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Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.
1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach when details of the legislative priorities for the current Dáil session will be published. [5915/11]
2. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a list of the Bills that have been restored. [6851/11]
The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.
The Government’s legislative priorities up to the summer session are set out in the legislative programme published on Tuesday, 5 April. A motion restoring a number of Bills from the last Dáil to the Order Paper was passed on 23 March. I will send a list to the Deputy today.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I congratulate Ministers on their ingenuity in finding ways not to acknowledge the work of those who actually prepared most of the legislation being published. It takes creativity to praise one’s own radicalism——
An Ceann Comhairle: Does the Deputy have a question?
Deputy Micheál Martin: I do. It takes creativity to praise one’s own radicalism while at the same time introducing legislation published by one’s predecessor.
One of the major questions is whether the legislative programme actually reflects the legislation we are likely to be debating for the rest of the year. No constitutional amendments have been included. Will the Taoiseach tell us whether he has a list of items such as the referendum on children’s rights and the abolition of the Seanad not currently included in the legislative programme but which he expects to include within the next few months?
The Taoiseach: There is no praise involved here. As the Deputy is aware, for years at the beginning of every Dáil session the Government of the day published lists, A — Bills expected to be published; B — Bills for which the heads have been agreed and are being drafted; and C — Bills for which the heads have yet to be approved, with lists A and B being given priority and to be published in that session. However, the commitment was never lived up to, as the Deputy well knows. In the last session, the Government of which the Deputy was a member published three sessional programmes comprising 20, 14 and 23 Bills on the A, B and C lists and managed to get to only seven, ten and 11 on each list. On this occasion, I told Ministers that when they spoke to the Secretary General in the Department, they were to see to it that whatever Bills they brought forward were able to be published and dealt with in this session. This will bring a sense of reality to it rather than having a long list that might not see the light of day during the session.
The question of constitutional amendments has been spoken about extensively. The Government did not commit to holding any constitutional referendum in tandem with a presidential election. However, quite a number of comments have been made by groups such as children’s advocacy groups suggesting it might be possible to deal with it that way. Obviously, the Government mentioned a number of other areas including accountability in respect of the question on the Abbeylara decision and in respect of giving protection to people who might inform public representatives as public or private citizens on issues which should be made known. These matters are being given consideration also.
The Deputy is well aware that to hold any constitutional referendum, let us say in the context of a presidential election whenever that might be, it is necessary to bring forward a Bill to set up a referendum commission and the Government is giving consideration to this. I have written formally to the Attorney General to start the process in respect of the preparation of work on the question to be asked about the abolition of the Seanad which, as the Deputy is aware, cannot be abolished without the imprimatur of the people. All references to the Seanad in the Constitution will have to be taken into account and I have advised the Attorney General formally of this.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Does the Taoiseach expect to bring proposals to the House in the coming months to include in the legislative programme substantive amendments to the Constitution? I am aware that some months in advance of the election, Fine Gael gave categoric commitments that there would be a referendum within the first 12 months if not in the autumn to abolish the Seanad and other referendums. Legislation is required to prepare to hold such referendums. Can the Taoiseach can give a timeline on the referendums to which he has committed in the programme for Government?
The Taoiseach: No. The Government has not decided formally on holding any constitutional referendum this year. The Government is considering whether it is feasible to hold any constitutional referendum this year, possibly in conjunction with a presidential election that might be held. For our part in Fine Gael, we set out a programme to allow for a series of constitutional amendments to be decided on what we called “Constitution day”, to be held within 12 months of the new Government being formed, including a complex question on the abolition of the Seanad. As the lead Department putting together the structure for a constitutional convention, my Department is working on this and I hope to bring proposals to Government on the structure of a constitutional convention which would allow citizens to engage in a number of areas in which constitutional referendums might be held. This might be separate from matters on which the Government might decide as a matter of priority to hold a referendum.
Deputy Micheál Martin: On the second question——
The Taoiseach: Which one is that?
Deputy Micheál Martin: It is about the list of Bills that have been restored to the Order Paper, which the Taoiseach is due to circulate. The point I was making is that there is no acknowledgement of the work of previous Ministers in building up that legislation.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I would have thought the Deputy would not want us to acknowledge what his party did to the country.
An Ceann Comhairle: We are dealing with questions now.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Yes, on the legislative programme. It is becoming unclear as to when those referenda will take place, and the Seanad one appears to be becoming more complex as the weeks go by. “Complex” is a word that is becoming more common in the Taoiseach’s rhetoric.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The Taoiseach should acknowledge what the last Government did to the country.
An Ceann Comhairle: Can we stick to Question Time please?
Deputy Micheál Martin: The Taoiseach does not need to be prompted by the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte.
The Taoiseach: I acknowledge the fact that the Deputy’s party in government ran the economy onto the rocks and has left this Government with an almighty legacy to resolve. We will have to do that without fear or favour and with a sense of fairness and courage. I also acknowledge that legislative measures were prepared during the Deputy’s time in government which did not see the light of day. I have asked Ministers to reflect as accurately as possible on what can be produced in this session. As the Deputy is aware, the Dáil will sit for longer than it did previously to deal with these matters. It will return on the day after bank holidays, sit for longer periods and take a shorter break at Easter to deal with the legislative programme we have set down.
I acknowledge the fact that the Deputy’s party ran the country onto the rocks and that legislation was produced during its term of office. We have not decided formally on holding a constitutional referendum this year but we are committed to following through with regard to the constitutional convention and keeping the House informed about issues that might require legislation in the context of a referendum being held.
Deputy Gerry Adams: I agree the last Government ran the country onto the rocks, but that is no excuse for this Government to do it again.
An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy put a question to the Taoiseach?
Deputy Gerry Adams: One of the Bills promised for the summer session is the electoral commission Bill. The last Government also promised to establish an independent electoral commission. An mbeidh an coimisiún seo freagrach as vótóirí a chlárú? An nglacann an Taoiseach leis go bhfuil an córas clárúcháin lochtach agus go bhfuil gá ann chun é a leasú? Will the Taoiseach clarify whether this will be new legislation or the old Fianna Fáil-Green Party Bill? Does he agree with the Sinn Féin proposition that people should be automatically registered as they become eligible to vote by using personal public service, PPS, numbers? Will the new electoral commission be in place in time for the presidential election?
An Ceann Comhairle: Before the Taoiseach replies, will the Deputy please refer to the questions on the Order Paper? They are about when details of the legislative priorities of the current Dáil will be published and if the Taoiseach will provide a list of the Bills that have been restored to the Order Paper. Stick to the questions, please. This is not a general debate. The Taoiseach should reply in accordance with the question put to him.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy has a point in that there was an item in the published legislative programme dealing with an electoral commission Bill, which was to give immediate effect to something that will take a longer period of time. It was the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill. Obviously, that is being given priority, and the party opposite has published its own proposals in this regard. The constitutional convention and the electoral commission will allow citizens to give their input on a series of matters such as the reduction in the voting age, whether people who live abroad should be entitled to vote in presidential elections, the issue of greater involvement and participation by women in politics as candidates and elected members, and with regard to the electoral system. It is important to involve citizens in giving their views before these matters are finalised.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Boyd Barrett on this question. He has a question coming up on another matter. The reason I am being a stickler is that there are 29 questions for the Taoiseach and if we deal with only three or four of them, we will not get through them all. I intend to be fairly strict. The Deputy must stick to the question before us.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: The question relates to legislative priorities. In light of the projected growth forecast of the International Monetary Fund, IMF——
An Ceann Comhairle: That is not in order.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: ——and the reduced——
An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy resume his seat? That is not in order.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: It is a question on legislative priorities.
An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a legislative priority.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: The worse growth prospects put forward by the IMF and the outcome of Iceland’s referendum——
An Ceann Comhairle: Would Deputy Boyd Barrett resume his seat?
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: A Cheann Comhairle, this is about legislative priorities.
An Ceann Comhairle: What legislative priority are you talking about?
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: If you let me finish the question, I will explain.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Respect the Chair.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: The result of the Iceland referendum, where the people in that country voted “No” to the bank bailout——
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not on the list.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am moving on.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Would the Taoiseach consider it——
An Ceann Comhairle: Would Deputy Boyd Barrett please resume his seat?
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: ——a legislative priority——
An Ceann Comhairle: Did Deputy Boyd Barrett not hear me?
A Deputy: Boring.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: ——to bring forward legislation for a similar referendum to the one in Iceland?
