling is concerned. However, the section also provides that warrants will not be required for that part of a private dwelling that is used for a professional practice.

Part 5 of the Bill relates to amendments of the Health Acts 1947 to 2005. Section 25 amends the Health Act 1947, as amended, to enable the making of regulations to extend the EU-based beef [1160]labelling laws that exist at retail level to include a requirement here for information on the country of origin of beef at the point of final consumption in the restaurant and catering sectors. This section also proposes an amendment to the Health Act 1947 to increase the maximum fines for breaches of regulations under section 54 of that Act, including those relating to meat labelling. Section 25 includes provision to enable the making of regulations to extend the requirements on labelling for poultry meat, pigmeat and sheepmeat to provide full country of origin information on all such meat at retail and catering level. EU approval will be required before such regulations may be given effect.

Section 26 allows for prescriptions written by nurses to be reimbursable under the drug payment schemes. Sections 27 and 29 amend the Health Act 1970 and the Health (Amendment) Act 1994 to provide that all primary school or home taught children are eligible for dental, ophthalmic and aural health examinations. Under current legislation, these examinations are confined to children of five years and under and children who attend national schools, and do not include children who are attending private primary schools or who are home taught. This provision addresses that anomaly.

Section 28 relates to eligibility for dental, ophthalmic and aural services. As part of the ongoing review of eligibility to health services, my officials identified an issue with regard to the current section 67 of the Health Act 1970 which provides for eligibility for dental, ophthalmic and aural services. At the time this section of the Act was commenced, in 1972, a statutory instrument was adopted by the Oireachtas which limited the application of section 67 to medical card holders and provision of these services has been limited to medical card holders since that time.

My Department sought the advice of the Attorney General on this matter. His advice was that section 67 of the Health Act 1970 should be amended to provide legal clarity to the issue of eligibility to dental, ophthalmic and aural services. Section 28 provides such legal clarity.

In Part 6, sections 30 to 40, inclusive, make consequential amendments to the various regulations in force under the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995 and which are referred to in the sections concerned. These amendments, which relate to enforcement, arise out of the insertion of the new sections 32A to 32F, into the Irish Medicines Board Act, where the corresponding enforcement provisions are now being inserted.

It is my belief that this Bill will succeed in consolidating and creating a stronger framework in which the IMB can carry out its business relating to medicinal products, medical devices and clinical trials. In future this will include controlled drugs, cosmetic products, drug precursors and human tissues and cells. It will also support the development of a more efficient, effective and patient-centred health service.

[1161]I hereby commend the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005 to the House. I look forward to the ensuing debate and any comments arising from it.

Dr. Twomey:  I extend a happy Christmas to the Acting Chairman, the Ministers of State present and all the staff and Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

This is interesting legislation and much debate will surround it as it proceeds on Committee and Remaining Stages. Many important points in the debate will not be raised by us in the House but they may crop up when people read about this legislation in the media. People will then make comments on it and express their concerns. There are many good points in the legislation and it functions well in tidying up. It covers new ideas coming into the health services, such as nurses prescribing medication and the current and future role of pharmacists in the community. Although there is much to commend in the legislation, there are many factors in it that we have not considered fully. We will probably consider them fully during the course of debating the Bill over the next few months.

The central point of any health service legislation in this House is patient safety. It is a core point in this Bill. In drawing up legislation such as this we must look at how it affects the professionals who provide patient care. The legislation will bring some new practices with regard to how some professionals will work within our health services. If the legislation is not properly enacted, it could have detrimental consequences for some professionals and their patients. In particular, the nursing profession should pay much attention to what this legislation will bring about. Section 16 is a clear indicator of this.

Hundreds of nurses could see their careers destroyed if the regulations in the legislation are not put into practice properly or if proper safeguards are not put in place when the Bill is going through. For example, palliative care nurses in the community work regularly with controlled drugs and in conjunction with local general practitioners. Both, in some respects, are a quality check on each other. The palliative care nurse is a quality check on the GP and vice versa. These people play a significant role in the community, which must be protected. We must be careful going forward, particularly in considering the use of controlled drugs. It is a major point that cannot be emphasised enough.

The Minister of State wishes to extend the prescription of all medications to nurses, but we must be careful about the issue of controlled drugs. This will become the vital issue in this legislation, both for patients and nurses involved. I am surprised there is not more detail around this matter when we are discussing the legislation. To state that regulations will follow on such a significant topic is wrong. It demonstrates an inherent weak[1162]ness in the beginning of discussions on the legislation.

It is a failure on the part of the Minister of State that more has not been put forward on how the issues of prescribing medication outside the medical profession are being thought of. There is some prescription of medication outside the medical profession, as pharmacists do it and nurses have an increased role in how they dispense medication. However, this legislation changes the issue, and it allows pharmacists and nurses to be the primary prescribers. There should be much more in the primary legislation to point this out, and I am surprised the Minister of State has not done so.

I will list issues that have cropped up in the media recently that will alert the Minister of State that we are not talking about giving out Smarties and that the issues are important. A recent Irish Medical Council report from the fitness to practice committee examined doctors who fail in the duty to protect patients and prescribe properly. The report showed that doctors were struck off for taking controlled drugs themselves, selling controlled drugs to addicts and providing controlled drugs for sexual favours. The numbers of these offences are extremely small, as the legislation covering the Irish Medical Council and how doctors operate is reasonably robust. The council takes these concerns quite seriously and acts strongly on any complaint made about doctors abusing their privileged position in handling controlled drugs.

We are broadening this issue. The matter of controlled drugs in our society is discussed on a regular basis. The prescription rate for benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, is very large. The potential for abuse is also very large. These prescribed drugs are sold as illegal products in this country. For example, Valium is regularly sold to heroin addicts and people who take ecstasy as a means of helping them control the highs and lows of the drugs. There is a huge potential for abuse with these types of drugs in our community. If we are to open up the prescribing of these types of drugs to nurses and pharmacists and to open up their use in nursing homes, hospitals and the community, we need extremely robust legislation to prevent abuse and protect patients from misadventure.

The events surrounding Dr. Harold Shipman exposed this as an issue in society some years ago. Shipman used controlled medication, Cyclomorph, to murder a huge number of his own patients. It is possible that no amount of legislation would have protected those patients from the psychopathic behaviour of the individual, but it shows that we must be extremely diligent about the auditing and control of this type of medication. Shipman was ordering vast amounts of Cyclomorph from pharmacists and wholesalers. It was noted that he was taking into his possession a large amount of these drugs, and people wondered what happened to them. Nothing was done, [1163]however, until he was exposed as having murdered hundreds of people.

We must bear in mind that legislation on its own is not good enough to protect patients. It is important before this Bill is cleared to clarify what the Minister of State is intending with checks and balances being put into legislation to protect patients. The enforcement of legislation is important, and the point has been made repeatedly that it is much better to have primary legislation as the way to protect patients. Amendments to a Bill and ensuing regulations should not have to follow primary legislation, which should be the gold standard for the Members in this House. We should not begin with catch-all primary legislation to cover the Minister of State, only to issue regulations and amendments afterwards.

This has in some ways facilitated the major problem we have today. It is the type of action that will cost the Government €1 billion over the nursing home charges issue. In that case, amendments after the primary legislation created ambiguity with regard to legal issues. Although it was strenuously denied by the Ministers involved, there may have been reaction when primary legislation was going through relating to old age patients. We will never know for sure. This shows that primary legislation should be the main way for this House to act and not through amendments. We are told that much of this Bill will be followed by amendments and regulations later on.

It looks as if this legislation will go through next February. The Government does not talk about continual medical education and competence assurance for the people involved. This applies, for example, to general practitioners. I take part in continual medical education but competence assurance does not apply to general practice.

The continual medical education in which I participate happens at night and weekends. There is no time off to do it. It is voluntary. Since I qualified as a general practitioner I have been under no obligation to read a book, attend a lecture or pursue any form of continual medical education whatsoever, yet I am one of the primary prescribers in this country.

In respect of competence assurance I can be registered on the specialist register of the Medical Council as a specialist general practitioner. That too is voluntary. I do not have to be included on the register but can remain as a general doctor in the Medical Council.

The structure of continual education must be crystal clear, otherwise, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals will run into problems, not deliberately but because they have not kept up to date with the training and issues surrounding prescription of drugs. That is extremely important.

[1164]The Minister of State said he will talk to the stakeholders about section 16. What consultation has there been to date with the stakeholders, of whom there are many? These include the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive, administrators at community level, pharmacists, general practitioners, hospital consultants, nurses, the regulatory bodies and unions, the Irish Nurses Organisation and the Irish Medical Organisation, An Bord Altranais and the Medical Council. The Minister of State should tell us what discussion has taken place with those stakeholders who will in turn discuss with us aspects of this Bill which they fear or distrust, over the next eight weeks.

Has the Minister of State drawn up protocols for nurses prescribing and under what circumstances they may do this? If there is to be limited prescribing there must be protocols. In Monaghan hospital that unfortunate man, Mr. Walsh, died because people did not follow the protocols. There was much discussion about what the consultants in Monaghan hospital should have done but the protocols were not followed. There will be another inquiry into that episode.

The protocols stated that if surgery could not take place in Monaghan hospital the patient was to be transferred to Cavan hospital, regardless of whether there was a bed there or whether someone would take him in. The protocol was flawed because the consultants in Cavan hospital could not accept patients with serious illnesses. The protocol failed Mr. Walsh.

We must be careful about how we draw up the protocols that are necessary. We should issue them now to the stakeholders to show them what we are discussing. The legislation might be fine but the thinking behind it and the work that needs to be done to make it stand up does not seem to be coming through.

Are there any plans to set up an organisation similar to the National Institute in Clinical Excellence, NICE, in the United Kingdom? Officials in the Department of Health and Children will be familiar with NICE. It is a controversial organisation because in some respects it limits the medication patients can take. If we extend the roles of different people and the scope for prescribing, it will no longer suffice to use the regulations covering members of the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians or the Irish College of General Practitioners. If nurses and pharmacists are to have a broader role in prescribing we need a national organisation of clinical excellence to guide people in this area.

The Irish Medicines Board cannot do this because its role is specific. We need to go further than that. Has the Minister of State studied the situation in the United Kingdom, following the Harold Shipman case? The authorities there were concerned about how regulations for drugs and prescription were applied. I believe that nurse prescribing in the United Kingdom does not cover controlled drugs because of the limitations [1165]and controls on how this might work. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State’s comments on that when he has the opportunity to reply.

Much of this prescribing will happen in the controlled environment of either a nursing home or a district or acute or psychiatric hospital. Have formulae been drawn up within those hospitals on how nurses prescribe? Have discussions taken place with the Medical Council and An Bord Altranais to cover the professional level of this activity? The Minister of State will need to talk to the INO especially and to the IMO about this. Nurses must be protected.

These regulations can be introduced but in a few years people will be a bit casual, the legislation will be forgotten, the training gets slack, then young nurses who are overworked and under pressure will find themselves in the courts for the reasons that doctors sometimes end up there, for misadventure, negligence or whatever. We must be robust about the regulations and highlight them to ensure no young nurse gets into trouble because we think this practice will make life a bit easier in hospitals. It is important to discuss these matters with patient advocacy groups. I presume the Attorney General will also have his say on this development.

A recent report from the Irish Society for Quality and Safety in Health Care should jolt the Minister for Health and Children and the Department out of complacency on these issues. According to that report half of all patients received their medication with no explanation of its side effects. Several patients probably got medication before anyone checked whether it was the correct patient. There may even be cases where the wrong medication is given.

The question often arises in respect of private nursing homes and other similar institutions whether the person distributing the medication in the evening is the appropriate person to do so. Several reports show that the working of the drug trolley on which medication is stored can be haphazard, a problem the former health boards have exposed. I would not like to see a situation develop in which prescription of serious medication becomes casual.

Hospitals are extremely pressurised environments. Recently I sat beside the bed of a family member and watched the nurses and other staff working around me. Ten years ago I worked in hospitals but the environment is more pressurised now than the one in which I worked. Student nurses now spend most of their time in university and do not have the same on-the-ground training that many of the older staff nurses experienced. One learns a great deal from experience rather than books. If we are not careful about how people dispense medication we could run into problems.

There are many reports in medical literature of patients dying from being prescribed the wrong medication. It is difficult to prove but it happens. In the United States the numbers run into thou[1166]sands. In extending the range of people who can dispense medication, especially controlled drugs, we will encounter serious problems if we are not careful. This must be taken on board and it will be watched closely on Committee Stage.

Many organisations such as the INO, the IMO, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and patients groups will study the legislation and will be getting in touch with Members in the new year. It is imperative the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children publishes her proposals on the Bill well before Committee Stage is taken. It is too dangerous to be given these the night before Committee Stage sometime in February. Members will only be fumbling in the dark, trying to work out what the Tánaiste means and its implications.

More changes will be proposed to the Bill because a large number of issues surround it. There are, however, issues outside the legislation which the Department of Health and Children must address. An examination is needed of continual medical education, protocols and the establishment of a national institute of clinical excellence. How can we ensure nurses maintain their training, particularly if it is not being done now? Once a person qualifies as a general practitioner, there are no further checks on his or her prescribing habits. In the ten years since I qualified as a GP, treatment of basic conditions such as diabetes and blood pressure has changed dramatically. It is important to understand how reviews of people’s training and competence are managed.

These will be the questions I will ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children on Committee Stage. I will also ask what plans are in place to ensure standards in prescribing do not drop so that doctors do not contribute to the deaths of their patients.

I am unsure of the Tánaiste’s intentions regarding the EU directive on human organ tissues. The report of the inquiry into organ retention has not yet been published. When this issue broke in 1999, the Royal College of Pathologists drew up regulations on how to deal with the issues arising from organ retention. A similar set-up of protocols is needed in Ireland. If there is anything unusual or different in the Irish situation, it must be discussed on Committee Stage.

In vitro fertilisation treatment is not provided for in the Bill. Has any aspect of the report of the commission on assisted human reproduction being included in the Bill? There were issues around stem cell research and in vitro fertilisation, as well as the protocols for handling embryos and gametes. Has the Department of Health and Children examined the recommendations of the commission? Do any of these impinge on the legislation? The commission needs serious legislation as a follow-up on its recommendations. If any issues exist, we need to address them to avoid any problems in the future.

[1167]Ms McManus:  The Irish Medicines Board is an important and powerful body within the health service and will increasingly become so as medicines become more available, effective and inevitably more expensive. The issue of patient safety is obviously central to the debate and to any changes we are making in the law.

It is worth noting the level of consumption of medications in Ireland is not inordinately high. Some members of the Joint Committee on Health and Children recently visited France to learn of its health service. It was interesting to see a high consumption of medications there. It is fair to assume this arose from the easy access to specialists. In turn, this leads to shopping around by patients until they find the doctor who will prescribe whatever they want. Two factors control the level of consumption of medications in Ireland. The first is the role of GP as gatekeeper. The second, unfortunately, is due to inequality with people unable to access primary or secondary health care owing to low incomes and the inadequacies of social protection.

The establishment of the Irish Medicines Board was the manifestation of a trend within the health service, accelerated in recent times, where institutions and agencies now operate large chunks of it. The largest organisation is the Health Service Executive which has the overall responsibility of managing the health service. The role of the Department of Health and Children, meanwhile, has been considerably circumscribed over time. This trend raises particular problems with accountability. Across the House, Members are concerned about the lack of accountability in the health service. There will always be an issue with any board operating in the health service that is not directly accountable to the House. The old question of quis custodiet ipsos custodes arises.

This Bill will not ensure there is adequate oversight for a body as powerful as the Irish Medicines Board. I raise this point not to be unfair to anyone but because two years ago a situation arose which to this day remains unanswered. The case relates to an eminent oncologist, Dr. John Crown. No one in the health service can say he is anything but a major specialist in his field, with a high reputation. However, his history with the Irish Medicines Board is most regrettable. I do not believe the questions he legitimately raised were dealt with in a proper or fair fashion.

Some three years ago, cancer patients were denied access to a potentially life-saving breast cancer drug at St. Vincent’s Hospital for nine months in 2002 and 2003 as a result of a dispute at the hospital. The controversy first erupted in September 2002 when Dr. John Crown discovered St. Vincent’s Private Hospital had erroneously billed private patients and their insurers to the tune of €1 million. Approximately 50 women with breast cancer had been participating in a major international clinical trail, spearheaded in Ireland, using a combination of promis[1168]ing high-powered drugs. As it was a trial, the drugs, Herceptin and Taxoterre, had been provided free of charge by the international pharmaceutical companies that manufactured the medication. This is the standard procedure followed for the use of drugs in clinical trials. St. Vincent’s Hospital, however, had billed patients and their insurers for about €1 million.

When Dr. Crown discovered this, he reported it to the Irish Medicines Board. One would expect the matter to be investigated by the board and whoever was responsible would have been held to account, as it was fraudulent practice. Instead, the work of Dr. John Crown was interrupted for almost nine months and clinical trials did not proceed. In the view of Dr. Crown, lives were lost as a consequence, a direct result of decisions made by the Irish Medicines Board which is not accountable to the House.

This is a matter of concern which raises issues for the Government in respect of the need for legislation of protect whistleblowers. It has never been more important to protect whistleblowers in the health service. While I appreciate the legislation to establish the Health Service Executive made certain changes, the record shows that the Irish Medicines Board affair was disgraceful. Fortunately, the relevant clinical trials have been reinstituted but only after the individual concerned experienced considerable stress.

My colleague, Deputy Quinn, tabled a parliamentary question on 21 November 2002 asking the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, about this issue. Essentially, the Minister’s reply was a hand-washing exercise. Despite being the shareholder of the VHI, he did not consider it his role to intervene, even though the company was an aggrieved party in the sense that it was told to pay out money it did not have to pay. Eventually, the VHI was reimbursed by the hospital but if the hospital had not been found out, the practice would, I presume, have merrily continued until this day. This is a serious matter about which all of us should be concerned.

Deputy Twomey referred to the misuse of prescriptions and we are all probably aware of examples of doctors using their position to illegally prescribe drugs in return for favours. In addition, however, in the area of alternative therapies and complementary medicine there have been a number of grave examples of practitioners taking advantage of patients who are suffering, in some cases from a terminal illness, by taking money from them on completely fraudulent grounds and to the detriment of their health. We do not appear to have any real protection against such persons. While safeguards, in the form of the Medical Council, are in place to protect patients from medical practitioners, they do not apply to alternative practitioners. This is an important issue because interest in this area of health care, if it can be so described, is growing.

It is important to note that both the clinical trials I mentioned affected women. One related to [1169]women with breast cancer while the other involved female cancer patients who encountered difficulties accessing clinical trials in the Mater Hospital due to an issue which arose at the hospital’s ethics committee, although it is still unclear whether the ethics committee took the decision. The fact that a decision made on ethical grounds — in reality on religious grounds — impacted on a woman’s right to have the best possible care is a central issue. While I appreciate that European directives have yet again saved us from ourselves, this does not mean we can abdicate responsibility for ensuring that something which is legal here — contraception in this case — can never be used to prevent a woman accessing health care and the best treatment, whether by way of clinical trial or otherwise, as happened in the case in question, which was, fortunately, resolved.

The Bill covers more than the Irish Medicines Board. I share the justifiable unhappiness expressed in the Seanad by my colleague, Senator Ryan, about the form of the Bill. It is a compendium of this and that brought together under a Title which bears no relation to many of its sections. This approach creates a lack of
clarity. It is difficult for people referring back to consider that meat labelling or ophthalmic entitlements for children in home schooling belong in legislation entitled the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005. There is no relationship between these issues and the Title, and I am unhappy that compendium, portmanteau type Bills such as this come before the House from time to time. For the sake of clarity, people would be better served in future if a couple of small Bills were introduced and Deputies would not need to spend an excessive amount of time on them to justify ourselves.

Senator Ryan, who has been around these Houses for some time, described the legislation as “one of the most badly constructed pieces of legislation I have seen in my political career”. His point was that as well as being a mix and match of items which needed to be dealt with, the Bill was then subjected to a series of major, complex amendments in the Seanad. This approach to legislation is not helpful in terms of ensuring clarity as the legislation proceeds and people start to get involved in the process. One must be aware that professional bodies are frequently not 100% familiar with the process in which the House engages, which is a little obscure, even to Members at times. Rather than making it difficult to submit amendments, we should try to facilitate those on the outside who try, sometimes helpfully, to make inputs into the work we do. From time to time, proposed amendments received from concerned individuals have arrived too late or have been found to be inappropriate simply because of a lack of information and knowledge. If procedures were clear and accessible, the legislation may have been improved.

[1170]Another important change in the Bill which has no connection with the Irish Medicines Board is the extension to nurses of the capacity to prescribe. This measure has been sought by the Irish Medical Organisation for some time and the practice is common in other countries. Although it is a positive step forward, it is not good enough to state that the entire matter will be governed by regulation at some point in the future. We do not know who will prescribe, when they will prescribe or how they will do it. This is shoddy, poor practice, particularly given the significance of the change.

While I hope this change will be for the better, the best safeguard against the system not working in such a difficult area is good preparation and working out beforehand how a change will operate in the complex, high pressure context of the health service. This is a political decision as much as anything else and I am critical of the Minister in this regard. She makes a grand announcement, as she is perfectly entitled to do, but fails to deliver on the actual form of the change, that is, in terms of protocols, liability and all the other issues raised in this debate. Instead, the change will be made by some regulation to be published at some point in the future. People cannot feel secure that best practice will prevail because issues arise in terms of training and the context in which this change is being made. Anybody looking at our hospital service knows just how difficult it is to provide the best kind of care.

Only yesterday, there was a distressing court case concerning Tallaght Hospital. It was a terrible case for the woman involved. As far as one can gather, it would seem a serious mistake was made because the provision did not exist within the hospital, in terms of its physical capacity, to deliver full information for that patient when it was needed. I am not making excuses but obviously somebody is responsible. Doctors and nurses make errors like the rest of us. There is always a danger that we expect doctors never to make mistakes. Having read what was said in the court, however, it seems there were issues about the fact that our health service does not have the capacity to provide for doctors and nurses to work at their very best. We must be conscious of that.

The idea of ensuring that there is a capacity for nurses to prescribe makes sense as regards repeat prescriptions, palliative care and nursing home care. Presumably it also makes sense within the hospital context. It would be helpful, however, if we could tease out what we are talking about in a much more detailed and thoughtful way instead of something simply being presented to us without that kind of reflection.

We have seen criticism in the area of psychiatric care. On a number of occasions the Inspector of Mental Hospitals has made the point in his reviews that there is excessive prescription of medication for psychiatric patients. Such patients are extremely vulnerable, so one can imagine cir[1171]cumstances where the use of drugs is not justified but is being applied. We need to be careful about that because there is a requirement for transparency. There have been many problems concerning mental health legislation and the failure of systems to protect patients. The hard facts exist, however, and we know from the inspector’s reports that, time and again, he has complained about the excessive prescription of drugs.

Another issue that I hope comes within the remit of the Irish Medicines Board is that of drug shortages. From time to time, pharmacists and doctors complain that prescribed drugs are not available. A woman came to me who was quite disturbed because she availed of a product called B12 which she needed to have monthly by injection, I think, although I am not a medical person. She received one injection and was told that from then on the product would not available for some time, and when it became available again it would not be on the General Medical Service. I tabled a parliamentary question on the matter but the answer I received was not terribly reassuring. It stated:

The vitamin B12 product concerned was removed from the common list of reimbursable drugs and medicines when the manufacturer advised my Department that due to problems in the manufacturing process, it had become temporarily unavailable both in Ireland and the UK. As soon as the manufacturers inform my Department that the problems have been resolved, the product will be restored to the common list.

That is just one example of what I am talking about. In attempting to discover what is going on with regard to these shortages, the phrase “due to problems in the manufacturing process” tends to crop up. The suspicion is that as companies produce newer drugs which are more expensive, but do exactly the same thing as the older, less expensive drugs, they construct manufacturing problems as an excuse to retrain doctors to prescribe more expensive drugs. This may be happening in the area of contraception, for example, and if that is so, it must be ended. We already have a large drugs bill and, in addition, there are all the arguments about generic drugs and banned drugs. If it is the case that drugs are being taken out of the system to introduce a newer drug which is the same and no better except in making more profits for pharmaceutical companies, that must be addressed. I presume the appropriate body to do that is the Irish Medicines Board.

From time to time, patients visit the pharmacist but cannot obtain what they have been prescribed. I know the Progressive Democrats are the great proponents of the free market, but if we do not have freely available on the market drugs that we need, it is up to the Government to sort that out. We should not be subject to the whims [1172]of drug companies that are trying to expand their profits.

I was reading an article in the IPU Review, a journal with which I am sure the Minister of State is familiar. The author of the piece, Mr. Jack Shanahan, referred to the continual shortages of a range of medicines. His particular concern was about palliative care medications, which were not available on the GMS. I hope that issue will be addressed. Mr. Shanahan said he would complain to the chief State pharmacist only that we do not have one anymore. I was not aware of that, so perhaps the Minister of State will respond to that point.

Mr. Shanahan wrote:

Palliative care is one of the great services of modern medicine. It allows a team to facilitate dying with dignity and comfort . . . Bureaucracy is important and allows for the safe provision of drugs. When it starts to impede the delivery of an important service then the rules need to be revisited. Not only would a rule change make a more effective service, it would also be more efficient and less expensive. My suggestions are simple. Drugs used in palliative care should have GMS codes. Drugs used in palliative care should be readily available in all pharmacies in the same way as the bulk of the medicines that we buy.

Until I read that article I was not aware that there was an issue concerning palliative care drugs. Surely we need to deal with this matter. If we cannot look after people dying in a humane manner with the best possible treatment, then there is something amiss in the health service.

I was interested in Deputy Twomey’s references to pharmacists. My understanding was that this legislation related to extending the power of nurses to prescribe. Significant changes are already occurring in Britain where, from next spring, qualified nurses and pharmacists will be able to prescribe any licensed medicine for any medical condition with the exception of controlled drugs. Obviously, there is another structure in Britain where general practice operates rather differently than it does here, but it seems to be a major shift. If the Minister has such a proposal in mind, then we need to know about it.

  2 o’clock

According to Ms Ginette Howell, the head of pharmacy in Britain, this is a major step forward in providing care that is more responsive to the needs of patients and the public. It is ground-breaking for the pharmaceutical profession. As independent prescribers, Ms Howell said pharmacists will fully use their expertise in medicines, in partnership with patients and other members of the health care team. It is a major change in the role of pharmacists and it might be useful to extract the Minister’s view.

The Minister made an announcement a few weeks ago regarding nurses prescribing. That was in response to a review of nurses and midwives in [1173]the prescribing and administration of medicinal products, which was jointly carried out by An Bord Altranais and the National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery. I support the idea and if nurses are given that extra authority, pharmacists will naturally enough seek a similar dispensation. It is difficult to see how one can leave them out of such changes. I would be very interested to explore the matter further since I am sure that there is a down side to that change of which we need to be conscious, as well as the possibility of an up side.

We cannot underestimate the abuse of prescribing powers. There have been very high profile cases such as that of Dr. Shipman, but also quite regular cases subject to Medical Council investigation whereby doctors have abused their power to prescribe drugs illegally. Even where treatments are perfectly legal, some medications can be extremely potent. I am very much struck by the fact that, in all communities, young men in particular have died because of illegal drug overdoses. I am also conscious of the fact that some have died from methadone. That drug is legal, and yet they are able to secure enough of it, or mix it with illegal substances, that they lose their lives.

I welcome the fact that children in all primary schools will receive entitlements under this Bill. It is extremely welcome, since that anomaly existed for too long.

My last point concerns HIQA, which I understand will have a role in assessing medicines and medical technology. I know that it has been learning from such bodies as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, NICE, in Britain. However, it would be very useful if we had the HIQA legislation to see where exactly the two roles are defined — that of the IMB and that of HIQA. It was grossly deficient of the Department and the Minister to set up the HSE 12 months ago without establishing the protective counterbalance of HIQA at the same time. That was the concept behind the reforms, but all that we got was the HSE. We still do not have HIQA on a statutory footing and that is a real problem when it comes to ensuring best practice.

Ms C. Murphy:  I wish to share time with Deputies Boyle and Ó Caoláin.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk):  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Ms C. Murphy:  Many aspects of the Bill appear technical in nature and certain changes seem aimed at overcoming some unintended consequence of previous legislation. A very obvious example is on the first page of the explanatory memorandum, which mentions limiting the prohibition on the cultivation of poppies to those intended for the production of opium. There may be several badly tended gardens about which people feel a little more comfortable, given that [1174]they were probably acting illegally by not weeding out the poppies.

The Bill’s primary focus is that the Irish Medicines Board acts as the competent authority for the licensing of controlled drugs. I share concerns regarding the fact that there are many extra elements; seeking entitlements under legislation becomes quite difficult when that happens. I share the concern that it may not be good practice. I have no issue with the Irish Medicines Board being the competent authority. The number of drugs available grows daily, and it is quite difficult to anticipate new advances in medicines and devices so it is very important that there is a hands-on approach in that respect. Obviously, the primary task must be to protect human health. By regulating, one can help do that — I consciously use the word “help” rather than “fully achieve”.

There are one or two areas of concern to me that are not regulated by this legislation. It is very difficult to see how one might overcome them, other than through public education, and cost may also be relevant. Those two areas are travel and the Internet. I know countless people who go on holiday and buy products or ask others going on holiday to bring them back three or four inhalers or whatever. I suspect that bags coming back from holidays are full of such things. They are not controlled by prescription and they are significantly cheaper. Spain, which is in the EU, is a case in point, since one can buy such medicines there. There is hardly a household in Ireland where one member does not have asthma. The availability of those fairly popularly used drugs in an EU country is an example of what is taking place. The checks and balances that should be in place to control use and ensure that people are monitored and so on are sometimes avoided because people are self-medicating and self-prescribing. That is an area of concern.

The second issue is the Internet. Unless one has a fantastic firewall on one’s computer, as in the Dáil but not in the home or some other settings, one daily receives spam with offers of drugs at a reduced price. I certainly know people who have availed of that and even complained when their purchases were confiscated. There is no doubt that people are using that as a means of reducing their medical bills. They are certainly self-medicating.

This Bill will not deal with individuals purchasing and having such medication delivered. Instead, it deals with those who are licensed, with sanctions against those who misuse their licence by importing. There is clearly an issue of price and differences in regime across Europe, even though we are all governed by the same EU legislation, regarding what is prescribed. The area must be considered carefully since some of the drugs are used daily. The checks and balances are not there to deal with that.

I met representatives of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, which held a briefing day six or eight [1175]weeks ago. I addressed the issue of price and was surprised to hear them say that many prices were predetermined since one signs up to a pricing mechanism depending on one’s economy. I would not have thought that there would be great price differences between European countries, particularly in the 15 older member states, but that is clearly the case. I fully understand and support a difference in cost structure for anti-retroviral drugs, which are being made available to very poor countries that have a serious AIDS problem. However, the situation is very different where one is dealing with commonly used drugs in the EU.

There is a problem with public information that must be tackled but the appropriateness of the level of prescribing of some drugs and their prices must be examined. There is no doubt that people are voting with their feet on this issue but that is a dangerous way to proceed.

The Irish Medicines Board has specific functions but one area that has been talked about is animal health, which I understand, given that we are examining the food chain. The farming organisations, for example, have probably made a stronger case in regard to people ignoring symptoms and the need for veterinary care where there may be bad work practices or insufficient funding. It is interesting that there is such a focus from an animal perspective but not from a human perspective.

Regarding the mark-up, it would be useful to get some information on that. I will request that from the Department of Health and Children.

The principle of nurses being allowed to fill out prescriptions is a welcome move but it must be done in a very careful way. In that regard I take on board some of the points made by previous speakers. I am aware pharmacists are making the same argument in terms of a potential extension to their area.

The area of alternative medicine must be regulated. While there are many good moves taking place on that side, there is a lack of regulation. Like most Members, I got an e-mail from a mother whose son died having taken some magic mushrooms. She was very distraught. That shows that this is an area that must be strictly regulated.

As this is my first Christmas as a Member of this House, I take this opportunity of wishing the Members and staff a happy Christmas. There is a particular reason I take pleasure in doing that. I want to record my appreciation for the helpfulness and professionalism of the staff since coming into this House and the friendliness of Members across the political spectrum.

Mr. Boyle:  I am afraid I will have to revert to bah humbug mode, although I echo the sentiments expressed by Deputy Murphy.

The Bill, being a miscellaneous provisions Bill, misses several opportunities in terms of the need to examine and reform the Irish Medicines [1176]Board. This body is in its first incarnation and while it does much useful work, it has been involved in what was often needless controversy. Part of that has come about as a result of the legislation that governs it and because of the constitution of the board that is meant to oversee its activities. It is a board that represents particular vested interests in the production and distribution of medicines in our society but a board with a better balance, under better legislation, is something for which this House should strive. We should be discussing a new, all-embracing Irish Medicines Board Bill rather than making matters more difficult by broadening the remit of the current board without ensuring it can operate effectively.

The most obvious controversy the board has been involved in is the area of complementary and alternative medicine, particularly its decision on the use of St. John’s Wort. That remains a dichotomy because this substance has been banned by the Irish Medicines Board yet it is freely available in the northern part of this island. If we do not have consistency on an all-island basis, never mind the way such medicines are treated in a European sense, we are not doing a good job of representing the interests of our people.

One of the main functions of the Irish Medicines Board should not necessarily be the overseeing of the safety and efficacy of medicines, which is an important role, but making valued comment about the use of medicine in Irish society. We are a heavily over-subscribed society in terms of medicine, particularly in the use of antibiotics, and the question must be asked in the ongoing debate on our health service the reason, despite this over-prescription of medicines, there is such a prevalence of viral conditions. For instance, the existence of MRSA in our hospitals cannot be a coincidence in that these phenomenon go side by side. I would like to see more openness and honesty from a State agency that is meant to be performing that role. My party and I believe it is not performing that role effectively.

That said, the provisions in the Bill will make life harder rather than easier for the Irish Medicines Board. There is an obvious need to extend its remit in terms of medical devices but I question whether extending it to include veterinary medicines and, more particularly, cosmetics is something we should bestow on a board that is meant to be examining medicine in terms of the health needs of our citizens. Cosmetics is an area about which most people are not very concerned. There are safety issues that should be addressed and others that should have been dealt with in the past by the then Institute of Industrial Research and Standards and its follow-up organisation Forfás. They have to do with the chemical make-up of available products. The role of an Irish medicines board is obscured if one of the areas it is meant to be dealing with is cosmetics. That is leaving aside the ethical considerations of [1177]cosmetics, where many of those products are tested on animals.

There is another more open debate in regard to the testing of medicines on animals but when we get into the regulation of cosmetics and materials that have been produced by that method, we are entering dodgy ethical waters that will compromise the work of the Irish Medicines Board.

The main selling point of the Bill has been the additional power of nurses to dispense medicines in most circumstances. That is a welcome measure about which I have not come across dissent. My mother was a nurse for 40 years and it always was a source of frustration to her that she did not have that ability, particularly at a time when she would have gone through an education system in which women were not encouraged to become doctors, and nurses like her working on hospital floors had far more experience and ability to ascertain a diagnosis than many of the interns and junior doctors with whom they were dealing. This new power could be a help in terms of many of the problems we face, including unnecessary delays which often lead to tragedies in our health service. I hope it will be used and will have good effect.

Another area I have a concern about is the powers being vested in the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, which is a non-statutory, independent body. To have powers conferred on an agency which is not directly responsible or accountable to the State is something with which I am uncomfortable. Why does the Minister and the Department believe such expertise is not being provided by the State? I would have thought it would be an important part of the regulatory function for the State to have such a competence and be engaged in such work. That is aside from the various components of pharmaceuticals, from those who manufacture the goods to those who are eventually responsible for dispensing and selling them. Unfortunately, we must deal with the fact the pharmaceutical industry is represented by too many vested interests. The Minister of State has had personal experience of dealing with the industry. It is unfortunate that this Bill is being taken without a proper look at new pharmacy legislation. Difficulties arise with the medicines that are manufactured, the ways in which people can access them and the people who are responsible for making them available. Too often, this process is administered in a cartel-like fashion whereby people are not properly informed or unable to make full use of available medicines.

Deputy Catherine Murphy spoke about people’s ability to buy many medicines that are unlicensed over the Internet. Like every other Member of his House and, I suspect, anyone with a computer, I regularly receive spam e-mail encouraging me to improve my manhood or womanhood. Senders of such e-mail clearly use a scattergun approach. However, more serious [1178]spam e-mail, which encourages people to acquire products such as steroids, is sent. I have yet to hear the Government give a coherent response about how we can prevent people gaining access to drugs which can harm them and society, aside from giving the Customs and Excise more powers.

The Irish Medicines Board should become a more all-embracing organisation that represents consumer interests more than vested interests. The Government’s arguments regarding the Irish Medicines Board are fundamentally flawed. The Government believes the board must be almost entirely led by experts, which is a “nanny knows best” approach to medicine. The public should have an input and be involved in the decisions made about the products that will be made available to it and how. I am not confident that the Irish Medicines Board is doing this job effectively. The fact that we have not taken the opportunity to introduce the reforms that would make the Irish Medicines Board the organisation it needs to be — an organisation in which the public can have confidence — is a missed opportunity.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  Was I correct in noting the Minister of State furiously writing when Deputy McManus highlighted the unfilled position of chief State pharmacist? Is the Minister of State considering filling this position in the future?

Mr. T. O’Malley:  Deputy Ó Caoláin will be the first to know about it.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  We will see. While Sinn Féin will not oppose this Bill, the way in which it has been presented by the Government is most unsatisfactory. It is complex legislation which amends four separate Acts of the Oireachtas and a considerable number of regulations. With limited time and resources, it is impossible for a small Opposition party to deal comprehensively with all aspects of such a Bill. The difficulty is compounded by the introduction of significant amendments in the Seanad.

I cast no aspersions on those within the Department of Health and Children who work on legislation but the question arises as to whether they are adequately resourced and equipped to support the legislative role of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and her Department. On the Order of Business, I raised the Government’s failure to produce a Bill to provide for repayments to those on whom nursing home charges were illegally imposed. The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children again referred to the extreme complexity of the legislation and has apparently pushed back the date of publication well into 2006. The Bill in question was promised for September 2005. It was to be published before the beginning of the forthcoming session at the end of January 2006.

[1179]It is more than a year since the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children undertook to repay those who were illegally charged and to provide for this repayment in legislation. If I recall correctly, these people were led to believe that everything would be in place by April 2005. It will clearly be beyond April 2006 before we have a legislative basis for repayments. These issues are connected, although we are not addressing the repayment of illegal nursing home charges today. It is unacceptable.

Something has clearly gone awry to result in the continued backlog and ensuing rush to introduce legislation. It is very difficult for everyone to deal with everything this entails. It is even more alarming in light of the nursing home scandal itself in which flawed legislation was allowed to stand and was not rectified. As a result, massive costs will be incurred by the State.

The Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005 has undergone a metamorphosis in the Seanad and is now a different creature to that initiated in June 2005. Section 26, as inserted by amendment in the Seanad, is now the most significant section of the Bill. This section was not part of the original Bill but is the section that will be repeatedly referred to in future. It is the important and long-overdue provision to allow certain nurses to prescribe medicines. I welcome this provision.

It is vital that nurses have these powers and responsibilities. The fact that nurses have not been allowed to prescribe drugs has been a considerable disadvantage in our health service. However, I am very concerned by the wording of section 26. As I understand it, the section does not include midwives, although the Minister of State will correct me if I am mistaken. We need clarification regarding the categories of nurses who will be given these new responsibilities. The anomaly thrown up by the exclusion of midwives, if this is the case, must be rectified.

The review of nurses and midwives in the prescribing and administration of medicinal products was published in June 2005 and made a number of recommendations. The review recommended that “an explicit legislative basis be provided for the supply and administration of medicinal products using medication protocols by nurses and midwives in hospital and community settings”. This recommendation is very clear and includes midwives. The report was the result of very intensive research and wide consultation. The report’s third recommendation was that:

Nurses and midwives should be enabled to supply and administer over-the-counter medications to patients and clients in accordance with their competence and within their scope of practice and supported by medication protocols where appropriate.

The review’s fourth recommendation was that:

[1180]

Prescriptive authority should be extended to nurses and midwives, subject to regulations under the relevant legislation by the Minister for Health and Children and regulation by An Bord Altranais.

The review’s fifth recommendation was that:

An Bord Altranais and the National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery should establish a Project Implementation Team to work in consultation with key stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of these recommendations and actions.

Will the Minister of State indicate the extent to which these recommendations are being implemented by this Bill, if further legislation is required and what other steps need to taken to implement the report’s recommendations fully?

We have been awaiting the nurses Bill for years. It is long overdue and I would have thought that such a Bill would have been the appropriate vehicle for providing for nurse prescriptions.

The primary consideration in this must be the safety of patients. We must ensure that those with responsibility for prescribing are subject to the most stringent controls and act responsibly at all times. We must also ensure that medicines policy is implemented and that medicines are used in the best interests of the overall health service. I have raised the issue of the exorbitant cost of medicines on many occasions, the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies and the need for preference to be given to generic drugs. The State could make significant savings and divert much funding currently spent on overpriced medicines. The pharmaceutical industry is very profitable and is one of the key sectors of the economy here. However, there are also many vested interests in this area, including the pharmaceutical companies and even pharmacists and GPs. These groups are very interested in the State’s policies on medicines, but our consideration must be public health above all.

I have dealt with only a couple of key aspects that arise out of this Bill. It is very complex legislation covering a plethora of areas and I hope we have a chance to return to these areas at later stages of the Bill. I welcome the Bill and I wish it a fair wind, as I do to the Minister of State, Deputy O’Malley, as he leaves the House.

Mr. N. O’Keeffe:  I will make a few points on a very important section of the Bill for the Irish food industry, namely, section 25, which deals with food labelling and the country of origin. It is not a function of the Irish Medicines Board or any health organisation to have anything to do with food labelling or the country of origin. That should be a matter for separate food legislation. For some time, Irish producers have been clamouring for country of origin labels. This section represents a compromise, which is not good [1181]enough. The restaurants will have to identify the country of origin of beef, but that regulation should also apply to the retailer. Irish housewives and small retailers are struggling with rogue importations into the country. A country that exports 90% of its agricultural produce imports agricultural produce only because it is cheap and inferior and because it can be regurgitated and sold, making massive profits for many in the food industry.

In the past 12 months, we have witnessed the rise of avian flu in Asia. While we think we are exempt from that here, we should examine the migratory patterns of these birds around the world. In 12 months, they may have circled the globe due to changes in the weather conditions and will arrive in Ireland, giving us the same problems that they caused in Asia. A number of deaths from this virus have taken place in Asia and even in the Ukraine and other parts of central Europe, often due to poor health regulations in those countries.

The Irish Medicines Board regulates the farming community in a rigid way, making observations and representations. The board questions the different medicines used by farmers on their livestock. Irish farmers are probably the most regulated in Europe, if not in the world today, which makes it very difficult for them to operate. At the same time, we get imports from South America, from the Far East and from other countries where there are little or no controls. I have seen that for myself and it is a fact. It is important for the protection of the Irish housewife and the Irish retailer that the country of origin label is supplied to the retailer and the manufacturer, so that the consumer knows the country of origin and the place of manufacture. There are 30 supermarkets in this country selling meat at knock-down prices where the housewife does not know the country of origin for the produce, be it from the Far East, South America or wherever. The price at which they are being sold indicates that they are not of a quality or standard that is in keeping with good food practice.

This is a very important section of the Bill. I have been arguing about it in my party. The Minister of State, Deputy Power, will be well aware of the difficulties because he comes from a rural constituency in south Kildare, where farmers are having difficulties competing with cheap imports.

It is important that we put a food authority in place that will cover all activities in the food sector. We have the IDA international food aid, Enterprise Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Food, Teagasc and FÁS. In effect, we have a multiplicity of agencies dealing with the food industry, but they all have only a certain role to play. Ireland needs a food authority. We export between €6 billion and €10 billion worth of food. If agreement is reached at the latest WTO negotiations, it could be a disaster for Ireland, although many are hoping for agreement. It could result in further cheap imports [1182]coming here. The imports that come into this country are not quality imports. They are being imported by people who want to exploit the food industry, exploit the housewife and the retail sector. That is why I want the country of origin and the place of manufacture on all foods. A half-baked measure on legislation is not good enough for me. The major components of the Irish food industry are milk, beef, pigmeat and poultry meat. The latter two are causing the problem as they are the most exposed and exploited by imports. These industries give substantial employment at manufacturing level and at farm level, because they are intensive operations. The poultry and pigmeat industries have been in the news in recent weeks due to the nitrates directive. People realise their importance in rural areas because of the employment they provide. However, we will destroy them further if we do not introduce some kind of control for imports.

We are only looking for equal status with imports. We do not have that at the moment. In fairness to the officials from the Irish Medicines Board and from the Department of Health and Children, this is a not a function of theirs. It is a function of the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Department of Enterprise and Employment. However, the Irish Medicines Board and the Department of Health and Children are being saddled with this as a half-baked compromise that will not answer the problems I have outlined. The contradiction in the over-regulation of Irish farming is that the products coming into this country do not have the same standards. Why impose those standards on the farmers of rural Ireland when they do not have the same standard in Brazil or in the Far East? I do not want to hear the Minister of State or his officials tell me that the standards in those countries are as high as they are here. They are not.

I am making an appeal for a national food authority. I hope the Government bites the bullet on that, puts all the different agencies under one umbrella and that, once and for all, we can see the country of origin attached to all food imports, whether Irish, British, Danish, German, Jamaican or whatever. The Irish housewife should know what she is buying and retailers should know what they are selling. Many Irish food companies with major turnovers and which are quoted on the Stock Exchange exploit the people with imports by linking them to Irish standards because Irish food is wholesome, good and is liked.

Most Irish food is organic because of the climate. This is a grass-based country. Beef and sheepmeat are organic, as is milk. The climate allows for that. I know the Ceann Comhairle’s heart is in the food industry. He comes from a good indigenous county which he has represented for a long time. He has always shared his views on the food industry with me. Deputy Twomey also comes from a west Cork family which was involved in the food industry as a farming family. [1183]We understand that. I appeal for change in the interests of Irish producers and, moreover, of Irish housewives.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  It has been an interesting debate. I thank all the Members for their contributions. The debate has been substantive and it is difficult to deal with all the issues raised. Nonetheless, I will attempt to respond to some of them. Members will have further opportunities to contribute when the Bill is debated on Committee Stage early next year.

I thank Deputies for their comments on the introduction of an enabling provision for nurse prescribing. I assure them that the intention is to improve services to patients. These changes are all about providing safe and convenient access to medication by patients in both acute and community settings. Prescribing by nurses will be limited by regulation and will be targeted to ensure greater accessibility to medication for patients where it will help community and acute services and where it is safe to do so. Nurses and midwives are in a well regulated profession which is an essential requirement for the changes being introduced.

The Department of Health and Children will conduct consultations with all stakeholders on the implementation of this issue before regulations are drawn up. It is not intended that all nurses will prescribe all drugs. The regulations to be drawn up will be further supported by the standards and requirements of An Bord Altranais. The Irish health care system is changing rapidly and we need to support this with proper legislation and regulation. The Irish Medicines Board Act 1995 is the legislation under which medicinal products are controlled in this country. Accordingly, this Bill, which amends the 1995 Act, is the appropriate route for introducing provisions in respect of medicinal products which will enable nurses to prescribe them as appropriate.

An Bord Altranais and the National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery recently published a review of nurses and midwives in the prescribing and administration of medicinal products, which was launched by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children last October. This included a literature review, an examination of international experience and a needs assessment survey. It also included a collaborative project involving a small number of pilot sites. It recommended that prescriptive authority should be extended to nurses and midwives, subject to regulations. A competency framework and education requirement for nurses to prescribe was developed as part of this review which will provide a useful foundation for further developments.

As regards costs, the available evidence is that nurses and midwives are cautious prescribers. In addition, it will be possible to restrict by regu[1184]lation the range and categories of medication that a nurse or midwife may be permitted to prescribe. I have listened carefully to a number of the points made by Deputies on the inclusion of an authority in the Bill to allow pharmacists and others to prescribe medicinal products. I assure the Deputies that the Department has examined carefully the issue of prescribing by other health care professions. It is considered, however, that apart from nurses and existing prescribers, the necessary regulatory regime, with adequate fitness to practise norms, is not in a position at present to permit the extension of prescribing to registered pharmacists for controlled or other drugs and medicines.

The Department is drafting legislation to provide updated fitness to practise regulations in this area. Given the importance of the pharmacist’s role in the protection of public health, this area will have to be reviewed carefully. In the case of medical personnel other than emergency medical technicians, it is considered too early to introduce such an authority. It is important that appropriate structures and controls should be in place for each of the relevant health and social care professions before an authority in respect of the issue of prescriptions, particularly where controlled drugs are concerned, could be given.

The President has recently signed into law the Health and Social Care Professionals Act which provides registration and fitness to practise structures for certain health and social care professionals. However, these structures are not yet in place and it would be premature to consider giving prescribing authority to those health care professionals at this stage. A significant development has been the recent introduction of the advanced paramedic training programme and the creation of a register of appropriately trained emergency medical technicians. This register is divided into three parts, depending on the level of training as it pertains to the emergency medical technician, paramedic and advanced paramedic grades. These personnel have undergone specific training to enable them to administer a range of medications safely in accordance with strict protocols under the direction of a registered medical practitioner, depending on the drugs involved.

The regulations introduced under the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995 in August this year have provided the necessary authority for the various grades of paramedics to obtain and administer the various categories of medicinal products concerned on this basis. The circumstances are set out in the Schedules and are appropriate to each division. The authority to administer these is in accordance with clinical practice guidelines or in line with the instructions of a registered medical practitioner. Morphine injection, which is listed in the Schedule, will only be administered by an emergency medical technician, paramedic or advanced paramedic on the instruction of a registered medical practitioner. For such personnel to be in a position to administer any controlled [1185]drugs, it is necessary that they have appropriate authority under the Misuse of Drugs Act to possess such drugs lawfully. It is intended to grant a group authority under section 14 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 in respect of these personnel to allow for this.

I thank Members for their thoughtful contributions to the debate. I look forward to Committee Stage, which will allow Members to make changes as they see fit and to discuss the Bill further. Ultimately, I hope we will produce legislation in this regard that will be to the benefit of us all. I thank Members again and look forward to the careful analysis of the Bill to be undertaken on Committee Stage in the near future.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Health and Children, in accordance with Standing Order 120(1) and paragraph 1(a)(i) of the Orders of Reference of that committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I move:

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this resolution for the charging in accordance with the Act of certain fees, being fees for the granting, amendment or renewal by the Irish Medicines Board of licences, authorisations or certificates.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended at 2.50 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.