An Ceann Comhairle: Did you not hear me? That is not in order.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: It is.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not in order. I am moving on to Question No. 3 in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Deputy Boyd Barrett is not in transition year now.
Deputy Finian McGrath: Deputy Buttimer thinks he is in first class.
3. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach in view of the findings of the recently published Moriarty report in relation to a former Minister (details supplied), if the Government intends to reconsider the recent arrangement it made with the Deputy to gain his support; if he will reveal the precise nature of that arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6024/11]
The Taoiseach: The Government does not have any agreement or arrangement in place with Deputy Lowry.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I do not want to go over all of the ground. Obviously, it has been well covered.
An Ceann Comhairle: I can assure the Deputy he will not be allowed go over all of the ground. Would he put a supplementary?
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: In fairness, the Ceann Comhairle should not cut across me all of the time. I am entitled to ask a question.
An Ceann Comhairle: Of course you are.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I am on the list for this one.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Ask the question, cuir an ceist.
An Ceann Comhairle: There is no help needed up there either.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: There are matters arising from the Moriarty tribunal debate that were not satisfactorily answered which are to do with the here and now. The Taoiseach stated there was no arrangement. Did the Taoiseach meet Deputy Lowry or did any member of the Government, formally or informally, meet Deputy Lowry in the context of him making a decision to support Deputy Enda Kenny’s nomination for Taoiseach and support for the Government? Were there any meetings of any description and were any undertakings given or agreements or tacit agreements made between the Government and Deputy Lowry which led to him supporting Deputy Enda Kenny for Taoiseach and supporting the Government?
Other issues arose out of that, such as the issue of the problem of corporate donations to political parties.
An Ceann Comhairle: That is nothing to do with the question.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: It arises out of the Moriarty tribunal and the issues related to it.
An Ceann Comhairle: We are not discussing the Moriarty tribunal.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: That is in the question, if the Ceann Comhairle looks.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am looking at it all right, Deputy Boyd Barrett need not worry.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Is it in line with satisfying public concern about the issue of corporate donations to political parties, given all of the findings of the Moriarty tribunal, that the Government should tell us what corporate donors——
An Ceann Comhairle: This is Question Time.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: ——gave to Fine Gael Party funds over the past year?
An Ceann Comhairle: Would Deputy Boyd Barrett resume his seat? I am on my feet. This is Question Time. I will not tolerate this. There are others who have questions down——-
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I have my six minutes.
An Ceann Comhairle: ——-and I will not allow it be destroyed by not providing time for their questions to be answered. When I ask the Deputy to co-operate, will he please co-operate? This is nothing to do with the content of the Moriarty tribunal.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: It is the question.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not. The question was whether an arrangement was made with the Deputy in question, and the reply was “No”.
The Taoiseach: I repeat that there are no arrangements, formal or informal, made with the Deputy named in Deputy Boyd Barrett’s question. I might remind him that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources sent the Moriarty report to the Revenue Commissioners, the DPP and the Garda. I have already asked the relevant Departments to respond within four weeks in respect of implementation of the recommendations in Moriarty and as Deputy Boyd Barrett will be aware, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has listed the introduction of a comprehensive Bill dealing with corporate donations as a priority for this session. Once the Departments respond in respect of the recommendations of Moriarty, we will proceed with that.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Were there any meetings?
The Taoiseach: I would extend the courtesy of the House to every person who was elected here. There were no meetings. There is no arrangement, formal or informal, with the Deputy named in Deputy Boyd Barrett’s question.
4. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach his plans to re-establish the all party committee in preparation for the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6040/11]
The Taoiseach: It is my intention to re-establish the Oireachtas consultation group on the commemorative programme to be brought forward for the centenary anniversaries in the period to 2016. A substantial commemorative programme should be brought forward in respect of the events leading to the foundation of the State. With the passing of almost a century, most people in Ireland today have had little direct contact with the generation of that revolutionary era. It is important therefore that we commemorate the actions and acknowledge the achievements that have shaped modern Ireland.
In this endeavour, we should reflect not only on the military history of a difficult struggle but on the principles and vision which inspired the movement to achieve independence. It would be appropriate that a broad and inclusive commemorative programme would bring to attention the economic and social conditions of the period, the cultural tides and the connectedness of the Irish abroad in this national effort.
I am aware of the keen interest in the Oireachtas and widely among the public to contribute to the development of the centenary commemorative programme. I will contact all party leaders shortly with a view to re-establishing the consultation group at an early date.
Deputy Gerry Adams: The coming decade is filled with many important anniversaries, including the signing of the Ulster covenant, the 1913 lockout, the Easter Rising and the general election of 1918. Aontaím leis an Taoiseach go bhfuil a lán suime ag muintir na tíre agus daoine eile ar fud an domhain san ábhar seo. Tá a fhios ag an Taoiseach gur bhain mná agus fir páirt san eirí amach ar son saoirse na hÉireann, ar son tír neamhspleách agus ar son fíor-phoblacht. Níl an phoblacht sin ann fós. Ní bhfuair siad bás ar son an IMF nó an EU. I welcome his commitment to establishing the committee but can he advise us when it will be put in place?
Mindful of the events of 1916, can he ensure every effort is made to restore and preserve Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street, where the leaders last met before their surrender? Nos. 14 and 17 Moore Street constitute a legally designated national monument but are under threat from a developer. An aontaíonn an Taoiseach leis an moladh atá ann ceathrú 1916 a fhorbairt i mBaile Átha Cliath?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy will be aware that the previous Taoiseach nominated the then Minister for Defence to chair the consultation group, which comprised Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh from Sinn Féin, Deputy Deenihan from Fine Gael, Deputy Costello from the Labour Party and Deputy Lowry as an Independent. The Green Party was satisfied that the Minister for Defence should be the sole representative of the Government. I would like to establish the consultation group before Easter. This is an issue which needs to be addressed sensitively in light of the broad range of views held about 1916 and various other issues. The Deputy will also be aware of the establishment of a Unionist centenary council. These are issues in respect of Ireland and we need to be cognisant of them.
I took the opportunity some time ago to visit Nos. 14, 15 and 16 Moore Street. The previous Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government placed a preservation order on No. 16 and there were plans for a major redevelopment of Carlton site. It is a confined area but it contains the lanes of history from the time those men and women emerged from the side of the GPO and went in through the side of the buildings to get to No. 16. Physically, the structure does not at present look particularly appealing as a national monument. This is an issue in which I have a particular interest and I will discuss the matter with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government shortly.
I would like to set up the consultation group before Easter, as part of which I hope those who come behind us will be able to understand the locations and the circumstances which led to the foundation of this State and its achievement of independence as one of the first small states of the 20th century. That is important and I believe we can have modernity beside tradition, where one can enhance the other.
Deputy Gerry Adams: I commend the designation of that quarter. It is a hugely historical site encompassing the withdrawal from the GPO up Moore Street and up Moore Lane, the meeting and decision to surrender, where O’Rahilly was killed, where the surrender was handed over, the Rotunda where Tom Clarke was stripped naked in front of a British garrison and where Tom Clarke’s shop is now hidden behind a plastic piece of neon. There are very few states in the world — the Taoiseach and I have both travelled — where one does not go to some national commemoration, some ceathrú saoirse or some liberation or revolutionary quarter. Here we have a perfect example which can be saved from the developers. The Taoiseach will know that the relatives of the leaders of 1916 are campaigning on this issue so an aontaíonn an Taoiseach leis an moladh go gcuirfear ceathrú na saoirse le chéile i lár na cathrach?
The Taoiseach: As I said, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government placed a preservation order on No. 16. The area from the GPO to the Rotunda is very compact. There is an opportunity, if handled properly, to make available a multilingual explanation to people from all over the world in order that they can see the circumstances and locations where one of the first independent states was recognised in the early part of the 20th century.
Under section 14 of the National Monuments Act, the consent of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is required for all works affecting the area covered by the preservation order. This needs to be looked at afresh. If one looks only at the preservation order on No. 16 or Nos. 14 and 17, it is very confined. The lanes are still there as is some of the original brickwork, etc., to enable a more comprehensive explanation and analysis of what went on.
I do not mean to interfere in any way with applications for planning permission which may have been granted. However, in respect of this period of our history, which will probably grow in importance as time goes on, we have an opportunity to get it right before anything happens which might impact severely on it. From that point of view, I will discuss the matter with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
There is a preservation order on No. 16 which presents us with an opportunity to handle this in a sensitive way. I say that in the context of the 1916 commemoration ceremony and all that leads to it being treated by the consultation group in a sensitive and responsible fashion.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I support what the Taoiseach and Deputy Adams said in regard to Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. I would be very anxious to see something concrete and productive emerge from that.
I wish to ask about the 1916 centenary committee. Would the Taoiseach consider it useful if the membership was potentially broadened out or if, for example, a Northern input was facilitated, either from the Assembly or strands of opinion, to ensure the centenary is celebrated in an all-island context? As the Taoiseach said in regard to the sensitivity of the commemoration and so forth, there is a range of issues, from the Ulster Covenant to the Great War to other major events taking place over the next decade. It is important those commemorative opportunities become opportunities for fresh insights, perspectives and a deeper mutual understanding among people of different traditions on the island. Let us face it — people from a different tradition may not have the same perspective on 1916 as Members of this House. It is an opportunity for a comprehensive approach to commemoration.
I met previously with the Orange Order in regard to this and there is a willingness to engage in constructive dialogue towards the collective commemoration of different events of historical significance over the next decade which resonate back to conflict, history and so on. I am sure the Taoiseach would agree that the challenge is to do this in a way that can advance and add value to the kind of society we want to create on the island of Ireland.
The Taoiseach: It is possible and it should be so. The consultation group should be broadened beyond the membership of this Dáil and Seanad. There are people with a deep and brilliant understanding of the background and environment in which these events happened. It is an opportunity for the Oireachtas to be a party to sensitive and proper commemorations in the period 2012 to 2016 and beyond. These should be carried out in a sensitive, understanding and fitting manner, appropriate to a country that has achieved over a century since that first Rising. I am favourably disposed to putting people on the consultation group and to taking into account the fact that the Ulster Unionist Council has launched a document and has a committee dealing with commemorative ceremonies as they see them. It is appropriate to link the two.
Deputy Gerry Adams: On a point of information, if I heard the Taoiseach correctly, he said this is the area where the State was first recognised. That is not the case, this is the area in which a totally different State was proclaimed. It took a counterrevolution to create this State.
The Taoiseach: The point I am making is that the 1916 Rising began the first steps towards economic independence and political independence, which came about with Ireland becoming one of the first countries to become independent in the early part of the 20th century. We do not need to differ on the details.
Deputy Joe Higgins: The Taoiseach should tell the IMF and the EU about our economic independence.
5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach his priorities for the next meeting of the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6577/11]
6. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the bilateral meetings he has arranged with other EU prime ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7687/11]
The Taoiseach: I propose to answer Questions Nos. 5 and 6 together.
A formal agenda has not been finalised for the next meeting of the European Council, which will take place on 24 June. However, I expect the emphasis will remain on the key economic challenges facing Europe, including the response to the current crisis, the preservation of financial stability, and laying the ground for smart, sustainable, socially inclusive and job-creating growth. The comprehensive package of economic measures we decided at the March Council included pressing forward with implementation of the new European semester. This will see member states submit programmes this month covering budgetary plans and structural reforms, as well as commitments under the euro plus pact as appropriate.
On foot of these national programmes, the Commission will present its proposals for country-specific opinions and recommendations in good time for assessment and adoption at the June Council. I remain in close contact with my European colleagues, both in capitals and in the EU institutions, including on matters relating to the economic challenges facing Ireland and the Union. Arrangements for specific bilateral meetings will fall for consideration in this context.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Tá sé soiléir nach bhfuil morán dul chun cinn déanta ag an Rialtas lenár bpairtnéiri san EU. As an observer, it strikes me that no progress has been made in recent engagement with the EU partners. During the period under consideration the debt here has increased——
An Ceann Comhairle: Can Deputy Adams ask a question please?
Deputy Gerry Adams: These policies have had the same effect in Greece, increasing their debt. The debt has increased here. The banking debt is unsustainable. Does the Taoiseach believe that rolling out these policies will lead to different results and to increasing the burden on ordinary people? Would it not be better to make it clear to our partners in Europe that this is not sustainable? Leaving aside every other ideological or political issue, we cannot afford this debt. Would the Taoiseach not be better off making this point clear to people at the EU?
The Taoiseach: Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil an-chuid difríochta idir an Rialtas seo agus an ceann a bhí ann roimhe seo. The legacy inherited by the Government must be dealt with. There is no point in running away from it because if we do nothing it gets worse. The decisions made by the Government in tackling the banking problem have brought about a positive response from the IMF, the EU, the European Commission, international banks and commentators, who have all recognised that at last a Government has taken decisions in respect of the banking sector. These decisions will bring about what are now known as the two pillar banks, which will be in a position to lend money and return to a position which one would expect banks to be in. Deputy Adams is well aware that we will never achieve the growth levels to which we aspire unless we sort out these problems. The Deputy will also be aware that parallel to dealing with the banking sector the Government, as part of its programme for Government, proposes to introduce in the next couple of weeks a jobs initiative scheme that will lead to a stimulation of the indigenous economy, thus creating the confidence necessary for people to spend, employers to take on new employees and assisting in the rebuilding of our economy. Far from the Government being lethargic or not moving on issues, it has and will continue to make decisions. The process outlined here is a necessary part of this. It is also in keeping with what other countries in Europe must do.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Aontaím leis an Taoiseach faoin Rialtas deireanach. I agree with what the Taoiseach had to say in regard to the last Government. He is correct that it created this legacy and that its policies were wrong. Why then repeat them? I never said that we are not moving. We are moving: we are moving backwards. There needs to be a change of tactics. Politics is at all times a matter of political choices. We cannot all the time blame the previous Government for what this Government is doing. That is the responsibility of the Taoiseach and not the previous Government.
An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please.
The Taoiseach: This Government has in its first month taken some serious decisions about the banking sector, which have brought about a positive response internationally which we did not have before. It is a small step in the right direction, although it is not where we want to be. We want to see the IMF go home and this country getting back to borrowing on the international markets at rates below those currently available to us, thus putting us in control of our own economic destiny. The Government will continue to make decisions, difficult though they may be. If this crisis is not faced up to it will only get worse. I think the Deputy understands that. From that point of view, we must try to sort out our problems in a eurozone context. The Government will continue to play its part in that regard. This is necessary from a European Union and eurozone perspective.
Deputy Micheál Martin: It is time to put spin and optics to one side. The Taoiseach and everyone else knows that the decisions taken last week in terms of the banking sector flowed from stress tests which were well underway before the previous Government left office. It is time to put all the spin aside. Everyone knew about the two emerging banks, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland. There is no big deal in that regard either.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The entire problem was caused by the previous Government.
Deputy Micheál Martin: The fundamental issue is that there has been no burning of bondholders. In regard to the forthcoming meeting, will the Taoiseach be raising the issue of an interest rate reduction? Will it be on the agenda given the IMF report and its statement that such interest reductions are now urgent in terms of the European loan facility and mechanisms? Also, can I take it from the Taoiseach’s reply that no bilateral meetings, separate to the summit, have been arranged between him and other EU Heads of State?
The Taoiseach: I remind Deputy Martin, who was on this side of the House a short time ago, that there were six dysfunctional banks in this country, complete confusion from day to day and from week to week, and that the Government would not even admit to the people that the IMF had landed here. Obviously, a deal was done between the IMF-ECB-EU, the consequences of which we must now deal with.
The Deputy will be aware that it was decided at the Heads of Government meeting that the Ministers of Finance should deal first with the bank stress tests results before pursuing the question of interests rate reductions. From that point of view, while the next charge in respect of interest is not due until October-November, this matter will be pursued by the Ministers for Finance. It is always referred to at other meetings. Several heads of Government were in contact at the last meeting about arranging bilateral meetings and I am pursuing that. I will advise the House of them as soon as the arrangements are finalised. There will be a meeting with the British Prime Minister next week.
Deputy Micheál Martin: On the interest rate, we heard what happened at the last meeting of European Finance Ministers. There was some sort of bilateral meeting on the bus with the French Finance Minister and the German Finance Minister was fairly categoric and blunt in his approach to the issue, which I regret because there has to be some quid pro quo. What is required is an overall European resolution of this issue. Surely, given the response from Finance Ministers, it is time the Taoiseach took the issue to the heads of state at the next meeting and put it formally back on the agenda for resolution.
The Taoiseach: I cannot comment on all of the meetings that took place and whether people spoke on a bus. I know that the Minister, Deputy Noonan, had a number of meetings with——
Deputy Micheál Martin: The national broadcaster so reported.