  1.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason she has not progressed any of the recommendations of the McIver report on further education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40016/05]

  2.  Ms O’Sullivan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a clear commitment will be given to the implementation of the McIver report; if so, when she intends to fund its implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39913/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Miss de Valera):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

This Government is strongly committed to improving participation and achievement at every level of education. We have put the resources and supports in place to ensure there is a wide range of course options available in the further and higher education sectors for young people who wish to continue their studies after second level and for people returning to education later in life.

Post-leaving certificate, or PLC, courses represent one such option. The Government’s support for this hugely important sector is clear from the increase in the number of PLC places by 60% since 1996-97. The number of PLC places approved for 2005-06 is up by more than 1,600 on the 2004-05 level. The number of approved places in the sector now stands at 30,188.

Government support for the sector is evident not only in the expansion of approved places and teachers, but also in the introduction of maintenance grants for students with effect from September 1998. Tuition fees for PLC courses are waived. The PLC maintenance grant scheme operates on the same basis as in higher education. There are nearly 8,000 PLC grant holders in 2005 and they will receive some €23 million in direct support. Other developments funded by my Department of direct benefit to the PLC sector include the provision of national certification under the Further Education and Training Awards Council and the development of progression links with higher education in the institutes of technology. Government commitment to the sector, by reference to the resources applied in teachers’ pay, non-pay running costs, student support and certification costs, is very significant.

The McIver report contains 21 over-arching recommendations, incorporating 91 sub-recommendations. Having regard to the number and scope of the recommendations in the report, extensive consultations have been held with management and staff interests on issues such as the prioritisation of recommendations, the structural changes envisaged in the report and their implications and associated costs in the context of the overall provision of resources for further and adult education. Active consideration is being given to all the issues involved. While this work is ongoing, extra investment has been provided in the 2006 Estimates to develop the PLC sector further and to improve supports for other aspects of further and adult education.

PLC students are included in the calculation of non-pay budgets issued to schools in respect of [1187]running costs. A supplemental non-pay grant towards running costs specifically for PLC schools is also payable. This will amount to €5.5 million in 2005. The 2006 Estimates include provision for the cost of the extra 100 teaching posts being provided for the post-leaving certificate courses in the current academic year. They also provide for an increase of 19% in the VTOS non-pay grant in 2006.

This Government has shown a sustained determination to expand and improve further and adult education over recent years. We believe strongly in the value of this sector and will continue to prioritise it for resources and supports in the years ahead.

Ms Enright:  I am surprised to hear the Minister of State saying she will continue to prioritise this issue, as it has not been prioritised to date. Is the Government committed to establishing further education colleges as a distinct sector of education? These are caught in a no-man’s land at the moment, as they are neither second level nor third level, but in between. Will the implementation of the McIver report be negotiated at this time? I do not accept that negotiations are in place regarding the report. What is the timeframe for the implementation of the McIver report?

I remind the Minister of State that the report was commissioned by her Department. In effect, therefore, the recommendations in it were sought by the Department. Does the Minister agree the sector cannot go forward without the proper implementation of this report? We will probably get to the issue of funding later, and the Minister of State has mentioned extra numbers. My concern is with the structure of the further education sector. It is not just about numbers but about providing a proper, dedicated and distinct sector.

In terms of the PLCs, one of the principal recommendations in the McIver report is that the name PLC perhaps should not be used. Many students have not done their leaving certificate, so they are not post-leaving certificate students.

My concerns relate to the timeframe, implementation and whether the Department is committed to the further education colleges as a distinct sector.

Miss de Valera:  The Deputy has asked if the Government is really interested in the question of adult and further education, and the statistics I have already provided prove we have a distinct responsibility which we recognise. We are supportive of the area of adult and further education.

There are 21 over-arching recommendations in the McIver report and no less than 91 sub-recommendations. The cost of these recommendations would amount to €48 million. That is not a figure I have picked from my head, but was agreed not only by the Department of Education and Science but the IVEA and the TUI. This figure excludes any capital costs. When we seek that [1188]amount of money, we must consider what are the priorities in the recommendations. We have been in extensive consultation with the management and staff interests regarding the proposed structural changes. The proposals in the McIver report will bring about distinctive changes within adult and further education. We must consider the implementations and costings of these. The best way forward on this issue is through consultation on the prioritisation of these recommendations.

With regard to the implementation of the McIver report, there will be significant industrial relations and pay implications, and these are to the fore in the report. There will also be a potential impact of the reduction in teaching hours on other levels of the education system. We recognise that further and adult education is an important part of education as a whole, and the Government recognises the White Paper on lifelong learning. We are constantly pushing the importance of implementing lifelong learning with regard to policies within education. At the same time we must study the implications of the McIver report across the educational system.

Ms Enright:  What is the timeframe?

Miss de Valera:  When referring to the timeframe we must first refer to prioritisation which can be achieved only through consultation. I do not have €48 million to hand. We would love to be in a position to say we would implement it straight away but we are being realistic and honest in saying that we need to prioritise to ensure——

Ms Enright:  The Minister of State has not even started to do that.

Miss de Valera:  Extensive consultation has been taking place. This will involve radical changes in respect of management and staff interests. These decisions cannot be taken by the Department of Education and Science alone. There are significant industrial relations issues to be discussed in the context of further and adult education.

We must consider the cost implications of the development of separate capital specifications for the PLC sector. The opportunity for further capital investment arises when we discuss further and adult education. The €48 million, however, excludes that capital investment which puts the issue in context. As resources become available we must prioritise the issues that can be achieved only through significant consultation with the sector involved.

Ms O’Sullivan:  I did not hear the Minister of State give a commitment to implement the McIver report so I will repeat Deputy Enright’s question. Is the Government committed to implementing the McIver report?

[1189]I am concerned at the sweep of the Minister of State’s answer which draws in other aspects of adult education. We want to see a distinctive, separate further education sector, that would be properly funded, as indicated in the McIver report, and properly structured.

Is the Minister of State aware, for example, that these colleges do not have adequate funding for technical support, librarians, canteens and the facilities regularly available to other post leaving certificate third level students? St. John’s Central College in Cork, which has more than 1,000 students, has no librarian. Instead, it has a part-time information officer. An equivalent institute of technology has 11 librarians and library technicians. In my city, Limerick, the PLC college has 300 computers and no technician. Does the Minister of State understand the pressure in the PLC and further education colleges?

Compared with investment in the higher education sector in this year’s budget, €48 million is a small sum. The people to whom we have spoken in the past week or two are willing to consult but they want a commitment to implementation. There will be no bother in the consultation with regard to implementation but can the Minister of State give us the commitment that there will be a timeframe and the McIver report will be implemented over a specific period?

While I am aware the Minister of State does not have a funding net for this year, under the student support services fund she would have some facility to begin to implement the report by providing extra funding for the services I have mentioned.

Miss de Valera:  We would like to be in a position to implement the recommendations of the report. We must prioritise them because I do not have the €48 million to hand. When discussing further and adult education it is important to consider the scope of education in that sector. I do not accept the Deputy’s comment that I gave a sweeping answer on this matter. In addition to considering the PLC sector which is a very important element but is only one aspect of adult and further education——

Ms O’Sullivan:  I am not asking about the other elements.

Miss de Valera:  I am responsible for the whole issue of further and adult education. I am concerned with the PLCs where there have been significant increases, even in the creation of 100 posts for that sector. I am also responsible however for the adult literacy group, VTOS, youthreach, senior Traveller training, the back to education initiative. To take one figure alone, more than 33,873 people avail of adult literacy courses. The PLC is the next largest group comprising 30,188 students. I must attend not only to those large groupings but to VTOS, Youthreach [1190]and senior Traveller groups which have specific needs in respect of disadvantage.

The McIver report was prompted by the pressures on the PLC sector especially where the numbers attending the centres exceed 150. I understand those issues, particularly because that area is growing significantly as we try to encourage further training and education. It is amazing to see the scale of that growth. That is why in my initial reply I detailed the major improvements made in the PLC sector. It is not sufficient, however to consider it in isolation from other elements of adult and further education. I am responsible for other elements too.

  3.  Mr. Crowe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 on being admitted to a dedicated autism unit (details supplied) in County Kildare ended up with less individual tuition and a complete cut in home tuition; her views on whether this is a poor outcome when the unit is a dedicated autism treatment centre. [39917/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The home tuition scheme is primarily intended to provide compensatory instruction for pupils who have a medical ailment that is likely to cause major disruption to their attendance at school. My Department provides home tuition grants in respect of pupils who cannot attend school at all, or who are absent for a significant proportion of the school year. The Department also sanctions home tuition in cases where children await a suitable school placement.

The child to whom the Deputy refers was previously placed in a special school and availed of a number of hours home tuition grant each week to facilitate her access to the applied behavioural analysis, ABA, method of intervention.

At this stage the child has enrolled in the autism centre to which the Deputy refers. This centre provides tuition to children with autism predominantly through the ABA method. In the circumstances there is no longer any reason a home tuition grant would also be necessary.

The Department provides funding to the autism centre in question on the basis of one tutor for every child enrolled. In the circumstances I am satisfied this centre is sufficiently well resourced to provide whatever level of one to one support is required for this child.

At this stage, I advise the parents of this child to raise the issue of the centre providing their child with an appropriate level of one to one support directly with the centre. It is important that parents engage directly with the people responsible for the education of their children on an ongoing basis, whether in respect of children placed in mainstream primary schools, or in the type of autism centre to which the Deputy refers.

[1191]Mr. Crowe:  I raised the issue of this child because it seemed odd that, on the one hand, the child went to an unsuitable school in Palmerston where she received five hours tuition a day whereas at the suitable school she receives only three hours tuition a day. This will be gradual. The child also received home tuition on the basis that she was in an unsuitable school. She now receives fewer hours' tuition.

It seems arbitrary that since the child has been placed in a new school she is no longer entitled to home tuition. Is the Minister aware of the importance of a routine for a child, particularly one with autism? Would the Minister consider this area again and whether the activity is called home tuition or home support the tuition time for children in similar situations could be reduced gradually. In this case, however the child seems to lose out by going to a suitable school.

This school in Kildare was not listed on the Department’s website. The parents found it. Maybe that has changed since and the details are on the site. The system seems to be very arbitrary. The home tuition should be provided when the child is in an unsuitable school but in this situation the child moved to a suitable school yet receives fewer hours’ tuition. It does not add up.

Ms Hanafin:  Deputy Crowe has raised several issues. Irrespective of whether the child moved from one school to another the tuition grant would have been stopped for the first school because we hold the view that school-based education provision is the most appropriate intervention for all children, including those with special educational needs. Where a child is attending full-time education, there is no need for the home tuition grant to be awarded. In the case in question, it is not because the child moved but because the child is in full-time education.

The Deputy said the parents have a particular concern about the number of hours of one-to-one tuition the child is receiving in the school. I find this curious because the particular facility the child is attending has funding for 33 adults at €1.18 million per year. Our records, however, show only 27 children are attending. With 33 adults and 27 children, there is no reason the child would not be able to get the one-to-one attention normally given in these centres. There is a whole applied behaviour analysis method in providing one-to-one tuition. I suggest the parents talk to the centre to see, with that number of staffing and children, why the child is not getting the one-to-one attention they feel the child deserves.

  4.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the steps she will take to ensure multi-denominational education is available as a choice for children throughout the country; and if [1192]she will make a statement on the matter. [40018/05]

Ms Hanafin:  There is an open and transparent process in place for the recognition of new primary schools. A central element of this process is that patron bodies wishing to establish new schools must identify the level of demand for the provision of education under the ethos proposed and that potential enrolment will meet certain minimum targets. Under this process all patron bodies are treated on an equal footing regardless of whether they are denominational, inter-denominational or multi-denominational.

The system was streamlined following recommendations made by the commission on school accommodation. As part of the process, the new schools advisory committee, an independent body, assesses all applications for recognition against published criteria. It conducts an open and transparent public consultation process as part of this assessment. The committee’s annual programme of work culminates in a report to the Minister with recommendations on the granting of recognition to applicants. I am happy to support all new schools where it has been demonstrated to be in accordance with the criteria that a demand exists.

This process has resulted in the establishment of a significant number of new multi-denominational primary schools in recent years. For example, of the 24 new schools granted provisional recognition in the past three years alone, 12 are multi-denominational.

At post-primary level, a long established network of non-denominational schools exists within the VEC system. Earlier this week, I announced a range of increased supports for primary school management bodies and for newly established primary schools. Included in the package of measures is a threefold increase in the grant paid to Educate Together from just over €40,000 to €120,000 per annum.

I have also recognised specific issues that arise in school start-ups. This has particular significance for the management of multi-denominational schools given the number of such schools that have been established in recent years or any future schools that Educate Together may open.

I have decided to provide a training grant of €10,000 for the boards of management and staff of new primary schools established from this year onwards. I have also provided a training grant of €5,000 for boards of management and staff where the school is in the second year of operation. The principal teacher is to be appointed in advance of the school opening so that he or she can assist in the preparation for the first year of its operation. These measures are a strong indication of my commitment to supporting an educational diversity agenda, including multi-denominational education provision.

[1193]Ms Enright:  I welcome the recently announced funding for multi-denominational schools. The Minister will accept that choice by its nature means cost but there is a growing number of people who want the option of choosing multi-denominational or non-denominational schools for their children. In some areas, there are existing schools with empty classrooms as parents are choosing for one reason or other to send their children to other schools. With growing choices, this trend will increase. While I appreciate it is a difficult area, has the Minister had negotiations with church bodies in using classrooms in existing schools for multi-denominational schools?

Ms Hanafin:  The sector in question is the fastest growing category in the primary school area. In 1997, there were only 18 multi-denominational schools, while now the figure has more than doubled to 39. When one sees the census returns and the growing multiculturalism of our society, this demand will continue to grow. The first priority for the Department of Education and Science is to ensure a sufficient number of places exist to meet demand. While diversity is desirable, it can only come after ensuring sufficient places to meet demand.

As Deputy Enright pointed out, where new schools have developed, it has often been at the expense of an existing school. In some areas, those schools have amalgamated to free up a building to be made available to a Gaelscoil or an Educate Together school. However, this initiative must come from the patrons as the Department cannot tell schools to do so. There has been some good co-operation in various areas. It must be borne in mind, however, that the existing schools probably objected to the new schools opening in the first place on the basis that they would lose numbers, which is precisely what has happened. Obviously, there could be tensions on the ground.

We want to see the best use of school accommodation, particularly in city areas where sites are extraordinarily expensive. Some co-operation has been achieved in this sensitive area. Enormous strides have been made in supporting the new schools that have been built. The Department has worked in new development areas. Local authorities, such as Fingal County Council, have been proactive with the Department in securing sites and not leaving it to the new patron bodies of schools. For example, the Educate Together school in Griffeen Valley, west Dublin, was built in ten months.

  5.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the allocation system for resource teachers for children with special needs is weighed against small disadvantaged schools for example inner city schools; the steps she is taking to rectify same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39687/05]

Ms Hanafin:  The general allocation of learning support-resource teachers to schools is intended to cater for children with learning support and high incidence special educational needs. Learning support-resource teacher allocations are based on pupil numbers, taking into account the differing needs of the most disadvantaged schools and the evidence that boys have greater difficulties than girls in this regard.

Disadvantaged schools eligible for additional staffing under the Giving Children an Even Break scheme have a preferential pupil-teacher allocation ratio of 80:1. Small schools have also been given preferential pupil-teacher ratios under the general allocation compared to larger schools.

The new system has several benefits associated with it, among which are that it facilitates early intervention as the resource is in place when the child enrols. It puts resources in place on a more systematic basis, thereby giving schools more certainty about their resource levels. It is also reduces the need for individual applications and supporting psychological assessments and allows flexibility to school management in the deployment of resources.

It is intended that a review of the general allocation model will be undertaken within three years of operation. While I am satisfied the general allocation system has been welcomed by the majority of schools, officials from the Department of Education and Science have recently discussed the concerns of a small number of north inner city Dublin schools with the Irish National Teachers Organisation. The school authorities are advised that they may send material that they feel supports a case for the allocation of additional special needs supports in respect of pupils with high and low-incidence special educational needs and learning support requirements to the Department. Departmental officials will consider each case on an individual basis and convey the outcome of this consideration to the relevant school authority as soon as possible thereafter.

Significant supports are made available to certain schools under disadvantaged programmes, including more favourable pupil-teacher ratios. These 15 schools enjoy exceptionally favourable pupil-teacher ratios, ranging from 6.9:1 to 14.7:1 with the average pupil-teacher ratio being 10:1.

A key element of the new action plan for educational inclusion, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, is the putting in place of a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage in our primary and second level schools. This is for the purposes of qualifying for resources, both human and financial, according to the degree of disadvantaged experienced. This standardised system will replace all existing arrangements for targeting schools for participation in initiatives to address disadvantage. The new action plan aims to ensure the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and [1195]effectively addressed and will involve an additional annual investment of €40 million on full implementation.

  4 o’clock

Mr. Gregory:  Will the Minister answer the specific question? Does she accept that small disadvantaged inner city schools have a real and genuine difficulty with the current allocation of special needs teachers? I am disappointed that in recent written replies to my parliamentary questions, the Minister failed to answer which nine schools had lost special needs teachers. The INTO was able to answer the question for me in one hour. Is the Minister aware that schools serving Sheriff Street, Summerhill, Ballybough, O’Devaney Gardens and Dorset Street, areas located in the heart of drug task force areas which are by-words for disadvantage and in which school teachers, parents and children experience major difficulties, have lost special needs teachers in the past year, despite the fact the children for whom the teachers in question catered were immediately replaced by other children who are not now being catered for?

Will the Minister please consider meeting, as a group, the nine principals of the schools concerned? I am confident that if she was fully informed on this issue——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy should ask a question. We are running out of time.

Mr. Gregory:  ——and listened to people working on the front line, she would rectify the problem without waiting for any review.

Ms Hanafin:  I have already met some of the principals, boards of management and other relevant individuals from some of the schools in the north inner city to which the Deputy referred.

Mr. Gregory:  That is not what I asked. Will she meet the nine principals as a group?

Ms Hanafin:  The Deputy stated the schools in question are losing numbers. I note these schools have pupil-teacher ratios of 10.5:1, 10:1, 8:1——

Mr. Gregory:  That is irrelevant to the question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Allow the Minister to continue without interruption.

Ms Hanafin:  It is not irrelevant because the Deputy asked whether I accept the areas he mentioned are disadvantaged.

Mr. Gregory:  The Minister is not replying to my question. She is diverting attention from it.

Ms Hanafin:  The Department accepts they are disadvantaged which is the reason they have secured such high teacher-pupil ratios. Our objec[1196]tive is to encourage participation in the education system. The pupil-teacher ratio in one of the schools referred to is 6.9 to one. In light of the requests received, the Department asked the schools to submit details of individual cases. These have not yet been received but as soon as information is supplied by the individual schools on the children Deputy Gregory stated have joined the schools and need assistance, the schools will receive additional allocations if it is found they have children with low incidence, as is the case with other schools all over the country.

Mr. Gregory:  Why did the schools in question lose teachers last year?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Please allow the Minister to continue without interruption.

Ms Hanafin:  The Department is awaiting details from the schools and as soon as these are received——

Mr. Gregory:  The Minister is over-burdening schools with bureaucracy and removing teachers.

Ms Hanafin:  All the Department is asking for is details from the schools regarding who the children are and what they need. That information has not been received and as soon as it comes——

Mr. Gregory:  All I am asking is that the Minister meet the principals.

Ms Hanafin:  I have met some of the relevant principals already.

  6.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if, in view of the fact that a site has been assigned to a school (details supplied) in County Mayo, the school will be included on this year’s schools building list; when this school can expect to open the doors of it’s new building; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39360/05]

Ms Hanafin:  The Deputy appears to have gone to Mayo. He will be aware, however, from responses to previous parliamentary questions that my Department has been actively pursuing the acquisition of a suitable site for the school referred to and I am pleased to inform the House that the property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department regarding site purchase, has agreed the purchase of a suitable site and is awaiting receipt of contracts from the vendor’s solicitor.

[1197]In the budget last week the Minister for Finance provided €3.908 billion in capital funding for the education sector over the next five years, either through direct funding or for delivery using public-private partnerships. This time last year I set out in overall terms my plans for the year ahead and since then, on a rolling basis, I have provided details of individual schools which would benefit under the various strands of the programme. I am adopting a similar approach this year and I will shortly outline my plans for the year ahead under each element of the schools building and modernisation programme. The Deputy will appreciate that within the overall building programme, the timing of an announcement in procuring the new building for this school will depend on the legal finalisation of the site acquisition.

Ms C. Murphy:  I address the Minister on behalf of Deputy Cowley. Is she aware that a particular difficulty arises with regard to the school in question in that the current site must be vacated by 30 June 2006? The school, which has 183 pupils and nine teachers, was given temporary recognition in 1996. In the absence of receipt of confirmation that a permanent site will be available, the school has nowhere to go. If we wait until the schools building programme is announced, the school will not meet the deadline imposed on it.

Ms Hanafin:  Obviously we must wait until the site is legally tied down. The first priority for Deputy Cowley was to ensure we secured a site, a process which has been under way for some time. I am pleased to note a site has been identified and the only remaining issue is the exchange of contracts. Once this has been finalised, it will be possible to consider moving the school.

  7.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she will respond to the sense of betrayal felt by the TUI and its members who work in the further education sector at the failure to allocate funding in the Estimates and budget 2006 to implement the McIver report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39651/05]

  8.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when it is planned to implement the recommendations of the McIver report, in view of the serious concerns expressed by the TUI and others. [39580/05]

  26.  Mr. Deasy    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of recommendations from the McIver report which have been implemented to date in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39549/05]

  60.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when the implementation of [1198]the recommendations in the McIver report will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39168/05]

Miss de Valera:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 8, 26 and 60 together.

The Government believes strongly in the value of this sector and will continue to prioritise it for resources and supports in the years ahead. Improving participation and achievement at every level of education is a key priority. We have put the resources and supports in place to ensure a wide range of course options is available in the further and higher education sectors for young people who wish to continue their studies after second level and people returning to education later in life.

The principal objectives of the measures and programmes funded by my Department in adult and further education are to meet the needs of young early school leavers and provide second chance education for adults and vocational education and training for labour market entrants and re-entrants. To ensure these objectives become a reality, a range of provisions is available in further education. This includes such full-time programmes as Youthreach, senior Traveller training centres, the vocational training opportunities scheme, post-leaving certificate courses and part-time initiatives such as the back to education initiative and the adult literacy and community education schemes. These programmes are funded by my Department and operated and managed primarily by the vocational education committees.

Further education is expanding. For example, in the literacy sector the adult literacy client numbers have increased from 5,000 in 1997 to almost 34,000 in 2005. Post-leaving certificate courses represent another option available within the further education suite. Government support for this important sector is clear from the fact that we have increased the number of PLC places by 60% since 1996-97. The number of PLC places approved for 2005-06 has increased by more than 1,600 on the 2004-05 level. The number of approved places in the sector now stands at 30,188.

Government support for the sector is evident not only in the expansion of approved places and teachers but also in the introduction of maintenance grants for students with effect from September 1998. Tuition fees for PLC courses are waived and the PLC maintenance grant scheme operates on the same basis as in higher education.

The 2006 Estimates include provision for the cost of the extra 100 teaching posts being provided for the post-leaving certificate courses in the current academic year. They also provide for an increase of 19% in the VTOS non-pay grant in 2006. PLC students are included in the calculation of non-pay budgets issued to schools in respect of running costs. A supplemental non-pay grant towards running costs specifically for PLC [1199]schools is also payable. This will amount to €5.5 million in 2005.

Other developments funded by my Department of direct benefit to the PLC sector include the provision of national certification under the Further Education and Training Awards Council and the development of progression links with higher education in the institutes of technology.

The McIver report contains 21 over-arching recommendations, incorporating 91 sub-recommendations. Having regard to the number and scope of the recommendations in the report, extensive consultations have been held with management and staff interests with regard to such issues as the prioritisation of recommendations, structural changes envisaged in the report, their implications and associated costs in the context of the overall provision of resources for further and adult education. Active consideration is being given to all the issues involved. While this work is ongoing, extra investment has been provided in the 2006 Estimates to develop the PLC sector further and improve supports for other aspects of further and adult education.

Ms Shortall:  I listened carefully to the Minister of State’s reply and her response to two earlier priority questions. While I heard a great deal of detail about her areas of responsibility, the questions posed were not answered. What is the exact status of the McIver report? All the education partners who gave time and commitment to contribute to the compilation of the report and signed up to it want an answer. What is the estimated cost of the full implementation of all 21 recommendations?

My third question is for the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin. It is not satisfactory for the Minister of State, Deputy de Valera, to talk about all the different things she has to do within her area of responsibility. A special allocation is required to honour the commitments the Minister and her predecessor gave to implement the McIver report. Is it not time for the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, to take charge of that to ensure funding is provided?

Miss de Valera:  I refute what the Deputy has said about me not answering questions on the McIver report. With respect, the Deputy may not like the answers, but I certainly have directly addressed the issues put to me. I have said this more than once this afternoon, but for the Deputy’s sake I will repeat it. I explained that the cost of the McIver report is €48 million. That figure has not been plucked out of the air, but has been agreed with the Department of Education and Science, the IVEA and the TUI. The figure does not incorporate any capital costs, it is just for non-capital costs.

As regards the implementation of the McIver report, there are financial costs involved and it is a complex area requiring consultation, which is [1200]already under way. A number of other issues also impact on the whole education system. I look forward to co-operating with that sector on the priorities involved. It has been said that I referred to other issues outside the McIver report. I have other responsibilities in the area of adult and further education. Post-leaving certificate courses constitute an important issue which was the basis for the McIver report. There were concerns about the growth in PLC numbers, with some colleges having numbers in excess of 150. The number of approved places this year is 30,188. To deal with the PLC issue, we have introduced maintenance grants, and tuition fees for PLCs have been waived. This year, some 8,000 PLC grant holders will receive €23 million in direct support. National certification under FETAC has been successfully worked out. The national framework for qualifications is important for the adult and further education sector. The latter area has seen a growth in numbers with an extra 100 posts being put in place for PLCs. In addition, we have examined the area of community education facilitators. I have ensured that 35 community education facilitators are in place across the country and they are doing great work within the VEC system. We have also made grants available.

Ms Shortall:  I asked about the status of the McIver report.

Miss de Valera:  Other issues will come to the fore as we progress further, including the national office for access to higher education. Under the recently announced strategic innovation fund, institutes of higher education will be invited to submit proposals to promote access and progression. That is an important issue in discussing further education.

Ms Shortall:  What is the status of the McIver report?

Miss de Valera:  I will say it yet again for the Deputy. The McIver report’s recommendations will cost €48 million, but we do not have that. Therefore we are working on its implementation through consultation, as funds become available.

Ms Shortall:  Does the Minister of State have a timescale?

Miss de Valera:  It will happen as soon as the funds become available. I cannot give the Deputy a timescale today.

Ms Shortall:  It does not sound as if the Minister of State has any kind of commitment to it.

Ms Enright:  Exactly.

Miss de Valera:  There certainly is a commitment. We would not have gone——

[1201]Ms Shortall:  It has been around for several years now.

Miss de Valera:  The Deputy should let me answer. I do not believe in wasting my time or anybody else’s in the sector. There would be no point in having discussions and extensive consultations unless we meant to put those recommendations into action. We must remember that the report has a knock-on effect for the entire education system. There are industrial relations issues that will need a great deal of discussion and consultation with my Department. When we are talking about the PLC provisions——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I must remind the Minister of State that there is a one-minute time limit on supplementary questions and replies.

Miss de Valera:  I am trying to give the fullest answer I can, with your permission, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. It is erroneous to say that there is just one issue for adult and further education.

Ms Shortall:  The Minister of State should provide an answer.

Miss de Valera:  McIver is a very important issue and is recognised as such within the Department. I am continuing to work in consultation with the sector as funds become available.

Ms Shortall:  That is meaningless.

Mr. Gogarty:  On the monitor, I listened with interest to the Minister’s previous responses to priority questions. Any suggestion that this Government is committed to implementing the McIver report is balderdash. The Minister should kill it now and say that, just as the Programme for Government promised to reduce class sizes, it will not be done during this Government’s term in office. She should get it over with and stop giving false hope to thousands of students and the staff involved in further education. It is a political decision and priority is not being given to advance further education and take it out of second level to create its own tier. Its valuable contribution is not being recognised. Will the Minister say that McIver is dead and quit playing political games? The Opposition parties promised that they will implement all the McIver report’s recommendations after the next election.

The Minister referred to the 100 new teaching posts provided for further education colleges. I have tabled a written question about this. Why are these concessionary posts? Why are posts not being filled in the Minister, Deputy Hanafin’s, own constituency? That is a serious indictment for the Minister at local level.

Ms Hanafin:  I do not give preference to my own constituency.

[1202]Mr. Gogarty:  She will have questions to answer about that. How can the Ministers present expect the PLC sector to be treated seriously if it does not have proper equipment or technical know-how? Can they seriously expect it to progress?

Miss de Valera:  I am somewhat confused by the Deputy’s question, which leaves me wondering exactly where the Green Party stands on the McIver report. Does the Deputy want to throw it out?

Mr. Gogarty:  We stand full square behind implementing it.

Miss de Valera:  Rather than making such wild statements, we are interested in trying to work with the sector to ensure that there is implementation.

Mr. Gogarty:  It is as good as dead, given the way the Minister of State is going on.

Miss de Valera:  Perhaps the Deputy should listen. There are 91 sub-recommendations in the McIver report, including recommendations with a significant potential impact. For example, the potential impact of a reduction in teaching hours on other levels of education must be considered, in addition to the cost implications of the development of separated capital specifications for the PLC sector. The potential overlap in provision between institutes of technology and further education must also be examined. We need to be able to work out strategically, through extensive consultation, the further delivery of what is in the McIver report. PLC courses have been growing and we recognise that more people are taking up such places at a later age. As I said in my initial reply, we have been able to ensure 1,600 extra approved places compared to last year. We would demonstrate a great lack of interest and concern if we were not able to ensure the allocation of those extra places. The number of such places has risen 60% since 1997. In addition, we have ensured maintenance grants, and tuition fees have been waived. Grants are also available to no less than 8,000 PLC students. Other issues, including certification and career guidance, have been dealt with. I have a particular interest in such guidance for the adult education sector because I trained as a career guidance counsellor. Pathways of progression are important with regard to PLC courses and other areas, including adult and further education for which I have responsibility. We have done that through the national policy framework——

Ms Shortall:  The time is up.

Miss de Valera:  ——as well as through the guidance, which I have been happy to roll out across the country.

[1203]Ms Shortall:  On a point of order, why is the Minister of State alone in not being time-limited?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I have pointed out a while ago to the Minister of State the one-minute time limit.

Ms Enright:  The Minister of State has spoken of the growth of the further education sector as if she had driven it herself. Effectively, it developed on the cheap. It was driven by those working in it and it has not received any real help from the Government. The Minister of State seems to think it can stay that way. She spoke of consultation, but practically everyone involved sat on the group that produced the McIver report — the IVEA, the joint managerial bodies, the TUI, the STI, the Department itself, and the ACCS. The Minister of State has said that she will have to prioritise. Where is she at, and what kinds of negotiations are ongoing?

Those working in the sector who were outside the gates of Leinster House on budget day were not there for the good of their health but because they do not believe that it is being discussed with them or that any real negotiations are happening. Has the Minister of State made any decisions regarding what will be prioritised? She said to Deputy Shortall that it would depend on when the money became available. Will these negotiations go on until she eventually decides to fund it? No one is necessarily saying that the Minister must release the €48 million immediately, but people want to see a start to the process. If the sum is €48 million now, it will increase the longer she leaves it. People want to see the beginning of an implementation process. Will the Minister of State tell the House when that process will begin, with resources backing it rather than simply talk?

Miss de Valera:  It is not a question of what I prioritise.

Mr. Gogarty:  There is collective responsibility.

Miss de Valera:  I have said time and again that I recognise that a tremendous amount of effort has gone into the report. I thank all those stakeholders involved in the discussions. We will have further discussions along the line until every recommendation in the report has been addressed.

Ms Enright:  When?

Miss de Valera:  I cannot give a timescale for that, nor will I pretend to do so. However, the Government, through the Department of Education and Science, has ensured that it recognises the importance of education for the further and adult sector. The facts that I have highlighted today regarding the PLC sector show very significant improvements this year, and not only in numbers.

[1204]I agree with the Deputy when she says that the Department did not drive the numbers. Of course that is not the case. Needs have been addressed by those delivering the service. In recognition of that, we have ensured a tremendous improvement in the posts available and the number of teachers in the system.

Ms Enright:  What will be prioritised?

Miss de Valera:  The question of prioritisation will not be decided by me unilaterally. It will be a question of further discussions and consultations with the sector. Based on that, we will go forward.

Ms Enright:  They do not know either.

Ms Shortall:  I ask the Minister of State once again the status of the McIver report. She has spoken of prioritising. In fairness to everyone involved, they deserve to be told what kind of timescale the Department is working to. Perhaps she might share with us her expected timescale for the full implementation of the report. Behind all the talk from the Minister of State the problem seems to be that implementation of the McIver report has become lost among the other areas of responsibility. Does the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, accept that it is time to seek a specific funding allocation for the McIver report? Those involved in the process deserve that. If she accepts that, can she also tell the House what specific funding is available for the report this year?

Mr. F. McGrath:  Does the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, understand the sense of betrayal and anger among members of the TUI and in the wider sectoral community regarding the lack of implementation of the McIver report in the 2006 budget? Does she value the major contribution to Irish education made by members of the TUI, who have massively supported the development of the economy, the country and society? I have heard the figure of €48 million raised here today. When one sees that the Dublin Port tunnel has run €300 million over budget or that we have wasted €52 million on electronic voting, how can €48 million be an issue given the great importance of education?

Miss de Valera:  We accept that education is one of the most important issues for Government. That is why I am happy to say that the Department has done extremely well in the Estimates and in the announcements made by the Minister. However, we must ensure that we do not only look at the McIver report, which I consider a very important part of work in adult and further education. When asked about the status of the report, there is a question of prioritisation depending on the Estimates each year. Every Deputy knows that it is so for every issue in every Department. That is how business is run.

[1205]Ms Shortall:  Over what period?

Miss de Valera:  As the Estimates progress.

Ms Shortall:  To what timescale does the Minister of State expect to work? It is not enough to give a vague answer that it may or may not be implemented.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Minister should be allowed to give her reply.

Mr. Gogarty:  If it is not dead, it is on life support.

Miss de Valera:  We will advance the McIver report as money becomes available on the basis of priorities. Do the Deputies expect me to underfund such issues as adult literacy, VTOS, Youthreach, senior Traveller training, PLC and BTEI?

Ms Enright:  We expect her to fund this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We must proceed to Question No. 9.

Ms Shortall:  She should speak to her senior Minister.

Miss de Valera:  I have an envelope of money, and I want to ensure that we advance not only the McIver report but all the other issues for which I have responsibility, including areas of particular disadvantage. We want to ensure that it happens, and I have every confidence that the Government will continue to ensure that moneys are available, not only for the McIver report but for all further and adult education.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We have gone far over the time limit. We must proceed to Question No. 9.

  9.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the percentage of second level students offered a place or enrolling in a third level institution in 2004 and to date in 2005 from schools (details supplied). [39590/05]

  96.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on the disparity in terms of students attending third level from schools in north and south-west Clondalkin compared with those in the Clondalkin village and Lucan areas. [39588/05]

Ms Hanafin:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 96 together.

The information sought by the Deputy regarding participation for the identified areas is not collected by my Department. Since the introduction of free second level education, the average [1206]national participation in third level education among second level school leavers has grown from 11% to a current average of approximately 54%. The gap between those who do not progress to higher education and those who do so is diminishing with each generation.

Early surveys of third level participation showed that some socioeconomic groups and areas in Dublin had low rates of entry to higher education. Recent surveys indicate significant improvements in participation rates from among young people in those groups and areas. That progress has not occurred by chance. It has been due to several key targeted programmes and interventions. The goal of tackling first, second, third level educational disadvantage through community education programmes funded by my Department over the last decade and more has been to achieve tangible improvements in progression and participation among both younger and older cohorts from disadvantaged groups and areas.

Third level access programmes in particular have seen the development of close links between higher education institutions, area partnerships and teachers, parents and students in primary and secondary schools, particularly those located in areas of concentrated socioeconomic disadvantage, through a range of activities and initiatives. Those programmes have encouraged and will continue to encourage more young people to access and participate in higher education. It is envisaged that additional financial support will be available to support strategic and effective access initiatives on the part of higher education institutions through the HEA core funding mechanism for institutions, as well as the strategic innovation fund signalled in last week’s budget, the details of which I announced on 11 December 2005.

The action plan for 2005 to 2007, published last year by the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education, identifies some priority areas for action if we are to achieve further progress. Those include the development and implementation of a national framework of access policies and initiatives to ensure that all disadvantaged schools, areas and communities are linked to the access programmes and routes of entry of at least one higher education institution in their region.

The national office is developing that framework through an evaluation of third level access programmes and initiatives in tandem with a process of mapping the extent of current links. I will ask the national office to examine the issues pertaining to third level access in so far as the wider Clondalkin and west Dublin area is concerned. Increasing numbers of students are also being encouraged and supported in making the choice to participate in higher education by improvements in the higher education grant scheme, with priority for funding being given to students eligible for the top-up grants. It is estimated that [1207]more than €35 million will be spent in 2005 on student access measures through the third level access fund. Those measures include the awarding since 2000 of a higher or top-up level of grant to students from families on low incomes. There is also the student assistance fund which is allocated to students in need through their higher education institution, and the millennium partnership fund which supports the needs of students identified through area partnership and community groups.

Mr. Gogarty:  I asked this question to use the example of the northern part of my constituency, which is a type of microcosm of what is happening in the country. I had access to some of the information which showed that in the Clondalkin village or Lucan areas, there were relatively high levels of access to third level institutions from second level schools but in north Clondalkin, which is a RAPID area, and south west Clondalkin, which is particularly affected because it is not in a RAPID area — I hope the DEIS programme will sort that out — it is clear that within 800 metres there are huge disparities in terms of the numbers of students going to third level. That presents serious difficulties in terms of the future costs, economically as well as social, to the people and families concerned.

Does the Minister believe the narrowing of the gap is taking place too slowly? Whatever about access programmes to third level in second level institutions, will she acknowledge that in trying to tackle both the social and financial difficulties that lead to children losing interest in or aptitude for third level by the time they enter second level, much more needs to be done at the start of the education system? By that I mean rolling out the Early Start programme in all disadvantaged areas, providing more funding for the National Educational Welfare Board, the statutory body enabled to target families and identify the problems to ensure that the children who stay in school in the crucial early years benefit from the education system and are in a position to continue on to third level.

The problem is that students leave school at the time of the junior certificate or even before that, and by that time the battle has been lost. Will the Minster acknowledge that a serious disparity still exists and that increased investment at primary level, parallel to the announcement on the so-called fourth PhD level, is also needed?

Ms Hanafin:  I accept that when there are huge disparities in participation rates they must be addressed. We have some of the figures for Clondalkin that the Deputy referred to because of the distinct postal district and we were able to identify the Clondalkin-Neilstown area. I realise the numbers are lower but at least the trend is encouraging because the admissions rate went from 11% to 19%, which is a huge jump in a very [1208]short period. That was from 1998 to 2003, and it is something that must be built on.

The Deputy is right that starting at the primary school level is the right way to proceed. There are a number of access programmes directly between the colleges and the primary schools but more significant are initiatives like the school completion programme, which links primary schools with secondary schools. In the Clondalkin area alone, €911,000 was spent last year just on the school completion programme in making those links and encouraging young people to stay in school. With the roll-out of the disadvantaged plan and DEIS, we will be focusing on pre-school education and smaller class sizes for all classes. We must recognise in particular that it has as much to do with what happens outside as inside the school and the family literacy and family support programmes, and the out of school, after school and summer activities can be just as important in keeping young people interested and involved in education.

There is one aspect which was particularly significant last year and this year, that is, to have a separate route for people from disadvantaged areas into teacher training colleges. In September 2004, St. Patrick’s College in Drumcondra operated an alternative entry for up to 20 students, 5% of its first year, from 30 designated disadvantaged schools. Mary Immaculate College in Limerick operated an alternative entry route from this year. If we can get teachers from the area to teach in those schools, they will probably be the greatest role model for those young people. Those are the types of initiatives that can be very encouraging. I accept what the Deputy is saying. The earlier we start the more likely we are to increase the levels. While the figures may be low, at least the trend is in the right direction and that is encouraging.

  10.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the YES consultation process has been evaluated within her Department; the measures which will be implemented or changes made as a result of the consultation process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39655/05]

Ms Hanafin:  The YES consultation process was launched in January 2004, when the discussion document, Your Education System, was published. The process has included a range of meetings, including 17 public meetings, at which people were invited to put forward their views on education. Written submissions were also invited by post and by e-mail. There has been a very considerable level of public participation in the process. For instance, in the region of 5,000 people have attended meetings and 300 contributions were e-mailed to the website for the process. A [1209]public attitudinal survey was conducted in June-July 2004.

Seven people have acted as trustees for the process in order to protect its integrity. Key elements of the process, including all reporting, the conduct of the public attitudinal survey and the management of the website, have been managed within the Educational Research Centre, rather than by my Department.

A report on the overall process has been drafted. I expect that the final report will be presented to me early in 2006, after which it will be published. The report will reflect the various views expressed throughout the consultation, both anecdotally at the meetings and in written submissions and also the statistical information gathered through the public attitudinal survey.

The intention behind this process was to provide an opportunity to as wide as possible a segment of Irish society to have an input into planning for the medium and long-term development of education in Ireland. The rationale is that the education system impinges on the lives of all people in Ireland and, therefore, it is appropriate to seek their views on it from time to time.

It was never intended that the report reflecting what transacted during the consultation process would be followed by a rigid, formal process of implementation. The report will be the product of the consultation process and it will be available to inform those of us engaged in making medium and long-term policy in the area of education. This will allow the values and attitudes of the public to play a role in the formation of education policy. The need for this is recognised in a number of countries where surveys concerning educational issues are carried out from time to time. The best known of these are probably the annual surveys which have been carried out in the United States by the Gallup organisation since 1969. As far as I can ascertain, the last survey conducted in this country to elicit the views on educational issues of a national sample was in the 1970s so the survey carried out as part of the YES process is a useful update.

Ms Shortall:  I note what the Minister said about the report being available early in the new year. Are there any preliminary findings other than talking about the process? Will the Minister outline any of the headline issues that have come out and an idea of the overall cost of the project initiated by her predecessor? Where does the Minister see this feeding into her policy and the course she is taking this year or does she see it influencing it?

Ms Hanafin:  I was very conscious that when a process like this has been undertaken, which involved so many members of the public, it would be important for it to feed into policy making. The final report is not available and we do not even have preliminary findings from the process but what we have is the valuable views of the [1210]Irish public on education, which is the survey that has been published. That provides us with useful information on a range of subjects which I have often dipped into, even recently. Deputies will be aware that at the time the process took place one of the major issues for schools was the area of special needs, and that tended to dominate some of the meetings at the time. Much of that has since been addressed.

The overall cost arising from the public consultation process is €760,142, which covers printing, launching, advice, the setting up meetings etc., the Educational Research Centre for its secretariat and the cost of the survey. Because the report came from an eminent group of independent trustees, including people such as Mary Davis, Dr. Garret FitzGerald etc., and working through the Educational Research Centre, it was out of our hands, but now that that process is almost complete, I look forward to publishing the report in the new year.

Ms Enright:  Will the report be available to the wider public? The Minister was not the Minister responsible at the time but I attended some of the meetings and, naturally, the people tended to be those with vested interests — teachers or parents of special needs children. Will the report reflect not just the views of the public but those of parents and teachers or a particular organisation so that we will be clear on the thinking?

Ms Hanafin:  The honest answer is that I do not know, but with the calibre of the trustees responsible for it, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, Dr. Pádraig Hogan, Dr. Barry McGaw from the OECD, Dame Geraldine Keegan, Ned Sullivan, Dr. Catherine Sweeney and Mary Davis, they will ensure that the process has integrity and that the report reflects what happened. Some the findings and views in the report, such as those dealing with special educational needs, may already be out of date. This will allow us to objectively examine the other issues that were raised and we can also use the survey, which is quite useful on a range of issues, with a view to feeding it in to policy, rather than it being the policy itself.

Mr. Gogarty:  The Minister could dip into and extract best practices from this report, which is distinct from the McIver report. Has the Department set out a timeframe within the lifetime of the current Government for the implementation of a number of key proposals in the report once it is published?

Ms Hanafin:  I do not believe there will be any proposals and I will not accept any presented to me. There are no recommendations in the report, which simply reports on a consultation process which took place. The report ascertained the views of people who attended public meetings and the views of the public. There will be no proposals or recommendations to be accepted.

  11.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the way in which she proposed to deploy the 500 extra teachers announced recently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39671/05]

  16.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress she expects to make in 2006 in reaching the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government to reduce class sizes for under nines to 20:1 or less; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39680/05]

  22.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the way in which she intends to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in Kildare at primary level in view of the fact that it is the highest in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39344/05]

  100.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her plans to bring pupil-teacher ratios into line with commitments entered into at the general election in 2002; when she expects to bring Irish standards in this regard up to best practice throughout Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39597/05]

Ms Hanafin:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 16, 22 and 100 together.

Major improvements in school staffing have been made in recent years with the hiring of more than 5,000 additional primary teachers. This represents the largest increase in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. The annual estimated value of the additional expenditure on these posts is over €200 million. In 1996-97, the average class size in our primary schools was 27; it is now 24. In 1996-97, there was one teacher for every 22 children in our primary schools, while today, there is one teacher for every 17 children, which the lowest pupil-teacher ratio in the history of the State.

Aside from decreasing average class size, the unprecedented increase in school staffing in recent years has also greatly improved the services provided for children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas. Under the action plan for tackling disadvantage published earlier this year, there will be a reduction in class sizes of 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in 150 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. With more than 600 extra resource teachers allocated this term and 5,000 teachers assigned to children with special needs and learning difficulties — a figure that represents one in five teachers — children with special needs are getting more support than ever before. It should be acknowledged how much progress has been made in this area in recent years.

[1212]There is more to be done to reduce class sizes. I recently announced that I have secured sufficient funding to provide even smaller classes in our primary schools in the next school year and the Minister for Finance has committed to a further reduction in class size in the following year. Accordingly, over the next two years, my Department will put 500 extra teachers into our schools to reduce class size and to tackle disadvantage. This will be done by changing the staffing schedule. The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by applying the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year to a staffing schedule, which is issued annually to all primary schools.

The general rule is that the schedule provides at least one classroom teacher for every 29 pupils in the school. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that, with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases, but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the school. Next year, this will be reduced to 28 children per classroom teacher and in 2007-08, it will be reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher. Officials of my Department are currently drawing up the revised staffing schedule necessary to achieve this. Schools will be asked to use the extra class teachers provided as a result of the revised schedule to provide for smaller classes in the junior grades.

In speaking about staffing in our schools, we have consistently said that priority would be given in the first instance to children in disadvantaged schools and those with special needs. We have done this and, in line with the Government commitment, mainstream class sizes are also being reduced.

Ms Shortall:  I am slightly confused by the Minister’s response. She stated the majority of teachers will be allocated to tackle educational disadvantage.

Ms Hanafin:  This would have been the case in the past.

Ms Shortall:  Will the 500 teachers be deployed across the board to reduce pupil-teacher ratios?

Ms Hanafin:  The staffing schedule applies to mainstream schools throughout the country, with the most disadvantaged schools receiving more favourable treatment.

Ms Shortall:  How many of the additional 500 teachers does the Minister expect to be deployed next year?

Ms Hanafin:  I expect at least 200 and possibly up to 300 teachers to be deployed next year.

Ms Enright:  Is there sufficient capacity in school buildings to accommodate these teachers? [1213]Will they have classrooms in which to work? This is a genuine concern.

Ms Hanafin:  If any school informs me that it does not have sufficient room for an extra teacher, I will advise it to wait until the next year if it does not wish to take on the new teacher.

Ms Enright:  I am being serious.

Ms Hanafin:  I suggest that schools would be happy enough to take on extra teachers even if they do not have the space for them. Of course, it will place capital demands on schools, which we have anticipated. We will be forced to build more classrooms as the schedule is reduced. This will take place in the context of the capital programme. However, if any school does not want its extra teacher and would prefer to wait for a classroom, it can do so but I do not think it is likely.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 21 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Rabbitte — the implications of the resignation from the National Drugs Strategy Team of the sole community representative, Fergus McCabe; (2) Deputy Enright — to call on the Minister to explain how she intends to provide proper permanent accommodation at Tullamore college; (3) Deputy Costello — the need for the Minister to add mother and child “feeder type” institutions which transfer children to institutions already designated in the schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 for the purpose of the Redress Board; (4) Deputy Eamon Ryan — to ask the Minister to report on the outcome of the negotiations that have recently concluded in Montreal under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and to report what future actions will be required of the Government as a result of agreement reached; (5) Deputy Gogarty — the need to ensure tighter legislation to protect domestic animals from mistreatment including new legislative protection for cats, similar to the Control of Dogs Act; (6) Deputy Broughan — the need to introduce legislation to prevent the displacement of Irish workers which is now happening throughout the economy including in a company (details supplied); (7) Deputy O’Dowd — the Minister’s views on the decision of the Health Service Executive to close the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda; and (8) Deputy Lynch — the Minister’s plans to resolve the problems facing parents of students attending or hoping to attend Coláiste an Chroí Naofa, Carraig na bhFear, County Cork.

The matters raised by Deputies O’Dowd, Broughan, Rabbitte and Eamon Ryan have been selected for discussion.

Mr. O’Dowd:  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter. I was amazed to read in The Irish Times last week that Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda was closing and that the new hospital “would not be built in the Drogheda borough area”. This flies in the face of everything stated on the record by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. However, the fact that this story appeared in The Irish Times lent credibility to it. There are forces working to get Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital moved to a new location but the people of Drogheda will not allow this to happen. No Fianna Fáil Deputy or election candidate will receive votes in Drogheda if the Government attempts to move this hospital.