An Ceann Comhairle: If you ask the question, the Taoiseach will give an answer.
The Taoiseach: ——the different Finance Ministers. At least it was known if the conversation took place on a bus, unlike when a previous Government brought assessors in a van with blacked out windows to see the site of a proposed sports centre several years ago. The German Minister for Finance made his views known, and not for the first time.
This is an ongoing process. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and Deputy Howlin have been delegated responsibility to deal with this matter and will do so. The Minister, Deputy Noonan, on behalf of the Government, has been clear in this regard. While it is the legal responsibility and right of the Commission to produce any paper that it so wishes, in respect of a CCCTB, as we have already made clear at the meeting of the heads of Government we will participate in discussions on any paper produced by the Commission. In this regard, we have a very healthy scepticism and have outlined our objections to the consequences for Europe, and not just Ireland, of a CCCTB.
Deputy Micheál Martin: That is a change from previous Government policy which was always to oppose a CCCTB.
The Taoiseach: In respect of the corporation tax rate, there will not be any movement from our stated position.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Previous Governments opposed a CCCTB.
The Taoiseach: I have already stated my views on a CCCTB. The Deputy does not expect us to sit at a meeting and not contribute to a debate that is taking place. We have a very healthy scepticism about that. I have pointed out the difficulties as I see them. Obviously, the Commission is not bound by any Government in producing papers that it wishes to. As a country we will participate in the discussion and I have given the Deputy an outline of what our discussion will be in that regard.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Should the Taoiseach not say to his European counterparts when he next meets them that, in light of the downward revised growth projections for the Irish economy, the cuts and austerity they require to be imposed on this economy and the people in it are counter-productive and are not working? He should tell them the reduced growth that is projected is the result of the austerity and cuts and we should perhaps acquaint them with the common wisdom here, namely, that if one is in a hole, one should stop digging. That is what the lower growth rates indicate.
The Taoiseach: I have already raised the issue of the austerity programme that has been imposed on the Irish people and the difficulties we foresee. Energy costs have risen due to external factors. There is a loss of confidence in consumer demand, which must be stimulated. That is why the Government will respond to that issue in the coming weeks by introducing a jobs initiative to stimulate consumer demand.
It is perfectly obvious that one has to have a growth strategy to grow the economy. As somebody who has an interest in this, the Deputy will be well aware of what we could achieve over the next ten years if we did not have to pay out €3 billion every March in promissory notes signed up to by the last Government.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Was the Minister at the back of the bus?
An Ceann Comhairle: I do not know anything about the bus. I am not sure whether it was the No. 8 or the No. 7.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: We do not care whether our Taoiseach sorts out our problems on a bus, a car or an office; we would be grateful for help wherever he gives it.
An Ceann Comhairle: I did not ask about the Kerry bus either.
30. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health and Children the persons that will carry out a review of the location of the new national children’s hospital; when it will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7609/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Government has committed, under the programme for Government, to the construction of the new children’s hospital. Since my appointment as Minister, I have been engaged in discussions with my officials and with the national paediatric hospital board in order to brief myself on the work done on this project to date. I want to be clear about how we can best provide the hospital in the most cost effective manner while ensuring a high quality service for our children and young people.
I intend to carry out a review of the national children’s hospital project and will announce the details shortly. I am currently being briefed in some detail on all aspects of the project. Following consideration of the evidence presented to me, I will decide on the scope and terms of reference of the review and the appropriate person or persons to carry out the review. I anticipate that the review, once commenced, should take approximately four weeks to complete.
It is essential that all the facts are carefully considered before a final decision is taken on the best approach. In particular, I wish to be satisfied that the hospital will provide the best possible clinical outcomes for children and young people. The Deputy may rest assured that I wish to avoid any unnecessary delay to the development of this very important project.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: As this is my first time taking parliamentary questions on health I wish to congratulate the Minister on his appointment. He states that the Government has committed to the children’s hospital, and he also states that it is carrying out a review. Will it take four weeks for the review to begin or four weeks for the review to be completed? Will the decision be made by the Minister alone, on foot of the recommendations made by this review body? Who will draft the terms of reference for this review? What are the terms of reference? Will they be made public prior to the review being carried out? Has the Minister brought in outside consultants, such as other organisations, agencies and interested bodies that may have expressed views publicly already?
Deputy James Reilly: Comhghairdeas leis an Teachta on his appointment. The review will take four weeks from the time it begins, but before we can do that, further information is required, especially in respect of the bottoming out of the money that we have available. I was given an estimate for the building cost by the last chairman of the board, but there was a €10 million variance between that and the figures that had been produced by the HSE.
I also want to be assured that we are comparing like with like, so I have asked for a costing to be done if the exact same hospital, with the exact same specifications, were built on a greenfield site. It is important that we know the difference in money and that we are comparing apples and apples and not apples and oranges. While I am acutely aware that every month this goes by costs the taxpayer €500,000, there is the possibility of hundreds of millions being lost if we build a place without foreseeing all the problems involved, and in the absence of all the facts. The draft terms of reference for the review will be drawn up by my Department. It is absolutely our intention that the review will be carried out by persons of international repute. The Government remains committed to the building of a national paediatric hospital. Obviously, we want to ensure it is built in the quickest fashion possible and in the right place at an affordable cost. I shall finish by saying the IMF is in town.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: The Minister has said he needs further information prior to establishing the review group and giving it terms of reference. Equally, he has stated publicly that he has concerns about the proposed location of the hospital, as indicated. Does he still hold such concerns or will he park them while he waits for the independent review body to report? In the event that it makes a recommendation contrary to the Minister’s opinion, what will happen then, or will he use this as an excuse to delay the project further?
Deputy James Reilly: I do not intend to delay it. My concerns remain, while my opinion is a different matter entirely. I hope my concerns will be addressed in the review, as well as those of everybody who has the best interests of children at heart. I want to know that we are building the hospital in the right place. I want to ensure any access issues will be adjudged and taken into consideration vis-à-vis the benefits of co-location from a clinical outputs viewpoint, in other words, the benefit of having an adult hospital located beside a paediatric hospital. There are a number of other concerns into which I will not go out of respect for the Chair. However, the Deputy can take it that there is no question of delaying tactics. I am very happy to say the board has elected an interim chairperson who is happy to serve, Mr. Harry Crosbie, and I welcome this.
31. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to restore the services cut from Monaghan General Hospital. [7612/11]
Deputy James Reilly: Monaghan General Hospital provides day medical and surgery services, elective endoscopy, cardiac rehabilitation, non-invasive diagnostics, a minor injuries unit, radiology, diagnostic urology, dentistry, ear nose and throat and outpatient services. It also provides 13 step-down and 13 rehabilitation beds which allow patients to transfer from Cavan General Hospital and the HSE Dublin north east region for rehabilitation and step-down care. A CT scanning service which costs about €500,000 commenced in November 2010.
Monaghan General Hospital is an integral part of the Cavan-Monaghan Hospital Group. I am determined that it will continue to play an important role in the delivery of clinical services in the Cavan-Monaghan area and to patients in other parts of the north-east region.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: This is the first opportunity I have had to address the Minister on issues of concern to us all. I wish him well in his new role and responsibilities. It is no coincidence that I have chosen as the subject of my first priority question to him the hospital I know best, the one chosen to act as a blueprint for the decimation by a series of former Governments of local services at local hospital sites. Monaghan General Hospital was used as a template that was subsequently visited on other communities. The Minister will recall that his party colleague former Deputy Seymour Crawford and I were consistent voices not only in support of the retention of services at Monaghan General Hospital but also post the removal of these services.
Notwithstanding what he has said in a vague and non-committal reply, will the Minister make a commitment at the commencement of this Dáil to revisit the failed hospital configuration in the north east, specifically as it affects Monaghan General Hospital, while recognising the impact of the loss of services at both Louth County Hospital, Dundalk and Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan? Will he restore all acute medical and emergency services to Monaghan General Hospital, the unanimous call in March of all elected members of Monaghan County Council, including the Minister’s party colleagues? Will he undertake in the first opportunity open to him to answer questions as Minister for Health and Children to give a clear commitment to the restoration of these services? Accepting that it will be programmed, will he indicate his willingness to prioritise the restoration of an emergency department and the establishment of a medical assessment unit at Monaghan General Hospital?
Deputy James Reilly: Monaghan General Hospital is in the Dublin north-east region in terms of hospital services. We are under severe stress in terms of capacity. Underlying the health service is the principle that the patient should be treated at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely, efficient and as near to home as possible. With this in mind, we are looking very closely at Monaghan General Hospital, the hospital in Navan and others in the area to see how we might best meet the needs of patients. There is no question but that the service is under severe stress. We can change the way hospitals operate and work, checking on some of the larger centres; many of the issues involved may be addressed in this manner. Equally, I am persuaded that a good deal more could be done at Monaghan General Hospital. The clinical leads and the directorate are looking at the position in the hospital and in Navan also to see how we might provide more services. We want to maximise the benefits and outputs of all hospitals but, in particular, smaller county hospitals which, to my mind, have been under-utilised to date.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Does the Minister accept that the removal of services from Monaghan General Hospital and the other hospital sites to which I have referred has created an impossible working environment for consultants, doctors, nurses and other front-line service providers in County Cavan, in particular, but also in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda? That is untenable and cannot be allowed to continue.
Will the Minister acknowledge that at the time of the removal of all acute services at Monaghan General Hospital in July 2007 the previous Government made particular promises, none of which has been delivered on? I refer specifically to the promised enhancement of the primary care unit and ambulatory service for the county. The opposite has happened. Last June both the rapid response 24/7 service, with its advanced paramedic facility, and the patient transport ambulance service staffed by two emergency medical technicians were moved from Monaghan to Castleblayney to compensate for the loss of services at Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, which is now servicing all of counties Monaghan and Louth. We had no compensatory measures introduced by the last Government. I hope Deputy Reilly will be the Minister who will address the critical health care and acute hospital service needs of the people of County Monaghan.
Deputy James Reilly: There is absolutely no question but that there are big issues facing the health service. There is also no doubt that promises were made in the past and not kept. When certain plans for reconfiguration were designed, the part dealing with the removal of services was enacted with great haste, while that which was supposed to address the central delivery of services was much slower in coming about, or very often did not come about at all. It is not the intention of the Government to repeat that process. I would be first to admit that we must go through a process of rebuilding trust between the health service and those who use it. That is a big job and I hope Members on all sides of the House will co-operate in achieving it.
32. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans, including investment, targets and timelines, for the reform of palliative and end of life care, in order that persons are afforded the dignity and respect they deserve and receive appropriate, high quality care in an environment of their choosing. [7783/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Palliative care services are delivered by the Health Service Executive, in partnership with voluntary organisations. The overall budget provision for these care services in 2011 is €74 million.
My immediate aim is to ensure that the priorities, targets and time lines for palliative care, as detailed in the agreed HSE Service Plan 2011, are achieved as intended by the end of this year. These include the delivery of specialist palliative care services to almost 3,600 people each month in 2011; promoting care at end of life projects through the design and dignity grants scheme. The purpose of this scheme is to develop a range of exemplar or demonstration projects within a hospital, region or sector which will guide future development relating to end of life issues; progressing phase 1 of the palliative care policy for children with life limiting conditions in Ireland. Ultimately, this policy aims to ensure that all children with these conditions will have the choice and opportunity to be cared for at home. It recommends the appointment of a consultant paediatrician with a special interest in paediatric palliative care and eight outreach nurses — a successful candidate has been identified for the consultant post and will take up duty shortly; and implementing the minimum data set for palliative care. This is designed to provide better information on all patients availing of specialist palliative care services to further improve the planning and delivery of services.
I also intend that the various capital projects agreed under the HSE service plan for this year will be progressed. These include completion of the projects at Marymount Hospice, Cork and St. Ita’s, Newcastlewest, in addition to minor capital works at local level. Palliative care and end of life issues will continue to be developed within the overall continuum of care services and within the context of the current budgetary and fiscal climate.
Deputy Stephen Donnelly: I thank the Minister of State for that response. We have some examples of good practice, for example in Limerick and in the mid-west where we have the 30 hospice beds and the multidisciplinary teams. The target is one hospice bed for every 10,000 of population. Three regions have that, two are at 40%, two are at 30% and three regions have none, not a single bed. Wicklow, the area I know best, has no beds although it is part of a different region. The home care team has four nurses, one of whom is on maternity leave and another on sick leave, but because of the recruitment freeze, those positions cannot be filled, even temporarily. Therefore, Wicklow has only two nurses for the whole area. I suggest to the Minister that the issue is one of variance and would like to know what is being done about that. For example, where we have best practice — in Limerick — the State spend is €30 per head, but in Wicklow the spend is €3 per head. What is being done to provide best practice around the country?
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Deputy Kelleher will know we have been extraordinarily well served in Cork with the hospice movement there. On the question of the gaps that exist, a palliative care service medium-term development framework was published by the HSE in July 2009. This sets national priorities which have been agreed by all stakeholders, based on solid needs analysis, to ensure that services do not develop in an ad hoc fashion and that any developments proposed in future reflect areas of greatest need. This methodology ensures an equitable approach to service provision, as well as consistency of inputs, such as pay and non-pay costs and staffing levels. I take on board the Deputy’s comments. No matter where people are, their needs are the same and we must ensure an equitable delivery of the service.
Deputy Stephen Donnelly: I have the 2009 plan here and agree it is a good plan. I suggest the HSE is the problem and that it is a managerial problem. For example, in Wicklow there is co-funding of €3 million for a €6 million hospice and an ongoing operational expenditure is proposed of €2.5 million. We know this is provided at a cost saving and that in terms of the economics, it saves us significant money. As the Minister pointed out, we are now in a Fianna Fáil-induced IMF world and must try to save money. While I am delighted the HSE report has been made and bought into by the stakeholders, the people within the hospice world to whom I have been talking say there is no transparency within the HSE. In Wicklow, for example, there has been a local buy-in to the plan, but it disappears into the morass of the HSE. Can anything be done about that organisation, which does not appear to be reacting to its own plan, specifically in an area which could save us significant money and provide better health care to people all over the country?
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: The Deputy has asked some relevant questions. We cannot, for the very reasons the Deputy has asked the question, have a county by county, or regional approach to this. We must pull it together and have a national service. The national steering group on palliative care is the way to go. This is chaired by the HSE, but driving out the plan will ensure we have a more equitable approach throughout the country. I hear the Deputy’s concerns.
33. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds in hospitals here that are currently closed; if more bed closures are likely in 2011; and if existing closed beds will be reopened. [7610/11]
Deputy James Reilly: There are approximately 11,600 inpatient beds and 1,800 day beds in the public hospital system. The number of beds available at any one time fluctuates, depending on planned activity levels, maintenance and refurbishment requirements and staff leave arrangements. Beds may also be closed from time to time to control expenditure, given the need for every hospital to operate within its allotted budget. I am advised that based on the existing methodology, approximately 960 acute beds are closed at present, but this cannot be regarded as a precise figure because hospitals have been using different criteria to measure bed closures. This is an issue I wish to address and I have spoken to the Secretary General and the HSE about it. The issue will be addressed because we cannot allow a situation where we cannot compare like with like. I want to examine closely the practice of closing beds to control expenditure, because this does not make economic sense. The HSE is at present reviewing the existing methodology for measuring bed closures in acute hospitals to ensure that a consistent approach is applied across the public hospital system.
It is important in any case to emphasise that hospital beds represent a service input and are not in themselves a measure of how the system is performing. By this I mean that while hospital beds are a measure, they are not a measure of the overall activity. Many of the procedures we undertook in the past which required admission and inpatient beds can now be performed without admission, through single day surgery and so on. In recent years there has been a much increased emphasis on improved efficiency in acute hospitals. In particular, the focus has been on reducing inpatient care activity levels through the provision of more appropriate service responses, delivering a shift to care on a day case basis where appropriate and on performance improvements such as surgery on the day of admission and reducing inappropriate lengths of stay. Specific targets under these heading are included in the HSE’s National Service Plan 2011. Clinical directors are looking at this closely. Much of what happened in the past in terms of admitting patients the night before surgery was unnecessary.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In this context the HSE’s directorate of clinical strategy and programmes is leading a coordinated programme of work to improve service quality, cost-effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that care is provided in the setting most appropriate to individuals’ needs, with due regard to patient safety considerations. I have met the clinicians leading this multidisciplinary process and strongly support their work, which I believe will enable services to be delivered in a manner that is appropriate and sustainable into the future.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: There are approximately 13,400 beds in the public hospital system and the Minister has said that approximately 960 of these are closed at present. While this may not be an accurate measurement, we can take it that the number is between 890 and 960. Does the Minister suggest that to address the closure of hospital beds, he proposes reducing the overall number of beds and keeping the reduced number of beds open all the time? Does he intend to reduce the capacity and the number of beds in the system as opposed to having a large number and sometimes closing them when hospitals run into difficulties?