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is a centre of excellence in the north east, although Deputy Kirk does not seem to be aware of it as he has called for such a centre to be established. The feasibility study examined some of the issues surrounding the building of a new hospital on the same site or moving it elsewhere. The Health Service Executive owns a 16-acre site within the borough of Drogheda on which the new hospital can be built. If the hospital must be moved from the existing site, this should be the first site considered for the new hospital as it is the best.

Over 52 consultants work in the Health Service Executive, north eastern region, 40 of whom work in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. It is, therefore, clear that Drogheda contains a regional centre of excellence which employs the best and largest number of consultants in the north east. The hospital provides a regional service to the former North Eastern Health Board area and Balbriggan and its hinterland. There is no justification for moving the hospital from Drogheda.

A total of 1,500 people in various grades and occupations are employed by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. It would not make sense to move these jobs anywhere else. I wish to put a marker down. There will be no votes for the Government in Drogheda and its hinterland if an attempt is made to move Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital from the area in which it is currently situated.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Killeen):  I will be taking the Adjournment on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank Deputy O’Dowd for raising this matter as it provides an opportunity to outline to the House the position with regard to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

[1215]Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. The Health Service Executive has advised the Department that there are no immediate plans to close Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. I take this opportunity to outline to the House the background to recent media reports.

In 2002, the former North Eastern Health Board established a steering group to oversee an examination of all five acute sites in that region. A project team was appointed for each hospital site, which included members of the medical and nursing staff of each hospital. With regard to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, the steering group decided to commission a site feasibility study, given the particular nature of the site.

Last year, a design team was appointed to establish the feasibility of the site to cater for current priorities and future requirements. The study has now been completed. The Health Service Executive has advised that the conclusions of the study are, given the likely disruption over a prolonged period and the additional costs associated with major development on the current site of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. It is now necessary to examine the costs and benefits of developing hospital services on alternative sites.

With regard to current hospital services, the Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that it is seeking to progress significant interim developments at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. In this regard, developments are proposed in theatres, CSSD, pathology, physical medicine, pharmacy and radiology. The extension and upgrade of the accident and emergency facilities at the hospital is underway and is scheduled to be completed next year.

In conclusion, the findings of the recent feasibility study will help to inform future planning in respect of the development of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. Proposals in this regard must be progressed by the national hospitals office of the Health Service Executive in the context of its development plans for the region.

Mr. Broughan:  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this important matter. I also raised this issue yesterday with the Taoiseach. Earlier this week, Senator Tuffy and I met a large delegation of hauliers and drivers from Roadstone plc. These hauliers and drivers have contracts to deliver concrete blocks from the company’s facility in Belgard to construction sites in the Dublin region, including the massive new urban region being constructed in my constituency. More than 25 years ago, Roadstone took a decision to abandon direct employment of drivers and to turn them into self-employed contractors [1216]and hauliers. Senior drivers from that era were part of the recent delegation to the Oireachtas that met Labour Party representatives. It now appears, on spurious cost-cutting grounds, the company has bought a fleet of trucks and has brought in a new migrant workforce to drive them. The local workforce now finds that as the days and months go by, its services are requested less and less as the new workers work a six day week. Many of these men have young families, large mortgages and repayments on their vehicles. They are now being placed in a desperate situation. Their valuable experience and local knowledge of the Irish distribution system is effectively being cast aside and they are very fearful for their families’ futures. As several of them repeatedly stressed to Senator Tuffy and me, they welcomed the new workers when they arrived and assisted them with directions and so on around Dublin. However, anyone placed in a situation where his livelihood and family is threatened, might feel opposed to the introduction of foreign workers on those grounds.

Mr. Jim Farrell of Roadstone PLC contacted me a few minutes ago and informed me that the new workers are paid Irish wage rates and that they have good conditions and are unionised. Mr. Farrell effectively threatened me not to come into the House and raise this issue. I find that a very sinister development. As Members know, it is our absolute right, given by the electorate, to come into the House and give our opinions about any subject we feel needs to be aired. It is my duty, as it was the duty of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle throughout his long great career, to stand up for the rights of workers who were in difficulties. The fears and concerns of the local workforce I met last Tuesday were palpable. They really believe they are being phased out. The recent Irish Ferries struggle has highlighted the widespread phenomenon of the displacement of Irish workers across the economy, often replaced by lower paid workers from abroad. Besides the maritime and construction areas, we have had similar reports from the hospitality industry, the retail distribution industry and across food processing, fishing and farming.

The Taoiseach, the president of SIPTU and the general secretary of ICTU have all said that if we are to have a new social partnership, we must come up with some approaches to regulating the treatment of our migrant workers to ensure that they get decent wages and conditions and to ensure that there is no simple replacement of experienced, decent, hard working Irish workers by a new workforce, allegedly at lower rates of pay. This must be a key concern in any forthcoming talks in social partnership. I would expect the Minister of State, who is from a similar background to many of us, to take a strong stand to ensure that Irish workers are not treated badly and do not end up fearful for their jobs.

[1217]Mr. Killeen:  I thank the Deputy for raising this issue and for taking very seriously the points he made regarding the approaches made to him. Ireland is now part of a closely integrated European labour market. On the occasion of the most recent enlargement of the EU in May 2004, the Government decided that, because of the very buoyant economy and the continuing need for labour force participants from overseas, the Irish labour market should be fully opened to nationals from the new member states. A corollary of this was that the number of new work permits issued for non-EU nationals has been reduced very significantly since EU enlargement. Irish employers are now free to hire personnel from any of the 25 member states and Irish workers are free to seek employment elsewhere in the European Union on the same basis.

This economy remains very buoyant and there are plenty of opportunities here for Irish and other EU workers. We continue to enjoy what is, effectively, full employment. The existence of a large labour market is one factor helping to attract high-quality investment from abroad, which is essential for the continuing modernisation of the economy and the related opportunities for young people coming into the labour market. We already have a comprehensive body of employment rights legislation which has among its objectives the protection of employees against arbitrary behaviour by employers. Usually, one would expect the composition of a workforce to reflect the broad population of the local catchment area, provided appropriate personnel are available for the specific vacancies arising. However, as far as Ireland is concerned there is now an EU labour market and nationals of other member states have the same right and freedom to come and work in Ireland as do Irish nationals. Accordingly, employers can choose to hire such workers without regard to nationality. It is important that this be appreciated.

I view with great concern the potential social implications of the displacement of workers on established conditions in favour of those willing to do the same jobs on much poorer conditions. The Taoiseach is on record as stating that we want to see greater productivity and enhanced competitiveness based on new products and services, up-skilling of staff, new work practices and technological innovation. We do not want to see people building competitive advantage based on poor wages, casualisation of labour, low health and safety standards or other poor compliance practices. EU workers coming to work in Ireland under a contract of employment are covered by EU Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services. These workers have the same protection under Irish employment rights legislation as their Irish counterparts.

However, a recent development, not just confined to Ireland, has occurred whereby workers from Eastern Europe are being recruited on the [1218]basis of a contract for service, that is, on a self-employed basis. In such circumstances, Irish legislation protecting employees would not apply, as entitlements under such legislation are based on the premise of an employment relationship between an employee and an employer on a contract of service basis. It may be the case that some hauliers from overseas are on a contract for service, that is, on a self-employed basis, as are some Irish hauliers. Any company in Ireland is free to hire whomever it chooses, be it as an employee on a contract of service or on a sub-contract basis, that is, contract for service. This also applies to Irish personnel. Unless the law is being flouted or unless there are abuses of employment rights, there is no basis for the State to interfere in the affairs of private sector companies or to seek to dictate who they might employ from inside the EU, or the amount of business they might give to sub-contractors.

In the light of what I have said, it is important for all workers coming to Ireland to clarify the status of their employment relationship in Ireland for employment rights, social welfare and taxation purposes. I appreciate that the issues arising here are sensitive in light of recent developments in the economy and consequently are likely to come up for consideration in any forthcoming social partnership talks.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Thank you, Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me the opportunity to raise the issue of the resignation of Mr. Fergus McCabe from the National Drugs Strategy team. Mr. McCabe was involved with the foundation of the drugs strategy and the local drugs task forces since I established them, as Minister of State, back in 1996. He has immense experience and the support of the community sector. His enforced resignation is testament to the rift that has developed between the community sector and the statutory agencies and the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern.

When I put the drugs strategy in place in 1996, it was built on the principle of partnership between the community sector and the statutory agencies like the gardaí, the probation service, the health boards, schools and so on. For 30 years before that, the professionals were in charge. For those 30 years, the drugs menace took hold in our communities. When the community sector representatives gave their allegiance, support and active participation to the drugs strategy, we saw the progress that could be made. It is ironic at a time, for example, when cocaine has been linked to the drugs menace cocktail, we should for the first time have a Minister of State who has come into conflict with the community sector. He has followed a course of action that has diminished the influence of the community sector, squeezed out its influence, leading to the resignation of Mr. Fergus McCabe.

  [1219]5 o’clock

We cannot afford this and the Minister of State should know that. I am not arguing that we do not need the involvement of the professionals, far from it, I am merely saying that when the professions were in control over 25 years, we let the drugs menace take hold in this city and it got out of hand. Only when we stopped the exclusion of the community sector did we begin to get a grip on matters and replace conflict with co-operation between the statutory agencies and the community sector. Now all that is threatened by the direction of Government policy being pursued by the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern.

For example, at the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign function yesterday, the organisers who have done so much in this area, as an umbrella for the meeting brought the drug activists together from across the entire city. It was apparent that the emerging needs fund, which has been furnished €1 million by the Minister of State seems to be deliberately designed to diminish the influence of the community sector. It is entirely inadequate, given the emerging needs that we know exist. Clients are being deliberately diverted from community treatment centres to GPs and other arrangements.

In my constituency for example, I am aware there is spare capacity for the first time in some of the community treatment centres, while at the same time clients are being diverted deliberately to GPs and elsewhere. I am aware of a young woman in a wheelchair, for example, who has to travel to what used to be the health board clinic, when she could be accommodated at her adjacent local community treatment centre, where there is a willingness and a track record second to none, in terms of quality, care, understanding of the problem, embeddedness in the community etc.

I do not know why the Minister of State is doing this. I am not here in any partisan or political way. I pay tribute to former Deputy Chris Flood, the man who followed me in that job. Nobody up to the present Minister of State has aggravated the community sector. I do not know why he is doing it, whether he is consciously doing it or does not know he is doing it. After the resignation of Mr. Fergus McCabe he can no longer be unaware of it. I sincerely hope Mr. McCabe’s resignation will force a change in direction in Government policy.

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern):  I thank Deputy Rabbitte for raising the issue and I acknowledge the contribution that Mr. Fergus McCabe has made through his membership as community representative of the national drugs strategy team. He has been involved, as Deputy Rabbitte said, since the start of the drugs issue. His efforts against drugs misuse over many years have been known and that work is greatly appreciated.

[1220]Furthermore, I acknowledge the efforts made by community workers generally, many of them in a voluntary capacity, on the ground over the past ten years or so. That input at local level forms a key part of the Government’s overall efforts against the misuse of drugs.

Drug misuse remains a major challenge for us all. The pain and damage arising from it remains a very real and urgent problem in many communities. Work between the statutory agencies and voluntary communities must go on, as it is doing. There are many encouraging signs as well, as I am sure the Deputy recognises, such as drugs seizures, the expansion of treatment services, targeted prevention programmes and the setting up of the regional drugs task forces. There is no room for complacency, however. It might be more relevant to address some of the points made by the Deputy.

I am not threatening partnership in any way. Co-operation between statutory and voluntary groups is a key strategy for what we are trying to do. I am not threatening, neither do I need to, that which I regard as fundamental to the issue. Mr. McCabe indicated some months ago that he wanted to resign. It may be that he wants to move on or wishes to reduce his involvement which has been considerable over the years. That is a matter for Mr. McCabe. The task forces, however, are doing great work locally.

It is important to emphasise that since Deputy Rabbitte set up the project in 1997, about €200 million has been allocated to support the work. There are a couple of hundred community based projects operating under the young people’s services funds. As regards the professionals being in charge, there are 600 staff working in this area. In Deputy Rabbitte’s early days, I do not believe he ever dreamt that 600 people would be employed under programmes that started through his original plan. Whether one calls them professional they are performing a key role.

The emerging needs fund was proposed last year to deal with emerging need”. Suddenly it has been blown up into a major “round tree” and all sorts of plans have been submitted. Some people do not like the fact that while €1 million was proposed, €9 million worth of projects are being advanced. We cannot meet all those in the short term.

However, there is no breach of trust or partnership whatsoever. I very much want to continue to work as we have been doing. I accept that a campaign has started, for what reason, frankly, I do not know. As regards some of the issues the Deputy spoke about concerning treatment in community clinics, if there are other underlying issues to do with the HSE I would like to have them documented. From the Department’s and my viewpoint, however, I very much believe in working with the community. The work we are doing with the local drugs task forces and now the regional drugs task force is important. I hope we can get matters back on the road.

[1221]People are talking about cutbacks and all sorts of nonsense. This year the funding for the drugs area was increased by 18%. The preliminary figure for next year is for another 8% increase. When the Revised Estimates are done in January I am confident there will be extra money. However, just because there is an 18% increase in one year does not necessarily mean that this can be matched every year. There is a limit to what can be spent, regardless of whether the country is doing well. I accept that the ambitions of some people on the emerging needs fund has been blown out of all proportions. However, I am confident that we will be able to meet a number of the good projects that have come forward, though not necessarily all of them. Many of the suggestions do not relate to emerging needs. They reflect people wanting more and more for different programmes. That was not the intention and we cannot do that.. Nonetheless, I am very hopeful we will be able to fund many of the ideas coming forward to meet the emerging needs that exist.

Mr. Eamon Ryan:  I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this issue of major historical importance, namely, the agreement that was reached last Saturday in Montreal under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the outset I warmly welcome that historic agreement, which will be seen in time to be enormously significant in the development of this issue.

I hope the Government’s understanding of the agreement will be outlined in the Minister of State’s reply. My understanding is that, in a sense, it sets the signatories to the Kyoto Agreement, particularly the developed countries, including Ireland, on a path towards reviewing what deep cuts may be made in emissions in advance of the ending of the Kyoto provisions in 2012, to allow for a seamless transition, so this country can provide a lead internationally for the effective change.

Perhaps the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, will dust down our Climate Change Targets Bill as it provides an outline framework for a gradual, measured and targeted response to that task that must now be undertaken.

It was remarkable to see the Minister go on what can only be described as a rant during a public debate where he lost his own composure and stated that our proposals were madness. However, we proposed the very thing that he had agreed to as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government at the European Council. This included cuts of 60% to 80% by 2050 and cuts of 15% to 30% by 2020. The European Environment Ministers, of whom he is one, had recommended these measures and that is all [1222]we sought. He became agitated and ill-tempered about that proposal.

A 15% to 30% reduction by 2020 is recommended. Under this Government, Ireland is likely to be 30% above our 1990 levels by 2012. This calls for huge requirements for change and for preparation to begin now. Is this the direction the Government will take as part of the international agreement?

I will cite the reasons the Minister, Deputy Roche’s reaction was so off the mark, to put it charitably. The Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, has responsibility for housing and he will recognise that some of the major changes in reduction of emissions will take place in the housing sector. The heating of houses accounts for 40% of the total CO2 emissions.

I will cite two examples to demonstrate to the House the positive opportunities and the huge economic advantages to be gained from moving towards this new low carbon future. Our colleagues in Fingal County Council, Councillors David Healy, Robert Kelly and Joe Corr, have succeeded in getting Fingal County Council to stitch into local development plans a requirement that any new buildings built under such plans should have a 50 KW heat requirement per square metre and that 30% of the heat should be provided by renewable sources. The Minister of State has a knowledge of heating and maths so he will know that the average suburban house size of 150 sq.m. with such a high energy standard efficiency would have a gas fired heating bill of €225. This is a dramatic reduction in the cost paid under the current regulations. There would also be a dramatic cut in emissions. This is a positive, good news story which will provide jobs and save money for people.

It is remarkable the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not regard a cut in emissions as a positive news story. The Danish Government has agreed an energy savings initiative with dramatic reductions in emissions. The Danes are setting up what should be done in Ireland, a one-stop shop for the insulation of houses. A standard package for a house built in the 1920s costs €21,000. This investment in insulation and energy efficiency will lead to a 47% reduction in emissions from the house, which is almost half the emissions. The other good news story is that the householders are repaid over a period of 30 years. They will have paid off the loan for the investment of €21,000 and will receive a payback of €53,000. This is an example of positive measures that can be undertaken to halve our carbon emissions without any difficulty and without the need to resort to new technology. This is the action to be adopted in the spirit of the Montreal agreement which will be seen as an historic step in the right direction.

Mr. N. Ahern:  The UN climate change conference concluded last week in Montreal. The [1223]Minister, Deputy Roche, and the Minister of State, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, represented the Government and Ireland also had an important role in the EU negotiating team throughout the conference. There is general agreement that the success of the conference is a significant milestone in the effort to tackle global warming. The Canadian Minister for the Environment, who chaired the meeting, defined the objectives in terms of implementing, improving and innovating, and the consensus is that all three objectives were achieved. The Minister wishes to pay tribute to the Canadian Government for the efficient manner in which the conference was conducted.

There were three substantial outcomes to the conference. The first set of agreements relate to the operation of the Kyoto Protocol during the commitment period from 2008 to 2012. The rule book for the protocol, known as the Marrakesh Accords, was formally adopted and a separate compliance regime was agreed to ensure that parties meet their commitments under the protocol. Second, there was agreement to begin consideration of post-2012 commitments for parties who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and these countries will commence this process in May next year. Third, there was agreement to discussions among all countries, including those who are not party to the protocol, on longer-term co-operative action to address climate change. A dialogue will take place under the aegis of the convention to explore the broad range of actions needed to respond to the climate change challenge. The agreements reached in Montreal provide the framework for further detailed discussions on a concerted global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While it is premature to speculate on the eventual outcomes of these discussions, the Irish Government will play its part both in formulating a post-2012 agreement and in delivering whatever action is agreed. Ireland currently has a target to limit growth in greenhouse gas emissions to 13% above 1990 levels by 2012. This target has been established in negotiations with our EU partners and in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol.

Ireland is working to achieve this target in three ways. First, following a review of the implementation of the national climate change strategy, the Government will bring forward [1224]further measures to secure reductions across the rest of the economy.

Mr. Eamon Ryan:  When will that happen?

Mr. N. Ahern:  Second, a proportion of the required reduction will be allocated to Irish participants in the EU emissions trading scheme. Third, the Government will avail of the mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol, which allow it to meet part of its obligation by purchasing credits for carbon reductions elsewhere in the world.

Mr. Eamon Ryan:  When will the review take place?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Order, please.

Mr. N. Ahern:  This is a sensible approach to take given the target that Ireland must achieve and having regard to the guiding principles of the national climate change strategy to promote sustainable development, to ensure sectoral equity and to protect economic development and competitiveness.

Ireland, like its fellow EU member states, remains committed to meeting its greenhouse gas emission reduction target in the period 2008 to 2012 and supports the EU position on the need for further action at a global level post-2012. Ireland recognises that the Kyoto Protocol was only a first step, albeit very important one, in addressing global climate change, and the task of achieving the ultimate objective of the convention remains in place and is becoming increasingly urgent. It is encouraging that all participants in Montreal, including those countries who have been noted for their vehement opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, have accepted that they have a responsibility to engage in real discussions about the way forward.

I note Deputy Eamon Ryan’s comments and I will relate them directly to the Ministers who attended the conference. They left me at home on this occasion.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Seanad Éireann has passed the Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2005, without amendment.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 January 2006.

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

Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

  12.  Mr. Deasy    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of recommendations of the OECD report on third level education progressed to date in 2005 by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39559/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The OECD review of Irish higher education makes a series of far reaching recommendations for reform and development of the sector, against the backdrop of the crucial role which has been identified for it in helping to contribute to Ireland’s strategic ambition of becoming a leading knowledge based society. Earlier this year, the Government approved the broad thrust of the OECD proposals and specifically approved the establishment of a strategic innovation fund to promote and support reform within the sector and the bringing forward of legislative proposals to transfer responsibility for management of the institutes of technology from my Department to the Higher Education Authority, HEA.

This week, I gave details of the strategic innovation fund, which will drive transformation of the higher education sector in the direction envisaged by the OECD, by promoting collaboration and change in pursuit of system wide excellence. The commitment to a guaranteed five year fund allows for genuinely strategic proposals for change to be brought forward. An initial €15 million will be available in 2006 in what is essentially a start-up year. This will grow to €60 million in 2007 and to €75 million per annum in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Awards under the fund will be made on the basis of a competitive call for proposals to be launched by the Higher Education Authority in 2006. An international panel of experts will be convened by the Higher Education Authority to consider the proposals submitted and to make objective recommendations on funding awards.

This new investment, together with the announcement of €900 million to be included in my capital envelope for 2006-2010 and devoted to the third level sector, represents a significant increase in funding for the sector, as recommended by the OECD, and a new milestone for [1226]the development of higher education in Ireland. It is clear evidence of my commitment, and that of the Government, to helping the higher education system to realise our national strategic objectives. I know that the sector is ready to face the major challenges that lie ahead.

Implementation of a number of the OECD recommendations requires legislative change, with the main one being the transfer of responsibility for the management of the institutes of technology from my Department to the HEA. This Bill is currently being drafted and effecting this transfer will be a key priority of my Department in the coming year. The bringing together of universities and institutes of technology under a common management structure will facilitate the development of a more strategic approach to higher education within a unified policy framework and the gradual devolution to the institutes of technology of greater academic and managerial autonomy.

Action on a number of other issues raised in the review is also already underway, in particular the proposal by the OECD that research and innovation issues should be co-ordinated across Government Departments and agencies. The interdepartmental committee on science, technology and innovation is now playing an active role in the preparation of the national research plan which will ensure that national objectives in this area are pursued and achieved in a “joined up” manner.

I view the OECD recommendations as a framework which will ensure that higher education institutions have the capacity to help Ireland’s transition to the knowledge society. I have also made it quite clear that the final shape of future policy proposals for the sector will take account of the views of those working in and with it. To this end, I and my Department have already engaged in an extensive consultation process with stakeholders and I look forward to this dialogue as we move forward in this major change programme for the sector.

  13.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department will mandate all second level schools to produce an annual school report including information on a wide range of topics including exam results; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39566/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  There is no requirement for second level schools to produce an annual report. However, the Education Act 1998 requires the board of management of a school to establish procedures for informing the parents of students in the school of matters relating to the operation and performance of the school. Such procedures [1227]may include the publication of a report on the operation and performance of the school in any school year. The methods by which such information is provided remains a matter for the board of management.

I understand that it is common practice in many schools that an annual report is prepared for the final meeting of the board of management each year. This normally makes reference to how successfully policies were implemented during the year, highlights particular achievements and states priorities for the next school year. Some schools may send a synopsis of this report to parents.

There is also a growing trend whereby principals give a report on the activities of the school in the previous school year, as well as indicating planned activities for the coming school year, to the AGM of the parents’ association at the beginning of a new school year. Of course, many schools send a newsletter to parents at intervals during the year or at the end of the school year. In my address to this year’s annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals I also spoke of the value of schools sharing the outcomes of their ongoing self review processes with parents and encouraged more to do so.

I am determined to provide more information, for parents in particular, about our schools in a way that ensures a fair and comprehensive picture of all the different activities in a school. As I have said on many occasions, I am strongly opposed to the publication of crude league tables based solely on examination or test results. Such tables provide an unbalanced and grossly limited indication of a school’s performance.

In contrast to school league tables, I believe that school inspection reports from whole school evaluations, WSE, and other inspections, when read in their entirety, can provide balanced and well informed information on schools. The whole school evaluation process involves an examination of all the varied activities of a school — from the quality of teaching and learning to the availability of extra-curricular activities and the implementation of policies in areas such as bullying and health and safety. The inspection process also includes consultation with the school’s board, parents and staff members, and, at second level, with the school’s students.

Given the breadth of the contents of WSE reports, I believe that the publication of these and other school inspection reports could go a significant way to addressing the real needs of parents, students, teachers and others for better information on schools. The type of information provided in WSE reports will help parents who need accurate and balanced information.

[1228]I have already declared my determination to progress this matter in a sensible and responsible way. I intend to publish guidelines in this regard in January 2006 and to arrange that the inspections following the publication of the guidelines will be conducted on the basis that the resulting reports will be published. I am confident that the considered and responsible approach that I am taking to the publication of inspection reports will lead to much greater availability of information on schools without inadvertently pitting schools serving entirely different communities against each other in crude comparisons of academic performance alone. Whether intended or not, academic league tables would be a likely consequence of publishing exam results in an annual report for each school.

  14.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the nature of the information with regard to individual schools that will be made available to parents in 2006; the timeframe for same; the number of schools which will be included in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39674/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  During the summer, I announced that my Department would publish school inspection reports arising from the general programme of school inspections. Under this programme, a selected number of schools is inspected on a cyclical basis. The reports include whole school evaluation reports arising from the inspection of primary and post-primary schools and centres for education and subject inspection reports arising from the inspection of the teaching of individual subjects in post-primary schools and centres for education. In addition, the inspectorate produces reports arising from thematic and programme evaluations carried out by the inspectorate from time to time.

All of these inspections evaluate, as appropriate, the work of the school as a whole or the work of the school in delivering an area of the curriculum. The reports describe aspects such as the contributions of school management and school planning, as well as the quality of learning and teaching and learning outcomes. The findings of the evaluations presented in each report take cognisance of the context in which the school or subject team or subject teacher or teachers in the school is operating.

All of the above reports arising from the general inspection programme for schools and centres for education will be published in their entirety and in accordance with the principles and procedures described in “Guidelines on the Publication of School Inspection Reports”. A draft of this document was circulated to the education partners for comment and the inspectorate is cur[1229]rently finalising the guidelines in the light of the written comments received from the education partners. I intend to publish the finalised guidelines in January 2006 and to arrange that inspections following the publication of the guidelines will be conducted on the basis that the resulting reports will be published.

The new procedures will provide the school with a right of response to the reports and it is intended that both the inspection report and the school response, where this is provided by the school’s board of management, will be published simultaneously. Boards of management and teachers also have the right to seek a review of an inspection, so the timeframe must allow for the possibility of review as well as time for the school to prepare a response.

The planning of whole school evaluations and the other inspections to which I have referred, for the year 2006, is not yet completed and the numbers of inspections may vary depending on the other types of work that inspectors have to carry out. However, I understand that the numbers of inspections that will lead to published reports in 2006 is expected to be broadly similar to this year. Between whole school evaluations, subject inspections and thematic evaluations, it is expected that around 900 inspection reports will be issued.

  15.  Mr. Coveney    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of primary schools which do not offer the Stay Safe programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39529/05]

  29.  Mr. G. Murphy    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason the Stay Safe programme has not been made mandatory in all primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39528/05]

  39.  Ms O’Sullivan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has received updated information on the percentage of schools participating in the Stay Safe programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39656/05]

  102.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on whether schools in receipt of moneys from the Exchequer should be required to offer the Stay Safe programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39530/05]

  105.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the Stay Safe programme will be placed on the primary school curriculum to ensure that all schools offer the programme; [1230]and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39531/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 29, 39, 102 and 105 together.

Child protection and the implementation of the Stay Safe programme for all children in every primary school are priorities for my Department. The Stay Safe programme, which is also known as the child abuse prevention programme, CAPP, is a primary school based approach to the prevention of child abuse. The programme aims to reduce vulnerability to child abuse through the provision of in-service training for teachers, parent education and personal safety education for children at primary school level. The Stay Safe programme is a four stage approach to preventing child abuse involving: children’s safety education; teacher training; parent education; and community awareness.

The programme aims to give children the skills necessary to enable them to recognise and resist abuse/victimisation and teaches them that they should always tell an adult that can help of any situation which they find unsafe, upsetting, threatening, dangerous or abusive. Stay Safe is a personal safety skills programme which can be used with primary school children from senior infants to sixth class. It seeks to enhance children’s self-protective skills by participating in lessons on safe and unsafe situations, bullying, touches, secrets, telling and strangers.

An initial one day in-service training seminar on the Stay Safe programme has been provided for all primary schools. Since the programme was introduced, 99.7% of primary schools have participated in this training. At present, based on a sample survey, approximately 80%-85% of primary schools are teaching the programme to their students but it should be recognised that the Stay Safe programme is not mandatory and schools can decide whether or not to introduce the programme.

Although 15% of primary schools do not offer the Stay Safe programme, it should be noted that the central elements of the programme — primarily personal safety strategies — and, more importantly, the overall issue of child protection are now taught as integral parts of the subject of social, personal and health education, SPHE, which is part of the curriculum taught in every primary school. Specifically, the strand unit entitled “Safety and Protection” provides material for teachers to explore with children appropriate strategies in personal safety, which incorporate elements of the Stay Safe programme. In addition, the implementation of my Department’s child protection guidelines for all primary schools has given an additional impetus [1231]to the Stay Safe programme as well as the overall issue of child protection.

My Department does not have plans to introduce the Stay Safe programme as a stand-alone subject on the primary curriculum, nor is it a part of the programme of work of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA. However, social, personal and health education, SPHE, which includes the teaching of strategies for personal safety to primary pupils is already a mandatory part of the primary school curriculum.

In light of the current high level of take-up of Stay Safe, combined with the implementation of my Department’s child protection guidelines, the incorporation of the central elements of the Stay Safe programme and the coverage of the overall issue of child protection within SPHE, which is very positive, I strongly encourage all schools to use the Stay Safe programme.

Question No. 16 answered with Question
No. 11.

  17.  Mr. Noonan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of second level students who attempted the higher level Irish examination paper in the 2004 leaving certificate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39554/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  A total of 55,222 candidates participated in the established leaving certificate examinations in 2004. Of this number, some 14,878 students sat the leaving certificate Gaeilge examination at higher level. This represented just over 30% of the total cohort of 48,962 candidates taking the Gaeilge examination that year. Gaeilge is offered at three levels in the leaving certificate — foundation level, ordinary and higher levels. The proportion sitting Irish at higher level remained consistent over the years 1998 to 2005 at 30-31%.

Measures have been taken in recent years to improve the leaving certificate Irish curriculum. A revised literature course for leaving certificate Irish was introduced in September 2004 for first examination in 2006. This has been widely welcomed as it allows literature to be taught using modern communicative approaches that appeal to young people and it affords a high level of choice to students and teachers: for example, it includes film, for the first time, as an option for students. The revised course is accompanied by comprehensive guidelines for teachers.

Major improvements are also being been made in regard to the provision of materials and resources for the teaching of Irish. An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscoilaí[1232]ochta has been established to progress this area and to provide support services for schools.

With regard to evaluating current standards and making proposals for the future, several important initiatives are being undertaken. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, is carrying out a review of languages in the post-primary curriculum and my Department is engaging with the language policy division of the Council of Europe which is conducting an analysis of language teaching and learning generally, including Irish, at both primary and post-primary level.

Finally, the Deputy will be aware that I believe more emphasis should be placed on oral Irish and have asked the NCCA to make recommendations in this regard as one of its next steps in developing its proposals for senior cycle reform.

  18.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on the contentions of a number of former residents of mother and baby homes and their legal representations that the State had a duty of care, where babies were born or placed in these institutions, and therefore should have been included in the remit of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39666/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 provides a statutory scheme of financial redress for persons who, as children, were abused while in residential institutional care. The scheme applies in respect of institutions specified in the Schedule to the Act. Section 4 of the Act provides that the Minister for Education and Science may, by order, insert additional institutions in the Schedule to the Act. For an institution to be considered under section 4, it must be an industrial school, a reformatory school, an orphanage, a children’s home, a special school for children with a physical or intellectual disability or a hospital providing medical or psychiatric services to people with a physical or mental disability or mental illness. It must also be one in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function.

A total of 128 institutions were originally listed on the Schedule. Since the enactment of the legislation, my Department has been contacted by individuals and/or solicitors about various institutions not specified in the Schedule. Following consideration of the matter and consultation with relevant public bodies, I signed an order on 9 November 2004 which provided for the inclusion of 13 additional institutions in the Schedule. A [1233]further order was made on 1 July 2005 adding three institutions to the Schedule.

The Department of Health and Children and other relevant parties were consulted by my Department about certain mother and baby homes and these inquiries have indicated that these homes were privately operated and not subject to State inspection or regulation, or that they operated as hostel facilities which do not come within the scope of section 4 of the Act. As a consequence, it is not possible to give further consideration to the inclusion of these homes in the Schedule.

The redress scheme applies to industrial schools, reformatory schools and other such institutions for children where the State’s duty of care arose from the fact that the children were separated from their families and were placed and resident in institutions over which the State had a regulatory or supervisory responsibility. This situation did not apply in respect of homes or hostels for mothers and their babies. The question of including additional institutions has now been fully considered by my Department in consultation with relevant Government Departments and it is not proposed to add any further institutions to the Schedule.

In the range of Government initiatives to address past abuse, the needs of those who suffered abuse in institutions not covered by the Redress Act is recognised and provided for and various measures have been put in place to assist them. These include the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and dedicated counselling and other support services for victims of abuse.

  19.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the steps she is taking to implement the findings of the steering group established under the auspices of the commission on school accommodation to establish criteria and procedures for establishing and maintaining provision through the medium of Irish in second level schools or clusters of schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39342/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The report of the steering group of the commission on school accommodation, entitled Criteria and Procedures for Establishing and Maintaining Provision through the Medium of Irish in Second Level Schools or Clusters of Schools, presents a framework of key issues and makes a number of recommendations on the provision of second level education through the medium of Irish. The report is currently being examined in my Department in conjunction with another of the commission’s reports on the Criteria and Procedures for the Recognition of New Second Level Schools. This is because many [1234]of the recommendations, particularly relating to the suggested procedure for recognition, apply equally to schools offering educational provision through the medium of English and through the medium of Irish.

A structured process for the recognition of primary schools is in operation and I am anxious to replicate in the post-primary sector the principles of openness, transparency and consultation under which that process operates. I expect in the coming months to be in a position to set out how the issues raised in the reports will be addressed, including how to provide a formal recognition process.

  20.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the way in which new funding, announced in budget 2006, will be dispersed amongst third level institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39564/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  In April 2005, as part of the Government’s plans for implementing the programme of reform and development recommended by the OECD in its review of higher education in Ireland, I announced that I would establish a strategic innovation fund to drive transformation of the sector by promoting collaboration and change in pursuit of system wide excellence. The budget has now delivered the multi-annual commitment to allow this to happen.

The commitment to a guaranteed five-year fund allows for meaningful and far-reaching proposals for change to be brought forward. An initial €15 million will be available in 2006 in what is essentially a start-up year. This will grow to €60 million in 2007 and to €75 million per annum in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Awards under the fund will be made on the basis of a competitive call for proposals, to be launched by the Higher Education Authority in 2006. An international panel of experts will be convened by the Higher Education Authority to consider the proposals submitted and to make objective recommendations on funding awards.

The allocation of €900 million in my capital envelope for 2006 — 2010 and devoted to the third level sector has enabled me approve a further 35 major key priority projects across the sector. The approved projects, which were identified during the needs assessment and prioritisation work carried out by the Kelly review group, are in key strategic areas such as engineering, IT, science and technology, catering, tourism and the arts. A total of 18 of the projects will be delivered using direct Exchequer funding of €305 million and 17 projects will be delivered within a €270 million public private partnership programme.

[1235]A sum of €35 million of the funding will be used on completion of projects that I approved last year to support the significant expansion in recent years of teacher training places and projects aimed at addressing critical health skills shortages in a range of areas. A further €95 million will be allocated to cover commitments due in respect of the programme for research in third level institutions. A remaining balance of close to €200 million will be used to deal with emerging priorities in the context of overall national strategy.

These investments represent a new milestone for the development of higher education in Ireland. They make a resounding statement of the central importance of the sector to our national strategic objectives. The sector is ready to face the major challenges that lie ahead. I look forward to working with the Higher Education Authority, the universities and institutes of technology in delivering on the exciting potential for change and development that has now been created.

  21.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the programme which exists to provide a suitable IT capability among students in all schools; the level of progress which has been achieved to date in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39587/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  There has been significant progress in the development of ICT infrastructure in schools, in enhancing teachers’ skills and pedagogical practice and in the development of curriculum and learning resources, since the introduction of the ICT in schools initiative in 1998. My Department is currently examining the future priorities for the ICT in schools initiative and this work is being complemented by a further census of ICT infrastructure, in both primary and post-primary schools, which is being undertaken by the NCTE and an evaluation of the impact of ICT in teaching and learning in schools, in which my Department’s inspectorate is currently engaged.

The major focus for my Department at present is the roll-out of broadband connectivity to all recognised schools. This project is being undertaken in partnership with industry, following the establishment of a three year €18 million joint Government-IBEC — TIF, Telecommunications and Internet Federation, fund to fund local connectivity at school level.

The broadband connectivity is being provided via a schools national broadband network supported by HEAnet, which will provide managed Internet access, e-mail, security controls and content filtering. A broadband support service is [1236]being managed by the National Centre for Technology in Education to assist schools with advice and information relating to the roll out and ongoing use of their broadband connectivity within the schools network.

Following a public procurement process last year, contracts have been agreed with six companies for the provision of access connectivity to some 4,000 schools involved. These companies are Digiweb, Smart Telecom, Irish Broadband, BT Ireland, Last Mile and HS Data. The contract for the provision of a broadband router at school level, where appropriate, was awarded to Eircom.

The roll-out process is now well under way and as of 12 December 2005, the number of schools who have had their basic connectivity service installed was 2,670 and the number of schools which have had their router installed, either separately or as part of the basic connectivity service, was 1,959. In this regard, the satellite provision for 347 schools contains the necessary functionality and does not require the provision of a separate router. It is expected that the roll-out will be fully completed by March 2006.

The overall costs of the schools broadband access programme, comprising the local connectivity at school level, the schools national broadband network and the support service, including the initial set-up and ongoing costs over the next three years, are estimated at some €30 million. The provision of always-on high speed Internet access for recognised schools presents a major development in the ICT in schools initiative to integrate technology into teaching and learning in our schools and to ensure that the ICT skills of our young people are developed to their full potential.

The roll out of broadband connectivity builds on the recent investment by my Department in providing grants to schools for the development of computer networking facilities. Since December 2004, over 3,700 schools have received grants to develop their networking facilities at a cost of some €20 million. The development of internal networking facilities in schools is critical to supporting schools’ full exploitation of the potential offered by broadband connectivity and the efficient use of computer software.

Question No. 22 answered with Question
No. 11.

  23.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on the failure to integrate Traveller children into the education system; the action her Department will take to ensure that Traveller children are not disadvantaged and deprived of educational opportunities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39672/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  It is important, from the outset, to emphasise that the Traveller community is entitled to the same education provision as all others. The needs of the Traveller community are a high priority for me and my Department.

My Department provides additional resources to enhance the education of Traveller children. In 2003-04 my Department spent over €47 million on Traveller education over and above what is being provided through mainstream education. This expenditure makes special provision to enable members of the Traveller community to successfully access educational services.

This provision includes 45 pre-schools for Travellers, over 500 resource teachers for Travellers in primary schools, nearly 140 whole time equivalent posts for Travellers in post-primary schools, 40 visiting teachers for Travellers and enhanced capitation grants for Traveller pupils at primary and post-primary level. In addition, there are 33 senior Traveller training centres located throughout the country.

I am currently awaiting two reports that address Traveller education and the needs of Travellers to successfully integrate into our education system. The first is a report of the survey of Traveller education provision which is being prepared by my inspectorate. This survey is based on an extensive review of the participation and inclusion of Traveller pupils in 30 primary and six post-primary schools. The report will provide recommendations on policies and strategies to facilitate schools in enhancing the education provision for Travellers at a national level.

The second is the report on the recommendations for a five year Traveller education strategy. This report spans the full spectrum of lifelong learning from pre-school to adult and further education. It also emphasises the important role that Traveller parents have in their own education and that of their children. This report is being prepared by a joint working group which includes representatives from the advisory committee on Traveller education and the education disadvantage committee. In addition, in preparing the report there was an in-depth consultation process undertaken. The report is in the final stages of preparation. Inclusion is a core principle which is guiding the development of this report.

Both reports are due early in the new year. They are evidence of the importance which I and my Department attach to ensuring that meeting the educational needs of Travellers continues to be given high priority. It is important to note that in 2002, the Department published Guidelines on Traveller Education in Primary Schools and Guidelines on Traveller Education in Second Level Schools. These guidelines highlight the Department’s policy on integration, give infor[1238]mation on Traveller culture and provide advice on responding to the educational needs of the Traveller students.

In May this year, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment published “Guidelines on Intercultural Education in Primary Schools”. This publication, along with the guidelines on Traveller education in primary and in second level schools, provide information and help to schools to increase their understanding of diversity. The NCCA is due to publish guidelines on intercultural education for post-primary schools in 2006.

These actions aim to ensure that Traveller children are not disadvantaged or deprived of educational opportunities. I will evaluate the recommendations in the two reports which are being finalised. I will also continue to evaluate the most appropriate ways of ensuring that Traveller children continue to integrate into the education system.

  24.  Mr. McEntee    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her proposals to encourage more men into the teaching profession; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39525/05]

  83.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the approach she will take to tackling the gender gap in teaching; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39526/05]

  106.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the changes she is proposing to make to encourage more boys to enrol in primary education teaching courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39660/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 83 and 106 together.

I am aware of the decreasing numbers of males entering the teaching profession and it is an issue that is of concern to me. I believe it is important to attract more men into teaching for a number of reasons, not least of which is the positive role models that teachers provide in children’s lives and the desirability of having both male and female role models in our schools.

I genuinely believe that teaching should be seen as an attractive profession for both men and women. Teaching is fulfilling work which makes a huge social contribution. With the increases in teachers’ salaries under partnership agreements and benchmarking in recent years, it is also now a well paid job.

This Government wants to attract and reward the best teachers. In addition to increasing teachers’ salaries, we have also undertaken other initiatives to enhance the status of the profession. [1239]Not least of these is the establishment of the Teaching Council as a professional regulatory body.

I recently launched the report of the primary education committee, Males into Primary Teaching. The primary education committee was established examine a range of issues with regard to males entering primary teaching, and to make recommendations on short-term and long-term strategies to increase the numbers. The report draws on the professional insight of key experts in this area as well as drawing on a number of relevant research studies. The report’s findings will be of significant benefit in assisting the development of future policy in this important area.

One of the key recommendations in the committee’s report is that a co-ordinated promotion campaign, which would encourage boys as well as girls to enter primary teaching, should be undertaken. A competitive process is currently underway to enlist the assistance of a professional agency in developing and managing this campaign. All other recommendations contained in the report are also currently receiving active consideration within my Department.

  25.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress made to date in 2005 in the implementation of the national youth work development plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39560/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The national youth work development plan, together with the Youth Work Act 2001, provides a framework for youth work in Ireland. The plan identifies four main goals and proposes some 50 action points to achieve these goals over a five year period. To date a number of priority action areas have been addressed, including the implementation of a child protection training programme for the sector, development of projects funded under the special projects for youth scheme and increased support to youth information centres and the youth information support partnership.

With regard to 2005, significant progress has been made this year in the progressive roll out of the actions recommended in the plan, including the establishment of ten new special projects for youth and the upgrade of 20 single worker special projects to two worker projects. In this regard, an additional amount of €920,000 has been spent on the expansion and development of this scheme which includes in its remit some of our most marginalised and vulnerable young people. This additional funding will serve to enhance the delivery of services at local level and will particularly [1240]benefit those young people who are socially or economically disadvantaged.

Furthermore in 2005, I established a development fund for youth work organisations to prepare themselves organisationally for the roll out of the Youth Work Act 2001. This fund focused on resourcing and developing the information and communications technology of youth work organisations, with some 30 organisations receiving grants of up to €15,000 each to support their work.

Another important area for development this year has been the enhanced support of the national child protection training programme for the youth work sector. A national child protection unit, which is housed within the National Youth Council of Ireland and is supported by my Department, has led and co-ordinated child protection training initiatives and assisted many youth organisations with the drafting of child protection policies and guidelines. Also, as proposed in the plan, a North-South endorsement panel for youth work training has been established. The purpose of this panel, which has been set up following agreement between the relevant parties in both jurisdictions, is to develop a comprehensive framework for accreditation and certification in youth work on an all-Ireland basis.

In addition, two major reviews, as recommended in the plan, were commenced this year and are nearing completion. These are a review of youth information provision and a review of funding of the youth work sector. I am also arranging for the establishment of a national youth work development unit, to be based within the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. This unit will work in conjunction with national youth work advisory committee and my Department and will spear head youth research and development in Ireland. The establishment of this unit will also pave the way for a number of further actions in the plan.

With regard to the appointment of an assessor of youth work, this post is being advertised today in the national press. The appointment of an assessor is a key priority for the sector and I anticipate a speedy appointment. I am confident that the progress made in the implementation of the actions recommended in the national youth work development plan will continue in 2006 and 2007.

Question No. 26 answered with Question
No. 7.

  27.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Education and Science,    further to the Youth Work Act 2001, her progress to date in 2005 in implementing the Act; the sections that have been implemented to date in 2005; the sections which remain unimplemented; her plans to bring the [1241]remaining unimplemented sections into force; the timescale of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39594/05]

  31.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her progress to date in 2005 in the implementation of the national youth work development plan; if the plan has been implemented in its entirety; if not, what remains to be implemented; the timescale of same; if she intends to progress the national youth work development plan in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39595/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 31 together.

The Youth Work Act 2001 provides a legal framework for the provision of youth work programmes and services to be organised by the Minister for Education and Science, the vocational education committees and national and regional youth work organisations. Section 1 of the Act provides for sections to be commenced at different stages. Sections 2-7, 17, 18 and 24 have been commenced to date.

A sub-committee of the national youth work advisory committee, representative of both statutory and voluntary sectors as well as my Department, has been steadily progressing the groundwork, including the development of detailed guidelines and procedures, which are vital for the further roll out of the Act in a planned and structured manner. As a priority for 2005, I identified the capacity development of youth work organisations to assist them in preparing themselves organisationally for the implementation of the Act. To this end, I established a development fund for youth work organisations on a once-off basis to help ensure that they can achieve the new standards for approval and engage effectively with the new structures arising from the Youth Work Act 2001. Some 30 youth organisations have received once-off grants this year ranging up to €15,000 to help develop their ICT capacity. Over €300,000 has been provided for this fund in 2005.

Another area for priority attention in 2005 was the capacity development of vocational education committees, VECs, to carry out their responsibilities as set out in the Act. Considerable progress has been made in this regard and this is a most important development which will enable VECs to assume specific new responsibilities, including the provision of youth work programmes and/or services in their areas by co-ordinating their plans, proposals and activities.

In addition, significant progress has been made with regard to the appointment of an assessor of youth work with the advertisement of the post today in the national press. This is viewed by all [1242]involved in youth work, both in the statutory and voluntary sectors, as an essential step in the process of the further implementation of the Act. Work in this regard will continue, with further sections of the Act being implemented as the necessary procedures are finalised and as resources, both human and financial, permit.

With regard to the national youth work development plan, this plan identifies four main goals and proposes some 50 action points to achieve these goals over a five year period. To date a number of priority action areas have been addressed. In 2003, €80,000 was spent on the implementation of a child protection training programme for the sector. In 2004, €500,000 was made available for the roll out of the plan and was spent on further support for the child protection training programme, development of projects funded under the special projects for youth scheme and increased support to youth information centres and the youth information support partnership.

Building on these initiatives, to date in 2005 further progress has been made in the following areas: the establishment of ten new special projects for disadvantaged youth; the upgrade of 20 single worker special projects to two worker projects; review of youth work funding; review of youth information provision; continued support of the child protection training programme; establishment of a development fund for youth work organisations; North-South youth work training endorsement panel; establishment of national youth work development unit in NUI, Maynooth.

Further action areas for development in 2006 and 2007 are being determined by my Department with the advice of the national youth work advisory committee.

  28.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of applications which have been received to date in 2005 by the Residential Institutions Redress Board; the number of payments made and the amount of payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39661/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Residential Institutions Redress Board is an independent body established under statute in December 2002 to provide financial redress to persons who, as children, were abused while resident in industrial schools, reformatories or other institutions that were subject to State regulation or inspection. According to the most recent figures available to my Department, the board had on 9 December 2005 received approximately 6,900 applications in 2005 and a total of approximately 12,000 applications to date. The [1243]board has processed some 4,500 applications to date and the total cost of awards is approximately €332 million.

The redress scheme has now been in operation for almost three years and the board will accept applications up to midnight on 15 December 2005.

Question No. 29 answered with Question
No. 15.

  30.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to the vetting of all teachers and other staff by the central vetting unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39532/05]

  36.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the categories of persons working in schools which are included under the Garda vetting programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39657/05]

  82.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she will ensure that members of school boards of management will be vetted by the central vetting unit prior to appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39534/05]

  109.  Ms O. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if all full and part-time teachers and other school staff will be vetted by the central vetting unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39533/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 30, 36, 82 and 109 together.

Ensuring the protection, health and welfare of children is a key concern for the Government, for parents, for agencies that work with children and for society generally and the Government is determined to do all it can to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe.

In the education sector, vetting is available in respect of prospective employees working with children in detention schools as well as special needs assistants, SNAs, and bus escorts to children with special needs. My colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, has announced a doubling of the number of staff employed in the unit to ensure that they can handle a greater volume of requests from employers. The unit will commence the augmentation of its existing vetting arrangements upon decentralisation. It is expected that this will happen early next month. The provision of additional staff resources will [1244]enable the Garda Síochána’s vetting services to be extended to all persons working with children and vulnerable adults. This will include teachers, caretakers, bus drivers and others working with children, whether on a full-time or part-time basis.

The issue of vetting of members of boards of management raises the wider issue of vetting of people who volunteer in the education sector. My view is that the determining factor in deciding whether or not such persons should be vetted is the extent to which they have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults. In consultation with the education partners, I intend to examine this issue closely as the Garda vetting service expands.

Question No. 31 answered with Question
No. 27.

  32.  Mr. Crowe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if it is her Department that sets out and administers the catchment boundary areas for school transport. [39155/05]

  35.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if changes have been made in the past 30 years to the catchment areas for school transport eligibility. [39159/05]

  42.  Mr. Crowe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if there have been changes to the catchment boundary areas for school transport in terms of the way in which they have been traditionally interpreted. [39154/05]

  47.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her attention has been drawn to the case where her Department stepped in to tell the vocational educational committee it was wrong in its interpretation of the catchment boundary areas. [39161/05]

  71.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her attention has been drawn to the cases where the vocational educational committee has said the catchment boundary covers one area and her Department has said it covers another. [39156/05]

  73.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department had to correct any catchment boundary areas which were incorrect; and if so, the reason therefor. [39157/05]

  75.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department has no responsibility for the catchment area boundaries. [39160/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 35, 42, 47, 71, 73 and 75 together.

Catchment boundaries have their origins in the establishment of free post-primary education in the late 1960s and were determined following consultation with local educational interests. For planning purposes the country was divided into geographical districts each with several primary schools feeding into a post-primary centre with one or more post-primary schools. The intention was and continues to be that these defined districts facilitate the orderly planning of school provision and accommodation needs.

Reviews of specific catchment boundaries may be carried out where appropriate. A number of reviews have been carried out over the years where, for example, a new post-primary school is established in an area where previously there was none or, conversely, where a “sole provider” school closes due to declining enrolment.

The area development planning initiative, involving an extensive consultative process carried out by the commission on school accommodation, will also inform future revisions to catchment areas. An area development plan takes account of demographic changes and projects future enrolments for existing schools and new schools if required. Catchment boundary changes will be made where the implementation of the recommendations in an area development plan requires such adjustments. Catchment boundaries have provided and continue to provide a very useful tool in facilitating the orderly planning of school provision and accommodation needs and the operation of the national school transport service.

Under the terms of my Department’s post-primary school transport scheme, a pupil is eligible for transport if she or he resides 4.8 km or more from her or his local post-primary education centre, that is, the centre serving the catchment area in which she or he lives. The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside.

However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside have been catered for. Children have to make their own way either to the catchment boundary or to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

[1246]The transport liaison officers, TLOs, administer the school transport scheme for post-primary schools at local level in consultation with school authorities and Bus Éireann. These officers report directly to my Department in so far as school transport is concerned. The vocational education committees do not have a direct function in the matter.

My Department is aware of a recent case where the map retained in the TLO’s office varied with the map held in my Department’s planning section. A copy of the Department’s map has been forwarded to the TLO for the purpose of establishing eligibility under the terms of the school transport scheme.

  33.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she intends to make changes to the rules and programme for secondary schools before the start of the next school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39541/05]

  66.  Mr. English    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the rules and programme for secondary schools will be amended in order that all pupils have a free choice in deciding the subjects to pursue to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39537/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 66 together.

In accordance with the rules and programme for secondary schools, the approved course for the established leaving certificate must include not less than five approved examination subjects, of which one must be Irish. The exception to this is where a student has been granted an exemption from the study of Irish. The rules and programme for secondary schools are updated from time to time, to take account of such matters as new and revised syllabi.

It is the intention of my Department to have them updated for the 2006-07 school year. No change is proposed, however, to the minimum course requirements outlined above for students following the established leaving certificate programme.

  34.  Ms O’Sullivan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the proposed timeframe for the examination of the post-primary education needs of Limerick city and county; the nature of the investigation she intends to carry out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39662/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I have recently announced the carrying out of an area development plan for Limerick city and its environs. This will cover educational provision in the city and surrounding area factoring in the existing education provision in Shannon, Askeaton, Pallaskenry, Croom and Newport.

This new model for planning for educational infrastructure is designed to ensure that, in future, school provision will be decided after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, trustees, parents, sponsors of prospective schools and all interested parties from a locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process.

The process involves the publication of a draft area development plan of which the main components are: details of existing primary and post-primary provision; examination of the demographics of the area; commentary on the data; recommendations for the area into the future. Following publication of the draft area development plan, the commission on school accommodation will conduct a public engagement process to which all interested parties can make submissions. All of these submissions will be published. The process in each case culminates in the publication of a final area development plan against which all capital funding decisions will be made over the next decade.

Final area development plans have been published for the Mountmellick-Mountrath area and for the area around the N4 from Leixlip through Kilcock, Enfield, Longwood, Kinnegad and Rochfortbridge to Kilbeggan. The area development plan for Westport-Newport will be published shortly. It is intended to publish the draft plans for the north Kerry area and for the north Dublin, south Louth and east Meath area in the first part of next year. The Limerick draft area development plan will follow in the course of 2006-07.

Question No. 35 answered with Question
No. 32.

Question No. 36 answered with Question
No. 30.

  37.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on the implications for her Department which arise from the recently published Ferns Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39536/05]

  55.  Mr. Connaughton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the actions she is taking to implement the recommendations of the Ferns Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39535/05]

  308.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the steps she is taking in view of the findings of the Ferns Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40085/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 55 and 308 together.

The Ferns Report provides practical and far reaching recommendations to strengthen child protection measures in organisations working with children and to ensure a speedy and effective response to allegations of abuse. The Government has accepted the report’s recommendations in principle and is committed to their implementation by Departments and relevant agencies.

My Department is giving full consideration to the findings and recommendations contained in the report and is examining the implications for child protection in schools and other educational establishments under its remit. My Department will also participate fully in the review of compliance with the Children First guidelines which is being undertaken by the National Children’s Office under the leadership of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

Clearly our educational institutions and policies have a key role to play in the protection of children and in the provision of a safe environment for their learning and development. Over the past 15 years we have brought in child protection guidelines for primary and post-primary schools and clearly defined procedures for reporting allegations or suspicions of child abuse. We have also sought to raise awareness of the issue in the curriculum through social, personal and health education and the Stay Safe programme. The commitment to implement the recommendations of the Ferns Report will contribute to the further strengthening of child protection measures in education.

  38.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason the physical education and sports grant continues to be withheld in view of increasing levels of obesity in schools; her plans to tackle this problem from an exercise, diet and sponsorship point of view; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39584/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department has provided in excess of €5.5 million in grant aid to primary schools to enable them to provide coaching, mentoring or purchase resource materials and equipment associated with the provision of physical education. Materials and equipment purchased by schools in previous years will generally be available to them for subsequent years. In addition, [1249]schools may use their general capitation funding to support the implementation of curricula including physical education.

Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from £45 or €57.14 per pupil to €133.58 with effect from 1 January 2005. The grant is being further increased by €12 with effect from 1 January 2006, an increase of almost 155% in the period. The question of a further grant will be kept under review as part of the normal Estimates process in the coming years.

Our schools promote, support and encourage healthy eating and physical exercise in a range of ways. Physical education is part of the curriculum at primary and at post-primary level and plays a key role not just in giving students an opportunity to exercise during the school day but also in encouraging a positive attitude towards physical activity which students will hopefully carry with them into adult life.

With regard to educating students about making good food choices, a curriculum in social, personal and health education, SPHE, is mandatory for all primary students and its implementation is also being assisted by a full-time support service. Health and well-being along with food and nutrition are two areas dealt with under the “taking care of my body” unit of that curriculum. The objective is that by fifth and sixth class, pupils should be enabled to realise that they, as individuals, have some responsibility for adopting a healthy balanced diet and for taking regular and appropriate exercise.

All second level schools have been required to provide SPHE as part of the junior cycle curriculum since September 2003. The aims of this programme include preparing students for responsible decision making and promoting their physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.

Quite apart from curricular provision, schools can implement measures to encourage physical activity during school breaks and schools already play a major role in promoting the involvement of students in sporting activities in the wider community. Sports organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, Basketball Ireland and the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, provide extensive opportunities for schools to participate in sport.

Together, the above initiatives ensure that children not only get opportunities to exercise at school but also learn about balanced nutrition and making good food choices. I believe that schools are playing their part in terms of promoting a healthy diet and adequate physical exercise for children. However, it is important to remember that children spend just 20% of their waking hours at school so schools can only do so much with regard to promoting exercise and healthy eating and the main role must rest with parents.

[1250]Question No. 39 answered with Question
No. 15.

  40.  Mr. Cuffe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding plans to provide a suitable replacement site for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39583/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department has acknowledged the need for a replacement building to meet the future needs of the school referred to by the Deputy. It has also been established that the present site is unsuitable for further development. Therefore, prior to any progress being made on a building project for the school, a suitable site must be identified.

The board of management had previously indicated to my Department that it would be making proposals regarding an alternative site for the school. However, these proposals did not materialise. The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department in site acquisitions generally, will be asked to explore the possibility of acquiring an alternative site for the school.

  41.  Mr. Connaughton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of children given psychological assessments by the National Education Psychological Service for each year since its inception; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39561/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  All primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments, either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, full details of which are available on my Department’s website.

In common with many other psychological services, NEPS operates a staged model of service to schools, whereby an initial referral usually leads to a consultation and provision of advice to teachers and parents on appropriate teaching and management strategies. Progress is kept under review and only those children who fail to respond to these interventions will need to see a psychologist. This allows the psychologists to offer early appointments to children who are in urgent need of support and early advice to teachers in respect to those children whose needs are perhaps less pressing but who still need additional help in school.

[1251]The following is the total number of assessments, by school year, carried out by NEPS psychologists for the years in question, not all of which involved full cognitive IQ assessments: 1999-2000, 3,051; 2000-01, 2,978; 2001-02, 4,536; 2002-03, 4,837; and 2003-04, 5,024. The figures for 2004-2005 are not yet available. In addition to those figures, it should be noted that the number of children assessed under the SCPA scheme since its inception in 2001 to the end of the calendar year 2004 was close on 12,000.

In 2004 NEPS was also involved in a verification process of over 5,000 children for additional resources prior to the appointment of special education needs organisers, SENOs, by the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, and prior to the new general allocation model put in place for schools in the context of additional teaching resources.

Question No. 42 answered with Question
No. 32.

  43.  Mr. M. Higgins    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of extra teachers she expects to employ next year in the context of the DEIS programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39659/05]

  78.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the number of personnel working in the home, school and community liaison scheme will be increased in the context of the DEIS proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39663/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 78 together.

A key element of DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, the new action plan for educational inclusion, is the putting in place of a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage in our primary and second level schools for the purposes of qualifying for resources, both human and financial, according to the degree of disadvantaged experienced. This standardised system will replace all of the existing arrangements for targeting schools for participation in initiatives to address disadvantage.

The new action plan aims to ensure that the educational needs of children and young people, from pre-school to completion of upper second level education, that is from three to 18 years, from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and effectively addressed. It will involve an additional annual investment of some €40 million on full implementation and the creation of about [1252]300 additional posts across the education system generally.

As a result of the identification process, approximately 600 primary schools, comprising 300 urban/town and 300 rural, and 150 second level schools will be included in a new school support programme, SSP. Home/school/community liaison services will be extended to all 300 urban primary schools and 150 second level schools selected to participate in the SSP that are not already participating in the scheme. Access to teacher/co-ordinator support will also be made available to rural primary schools in the SSP that do not already have access to such a service. It is anticipated that the identification process will be completed shortly and selected schools notified early in the new year.

  44.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department will refund pupils who have been wrongly charged for transport due to a misinterpretation by her Department of the persons who should be covered by the catchment area boundary. [39158/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  For the purpose of the post-primary education scheme, the country has been divided into catchment areas, each of which has its own post-primary centre. Pupils who live 4.8 kilometres or more from the post-primary centre serving the catchment area in which they reside are eligible for transport to that centre under the scheme.

The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their catchment area, otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their own post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way either to the catchment boundary or to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

If the Deputy has any particular area in mind where children may have been charged for a service that was not provided I will be glad to have it investigated.

  45.  Mr. Sherlock    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she expects to receive the final report of the task force on student [1253]behaviour; if she will commence the implementation of its recommendations in 2006 and progress same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39679/05]

  46.  Mr. McEntee    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the task force on student behaviour will report to her before the end of 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39553/05]

  84.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when the task force on student behaviour will report to her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39552/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 45, 46 and 84 together.

The Deputies will be aware that, at the start of this year, I established a task force on student behaviour in second level schools. I have been particularly impressed with the ability of the task force to focus on the core issues. The task force has indicated to me that it is on target to produce a final report and detailed recommendations by the end of this year. I was greatly encouraged by the interim report, published last June, and I look forward to receiving the final report and its recommendations.

In establishing the task force on student behaviour, I stressed that this would not be a talking-shop and that the issue will be addressed. Of course providing the best possible learning environment at second level is important, as is the need to ensure a positive atmosphere in all of our schools and to have effective procedures in place to deal with negative student behaviour where it occurs.

I expect to receive the final report of the task force by the end of this month and will arrange for its publication in due course. I have made my determination to act very clear by providing €2 million in the 2006 Estimates to ensure that we can begin implementing its recommendations straight away. I am sure that this will be strongly welcomed by second level teachers who know that they have my support in creating the best possible environment in which to nurture the talents of all of their students.

Question No. 47 answered with Question
No. 32.

  48.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the funding that will be allocated to the National Educational Welfare Board for 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39547/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

The budget allocated to the NEWB for 2006 is €8.15 million, with the allocation to the board having increased by more than 25% since 2004 to support it in delivering on its key objectives.

The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place, with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government’s RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include: Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently, work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

  49.  Mr. Coveney    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of multi-denominational schools here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39569/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The number of multi-denominational schools established in this country to date is 39. A list of multi- and other denominational schools, together with addresses and contact numbers, is available on my Department’s website www.education.ie.

  50.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the increase in funding to the National Educational Psychological Service which will be allocated for 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39544/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, has been allocated funding of €15.325 million in the 2006 financial provision for my Department in the recently published Abridged Estimates Volume. This represents an increase of approximately €1 million, 8%, over the projected outturn for this service in 2005.

  51.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on whether an oral component for Irish should be introduced at the junior certificate examination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39539/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Provision exists for an optional oral examination in Irish at junior certificate level. Where schools opt to provide such an examination, the State examinations commission issues assessment guidelines to them for use by class teachers in assessing candidates.

The optional oral Irish examination at junior certificate level is not assessed by the State examinations commission but by class teachers. Marks awarded by teachers are sent to the State examinations commission for processing without external assessment or monitoring. Candidates who take the optional oral Irish examination are marked out of 400 marks, whereas candidates who do not take it are marked out of 320 marks.

  52.  Mr. Hayes    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of students enrolled in further education courses nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39548/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The data requested by the Deputy are set out in the following tabular statement.

Further Education. Number of Learners.

Adult Literacy — part-time 33,873
Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme 5,512
Youthreach 3,282
Senior Traveller Training 1,084
Post Leaving Certificate 30,188
Back to Education Initiative, BTEI — part-time 16,372
Total 90,311

[1255]This Government is strongly committed to improving participation and achievement at every level of education. We have put the resources and supports in place to ensure that there is a wide range of course options available for people who wish to continue their studies after second level and for people returning to education later in life.

The Estimates include provision for the cost of the extra 100 teaching posts being provided for the post-leaving certificate courses in the current academic year. They also provide for an increase of 19% in the VTOS non-pay grant in 2006.

The Government has shown a sustained determination to expand and improve further adult education over recent years. We believe strongly in the value of this sector and will continue to prioritise it for resources and supports in the years ahead.

  53.  Ms Burton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on the alarming statistics published by the Education Welfare [1256]Board indicating that approximately 84,000 children up to the age of 16 miss at least 20 days of schooling per year; if the board will be adequately funded to employ enough education welfare officers to address the wide scale problem of absenteeism from school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39650/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents-guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, educational welfare officers, EWOs, are [1257]being appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the board’s functions locally.

The budget allocated to the NEWB for 2006 is €8.15 million, with the allocation to the board having increased by more than 25% since 2004 to support it in delivering on its key objectives. The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place, with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government’s RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise. I understand that the NEWB provides an intensive service in the areas where educational welfare officers are located. All other areas receive an urgent service where the NEWB prioritises children who, for example, are out of school or where no school place exists for them.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

I will be keeping the issue of the NEWB’s staffing under review in the light of these and other developments.

  54.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she will introduce standardised testing in primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39675/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Standardised testing on a systematic basis has great potential to enhance the quality of teaching and learning for our students at classroom level and to provide valuable information for parents about their children’s learning. It is also clear that test results, provided on a sampling [1258]basis, can also guide policies aimed at improving performance and combating educational disadvantage.

I fully agree with the advice of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment that all pupils should take standardised tests in literacy and numeracy at the end of first class or at the beginning of second class, and at the end of fourth class or at the beginning of fifth class.

There is clearly important groundwork that must be put in place before committing to specific dates for the introduction of any requirements in this regard for schools and I am eager that this work be completed as soon as practicable.

In that context, I have asked the NCCA to prioritise the preparation of guidelines for schools on developing and implementing a policy on assessment, on assessment practice in classrooms and on reporting to parents. I understand that this work is at an advanced stage. I have also asked the council to advance the preparation of exemplars of pupils’ work to guide teachers’ judgments and also summaries based on the curriculum of what pupils should achieve at each level of their schooling. A national report card for recording and reporting data on pupils’ attainment is also being developed, as is a national policy on the transfer of information from primary to post-primary schools. In tandem with this work, my Department is currently exploring potential implementation models in advance of entering into discussions with the education partners on the matter.

The question of providing training to teachers on standardised testing is also an issue which has to be considered in the context of any decision to be made on an implementation date.

My intention is that we will proceed carefully but as quickly as possible to ensure that the recommendations proposed by the NCCA are implemented in a way that has positive benefits for children, parents, teachers and the system as a whole.

Question No. 55 answered with Question
No. 37.

  56.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if priority will be accorded to the provision of sports hall facilities to those schools which have been in excess of ten years on the waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35009/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Since 2003 my Department has published details of capital projects progressing through the system which have been prioritised in accordance with the published criteria for [1259]prioritising large scale projects and put in place following consultation with the education partners.

All applications for capital investment, including applications for sports hall facilities, have been assessed in accordance with this criteria and will be considered In the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009.

  57.  Mr. M. Higgins    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has completed the process of assessing which schools will qualify for support under the DEIS programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39658/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  A key element of DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, the new action plan for educational inclusion, is the putting in place of a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage in our primary and second level schools for the purposes of qualifying for resources, both human and financial, according to the degree of disadvantage experienced. This standardised system will replace all of the existing arrangements for targeting schools for participation in initiatives to address disadvantage.

The identification process involved a new survey by the Educational Research Centre of all mainstream primary schools and the updating by them of existing data sources on the levels of disadvantage in second level schools.

As a result of the identification process, approximately 600 primary schools, comprising 300 urban-town and 300 rural, and 150 second level schools will be included in a new school support programme, SSP. The SSP will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions for schools and school clusters-communities with a concentrated level of educational disadvantage.

It is anticipated that the identification process will be completed shortly and selected schools will be notified early in the new year.

  58.  D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley    den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta    an bhfuil iarratas sa Roinn i gcomhair deisiú agus méadú a dhéanamh ar scoil (sonraí tugtha), an bhfuil an cás á mheas faoi láthair, cén uair a dhéanfar cinneadh i dtaobh dul ar aghaidh leis an obair agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [39386/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Ta an scoil a luaigh an Teachta ag céim luath den phleanáil ailtireachta.

[1260]Níos túisce i mbliana d’fhógair mé mionsonraí de 124 scoil a bhrostófaí tríd an gcéim phleanála ailtreachca agus ina measc siúd bhí an tionscadal le síneadh a chur leis an scoil seo. Scríobh oifigigh mo Roinne le húdaráis na scoile ar 31 Lúnasa den bhliain seo le hiliomad ceisteanna ar ghá dul ina gceann agus iad a chorprú in aighneacht chéim trí— mionphleananna/mionchostais. Bhí mo Roinn i dteagmháil le húdaráis na scoile agus is eol dúinn go raibh cruinniú ag an scoil lena bhfoireann dearaidh ar 23 Samhain seo caite d’fhonn freagra a phleanáil ar na ceisteanna a tógadh sa litir dar dáta 31 Lúnasa agus táthar ag feitheamh ar fhreagra.

Breithneofar brostú na dtionscadal ar aghaidh go dti tógáil i gcomhtheacs an chlár foirgnimh agus nua-chóirithe 2005-2009.

  59.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she will introduce further measures to reduce the weight of schoolbags from both primary and post-primary students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39673/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The report of a working group to examine potential problems caused by the weight of schoolbags, which was presented in July 1998, acknowledged that many of the solutions belong at local school level. One of the main recommendations of the report related to the need to heighten the awareness of the potential health hazards posed by excessively heavy schoolbags.

In this regard, my Department initiated an awareness-raising campaign by disseminating the report, with an accompanying circular, to all primary and post-primary schools. A further circular was issued this year, again highlighting the potential health hazard of heavy schoolbags and outlining a range of local measures that could be adopted to alleviate the problem. It is a matter for each individual school to choose those measures that would be most suited to its individual needs.

My Department is aware that positive action has been taken by many schools. Actions taken by some schools consist of a range of measures, including the provision of lockers, the arrangement of the timetable into double class periods, active liaison with parents and the co-ordination of homework by subject teachers.

Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second level, mainly in the case of language subjects, school textbooks are not approved or prescribed by my Department at first or second levels. Decisions on which books to use are taken at school level.

[1261]The report of the working group was disseminated by the Department to the Irish Educational Publishers’ Association, and it was asked to include consideration of the weight of school texts in its deliberations and liaise with teachers on finding solutions to the problem. It should be pointed out that the report highlighted that both teachers and pupils favoured the use of multilevel textbook production for ease of convenience and ease of access and cited a high demand for them.

Question No. 60 answered with Question
No. 7.

  61.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if, in the context of the national drugs strategy, she supports drug testing of pupils in schools here; her views on whether such testing may reduce the incidence of drug misuse among young persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36931/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Under Action 43 of the national drugs strategy, guidelines for developing a substance abuse policy were drawn up by my Department in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the former health boards. These guidelines were issued to all schools in October 2002 to assist them in the development of appropriate substance abuse policies.

The implementation of the guidelines is the responsibility of the relevant school authorities. However, the guidelines do not advise schools to undertake drug testing of pupils and I do not consider that the policy in this regard should be changed as there is no conclusive evidence that drug testing reduces the incidence of drug misuse among young people.

Drug testing of pupils in schools has not been proposed to my Department by the national drugs strategy team. Alternative strategies, involving education, discussion, counselling, extra-curricular activities and the building of trust between students and adults, need to be further developed to address this issue.

My Department will, however, continue to monitor the situation and take into account best international practice in dealing with this issue.

  62.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she expects to meet the full requirement in respect of special needs teachers and assistants in all schools throughout the country with particular reference to speech and language therapy requirements, remedial, resource or other special needs; the optimum number of positions awaiting to be filled in this [1262]regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39596/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department’s policy is to ensure the maximum possible integration of children with special educational needs, SEN, into ordinary mainstream schools. Where mainstream provision is not appropriate children can be catered for in special schools which are dedicated to particular disability groups. There are 107 special schools in the country at present. These schools cater for children from four to 18 years of age and each school enjoys a significantly reduced pupil teacher ratio and other staffing supports. Additional special needs assistant, SNA, support is provided if deemed necessary. Special schools also receive increased rates of capitation funding.

Children with SEN can also attend special classes attached to ordinary mainstream schools. All special classes enjoy the same increased levels of staffing and funding as are made available to the special schools. Children with SEN attending special classes attached to ordinary schools may also, where appropriate, be integrated into ordinary classes for periods of the school day.

As the Deputy will be aware, a general allocation scheme has been introduced under which mainstream primary schools have been provided with resource teaching hours, based on enrolment figures, to cater for children with high incidence SEN such as dyslexia and those with learning support needs. All schools were notified of their general allocation for the 2005-06 school year last May.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, through the local special educational needs organiser, SENO, is responsible for processing applications from schools for special needs supports such as resource teaching hours and SNA support for children with low-incidence SEN, on the basis of applications in respect of individual pupils. Once a school has been advised of its general allocation and the SENO has allocated hours and SNA support if appropriate in respect of pupils with low-incidence SEN, it is a matter for the school authority to recruit the relevant staff.

There has been enormous progress made over the past number of years in increasing the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with SEN. At primary level there are now approximately 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares with under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

[1263]At second level approximately 1,630 whole time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with special educational needs. This compares with the approximately 200 teachers who were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are 532 whole-time equivalent learning support teachers in our second level schools.

The precise model of provision made available at second level will depend on the assessed needs of the pupils involved. Some pupils are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with additional teacher and-or SNA support. In other cases, placement in special dedicated classes or units attached to the school may be the more appropriate response. Such special classes operate at significantly reduced pupil teacher rations. Pupils attached to these special classes may be facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on a integrated basis wherever possible.

Enormous progress has also been made in increasing the number SNAs in our schools which specifically cater for the care needs of children with special educational needs. There are over 7,200 whole-time equivalent SNAs in primary and second level schools supporting children with special needs.

I can confirm that I will continue to prioritise the issue of special needs education and, in co-operation with the National Council for Special Education and the education partners, ensure that all children with special needs are adequately resourced to enable them to meet their full potential.

Responsibility for the provision of therapy services rests with the Health Service Executive.

  63.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on the fact that less than 8% of those between the ages of 25 and 64 here are participating in education or training, compared with over 20% in the United Kingdom and over 35% in Sweden; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37869/05]

  98.  Mr. Eamon Ryan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason for the ongoing comparatively low level of adult participation in life-long learning, which amounted to a mere 7.2% of those between the ages of 25 and 64 in 2004 compared with a corresponding figure of 27.6% and 21.3% in Finland and the UK respectively; and the measures she proposes to improve the situation. [37926/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 98 together.

[1264]The figures mentioned in the questions appear in the report of a European Union labour force survey. Of the 27 countries surveyed, the other countries mentioned were among the five with the highest percentages of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 participating in education and training. The EU average was 9.9%.

For the purposes of the survey, education and training included initial education, further education, continuing or further training, training within the company, apprenticeship, on-the-job training, seminars, distance learning and evening classes. It included also courses followed for general interest and may cover all forms of education and training, such as language, data processing, management, art-culture, and health-medicine courses.

In the interests of both personal development and the national economy, I am anxious to increase participation rates in higher and further education, with a particular focus on disadvantaged people.

In the area of further and adult education the principal objectives of the measures and programmes funded by my Department are: to meet the needs of young early school-leavers; to provide second chance education for adults; and to provide vocational education and training for labour market entrants and re-entrants.

These objectives are pursued through such full-time programmes as Youthreach, the vocational training opportunities scheme, post leaving certificate courses, senior Traveller training, the part-time Back to Education initiative and the adult literacy and community education scheme. These courses are free and many of the participants are entitled to allowances and maintenance grants. Support in the form of guidance and child care is provided to participants in some further education programmes. For example, 35 local guidance services, which are available almost nationwide, seek to ensure that adults are aware of what is on offer for them.

A national database called Qualifax provides a range of data on each course of some 12,000 educational courses, including a description of the course, the qualification entailed, entry requirements, the institution in which it is offered, and relevant fees, grants and entitlements and application procedure. The database, which is relevant to adult learners, is continually being updated by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, with funding from my Department.

The number of adults availing of education in further and higher education is increasing, for example, adult literacy client numbers have increased from 5,000 in 1997 to almost 34,000 per year in 2005. In 1995, 69% of students in the vocational training opportunities scheme were aged 25 or over. The figure is now 83%. In post-leaving certificate courses, the percentage of students in this category increased from 16.86% [1265]in 1996-97 to 30.18% in 2004-05. In 1993, just under 5% of students at third level were aged 25 or over. The corresponding figure in 2003 was 14%.

The launch of the national framework of qualifications in 2003 allows learners access to the point on the ten level scale that best responds to their needs. Progress to higher points is also facilitated. Hence, adult learners can start in a literacy class and progress through FETAC levels four and five to PLCs and on to higher education.

At third level, students are encouraged and supported in making the choice to participate in higher education by improvements in the student maintenance grant schemes, as well as the additional funding allocated through third level access fund. These measures include the awarding since 2000 of a higher or top-up level of grant to students from families on low incomes. There are also the student assistance fund, which is allocated to students in need through their higher education institution, and the millennium partnership fund, which supports the needs of students identified through area partnership and community groups.

A key area for progress identified in an action plan that was published last December by the Higher Education Authority is the development of a framework of access policies and initiatives ensuring that all disadvantaged schools, including primary and post-primary schools, areas and communities are linked to the access programmes and routes of entry of at least one higher education institution in their region. The national office for equity of access to higher education is in the process of developing this framework, a key element of which will be advocating and supporting continued and closer collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders nationally, including the higher education and community sectors.

Higher education institutions will be invited, under the recently announced strategic innovation fund, to submit proposals which are designed to promote access and progression, with the objective of underpinning the principle of life-long learning in higher education. A key part of the implementation of the strategic innovation fund, as well as the action plan for access, will be monitoring by higher education institutions and the HEA of targets and indicators of success and how measures are contributing to increased access and participation by under-represented groups, including adult learners.

The level of adult participation is rising but, as my response indicates, I am not being complacent on the matter and am, and will continue to be, proactive in ensuring that access, transfer and progress for adults in education, whether further or higher education, is a priority.

  64.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when the education board [1266]which has been established under statute to provide educational opportunities for survivors of child abuse will commence its operations; the way in which survivors will be informed regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39676/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Act 2005 provides for the establishment of an education finance board to administer a statutory education grants scheme for former residents of institutions and their families. The board will have a fund of approximately €11 million at its disposal and this will be managed by the National Treasury Management Agency on behalf of the board.

On the 6 December 2005 I announced the membership of the board and I have arranged for details of this to be forwarded to the Deputy. I expect that the new board will hold an inaugural meeting early in the new year and I will also be setting a date for its formal establishment at this time. The present arrangements for the scheme administered by the national office for victims of abuse, NOVA, will remain in place until the new board is formally established. It will be a matter for the board to decide on the form of advertising and publicity in which it will engage to promote the new statutory scheme and to inform survivors of its operation. The main survivor support groups have been informed of the board’s membership, which will include four former residents.

  65.  Mr. Sherlock    asked the Minister for Education and Science,    in the context of her exhortation to schools not to cherry pick students, the action she intends to take to ensure that all post-primary schools have equitable enrolment policies and practises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39678/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am aware that some second level schools do not appear to be doing as much as they could to ensure that students with special needs are as welcome in those schools as students without special needs. I expressed my belief in this regard at the annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals last October. However, this is a complex area, already governed by statute, and I am not sure that it would be amenable to resolution simply by the introduction of regulations.

The Education Act 1998 requires all schools to have in place an admissions policy, detailing admission to and participation by students with disabilities or who have other special educational needs. The Act also requires schools to ensure that as regards that policy the principles of equality and the right of parents to send their [1267]children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

My Department provides a range of supports to all schools to enable them to welcome students with special educational needs. My Department allocates additional teacher support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and VECs to cater for students with special with special educational needs. The nature and level or support provided in each case is based on the professionally assessed needs of the individual student. However, this requires a willingness on the part of schools to be proactive in this area and also a willingness on the part of parents to more actively assert their rights in terms of their choice of school.

The level of resources being made available to support students with special educational needs in the second level system has grown significantly in recent years. In the current school year, my Department has allocated approximately 1,614 whole-time equivalent teachers and 1,023 special needs assistants to second level schools to cater for pupils with special educational needs. This represents an increase of approximately 225 teaching posts and 391 special needs assistant posts on the previous school year.

Currently, under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school may appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt and where an appeal is upheld the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student.

The Deputy will also be aware that with effect from 1 January 2005, the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has taken over key functions from my Department in special educational provision. I am confident that the advent of the NCSE will prove of major benefit in ensuring that all children with special educational needs receive the support they require, when and where they require it.

Question No. 66 answered with Question
No. 33.

  67.  Mr. Costello    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the amount of the school building programme funding allocation that has been spent to date in 2005; the amount that remains unspent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39653/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Virtually all of the allocated funding for the school building programme has been expended. The remaining balance will be expended before the end of the year.

  68.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the recommendations of the task force on physical sciences which have been implemented and which remain to be implemented; the timeframe for full implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39669/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  There were some 39 recommendations in the report of the task force on the physical sciences, with costed proposals totalling an additional €244 million, of which €66.3 million would be a recurring annual cost. Progress has been made on implementing 25 of the recommendations and my Department continues to progress the recommendations as resources permit in collaboration and consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, FORFÁS and industry.

Significant progress has been made in a range of areas. For example, a new science curriculum has been introduced at primary level supported by a resource grant in December 2004 of €1,000 per school plus €10 per pupil. A revised syllabus in junior certificate science was introduced in 2003 and will be examined for the first time next June. Revised syllabi in leaving certificate physics, chemistry and biology have also been introduced and examined within the last five years.

Work on the revision of the two remaining leaving certificate subjects — agricultural science and physics and chemistry combined — is well advanced. The introduction of each of the revised syllabi has been supported by comprehensive in-service programmes for teachers. Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing school building programme.

In that context, €16 million was issued to schools in 2004 to support the implementation of the revised junior certificate science syllabus. A review of grading of subjects in the leaving certificate and initial reports on teacher training have been undertaken. A review of mathematics at post-primary level is being undertaken by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA. Investment in the programme of research in third level institutes, PRTLI, is continuing apace to enhance and promote world class standards in research, innovation and development. Between this programme, the various grants to the research councils and other sources, an estimated €102.5 million will be invested in third level institutions in 2005.

  69.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the standard entry requirements regarding Irish will brought into line with other subjects as they apply to teacher training colleges; [1269]and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39527/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department specifies the minimum academic requirements for entry to primary teacher training courses provided in the colleges of education. As part of these requirements all candidates, including school leavers, mature students and university graduates, must have secured a minimum of a grade C in higher level Irish in the leaving certificate or an approved equivalent. This requirement covers both the written and oral element of a student’s proficiency in Irish.

My Department considers this required entry level to be the minimum standard in Irish necessary for students entering a teacher training course, which will equip them to teach Irish to pupils at all levels in primary schools. I have no plans to change the entry requirements to primary teacher training courses at present.

  70.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when further information on the operation of second level schools will be released; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39565/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  During the summer I announced that my Department would publish school inspection reports arising from the general programme of school inspections. Under this programme a selected number of schools is inspected on a cyclical basis.

Reports arising from the general inspection programme for schools and centres for education will be published in their entirety and in accordance with the principles and procedures described in “Guidelines on the Publication of School Inspection Reports”. A draft of this document was circulated to the education partners for comment and the inspectorate is currently finalising the guidelines in light of the written comments received from the education partners. I intend to publish the finalised guidelines in January 2006 and arrange that inspections following the publication of the guidelines will be conducted on the basis that the resulting reports will be published.

The new procedures will provide the school with a right of response to the reports and it is intended that both the inspection report and the school response — where this is provided by the school’s board of management — will be published simultaneously. Boards of management and teachers also have the right to seek a review of an inspection. The timeframe must, therefore, allow for the possibility of review as well as time for the school to prepare a response.

[1270]Question No. 71 answered with Question
No. 32.

  72.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the additional teaching posts allocated to the further education sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39550/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Following my decision to provide for 100 extra post-leaving certificate, PLC, posts, my Department approved a total of 1,600 extra places in PLC courses for the 2005-06 school year. In this regard it was open to school authorities to apply for additional teaching resources to cater for this increased enrolment. School authorities that applied for this increased allocation have to date been granted additional posts amounting to approximately 74 whole-time teacher equivalents. Officials in my Department are in consultation with the relevant authorities to ensure in so far as possible any entitlement to new resources under this initiative is applied this year. I am anxious that the schools would take up these posts.

Question No. 73 answered with Question
No. 32.

  74.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of primary schools with multi-purpose rooms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39571/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Detailed information in the format requested by the Deputy is not available but, should the Deputy have a question in respect of a particular school, I would be happy to provide a response. In general, the provision of general purposes rooms and multi-purpose spaces for primary schools is considered within the design brief for new schools and-or renovation-extension school building projects. This is done in the context of available resources and having regard to the published criteria for prioritising school building projects.

Question No. 75 answered with Question
No. 32.

  76.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of schools in Kildare North that have physical education facilities that are in use for this purpose; her plans to provide such facilities to schools in Kildare North that are operating without them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39343/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The information is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy. However, regarding physical education, PE, facilities in schools generally, the PE curriculum has been designed on the basis that facilities in schools may vary. Many primary schools have a general purpose room and practically all schools have outdoor play areas that are utilised for teaching different aspects of the physical education programme. In addition, many schools use adjacent local facilities, including public parks, playing fields and swimming pools.

My Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities. In this regard the provision of multi-purpose space and outdoor play areas for primary schools will continue to be considered within the design brief for new schools and renovation or extension projects. This will be done in the context of available resources and the published criteria for prioritising school building projects. At second level it is the policy of the Department to provide a PE hall to a school that does not already have such a facility. Again, this is considered as part of the design brief for new schools and for major renovation or extension projects within available resources and the overall published criteria for prioritising projects.

The Deputy may also be aware that the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism is currently undertaking a national audit of sports facilities in communities around the country, which will provide useful information on facilities available to schools.

  77.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of National Educational Psychological Service psychologists employed by the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39542/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The number of National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologists has increased almost threefold from 43 on establishment to 121 at present. The Public Appointments Service has recently established new recruitment panels for the NEPS. Regional panels are now in place and my Department is currently in the process of appointing ten psychologists. Priority will be given to filling vacancies in areas of greatest need. Any increase in the number of psychologists in the NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and must also take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

Question No. 78 answered with Question
No. 43.

  79.  Mr. G. Murphy    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the provision of vending machines will be part of the next PPP contract for school building and management; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39568/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  In the case of the existing five PPP schools, while the operator is responsible for the vending machines, the location, content and availability of vending machines were agreed through discussion between the operator and the school authorities concerned. For example, timers are fitted to all of the vending machines to ensure that students only have access to the machines at the appropriate times. It is my intention that under my Department’s new PPP programme, should the contract provide for vending machines, the school authorities will have the final say on the location, content and availability of such machines.

  80.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the grants available to primary schools to purchase physical education equipment; the moneys allocated under such grant scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39562/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise, PE, within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities for all pupils attending primary and post-primary schools. The provision of such facilities is an integral part of the design process for new school buildings or where an existing school building is undergoing major refurbishment. In primary schools new PE equipment, such as balancing benches and gym mats, are funded as part of any major building programme. At post-primary level when a PE hall is built a range of equipment is provided to facilitate the teaching of many sports. This includes posts-goals and nets for basketball, netball, volleyball, badminton, football and hockey. Table tennis tables and some gymnastic equipment such as mats and springboards are also provided.

Regarding specific sports equipment grants, from 2000 to 2003 my Department provided in excess of €5.5 million in grant aid to primary schools specifically for this purpose to enable them to provide coaching or mentoring in connection with physical education or to purchase resource materials associated with the provision of physical education. Such materials and equipment would normally have a useful life of several years.

I would also like to point out that schools may use their general capitation funding to support [1273]the implementation of curricula, including physical education. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level has been increased from £45 —€57.14 — per pupil to €133.58 in the current year, an increase of almost 134% in the period. At post-primary level the standard rate of capitation has also increased to €286 in the current year. In addition, post-primary schools with special classes receive an additional €200.62 per pupil attending the special class.

In 2006 the capitation grant at primary level will be increased by €12 per pupil to €145.58 and at post-primary level by €12 to €298 per student. Also, all primary schools with permanent recognition receive an annual minor works grant from my Department. Each school gets a standard rate of €3,809 together with a per pupil rate of €12.70. Special schools and schools with special classes receive an enhanced per pupil rate of €50.80. It is open to school management authorities to use this devolved grant for the purchase of equipment, including physical education equipment, provided it is not required for more urgent works.

Primary and post-primary schools that establish a class for special needs pupils receive a once-off grant of €6,500 per class to purchase equipment, including physical education equipment, that they feel best meets the needs of the pupils attending the class. My Department also considers applications for additional grant aid for such equipment where schools can demonstrate that the minor works grant funding is insufficient for this purpose.

  81.  Mr. Costello    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the crisis in funding of Educate Together will be addressed, which if not addressed will make it impossible for it to carry out the work it has been doing on behalf of the State as the patron body for multi-denominational national schools; if additional moneys will be allocated to it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39652/05]

  88.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the funding allocated by her Department to the Educate Together organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39570/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 88 together.

In making their case for funding to me Educate Together also raised the issue for support for newly establishing schools. To support such schools I am introducing a new grant of €10,000 payable in two instalments of €5,000 for the boards of management of newly establishing schools in respect of training of the boards of management and staff in their initial years. [1274]Schools established in the 2004-05 school year and that are now in their second year of operation will receive €5,000 as a training grant for boards of management. Those established in the current school year will qualify for both instalments of the grant. As a further measure to assist new schools I will be authorising the earlier appointment of principal teachers in these schools to assist in the establishment phase.

Regarding support for the ethical education programme in Educate Together schools I have asked my Department to establish a working group involving Educate Together to see how further support can be provided in this area. I am confident that the range of measures now being introduced, including the almost threefold increase in its grant, provides a comprehensive response to the request made for additional support for Educate Together and its schools.

Question No. 82 answered with Question
No. 30.

Question No. 83 answered with Question
No. 24.

Question No. 84 answered with Question
No. 45.

  85.  Ms O. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of PhD level students graduating from universities here and third level institutes on an annual basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39563/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The number of PhD graduations from the university sector in 2000-03, the latest year for which the figures are available, is as follows: 571 in 2000, 572 in 2001, 602 in 2002 and 611 in 2003. The Deputy should note that this refers to the university sector alone. The information for the institutes of technology, the Dublin Institute of Technology and other third level institutions is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

  86.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department is planning to place more emphasis on the speaking of Irish in the curriculum and examination system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39668/05]

  92.  Mr. Hayes    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on whether proposals for the significant amendment of the Irish curriculum at both junior and leaving certificate level should be brought forward; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39538/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 92 together.

A number of activities are currently under way that will inform any review of Irish in the curriculum and examination system. The inspectorate of my Department has carried out an evaluation of the teaching and learning of Irish in the junior cycle in 10% of schools and a report on the findings will be published in 2006. In addition, my Department has invited the Council of Europe to carry out an analysis of language education in Ireland.

Irish is one of the specific areas for consideration in this process and a report is expected in 2006. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, is also carrying out a review of languages in the post-primary curriculum and this includes a focus on Irish. I am anxious to have more emphasis placed on oral Irish and I have already asked the NCCA to make recommendations to me in this regard as one of its next steps in developing its proposals for senior cycle reform.

  87.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on whether further education should be established as an educational sector in its own right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39551/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  This Government is strongly committed to improving participation and achievement at every level of education. We have put the resources and supports in place to ensure that there is a wide range of course options available in the further and higher education sectors for young people who wish to continue their studies after second level and for people returning to education later in life.

Programmes within the further education sector funded by my Department are operated and managed primarily by the vocational education committees. National certification is provided by the Further Education and Training Awards Council. Within the framework of the priorities identified in the White Paper on adult education the principal objectives of the measures and programmes funded by the Department of Education and Science in the further and adult education area are to meet the needs of young early school leavers, provide vocational education and training opportunities for labour market entrants and re-entrants and alternative pathways to higher education and provide second chance education for adults.

These objectives are pursued through such programmes as Youthreach, senior Traveller training centres, the vocational training opportunities scheme, post-leaving certificate courses, the back to education initiative and the adult lit[1276]eracy and community education scheme. Government support for these different programmes is very significant. Regarding the PLC colleges, for example, we have increased the number of places available by 60% since 1996-97. Indeed, the number of PLC places approved for 2005-06 is up by over 1,600 on the 2004-05 level. The number of approved places in the sector now stands at 30,188.

Our commitment to enabling more people to access further education is evident not only in the expansion of approved places and teachers but also in the introduction of maintenance grants for students with effect from September 1998. Tuition fees for PLC courses are waived. The PLC maintenance grant scheme operates on the same basis as in higher education. There are nearly 8,000 PLC grant holders in 2005 and they will receive some £23 million in direct support.

The 2006 Estimates include provision for the cost of the extra 100 teaching posts provided for the post-leaving certificate colleges in the current academic year. They also provide for an increase of 19% in the VTOS non-pay grant in 2006 and for increased non-pay grants to senior Traveller and Youthreach centres also. This Government has shown a sustained determination to expand and improve further and adult education over recent years. We believe strongly in the value of this sector and will continue to prioritise it for resources and supports in the years ahead.

Question No. 88 answered with Question
No. 81.

  89.  Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department is planning to place more emphasis on the speaking of foreign languages in the curriculum and examination system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39667/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  One of the general aims of modern foreign language syllabi at both junior and leaving certificate levels is to enable students to participate fruitfully in a range of everyday oral transactions in the target language both at home and abroad. This general aim is reflected in the communicative nature of the syllabi and in the fact that assessment of oral competence is given significant weighting in the certificate examinations. In the leaving certificate the oral examination is compulsory and the weighting is 25% of the total marks at higher level and 20% at ordinary level. In the junior certificate examination the oral examination, which is optional, is worth 20% of the total marks.

One of the recurring recommendations in evaluation reports on the teaching and learning of foreign languages prepared by the inspectorate of my Department is that teachers should make use [1277]of a wide range of teaching methodologies in order to increase oral participation by students and develop their spoken competence in the language concerned. Another common recommendation is that priority should be given to the assessment of students’ oral proficiency at all stages of the teaching and learning process.

The NCCA is currently engaged in a review of languages in the post-primary curriculum. At the same time, my Department is working with the language policy division of the Council of Europe in reviewing Ireland’s policies in the area of language education. Recommendations arising from these two reviews will be taken into account in planning for future developments in the syllabi for and the assessment of modern foreign languages.

  90.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding plans for the early development of a new school site at Adamstown. [39586/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department has reserved three sites for the future provision of educational facilities in the Adamstown strategic development zone. It is planned that at least one of these sites will cater for a multi-school campus arrangement.

The school planning section of my Department has been engaged in discussions with the land owners of the sites concerned for some time regarding the issues of site acquisition and the optimum delivery method for school provision in the area. As a result of these discussions the development of a new primary and post-primary school is included as part of the 23 new post-primary schools and four new primary schools announced on the list of projects to be delivered under the Government’s expanded public private partnership programme.

I am conscious that the delivery of educational infrastructure in Adamstown is central to the development of this new town and the school planning section of my Department is working to ensure that schools are provided in accordance with the phasing process set down in the planning scheme for the area.

  91.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department has detected obstacles that will prevent schools that were to have commenced construction under the school building programme in 2005 from going ahead; if so, the schools which are affected and the nature of the obstacles; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39654/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Major building projects cannot easily be delivered in a short period of time. A complex range of factors governs the life cycle of any [1278]potential building project from design through compliance with the planning process to construction.

New ways such as the devolved building initiatives for small rural schools, the permanent accommodation initiative and the summer works scheme show my Department’s commitment to finding innovative and flexible solutions to the difficulties faced by schools seeking to refurbish their buildings or to provide additional accommodation quickly. There is minimal interaction with my Department and schools are fully empowered to drive the design and construction process.

Every effort is made to ensure that projects are got on site as soon as possible. Under the 2004 school building programme 168 major projects were approved to go to tender and construction. A total of 153 of these projects are either under construction or recently completed and a further six projects are due on site early in the new year. The balance of the projects is progressing through architectural planning with a view to getting them to tender and construction as soon as possible.

Under the 2005 school building programme, 124 projects were announced to go to tender and construction over a 15 month period. A total of 24 of these projects are currently on site and a further 15 are due on site early in the new year. The balance of the projects is progressing through architectural planning with a view to getting them to tender and construction as soon as possible.

Question No. 92 answered with Question
No. 86.

  93.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the resources in place to ensure that bogus so-called universities cannot continue to use this title in contravention of the Universities Act 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39670/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  In November 2004, my Department conducted a major review of such organisations, with a view to securing their compliance with section 52 of the Universities Act 1997. Arising from this review, my Department has undertaken a number of actions including: agreement of new procedures with the Companies Registration Office, including the conducting of a rigorous review of applications for registration of limited companies and business names; requesting the Internet Domain Registry, a private company, to exercise caution when reviewing applications for domain names which include the titles “University”, “Institute of Technology” and “Regional Technical College”; communicating with a number of such organisations requesting that they desist from using the term “university”; and publication on the Department’s website of a list of State-aided third level institutions, or other [1279]colleges where programmes have been validated by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council.

In addition, my Department reported one of these companies to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, which is conducting an investigation based on this complaint. My Department is also seeking to have a number of business names removed from the register in the Companies Registration Office.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my officials are reviewing existing legislation with a view to strengthening its position in dealing with these organisations. My Department views these operations as mere commercial organisations with no educational standing, which are exploiting tenuous links with Ireland. Certainly, they have not been subject to any of the well-established rigorous accreditation or quality assessment procedures which exist here. Their existence is contrary to the interests of Ireland’s higher education institutions, which have sought to preserve the high international standing and reputation which our system quite rightly enjoys. The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue its efforts to press for compliance with legislation.

  94.  Ms Lynch    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the transfer of properties and money from the religious congregations has been completed in the context of the indemnity agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39665/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Under the terms of the indemnity agreement reached with the religious congregations on 5 June 2002, the congregations agreed to make a contribution of €128 million towards the redress scheme. This was broken down as follows: a cash contribution of €41.14 million; provision of counselling services for €10 million; and property transfers of €76.86 million.

The congregations paid the cash contribution to the State by way of an initial payment of €12,654,000 on 5 June 2002. The balance was paid by four instalments of €7,121,500 in September and December 2002 and in February and May 2003 in accordance with the terms of section 7 of the agreement. A €10 million sum has been provided for expenditure by the congregations on counselling services for former residents of institutions for children.

The property contribution of the congregations is divided into two separate and distinct schedules of properties. The first schedule, schedule A, refers to properties to be transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies or local authorities after the date of the signing of the indemnity agreement on 5 June 2002. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes [1280]of the indemnity agreement was set at €36.54 million. I can confirm that agreement in principle has been reached with the religious congregations on the transfer of 35 properties under this schedule to the amount of €38.24 million. This figure of €38.24 million includes €4.98 million in cash that was provided by the congregations in lieu of property.

The second schedule, schedule B, refers to properties transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies, local authorities or voluntary organisations from 11 May 1999, the date of the Taoiseach’s apology to victims of child abuse. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes of the indemnity agreement was set at €40.32 million. I can confirm that transfers of 29 properties to the value of approximately €36.21 million have been agreed in principle under this schedule. This includes a cash payment of €3.25 million made by the congregations in lieu of property.

Taking account the oversubscription on schedule A, and subject to final verification of certain property valuations, the net outstanding balance under the agreement is approximately €2.4 million. My Department is in discussion with the religious congregations on this matter with a view to concluding this aspect of the agreement.

  95.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her response to the recent report of the Pensions Ombudsman, which included particular criticism of employers in the educational sector; the action she intends to take arising from the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37197/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Pensions Ombudsman can investigate complaints referred to him by an actual or potential beneficiary of an occupational pension scheme or a personal retirement savings account, PRSA. These complaints can be against trustees, managers, employers, former employers or administrators.