Deputy James Reilly: There is no intention on my part to reduce the capacity any further. I believe we have the waiting lists we have because we do not have sufficient capacity. Before there is any reopening of beds, I want to ensure we get the maximum value from the beds we have. I have met the clinical teams and in many cases we could have many more discharges within 48 hours of admission to hospital. We could organise our situations in a very different fashion. If a surgeon arrives in the morning and can only do three out of the eight cases he or she was supposed to do, that is a management issue in failing to provide the nurse, intensive care bed or theatre staff. Those situations will be addressed and we are reviewing that with management. In fairness, there has been a problem for some time and there will be considerable change. I am very pleased that the change has started already and I am very encouraged by the appetite for change of many of the people working within the system. By the end of this year I hope to be able to give the Deputy much better news than the news we are experiencing today.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: Does the Minister concur with most of the opinions expressed in the 2011 national service plan with regard to the increased capacity required in the hospital service and more importantly the efficiencies, including people coming in on time, being treated and then leaving as opposed to waiting for procedures over a number of days? Is the plan sufficiently detailed and to his satisfaction?
Deputy James Reilly: The best way to answer that is to say we are working through the plan at the moment. As the Deputy knows, it is quite a complex plan. I hear loudly what he is saying. I only recently heard about a case of a person who was fasting for two and a half days waiting for a procedure. That is just not good enough and that sort of issue cannot be allowed arise again. That also requires a change in management attitude and more real-time information, which is a major issue throughout the health service, a matter to which I will return on one of the other questions.
34. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children his policy plans to deal with the crisis in our accident and emergency departments. [7846/11]
Deputy James Reilly: The waiting times for patients attending emergency departments in many hospitals during last winter and in particular the first week of January of this year were unacceptable. I am determined that this should not happen again.
The difficulties in emergency departments cannot be resolved solely within the emergency departments themselves and must be addressed on the basis of a health-system wide approach. This must start with ensuring that patients are treated in the most appropriate way in the most appropriate location. This means that where and whenever possible patients who can be treated in the primary care setting receive that treatment in a timely manner. This will ensure that patients can be confident of receiving the necessary treatment on time and that there is less need for patients to attend at emergency departments. Specifically, we need to address waiting lists for inpatient procedures — as patients are left waiting they become emergencies and end up in emergency departments.
I am in discussions with the HSE and my Department and we will have a clear plan of action to address the problems in emergency departments both for the coming year and in the long term. I am confident that with careful planning, with the implementation of the HSE’s emergency medicine programme and related clinical programmes, and the roll-out of acute medicine units we will be in a position to reassure patients that the experience in emergency departments during last winter will not be repeated.
I have already stated my intention to establish a special delivery unit to tackle the problem of waiting lists including difficulties in emergency departments. Intensive work is now being undertaken in preparing the ground for the unit’s establishment. I have held a range of meetings to discuss with my officials and the HSE the most effective methodology for setting up the unit and we are progressing this work with all urgency. I am very pleased to say we are getting very good co-operation.
Deputy Finian McGrath: I thank the Minister for his response. This is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate him on his appointment as Minister for Health and Children. I wish him all the best. While I know it is early days yet, there are many health policies that I would strongly support. I will revert to him in 12 months to see how he is getting on.
Is it acceptable to have patients lying on trolleys and chairs while beds are lying idle upstairs in those hospitals? Would the Minister agree that it is a national scandal to have senior citizens and very sick people lying on trolleys in corridors where there are disorderly people? Has the Minister ever witnessed the drunkenness, intimidation and violence on a Saturday night in accident and emergency departments? Does he agree that after ten years of massive wealth and extra finances, it is criminal that the accident and emergency issue has not been sorted yet? How long will it take for the Minister to sort this problem out for once and for all?
Deputy James Reilly: I will answer the easiest question as to whether I have ever experienced Saturday nights in emergency departments. I have experienced them numerous times because I worked in them. However, that is not to make light of the situation where people feel threatened — both staff and the people lying there ill and distressed. The drunken and violent behaviour of some of our citizens is not acceptable. The real issue is a health service that has not been functioning and has not been joined up.
In order to answer the question in a comprehensive fashion, it is very clear that we need to reduce the inflows into emergency departments by having more prevention and more chronic illness care in the community along with more early diagnosis and treatment. Family doctors should have access to X-ray, ultrasound and blood testing to diagnose and treat patients so that they do not end up in the emergency department. When they end up there and once a decision is made to admit, there ought to be a bed in the hospital to which that patient can go. We are looking for ways to achieve that because not only do we have the beds that have been closed, as Deputy Kelleher has pointed out, but we also have a host of other beds unavailable because of delayed discharge, where people are awaiting placement in the community. I have a team examining the issue to determine how we can alleviate the problem particularly in urban areas where the problem is most acute. Furthermore, downstream we also need to have more rehabilitation in the community. We are going out into the field to get quotes for those services from nursing homes so that we can expedite the passage of patients through the system.
As I mentioned earlier, the medical care programmes are considering how to discharge patients earlier and the mechanisms of how hospitals work. These are basic time and motion studies to help move patients through quickly. People do not want to be in hospitals any longer than they need to be as we all know.
Deputy Finian McGrath: The Minister said he hoped last winter’s situation will not be repeated. How does he intend to deal with that? He mentioned preventive measures and the community response issue, but how is it possible to stop people getting into a violent situation at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. on a Saturday night entering hospitals when there is no GP service? Part of the solution is that we must have the beds to provide for the patients.
Deputy James Reilly: The Deputy has asked a series of questions and I doubt if I can answer them all in the time allocated to me. There are some things we can do to alleviate the situation in the very short term over the next few months; there are other things we can do in the more medium term for the winter; and then there is the longer-term solution which I have outlined already. In answer to the question as to how to stop people getting involved in violence, with no disrespect——
Deputy Finian McGrath: I am referring to people turning up at the hospital.
Deputy James Reilly: —— they turn up at the hospital because they have been injured and I suppose they need hospital care. If it is an issue that would be more appropriate for them to attend a general practitioner service, that is something we are also looking at. The reality is that if there has been a fracas and there are suspected fractures etc., without having diagnostics in the community they will turn up at emergency departments.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I call Question No. 35. I understand other questions are grouped with it.
35. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding plans for a national children’s hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7547/11]
386. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a decision as to where and when a new national children’s hospital will be built. [7479/11]
391. Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Health and Children when the proposed review of the location of the new national children’s hospital is to commence and the person who will be the chairperson of this review. [7511/11]
Deputy James Reilly: I propose to take Questions Nos. 35, 386 and 391 together.
As I stated in my earlier reply to the House, the Government has committed, under the programme——
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: What is the grouping?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Questions Nos. 35, 386 and 391 are being taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Does it include Question No. 38?
Deputy James Reilly: I do not have the question numbers before me, but they are questions from Deputies McDonald, Dowds and Maloney.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Those are the three Deputies.
Deputy James Reilly: As I stated in my earlier reply to the House, the Government has committed under the programme for Government to the construction of the new children’s hospital.
Since my appointment as Minister, I have been engaged in discussions with my officials and with the national paediatric hospital board to brief myself on the work done on this project to date. I wish to be clear about how we can best provide the hospital in the most cost-effective manner while ensuring a high quality service for children and young people.
I intend to carry out a review of the national children’s hospital project and will announce the details shortly. I am currently being briefed in some detail on all aspects of the project. Following consideration of the evidence presented to me, I will decide on the scope and terms of reference of the review and the appropriate person or persons to carry it out. I anticipate that the review, once commenced, should take approximately four weeks to complete.
It is essential that all the facts are carefully considered before a final decision is taken on the best approach. In particular I wish to be satisfied that the hospital will provide the best possible clinical outcomes for children and young people. The Deputy may rest assured that I wish to avoid any unnecessary delay to the development of this important project.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Before I call Deputy Ó Caoláin, I advise that as two of the questions are written ones no extra time is available for the grouping.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: When does the Minister expect to be in a position to advise us on how he proposes to proceed with the review on the proposed building of the new national children’s hospital at the Mater Hospital site? He indicated that he hopes to have those details shortly. When does he expect to have them? Does the Minister have anything further to share with us today on how he expects the review to proceed, particularly given the very short time within which he expects it to conclude its work, a four week period?