The annual report of the Pensions Ombudsman for 2004, published earlier this year, raised issues regarding internal disputes resolution procedures and the respective roles of different Departments with respect to decision making in respect of pension schemes.

An internal disputes resolution procedure is essentially an internal appeal process under which a member or former member of a pension scheme may have a complaint or dispute regarding his or her entitlements under the scheme considered and determined. The aim is to resolve, where possible, the issues involved without the need to proceed to the Pensions Ombudsman.

There were some instances during 2004, the first full year of operation of the Pensions Ombudsman service, where my Department was [1281]unable to meet the timeframe allowed for internal disputes resolution. This was partly due to the complexities of the cases involved, including the need to consult with the Department of Finance as necessary, and partly due to the need, at the outset of this new service, to determine whether particular issues in regard to pensions were appropriate for determination by the Minister for Education and Science rather than the Minister for Finance.

The question of responsibility as between the Ministers has now been clarified and it is accepted that where a particular pension scheme provides for an appeal to the Minister for Finance, the internal disputes resolution is a matter for that Department and that, in all other cases involving the pension entitlements of education sector staff, the internal disputes resolution is a matter for my Department.

My Department recognises that the Pensions Ombudsman performs an important service for pension scheme members both in the public and private sectors and will continue to co-operate with that office on any cases that are within my Department’s remit. A total of five complainants from the education sector referred their cases for determination by the Pensions Ombudsman during 2004.

Question No. 96 answered with Question
No. 9.

  97.  Ms Lynch    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she will consult with second level senior cycle students to ascertain their views in the context of the proposals by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on the reform of the leaving certificate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39664/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The NCCA’s proposals for the future development of senior cycle education in Ireland were drawn up following a widespread consultative process, in which students’ opinions were heard in number of ways. The initial online survey offered the public at large an opportunity to respond to the issues raised in the discussion paper on senior cycle education which was circulated by the NCCA in advance. This survey was targeted at students and the majority of the 1,813 responses received were from students.

At a representative level, the NCCA sponsored and held seminars involving the Union of Secondary Students in Ireland and other student representative groups. The NCCA also hosted a presentation by representatives of Dáil na nÓg on the senior cycle proposals. In addition, the NCCA has conducted school-based research to inform its advice around senior cycle developments. This has involved NCCA staff working with groups of students, parents, teachers and [1282]school management in a representative sample of ten post-primary schools.

Question No. 98 answered with Question
No. 63.

  99.  Dr. Twomey    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of education welfare officers employed by the National Educational Welfare Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39545/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government’s RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently, work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

Question No. 100 answered with Question
No. 11.

  101.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of primary and secondary schools covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39543/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The number of National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologists has increased almost three-fold, from 43 on establishment to 121 at present. The Public Appointments Service has recently established new recruitment panels for NEPS. Regional panels are now in place and my Department is currently in the process of appointing psychologists. Priority will be given to filling vacancies in areas of greatest need. Any increase in the number of psychologists in NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and must also take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

All primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments for their pupils, either directly through National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologists or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, that is administered by NEPS. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. Details of this process and the conditions that apply to the scheme are available on my Department’s website.

The latest figures available indicate that NEPS psychologists provide a dedicated service to a total of 1,623 primary schools and to 563 post-primary schools. The latter figure does not include 46 Dublin city and county vocational education committee, VEC, schools that have a VEC educational psychological service. NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in respect of all schools, NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodation in certificate examinations and responds to queries with regard to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

Question No. 102 answered with Question
No. 15.

  103.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department has guidelines on the provision of food vending machines on school premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39567/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Schools are privately managed institutions which, although funded by the State, enjoy a large degree of autonomy. It is, therefore, primarily a matter for each school to devise guidelines on the types of food that are available on the school premises and such policies should [1284]be driven by the needs and welfare of the pupils. I know that many schools have developed healthy eating policies in co-operation with their parents’ associations and I encourage others to do so.

  104.  Mr. English    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the average caseload of each education welfare officer in the National Educational Welfare Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39546/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents and guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, educational welfare officers, EWOs, have been appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the board’s functions locally.

The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education. I understand that the NEWB provides an intensive service in the areas where educational welfare officers are located. All other areas receive an urgent service where the NEWB prioritises children who, for example, are out of school or where no school place exists for them.

The board has indicated to my Department that the average caseload of each educational welfare officer as at December 2005 is approximately 110. This figure is similar to that which was last indicated by the board as at September 2005, that is, 108. The board is continuously reviewing its procedures for prioritising children and families who require intervention, in order to ensure that children with the greatest level of need gain maximum benefit from available resources, and to work with local agencies in prioritising children’s and family needs.

In this regard, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work [1285]involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently, work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

Question No. 105 answered with Question
No. 15.

Question No. 106 answered with Question
No. 24.

  107.  Mr. Cuffe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason the National Educational Welfare Board has not received the funding it requires to fully carry out its statutory duties. [39582/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government’s RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

The budget allocated to the NEWB for 2006 is €8.15 million, with the allocation to the board having increased by more than 25% since 2004 to support it in delivering on its key objectives.

  108.  Mr. Neville    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of male leaving certificate students who achieved an honours grade in the higher level Irish examination in leaving certificate 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39540/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  A total of 55,222 candidates participated in the established leaving certificate examination in 2004.

Of this number, some 14,878 candidates sat the leaving certificate Gaeilge examination at higher level. This represented just over 30% of the total cohort of 48,962 candidates taking the Gaeilge examination that year.

Gaeilge is offered at three levels in the leaving certificate, namely, foundation level, ordinary level and higher level. Of the 14,878 candidates who took the exam at higher level, 4,932 were male and 9,946 were female. A total of 3,919 of the male candidates attained a grade C3 or higher in the exam. This represented 79% of the total male cohort who sat the higher level exam. The equivalent honours rate for the female candidates was 85%.

Question No. 109 answered with Question
No. 30.

  110.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the additional details which are required to be provided by a person (details supplied) in County Meath to enable their means to be assessed and their needs evaluated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39798/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  111.  Mr. Eoin Ryan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding whether married mothers within the State are allowed to register their children in maternity hospitals (details supplied) while unmarried mothers are not; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39951/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  An tArd-Chláraitheoir, or Regis[1287]trar General, is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration service in Ireland. I have made inquiries with him and I am informed that the position is as follows.

The provisions relating to births of the Civil Registration Act 2004 were commenced on 5 December 2005. These provisions govern the civil registration of all births occurring within the state and revoke the previous legislation applicable.

Under the old system, the majority of births occurring in maternity hospitals were registered by the occupier, or a staff member authorised to do so by the occupier, of the hospital, unless the parents specifically requested to act as qualified informants or the hospital did not have sufficient knowledge of all required particulars. In acting as qualified informant, the hospital was relying on the presumption of paternity on the part of a man married to a woman who had given birth, as provided for under the Status of Children Act 1987. No such presumption exists in law where the parents are not married and this is the basis on which the hospital would have acted.

Under section 19 of the new Act, there is now a duty on all parents, irrespective of their marital status, to attend before any registrar of births, deaths and marriages, to give to the registrar the particulars required to register the birth and to sign the register of births in the presence of the registrar, within three months of the birth.

The Act provides for a number of qualified informants, that is, persons with a duty to give the required particulars of a birth to a registrar. The primary responsibility to act as qualified informants rests with the parents and it is only if the parents are dead, or incapable of acting through ill-health, or fail or refuse to act within three months of the birth, that other qualified informants, such as the occupier of a maternity hospital, or a medical practitioner or midwife who attended the birth, are required to act. Where a birth has not been registered within three months and the registrar in whose functional area the birth occurred is unable to contact either parent of the child concerned, the registrar may give a notice to another qualified informant to register the birth.

The new arrangements are intended to involve all parents to a much greater extent in the registration process, to simplify and clarify the procedures and to enhance the depth and quality of the information contained in the register of births.

  112.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she is satisfied regarding the extent and frequency of school medical examinations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40056/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  113.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she intends to extend the clinical indemnity scheme to medical practices in the private hospitals that are to be built on the grounds of public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39693/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  At present the clinical indemnity scheme covers hospitals and other health service agencies which are funded in whole or in part by the Exchequer. It does not cover private hospitals which remain responsible for arranging their own public liability insurance which usually includes medical malpractice cover. Consultants who practise in private hospitals benefit from the caps which have been placed on the extent of professional indemnity cover that they are required to purchase. There are no plans to include private hospitals, whether built on the grounds of public hospitals or elsewhere, in the clinical indemnity scheme.

  114.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if services, for example, chiropody and physiotherapy can be made available in nursing homes in the north-eastern area to holders of medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39694/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The availability of services such as chiropody and physiotherapy is a matter for the Health Services Executive having regard to the availability of resources. My Department asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy regarding the availability of services of this kind for persons in nursing homes in the north-eastern area who hold a medical card.

  115.  Mr. Ring    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. [39695/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to [1289]the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  116.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her Department will supply home help for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; her views on whether this is a deserving case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39730/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  117.  Mr. Neville    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the allocation by her Department for the mental illness services for 2006. [39737/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The multi-annual investment programme for disability services, published last December by the Government, contains details of specific commitments regarding the provision of certain high-priority disability services, including mental health services, over the period 2006 to 2009. This programme, together with the enhancement of other support services, is a key factor in building the additional capacity required to put in place the new framework provided for in the Disability Act 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.

Under the multi-annual investment programme 2006, additional funding of €59 million is being made available to support and further enhance the service developments put in place as a result of the increase in the level of funding provided in 2005. A further €41 million is also being provided in 2006 to the disability and mental health services to enhance multidisciplinary support services for people with disabilities, with a particular focus on enhancing services for children.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Tánaiste launched “Reach Out: National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014” in September of this year. To oversee the implemen[1290]tation of this strategy, the national office for suicide prevention, NOSP, has recently been established by the HSE. An additional €1.2 million has been allocated to NOSP to support the implementation of the strategy in 2006.

  118.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her Department has come to a decision regarding the births, deaths and marriages registrars; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that these registrars are extremely unhappy with same and are unwilling to continue providing these services under this structure (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39741/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  An tArd-Chláraitheoir, the Registrar General, is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration service. I have made inquiries with him and I am informed that the position is as follows. In the majority of registration offices around the country, the civil registration service is administered locally by registrars of births, deaths and marriages who are Health Service Executive, HSE, employees, employed on a substantive basis for this purpose. In addition to these employees, there are some 40 private registrars appointed under the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Acts. The majority of these are private individuals who provide the service from private residences and private offices. Some private registrars are also HSE employees, such as community welfare officers and district medical officers, but they perform registration functions as an adjunct to their substantive appointments.

HSE staff employed as registrars on a substantive basis are remunerated by salary appropriate to their grade. Private registrars are remunerated, as applicable, by an annual allowance of €172.68 per designated registration district in respect of births, deaths and Catholic marriage registrations and by an allowance of €43.17 in respect of civil marriage registrations, giving a maximum total allowance of €215.85. A fee of €0.86 is paid per event registered. These payments are made by the HSE on foot of quarterly accounts submitted to and approved by the superintendent registrar. Private registrars retain the standard fees for issue of certificates of births, deaths and marriages —€10 per certificate; €8 per extra copy — that are paid by members of the public. These rates were last revised in 1987.

I understand that a number of private registrars, who are members of the IMPACT trade union, have expressed dissatisfaction with the current remuneration arrangements. My Department has received a letter from IMPACT seeking an increase in the fees payable to the members concerned and the matter has been referred to [1291]the HSE employer representative division. As this matter falls to be dealt with in an industrial relations context, it is not appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

  119.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason there is a waiting list for treatment for heroin use in Tallaght when the south-west area of the Health Service Executive will not use the spare capacity of 35 places at the community addiction response programme in Killinarden; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39780/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  120.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she proposes to publish a national policy on parking charges at public hospitals. [39782/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  121.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39783/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The general rules and policy relating to the national repayment scheme have been set out in previous parliamentary questions. These can be made available to the Deputy should he require them.

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the scheme, inquiries relating to individual cases are referred to its parliamentary affairs division. My Department [1292]has asked the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  122.  Mr. Costello    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she proposes to follow the example of France and put warning labels on containers of alcohol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39785/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  A strategic task force on alcohol was established to recommend evidence based measures to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm and published two reports with over 100 recommendations, including a recommendation on labelling.

A working group on alcohol was recently established to help mobilise the stakeholders through social partnership to achieve a targeted and measurable reduction in alcohol misuse. The working group operates in the context of the special initiative on alcohol and drug misuse under Sustaining Progress.

The working group is comprised of the social partners, the relevant Government Departments, the Garda, the national drugs strategy team and the Health Service Executive. The working group is seeking to agree a programme of actions which can deliver targeted results in respect of underage drinking, binge drinking and drink driving. It is expected to produce a set of recommendations in late 2005.

A new EU alcohol policy is currently being developed. Ireland is playing a lead role in trying to gain consensus on many issues, including the labelling of alcohol containers. The issue of warning labels has also been discussed by the social partners at meetings of the working group on alcohol.

It should be stressed that while placing warning labels on beverage containers would have some effect in raising awareness, the international evidence suggests that this should not be a lead strategy to tackle alcohol related harm.

  123.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if home help hours will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny as they had 12 hours but have been reduced to 4.75 hours; the reason this cut was made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39800/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the [1293]Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  124.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if an appeal lodged to the Health Service Executive south-east area regarding nursing home fees will be expedited in the case of a person (details supplied); and if a response will be expedited. [39801/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  125.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a motorised transport grant will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [39802/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  126.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will ensure that the Health Service Executive north-east area, in its procurement of a consultancy to examine acute hospital services in the north east, will take on board the unanimous views of the consultant surgeons who are delivering the services on the ground in Cavan and Monaghan hospitals, and who indicated their unhappiness in a letter of 15 September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39803/05]

  127.  Mr. Connolly    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the plans that the Health Service Executive north-east area has, in its procurement of a consultancy, to examine acute hospital services in the north east (details [1294]supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39804/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):   I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 127 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  128.  Ms Shortall    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the amount allocated for sheltered housing in 2006; if the budgetary allocation of €500,000 to sheltered housing announced in the package for the elderly on 8 December 2005 means an extra €500,000 in addition to the existing budget of €428,000 or simply a €72,000 increase on the 2005 allocation; the sub-head in Estimates 2006 where same is provided for; her views on whether this is an acceptable commitment to sheltered housing services in view of the fact that she says she strongly supports the development of sheltered housing accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39805/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  As the Deputy will be aware the development of sheltered housing accommodation provides a real alternative to residential care and reflects the desire of older people to live with as much independence as possible. The total budgetary allocation in 2006 for sheltered housing is the existing allocation of €428,000 plus the extra funding of €500,000 announced on 8 December, resulting in a total of €928,000 for 2006. An additional €500,000 has also been provided for 2007.

This additional funding will help sheltered housing developments to give a comprehensive service and is a reasonable allocation to meet these objectives. The abridged Book of Estimates was published last month and therefore could not have provided for the announcement on sheltered housing which is part of the €150 million full-year package for older people and palliative care announced on budget day. The Revised Book of Estimates 2006 will provide for this funding.

While this Department is allocating current funding to provide health service supports for sheltered housing schemes, responsibility for sheltered housing falls within the remit of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

  129.  Ms Shortall    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her plans to increase medical card and doctor only income guidelines in January 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39806/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  In January 2005, I increased the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications by 7.5%. In June, I simplified the means test for both medical cards and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant’s and spouse’s income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. This is much fairer to applicants. I announced on 13 October 2005 that the income guidelines for both medical cards and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%. This means the income guidelines are now 29% higher than this time last year.

I have no plans at present to further amend the current income guidelines. However, my Department and the HSE will continue to monitor the operation of these guidelines with a view to ensuring that medical cards and GP visit cards continue to be available to those who require them.

  130.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if the financial and staffing requirements of the Health Service Executive service plans prepared under sections 31 and 33 of the Health Act 2004 were fully funded by her Department; if not, the outstanding elements of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39807/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  In accordance with the Health Act 2004 and in relation to 2005 the HSE submitted a national service plan which was approved by me. Similarly, following the recent publication of the Abridged Estimates Volume 2006, I contacted the HSE outlining the key elements of additional funding for 2006 and a national service plan has been submitted based on these figures. I am currently reviewing this and by 29 December 2005 the plan must be either approved or be subject to a direction to amend.

The national service plan must include reference to the type and volume of services to be provided in the year, any capital plans proposed, estimates of the number of employees of the executive and the services to which the plan relates. The national service plan must also comply with the policies and objectives of the Minister and the Government. It is imperative that the service plan is compiled with due regard to services being delivered in line with the funding provided in the published Estimates volume.

[1296]In my letter to the HSE I also reiterated the requirement for strict compliance with Government policy on controlling the numbers employed in the health service and the absolute necessity of putting in place a robust system for the effective management of employment levels in both the HSE and the wider public health service.

Approval of the national service plan is subject to, amongst other things, compliance with policies regarding service delivery within approved levels of funding and compliance with employment control procedures. Monitoring of the service plan will take place during 2006.

  131.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Question No. 236 of 8 November 2005, when a response will issue from the Health Service Executive western area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39808/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  My Department has been advised by the HSE that a response has recently been issued to the Deputy concerning the matter raised by him in Question No. 236 of 8 November 2005.

  132.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to Question No. 229 of 2 November 2005, when a response will issue relating to the north Tipperary area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39809/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  My Department has been advised by the HSE that it is finalising the preparation of its reply to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised in Question No. 229 of 2 November and that this will issue to him as soon as possible.

  133.  Mr. Fleming    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when the psychiatric report on a person (details supplied) in County Laois will be made available to the health professionals dealing with that person. [39810/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  134.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the waiting times for orthodontic assessment and treatment in each Health Service Executive area; the numbers on each waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39821/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  135.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the status of the application for a new health centre in Keadue, County Roscommon; if funding will be approved for the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39822/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  136.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if funding will be approved for a health centre in Strokestown, County Roscommon; the status of the application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39823/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  137.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if funding will be approved for a full seven day residential service for the Brothers of Charity in south County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39829/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  138.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if persons with an intellectual disability who availed of respite care and who were charged for this service are not eligible for a refund if they are in receipt of a medical card; if so, when this repayment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39830/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long-stay charges for publicly funded residential care. In regard to persons with full eligibility who availed of respite care for a total of over 30 days in any 12 month period, it is possible that charges may have been wrongly applied in such circumstances. All those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged and are alive and the estates of all those who were wrongly charged and died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died prior to that date. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation, using the consumer price index, since the time the person involved was charged.

Draft heads of a Bill for a repayment scheme have been prepared and will shortly be submitted to Cabinet for approval. It is my intention to have legislation brought before the Oireachtas in the next parliamentary session and to have repayments commencing shortly after the Bill is approved and signed into law.

A national oversight committee has been appointed and has already begun its work. It will provide an independent input into the design of the scheme and will monitor the operation of the scheme in order to ensure that it is being implemented quickly and in the most equitable and effective way possible.

The scheme will be designed and managed with the aim of ensuring that those who are eligible for repayments receive them as soon as possible and with the minimum possible imposition in terms of bureaucracy. Priority will be given to those who are still alive. Many of those eligible for repayments have already been identified as a result of initial payments made following my announcement in December 2004. The scheme will include a transparent and thorough appeals process.

Any person who considers that they or a family member may be eligible for repayment may register their interest in advance with the Health Service Executive, by writing to the National Refund Scheme, HSE Midland Area, Arden Road, Tullamore, County Offaly; or e-mail to refundscheme@mailq.hse.ie; or by calling the helpline 1800 777737 during office hours.

  139.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she intends to fulfil a written commitment to establish a no fault compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39842/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  Following its consideration earlier this year of the report of the task force on assaults on psychiatric nurses the Government decided not to introduce a no fault compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses. Complex legal and financial issues had emerged in relation to aspects of the proposed scheme and their implications for the health service and the wider public service.

It was decided instead to request the State Claims Agency, SCA, to examine the possibility of amending the revised serious physical assaults scheme 2001 to include a fixed redress fund for physical injury caused by assault at work. My Department has requested the SCA to report on the feasibility, implications and estimated costs of this option. I understand that the SCA’s report is almost complete and I expect to receive it in the coming weeks.

Upon receipt of the report from the SCA further consultations will take place with the Department of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General. The matter will then be again referred to the Government for further consideration.

  140.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if there has been further progress in arriving at the costing requested under Question No. 241 of 8 November 2005. [39855/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  BreastCheck in conjunction with my Department is currently preparing an estimate of the cost of extending the breast screening programme nationally to women over the age of 64. My Department expects to be in a position to advise the Deputy of an estimated figure early in 2006.

  141.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of County Kildare children who are included in the orthodontic waiting list of 559 as indicated in a reply of 18 November 2005 from the manager of the orthodontic services of the Health Service Executive south-western area. [39863/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and per[1300]sonal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  142.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Question No. 243 of 8 November 2005. [39871/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  My Department has been advised by the HSE that a response is being issued to the Deputy today on the matter raised by him in Question No. 243 of 8 November 2005.

  143.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her views on whether it is acceptable that children under four years of age must wait eight months for a hearing test at the Newbridge clinic in County Kildare; the reason for such a delay; and her plans regarding same. [39872/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  144.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the capital cost of providing the Maynooth community care unit; and the annual running cost of same. [39873/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  145.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason the review of the mobile hospital service for Carbury, County Kildare, has resulted in the loss of the doctor to the service in view of the understanding that there would only be minor adjustments to the service. [39874/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  146.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Question No. 247 of 8 November 2005. [39875/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in early November. The Department has again requested that the HSE investigate this matter. The HSE has confirmed that the matter is being investigated thoroughly and will reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  147.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Question No. 296 of 8 November 2005. [39879/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  My Department has been advised by the HSE that a response to the matter raised by the Deputy in Question No. 296 of 8 November 2005 is being finalised and that it will issue to him within the next few days.

  148.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if there is a lack of availability of medication for a condition (details supplied). [39914/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The vitamin B12 product concerned was removed from the common list of reimbursable drugs and medicines when the manufacturer advised my Department that, due to problems in the manufacturing process, it had become temporarily unavailable both in Ireland and the UK. As soon as the manufacturers inform my Department that the problems have been resolved the product will be restored to the common list. In the meantime, my Department had [1302]inquiries made in the matter and I understand there is an alternative product available in community pharmacies for people who have been prescribed the original product.

  149.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her views on whether a dedicated paediatric endocrinologist, one full-time diabetes nurse specialist, one part-time nurse specialist, a dedicated dietician, a psychologist and a dedicated multidisciplinary unit are needed in order to serve the growing numbers of children with diabetes in the Cork area; the action she has taken or intends to take on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39916/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  150.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she has received correspondence and a request for a meeting from a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if she has responded to this correspondence and this meeting request; and if not, if she intends to in the immediate future. [39935/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which would include the administration of the national repayments scheme for long stay charges which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. The matter raised by the individual is appropriate to the Health Service Executive. My office has referred the correspondence in question to the executive and the individual concerned has been made aware of this.

  151.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a nursing home subvention or subvented health board bed can be provided to facilitate a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39976/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the [1303]Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  152.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [39977/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  153.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a nursing home subvention will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39978/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  154.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be seen by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in order to get on to the waiting list for a hip replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39979/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  155.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Tánaiste and Mini[1304]ster for Health and Children    if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Cork is receiving all the support and help from the Health Service Executive that is needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39980/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  156.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the issues discussed, officials and other persons in attendance, and decisions made at the meetings between Dundalk based private hospital promoters and officials from her Department. [39981/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  As I indicated in reply to a question from the Deputy on 24 November last, I had a meeting on 4 May 2005 with a group which proposes to develop a private hospital on a green field site in Dundalk. The group comprised Dr. Mary Grehan, Dr. Seamus Cassidy, Mr. Gabriel Grehan, Mr. James McClear and Mr. John Quinlivan. An official from my Department was in attendance.

No decisions were made at the meeting. The development of a private hospital on its own grounds is entirely a matter for the developers concerned.

  157.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when she will meet with a delegation of Dundalk town council. [39982/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I refer to the parliamentary question of 24 November 2005 put down by the Deputy on this matter. My response to the Deputy at that time remains the same.

  158.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of publicly funded acute hospital beds in Louth County Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 1980, 1986, 1990, 1995, 2000 and to date in 2005. [39983/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table.

Number of In-Patient and Day Beds*.

Year Louth Our Lady of Lourdes
1980 143 333
1986 145 338
1990 148 333
1995 136 315
2000 134 324
2005** 137 328

  159.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of public beds for older people in County Louth in 1984, 1994 and 2003. [39984/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  160.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the amount of public money which has been spent under the primary care strategy since 2001. [39985/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  Implementation of the primary care strategy is first and foremost about developing new ways of working and of reorganising the resources already available to the health service in line with the service model described in the strategy. The whole-system nature of the approach to implementation is such that change will be required in many sectors in the health service, and not solely within primary care itself. While certain funding has been provided specifically to support implementation, additional resources allocated to other sectors will also support the delivery of services in line with the aims of the strategy. This is, of course, in addition to the very substantial funding already used to enable the delivery of a wide range of primary and community care services to the population.

[1306]This year, the annual revenue funding provided specifically to support the implementation of the primary care strategy is €12 million. To date, capital funding of €2.725 million and a further €1.8 million in respect of ICT supports has also been provided for the initial primary care teams. These allocations have funded a range of primary care related initiatives, principally: service developments in specific locations; planning and mapping work by the HSE; a review of ICT needs in primary care; support to university departments of general practice and the Irish College of General Practitioners; and research fellowships in primary care.

My Department is providing additional revenue funding of €16 million for 2006. This tranche of funding will enable: the appointment of some 300 additional front-line personnel to work alongside GPs in between 75 and 100 teams in the improved delivery of community primary care services; the establishment of an additional 22 GP training places; and the further development of GP out-of-hours co-operatives to enable an estimated 350,000 additional persons to benefit from such services.

This means that €28 million will be available in 2006 specifically to support the implementation of the primary care strategy. However, other development funding will also be used to support the development of services in line with the principles of the strategy. I have recently announced very substantial increases in funding for services for older people, amounting to €150 million in a full year.

A significant proportion of this additional funding will be used to enable primary care and community-based services for older people, including a range of supports such as home care packages and home help services, to be expanded. This is in line with international trends and also reflects the growing desire of older people to be able to remain living in their own communities.

  161.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a clinic (details supplied) in County Dublin was offered public kidney dialysis patients to treat at €67,860 while the same treatment is available for a significantly lower rate in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry; and if she has satisfied herself that this clinic offers value for money. [39986/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter inves[1307]tigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  162.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the number of persons in county Louth who are receiving subvention payments for private nursing home care. [39987/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  163.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when the staffing issues will be resolved in order to allow a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to be transferred from an acute hospital bed to a more long-term solution. [39988/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  164.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford who is a medical card holder has been charged for medical treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39989/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  165.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Tánaiste and Mini[1308]ster for Health and Children    her views on selling land adjacent to St. John’s Hospital, Enniscorthy, to facilitate phase two of the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39990/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  166.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the Health Service Executive site requirements for the new replacement hospital for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; if the Health Service Executive will enter into negotiations with Drogheda United and the GAA regarding sites which they own adjacent to the existing hospital; the size and suitability of existing sites owned by the Health Service Executive in the Drogheda area, in particular a site owned at Cross Lanes, Drogheda, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Drogheda Borough Council will assist the development of a new hospital in the Drogheda area in every possible way; if the Health Service Executive is seeking potential sites outside the Drogheda area for the new hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39991/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  167.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if, in respect of the iSOFT-Lorenzo computer system; if a person has been appointed with overall responsibility for the architecture of the system; if this person is a public sector employee or a consultant; if an overall architecture for the system has been drawn up; when an IT director will be appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39992/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I have been advised by the Health Service Executive, HSE, as follows. Overall responsibility for the iSOFT project rests at present with the HSE’s national director of ICT. Responsibility for various aspects of current pro[1309]ject work has been delegated to some senior staff within the ICT directorate, reporting to the national director. This arrangement is sufficient for the current phase of the project but as the project grows and develops further, involving more extensive roll out across the country, the governance arrangements will be revised accordingly. Senior staff within the national hospitals office and the ICT directorate will be assigned to take responsibility for the service and ICT elements of the project respectively, working to a project board.

In addition, a subcommittee of the HSE’s senior management team will form an ICT steering committee to oversee all major ICT developments. Within the iSOFT project a person has not been appointed with overall responsibility for the architecture of the system. There are several different aspects to architecture and the detailed design of each will be the responsibility of the HSE’s ICT directorate, working in close collaboration with the national hospitals office. Staff within these units of the HSE will carry out the work involved and it is not foreseen at this stage that any consultancy will be required.

To date the architecture and design work has concentrated on the immediate requirements of getting the iSOFT system into live use in a number of former health board regions which have an urgent need to replace their existing IT systems. The architecture and design work to date will be developed further during 2006 for the full national roll out of the system.

  168.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if, regarding the electronic health record proposed for the iSOFT-Lorenzo computer system, the design for the electronic health record has been completed and implemented in any jurisdiction; if a copy of the concepts and design document, or its equivalent, can be made available; the person or body who will be legally responsible for the accuracy of patient data under the proposed system; the person or body who will be responsible for reconciling discrepancies in the information; the way in which security of access to information will be implemented in the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39993/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I have been advised by the Health Service Executive as follows.

Live deployments of full electronic health records on a wide scale jurisdiction are extremely rare. Many health systems have electronic records in parts of their services. Within hospitals these are typically referred to as electronic patient record systems. The concept of electronic health records brings together the various electronic records in different services-settings referring to each client-patient, for example, the amalgamation of records held by GPs with those held by [1310]other professionals in both community and hospital settings.

The iSOFT system was selected primarily for hospitals with the intention of initially deploying it to support core administrative processes and then to evolve its use over time into clinical support areas. As such it was seen as a means of achieving electronic patient records within hospitals and between hospitals. It was also seen as a key facilitator to achievement of electronic health records as it has potential for deployment in community care services also, which the Health Service Executive plans to do over time.

The achievement of full electronic health records in the Irish health service is a long-term goal. The concepts and design of such a system have not yet been developed and there is considerable work required over the next number of years to put the necessary foundations in place. The iSOFT system is an important element of this but there are many others.

The iSOFT system is being used extensively as a key element of building electronic health records in a number of other countries, for example, the UK and New Zealand. These are also long-term projects that are not yet completed and there are multiple suppliers involved.

Regarding responsibility for accuracy of patient data under the new system, the legal entity will be the Health Service Executive, or voluntary hospital or agency, as appropriate, which is accountable in law for compliance with data protection and other related legislation. Internal quality control procedures will be deployed to ensure a high level of accuracy of patient information.

Regarding reconciling discrepancies in the information, this will be a normal part of the operation of the new system and will be the responsibility of various staff involved in data recording and updating.

Regarding the way in which security of access to information will be implemented in the system, a security policy will be defined and implemented as part of the roll out of the system. The general principle will be that access to patient information will be on a need-to-know basis, consistent with job function and appropriate patient consent. It is recognised that there are huge patient-care benefits to ensuring that the right information is made available to the right person in a timely manner but this must be balanced against the need to ensure that inappropriate access does not occur either. All staff will log onto the new system on a personal name basis, thereby identifiable, and with their unique private access keys. All activity will be automatically recorded in an audit trail, thereby ensuring staff are accountable for whatever use or access they make.

  169.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if the €56 million cost quoted for the iSOFT-Lorenzo computer [1311]system includes the license costs of operating systems, office suites and databases required for inter-operating with the iSOFT software; if general practitioners will be required to run software by a particular supplier in order to interoperate with the Lorenzo system; if this software has been included by the Health Service Executive in its design for the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39994/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  I have been advised by the Health Service Executive as follows.

The figure of €56 million covers the ten year cost of licences for iSOFT software, support services and implementation services. It does not cover the cost of licences for third-party software such as operating systems, office suites and databases. In 2005 the cost of licences for operating systems and databases related to the deployment of the iSOFT software was €558,928.16. This covers three of the former health board regions and further licences will need to be purchased for remaining regions as the iSOFT system is rolled out across the country.

In 2005 there were no additional licences required for office suites related to the deployment of the iSOFT software. This is because PCs typically have such software for other purposes in any case. In the future there is unlikely to be any additional requirement for office suites arising from deployment of the iSOFT software.

General practitioners will not be required to run software from any particular supplier in order to interoperate with current iSOFT software or future software emerging from the Lorenzo development programme. General practitioners typically run software supplied by a number of other companies. Inter-operation between this software and the various other software packages used elsewhere in the health service, for example, in hospitals and community care facilities, and is achieved by means of electronic messaging between the different systems based on national standard message formats. This approach enables disparate IT systems to interoperate with each other and there are many examples of its use in live contexts across the Irish health service, for example, for transfer of electronic laboratory reports and radiology reports between hospitals and GPs.

  170.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if a formal request for the provision of support therapies for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare under section 40 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 has been received by her Department or the Health Service Executive from the Department of Edu[1312]cation and Science; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39995/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  In the details supplied with the question, the Deputy has provided what appears to be a home address. The Department of Health and Children is not aware of any request which has been made for the provision of support therapies at the address concerned. The Department is, however, aware of a request which has been made for the provision of support therapies for a unit in a secondary school in County Kildare. The consultation procedure in regard to this process has not yet been completed and this issue is the subject of continued discussions between the Department, the Department of Education and Science and the Health Service Executive.

  171.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Question No. 221 of 16 November 2005. [39996/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  My Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive that the matters raised by the Deputy in Question No. 221 of 16 November 2005 required the gathering of information across all areas. The executive is collating this information and will have a response issued to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  172.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if an application for a full-time diabetes nurse specialist is being considered by her Department in order to serve the growing number of children with diabetes in the Cork area; when she will make a decision on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39997/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 173 withdrawn.

  174.  Ms Shortall    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children,    further to the announcement in the budget 2006 speech that [1313]earnings from employment of €100 per week will be disregarded in the means test for non-contributory old age pension, the steps she has taken or intends to take to ensure that a person will not lose or be denied a medical card if they choose to exploit this reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39999/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  In agreement with the Health Service Executive, I have made significant changes to the income assessment guidelines for medical cards in the course of 2005. In January 2005, I increased the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications by 7.5%. In June, I simplified the means test for both medical cards and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant’s and spouse’s income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. This is much fairer to applicants. I announced, on 13 October 2005, that the income guidelines for both medical cards and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%. This means the income guidelines are now 29% higher than this time last year.

The Department of Health and Children has asked the Health Service Executive to take account of the welfare, taxation or other changes announced in the budget on the operation of the income guidelines and to identify any changes which may be required in order to ensure that medical cards and GP visit cards continue to be available to those who need them.

  175.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    where the moneys raised through the sale of the hospital lands at St. Loman’s have been allocated to date in 2005; the proportion which has been spent locally in Lucan, Palmerstown and Quarryvale or is planned to be spent locally. [40129/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  176.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    her plans to provide a day centre for the treatment of schizophrenia in Lucan with some of the funds raised from the sale of the St. Loman’s lands. [40130/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s [1314]question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  177.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    when the Health Service Executive plans to build and operate a drug treatment centre off Loman’s Road in Lucan. [40131/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  178.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the funding being provided to the mental health centre in Ballyfermot; if additional funds are planned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40132/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  179.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    if she is in receipt of a plan or feasibility report regarding the proposed development at the Bon Secours Hospital site in Tuam, County Galway; if financial resources will be made available to develop the site in accordance with promises made; her views on the development of a health campus on this site as fitting into the overall health strategy for the west; if there are existing plans for development or disposal of the land or portions thereof at the six acre site in Tuam that are contrary to the established development plan. [40136/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the [1315]responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  180.  Mr. Connaughton    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway could not be seen under the national school dental scheme when they complained of severe toothache; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that on 21 November 2005, the person's mother phoned the Ballinasloe Dental Clinic and was told that they would receive an appointment on 25 November 2005; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the person, who was in serious pain and was unable to eat or drink, had to have an emergency intervention; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that there is only a dentist present in Ballinasloe on Thursdays and Fridays every week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40144/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney):  The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

  181.  Mr. G. Murphy    asked the Minister for Finance    the position regarding correspondence (details supplied); his plans regarding stamp duty relief for young farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39814/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  In my recent budget speech I announced that certain existing capital gains tax, CAT, capital acquisitions tax, CGT, and stamp duty reliefs are being extended to cover the EU single farm payment entitlement. This entitlement will be recognised as a qualifying agricultural asset for the purposes of the CAT agricultural relief qualification test in relation to gifts and inheritances. For CGT purposes, the entitlement will qualify as an asset for the purpose of CGT retirement relief provided the farmer in question fulfils the ten year rule on ownership and usage of the land which will be disposed of at the same time as that entitlement. I also announced that the stamp duty relief for young trained farmers will also apply to the transfer of such entitlements to qualifying young trained farmers where land relevant to that entitlement is also being transferred. Each of [1316]these measures will be included in the Finance Bill 2006.

The Finance Act 2003 provided for full exemption from stamp duty on the transfer of land to qualifying young trained farmers, for a three year period until 31 December 2005. This exemption was extended in the recent budget for a further three year period to 31 December 2008. This will also be provided for in the Finance Bill 2006. These measures were announced, in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, with a view to assisting farmers, in particular younger farmers, to adjust to the major changes taking place in the farming community.

  182.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    when proposals on the restoration of the entrance to Castletown House, Celbridge, from Main Street, Celbridge will be put on display for public consultation. [39861/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  Proposals on the entrance from Celbridge are under consideration. The Office of Public Works has entered into pre-planning discussions with the local authority with regard to provision of limited parking facilities to resolve a number of issues, including the problem of random parking inside the entrance gates. Work on essential maintenance to the gate lodges by the Irish Landmark Trust has begun on foot of a declaration of exemption and a programme of refurbishment works is proposed on completion of the planning process. I understand a planning application is to be lodged shortly by the Irish Landmark Trust in this respect.

  183.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Finance    the customs arrangements which are in place at Weston Aerodrome; if, in the event of a change in licensing at the aerodrome, his Department will review the existing customs arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39954/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Weston Aerodrome is approved by them in respect of flights to or from other member states of the European Union. Flights to and from EU destinations are permitted provided no third country non-EU goods are carried on board; no stores are carried on board; no passengers who have originated in a non-EU country and who have not been cleared at another EU airport are on board; no goods carried on board are being exported to a non-EU country; and customs intervention is not necessary for the purposes of enforcing a prohibition or restriction on importation or exportation.

Save as permitted by the commissioners, flights to Weston Aerodrome from outside the EU must [1317]first clear customs at an international community airport; and flights from Weston to destinations outside the EU must depart via an international community airport. There are three international community airports in Ireland, Dublin, Shannon and Cork. Flights into Weston from outside the European Union are infrequent and prior permission must be obtained from the commissioners in respect of these.

The volume and type of business conducted at Weston, primarily national and EU flights, does not justify the deployment of a permanent customs presence there. However, customs officers visit the aerodrome regularly as a check against the landing or exportation of prohibited goods, in particular, controlled drugs. In the event that a change in the aerodrome licensing regime results in a change to the perceived risk, the level of control by attendance of customs officers will be reviewed accordingly. However, the licensing of an aerodrome normally does not impact on the terms of approval or level of controls performed by customs.

  184.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Finance    the position regarding the survey being carried out by the Office of Public Works on a feasibility study on the proposed Liffey Valley national park. [40111/05]

  196.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Finance    when the survey of lands within the Liffey Valley catchment will be completed by the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39920/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 196 together.

A steering group has been established to examine the potential of the lower Liffey Valley to be managed in an integrated way in respect of its amenity, recreational and heritage resources. The steering group comprises representatives of the Office of Public Works, Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council and Kildare County Council and has the assistance of additional professional expertise. A study is at an advanced stage which includes a wide public consultation process, inventory of resources and examination of strategic issues. It is expected that an initial draft of the study will be made available for further public comment by the end of January next.

  185.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Finance    the breakdown of tax credits and income tax bill that will apply in 2006 to employees in respect of persons (details supplied), without reference to PRSI, health levies or tax credits other than single, married and employee credits. [39815/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The following examples show the tax credits and bands available in 2006 in the cases outlined by the Deputy. The examples refer to earners in the PAYE sector and are based on the assumption in each case that the married couple is jointly assessed for tax purposes.

Example 1

Single Person

Gross Income €26,000

Band Available €32,000

Band Utilised €26,000

Tax€26,000 @ 20% = €5,200

Gross Tax Due €5,200

Less Tax Credits Personal Credit(€1,630)

Employee Credit(€1,490)

= Total Credits (€3,120)

Net Tax Payable (€2,080)

Example 2

One Income Family

Gross Income €39,000

Band Available €41,000

Band Utilised €39,000

Tax€39,000 @ 20% = €7,800

Gross Tax Due €7,800

Less Tax Credits Married Credit(€3,260)

Employee Credit(€1,490)

= Total Credits (€4,750)

Net Tax Payable (€3,050)

Example 3

Two Income Family and income split between spouses

€35,000: €22,000

Joint Income €57,000

Spouses’ Income €35,000

€22,000

Band Available €41,000

€23,000

Band Utilised €35,000

€22,000

Tax€7,000 (35,000 @ 20%)

€4,400 (22,000 @ 20%)

Gross Tax Due €11,400

Less Tax Credits

Personal Credit(€1,630)

(€1,630)

Employee Credit(€1,490)

(€1,490)

= Total Credits (6,240)

Net Tax Payable(5,160)

  186.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    if the public consultation process on the new [1319]Leixlip Garda station is ready to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39853/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  Agreement has been reached between the OPW and Garda authorities on the changes to the sketch scheme for the proposed Leixlip Garda station. Revised Part 9 planning documents are being prepared and it is expected that the public consultation process will commence in the week beginning 19 December 2005.

  187.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has received the full report in respect of the replacement of the asbestos roof in a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and when work will commence. [39856/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  The Office of Public Works has received the consultant's report in respect of the replacement of the asbestos roof at the school in question. Work has now commenced on the planning application and tender documents for the work. It is proposed to undertake the majority of the work during next year’s summer holidays. In the meantime, the temporary repairs to the leaking areas arranged by the OPW were completed last week.

  188.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance    if the Office of Public Works has completed its examination of the Leixlip flood relief study; and if he will provide funding for the required alleviation works. [39860/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  As I indicated in reply to the Deputy’s Question No. 337 on 8 November, the report is being examined. That examination will be completed early in the new year and at that stage the local authority, which commissioned the report, will be advised whether it justifies the provision of the funding requested.

  189.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Finance,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 535 of 28 September 2005, if there has been a successful conclusion to the acquisition of the lands. [39864/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  The position here is the same as that outlined in my response dated 8 November 2005.

  190.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Finance    if the public service embargo will be relaxed in order to recruit either temporary or permanent specialist staff in the context of decentralisation; if so, the limits which have been set as to the number of staff that will be sanctioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39885/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I refer the Deputy to Question No. 66 of Tuesday last relating to the target of reducing public service employment. No embargo is in place. The Government has followed a policy of reducing public service employment since December 2002 under which the growth in public sector employment has slowed substantially overall and has been reversed in several areas. The Government will continue to control and regulate numbers employed in the public service within agreed ceilings. Organisations can recruit staff within the overall ceiling which has been agreed for their sector. The natural wastage which was evident in the successful implementation of the reduction in numbers will again be used to minimise pressure on employment levels during the decentralisation programme.

  191.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Finance    the job opportunities which are available where the earnings from these jobs are tax free; and if he will compare these jobs to the proposed €10,000 tax free income available to persons who mind children in their own home. [39898/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  Following on my recent budget some 740,000 workers in Ireland will not have to pay income tax on their earnings in 2006. The threshold for entry into the income tax net will be €15,600 per annum for a single person, €27,600 for a married one-income family with two children and €31,200 for a married two income family with two children. The new child-minding relief I announced in my Budget Statement 2006 means that where an individual minds up to three children, who are not their own, in the minder’s own home, no tax will be payable on the child-minding earnings received, provided the amount is less than €10,000 per annum. If child-minding income exceeds this, the total amount will be taxable, as normal, under self-assessment.

There are a number of established schemes which grant total or partial exemption for specified sources of earnings, for example: payments to foster carers by the Health Service Executive in respect of the care of foster children are exempt from income tax and are not taken into account in computing total income for the purposes of the Income Tax Acts; payments to quali[1321]fied applicants in Gaeltacht areas in respect of students who go to Irish colleges to learn Irish under the scheme known as Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge, are exempt from income tax; an exemption from income tax applies to rent received, where a person rents out a room or rooms in his or her principal private residence, and the amount of the relevant sums received does not exceed €7,620 for a full year. In order to qualify for the exemption, it is necessary for the residential premises to be situated in the State and occupied by the individual as his or her sole or main residence during the tax year; income earned by artists, writers, composers and sculptors from the sale of their work is exempt from income tax in Ireland in certain circumstances. The artist’s exemption is only available to individuals who are either resident in the State and not resident elsewhere, or ordinarily resident and domiciled in the State and not resident elsewhere. In my recent Budget Statement, I announced a new measure which will limit the use of tax breaks by those with high incomes. This measure will apply to the exempt income of artists over the amount of €250,000 per annum; and relief on retirement for certain income of certain sportspersons. Certain sportspersons who have retired can claim back up to 40% of income tax paid, before deducting expenses, for any ten of the years in which they were permanently engaged in their chosen profession.

  192.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that financial institutions are refusing to open new bank accounts for persons who are unable to produce a current utility bill; his views on the difficulty this can cause, particularly to returning emigrants who may be temporarily resident with their parents; if regulations made by his Department are the cause of these difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39900/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  Section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 requires financial institutions to take reasonable measures to identify their customers. Recommended procedures for the implementation of this provision are set out in guidance notes issued under the aegis of the money laundering steering committee, which is chaired by the Department of Finance and includes representatives of financial services industry bodies and the regulatory authorities and State agencies, including the Garda Síochána. The full text of the money laundering guidance notes for credit institutions is available on the Department of Finance website: http://www.finance.gov.ie/Publications/otherpubs/
monlaun.htm
.

[1322]Identification of a customer comprises two elements. These are name verification, typically evidenced by photograph bearing document such as passport, driving licence or other reputable source document, and address verification. Paragraph 45 of the guidance notes provides for those persons who cannot reasonably be expected to produce certain forms of identification, such as a passport or driving licence and-or whose name and Irish address does not appear on a utility bill, electoral register or directory.

The alternative methods of address verification set out in the guidance notes include: a letter-statement from a licensed employment agency that the person has recently arrived in Ireland and is commencing employment or from an employer that the person has commenced employment and in each case stating that the person is not in a position to produce a utility bill or other document which shows an Irish address. In addition, in such cases the prospective customer should be required to submit follow-up documentation, for example, utility bill, confirming Irish address in due course; a letter-statement from a person in a position of responsibility, for example, a solicitor, accountant, doctor, minister of religion, teacher, social worker or community employment scheme supervisor, who is in a position to confirm the person’s address to the credit institution. In such instances the person providing the letter-statement must present themselves to the relevant credit institution providing proof of their own identity and verifying their status to the credit institution; or documentation-cards issued by a Government Department showing the address of the person.

Normally difficulties arising at account opening are resolved by an approach from the prospective customer to the branch management or to the bank’s customer service department. I stress that it is a matter for each institution to ensure its procedures satisfy the legal requirement under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 that financial institutions take reasonable measures to identify their customers.

  193.  Mr. N. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Finance    if a site has been purchased for a project (details supplied) in County Cork; the location and address of the site; the purchase price of the site; and when the site will be handed over to the Department of Education. [39903/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  The Commissioners of Public Works act as an agent on behalf of the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for new school facilities. A suitable site for Rathcormac national school has been identified and agreement, subject to contract, has [1323]been reached with the vendors of this proposed site. The commissioners will not be in a position to release any further information until contracts have been exchanged.

  194.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Finance    when the correct P45 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39918/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the correct date of cessation has been updated on the taxpayer’s record and a letter issued to the taxpayer on 13 December 2005 confirming this. As all other information on the P45 was correct, it is not necessary for the person’s previous employer to issue an amended P45.

  195.  Mr. Cregan    asked the Minister for Finance    the reason a claim for a refund of DIRT was refused to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; his views on the matter; and if arrangements will be made to have the amount due awarded. [39919/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there has not been a refusal to refund DIRT in this case. They have confirmed to me that on 18 May 1999 a refund of DIRT of €104.59 was made for the tax year 1998-99. In April 2005, a further claim for a refund was submitted for that year for an additional amount of €103.47. They accordingly advised the taxpayer that a refund was to issue for that amount. However, due to an oversight the cheque did not issue.

The Revenue Commissioners have now confirmed that the refund will issue over the coming days, together with interest of €4 as a result of the delay in making this refund.

Question No. 196 answered with Question
No. 184.

  197.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Finance    the Department responsible for the administration and payment of the early child care supplement which was introduced in budget 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39921/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The administration and payment of the early child care supplement, which I announced in budget 2006, will be carried out on an agency basis by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The first pay[1324]ment, covering the second quarter of 2006, will be made in mid-2006.

In order to bring greater coherence to the sector, the Government has decided to establish an office of the Minister for children, under the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, which will be responsible for child care, together with other aspects of policy for children generally.

  198.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Finance    the directive he has issued to Sligo County Council for funding to a company (details supplied) through EU Peace II extension programme measure 3.3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39922/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The aim of this unique EU programme is to promote reconciliation and help to build a more peaceful and stable society in Northern Ireland and the six southern Border counties: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. Because of the valuable role the Peace II programme is playing in this region, the Irish and British Governments successfully sought an extension to the programme until 2006. The primary purpose of the Peace II programme is to promote reconciliation. Therefore, both Administrations and the European Commission decided, following widespread consultation, that there would be a greater focus on reconciliation in the Peace II extension.

All applications under the programme are assessed on merit. As well as being marked on measure specific criteria, projects applying for funds from the Peace II extension must also demonstrate how they promote reconciliation. The Deputy will be aware that Sligo task force is one of the implementing bodies for this measure. The application by the company referred to will be assessed by the task force and scored along with other project applications by an independent panel of five people. Successful projects will then be brought before the task force for ratification.

The assessment panel expects to meet in early January with the ratification meeting of the task force following shortly thereafter.

  199.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Finance    if the mobile phone networks operating masts on Ardee House, Rathmines, Dublin 6, have acceded to his requests to deactivate these masts; if discussions are still ongoing; when he expects discussions to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39923/05]

  203.  Mr. Eoin Ryan    asked the Minister for Finance    the position in relation to the switching off [1325]of the two mobile network operators (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40143/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 203 together.

The two mobile phone operators who have equipment installed on Ardee House have informed the Commissioners of Public Works that they do not intend to comply with the request to deactivate their equipment.

The commissioners have requested the companies to reconsider their decision and will not grant any further licences in respect of State buildings to them, pending the report of the interdepartmental committee on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation.

  200.  Mr. Cregan    asked the Minister for Finance    the threshold for inheritance tax between brothers and sisters; if same is different if persons live together; when these thresholds were last adjusted; and if improvement is under construction. [39924/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The threshold for inheritance tax between brothers and sisters is the group B threshold, which was €46,673 for the year 2005. The group thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the consumer price index. Any other gifts-inheritances received by the beneficiary from within the same group B threshold — that is, from uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters or grandparents — since 5 December 1991, will also be taken into account when applying the threshold for the purpose of calculating inheritance tax.

The inheritance tax threshold is the same, irrespective of whether the brothers and sisters are living together. However, section 151 of the Finance Act 2000 introduced a valuable exemption from gift-inheritance tax for certain dwelling houses. The purpose of the exemption is to benefit individuals who have been living in a house for a period prior to taking the benefit, either by way of gift or inheritance. The main conditions of the dwelling house exemption are that the beneficiary of the dwelling house must have resided in the house for a minimum of three years prior to the gift or inheritance and must not have had an interest in any other dwelling house. The beneficiary must also continue, except where he or she is aged 55 years or over at the date of the gift or inheritance, to occupy that dwelling house as his-her only or main residence for a period of six years commencing on the date of the gift or inheritance. This exemption ensures that what may be the family home for many people will not be subject to gift or inheritance tax when it is transferred.

[1326]In addition to the introduction of the dwelling house relief, the Finance Act 2000 also increased the capital acquisitions tax, CAT, exemption thresholds and introduced a single rate of CAT at 20%. These measures were specifically designed to reduce the impact of gift-inheritance tax where assets with average values are transferred. I have no plans at present to make any further changes to the CAT system.

  201.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Finance    if female clergy and spouses of other taxpayers are not open to have their tax assessed individually. [39934/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a married couple living together is deemed to have elected for joint assessment commencing with the year following the year of marriage. However, notwithstanding this, either spouse may elect to be taxed either: (a) as if the marriage had not taken place — i.e. to be taxed as single individuals); or (b) under separate assessment — that is, taxed as single individuals with the proviso that the joint tax liability of the couple under separate assessment cannot exceed that which would apply if they had elected to be taxed under joint assessment. The Revenue explanatory leaflet, IT 2 Taxation of Married Couples, is available on the Revenue website, www.revenue.ie.

  202.  Mr. O’Dowd    asked the Minister for Finance    his Department’s original estimated VAT bill to be paid on the lease of the passport facility at Balbriggan; the amount of VAT actually paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40139/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Parlon):  The VAT on creation of this lease was originally estimated for budgetary purposes at over €1 million. The actual amount paid was €978,750.00.

Under the relevant Revenue regulations, the landlord is free to choose one of three methods of calculation of the VAT and the result must pass an economic value test, designed as an anti-evasion measure.

On completion of this agreement the OPW notified the Revenue Commissioners’ special inquiries branch of the terms of the lease. It is also a condition of the lease that a valid tax clearance certificate is produced by the landlord on an annual basis to allow rent and other charges to be paid to him.

Question No. 203 answered with Question
No. 199.

  204.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Finance    the tax liability in 2006 of a single income married couple with principal earnings (details supplied) and where the spouse has income of [1327]€10,000 and €10,000 from minding three children in their own home. [40155/05]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen):  The tax liability in the scenarios outlined by the Deputy will be as follows:

Scenario 1 — Tax liability for 2006 of a married couple, the main earner having PAYE income of €41,000, and the spouse with non-PAYE income of €10,000 and a further €10,000 from minding three children in the couple’s own home.1

Total joint income of couple€61,000

Less exempt childminding income€10,000

Net joint taxable income of couple€51,000

Tax of main earner €41,000 @ 20% =€8,200

Tax of spouse €10,000 @ 20% =€2,000

Gross tax due€10,200

Less tax credits

Married credit (€3,260)

PAYE credit (€1,490)(€4,750)

Net tax payable€5,450

Note: If the income from childminding exceeds €10,000, then all the income from childminding will be taxable under self assessment.

Scenario 2 — Tax liability for 2006 of a married couple, the main earner having PAYE income of €64,000, and the spouse with non-PAYE income of €10,000 and a further €10,000 from minding three children in the couple’s own home.1

Total joint income of couple€84,000

Less exempt childminding income€10,000

Net joint taxable income of couple€74,000

Tax of main earner €41,000 @ 20% =€8,200

€23,000 @ 20% =€9,660

Tax of spouse €10,000 @ 20% =€2,000

Gross tax due€19,860

Less tax credits

Married credit (€3,260)

PAYE credit (€1,490)(€4,750)

Net tax payable€15,110

1childminding scheme as outlined in the Minister’s Financial Statement in Budget 2006.

  205.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources    the measures he is proposing to take to ensure that a high end cable ADSL link is installed to protect the crucial jobs at a company (details supplied) in County Donegal; if assistance will be given to this company. [39690/05]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey):  The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

Technological advances have brought broadband to the forefront of communications in just a few years, but the service providers have not risen to the challenge to deliver the service in all areas. Market forces and the availability of suitable infrastructure and backhaul, will determine whether a company offers broadband in any area.

A principal reason for the slow rollout of broadband services generally has been the lack of investment by the private sector in suitable infrastructure. My Department is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building open-access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, in association with local
authorities, using Government and European regional development fund funding under the National Development Plan 2000-06. MANs have already been completed in Gaoth Dobhair and Letterkenny, while MANs for Buncrana and Carndonagh are at the planning stage.

Other initiatives, such as my Department’s group broadband scheme, are delivering broadband to many underserved areas, including 16 locations in County Donegal. The broadband for schools project is moving ahead rapidly and will see broadband connectivity in every primary and post-primary school by early 2006. The rapid spread of broadband availability resulting from these initiatives should provide the stimulus for private sector companies to promote their services more actively.

The Government recently directed Departments to examine what could be done to alleviate the employment situation in County Donegal, with particular focus on infrastructure development. Officials from my Department have since met with representatives from Donegal County Council as well as local interest groups and are currently examining a number of options.

I understand that the community networked services, CNS, project, which is funded by INTERREG IIIA and the International Fund for Ireland, is due to be completed in 2006. Further [1329]details can be requested from the promoter at their website www.ernact.net.

My Department’s website, www.broadband.gov.ie, gives full details of broadband availability in all areas, including ADSL, cable, fibre, satellite and fixed wireless. The website also lists prices of the various service levels on offer and contact details for each service provider.

  206.  Mr. O’Connor    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will report on further aid being made available to help the plight of those affected by the earthquake in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39906/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. C. Lenihan):  It is now estimated that over 74,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake which struck south Asia, including Pakistan and India, on 8 October 2005. In particular, the earthquake severely affected the North West Frontier and Kashmir provinces of Pakistan. An estimated 3.5 million people have been left homeless by the disaster.

Within hours of the disaster, the Government pledged €1 million in humanitarian relief assistance. This funding was quickly increased to €5 million when the scale of the destruction became apparent, with funding swiftly disbursed to UN and other international agencies as well as NGOs for their life-saving emergency response on the ground.

This week, I have pledged a further €5 million to the relief and recovery effort. This brings to €10 million the funds that have been made available by the Government, and places Ireland as one of the highest donors per capita to this disaster. As of today, €3 million of this additional funding has already been released to Concern and Trócaire, as well as UN and other international agencies, including the International Red Cross movement. The balance of €2 million will be programmed in the new year as the needs of the affected communities are further assessed.

In this package, funding has been provided to deliver urgently needed temporary shelters, blankets, food, medical care and water and sanitation services to the affected populations. Because of the changing dynamics of this disaster and, in particular, the impact of the onset of winter, this humanitarian relief is still required and will be for some months to come.

I can assure the Deputy that I am monitoring the situation on the ground extremely carefully as it continues to evolve. I will continue to ensure that Irish assistance is delivered in a focused and effective manner.

  207.  Mr. O’Connor    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    the actions the Government is taking to ensure that business here avails of the opportunities in the Ukraine in view of the granting of free market economy status to the Ukraine and pending admission to the World Trade Organisation; the steps which are being taken to address the declining trade between Ireland and the Ukraine at a time when Ukrainian imports are generally growing rapidly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39908/05]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  Most of the issues raised by Deputy O’Connor are covered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is responding to a similar question tabled by the Deputy.

I wish to add that advancing Ireland’s economic interests abroad is a key role of my Department and its embassies. Our embassy in Prague, which is accredited to Ukraine, will continue — with the support of our headquarters staff, the State agencies and other Departments — to assist Irish business in identifying new market opportunities and in gaining and maintaining access for Irish goods and services. The embassy works particularly closely with Enterprise Ireland, which is planning a trade mission to Ukraine for 2006.

I paid the first official visit by an Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs to Ukraine in July in my role as UN special envoy. I used the opportunity to meet Foreign Minister Borys Tarasjuk and signed a memorandum of understanding on high-level political consultations with him. There are follow-up plans for Foreign Minister Tarasjuk to pay an official visit to Ireland early in 2006, which will provide an opportunity to strengthen and develop further all aspects of the bilateral relationship.

  208.  Mr. Cregan    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he has data available regarding the economic situation in Northern Ireland, particularly regarding unemployment levels in two communities; the numbers unemployed; the percentage of the workforce unemployed; the numbers unemployed five and ten years ago; and the breakdown between the two communities. [39937/05]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  The table sets out the data requested by the Deputy, the numbers and percentages unemployed in Northern Ireland and the breakdown between the communities in 1995, 2000, and 2005 respectively.

Spring 1995 Spring 2000 Spring 2005
Protestant
Unemployed (number) 33,000 18,500 12,000
Unemployed percentage 8.4% 4.8% 2.9%
Catholic
Unemployed (number) 39,500 29,500 19,500
Unemployed percentage 14.8% 10.1% 6.5%
Northern Ireland
Unemployed (number) 77,000 50,000 35,500
Unemployed percentage 10.9% 6.9% 4.6%

[1331]As is clear from the data shown above, the total number of unemployed in Northern Ireland has more than halved over the past decade, falling from 77,000 in spring 1995 to 35,500 in spring 2005. In the same period, the numbers of Protestants unemployed has fallen from 33,000 to 12,000, and the number of Catholics from 39,500 to 19,500.

Despite those improvements, however, the unemployment differential between the two communities has remained broadly static over the past decade and is still twice the level for Catholics as for Protestants. That remains of concern to the Government, and work is ongoing within the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to make progress in tackling the problem.

  209.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Arts, Sport    and Tourism the position regarding the provision of a replacement swimming pool in Naas, County Kildare. [39867/05]

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O’Donoghue):  I approved the detailed contract documents submitted by Kildare County Council for the Naas swimming pool project in March 2005. Following that approval, Kildare County Council indicated to my Department that it proposed to change the site for the project. The council recently submitted an addendum to the preliminary report and the detailed contract documents regarding the proposed new site, and that documentation is now under consideration in my Department.

  210.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the provisions set aside in budget 2006 to deal with a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39727/05]

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Martin):  The Kildare centres for the unemployed in Leixlip, Athy and Newbridge are [1332]currently funded by FÁS through the community employment programme.

The community employment project based in the Leixlip resource centre for the unemployed recommenced on 3 October 2005 for a further 12 month period and has been approved to employ 15 participants and one supervisor.

The community employment project based in Newbridge and Athy resource centres for the unemployed have also been approved for a further 12 month period to employ 32 participants and two supervisors. The current community employment contract will end on 20 January 2006. However, the community employment national monitoring committee has given approval for continued funding for a further 12 month period from 23 January 2006 to 20 January 2007.

Total funding allocated by FÁS to the community employment projects sponsored by the County Kildare centres for the unemployed will be approximately €656,000. The funding allocated from FÁS for the resource centres for the unemployed in Newbridge and Athy is approximately €446,000 for the 12 month period 23 January 2006 to 20 January 2007. Funding allocated for the Leixlip resource centre for the unemployed project is approximately €210,000 for the 12 month period which commenced on 3 October 2005.

County Kildare centres for the unemployed are Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, information and opportunity centres and as such have received funding from ICTU to support their operations in that regard. The amount of funding allocated by ICTU to support the work of its centres is an internal matter for ICTU.

  211.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment,    in view of the commitment given on 12 December 2002 in the presence of 14 public representatives and trade union officials that workers who had been made redundant at a company (details supplied) in County Kilkenny would benefit from improvements in statutory redundancy payments that were then pending, the steps he intends to take to ensure that this commitment is honoured; and [1333]if he will make a statement on the matter. [39691/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Killeen):  On 12 December 2002, following the announcement of the closure of the Comerama factory with a loss of over 160 jobs, the Tánaiste, together with officials of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, met a SIPTU delegation representing the Comerama workers.

From the official minutes of that meeting, it appears that the main concern of the workers, many, if not most, of whom had already been made redundant, was that if a deal on enhanced redundancy rates under partnership were made, it should be retrospective to the workers concerned. In that context, the Tánaiste gave an undertaking to do everything she could to ensure that the Comerama workers would get the retrospection. That undertaking was recorded in the official note of the meeting prepared by the official attending as follows: “An Tánaiste said that talks were on going regarding the Statutory Redundancy issue. She gave an undertaking that if the legislation is changed she would do everything she could to ensure that the Comerama workers would be included in any amendment”.

At the time neither the Tánaiste nor the officials attending the meeting were aware of the legal principle established by the courts that the legislature cannot impose retrospective financial obligations on employers, or indeed anybody else. That was subsequently confirmed in legal advice to the Department. The legal advice from the Attorney General was that the enhanced statutory redundancy payments require legislation to be enacted to be brought into effect and as the payment of a statutory redundancy lump sum is a legal requirement on employers, it could not be imposed on them with retrospective effect. Employers are entitled to due notice, usually about two months, of the intention legally to require them to pay enhanced rates. That legal position was communicated to the Comerama workers.

The factual position regarding the Comerama workers in the Castlecomer plant is that 154 of them had been made redundant long before the new rates of redundancy came into effect. As I understand it, they received substantially more than the then statutory rate in settlement with the company. Thirteen workers made redundant by the liquidator of the company since May 2003 have been paid the new enhanced statutory rates by the Department. However, those amounts were less than the settlements received by the 154 workers who were made redundant before the company went into liquidation and received ex gratia payments.

There are no legal provisions for making additional payments from the public purse either [1334]to the 154 workers or those made redundant by the liquidator.

The Comerama facility was purchased by IJM Timber Engineering Limited, the Monaghan-based timber-frame housing company, in March 2004. That project is expected to create 50 jobs over the next 12 months and has the potential to create significant additional employment thereafter.

Of those made redundant, 150 attended interviews with FÁS. Subsequently, 136 people were called for training and 98 of those attended. Most of that training took place between February and June 2003. Some further training was provided for a total of 35 individuals. Training was completed in 2003 and at that time FÁS records indicated that 50% of the workforce who had engaged with FÁS on training programmes had progressed to employment.

I am satisfied that everything possible was done to ensure that the Comerama workers got their full redundancy entitlements and that no commitment was given, nor could one be given, to enhance statutory redundancy payments retrospectively. My colleague the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment met the unions some time ago and discussed with departmental officials all the issues raised at that meeting, in particular, the issue of ring-fencing. The Minister did not consider it possible to facilitate the award of redundancy payments to one set of workers without extending them to everybody else made redundant before the new enhanced rates were introduced, and I fully concur with that decision.

There have been numerous representations made on this matter by both union and public representatives, and a large number of parliamentary questions have been tabled regarding the Comerama workers over the past three years, in addition to Adjournment Debates in both Houses of the Oireachtas. The position remains unchanged. There are no legal provisions for making additional payments from the public purse either to the 154 workers or to those made redundant by the liquidator.

  212.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if he will amend employment legislation (details supplied) to ensure that employees who have reached age 66 or over have the same entitlements and rights as those aged between 16 and 66 years, particularly in view of the increasing number of persons who work beyond pension age. [39692/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Killeen):  Traditionally, the upper age limit for eligibility for redundancy payment was the same as pensionable age within the meaning of the Social Welfare Acts. In 1971 the upper age limit [1335]was 70, in line with the then old age pension age of 70. That was revised downwards by the Redundancy Payments Act 1979 to 66 years, which was the new pensionable age set out in the Social Welfare Act.

The redundancy review group report of July 2002, which produced recommendations for the updating of statutory redundancy legislation, considered that increasing the upper age limit of 66 for redundancy qualification purposes would not be a priority in the short term if resources were scarce.

The group recognised, however, that the labour force is becoming older and that participation in the labour force by older people, if desired, should be facilitated. Accordingly, it was recommended that consideration be given in the medium term to removing the age cap or raising the age cap in conjunction with similar changes to unfair dismissals, equality and social and family legislation as recommended by the Equality Authority.

On 18 July 2004, the upper age limit of 66 for bringing claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2001 was removed by the Equality Act 2004. However, the Unfair Dismissals Acts will still not apply to dismissed employees who, at the date of dismissal, had reached the normal retirement age in that employment, that is, if it is the policy in an employment to retire employees at a certain age, the new provisions would not apply. With regard to age-related provisions, the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003 are exempted under the Employment Equality Act 2004.

There are no plans at present to remove the upper limit in respect of statutory redundancy. However, in the light of the evolution of age-related legislative provisions and the continuation of 66 years as the social welfare pensionable age, it will be necessary to review the age-related provisions of the Redundancy Payments Acts. That will have to be done prior to making legislative proposals for submission to Government.

  213.  Mr. O’Connor    asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the actions the Government is taking to ensure that business here avails of the opportunities in the Ukraine in view of the granting of free market economy status to the Ukraine and pending admission to the World Trade Organisation; the steps which are being taken to address the declining trade between Ireland and the Ukraine at a time when Ukrainian imports are generally growing rapidly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39907/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. M. Ahern):  Ukraine is one of Europe’s largest countries, with GDP growth of 12.1% in 2004, and is [1336]currently one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies. To date, it has been a largely untapped market for Irish exports. Significant export market potential exists in Ukraine in telecommunications and IT, construction materials and services, agricultural machinery, food-processing, health care, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, international consulting services, automotive components and aviation services.

The European Union’s recent recognition of Ukraine as satisfying the criteria for market economy status will result in an easing of the EU’s anti-dumping rules. The country is in the midst of a programme of legal and regulatory change to facilitate its entry into the World Trade Organisation, WTO, and that will likely act as a spur to increased trading activity between Ireland and Ukraine. Negotiations on that issue are ongoing, and it is not possible to state, at this stage, when Ukraine will be formally admitted to the WTO.

While both exports and imports with Ukraine have declined over recent years, figures for the first eight months of this year show a welcome increase compared with the same period in 2004. Exports have increased 16% to €12.9 million and imports increased by 61% to €2.8 million in the same period. The real figure for exports is thought to be higher, as some Irish exports to Ukraine are transacted through third countries.

Enterprise Ireland, EI, is working to expand our trade with Ukraine. In June 2005, EI organised a “Doing Business in Ukraine Seminar”, in co-operation with the Ukrainian Embassy in Dublin. A ministerial trade mission to that country is planned for early 2006, and that will act as a focus for existing Irish interest in Ukraine and attract other Irish companies wishing to enter the Ukrainian market. Trade mission participants will have the opportunity to investigate the market thoroughly and interact with their Ukrainian counterparts in a substantive and structured way. I am confident that the trade mission will see tangible results in the expansion of trade between our two countries.

  214.  Mr. Morgan    asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if his attention has been drawn to the situation which has arisen at a company (details supplied) in County Cork; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that workers have not been paid in three weeks and that company management is behaving in a manner similar to Irish Ferries by attempting to change the employment conditions from full-time to seasonal without proper consultation with the workers; and the actions he intends to take to address the plight of the workers at this company. [39973/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Killeen):  I have no direct role in the resolution of [1337]this or other similar disputes. I understand that the Deputy’s concerns are regarding the reorganisation proposals, where the company has announced that 35 full-time positions will be affected from January 2006. From then, work will be available on a seasonal basis for those staff. It has been reported that the company’s proposals could result in a reduction in the number of working weeks per worker to between 26 and 30 weeks per year. The company is also seeking to introduce new shift arrangements.

The union claims that management tried to introduce the new shift arrangements in November, four weeks ahead of schedule. When workers continued to work the old shift pattern, they were issued with written warnings and several workers were suspended. The trade union balloted workers and served notice of industrial action on the company.

At meetings up to and including 6 December 2005 with the company and the trade union, the Labour Relations Commission succeeded in facilitating the resolution of some of the issues in dispute and others were referred to the Labour Court. On 6 December, the Labour Relations Commission made proposals for the resolution of some of the outstanding issues in dispute between the parties. I understand that both the company and the trade union representatives agreed to recommend the commission’s proposals to senior management and their members, respectively. However, the trade union members rejected elements of the proposals and industrial action began on Thursday last, 8 December 2005.

The Labour Relations Commission has maintained contact with the parties and invited them to conciliation talks to explore ways of resolving the outstanding issues. The commission met the parties on 13 December but a resolution to the issues in dispute was not found. The Labour Relations Commission intends to keep in contact with the parties with a view to achieving a resolution, and I hope that both sides will engage constructively with the commission in an effort to find a resolution to the dispute.

The system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature. For cases, however, where the parties have failed to find a solution to the issues in dispute, the State provides the dispute-settling machinery of the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. Ultimately, however, responsibility for the resolution of issues in dispute lies with the parties concerned.

  215.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    if an appeal can be opened on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in respect of their claim for the carer’s allowance which was refused. [39701/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  The person’s application for carer’s allowance was disallowed by a deciding officer on the grounds that he is working, on his holding, for more than ten hours per week.

The person appealed that decision to the social welfare appeals office. In accordance with the statutory requirements, the relevant departmental papers, including a report from a social welfare inspector and a submission from the deciding officer are being sought. The papers have been referred to the appeals officer, who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the case. At present the person concerned is in receipt of unemployment assistance.

Under social welfare legislation, decisions regarding claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. Those officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

  216.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    his views on amending the situation where persons in receipt of the widow’s pension are restricted in accepting employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39725/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  Widow’s or widower’s non-contributory pension is a means tested payment payable to a widow or widower, without dependent children, whose income falls below a certain level and who does not satisfy the contribution conditions for a contributory widow’s or widower’s payment.

In assessing means for social assistance purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person or his or her spouse may have, together with the value of capital and property, except the home. Weekly means of €7.60 per week are disregarded, and all means in excess of that figure, including those from earnings from employment, are assessed in full.

The recent budget made provision for several very important measures which are designed to target resources at specific groups of people, including widows and widowers. In considering those measures, I was anxious to target those who are at the greatest risk of poverty, to allow people to supplement their social welfare pension through employment, to encourage saving, and to simplify the system of income support for older people who do not receive contributory pensions.

Budget 2006 provides for an increase of €16 per week, 9.6%, for all non-contributory pensioners, including widows and widowers aged 66 or over. Non-contributory pensioners, including widows aged under 66, will receive an increase of €17 per week, 11.4%.

On budget day, I was also pleased to announce that I propose to introduce, in September 2006, a [1339]standardised State non-contributory pension, replacing the old-age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, the blind pension, widow’s or widower’s pension, one-parent family payment, deserted wife’s allowance and prisoner’s wife’s allowance.

All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which has not increased since the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Approximately 34,000 pensioners who currently receive a reduced rate of payment, including 3,380 recipients of widow’s or widower’s non-contributory pension, will gain as a result of the change. They will receive increases in their payment of up to €12.50 per week in the personal rate and up to €8.30 per week in respect of the qualified adult rate, where applicable.

In addition, I also propose to introduce a specific additional disregard of €100 per week where the pensioner is in employment. That new disregard relating to earnings from employment is intended as an initial incentive to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working, or to re-enter the workforce, to do so. Accordingly, recipients who are in employment will receive an additional increase in their payment, depending on the level of their earnings, over and above the increases that I have already outlined.

Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person with no other means will be able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. That figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

By any standards, the levels of increases announced are exceptional. The proposed modernisation of the current arrangements is also a further demonstration of our commitment to the elderly and to those who have lost their spouses.

  217.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person was awarded the family income supplement of €65 per week with effect from 1 June 2005 based on income consisting of earnings and back to work allowance of €74.47 per week; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the back to work allowance was payable in this case from 19 May 2005 to 15 September 2005; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that when their entitlement to back to work allowance ceased they were informed that their family income supplement entitlement could not be reviewed before 31 May 2006; if this person is thereby effectively deprived of an additional €44.82 per week in the family income supplement; his views on whether administrative convenience for his Department justifies [1340]such a decision in circumstances where the person concerned was not advised that they would be financially better off if they received their full entitlement to the family income supplement and no back to work allowance; if he will review this case to ensure that this person is not financially disadvantaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39736/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  Family income supplement, FIS, is designed to provide an incentive for low-paid workers with families to take up or remain in full-time employment.

An integral feature of the scheme is that, once the level of the FIS payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that level for a period of 52 weeks, provided that the claimant remains in employment. However, the rate of payment can be amended where an additional child is born in the course of the 52 weeks.

A key advantage of that approach, which is unique to the FIS scheme, is that claimants can be certain that they will receive a guaranteed level of income support throughout the period. That certainty is important to the success of the scheme in providing a real incentive to workers with families to avail of employment opportunities. For those reasons, rather than for reasons of administrative convenience, this policy measure is specifically provided for in legislation.

On balance, the net impact of the present approach is likely to be significantly positive for workers, given that wage movements are likely to rise rather than fall in the majority of cases during the year. The impact of more regular reviews would most likely be lower payments for most FIS recipients.

Any change in the existing arrangements would require legislative change. Given the nature and purpose of the FIS scheme, I am not convinced that any such change would be appropriate.

Back to work allowance, BTWA, is a transitional employment support measure paid for up to three years to assist the long-term unemployed and other social welfare recipients back to full-time work. It is paid on a reducing basis at 75% of the previous social welfare weekly payment for the first year followed by 50% and 25% respectively for the following two years.

In the specific case to which the Deputy refers, the customer had received BTWA for approximately two years and eight months, after which he became unemployed and transferred back to unemployment assistance. When he subsequently returned to employment, only the balance of four months’ BTWA remained to be paid. FIS officials were apparently unaware of that fact when processing his FIS application. As a result, it appears that the customer in question may not have received the best advice at the start of his FIS claim.

[1341]In view of the exceptional circumstances as outlined above, both the BTWA and FIS claims will be reviewed, and my officials will be contact the person concerned in the near future.

  218.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    if arrears of rent allowance will be awarded dating back to August 2005 to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the rent allowance being awarded will be increased; and if an exceptional needs payment will be made relative to their ESB account. [39789/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  Rent supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department have a function in determining entitlement in individual cases.

The southern area of the executive has advised that the person concerned originally applied for a rent supplement in August 2005. However, it was not possible to process her claim, as the executive could not contact her either by letter or by home visit after her application was lodged.

The person concerned made contact again with the executive earlier this month. By that time, she had moved to new accommodation. The executive advised her that, in the circumstances, the payment of rent supplement would only be considered from December 2005 and regarding her current accommodation. The person has been advised that if she is not satisfied with a rent supplement entitlement determined on this basis, she may appeal the decision to the designated appeals officer of the executive.

The executive can provide an exceptional needs payment through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme to assist with essential, once-off exceptional or unforeseeable expenditure that a person is unable to meet out of his or her household income or other resources. The person concerned should contact her local community welfare office if she wishes to apply for assistance with her electricity costs under that scheme. It is also open to her to apply to my Department to have her fuel allowance eligibility re-assessed in her new household circumstances.

  219.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    the changes to the qualifying criteria for fuel allowance as a result of budget 2006. [39793/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  A fuel allowance of €9.00 per week is payable to eligible households during a 29 week winter heating period from the end of September to the middle of April each year. An additional [1342]€3.90 per week is payable in the designated urban smokeless fuel zones.

As announced in the recent budget, the rate of fuel allowance will be increased by €5 with effect from January 2006. That increase will bring the basic fuel allowance up to €14 per week, while the rate for recipients in designated smokeless areas will increase to €17.90.

Under existing rules, the fuel allowance is not payable in cases where a person is benefiting from a communal heating service in certain flat complexes provided by Dublin City Council and other local authorities throughout the country. With effect from January 2006, tenants residing in local authority complexes with communal heating arrangements will qualify for fuel allowance from a current date, if they satisfy the other conditions of the scheme.

  220.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    the number of persons in receipt of fuel allowance for each of the past five years; and the number of old age pensioners and other pension or welfare categories in receipt of a fuel allowance in each of those years and in respect of each pension and welfare category the percentage of that category in receipt of fuel allowance in each of those years. [39794/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  A fuel allowance of €9 per week is payable to eligible households during a 29-week winter heating period from end-September to mid-April each year. An additional €3.90 per week is payable in the designated urban smokeless fuel zones.

As announced in the recent budget, the rate of fuel allowance will be increased by €5 with effect from January 2006. This increase will bring the basic fuel allowance up to €14 per week while the rate for recipients in designated smokeless areas will increase to €17.90.

The numbers qualifying for the fuel allowance scheme for the years 2000 to 2005 are set out in the following Table 1.

Table 1: Numbers receiving a standard fuel allowance, smokeless fuel supplement 2000 to 2005

Year Standard Fuel Allowance Smokeless supplement
Nos. Nos.
2000 270,000 109,000
2001 265,000 108,000
2002 259,000 115,000
2003 270,000 118,000
2004 272,000 121,000
2005 274,000 123,000

[1343]My Department does not have statistics on the number of recipients of the fuel allowance broken down by social welfare scheme for the last five years. However, details on the current fuel allowance recipients by social welfare category is given in Table 2.

Table 2.

Category Number with Fuel Allowance Number with Fuel as % of total number in category
%
Old Age Pensioners: 79,000 26
Widowed: 50,000 40
Invalidity / Disability: 47,000 20
Lone Parent /Deserted: 51,000 56
Other Welfare Schemes: 47,000 23
Total: 274,000

  221.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    when a decision will be reached in regard to the appeal of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford regarding their social welfare allowance appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39797/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

The statutory rules of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme provide that, where it is determined that an applicant has deprived himself or herself of an income in order to qualify for an allowance, the income foregone continues to be assessable as means for eligibility purposes.

The southern area of the executive has advised that payment of rent supplement was refused on the basis that the person concerned had left full-time employment in order to participate in a training course. It has further advised that the person concerned appealed this decision to the designated area appeals officer within the executive and that the decision of the community welfare officer was upheld. The person concerned has a further right of appeal against this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

  222.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    his plans to allow persons to continue to work and pay PRSI pension contributions beyond pension age to gain eligi[1344]bility for an old age contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39843/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  In order to qualify for a contributory pension a person must satisfy a number of conditions in relation to social insurance contributions. However, only contributions made to the end of the contribution year before a person reaches pension age may be counted towards satisfying these qualifying conditions.

An increase in workforce participation of older people is one of the more important measures identified at EU level as a means of ensuring the sustainability of pensions systems in the future. In this regard, one of the issues examined by the Pensions Board in its report on the national pensions review, which I recently received from the board, is the incentives we can offer to encourage longer working among older people. Options to enhance a person’s social welfare pension through longer working could be an important measure in this area, and one which deserves very serious consideration.

The national pensions review will be published early in the new year. I hope it will engender a national debate on the future direction of Ireland’s pensions system and following on from this I would plan to bring forward a number of measures in this area for consideration by the Government.

  223.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    further to the announcement in the budget 2006 speech that earnings from employment of €100 per week will be disregarded in the means test for non-contributory old age pension, the steps he has taken or intends to take to ensure that a person will not lose secondary benefits such as fuel allowance, medical card or others if they choose to exploit this reform; the discussions he has had with other Ministers in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40000/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  In assessing means for non-contributory pension purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person or his or her spouse may have, together with the value of capital and property, except the home. Weekly means of €7.60 per week are disregarded and all means in excess of that figure, including those from earnings from employment, are assessed in full.

The recent budget made provision for a number of very important measures which are designed to target resources at particular groups of older people. In considering these measures I was anxious to target those who are at the greatest risk of poverty; allow people to supplement their social welfare pension through employment; encourage saving; and simplify the system of [1345]income support for older people who do not receive contributory pensions.

Budget 2006 provides for an increase of €16 per week, 9.6%, for all non-contributory pensioners. Non-contributory pensioners will receive an increase of €17 per week, 11.4%. The fuel allowance is being increased by €5 a week.

On budget day I was also pleased to announce that I proposed to introduce, in September 2006, a standardised State non-contributory pension, replacing the old age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, the blind pension, widower’s pension, one parent family payment, deserted wife’s allowance and prisoner’s wife’s allowance.

All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which has not increased since the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Approximately 34,000 pensioners who are currently in receipt of a reduced rate of payment will gain from this change. The increase in the personal rate of payment will be up to €12.50 per week while the qualified adult rate, where applicable, will increase by up to €8.30 per week.

In addition, I also propose to introduce a specific additional disregard of €100 per week where the pensioner is in employment. This new disregard relating to earnings from employment is intended as an initial incentive to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working, or to re-enter the workforce. Accordingly, recipients who are in employment will receive an additional increase, depending on the level of their earnings, in their rate of payment over and above the increases I have already outlined.

The usual rules continue to apply in relation to entitlement to secondary benefits such as the fuel allowance etc. However, I was pleased to announce changes in the rules governing the rent and mortgage interest supplement in particular, which will allow persons to earn more from part-time work and retain entitlement. Entitlement to a medical card is a matter for my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children.

Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person with no other means will be able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

By any standards, the levels of increases announced in the budget are exceptional. The proposed modernisation of the current arrangements is also a further demonstration of our commitment to all those who are elderly.

  224.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    if the new earnings disregard of €100 per week for non-contributory pensioners includes settlements made between parents and children where farms were transferred to the chil[1346]dren and a financial settlement drawn up by solicitors. [40013/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  In assessing means for non-contributory pension purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person or his or her spouse may have, together with the value of capital and property, except the home. Weekly means of €7.60 per week are disregarded and all means in excess of that figure, including those from earnings from employment, are assessed in full.

The recent budget made provision for a number of very important measures which are designed to target resources at particular groups of older people. In considering these measures I was anxious to target those who are at the greatest risk of poverty; allow people to supplement their social welfare pension through employment; encourage saving; and simplify the system of income support for older people who do not receive contributory pensions.

Budget 2006 provides for an increase of €16 per week, 9.6%, for all non-contributory pensioners. Non-contributory pensioners will receive an increase of €17 per week, 11.4%.

On budget day, I was also pleased to announce that I proposed to introduce, in September 2006, a standardised State non-contributory pension, replacing the old age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, the blind pension, widower’s pension, one parent family payment, deserted wife’s allowance and prisoner’s wife’s allowance.

All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which has not increased since the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Approximately 34,000 recipients of a reduced rate of the relevant payments will gain. The increase in the personal rate of payment will be up to €12.50 per week while the qualified adult rate, where applicable, will increase by up to €8.30 per week. This increase in the means disregard will benefit all those who are assessed with means derived from financial settlements with their children or others.

In addition, I also propose to introduce a specific additional disregard of €100 per week where the pensioner is in employment. This new disregard relating to earnings from employment is intended as an initial incentive to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working or to re-enter the workforce. Accordingly, recipients who are in employment will receive an additional increase, depending on the level of their earnings, in their rate of payment over and above the increase outlined above.

Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person with no other means will be able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension [1347]at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

By any standards, the levels of increases announced are exceptional. The proposed modernisation of the current arrangements is also a further demonstration of our commitment to all those who are elderly.

  225.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    the reason the situation exists whereby a spouse, who has not worked up sufficient credits in their own right, is entitled to be included in their partner’s pension payments. [40127/05]

  226.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs    his plans to respect the dignity of Irish workers not entitled to a full State pension (details supplied) to be provided with a reduced or partial pension in their own right. [40128/05]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

The social welfare pensions system comprises both social insurance and non-contributory payments. Payment of the former depends on a person achieving a minimum level of social insurance contributions over their working lives while the latter is subject to a means test. Within that basic structure every effort is made to ensure that as a many people as possible can qualify for a pension in their own right.

In common with most social security systems, the Irish social welfare system provides for additional payments to be made where an insured person claiming a benefit or pension has an adult or child dependant. In the case of adult dependants payment of the allowance is subject to an income test. At present, the full allowance is payable where a spouse or partner has income up to €88.88 per week with reduced allowances paid up to an income level of €220 per week. From January 2006 the upper income threshold increases to €240 per week.

A number of measures have been introduced over the years which make it easier for people to qualify for contributory pensions. These include the reduction in the yearly average number of contributions required for pension purposes from 20 to ten and the introduction of special half rate pensions based on pre-53 insurance contributions. Pro-rata pensions are also available to allow people with mixed rate insurance records receive a payment. This set of measures is of particular benefit to women who may have less than complete social insurance records due to working in the home.

The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties [1348]are protected by the homemakers scheme which was introduced from 1994. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a persons social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes. However, the scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance ten years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate and achieve a yearly average of at least ten contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age must also be satisfied.

There are those who will not benefit from the homemakers scheme and who cannot qualify for a pension in their own right. In this regard, the Government is committed to increasing the payment for qualified adults, age 66 or over, to the same level as the personal rate of the old age non-contributory pension and to facilitating the direct payment of the allowance to spouses and partners.

Budget 2006 increased the qualified adult rates for age 66 or over by €10.80 per week for contributory pensioners and by €10.60 per week for non-contributory pensioners. Also, since 2002, new pension claimants can now opt to have the qualified adult allowance paid directly to their spouse or partner. The administrative and legislative implications of enhancing these provisions are under active consideration by my Department and I intend to progress the matter in the coming year.

In relation to the non-contributory pension, in budget 2006, I made changes to the income disregards allowed under the means test. The basic income disregard was increased by €12.40 per week to €20 and I also introduced an earnings disregard of €100 per week. These allowances are doubled in the case of couples and will allow more people to qualify for social welfare pensions.

I will continue to look for ways, within the current social welfare structure, to increase the number of people who can receive payments in their own right.

  227.  Ms O. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Transport    if Irish Rail were instructed to complete a review of rail fare structures by end 2004; if so, the outcome of this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39688/05]

  228.  Ms O. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Transport    the position regarding the recent fare increase application made to him by Irish Rail and Dublin Bus; if, in relation to Irish Rail’s application, he will consider withholding an increase on its services until Irish Rail’s review of fare structures is completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39689/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 227 and 228 together.

The structures of rail fares are a matter for Iarnród Éireann itself. I understand from the company that a review of rail fares was carried out in 2004 which resulted in the rationalization of some fares. The company has recently informed me that it intends undertaking a thorough review of ticketing and fare structures in 2006.

The applications for a fares increase made by the three CIE operating companies are currently being examined by my Department and a decision on the matter will be made shortly.

  229.  Mr. Gormley    asked the Minister for Transport    the person responsible for damage to private property caused by the vibration of overflights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39786/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  It is not possible to give a definite to answer to such a hypothetical question. A property owner who believes that his property has been damaged by an aircraft would need to seek legal advice.

  230.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Transport,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 288 of 29 November 2005, and his remarks that it is his policy that Irish Rail remains in the rail freight industry and Irish Rail has made good progress in growing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage, such as in the carriage of sugar beet, cement and pulpwood, the evidence available to him of any growth in cement rail freight business, and in the absence of same, the policy changes he envisages. [39787/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  Irish Rail has informed me that bulk cement tonnage carried by rail increased from 425,656 tonnes in 2002 to almost 450,000 tonnes in 2004. Final figures for the carriage of bulk cement in 2005 are not yet available. However, I understand from Irish Rail that due to line closures for resignalling and infrastructure upgrading on the Waterford line, as well as major renovations currently being carried out in the Limerick cement plant, the tonnage carried this year may be reduced. Irish Rail continues to review opportunities for viable rail freight business, including in the cement industry.

  231.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Transport    when the public inquiry into the Kildare route project will be held; and the number of submissions he received following the publication of the railway order. [39857/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  Upon receipt of CIE’s application for a railway order for the Kildare route project, and under the provisions of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001, I directed a public inquiry be held into the application and I appointed Mr. Patrick
Butler SC to hold that inquiry. The inspector has today directed that the public inquiry will open on 24 January 2006. A preliminary hearing to explain procedural and other arrangements will be held on 23 January.

I have received a total of 58 submissions in relation to the proposed works. Under the provisions of the Act, I am obliged to consider these submissions, as well as CIE’s application and the inspector’s report into the public inquiry, before I make a decision on whether to grant the railway order.

  232.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Transport    when tenders will be invited for the resignalling project for the city centre to increase train paths per direction per hour from 12 to 16 into Connolly Station. [39858/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that a design team is currently being assembled and it is anticipated that work will commence in the latter part of 2006.

While the work involved will be carried out primarily by Iarnród Éireann in-house staff, the company intends to tender for additional resources as necessary in a support capacity.

  233.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Transport    if, in view of the granting of a licence to Dublin Bus to provide a new 7.50 a.m. service from Glen Easton in Leixlip, County Kildare to the city centre and Dublin Bus’s application for an evening licence, funding will be sanctioned for the purchase of an additional bus to operate this route, details supplied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39876/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  The scheduling and deployment of its bus fleet is an operational matter for Dublin Bus. However, under Transport 21 and in advance of the completion of the Dublin Bus network review which is due to be completed early in 2006, I approved a request from the company for funding for 20 additional buses this year.

  234.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Transport    the locations of the proposed park and ride facilities currently being considered for development in County Kildare. [39883/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  I regard the provision of adequate park and ride facilities [1351]at appropriate locations as a vital component in achieving the goal of attracting more people onto public transport. Earlier this year, my Department approved a strategy for rail-based park and ride facilities for the greater Dublin area prepared by the Dublin Transportation Office. We have included a financial provision for park and ride facilities in Transport 21. I have already indicated that I will be providing capital funding for the development of new park and ride facilities across the country, subject to the submission of proposals, with comprehensive capital appraisals, which will be evaluated on their merits. I expect to receive specific proposals in the near future.

  235.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Transport    the discussions which have taken place between his Department, Aer Rianta and Weston Aerodrome regarding the issue of air traffic control at Weston; if such discussions have not taken place if there is an intention to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39886/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  Neither the Department of Transport nor Aer Rianta, now the Dublin Airport Authority, have had discussions with Weston aerodrome regarding the issue of air traffic control at the aerodrome, nor are there plans to have such discussions. Air traffic control is the responsibility of the Irish Aviation Authority and I have no function in the matter.

  236.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Transport    the amount of funding allocated for 2006 to provide for the outlying design scheme for the Navan to Dublin rail line; the person or body to whom he has given charge of this project; and when he expects the outlying design scheme to be completed. [39960/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  Funding for the Dublin to Navan rail line is provided for under Transport 21. The line will be developed in two phases and the first phase will involve a spur off the western line at Clonsilla to Pace, beyond Dunboyne. Iarnród Éireann has already completed a feasibility study for this phase and design and planning work will be undertaken in 2006. Further studies will be required with regard to extending the line from Pace to Navan. Iarnród Éireann has requested funding of €1.7 million in 2006 with regard to work on the Navan line.

  237.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Transport    the amount of funding provided in each case in the 2006 Estimates for all agencies under the auspices of his Department; and the number of staff employed by each and the cost thereof. [39961/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  Details of funding in the 2006 Estimates for non-commercial agencies under the auspices of the Department, covering their administration and staff costs, are set out in the table below.

Agency Total admin, incl. pay Pay No. of staff
€000s €000s
Dublin Transportation Office 1,082 617 28
National Safety Council 4,848 711 11
Medical Bureau of Road Safety 2,142 1,137 17
National Roads Authority 13,080 9,350 124
Railway Procurement Agency 11,000 4,500 73

  238.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Transport    the extent of legal expertise that exists within his Department; the vacancies that currently exist and the proportion this represents of all legal staff. [40106/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  There are no posts in this Department which have legal expertise as a requirement and as a consequence, there are no vacancies. Some staff members have legal expertise but it is not a normal requirement.

  239.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Transport    his plans to make overtaking a school bus an [1352]offence when it is stopped to drop off students. [40117/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  I understand that the Department of Education and Science, in conjunction with Bus Éireann, initiated a school bus flashing lights pilot scheme in Ennis in January of this year. Consideration of the creation of a road traffic offence of the kind suggested by the Deputy will be informed by the outcome and evaluation of these pilot measures.

  240.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Transport    the timeframes and routes for the operation [1353]of a Luas link to Lucan and Clondalkin as indicated in the Transport 21 plan. [40118/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  Transport 21 includes a Luas line from Lucan to the city centre. This line is scheduled for completion in 2013. The detailed planning work, public consultation and the statutory approval process will determine the precise route that the Luas line will take.

  241.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Transport    the timeframes and routes for the operation of a Metro serving Liffey Valley shopping centre, Lucan and Clondalkin as indicated in the Transport 21 plan. [40119/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  Transport 21 includes a metro line — metro west — linking Tallaght with Clondalkin, Blanchardstown and Ballymun. It is expected that metro west will be completed in phases between 2010 and 2014. The detailed planning work, public consultation and the statutory approval process will determine the precise route that the metro line will take.

  242.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Transport    if the 20 buses announced as part of the Transport 21 plan were already ordered by Dublin Bus in the months preceding the announcement; and if any of the buses are earmarked for routes in the Clondalkin and Lucan area. [40122/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  At the launch of Transport 21, I announced that, in response to a request from Dublin Bus, I had approved funding for 20 additional buses in 2005. The buses had been ordered as part of Dublin Bus’s replacement programme but, in order to provide increased capacity at the earliest possible date, the 20 buses will now become additions to the Dublin Bus fleet. The deployment of buses is a day-to-day operational matter for Dublin Bus but the company informs me that both Clondalkin and Lucan will benefit from the entry into service of the additional buses.

  243.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Transport    if his Department will ring-fence funding for a regular bus service from Clondalkin to Tallaght, in view of the lack of a real service and the lack of available resources at Dublin Bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40123/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  In recent years, the Government has significantly increased the subvention paid to Dublin Bus from €8.8 million in 1997 to €64.9 million in 2005, an increase of 637%. In 2006, the subvention to CIE will increase by a further 5%. In addition to this 5% [1354]increase, a further €1.7 million will be allocated to Dublin Bus in 2006 to operate the 20 additional buses for which I gave approval recently. The provision of services on a particular route is a matter for Dublin Bus itself, having regard to the demand for such services and compliance with the requirements of the Transport Act 1958 and the administrative arrangements established to support those requirements.

  244.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Transport    when proposed regulations regarding window film grades are to be implemented; if so, the length of time this process will take; the specifics of the regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40141/05]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen):  I refer to the reply to Question No. 302 of 13 December 2005. It is a requirement for the registration and entry-into-service of new cars in the European Union that they have EU whole vehicle type approval, EU-WVTA. In order to receive EU-WVTA, a car must meet the technical specifications for a range of items, including the glazing and the field of vision of drivers, which are set down in a series of separate directives. It is not open to a member state to prohibit the sale or entry-into-service of a car which has EU-WVTA.

Under the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963, which specify vehicle in-service standards, a vehicle must be constructed so that the driver can at all times have such a view of the road and of other traffic on the road as is necessary to enable the vehicle to be driven safely. It is a requirement under these regulations for a windscreen to be fully transparent so as not to distort the driver’s view. Enforcement of the regulations is a matter for the Garda Síochána. Concerns have been expressed about modifications to the glazing and exhaust systems of motor vehicles which result in excessively “blacked-out” windows and noisy exhausts and it has been suggested that such modifications could be made reasons for failure of the NCT.

I would like to clarify matters in that regard. Before proceeding to review existing NCT arrangements, it would be necessary to develop national technical standards for glazing opacity with regard to motor vehicles and then, taking into account the results of regulatory impact assessments, to amend the construction, equipment and use of vehicles regulations and the NCT regulations, taking account of these standards. It would also be necessary to submit the draft amending regulations to the European Commission for consideration and for referral to other member states in accordance with the technical standards and regulations directive, Directive 98/34/EC, before they could come into force. A [1355]timeframe in the order of 12 months would be required to complete such a course of action.

Given the complexity of the issues relating to the modification of vehicles, I intend to have the matters of excessively “blacked-out” windows, noisy exhausts and some other issues examined by an expert group. In that regard, one of the recommendations contained in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the mid-term review of the NCTS is the establishment of a technical standards forum to consider and make recommendations regarding vehicle technical matters associated with the NCT. It is my intention to implement that recommendation and, in that context, the matters of excessively “blacked-out” windows will be referred to the technical standards forum for consideration upon its establishment. Until such time as I receive the views of the technical standards forum on these matters, [1356]it would be premature to introduce changes to the existing statutory requirements.

  245.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs    the community which covers an area in County Mayo; and if a supplementary grant will be approved to that group. [39721/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern):  No application has been received by my Department under the 2005 scheme of community support for older people, for a group in the Derrygorman area. I attach, for information, a list of groups in the Mayo area, should the individual in question wish to make an application under the 2006 scheme, which will be advertised early next year.