Could he indicate whether he is intent on avoiding the engagement of outside, expensive consultancy firms to do the work? Could he indicate the make-up of the review team and assure the House that there will not be additional costs arising from the review to either the Department or the overall public budget?
Does the Minister accept that in the current situation the key concern for many people is the continuation of services at Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght hospitals and that there is a reasonable expectation — one that I support — that in the advent of the Mater Hospital site being used for the new national children’s hospital that we would continue to have inpatient facilities provided for children at Tallaght Hospital and that the Crumlin Hospital site would continue to service health care needs in that community?
Deputy James Reilly: The Deputy mentioned Temple Street, where I have been. I visited just before the election and met the doctors. There is no doubt that the hospital leaves much to be desired in terms of its structure. The work going on there is excellent but the conditions are Victorian. The need for a replacement is acute.
Deputy Ó Caoláin inquired whether external experts would be involved in the review. Absolutely. I want them to be people of the highest repute internationally. It has not been determined yet whether there will be three or four people. I wish to have the input of a paediatric specialist, a cost accountant and managerial economic expertise. It is very important that the hospital is built at an affordable price, that we do not start a hospital we cannot finish, and that we do not hold out false hope by starting on the process and finding in three or four years that we cannot finish it.
I remind Members that the International Monetary Fund is in town and it will be watching the process very carefully. I wish to ensure we get value for money but I reassure Members, that as a doctor, I am acutely aware of the benefits of collocation. Some things go beyond price. It will not be purely a case of whether the hospital could be built more cheaply somewhere else. The benefit of collocation to the patients, the young lives we seek to alter through the provision of the best treatment, must be borne in mind. They are the ones to whom we must give prime consideration.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I call Deputy Crowe.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I have a brief——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I have time for only one question.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: As you are aware, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, with oral questions taken in ordinary time every Deputy is entitled to offer, unlike with priority questions.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy should ask a brief question and then I will take a question from Deputy Crowe.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Minister should note that I did not refer to Temple Street in an ongoing way, I referred to both Crumlin and Tallaght hospitals and the roles they would play post the advent — if it is to be — of the utilisation of the Mater hospital site. Will the Minister indicate his current expectation of service delivery at Tallaght and Crumlin hospitals and, in regard to the former, address my argument that it should continue to provide inpatient care for children?
I do not take issue with the Minister bringing in external expertise. My question focused quite particularly on the engagement of expensive consultants. If the Minister could share the detail with us, I would like to know the make-up of the review team. I welcome the Minister’s reference to individuals with expertise. We do not take issue with that but we take issue with the inordinate moneys that have been wasted on external consultancy contracts in the past. That is something I want to avoid.
I welcome the Minister’s stated four week timeframe on the review of the Mater hospital site. When will the review start? Therefore, we will know when the four weeks will end.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister should be brief as we are out of time.
Deputy James Reilly: I reassure the Deputy that I am equally concerned about the cost of external consultants. That is why I do not envisage the review going to a firm but to named individuals who would provide us with an independent opinion, having had all the facts put in front of them. That is why I am delaying the process until we have all the facts put in front of us through the Department and the Health Service Executive.
Discrepancies were noted between the moneys identified by the previous chairman and the moneys identified by the Health Service Executive. If we are out by €10 million we should consider whether we want to be out by €100 million later. I am very concerned about that. We will shorten the review process and make the projected four week timeframe achievable if we have all the information to hand for the people concerned. The other criterion on which I will insist is that the consultants come to the country and visit the sites. It is not my intention to open the argument again. That is not what this is about. It is about assessing the hospital in the specified location at the projected cost as being the way forward to deliver the best for our children.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Ceist 36 is taken with other questions.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Gabh mo leithscéal, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, another Deputy had——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sorry, but the time has expired. It is up to Members to ask shorter questions if they wish more progress to be made. We must now proceed with other questions.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I understand that any Deputy can offer on questions taken in ordinary time. On a point of order, with respect, is it not the case that if another Deputy wishes to ask a question——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are moving on to Question No. 36.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We are not on priority questions any more. We are entitled to a one minute question.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We have gone way over time. I wish to allow other Members to contribute.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I do not know to which rules you refer, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
Deputy Seán Crowe: You indicated, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that you would take a question from me.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I now call the next question, No. 36.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Are we not taking Question No. 54 with that?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Yes. The Minister will read out the reply now. Question No. 36 is taken with Questions Nos. 47, 54, 66, 71, 76 and 376.
Deputy Denis Naughten: It is like being in a Bingo hall.
Deputy James Reilly: According to my notes, Deputy Naughten is head of the class.
36. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding his review of the Health Service Executive reconfiguration process for acute hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7392/11]
47. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will bring forward new plans for hospital configuration in the north-east region and in other regions. [7531/11]
54. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Health and Children further to his announcement of a review of the general hospital reconfiguration process, the nature of the proposed review; its terms of reference; the persons who will carry out the review; the involvement of all stakeholders including staff, patients, service users and the public; the timescale involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7495/11]
66. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to restore any or all of the services cut from Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7535/11]
71. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to restore any or all of the services cut from Louth County Hospital, Dundalk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7533/11]
76. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will restore any or all of the services cut from Sligo General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7553/11]
376. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Health and Children the timeframe surrounding the reconfiguration process that is intended to take place in Health Service Executive south. [7430/11]
Deputy James Reilly: I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 47, 54, 66, 71, 76 and 376 together.
I am committed to ensuring that acute hospital services at national, regional and local level are provided in a clinically appropriate and efficient manner. In particular, I wish to ensure that as many services as possible can be provided safely in smaller, local hospitals. To fully consider the issues involved, I am being briefed by my Department and the Health Service Executive, HSE, on the organisation of acute services in each region and on the important clinical programmes being developed by the HSE. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals’ needs. The aim is to ensure that patients receive treatment in the most timely, cost-effective fashion that is safe and as close to home as possible.
I am very impressed with the work done by Dr. Barry White and his colleagues in developing these programmes. I have already had several discussions with him about how best to ensure that they are implemented. I have also made it clear that patient safety must be the overriding priority. I want patients to be treated at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely, efficient and as near to home as possible.
I also want to be briefed by the HSE before any further services are withdrawn from individual hospitals. The Secretary General of my Department has written to the CEO of the HSE asking him to make the necessary arrangements.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him well in his new role. He has an understanding of the issues affecting small local hospitals.
Patient safety must be the main priority. Does the Minister not agree that transporting patients for hours from small local hospitals that could treat them to regional super-centres, as have been proposed to date, is not necessarily the best approach in that it puts lives at risk? Will the Minister clarify the direction that has been given to the HSE on the roll-out of the reconfiguration process and the implications it will have for small hospitals from 1 July, bearing in mind the appointment of non-consultant hospital doctors in the new rotation and, specifically, the non-training posts? This issue should be addressed immediately with reference to the regional structure rather than leaving hospitals in a dire predicament from 1 July.
Deputy James Reilly: I certainly agree with my colleague Deputy Naughten in regard to transportation or forcing people to travel without providing transport. It is not wise or cost effective to transport patients to have treatments that could and should be available in the local hospitals. This is certainly an area we are examining very closely. As I said to Deputy Ó Caoláin in respect of Monaghan hospital, many more facilities and treatments could be provided at the hospitals in question; they are being under-utilised. They not only could, but will, be a key part of our drive to address the waiting times many citizens must endure before obtaining the treatment they have been recommended.
Deputy Seamus Healy: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him well.
Will the Minister confirm that the hospital reconfiguration programme is parked and that an instruction to this effect has been accepted by the HSE officials? I was disappointed that the Minister did not set out in his reply the detail of the process. When does he envisage that the review process will commence? How will it be carried out and by whom? Will all stakeholders be involved?
Deputy James Reilly: I thank Deputy Healy. The review will be carried out by officials in my Department. I certainly want to be made aware of any withdrawal of service because I want the impact of any such withdrawal to be assessed fully. I do not want a recurrence of circumstances in which services are withdrawn on the promise that they will be replaced by new ones at a regional centre, only to have that promise not met. I have requested that there be no further withdrawal.