Organisation Address Phone Number
Parkside Community Development Ltd. 30-32 St. Patrick’s Estate, Ballina, County Mayo 096 72258
SVDP St. Colman Conference Curam, Dalton Street, Claremorris 094 9362096
Cushlough Community Alert Carrowkennedy, Westport, County Mayo 098 21049
Kilcommon Activity Group for the Elderly Glenamoy, Ballina, County Mayo 097 87923
Bohola Community Alert Bohola, Swinford, County Mayo 094 9381597
Ballyhaunis Neighbourhood Watch Forthill, Ballyhaunis, County Mayo 094 9630956
Fahy Community Alert Group Cultrean, Westport, County Mayo 098 41126
Pullathomas Inver Community Alert Pullathomas, Ballina, County Mayo 097 84601
Kilmaine Community Alert Killmaine, County Mayo 094 9541899
Clare Island Order of Malta Clare Island, Westport, County Mayo 098 25407
Partry Srah Community Alert Partry, Claremorris, County Mayo 094 9543113
Taugheen Comm Alert Group Taugheen, Claremorris, County Mayo
SVDP — Swinford The Orchard, Park Road, Swinford 094 9251196
Killasser Community Alert Killasser, Swinford, County Mayo 087-9144910
Aughagower Community Alert Aughagower, Westport, County Mayo 098 26322
Knock Community Alert Knock PO, County Mayo 094 9388783
Keel Community Alert (Mayo) Keel, Westport, County Mayo
Saula Community Alert Saula, Achill, County Mayo 098 45408
Lacken Community Alert Carrowmore, Lacken, Ballina 096 34130
Balla Community Alert 3 Churchfield, Balla, County Mayo 086 8230070
Ballinasmalla Garredmond Community Alert Ballinasmalle, Claremorris, County Mayo 094 9371632
Church Manor Neighbourhood Watch 16 Church Manor, Church Road, Ballina 096 78720
Ballycroy Community Alert Ballycroy, Westport, County Mayo 098 49244
Clar IRD Ballyhaunis Road, Claremorris, County Mayo 094 9371830
Belmullet Neighbourhood Watch Attycunnane, Belmullet, County Mayo 097 81710
Keenagh Community Alert Keenagh, Ballina, County Mayo 096 53067
Oakwood Drive Millview Cres Lr. Buncree Neighbourhood Watch 12 Oakland Drive, Ballina, County Mayo 096 77811
Dooniver Valley Inishbiggle Comm Alert Dooniver, Achill Sound, Westport 098 47123
Newport Neighbourhood Watch Georges Street, Newport, County Mayo 098 41214

  246.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs    if he intends to provide funding for a new bridge at Achill [1356]Island, County Mayo; his views on whether all the Achill Island residents and Mayo County Council are in support of this project; when and if funding will be available from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39728/05]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív):  As the Deputy will be aware, this is a matter for the relevant local authority in the first instance. A draft application for funding for the construction of a new bridge at Gob an Choire, Acaill, was received very recently in my Department from Mayo County Council. The matter is being examined in the context of available funding and my Department will be in further contact with the council as soon as possible.

I did indicate on a recent visit to Achill, however, that subject to the above and to the appropriate appraisal processes, I would consider providing funds for this bridge from the strategic roads budget on a co-funded basis with the local authority and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

  247.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs    if approval will be granted for funding to a community project in the name of a centre (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39816/05]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern):  The group will be notified of the result of its application shortly.

  248.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs    if there is a statutory requirement on Údarás na Gaeltachta to receive a formal grant application form before payment of a grant to an applicant. [39904/05]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív):  First, I should clarify that there is no statutory requirement on Údarás na Gaeltachta to receive a formal grant application form before payment of a grant to an applicant.

I understand from Údarás that grant application forms are available to applicants in order to assist them in compiling the essential data for assessment of an application. However, an application may also comprise documents submitted by or on behalf of an applicant which provide the necessary information. In either case, if further information is required following receipt of the initial grant application, all such data received are deemed to form part of the application.

Following grant approval, a written grant agreement is entered into by Údarás and the grantee. This agreement sets out the terms and conditions of the grant and forms the contract for grant payment. When submitting claims for payment, applicants may use the generic form avail[1358]able for this purpose or provide other acceptable documentation.

  249.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if she has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath in regard to the REP scheme payment; if this payment will be paid out without any further delay; if she will investigate the reason the payment of same has been delayed and the person who made the decision thereto; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39740/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  I have received the correspondence in question and a reply will be issued shortly. In the meantime, I can confirm that a REPS payment to the person named issued on 9 December. This payment is a refund of a penalty, and follows a decision by the agriculture appeals office in favour of the person named. The appeals office issued its decision in September 2005, and since then my Department has been considering whether to ask for a review of the decision by the director of the appeals office. A decision has been taken not to seek a review, and accordingly the payment was released.

  250.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if a compensation package for scrapie will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39811/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  The flock owner referred to above was restricted under the scrapie programme on the 31 May 2005. Following the genotyping of his flock the susceptible animals were sent for slaughter and the flock owner was paid compensation in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The top-up payment in respect of the breeding ewes cannot be paid to the flock owner until such time as only category 1 and category 2 sheep remain on the holding. In this regard the Deputy will be aware that I recently made a significant improvement in the level of the top-up payment available and the flock owner will benefit from this in due course.

  251.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if an application for payments has been brought to her attention (details supplied); if she will reconsider the rejection decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39812/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  The person named submitted an [1359]application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payments scheme national reserve under categories A and D. Category A caters for farmers who inherited land or received land free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who had retired or died by 16 May 2005, where the land in question was leased to a third party during the reference period 2000-2002. While the land concerned is being leased by the person named, the fee involved does not satisfy the criteria for eligibility under category A.

Category D caters for farmers who commenced farming after 31 December 2002 or who commenced farming in 2002, but who received no direct payments in respect of that scheme year. In addition the farmer must have either purchased or inherited land. As the person named applied for an allocation of entitlements on leased land only he does not qualify under this category. Formal letters setting out my Department’s decision will issue early in the new year and all applicants will be given the opportunity to appeal my Department’s decision to the independent single payment appeals committee.

  252.  Mr. G. Murphy    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when the single farm payment will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; the amount which will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39813/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  The named person submitted an application for inheritance under the single payment scheme. This application has been successfully processed. His entitlements have been transferred and payment will issue as soon as possible.

  253.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when payment under the single payment scheme will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39896/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  An application under the single payment scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2005, with a declared area of 14.94 hectares. Following initial processing, a problem was identified in respect of one parcel listed. While the person named was written to and contacted directly by an official of my Department, he has yet to satisfactorily resolve the issue. Payment cannot issue while this matter remains unresolved.

  254.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason for the delay in payment of the 2004 special beef premium to a person (details supplied) in Cork South West; and if arrangements will be made for payment of same. [39915/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  The person named submitted one 2004 special beef premium application for six animals. Following initial processing, an issue arose which prevented payment from being made. However, this problem has now been resolved and payment will issue shortly.

  255.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo did not receive their single farm payment; and when this payment will issue. [39926/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  An application under the single payment scheme was received on 3 May 2005 in the name of the person and his father. As the entitlements established during the reference period were established by the father of the person named, it is necessary that the appropriate transfer be effected to allow payment of the application. As such a transfer request had not been received, an official of my Department has been in direct contact with the persons concerned with a view to facilitating the necessary transfer and thereby allowing payment at an early date.

  256.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be awarded the area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39927/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  The named person held special condition entitlements as he did not submit area aid applications during the 2000 to 2002 reference period and was paid premia under the provisions of the EU regulations which enabled farmers to receive payments on up to 15 livestock units. The entitlements have now been converted to 3.01 standard entitlements based on the lands declared in the applicant’s 2005 single payment scheme. The gross value of the entitlements is €268.60. Payment will, therefore, issue to the named person very shortly.

  257.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan who has had to send in the information three times will be granted the area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39928/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  Following direct contact by my officials with the person named, processing of his single payment scheme application form is being expedited, with a view to payment at an early date.

[1361]

  258.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be granted their area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39929/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  An application under the disadvantaged areas or single payment schemes was received from the person named on 14 May 2005. Following initial processing, issues regarding the areas declared were identified which required clarification by the applicant. These matters have now been resolved and the application is being further processed with a view to payment at an early date.

  259.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be granted their area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39930/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  This case has been successfully processed and payment for the amount of €3,112.11 is expected to be paid to the person named in the next few days.

  260.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be granted their area aid and single payments due in October 2005 and 1 December 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39931/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  An application under the disadvantaged areas-single payment schemes was received from the first person named on 15 May 2005. Following initial processing, issues were identified which required to be addressed. These have now been clarified and the application is being further processed with a view to payment at an early date.

  261.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the difference between the deal Irish received in World Trade Organisations general negotiations compared with other countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39963/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  The current round of WTO negotiations are ongoing and the ministerial conference currently taking place in Hong Kong is seeking to make substantial progress towards a final agreement. The Commission negotiates on behalf of the EU on the basis of a mandate agreed by the Council of Ministers. The negotiations have not yet concluded. Throughout the [1362]negotiations in Hong Kong, and in the run up to Hong Kong, my objective is to secure the best possible outcome for Ireland. When a final agreement is reached it will apply to all WTO members including Ireland.

  262.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the persons who will be part of the negotiation team on the division of the sugar compensation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39964/05]

  263.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when she will make a decision on the percentage of sugar beet compensation which will be awarded to farmers and which will be awarded to Greencore; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39965/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 263 together.

Political agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime was reached at the Council of Agriculture Ministers’ meeting on 24 November 2005. It will be a matter for beet growers and Irish Sugar Ltd. to make decisions about sugar beet growing in light of the reformed sugar regime.

Under the terms of the reform agreement, a once-off payment of almost €44 million would be available for growers if sugar production ceases in Ireland. In that event also, the restructuring fund of up to €145 million would become available to provide compensation for the economic, social and environmental costs arising from factory closure. The agreement provides that at least 10% of the fund shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors to compensate notably for losses arising from investment in specialised machinery. This amount may be increased by member states after consultation of interested parties as long as the financial breakdown of the elements of the restructuring plan is kept balanced according to a sound economic proposal.

The formal legal texts giving effect to this agreement will be adopted by the Council of Ministers early next year after the opinion of the European Parliament has been received. The Commission will then come forward with proposals for detailed implementing rules. Pending the publication and adoption of the relevant regulations it is not possible to provide further information as regards the operation of the restructuring fund.

  264.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the action she will take in view of the recent seizure by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland of illicit health marks at [1363]meat plants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40138/05]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan):  One of the two meat plants referred to by the Deputy is in Northern Ireland. The other is a meat plant in County Monaghan which, I understand, has not been in operation for over a year. Prior to its closure this plant had been under the control of the local authority veterinary inspection service. My Department is co-operating with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in the investigation of this case. Investigations into the matter are ongoing.

  265.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of community run creches which are supported by his Department in the Kildare North constituency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40009/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, EOCP, 2000-06 is being assigned to the Department of Health and Children as part of the establishment of the new office of the Minister for Children under the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

I regret that the information sought is not available on a constituency basis. However, I understand that grants totalling almost €7.5 million have been approved to date in County Kildare under the EOCP 2000-06. These include almost €3.3 million in capital grant assistance to eight community based not-for-profit groups and over €1.5 million in staffing grant assistance to six community based not-for-profit projects.

It is anticipated that funding committed under the EOCP in County Kildare to date will lead to the creation of almost 1,200 new child care places and will enhance almost 750 existing places. In addition, child care services in County Kildare can benefit from support given to the national voluntary child care organisations to enhance quality awareness.

In 2004 my Department published a comprehensive review of progress under the EOCP 2000-06 entitled Developing Childcare In Ireland. An update of this report, giving details of grant approvals to end 2004, was circulated to all Members of the Oireachtas this week and was also posted on the Department’s website.

  266.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions; if it is in order [1364]for a Minister to usurp its functions; and the relationship between him and the day to day work of the Garda Síochána. [39720/05]

  270.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided that there were to be no charges brought against the chief executive of CPI when he met a person (details supplied). [39731/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 270 together.

I refer the Deputy to my comprehensive statement to Dáil Éireann on 13 December 2005.

  267.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views regarding random breath testing; and if he will make a statement on the issue raised by a group (details supplied). [39722/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I fully support the greatest possible use of all measures which would help reduce the rate of death and serious injuries on our roads.

My colleague, the Minister for Transport, who has responsibility for road traffic legislation, is currently considering the issues which would be involved in the introduction of random road breath testing in consultation with, inter alia, the Attorney General, myself and the Garda Síochána.

  268.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his Department has established a dedicated drugs squad in County Mayo; the number of personnel exclusively dedicated to the drugs squad who are allocated to each station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39723/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The Deputy will appreciate that the deployment of Garda resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

The Garda authorities have informed me that a dedicated drugs squad has been established in Mayo Garda division and that two detective gardaí have been assigned to the squad, which is based at Castlebar Garda station. I understand that these members hold a divisional brief and liaise with uniformed and plain clothes personnel in all stations in the division with respect to intelligence gathering, planned searches, operations and arrests. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that uniformed members are also [1365]seconded to work with detective units in local drugs operations.

  269.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of convictions for drugs there have been in County Mayo in the past 12 months; the breakdown of the areas in County Mayo these convictions took place; the circumstances under which the arrest took place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39724/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  It has not been possible, within the timeframe available, to collate the information required by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

Question No. 270 answered with Question
No. 266.

  271.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    when a decision will be made on an application for persons (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for the delay in dealing with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39732/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question.

  272.  Mr. Neville    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of prisoners who were placed in padded cells in 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; and the prisons where same took place. [39738/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As the Deputy is aware, I previously gave a commitment to abolish the use of old style padded cells which I regard as unsatisfactory in today’s prison estate. As a result, newly designed and improved cells have now been completed in Cloverhill Prison, Castlerea Prison, St. Patrick’s Institution, Mountjoy Prison, the Dóchas Centre and Arbour Hill Prison. Furthermore, work is either underway or is about to commence on similar cells in Limerick Prison, Midlands Prison, Wheatfield Prison and Cork Prison. It is therefore anticipated that the use of the old style padded cells will be eliminated in the Irish prison system by the middle of next year.

With this in mind, the information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table. However, it should be noted that the figures refer to placements — the same prisoner may be placed in such a cell more than once in a year — and some of [1366]the figures for 2005 are composite in nature and include placement in both the old style padded cells and the redesigned safety observation cells.

Year 2003 2004 2005 (to 12th Dec)
Mountjoy Prison 428 401 377
Dóchas Centre 185 141 90
Cloverhill Prison 76 94 91
Wheatfield Prison 85 174 110
Cork Prison 133 78 81
Castlerea Prison 38 33 30
Midlands Prison 19 8 1
Arbour Hill Prison 6 18 5
St. Patrick’s Institution* 178 221 155
Total 1,148 1,168 940

  273.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if an application in the name of a centre (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for funding for a creche facility will be approved. [39817/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, is being assigned to the Department of Health and Children as part of the establishment of the new office of the Minister for Children under the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the EOCP referred to by the Deputy, I understand that the community based group in question submitted an application to my Department some time ago. Each application undergoes a thorough assessment by Pobal, formerly known as ADM Limited, which was engaged to administer the grants on my Department’s behalf, to ensure that it meets the EOCP funding criteria. In addition, large scale projects such as the capital development proposed in this instance undergo an intensive assessment process by an external building consultant.

When the assessment is complete, I expect that the application will be considered by the programme appraisal committee following which a decision will be made on funding. The group will then be informed of the outcome. In May 2003 an EOCP staffing grant, of €195,000 over three years, was approved for the group as a contribution towards the staffing costs of the project.

  274.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for [1367]Justice, Equality and Law Reform,    further to Question No. 1055 of 29 September 2004, if he will report on the issue; his plans to introduce a Family Law Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39826/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  As indicated in the Government’s legislative programme announced by the Chief Whip on 27 September 2005, the aim is to publish a Family Law Bill in 2006.

  275.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the waiting time for processing land registry dealings on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39828/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table.

County Average Waiting Time (Months)
Carlow 9.9
Cavan 7.7
Clare 5.2
Cork 3.2
Donegal 9.0
Dublin 3.7
Galway 9.9
Kerry 5.9
Kildare 1.3
Kilkenny 11.6
Laois 8.7
Leitrim 10.6
Limerick 3.8
Longford 9.7
Louth 5.9
Mayo 11.6
Meath 10.1
Monaghan 6.8
Offaly 8.7
Roscommon 6.2
Sligo 5.7
Tipperary 4.8
Waterford 3.3
Westmeath 8.1
Wexford 10.4
Wicklow 1.6

I am further informed by the Registrar of Titles that this information was calculated on the following basis.

The total number of dealings on hand in the Land Registry at 30 November 2005 was 148,260. [1368]Of these 33,132 were the subject of queries and cannot be proceeded with until a satisfactory reply is received. The “live” arrear was therefore 115,128. The total number of cases completed from 1 January 2005 to 30 November 2005 was 208,972 or 18,997 per month. Therefore the overall national average waiting time in respect of the “live” arrear is 6.1 months.

The length of time taken to complete cases varies depending on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, investigation of title requirements, the completeness of the documentation presented, mapping requirements, the volume of business being transacted, the level of resources available at any particular time and the time at which the present computerised system was introduced in the Land Registry office for each county. Where a case is urgent and this is brought to the attention of the Land Registry office, in accordance with its customer service policy, the matter is dealt with expeditiously.

  276.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has received a letter from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14, regarding the setting up and funding of a missing persons helpline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39832/05]

  277.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position regarding the helpline for missing persons which he launched in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39833/05]

  278.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on his statement (details supplied) launching the helpline for missing persons on 25 October 2002. [39834/05]

  279.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason funding was withdrawn from the helpline for missing persons after only two years in view of his opinion in launching same on 25 October 2002 (details supplied). [39835/05]

  280.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his Department has offered less than 40% of the funding which was available to the helpline for missing persons when it was launched by him in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39836/05]

  281.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason, out of the €65,000 funding granted to the missing persons helpline in 2002, payment was made to the Garda Síochána for posters and to pay victim support for other services, leaving the helpline with [1369]a paltry sum to try and ensure its survival. [39837/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 276 to 281, inclusive, together.

The national missing persons helpline was established in October 2002. Initial funding of €65,000, to include set-up costs, was provided by my Department to establish a dedicated national missing persons helpline, to be operated and administered by Victim Support. Further funding of €45,000 was provided to the helpline in 2003. This funding was provided subject to the conditions that no funding beyond the year 2003 should be implied and audited accounts should be provided to my Department on a calendar basis. To date no audited accounts have been received in my Department.

An information leaflet outlining the services provided by the helpline was drawn up by Victim Support in conjunction with the Garda Síochána. This leaflet was distributed to families of missing people through the Garda missing persons bureau. Approximately €10,500 was spent by the helpline on leaflets in 2002 and 2003 to promote the service in this way.

The conditions under which the Department provided funding did not include any requirement to fund the production of leaflets or posters and any decision to do so was made by the helpline itself. With regard to paying Victim Support for its services, it will be noted that the helpline was operated by Victim Support during the period in operation.

Funding for services providing victim support is provided through the independent Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime which I established in March 2005 following a review of existing provision for crime victims. The Commission’s remit is to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future and disburse funding for victim support measures. The sum of €750,000 has been made available for disbursement under commission supervision in 2005 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. The commission is fully independent in its decision making and evaluates each application on its merits.

The commission received an application for funding from the missing persons helpline on 19 April 2005. The application was for €71,000 to staff and run a helpline for missing persons. In this context, it might be borne in mind that most missing persons are not victims of crime.

I am advised that the application was considered in detail by the commission at its meeting of 25 April 2005 and that it was decided to offer the missing persons helpline €25,000, approximately one third of the amount sought. However, [1370]the helpline declined this offer of funding on the basis that it would accept only the full amount sought. Other than the request to the independent commission for funding, no request for funding was made by the helpline to my Department as such.

It is, of course, open to the helpline to make a new application for funding to my Department, which will be considered on its merits. Officials from my Department have been unable to trace any recent correspondence from the person in question regarding the setting up and funding of a missing persons helpline.

  282.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason for the delay in forwarding the information requested in Question No. 499 of 8 November 2005. [39845/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The information requested by the Deputy in Question No. 499 of 8 November 2005 in respect of the headline offences by group for the first nine months of 2005 for the Carlow-Kildare Garda division has only recently been received from the Garda authorities and is set out in the table. The statistics provided for 2005 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Headline Offences Recorded and Detected for the Garda District of Carlow/Kildare from 1 January, 2005 to 30 September, 2005.

District: Carlow/Kildare 2005
Rec Det
Homicide 2 2
Assault 175 121
Sexual Offences 64 29
Arson 57 16
Drugs 85 85
Thefts 1,956 593
Burglary 1,372 123
Robbery 84 19
Fraud 132 94
Other 52 36
Total 3,979 1,118

  283.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that with 2.6% of the population of the State, County Clare has 2.6% of the Garda force; County Tipperary with 3.6% of the population of the State has 3% of the Garda force; County Mayo with 3% of the population of the State has 2.5% of the Garda force; [1371]and that Counties Carlow and Kildare with 4.9% of the population of the State have only 3.2% of the Garda force; his views on the fact that, proportionately, the allocation for Counties Carlow and Kildare of gardaí is disproportionately low; and when he intends to correct same. [39847/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I wish to advise the Deputy that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel. Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are constantly monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

With regard to Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign of 1,100 Garda recruits each year to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006.

The Garda Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Carlow-Kildare division will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country.

  284.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform,    further to Question No. 182 of 1 December 2005, the basis on which, including international evidence, he has reached the view that it is essential to deny family reunification visas to the minor children of persons granted leave to remain here. [39897/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The view I expressed in my reply to his question of 1 December 2005 is unchanged. I am satisfied that the direction of my current policy in this area is correct and that Ireland’s policy on family reunification is broadly in compliance with international standards.

Apart from the right to family reunification set out in the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, non-EEA migrants do not have a right to family reunification under law. Applications made by such persons other than those with full refugee status in the State are examined under the conditions laid down by the applicable administrative schemes in operation. Where applications fall outside of these schemes, cases are considered on an individual basis.

[1372]As already advised, my forthcoming immigration and residence Bill will deal with the issue of family reunification for migrants.

  285.  Mr. P. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will request the Land Registry office to expedite a dealing (details supplied) in County Cork. [39899/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question.

I understand that, in circumstances where the completion of an application in a particular case is urgent, the Land Registry will make every reasonable effort to facilitate such requests on receipt of a written explanation as to the reason underlying the urgency.

  286.  Mr. Boyle    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason a visa application has been refused to a person (details supplied). [39933/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The application in question was received by my Department on 7 September 2005.

When assessing applications of this type, the visa officer will consider, among other factors, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payment from public funds. In this regard the criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement payment, FIS, have been used. The criteria, which may change from time to time, are available
on the Department’s website www.welfare.ie/ publications/sw22.html.

Applicants are permitted to lodge an appeal within two months of the date of receipt of the notification of the decision to refuse, which in this case was 13 September 2005. There is no record of an appeal lodged in this case. It is open to the person concerned to make a fresh application supported by current documentation and background information and my Department will be happy to consider anew such an application.

The procedures for dealing with visa applications from family members of work permit holders who wish to join that worker in the State, including the income thresholds applicable, are currently under consideration as part of ongoing developments within the Irish naturalisation and immigration service.

  287.  Mr. Bruton    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of Garda youth diversion projects in place; if he will provide a list of the existing schemes; the locations where they operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39938/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  Garda youth diversion projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved, or further involved, in antisocial and-or criminal behaviour, by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda-community relations. The number of projects has grown from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present, a process made possible, in part, by funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006.

A budget of €5.471 million was provided for the Garda youth diversion projects and local drugs task force projects in 2005 and I am pleased to have secured an additional €1.2 million for youth diversion projects in 2006, bringing the total budgetary allocation to €6.6 million for next year. It is my intention to support the expansion of Garda youth diversion projects over the next two years and it is intended that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. I have asked the Garda Commissioner to bring forward proposals for further community based initiatives in this area in light of the additional funding. The 64 Garda youth diversion projects currently in place are shown in the table.

Project Location
Able Ballyfermot, Dublin
ACORN Edenderry, Offaly
ALF Athlone, Westmeath
Ball Ballybeg, Waterford
Ballincollig Ballincollig, Cork
Ballynanty Ballynanty, Limerick
Bandon Youth Bandon, Cork
BAPADE Killarney, Kerry
BAN Ballybane, Galway
BAY (Talks are ongoing in relation to new management for project) Ballymun, Dublin
Boyne Drogheda, Louth
BLOCK Portlaoise, Laois
Bris (currently under evaluation. A final report is expected by the end of January 2006.) Westside, Galway
Cabra Step-Up Cabra, Dublin
CCYDG Moyross, Limerick
CODY Cherry Orchard, Dublin
Connect 7 Tralee, Kerry
CYD Clonmel, Tipperary
DAN Donore Avenue, Dublin
DAY Dungarvan, Waterford
Dime North Inner City, Dublin
EYE Mullingar, Westmeath
Ennis Youth Ennis, Clare
FAN Finglas, Dublin
FAYRE Farranree, Cork
Feabhas Midleton/Cobh, Cork
GAP The Glen, Cork
GRAFT Ronanstown, Dublin
HAY St. Agatha’s, Dublin
High Voltage Dundalk, Louth
JAY Jobstown, Dublin
Junction Ballinasloe, Galway
KEY Killinarden, Tallaght
Kilkenny Kilkenny
Knocknaheeny/Holyhill Knocknaheeny, Cork
LAB Loughlinstown/Ballybrack, Dublin
LEAP Longford
LSCYI Southill, Limerick
MAY Mahon, Cork
NYPD Navan, Meath
Monaghan Monaghan
MOST Phoenix Park, Dublin
New Directions Bray, Wicklow
NICKOL North Inner City, Dublin
PACT Waterford
Poodle Close Dublin
RAD Roscommon
Raphoe Donegal
SAFE Clonard/Coolcotts, Wexford
SAY Sandyford, Dublin
Slí Eile Tullamore, Offaly
SMART Trim, Meath
SWAY Waterford
SWIFT Clondalkin, Dublin
TACT Togher, Cork
TEAM Dundalk, Louth
WAY Wicklow
WEB Blanchardstown, Dublin
Woodale Darndale, Dublin
YAB Ballina, Mayo
YAK Kilmore, Dublin
YAPS Sligo Town
YEW Whitechurch, Dublin
YIS Oliver Bond Street, Dublin

[1375]The seven local drugs task force projects currently in operation are as follows.

Project Location
Neighbourhood Policing Unit Cork
Knocknaheeny/Holyhill Cork
MAY Cork
Togher Link-Up Cork
WEB Dublin
Arrest Referral Scheme Dublin
Mayfield Cork

  288.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position with regard to an application for refugee, asylum and citizenship status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39939/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

As I am advised that judicial review proceedings are taking place in this case it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the asylum aspects at the present time. For the Deputy’s information, there is no record of a citizenship application having been received from the person concerned.

  289.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if a visa extension will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39940/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I understand that the person in question was working in the State on foot of a work permit which was valid until May 2003. However, subsequent work permit applications in 2003 and 2004 were withdrawn following the failure of the prospective employer to submit requested documentation.

The person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State earlier this year, as an exceptional measure for a four month period, to enable a prospective employer obtain a work permit on his behalf. Inquiries made by this office [1376]with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have indicated that no valid application for a work permit has been made on his behalf to date. Therefore, he should now contact the immigration division of my Department outlining his future intentions and submit evidence of how he intends to support himself financially in the State.

  290.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be reconsidered under refugee, asylum or humanitarian grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39941/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I refer the Deputy to my written answer of 1 December 2005 in response to his parliamentary question. That answer dealt with the person’s application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of being the parent of an Irish born child born prior to 1 January 2005 under the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005.

With regard to her application for asylum, the person concerned arrived in the State on 2 January 2005 and applied for asylum on 6 January 2005. Her application for asylum was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. She was informed by letter dated 23 September 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her and afforded three options under section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999 as amended, namely, to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain in the State, to leave the State voluntarily or to consent to the making of a deportation order.

I have been informed by my officials that representations have been received on her behalf and will be considered in due course.

  291.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position regarding the application of family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39942/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in respect of his wife and child under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 in December 2004. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Com[1377]missioner for investigation as required under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996.

The commissioner submitted a report on the investigation to my Department. The person concerned will be notified of the decision on his application as soon as possible.

  292.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position in the case of an application for family reunification in the name of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39943/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in May 2005. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996.

When this investigation is completed, the commissioner will prepare and forward a report to my Department. Upon receipt of this report the application will be considered and a decision will issue shortly thereafter.

  293.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the basis on which he has deemed passports submitted in connection with application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be fraudulent having particular regard to documentation and translation submitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39944/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in respect of her five children under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. In support of her application she submitted five passports. During the course of processing this application, questions arose with regard to the authenticity of documentation submitted. Subsequent checks by document experts in the Garda technical bureau concluded that there were doubts concerning the authenticity of the passports.

The family reunification application was refused in July 2005. The passports were forwarded to the Garda National Immigration Bureau for further investigation.

  294.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    when an up to date GNIB card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39945/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  On 11 October 2005, an appli[1378]cation was received from the person in question’s guardian to have their permission to remain in the State, on humanitarian grounds, renewed. On 8 December 2005, the person in question’s guardian was issued with a letter granting her and the person in question permission to remain in the State for a further period of one year.

On foot of that letter, the person concerned is required to present herself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau which will issue the appropriate document to her.

  295.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the status of application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39946/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The person referred to by the Deputy arrived in the State in December 1996 and claimed asylum. That application was refused in June 1997 and leave to remain in the State was granted to her as an exceptional measure. An application for a certificate of naturalisation by the person concerned was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 4 December 2001. I considered this application on 26 August 2004 and decided not to grant a certificate of naturalisation. The basis for the refusal of this application was set out in detail in a letter dated 8 October 2004 to the applicant informing her of my decision.

I have informed this House on a number of occasions that I have adopted a general policy that applicants for naturalisation, other than refugees and stateless persons, should have been supporting themselves and their families without recourse to State support for a three year period prior to applying for naturalisation and that, furthermore, they can show, as far as is practicable, that they have the capacity of supporting themselves into the future.

Inquiries by my officials revealed that the person concerned, who was neither a refugee nor stateless person, had been in receipt of various State supports, including rent allowance, unemployment assistance and one-parent family payment, almost continuously during the period 1999 to 2004.

I was of the view that there were no circumstances disclosed on the case file of the person concerned to lead me to depart from my general policy in the particular case and I decided to refuse the application.

  296.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the legal basis for refusing citizenship to non-nationals living here by virtue of disqualification of their applications; if these persons previously received any State support such as rent allowance, unemployment [1379]assistance, unemployment benefit or other statutory entitlements for which persons in this situation might ordinarily qualify; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that such decisions challenge both national and international law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39947/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The main point that must be made is that the acquisition of Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is a privilege, not a right. The discretionary nature of the naturalisation process is in keeping with international practice. Thus, it is not the case that a person who has been resident here has, after a period of time, or even an extended period of time, a right to naturalisation. In fact, it has been the case since 1935 that all decisions on naturalisation, even where all of the statutory conditions for naturalisation have been fulfilled, are expressed to be at the “absolute discretion” of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This is the legal basis for the granting or refusing of an application for a certificate of naturalisation.

Since the Deputy has not provided details of any particular case or cases that he is concerned about, I can only deal with the matters he has raised on a general basis.

I have informed the House on a number of occasions that, in exercising the powers bestowed on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform by the Oireachtas in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, I have adopted a general policy that applicants for naturalisation, other than refugees and stateless persons, should have been supporting themselves and their families without recourse to State support for a three year period prior to applying for naturalisation. Furthermore, such persons must show, as far as is practicable, that they have the capacity to support themselves into the future. I apply this general policy to all applications for naturalisation unless the exceptional circumstances of a particular case suggest otherwise. I have no plans to review this policy at the present time.

  297.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the extent to which he has studied the most recent documentation submitted in connection with an application for refugee status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39948/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The applicant in question made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of being the parent of an Irish born child born before 1 January 2005, under the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 [1380]January 2005. One of the conditions of the revised arrangements is that the parent concerned be continuously resident in the State with the Irish born child since his or her birth. Applicants are required to provide satisfactory evidence of continuous residence.

The baby in question was born in July of 2003 and the applicant made her application for permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements on 14 March 2005.

The applicant failed to provide satisfactory evidence of continuous residence in the State between June 2004 and February of 2005 and was therefore refused permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements. The applicant was informed of this decision on 3 October 2005.

  298.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position in respect of citizenship application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39949/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I informed the Deputy in response to Question No. 227 of 24 November last that an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned was received in July 2005 and it is likely that it will be finalised around the middle of 2007. That is still the position.

  299.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of reported assaults in north Kildare; the action proposed in respect of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39950/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the tables which follow this reply indicate the relevant figures for the headline offence of assault for each Garda district in the Carlow-Kildare division between 2002, the year in which I became Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and 30 November 2005. I am pleased that the number of assaults in the division decreased by 28% between 2002 and 2004.

Strong provisions are in place to combat anti-social and unlawful behaviour. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, which modernised the law in this regard, is the primary basis for the law on public order offences. As I am concerned about the abuse of alcohol and its contribution to public order offences and broader social problems, I introduced tough new provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. The [1381]Act broadens the application of the temporary closure order penalty, which was originally introduced to combat under age drinking. The penalty now also applies to convictions for a series of offences, such as a licensee supplying intoxicating liquor to drunken persons and permitting disorderly conduct on the licensed premises. The main purpose of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003, which has been enacted, is to give the Garda Síochána additional powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking. It provides for the closure of premises such as pubs, off-licences, nightclubs and food premises, if there is disorder or noise on or close to the premises. Under the 2003 Act, exclusion orders can be served on individuals convicted of a range of public order offences, in addition to any penalty they might receive under the 1994 Act.

I was satisfied by the Government’s decision of October last year to approve the recruitment of 2,000 additional gardaí, thereby increasing the strength of the force to 14,000. As a result, in 2006 there will be a combined organisational strength, of attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000. It is clear that additional resources will be targeted at areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government, which identifies such areas as those with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences. It will also be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to increase significantly the number of gardaí allocated to traffic law enforcement duties. I have promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties, but will be deployed directly in frontline, operational and high-visibility policing.

I am pleased that the Garda Síochána is better resourced than at any time in its history. The funding I secured for the force in the 2006 Estimates is at an historic high of over €1.29 billion, compared to just €600 million in 1997. The provision for Garda overtime in 2006 will be €83.5 million, which represents an increase of €23 million on the allocation for 2005. It will greatly assist the planned deployment of a visible policing service in a flexible, effective and targeted response to criminal activity and crime prevention. The €83.5 million in overtime will yield 2.725 million extra hours of policing by uniformed and special units throughout the State. I am pleased to note a reduction in assault causing harm in 2004 compared with 2003. This trend has continued in 2005 with a 10.5% reduction in assaults causing harm, a 7.8% reduction in intoxicating liquor offences and a 4.4% reduction in public order offences in the third quarter compared to the same period of last year.

The courts can give valuable support and protection to our communities in tackling anti-social behaviour. I am finalising legislative proposals to provide for anti-social behaviour orders. I intend to introduce the proposals as Committee Stage [1382]amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004. The Garda will be able to apply to the courts by way of civil procedure for an anti-social behaviour order to prohibit the person who is the subject of the order from behaving in an anti-social way. The orders will be civil orders and the question of an offence will arise only if the person in question wilfully defies the order and continues to engage in the anti-social behaviour which is the subject of the order. Anti-social behaviour orders, which will be used in the most glaring cases, will be of real value in curbing this type of behaviour. I draw the Deputy’s attention to section 29 of the Bill, which provides for a fixed penalty procedure in respect of lesser public order offences. This procedure will apply to certain offences under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 — intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place. The figures provided in the table for 2004-05 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Assault Offences Recorded for each Garda district in the Carlow-Kildare division between 2000 and 30 November 2005.

2005* 2004* 2003* 2002*
Naas 66 79 84 107
Carlow 44 61 64 84
Kildare 50 48 45 63
Baltinglass 26 15 29 28
Total 186 203 222 282

  300.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if the deportations of asylum seekers will be stopped where their human rights and lives are at risk. [39952/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  Asylum seekers are people who come here seeking refugee status. Their asylum claims are thoroughly investigated. If they are found not to need protection under the Geneva Convention, they are no longer asylum seekers. They are given an opportunity to voluntarily go home or to give reasons they should not be deported before any deportation takes place. There are two fundamental underlying principles with regard to the asylum process and the treatment of individuals who are not found to be refugees at the end of that process. When asylum seekers come here and seek our protection, it is a fundamental principle that their cases should be fairly and independently examined. After a person’s case has been dealt with fairly, it is a fundamental principle that the deportation process should be central to the proper running of the immigration and asylum system. The definition of a refugee is set out in section 2 of the Refugee [1383]Act 1996. Subject to certain exceptions, a refugee is: a person who, owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his or her former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it. Therefore, in the case of each individual asylum seeker, the task is to determine whether, following investigation, he or she is deemed to come within the terms of that definition on the basis of all the information provided and on the basis of country of origin information drawn from independent sources such as the UNHCR.

Under the Refugee Act 1996, two independent statutory offices were established to consider applications and appeals in respect of refugee status and to make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. These offices are the refugee applications commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Applicants for asylum are guaranteed an investigation and determination of their claims, in the first instance, by the commissioner. Every applicant is guaranteed a right of appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which is a statutorily independent and separate body. Every applicant is also guaranteed access to legal assistance provided by the refugee legal service. Under the provisions of section 17(1) of the Refugee Act 1996, the final decision on an asylum application is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, based on the recommendation of the commissioner or the decision of the tribunal. Under the legislation, however, the Minister is obliged to accept such a recommendation other than in exceptional circumstances. When the Minister makes a decision under section 17(1) to refuse to give a declaration of refugee status, notification is sent to the individual in question, who is informed that three options are open to him or her — to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to a deportation order being issued, in which case arrangements will be made for his or her removal from the State; or to make written representations within 15 working days, setting out any reasons they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

The safety of returning a person, or refoulement as it is known, is fully considered in every case when deciding whether to make a deportation order under section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which relates to the prohibition of refoulement. A person shall not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner to a country where, in the opinion of the Minister, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened [1384]because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, provides that the Minister must take into account 11 factors when considering whether to deport a person. Such factors include considerations relating to the common good, the person’s individual family and domestic circumstances and humanitarian considerations.

  301.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his plans to deal with gangland murder and the drugs crisis. [39953/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  I refer the Deputy to my detailed reply to Priority Questions Nos. 48 and 49 of 23 November last.

  302.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if a holiday visa appeal will be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39956/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  An appeal against the decision to refuse the visa application in this case has not been received by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It was open to the applicant to appeal against the refusal of the visa by writing to the Department’s visa appeals officer within two months of the date of refusal, which in this case was 29 September 2005. It is open to the applicant to submit a new application, with current background information and documentation. The Department will be happy to consider such an application.

  303.  Mr. Cregan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the position for spouses of Irish citizens married for a number of years and living outside the State who wish to become Irish citizens; if a spouse of an Irish citizen born in England, married and living there for the past 20 years can apply for post nuptial citizenship or naturalisation; and if they can obtain an Irish passport due to the fact that they were married to an Irish citizen for a number of years. [39957/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  Section 8 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provided for the making of a declaration of Irish citizenship as post-nuptial citizenship by a non-national who had been married for at least three years to an Irish citizen who was Irish other than by naturalisation, post-nuptial citizenship or [1385]honorary citizenship. This process was repealed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2001. A transitional provision in that Act, to enable people who married before 30 November 2002 to make a declaration, ended on 29 November 2005. It is not possible for a non-national to complete a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2001 also includes a set of provisions to enable persons who are married to Irish citizens to apply for a certificate of naturalisation. Such applications are granted at the absolute discretion of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. To qualify to make such an application, the applicant must be of full age, be of good character, be married to the Irish citizen for at least three years, be in a marriage recognised under the laws of the State as subsisting, be living together as husband and wife with the Irish spouse, have had a period of one year’s continuous residency in the island of Ireland immediately before the date of the application and, during the four years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the island of Ireland amounting to two years, intend in good faith to continue to reside in the island of Ireland after naturalisation and have made, either before a judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister, for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State. The 2001 Act provides that I may waive some or all of the above conditions, including the residency requirements in certain circumstances, for example if applicant is married to an Irish citizen. As it is clear that the Oireachtas intended that persons who apply for naturalisation on foot of their marriage to an Irish citizen should be resident in the State for a period of time, such discretionary powers are used only in exceptional circumstances.

  304.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason he has failed to respond to requests to make public statements and press releases available to this Deputy at the same time as he makes them available to the media and if he will do so in the future. [39958/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The press office of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform issues press releases and statements to the media by
e-mail only. Such documents are made available to all other interested parties shortly after their release on the Department’s website, www.justice.ie.

  305.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if an [1386]Australian citizen residing here on a working visa can commence an approved third level course before the end of that visa or if they need to apply for a student visa in the meantime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40124/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  It is not clear from the details supplied whether the person in question is in the State on the basis of a work permit or a working holiday visa. If the person is residing in the State on work permit conditions, he or she can undertake a part-time evening college course, which would not be in conflict with the conditions of residency in the State. If the course is a full-time day course with a weekly duration of 15 hours or more, however, the person should return to their immigration officer to seek a change of status to student conditions. They should take with them evidence of registration on the course concerned, evidence of fees paid, evidence that he or she is in a position to maintain themselves financially and evidence of full medical insurance. If the person is in the State on a working holiday visa, the criteria of the scheme require that he or she should leave the State after the 12-month period ends.

  306.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason a visa application and subsequent appeal was refused to persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40125/05]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):  The applications in question were received by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 27 July 2005. When assessing applications of this type, the visa officer considers, among other factors, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payment from public funds. The criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement payment have been used in this regard. Details of the criteria, which
may change from time to time, are available on the Department’s website, www.welfare.ie/ publications/sw22.html. In the case of visa-required family members of non-EEA national workers, the general principle is that after workers have been in the State for 12 months and have been offered employment for a further 12 months, they may be joined by their families, subject to the workers being able to support their families without recourse to public funds or resources. An appeal of the decision to refuse the visa applications in question was submitted, but the visa appeals officer was unable to conclude that the initial decision should be overturned and, consequently, the applications were refused on appeal. The procedures for dealing with visa applications from family members of work permit [1387]holders who wish to join such workers in the State, including the applicable income thresholds, are under consideration as part of ongoing developments in the naturalisation and immigration service. If the circumstances of the applicants change, it is open to them to make a fresh application supported by current documentation. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be happy to consider such an application.

  307.  Mr. Eamon Ryan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her views on the disparity in terms of students with learning and other disabilities attending schools in north and south west Clondalkin compared with those in the Clondalkin village and Lucan areas. [39589/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The enrolment of pupils, including pupils with special educational needs, is a matter in the first instance for schools, parents and guardians. The Education Act 1998 requires all schools to have in place an admissions policy, detailing admission to and participation by students with disabilities or other special educational needs. The Act requires schools to ensure that the principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of their choice are respected in that policy. The Department of Education and Science provides a range of supports to schools so they can welcome students with special educational needs. It also allocates additional teacher support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and VECs to cater for students with such needs. The nature and level of support provided in each case is based on the professionally assessed needs of the individual student. There has been a significant increase in the level of resources made available to support students with special educational needs in the second level system over recent years. The Department has allocated approximately 1,630 whole-time equivalent teachers and 1,059 special needs assistants to second level schools to cater for pupils with special educational needs in the 2005-06 school year. That represents an increase of approximately 241 teaching posts and 427 special needs assistant posts on the 2004-05 school year.

Under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, the parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school can appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt. If an appeal is upheld, the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student. On 1 January 2005, the National Council for Special Education took responsibility for key special educational provision functions from the Department. I am confident that the advent of the NCSE [1388]will prove of major benefit in ensuring that all children with special educational needs receive the support they require, when and where they require it.

Question No. 308 answered with Question
No. 37.

  309.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [39713/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I advise the Deputy that arrangements are being made for officials of the Department of Education and Science to contact the parent in question. A decision on whether home tuition would be an appropriate response will be taken when the matter has been fully considered.

  310.  Mr. P. Breen    asked the Minister for Education and Science    further to Question No. 193 of 12 May 2005 if the inquiry established by her for the County Clare Vocational Educational Committee has been concluded; if the copy of the inquiry will be made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39715/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The officer who conducted the inquiry in question has furnished the Department of Education and Science with his report. I will give careful consideration to the report and its findings. I will then provide the report to County Clare VEC and, in turn, to the other interested parties.

  311.  Mr. Crowe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 will be investigated. [39716/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The home tuition scheme is primarily intended to provide compensatory instruction for pupils who have a medical ailment that is likely to cause major disruption to their attendance at school. In this context, my Department provides home tuition grants in respect of pupils who cannot attend school at all, or who are absent for a significant proportion of the school year. My Department also sanctions home tuition in cases where children are awaiting a suitable school placement.

The child referred to by the Deputy was previously placed in a special school and was also availing of a number of hours home tuition grant each week to facilitate his access to the applied [1389]behavioural analysis method of intervention. At this stage the child has now enrolled in the autism centre referred to by the Deputy and this centre provides tuition to children with autism predominantly through the ABA method. In the circumstances there is no longer any reason why a home tuition grant would also be necessary.

My Department provides funding to the autism centre in question on the basis of one tutor for every child that is enrolled. In the circumstances I am satisfied that this centre is sufficiently well resourced to provide whatever level of one to one support is required for this child.

At this stage, I would advise the parents of this child to raise the issue of the centre providing their child with an appropriate level of one to one support with the centre. It is important that parents engage directly with the people responsible for the education of their children on an ongoing basis, whether this be in mainstream primary schools or in the type of autism centre referred to by the Deputy.

  312.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the request for a new school (details supplied) in Dublin; and if support will be given to the parents and pupils. [39717/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department is fully aware of the need to provide permanent accommodation for the school to which he refers. Its preferred option in this regard is the use of an existing building. To achieve this, it commenced amalgamation discussions with existing schools in the area. These discussions have now been completed and I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the schools involved have agreed to amalgamate. This will result in a vacant building. My Department is now working to acquire this building to accommodate the school in question.

  313.  Mr. O’Connor    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her plans to fund the development plans of the Institute of Technology, Tallaght; the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39718/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The allocation of capital funding amounting to €900 million to cover the period 2006-2010 for the third level sector has enabled me to deal with a number of key priority projects in the sector that were identified during the needs assessment and prioritisation work carried out by the Kelly review group, which reported in September 2004.

As a result of this allocation, I recently gave approval for a further 35 priority projects to be [1390]delivered. A total of 18 of these projects will be delivered by conventional procurement involving direct Exchequer funding while the balance of 17 will be delivered through the public private partnership, PPP, process.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that four separate projects at the Institute of Technology Tallaght will be delivered through the PPP methodology. The projects in question are infrastructure works, a catering and tourism building, an engineering building and a multi-purpose centre.

  314.  Dr. Cowley    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her Department intends to make the necessary moneys available to upgrade the remaining one-teacher schools; if an additional adult to these schools in the interests of health and safety will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39729/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The staffing schedule at primary level is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to a maximum average mainstream class size of 29 pupils across the school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.

The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2005-06 school year is a principal and five mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 148 pupils at 30 September 2004. The school also has one learning support-resource post and one temporary resource post. The school was granted two extra mainstream class teachers for the 2005-06 school year under developing school criteria due to a projected increased enrolment of 187 pupils on 30 September 2005.

  315.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the appointment of a second teacher will be approved to 13 one-teacher schools with less than 12 pupils in the interest of health and safety; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39818/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staff[1391]ing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The staffing schedule at primary level is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to a maximum average mainstream class size of 29 pupils across the school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.

The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2005-06 school year is a principal and five mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 148 pupils at 30 September 2004. The school also has one learning support-resource post and one temporary resource post. The school was granted two extra mainstream class teachers for the 2005-06 school year under developing school criteria due to a projected increased enrolment of 187 pupils on 30 September 2005.

  316.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a response will be furnished to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39819/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I confirm that I have received the correspondence referred to by the Deputy and a formal reply will issue very shortly.

The Deputy may wish to note that the staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year and by reference to a staffing schedule. This staffing schedule is outlined in a primary circular which issues to all primary schools on an annual basis.

In the current school year, 2005-06, the staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy comprises of a principal and one mainstream class teaching post. This is based on an enrolment of 49 pupils at 30 September 2004. The school also has the services of a learning support-resource teacher post based in the school.

The mainstream staffing appeal board was established to adjudicate on appeals from boards of management on mainstream staffing teacher allocations in primary schools. The appeal board operates independently of the Minister and the Department and its decision is final. A circular outlining these procedures issued to all primary schools.

The staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2005-06 school year was considered by the appeal board on 14 June 2005 and the board of management of the school was notified in writing of the decision of the appeal board on 16 June, 2005. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate it would not be appropriate for me to [1392]intervene in the operations of the independent appeal board.

The staffing of the school for the 2006-07 school year will be determined in accordance with the staffing schedule which is being drawn up by officials in my Department and which will be issued to school authorities early in 2006.

  317.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her plans to introduce physical education as an examination subject at leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39820/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Under the rules and programme for secondary schools, second level schools should offer a physical education programme based on an approved syllabus with teaching hours registered on the school timetable. The phasing in of a revised syllabus at junior cycle level for physical education, non-examination, commenced in September 2003. The syllabuses in physical education have been developed on the basis of a time allocation of two hours per week. It is not possible at this time to set a timescale for the introduction of physical education as an examination subject.

  318.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if an application will be approved for funding for a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39825/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school planning section of my Department is in receipt of an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

  319.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 187 of 3 February 2005, the progress to date by the working group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39827/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The matter that the Deputy refers to concerns the report on the internationalisation of Irish education services which was published in November 2004. My Department has recently completed a consultation process with the main [1393]stakeholders in the sector and work on the preparation of the necessary legislation to establish the new body Education Ireland, which was recommended in the report, is ongoing.

  320.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if an application will be approved with her primary building unit for a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39831/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for capital funding. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria which was revised last year following consultation with the education partners.

The project is being considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009.

  321.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if funding will be approved for an application submitted to her Department (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39838/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school referred to by the Deputy has made applications for funding under the additional accommodation scheme and summer works scheme 2006.

All applications under these schemes are currently being examined in the school planning section of my Department. The list of successful applicants will be published when the assessment process is completed.

  322.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 1171 of 28 September 2005, if the assessment has been completed by the school planning section of her Department; the progress on obtaining a site for the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39839/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria which was revised last year following consultation with the education partners.

The proposed project, including the acquisition of a site, is being considered for progression in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009.

  323.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Education and Science,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 1177 of 28 September 2005, if she will review the ongoing delay in progressing a [1394]project in County Leitrim; if the project will be expedited; if she will meet with a deputation from the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39841/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I wish to advise the Deputy that, as explained in the answer to Parliamentary Question No. 1177 of 28 September 2005, progress on the next stages of the building project must await resolution of legal issues regarding the site which is being acquired under the statutory redress scheme under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002.

  324.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has received the stage two submission in connection with the required phase two extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will sanction further progress on this project. [39846/05]

  344.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the provision of extra classrooms at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40024/05]

  381.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the application for extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when phase two will progress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40062/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 324, 344 and 381 together.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. A stage two submission has not yet been received.

My Department’s officials wrote to the school authorities in September 2005 advising them that they should now proceed to prepare and submit a stage two submission, that is a developed sketch scheme. The school authorities have advised that they expect to have the stage two submission with my Department by the middle of the week commencing 19 December 2005.

As the board of management is the client for this project, responsibility for ensuring that this time frame is maintained lies with it. Further progression of the project can be made when the stage two submission is received.

  325.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress to date in acquiring a site for a new national school for Kill, County Kildare; if a site has been identified in conjunction with officials from Kildare County Council; if negotiations are under way to purchase same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39848/05]

  349.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress made in the past six months on the identification of a site and provision of a new primary school at Kill, County Kildare; the precise stage of the negotiations; if these issues will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40029/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 325 and 349 together.

The property management section of the OPW has been requested to source a site for a new national school for Kill, County Kildare. The Commissioners of Public Works are in correspondence with Kildare County Council regarding potential options for the acquisition of a site for the new school facility. A meeting is scheduled to take place early in the new year.

  326.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the number of educational psychologists working in Kildare national schools; and the number of schools in the county that have no direct service. [39850/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  All schools in County Kildare have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, full details of which are available on my Department’s website.

The latest figures indicate that 4.2 whole-time equivalent NEPS psychologists are involved in providing a dedicated service to national schools in County Kildare. The figures also indicate that 61 primary schools and five post-primary schools in the county do not have a direct NEPS service at present. However, in the case of County Kildare primary schools, approximately 50% of all pupils have a direct service from NEPS.

In addition, NEPS provides a service to every school and school community in County Kildare in the event of a critical incident, regardless of whether the school already has a dedicated service from a NEPS psychologist. Also NEPS processes applications for all schools for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations and responds to queries on individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

The number of NEPS psychologists has increased almost threefold, from 43 on establishment to 121 at present. The public appointments service has recently established new recruitment panels for NEPS. Regional panels are now in place and my Department is currently in the process of appointing psychologists. Priority will be given to filling vacancies in areas of greatest need. Any increase in the number of psychologists in [1396]NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and must also take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

  327.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has approved the stage three submission for the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare and the remaining stages to be completed in relation to this project. [39851/05]

  342.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position on the provision of an extension at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40021/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 327 and 342 together.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning.

Earlier this year I announced details of 124 schools to progress through the architectural planning process and among those listed was the building project for the school in question.

My Department’s officials are currently reviewing the stage three submission, that is, the detailed plans and costs, and when this is complete will be in contact with the school authorities as to the next step involved in progressing this project.

Progression of projects to construction will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009.

  328.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the negotiations on the acquisition of a new site for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare have been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39852/05]

  365.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding site acquisition to meet requirements of alternative and new school facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40045/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 365 together.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a suitable site has been identified for the school in question. The property management section of the OPW, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, is now awaiting receipt of the relevant draft contract documents.

  329.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has received the tender report on a new school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if a tender has been awarded; the cost approved; and the construction timetable. [39859/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to advise the Deputy that on 6 May 2005 my Department gave devolved authority for the project in question to proceed to tender and construction. Tenders for this project were returned at the end of October. The project’s design team is currently examining the tenders.

  330.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position on the progressing of the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [39862/05]

  331.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the provision of additional accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [39865/05]

  332.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the provision of a permanent school building for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [39866/05]

  340.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the project will be advanced in the current year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40019/05]

  341.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40020/05]

  343.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she will be in a position to provide extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if she will provide new temporary prefabricated buildings in the current year to replace the existing ones which are dilapidated, unsafe and which are continually being patched up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40023/05]

  345.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40025/05]

  352.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her proposals for the future of [1398]a girls’ primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if extra improvements or facilities are likely in the current year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40032/05]

  354.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare with a view to the elimination of the use of temporary accommodation in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40034/05]

  356.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the provision of extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40036/05]

  363.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare, having regard to the need for adequate forward planning to ensure necessary steps are taken in time to eliminate the use of temporary accommodation in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40043/05]

  379.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress made on the provision of the extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40060/05]

  388.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the project will be advanced in the current year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40069/05]

  389.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her plans to meet the accommodation requirements as set out by the school authorities at Timahoe, Naas, County Kildare; when the project will proceed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40070/05]

  390.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding proposals to improve accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40071/05]

  391.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if extra facilities will be offered to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare with a view to the elimination of the use of temporary accommodation in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40072/05]

  392.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare, having particular regard to demographic trends and the need for adequate forward planning to ensure that the necessary steps are taken in time, with a view to the elimination of the use of temporary accommodation in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40073/05]

  398.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the application for extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when same will be progressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40079/05]

  399.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if permanent classroom facilities will be put in place for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare which has received temporary accommodation this year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40080/05]

  400.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the completion of roof repairs work to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40081/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 to 332, inclusive, 340, 341, 343, 345, 352, 354, 356, 363, 379, 388 to 392, inclusive, and 398 to 400, inclusive, together.

The school planning section of my Department has received applications for major capital funding from the management authorities of the schools to which the Deputy refers. The applications have been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

  333.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the provision of a permanent building for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [39869/05]

  382.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a decision regarding permanent school recognition has been made for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40063/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 333 and 382 together.

The school to which the Deputy refers was granted permanent recognition, with effect from [1400]1 September 2004. A letter to this effect issued to the school authority on 24 March 2005.

The school planning section of my Department has received an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

  334.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 526 of 2 November 2005, there has been further progress with the application for approval under the summer works scheme 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39878/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I can confirm to the Deputy that the school to which he refers has submitted an application for a new site entrance under the summer works scheme for 2006 All applications received under the scheme are currently being assessed and a list of successful applicants will be published when the assessment procedure has been completed.

  335.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if funding will be made available for the provision of a covered walkway between the old Confey College building and the new school in Leixlip, County Kildare. [39880/05]

  336.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the summer works scheme project will be sanctioned for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39881/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 and 336 together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that the schools to which he refers have submitted an application for funding under the summer works scheme for 2006.

All applications received under the scheme are currently being assessed and a list of successful applicants will be published when the assessment procedure has been completed.

  337.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    in view of the inadequacies in the capacity of the temporary school for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin and in view of the projected enrolment figures for September [1401]2006, the situation regarding the recognition of the school; and if the purchase of a site and the construction of a new school building will be sanctioned. [40014/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school planning section of my Department is aware of the accommodation difficulties of the school to which the Deputy refers. These difficulties arose in the context of planning permission for additional accommodation which was sanctioned by my Department to assist the school in meeting its needs.

Discussions are taking place with Fingal County Council with a view to resolving the school’s difficulties. In the meantime, if the school management authority provides an alternative solution, my Department will be happy to consider it.

The school’s application for permanent recognition is currently under consideration and a decision on this matter will issue shortly.

  338.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a person, who is employed as a full-time national teacher and who also teaches part-time with a vocational educational committee, is entitled to the basic rate of pay for additional hours worked; the circular or directive which outlines this position; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40015/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  As the Deputy indicates that the person referred to is a full-time national teacher I assume the teacher is only employed part-time by a VEC to provide self-financing adult education classes at night. Revised rates of pay for persons engaged in providing self-financing adult education are currently being prepared and will be forwarded to VECs in the near future.

  339.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress on the provision of extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40017/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  An extension to the school referred to by the Deputy was completed in 2003.

Questions Nos. 340 and 341 answered with Question No. 330.

Question No. 342 answered with Question
No. 327.

Question No. 343 answered with Question
No. 330.

[1402]Question No. 344 answered with Question
No. 324.

Question No. 345 answered with Question
No. 330.

  346.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress on the provision of extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40026/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this extension project started on site recently.

  347.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the extent to which she expects to be in a position to meet the requirements in terms of accommodation, staff, remedial, resource or special needs teachers and classroom assistants in each of the schools, primary and post-primary in Leixlip, County Kildare in the course of the next 12 months arising from the provisions in Estimates 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40027/05]

  350.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the extent to which she expects to be in a position to meet the requirements in terms of accommodation, staff, remedial, resource or special needs teachers and classroom assistants in each of the schools, primary and post-primary in Kilcock, County Kildare in the course of the next 12 months arising from the provision in the Estimates 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40030/05]

  359.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the extent to which she expects to be in a position to meet the requirements in terms of accommodation, staff, remedial, resource or special needs teachers and classroom assistants in each of the schools, primary and post-primary in Celbridge, County Kildare in the course of the next 12 months arising from the provisions in the Estimates 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40039/05]

  370.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she expects to meet the full complement of requirements for special needs teachers at primary and post-primary level; if she has set specific targets in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40050/05]

  371.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she expects to have in [1403]place the full necessary complement of special needs teachers and special needs assistants in all schools throughout the country with particular reference to schools with a high pupil-teacher ratio; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40051/05]

  372.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her plans to meet the full requirement for remedial, resource, speech and language, psychological assessment and back up or other special needs in all schools throughout the country with particular regard to schools with a high pupil-teacher ratio; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40052/05]

  374.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her plans to extend the scale and quality of support services in schools meeting special needs requirements in mainstream education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40054/05]

  377.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she expects to be in a position to bring the level of psychological services, remedial, resource or other special needs teaching numbers into line with current and projected requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40058/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 347, 350, 359, 370 to 372, inclusive, 374 and 377 together.

Since 1997, the Government has dramatically increased the number of teachers in our schools. At primary level more than 5,000 additional teachers have been employed. At post-primary level approximately 1,900 additional teaching posts have been allocated during this period. These additional teaching posts have been used to reduce class sizes, to tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional resources for children with special needs.

The pupil-teacher ratio, which includes all the teachers in the school, including resource and learning support teachers, has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.1:1 in 2004-05 at primary level, and from 16:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 13.4:1 in the 2004-05 school year at post-primary level.

At primary level average class size has been reduced from 26.6 in 1996-97 to 23.9 in 2004-05. Significantly smaller classes have been introduced in disadvantaged schools involved in the Giving Children an Even Break-Breaking the Cycle programme, with approximately 47,700 pupils in 243 participating schools availing of reduced class sizes of either 15 or 20 pupils per class.

The Deputy will be aware of the new action plan for educational inclusion, delivering equality [1404]of opportunity in schools or DEIS, a key element of which is the putting in place of a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage in our primary and second level schools for the purposes of qualifying for resources, both human and financial, according to the degree of disadvantaged experienced. This standardised system will replace all of the existing arrangements for targeting schools for participation in initiatives to address disadvantage. The new action plan aims to ensure that the educational needs of children and young people, from pre-school to completion of upper second level education, that is, from three to 18 years, from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and effectively addressed and will involve an additional annual investment of some €40 million on full implementation.

There is more to be done to reduce class sizes further. Recently I announced that I have secured sufficient funding to provide even smaller classes in our primary schools in the next school year, and the Minister for Finance has committed to a further reduction in class size in the following year. Accordingly, over the next two years, my Department will put 500 extra teachers into primary schools to reduce class size and to tackle disadvantage.

On providing for children with special educational needs, there are now over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs. I can confirm that I will continue to prioritise the issue of special needs education and, in co-operation with the national council for special education and the education partners, ensure that all children with special needs are adequately resourced to enable them to meet their full potential.

Enormous progress has also been made in increasing the number of special needs assistants, SNAs, in our schools who specifically cater for the care needs of children with special educational needs. At this stage there are approximately 6,200 whole time equivalent, WTE, SNAs in our primary schools and a further 1,059 WTE SNAs in our second level schools supporting children with special needs.

Teacher allocations to second level schools are approved annually by the Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. The rules for allocating teaching resources provide that where a school management authority is unable to meet its curricular commitments, the Department will consider applications for additional short-term support. An independent appeals mechanism is available to school authorities who wish to appeal the adequacy of their teacher allocation.

[1405]In recent years improvements have been made under various schemes. In 1999 an ex-quota allocation was made to all second level schools in the free education scheme in respect of remedial education and the home-school community liaison scheme was extended to all schools designated disadvantaged.

In 2000 a decision was made to reduce the general pupil-teacher ratio for appointment purposes from 19:1 to 18:1 and additional posts were also provided for leaving certificate applied, junior certificate programme and the guidance enhancement initiative resulting in approximately 1,000 additional posts in the sector.

The number of teaching posts allocated to cater for pupils with special educational needs at second level has increased from 559 WTEs in 2001-02 to 1,630 WTEs in the current school year.

The number of teaching posts allocated to schools to cater for non-national pupils with significant English language deficits has also increased from 113 WTEs in 2001-02 to 242 WTEs in the current school year. In addition, the Department has provided for an additional allocation of 100 posts to guidance from September 2005.

Regarding psychological assessments, all primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments for their pupils, either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologists or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, that is administered by NEPS. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. Details of this process and the conditions that apply to the scheme are available on my Department’s website.

NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, for all schools, NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodation in certificate examinations and responds to queries on individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

The number of National Educational Psychological Service psychologists has increased almost three-fold, from 43 on establishment to 121 at present. The Public Appointments Service has recently established new recruitment panels for NEPS. Regional panels are now in place and my Department is currently in the process of appointing psychologists. Priority will be given to filling vacancies in areas of greatest need. Any increase in the number of psychologists in NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and [1406]must also take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

On accommodation requirements in the areas referred to by the Deputy, I am aware that the areas, like many areas located within close proximity to Dublin, continue to experience population growth, a position that almost inevitably places some strain on existing educational provision. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a range of significant measures has been undertaken by my Department to address the current and future need for pupil places in the areas in question. While the information sought is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy, the following is an outline of the measures undertaken by my Department to ensure that there are adequate places available in these areas to meet demand.

As the Deputy will be aware, following widespread local consultation, my Department recently published an area development plan for the N4-M4 corridor. This plan outlines my Department’s long-term educational strategy at both primary and post-primary level for this area which includes Leixlip, Kilcock and Celbridge. Implementation of the recommendations in the plan is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards subject to the prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects.

All of these initiatives represent significant capital investment and demonstrate my commitment to meeting the needs of the areas concerned. The school planning section of my Department will keep the position under review going forward to ensure that any additional emerging needs are met as expeditiously as possible. I am confident that, with this significant investment, schools throughout the country, including those in the areas referred to by the Deputy, will be in a position to meet their pupils’ needs.

I wish to advise the Deputy that responsibility for the provision of therapy services rests with the Health Service Executive.

  348.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if extra teaching staff will be allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare based on class size and pupil numbers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40028/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The staffing schedule at primary level is structured to ensure that all primary schools will [1407]operate to a maximum average mainstream class size of 29 pupils across the school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.

The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2005-06 school year is a principal and five mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 148 pupils at 30 September 2004. The school also has one learning support-resource post and one temporary resource post. The school was granted two extra mainstream class teachers for the 2005-06 school year under developing school criteria due to a projected increased enrolment of 187 pupils on 30 September 2005.

Question No. 349 answered with Question
No. 325.

Question No. 350 answered with Question
No. 347.

  351.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the pupil-teacher ratio class size at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to increase same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40031/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy, for the 2005-06 school year is a principal and 21 mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 588 pupils at 30 September 2004. The school also has three learning support-resource teaching posts, two special class posts and two temporary language support posts.

It is open to the board of management of a primary school to submit an appeal, under certain criteria, to the primary staffing appeals board. The board adjudicates on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools and operates independently of the Minister and my Department. The board’s decisions are final.

Major improvements in school staffing have been made in recent years with the hiring of more than 5,000 additional primary teachers. This represents the largest increase in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. The annual estimated value of the additional expenditure on these posts is over €200 million. Currently there is one teacher for every 17 children, the lowest pupil-teacher ratio in the history of the State.

Aside from decreasing average class size, the unprecedented increase in school staffing in recent years has also greatly improved the services provided for children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas. Under the action plan for tackling disadvantage published [1408]earlier this year, there will be a reduction in class sizes of 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in 150 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. With more than 600 extra resource teachers put in place this term, children with special needs are getting more support than ever before. It should be acknowledged how much progress has been made in this area in recent years.

There is more to be done to reduce class sizes further. Recently I announced that I have secured sufficient funding to provide even smaller classes in our primary schools in the next school year, and the Minister for Finance has committed to a further reduction in class size in the following year. Accordingly, over the next two years, my Department will put 500 extra teachers into our schools to reduce class size and to tackle disadvantage. Schools will be asked to use the extra class teachers to ensure that there are smaller classes for infants and young children rather than for the senior grades.

In speaking about staffing in our schools, we have consistently said that priority would be given in the first instance to children in disadvantaged schools and those with special needs. We have done this. Now, in line with the Government commitment, mainstream class sizes are also being reduced.

Question No. 352 answered with Question
No. 330.

  353.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if extra teaching staff can or will be allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare based on the class size and number of attending pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40033/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on the 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The staffing schedule at primary level is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to a maximum average mainstream class size of 29 pupils across the school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.

The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2005-06 school year is a principal and five mainstream class teaching posts.

[1409]This is based on an enrolment of 148 pupils at 30 September 2004. The school also has one learning support-resource post and one temporary resource post.

The school was granted two extra mainstream class teachers for the 2005-06 school year under developing school criteria due to a projected increased enrolment of 187 pupils on 30 September 2005.

Question No. 354 answered with Question
No. 330.

  355.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when works will commence at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare following grant allocated to County Kildare Vocational Educational Committee by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40035/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that works have commenced at the school in question.

Question No. 356 answered with Question
No. 330.

  357.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to completion of school works at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; if same is still on schedule to be completed by mid-2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40037/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The building project to which the Deputy refers is still on schedule and due to be completed in mid-2006.

  358.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the degree to which school places and facilities at primary and second level exist in Clane, County Kildare to meet requirements; the degree to which current or proposed facilities exist to fulfil this need at present and for the foreseeable future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40038/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Applications for major capital funding have been received from the schools to which the Deputy refers. These applications have been assessed in accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects and progress on the proposed works will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

Question No. 359 answered with Question
No. 347.

[1410]

  360.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress in relation to the provision of the extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40040/05]

  362.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the progress in relation to the provision of the extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40042/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 360 and 362 together.

My Department has not received an application for capital funding from the management authority of the school to which he refers.

  361.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if extra facilities will be offered to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40041/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. Earlier this year I announced details of 124 schools to progress through the architectural planning process and among those listed was the building project for the school in question. In November of this year my Department’s school planning section re-assessed the long-term projected enrolment and staffing at Caragh national school in order to ensure that the extension will deliver accommodation appropriate to the school’s future needs. They have contacted the school authorities with the above information and officials from the school building section have since requested the school’s design team to submit a revised sketch scheme to reflect the additional accommodation now required. No further progress can be made until this is received.

Question No. 362 answered with Question
No. 360.

Question No. 363 answered with Question
No. 330.

  364.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has satisfied herself regarding the adequacy of the accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare having particular regard to demographic trends and the need for adequate forward planning to ensure that the necessary steps are taken in time with a view to the elimination of the use of temporary [1411]accommodation in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40044/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  As I pointed out to the Deputy in response to Question No. 718 of 8 November 2005, my Department has no record of the school in question. If the Deputy submits the roll number of the school to which he refers to the school planning section of my Department, it will be happy to forward the information requested.

Question No. 365 answered with Question
No. 328.

  366.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to the completion of a school extension at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40046/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a new eight classroom building for the school in question has just been completed.

  367.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to the completion of a school extension at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40047/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction of an extension at the school in question will be completed shortly.

  368.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when a decision will be made to progress an application for major capital funding which has been assessed by her Department regarding a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when same is likely to be advanced in view of the urgent and pressing needs for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40048/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school planning section of my Department has received an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

  369.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position in relation to an [1412]application for the provision of a new school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40049/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The new eight classroom building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. Earlier this year I announced details of 124 schools to progress through the architectural planning process and among those listed was the building project for the school in question.

My Department’s officials wrote to the school authorities on 28 October 2005 giving approval to proceed to stage 3, detailed plans-costs, of architectural planning. Pending receipt in my Department of the stage 3 submission from the school authorities, no further progression can be made on this project.

Progression of projects to construction will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009.

Questions Nos. 370 to 372, inclusive, answered with Question No. 347.

  373.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she expects to be in a position to bring the pupil-teacher ratio in all schools into line with the commitment entered into previously; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40053/05]

  376.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the steps she proposes to take to bring pupil-teacher ratios here into line with best practice throughout Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40057/05]

  378.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the way in which she proposes to tackle the need to reduce pupil-teacher ratios in the top ten primary schools which currently have the highest pupil-teacher ratios; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40059/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 373, 376 and 378 together.

Major improvements in school staffing have been made in recent years with the hiring of more than 5,000 additional primary teachers. This represents the largest increase in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. The annual estimated value of the additional expenditure on these posts is over €200 million.

In 1996-97, the average class size in our primary schools was 27. It is now 24. In 1996-97 there was one teacher for every 22 children in our primary schools. Today there is one teacher for every 17 children, the lowest pupil-teacher ratio in the history of the State.

[1413]Aside from decreasing average class size, the unprecedented increase in school staffing in recent years has also greatly improved the services provided for children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas. Under the action plan for tackling disadvantage published earlier this year, there will be a reduction in class sizes of 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in 150 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. With more than 600 extra resource teachers put in place this term, children with special needs are getting more support than ever before. It should be acknowledged how much progress has been made in this area in recent years.

There is more to be done to reduce class sizes further. Recently I announced that I have secured sufficient funding to provide even smaller classes in our primary schools in the next school year, and the Minister for Finance has committed to a further reduction in class size in the following year.

Accordingly, over the next two years, my Department will put 500 extra teachers into our schools to reduce class size and to tackle disadvantage.

In speaking about staffing in our schools, we have consistently said that priority would be given in the first instance to children in disadvantaged schools and those with special needs. We have done this and now, in line with the Government commitment, mainstream class sizes are also being reduced.

Question No. 374 answered with Question
No. 347.

  375.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when she expects to have the quality and extent of school buildings up to the required standard in terms of extra space and facilities at both primary and second level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40055/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  This Government has invested in the largest school building programme in the history of the State. Between 1998 and the end of 2004, almost €2 billion was invested in school buildings and in the region of 7,500 large and small projects were completed in schools, including 130 brand new schools and 510 large scale refurbishments-extensions. Indeed, funding for school building and renovation projects has increased five-fold since 1997. In 2005, €493 million will be spent on school building projects, compared to just €92 million in 1997.

Well in excess of 1,300 schools will benefit from the announcements that I have made so far this year with regard to the school buildings and modernisation programme.

[1414]The list of projects approved to date includes: large-scale projects to tender and construction over next 12 to 15 months, 122 — 89 primary and 33 post-primary; small schools initiative, 97 — all primary; permanent accommodation initiative, 75 — 70 primary, five post-primary; prefabs, 140 — 137 primary, three post-primary; authorised to enter design phase: 43 — 32 primary, 11 post-primary; summer works, 741 — 452 primary, 289 post-primary; progress through architectural planning, 124 — 73 primary and 51 post-primary; and PPPs, 27 — 23 post-primary and four primary in 22 locations. Total number of schools benefiting from this year’s announcements: 1369.

The total allocation for my primary and post-primary capital budget this year is an unprecedented €493 million —€270 million for primary and €223 million for post-primary.

This level of investment will need to be maintained if the goal of eliminating sub-standard accommodation is to be achieved. The Government remains committed to continuing the work that it has started and to consolidating the substantial progress that has already been made to ensure that the needs of schools throughout the country are met over time.

Question No. 376 answered with Question
No. 373.

Question No. 377 answered with Question
No. 347.

Question No. 378 answered with Question
No. 373.

Question No. 379 answered with Question
No. 330.

  380.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the extension, ancillary accommodation and autistic unit are on target for completion at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40061/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction is well under way on the extension at the school in question. The project is scheduled for completion in the first half of 2006.

Question No. 381 answered with Question
No. 324.

Question No. 382 answered with Question
No. 333.

  383.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when the classroom extension at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare [1415]will be complete; if same is on time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40064/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction of the extension at the school in question has been completed.

  384.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to the completion of an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40065/05]

  387.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40068/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 384 and 387 together.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the extension at the school in question has been recently completed.

  385.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a classroom extension at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare is on target; when same will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40066/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the extension to the school in question was completed in May 2005.

  386.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position in regard to the provision of extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40067/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to advise the Deputy that on 6 May 2005 my Department gave devolved authority for the project in question to proceed to tender and construction. Tenders for this project were returned at the end of October. The project’s design team is currently examining the tenders.

Question No. 387 answered with Question
No. 384.

Questions Nos. 388 to 392, inclusive, answered with Question No. 330.

  393.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to the relocation of a school (details supplied) in County [1416]Kildare to expand its capacity to 1,000 pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40074/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The management authority of the school in question, County Kildare Vocational Education Committee, is currently progressing plans to relocate the school and expand its capacity to 1,000 pupils. A formal planning application has been lodged with the local authority. The authority has asked for further information, which the committee’s consultants are now in the process of providing.

  394.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the completion of an extension at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40075/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The extension at the school to which the Deputy refers was completed in May 2005.

  395.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to the provision of extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; when the tender process will be completed; the timeframe for the completion of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40076/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The refurbishment and extension project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently on site. Work commenced in October 2005 and is due to be completed in October 2006.

  396.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40077/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school planning section of my Department has received an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

  397.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position with regard to the provision of extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when the project will advance to construction stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40078/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department is currently awaiting receipt of the tender report from County Kildare VEC for the proposed extension project at the school in question.

Questions Nos. 398 to 400, inclusive, answered with Question No. 330.

  401.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has satisfied herself regarding the adequacy of the accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare having particular regard to demographic trends and the need for adequate forward planning to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to eliminate the use of temporary accommodation in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40082/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction work is well under way on an extension to the school in question. The extension is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2006.

  402.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position in relation to an extension project at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40083/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I am pleased to advise the Deputy that on 16 March 2005 the school in question was given devolved authority to progress this project to tender and construction. Tenders for the project were returned in mid-October and the tender report which was received in early December is currently being examined by my Department’s technical staff.

  403.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position in relation to an extension project at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40084/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. Officials from my Department visited the school in question in June of this year to carry out a technical inspection of the existing accommodation and to assess the needs of the pupils attending the school. The school authorities have embarked on a major redevelopment programme which is currently at a very early design stage. They are assessing the needs into the future of the residents with special needs on the campus and outreach facilities and the many support services and industries around them.

[1418]The school’s design team is currently preparing a development control plan for the site, of which this school forms part and my Department is awaiting their response before the project can proceed further. In the meantime a member of my Department’s inspectorate has drafted a schedule of overall accommodation to reflect the current educational needs of the pupils attending the school.

  404.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason home tuition has been dropped from persons (details supplied) in County Offaly without consultation; if and when home tuition will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40086/05]

  405.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason home tuition has been dropped from persons (details supplied) in County Laois without consultation; if and when home tuition will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40087/05]

  407.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason home tuition has been dropped from a person (details supplied) in County Offaly without consultation; if and when home tuition will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40089/05]

  408.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason home tuition has been dropped from a person (details supplied) in County Offaly without consultation; if and when home tuition will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40090/05]

  409.  Ms Enright    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason home tuition has been dropped from a person (details supplied) in County Offaly without consultation; if and when home tuition will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40091/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 404, 405 and 407 to 409, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, home tuition is primarily intended to provide compensatory instruction for pupils with a medical ailment that is likely to cause major disruption to their attendance at school on a continuing basis. In recent years home tuition has been extended as an interim support for children with a significant special educational need pending the provision of an appropriate school based educational service. Grant approval is based on the application details of each case and a recommendation from my Department’s professionals, if required. However my Department considers that school-based education provision is the most appropriate inter[1419]vention for all children, including those with special educational needs. In this regard, home tuition is only intended as an interim measure until a suitable school placement is secured. In the circumstances, my Department has discontinued the practice whereby children who are in full-time education provision would also be able to avail of home tuition grants.

I can confirm that the children referred to by the Deputy are enrolled on a full-time basis in mainstream schools with appropriate additional resources, or in special classes with enhanced pupil teacher ratios and special needs assistant support. As the pupils are in full-time education, the matter of the continuance of home tuition no longer arises and parents were informed from September of this year onwards that it was being discontinued with effect from 22 December 2005.

I can also confirm that, in order to ensure that the home tuition grants were not withdrawn without consultation and without ensuring that all appropriate support is available to these children in the schools in which they are enrolled, my Department engaged the assistance of the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, and the local special educational needs organisers, SENOs, in this matter. I understand that at this stage the local SENOs have made contact with all of the parents and schools and that a report is being prepared by the NCSE on each individual case and that these reports will shortly be sent to my Department. If these reports indicate that the home tuition grants should be extended for a limited period of time in particular cases to enable the schools in which the children are enrolled to access additional supports, such as training, then my Department will act on those recommendations from the NCSE. However I would stress that I do not envisage circumstances arising whereby home tuition grants would be made available on an ongoing basis to children who are placed in full-time educational settings.

  406.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the secondary school sector in New Ross has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40088/05]

  412.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the secondary school sector in New Ross has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40094/05]

  413.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the primary school sector in New Ross has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40095/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 406, 412 and 413 together.

As the Deputy is aware from recent answers to parliamentary questions in this matter, the school planning section of my Department proposes to rationalise provision at primary and post-primary level in New Ross. There is general agreement at primary level to this locally. Consequently, officials in my Department have carried out architectural assessments on all four primary schools to determine which, if any, would be suitable to act as hosts for the proposed rationalisation. In addition, the local authority is furnishing my Department with updated demographics on the area so that an informed decision can be taken on school sizes. When these matters have been resolved, my Department will address the issue of enrolment polices for the proposed school re-configuration. Any building works required to give effect to the rationalisation process will be given a top band one priority rating.

There is no agreement to rationalisation at post-primary level. The school planning section of my Department will be addressing this matter again in the new year.

Questions Nos. 407 to 409, inclusive, answered with Question No. 404.

  410.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the secondary school sector in Gorey, County Wexford has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40092/05]

  414.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the primary school sector in Gorey, County Wexford has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40096/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 410 and 414 together.

The school planning section of my Department has identified Gorey as an area of rapid development and, consequently, it decided to undertake a review of the long-term needs of the area at primary and post-primary level. As a result of this review, I announced the provision of a new post-primary school for Gorey to cater for some 1,000 students. This new school will be delivered by way of a public private partnership. My Department is in discussions with the local authority with regard to the identification of a suitable site for the school. At the appropriate time, it will be engaging with the authorities of the existing school with regard to the process and arrangements that will be required to ensure a smooth transition from a one-school centre to a two-school centre. Part of this process will involve defining the enrolment policies and catchments areas that will underpin effective provision once [1421]Gorey becomes a two-school centre and also the enrolment policy that should operate at the existing school during the transition period.

My Department’s planning section is now examining educational provision at primary level in Gorey. Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and the capacity of existing schools, if any, to meet the demand for places. Having considered these factors, a decision will be made on the means by which any emerging needs should be met.

  411.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the secondary school sector in Wexford has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40093/05]

  416.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the primary school sector in Wexford has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40098/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 411 and 416 together.

I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to Wexford town. The school planning section of my Department has no plans at present to carry out a review of educational provision for this particular area. However, all applications on hands for capital funding from schools in the town will be subject to the normal examination procedures to ensure that any extra accommodation being provided will be sufficient to meet the schools needs for the foreseeable future. Progress on individual projects will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme for 2006 onwards.

Questions Nos. 412 and 413 answered with Question No. 406.

Question No. 414 answered with Question
No. 410.

  415.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the secondary school sector in Enniscorthy, County Wexford has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40097/05]

  418.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a review of the primary school sector in Enniscorthy, County Wexford has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40100/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 415 and 418 together.

[1422]Officials in the school planning section of the Department are currently carrying out a review of primary and post-primary school provision in the Enniscorthy area. This review is expected to be completed in the new year.

Question No. 416 answered with Question
No. 411.

  417.  Mr. F. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she will work closely with the Health Service Executive in granting first aid classes to all senior students in primary schools and to all students in second level in order to create a safer and healthier society. [40099/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Department has no plans to provide classes in first aid for students in primary or post-primary schools. Personal safety is addressed in a variety of ways in the primary and post-primary curricula. Social, personal and health education, SPHE, which is compulsory for all students up to the end of junior cycle, aims to develop students’ skills for keeping safe and to make students aware of appropriate responses to various treats to personal safety. This provides schools with opportunities to prioritise first aid if they consider this to meet the needs of their students.

The Health Service Executive collaborates with the Department and the Department of Health and Children in supporting the delivery of SPHE in schools. In other subjects such as home economics, the sciences, the technologies and physical education students learn how to protect themselves from harm and how to treat minor injuries.

Many schools offer modules on first aid to transition year students. These may be delivered by organisations such as the Red Cross, the Order of Malta or St. John’s Ambulance, or by teachers who are qualified in first aid.

Question No. 418 answered with Question
No. 415.

  419.  Ms C. Murphy    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if she has formally requested that support therapies be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare under section 40 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40101/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The Deputy refers to litigation taken against the State in which the Department is a named party. While I cannot comment on any individual case, I can confirm that the Department has written to the Health Service Executive [1423]requesting the provision of appropriate therapeutic and support services to the unit for pupils with autism in the second level school in question.

Section 7 of the Education Act 1998 confers a function on the Minister for Education and Science to ensure that appropriate education and support services are provided to children, including children with special educational needs. The State delivers therapies through the Health Services Executive, HSE, which is funded by the Oireachtas to provide such services. This is made clear by sections 7(5) and (6) of the Education Act 1998 as amended by the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 and the Health Act 2004. These provisions state that, following consultation with the Minister for Health and Children, the Minister for Education and Science can call on the HSE to assist her in providing, planning and co-ordinating support services, and the HSE is obliged to comply with this request. These provisions took effect on 14 July 2005.

  420.  Mr. O’Shea    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her proposals to issue the necessary moneys in order that a second adult may be appointed to the 13 one-teacher schools where fewer than 12 pupils are currently enrolled (details supplied). [40102/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The staffing schedule at primary level is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to a maximum average mainstream class size of 29 pupils across the school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.

The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2005-06 school year is a principal and five mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 148 pupils at 30 September 2004. The school also has one learning support-resource post and one temporary resource post. The school was granted two extra mainstream class teachers for the 2005-06 school year under developing school criteria due to a projected increased enrolment of 187 pupils on 30 September 2005.

  421.  Mr. Walsh    asked the Minister for Edu[1424]cation and Science    if an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be sanctioned. [40103/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school referred to by the Deputy has made an application for capital funding towards the provision of additional accommodation. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria which was revised last year following consultation with the education partners. The project is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2005-06.

  422.  Mr. Walsh    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the position regarding the provision of a Gaelscoil in Clonakilty, County Cork. [40104/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  A site for the proposed new Gaelscoil has been identified and contract documents for the sale of the site are currently with the Chief State Solicitor’s office. When the site acquisition has been finalised, the building project required to facilitate the school’s development will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2005-09.

  423.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if her attention has been drawn to the totally unsatisfactory accommodation for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 and the assistance which will be provided to secure better facilities for the school. [40105/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The school to which the Deputy refers opened with provisional recognition from the Department in September 2005. One of the criteria for granting provisional recognition is that, in accordance with section 10(2)(e) of the Education Act 1998, the proposed interim accommodation must comply with the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts 1963 to 1996, the Building Regulations 1991 to 1997, including the building control regulations, the Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1989 and any modifications, statutory instruments or orders made in accordance with these Acts.

Responsibility for compliance with these regulations lies with the patron and board of management of the school. The Department accepted in good faith that these regulations were being met and is grant aiding rental of the accommodation in use on this basis.

If the school authority now feels, some four months into the first year of its operation, that its accommodation is inadequate, the Department will be obliged to examine the matter to ascertain [1425]whether or not the school has breached one of the conditions of its recognition.

  424.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason the 100 new teaching posts provided for the further education colleges are concessionary posts; if these posts will be available in 2006-07; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40113/05]

  427.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason only 74.29 posts have been taken up by schools out of the 96.25 made available in colleges of further education (details supplied); if this has anything to do with new posts being concessionary posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40116/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 424 and 427 together.

Teacher allocations for second level schools and PLC colleges are approved by the Department on an annual basis in accordance with generally applied rules based on recognised pupil enrolments on 30 of September of the preceding school year. Each school management authority is required to organise its curriculum, teaching timetable and subject options having regard to pupils’ needs within the limits of its approved teacher allocation. The number of posts in any particular school-VEC which can be filled in a permanent capacity in a given year is based on the approved teacher allocation warranted by the enrolment of the preceding September and the approved ex-quota posts such as principal, guidance, remedial etc.

Following the decision to provide for 100 extra post leaving certificate posts, the Department approved a total of 1,600 extra places in PLC courses for the 2005-06 school year. While the resulting increases in enrolment would not impact on the approved teacher allocation for 2005-06, it was open to school authorities to apply for additional concessionary teaching resources to cater for this increased enrolment on a current year basis.

School authorities which applied for this increased allocation were granted additional posts on a concessionary basis for the 2005-06 school year. Approximately 74 whole time equivalent posts have been granted on this basis for 2005-06.

Recognised pupil enrolment at 30 September 2005 will form the basis of approved teacher allocations for the 2006-07 school year. Additional posts arising from increased enrolment in September 2005 may be filled on a permanent basis, where appropriate, in the 2006-07 school year.

Officials in the Department are in consultation with the relevant authorities to ensure, in so far [1426]as possible, any entitlement to new resources under this initiative is applied this year. I am anxious that the schools would take up these posts.

  425.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Education and Science    her plans to provide laboratory assistants or technicians to look after laboratories, order and prepare materials, store and maintain equipment, and perform other similar tasks to assist teachers of science subjects and enable them to more effectively use their teaching time. [40114/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  The availability of laboratory technicians has not been a universal feature of support for science teaching in second level schools and in some countries that provide this type of resource, it is confined to certain types of school. I am aware that the provision of technical assistants was one of some 39 recommendations in the report of the taskforce on the physical sciences. The taskforce costed its proposals at a total of some €244 million, of which €66.3 million would be a recurring annual cost. The proposal for the provision of technical assistants would account for close to 30% of this recurring annual cost.

I am keenly aware of the importance of science in a modern school curriculum and the Department has been very active in implementing initiatives to develop and support the teaching of the science subjects. Progress has been made on implementing 25 of the taskforce recommendations and the Department continues to progress the recommendations as resources permit in collaboration and consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás and industry.

The main initiatives implemented by the Department in the development of the sciences include a new science curriculum at primary level supported by a resource grant since December 2004 of €1,000 per school plus €10 per pupil, a revised syllabus in junior certificate science introduced in 2003 that will be examined for the first time next June and revised syllabi in leaving certificate physics, chemistry and biology have also been introduced and examined within the last five years.

Work on the revision of the two remaining leaving certificate subjects — agricultural science and physics and chemistry combined — is well advanced. The introduction of each of the revised syllabi has been supported by a comprehensive in-service programme for teachers.

Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools, and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing schools building programme. In that context, €16 million was issued to schools in 2004 to support the imple[1427]mentation of the revised junior certificate science syllabus.

  426.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the funding streams available to tackle educational disadvantage and the number of primary schools availing of such funding in each stream. [40115/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  Approximately €600 million has been allocated by the Department in 2005 for programmes specifically designed to tackle educational disadvantage in accordance with the strategies outlined in the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion 2003-05 and Sustaining Progress.

The wide variety of measures in place for tackling educational disadvantage and social exclusion reflect these concerns. These measures range from pre-school interventions, supports for tackling children’s literacy problems, reduced pupil-teacher ratios, increased capitation grants, and measures to tackle early school leaving and strengthen ties between the school, the family and the community. In addition, there are interventions in support of youth and in providing “second chance education” for young people and adults.

This includes 310 primary schools included in the disadvantaged areas scheme, all of which are included in the home school community liaison scheme; 151 primary schools in the Breaking the Cycle project; 2,337 primary schools in Giving Children an Even Break; 40 primary schools in the Early Start pre-school project; 82 projects, consisting of 107 post-primary schools and 301 main feeder primary schools participate in the project strand of school completion programme; and 47 schools in the support teacher pilot project.

A key element of DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, the new action plan for educational inclusion, is the putting in place of a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage in our primary and second level schools for the purposes of qualifying for resources, both human and financial, according to the degree of disadvantage experienced and a new integrated school support programme. The SSP will bring together, and build upon, existing interventions for schools and school clusters-communities with a concentrated level of educational disadvantage. Existing schemes and programmes will be integrated into the school support programme on a phased basis over the implementation period.

We anticipate being in a position to notify participating schools on the outcome of the ongoing identification process early in the new year.

[1428]Question No. 427 answered with Question
No. 424.

  428.  Mr. Connaughton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if a national school extended with the benefit of a devolved grant from her Department would be eligible for another such grant to refurbish the extended building; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40142/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin):  My Department has introduced a number of initiatives and schemes to empower school authorities in addressing capital works at their schools. Each initiative and scheme has specific terms and these are outlined in the appropriate published document. If the Deputy wishes to ask a question in regard to a particular school or initiative, I will be happy to provide a response.

  429.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Defence    his plans to extend the contract for a private in the Defence Forces beyond the current 12 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39824/05]

Minister for Defence (Mr. O’Dea):  The unsatisfactory age and fitness profile of the Permanent Defence Force was commented upon by the Gleeson commission in its report in 1990. The age profile was also the subject of severe criticism by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was engaged by the efficiency audit group, EAG, to conduct an in-depth study of the Defence Forces. One of the key areas identified for urgent action by the EAG was the development of a manpower policy with an emphasis on lowering the age profile of Permanent Defence Force personnel.

In an effort to alleviate the situation, the Government had already decided, in 1993, following consultation with the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, to enlist personnel on a five-year contract basis with a reserve force commitment of seven years. In 1997, agreement was reached with PDFORRA on a new manpower policy for the Defence Forces. This policy, applying to personnel enlisted after 1 January 1994, provided that service for private soldiers would initially be for five years with the option to be extended to a maximum of 12 years. Extensions from five to nine years and from nine to 12 years were subject to the individual soldier meeting certain criteria, including standards of medical and physical fitness, conduct and courses attended or period of overseas service.

In 2004, PDFORRA submitted a claim under the conciliation and arbitration scheme for a [1429]further review of the terms of service applying to personnel enlisting in the Permanent Defence Force after 1 January 1994. Following detailed and prolonged discussion on this claim, a set of criteria has been agreed. The criteria meet PDFORRA’s desire to provide longer careers in the Permanent Defence Force while continuing to address the Government’s previously stated objective of having an appropriate age profile to meet the challenges of a modern defence force. The criteria require that any person re-engaging must be able to continue to operate at their current level both at home and overseas on an ongoing basis. Re-engagements will be subject to the individual soldier meeting specified criteria in regard to physical fitness, medical category, successful completion of military courses of instruction, service overseas and conduct ratings.

Following a ballot of all post-1994 personnel, PDFORRA has advised that its members accepted the agreed criteria for re-engagement, after 12 years’ service, and continuance in service, after 21 years’ service. As a result, personnel enlisted after 1 January 1994 may now serve beyond the current 12-year limit.

  430.  Mr. O’Connor    asked the Minister for Defence    if consideration is being given to the granting of an additional medal to those who served in the FCA. [39909/05]

Minister for Defence (Mr. O’Dea):  The military authorities advise that members of the Army reserve, formerly An Fórsa Cosanta
Áitiúil, and the Naval Service reserve, formerly An Slua Mhuirí, are awarded An Bonn Seirbhíse, the service medal, on completing seven years’ satisfactory service in recognition of their service and contribution to the Defence Forces and to the State. A bar is added to the medal on completing 12 years’ satisfactory service and a second bar on completing 21 years’ satisfactory service.

The military authorities indicate that in their view the existing provisions regarding the award of such medals is sufficient. There are no plans to change the relevant regulations to provide for additional medals.

  431.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Defence    the position on issues raised by his Department in regard to Weston Aerodrome, Lucan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40133/05]

Minister for Defence (Mr. O’Dea):  The Irish Aviation Authority, under the aegis of the Department of Transport, is responsible for the safety regulation of Irish airspace. An airspace change proposal was submitted by Weston Airport Limited to the Irish Aviation Authority in [1430]August 2005. The proposal was also copied to my Department and is under examination by the Air Corps. It is anticipated that following the completion of this examination, the Department of Defence and the Air Corps will raise any issues arising in the group which has been convened by the Irish Aviation Authority in regard to the airspace change proposal.

The issue of current and future use and development of Weston Aerodrome is of concern to my Department only in so far as it infringes upon Defence Forces responsibility for the control and management of military airspace, which is such airspace as is designated for Defence Forces use under section 68 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993. My principal concerns regarding proposed changes at Weston Aerodrome focus on maintaining safe and functional airspace in which military flight training and air operations can continue on a 24-hour basis.

  432.  Mr. Gogarty    asked the Minister for Defence    the measures in place to ensure the regular monitoring of noise in residential areas from the operation of Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, given that there is no statutory body responsible for monitoring noise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40134/05]

Minister for Defence (Mr. O’Dea):  While the Air Corps conducts noise measurements around the perimeter of Casement Aerodrome, in the ramp area and in buildings around the ramp area on a continual basis, no monitoring of noise in residential areas in the environs of the aerodrome is undertaken.

  433.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government    if he will purchase lands currently for sale in the village of Tulsk, County Roscommon (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39925/05]

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Roche):  The area in and around Rathcroghan contains much valuable archaeology. My Department has recently had discussions with Roscommon County Council with a view to undertaking a conservation plan for archaeological sites at Rathcroghan, which would include matters such as public access. The intention is to consult all relevant stakeholders and to complete the plan by the middle of next year. My Department is at an advanced stage in drafting the specifications for the conservation plan. Against this background, it would be premature to consider any potential land acquisition at this time.

  434.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government    the funding provided by his Department for sheltered housing units in County Wexford in 2004 and to date in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39702/05]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern):  I assume the question refers to my Department’s voluntary housing capital assistance scheme, CAS, where funding is available to approved housing bodies for the provision of housing accommodation for persons with special needs, such as the elderly, homeless or persons with disabilities. All local authorities have developed five-year action plans for social and affordable housing, involving a range of voluntary and co-operative housing as a component. All plans, including those submitted by Wexford County Council, will be subject to review by my Department in early 2006.

A total of €2.4 million was paid in County Wexford in respect of CAS projects in 2004. To date in 2005, €37,630 has been paid.

  435.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government    the number of animals put down by the local authorities to date in 2005; the initiatives he intends to introduce to change attitudes and to encourage owners to neuter and microchip their dogs, regulate and limit breeding and introduce two dog licences (details supplied); his plans for possible pilot initiatives to tackle the number of unwanted animals, working in partnership with local animal welfare organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39703/05]

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Roche):  The Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992 place statutory responsibility for dog control and licensing services on local authorities. The implementation of the Acts is vested in local authorities, which have power to appoint dog wardens, provide shelters for stray and other dogs, impose on-the-spot fines for a number of offences and take prosecutions. Local authorities may also make by-laws in regard to the control of dogs within their functional areas.

The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 require the owner or other person in charge of a dog to ensure the dog at all times wears a collar bearing the name and address of the owner on an attached plate, badge or disc. The regulations contain penalties for non-compliance with this requirement or for defacing or rendering illegible the above particulars. These arrangements followed consideration of all practicable options for [1432]ensuring identification of dogs, including that of micro-chipping, and are being kept under review.

While there is no specific programme for the neutering and spaying of dogs, my Department has provided funding in recent years to the Irish Blue Cross, a volunteer-operated charity, for its subsidised neutering programme for dogs of needy pet owners. I have no plans to introduce a larger fee for licences for un-neutered dogs.

Information regarding the number of animals put down in 2005 is not yet available in my Department. Local authorities will be requested to provide these figures in early January 2006. The number of dogs destroyed has decreased from 27,848 in 1997 to 16,598 in 2004. The number of stray dogs rehomed has increased from 4,681 in 1998 to 7,939 in 2004.

  436.  Mr. Kehoe    asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government    the advice or specifications given by his Department to the local authorities relating to the proportion of blacktop tarmac that should be used in the repair and resurfacing of secondary roads in preference to tar-and-chippings; if a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out by his Department between tarmac and tar-and-chippings in respect of wearing value and longevity; his views on whether there would be long-term savings on the cost of road repair, nationally, by using high-specification surfacing material in the first instance; if so, the steps he is taking to bring same about; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39707/05]

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Roche):  The improvement and maintenance of non-national roads in its area is a statutory function of each individual road authority. The choice of final surfacing type to be used on such roads is a matter for each road authority having regard to a number of factors, including location, subsoil conditions, existing pavement construction, type and volume of traffic and relative costs of surfacing materials.

My Department has issued no advice to road authorities on the proportional split they should adopt between surface dressing and other forms of final surfacing on non-national roads. To assist the authorities, however, my Department issued a guidance document in 1999, Guidelines on the Depth of Overlay to be Used on Rural Non-National Roads. This document advised: “Surface dressing should be applied to dense bitumen macadam overlays as soon as is practicable for skid resistance purposes”. This requirement has been included in circulars issued by my Department since 2001, most recently in Circular RLS 21/2005 of 14 June 2005.

In the absence of detailed information on subsoil conditions, traffic volumes, etc. on all parts of the non-national road network, it is not possible [1433]to determine if the adoption of any particular type of road surfacing would result in savings in whole-life road maintenance costs. My Department has no function in regard to national roads. Responsibility for national roads is a matter for the relevant road authority and the National Roads Authority, which operates under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Transport.

  437.  Mr. Cuffe    asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government    the directive name, directive reference number and number of cases where Ireland has been formally cautioned under Article 226 of the treaty of the European Community, issued a reasoned opinion under Article 226 of the treaty of the European Community, the Commission has [1434]declared its intention to go the European Court of Justice, taken to the European Court of Justice by the Commission, formally cautioned under Article 228 of the treaty of the European Community, issued a reasoned opinion under Article 228 and issued with daily fines by the European Court of Justice in regard to environmental protection. [39709/05]

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Roche):  In areas for which my Department has responsibility, the European Commission is in correspondence in respect of 49 cases relating to possible infringements of EU environmental legislation. These cases are at various stages of proceedings as set out in the table below. Fines have not been ordered by the European Court of Justice in regard to any case taken against Ireland.

Stage in proceedings
Directive Number and General Reference Article 226 Letter of Formal Notice Article 226 Reasoned Opinion Being Referred to the European Court of Justice Before the European Court of Justice for a hearing European Court of Justice Decision to be Implemented Article 228 Letter of Formal Notice Article 228 Reasoned Opinion
2004/ 26/EC on emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
2002/88/EC relating to measures against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Regulation (EC) No. 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
2002/3/EC ozone in ambient air 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
2001/80/EC on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
2001/81/EC on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
2004/42/CE on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain paints and varnishes and vehicle refinishing products 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment 4 1 3 1 0 0 0
2000/35/EEC on public participation in certain plans and programmes relating to the environment 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
92/43/EEC on habitats 1 0 0 1 0 2 0
79/409/EEC on wild birds 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
75/442/EEC the waste directive 7 3 1 0 1 0 0
75/439/EEC on the disposal of waste oils 1 0 0 0