To say reconfiguration has ceased is untrue because it has not. Some parts of the reconfiguration process do not entail the withdrawal of services. I have no issue with these proceeding although we are reviewing the very nature of what we are trying to achieve. The health service is taking a new direction and we have made that very clear. I am very pleased with the appetite for change, both in the Department of Health and the Health Services Executive.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I want to refer to the Minister’s earlier reply. In the hope of having an accurate record, will he revisit his statement that he is an advocate of co-location? I know he was only referring to the National Children’s Hospital in regard to the Mater site, for example; I do not believe he has made a volte-face in regard to co-location. He should clarify this for the record in case some scribe picks up on it such that it will be the story we read tomorrow.
On Question No. 47, specifically with regard to HSE Dublin North East, with which the Minister is very familiar, can he indicate whether there are new plans for hospital reconfiguration in the north east against the backdrop of his knowledge of and exposure to the inadequacies and failures of the approach employed by a series of three Fianna Fáil-led Administrations since 1997? His substantive reply did not indicate this.
Deputy James Reilly: To confirm for the House and any scribe who might be interested, when I referred to my support for co-location I was referring to the location of a children’s hospital next to an adult hospital, not to what might have been construed as a co-location policy of placing private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I am protecting the Minister’s back already.
Deputy James Reilly: I really do appreciate that.
With regard to new plans for reconfiguration, we will reconsider the overall picture in terms of re-structuring the health service to deliver for patients in a timely fashion as near to their homes as possible, and also in a far more sensible fashion for us. The idea that somebody would go to a tertiary hospital such as Beaumont or the Mater for treatment for varicose veins, gall bladder surgery or hernia repair is akin to taking a ten-year-old Volkswagen to the Ferrari testing centre for a service. The latter would surely do a wonderful job but it would not comprise an appropriate use of resources. If people avail of the services of the county hospitals for the procedures in question, not alone will they be very pleased with the outcome, they will find their overall experience far more pleasant in that they will be away from the hustle and bustle and chaotic atmospheres of the larger hospitals. We will seek to address the latter issue because, in fairness to the larger hospitals, they are trying to do the impossible, very often with limited resources. I have no problem putting that on the record and seeking further rationalisation of our resources in respect of the sorts of conditions we treat. I refer to the number of people who end up in hospitals for treatment that could possibly take place in a primary care environment.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: In the context of reconfiguration, the Minister has requested a review of the transfer of orthopaedic services from St. Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital to the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork. Why has work not ceased on the construction of theatres in the latter hospital and on the transfer of services thereto while the review is being carried out? If the review recommends that the services remain where they are, what will be the position on the two theatres built in the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital? Was the commitment just a commitment by a deputy leader so as to appear slightly enthusiastic during the election campaign?
Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: On the same matter, will the Minister confirm whether the orthopaedic services review has started? If it has, how long will it take? When can a decision be made on whether the services will be transferred?
Deputy James Reilly: The review is ongoing. My understanding is that the transfer of services is not continuing and has ceased. The building may well be in the process of being built but it may be put to many different uses. The fact that building is continuing and a contract has been entered into does not indicate the end use will be as first proposed. I am not saying the proposed use may not be the end use but this does not mean it will be either. I am not in a position to give a timeline for the review. It will only be a matter of months; it will not take a year. The Deputy need not worry in that regard.
Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: That is like saying we will build a house and not use it as a house.
Deputy Seán Crowe: With regard to reconfiguration and acute hospitals, there is in Tallaght an adult and children’s accident and emergency unit. The unit in Tallaght is probably the busiest in the country and I believe it had 77,000 admissions last year. One of the problems with adult accident and emergency departments is a lack of beds and this is causing many of the bottlenecks in the hospital system. With regard to the service for children, current policy means that on the south side of Dublin we will be left with no beds for sick children. Will this be part of the review process? It is daft that sick children will not have overnight beds on the south side of Dublin.
Deputy James Reilly: To answer the latter question first, the review relates to the provision of the new hospital at the Mater Hospital. I do not think it will include the present situation at Tallaght Hospital. With regard to adult services, I am loth to give an answer to the question without having studied the situation. There may be a bed capacity issue, however there are also managerial issues at Tallaght Hospital which must be addressed and this is what is being examined at present. As in several of our major hospitals, issues arise on how discharges happen, how patients are assessed, how long patients are in hospital before their procedures are carried out and how long they remain in hospital after the procedure has been carried out. There is a host of issues around this. I will leave the door open on this as I do not have the answer for the Deputy on whether the problem in Tallaght Hospital has to do with bed capacity or use of the beds, or issues to do with management, as I know issues arise with regard to this.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. With regard to configuration, in advance of the general election the people of Roscommon and south Leitrim were made promises on the future of Roscommon and Portiuncula hospitals. It was stated that services existing at the time of the election would be maintained and enhanced. Given that a few promises made to people in my constituency have been broken in recent days I wonder whether the Minister will stick by this one.
Deputy Denis Naughten: With regard to services at Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals and based on the Minister’s previous response, will he clarify that existing services will be maintained and that we will examine providing additional services at both hospitals? In this context, I wish to bring to the Minister’s attention an issue that needs to be addressed, namely, the situation regarding non-consultant hospital doctors at Roscommon County Hospital. The hospital has a projected spend on agency staff of approximately €4 million by the end of year, which is more than one quarter of the hospital’s budget. Will the Minister assure us he will investigate this issue?
Deputy James Reilly: The issue of non-consultant hospital doctor numbers in our hospitals is one that creates a major difficulty for us and is being addressed in a fairly aggressive fashion at present through recruitment from abroad to make up the shortfall. There is every reason to believe this will be successful. Part of the problem with regard to non-consultant hospital doctors is with regard to their training. Sometimes they prefer to see on their curriculum vitae the names of large regional hospitals rather than smaller hospitals. One of the methods of dealing with this is an initiative undertaken by Dr. John Higgins in Cork. Rather than joining a CUH surgery team, one joins a Cork, Kerry and south surgery team which allows people to be placed throughout the system and rotate through smaller hospitals as well as gain experience at bigger hospitals. Participants are always under the one training team of surgeons who also rotate through the hospitals. If this model were to be repeated in Roscommon it would go a long way to solving the problems we have.
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 Michael Healy-Rae — the position whereby self-employed persons are ineligible for social welfare benefits; (2) Deputy James Bannon — the need for the Minister for Health and Children to outline his policy in relation to agency nurses; (3) Deputy Tom Fleming — the need to introduce a fair loan scheme to allow tenants of local authority houses to purchase their own homes under the terms and conditions of the tenant purchase scheme; (4) Deputy Frank Feighan — the need to realise the potential of the Lough Allen gas field; and (5) Deputy Olivia Mitchell — the need to find a countrywide approach to both short-term and long-term solutions for the negative impact of section 48 and section 49 planning levies.
The matters raised by Deputies Frank Feighan, Tom Fleming, Olivia Mitchell and James Bannon have been selected for discussion.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Last Thursday, the ECB announced an interest rate increase stating it was doing so to ward off the threat of inflation. What is incredible about this is that even the ECB officials themselves have acknowledged that the recent blip in inflation is temporary and driven mainly by commodity prices. At a time when European economies are very fragile, will the Taoiseach agreed this increase is unwise and at worst likely to cause very serious damage to weak fragile economies throughout the eurozone, and that it has the hallmark of repeating a similar decision made in 2008 when the ECB raised interest rates after the worldwide recession had begun causing serious damage in the name of fighting already disappearing inflation?
I agree that central banks need to be independent from governments and politicians but we have the right to comment when it makes wrong decisions. Will the Taoiseach commit to the House to raise our concern with the ECB on this interest rate rise and further rises planned in the coming months and our concern that this decision will undermine recovery in weak economies and cause considerable hardship to thousands of families throughout the country? Will he agree to raise with other states the possibility of changing the legal basis underpinning the ECB to force it to give greater concern to issues of economic growth and employment as well as inflation when making its decisions?
The Taoiseach: This is a matter of serious concern to those who will be affected as a consequence of attempting to repay mortgages and those struggling to repay mortgages. We are well aware of the numbers on tracker and variable mortgages and the difficulties they are now experiencing. When Mr. Trichet made this announcement he also made the comment that the ECB had to act according to its remit. Its primary function, as the Deputy is aware, is to keep down inflation. The Minister for Finance is looking at the consequences of this for mortgage payers here and the fundamental responsibility of seeing that people have their homes protected and a conclusion is arrived at in so far as their mortgages are concerned.
Comments have been made about the ECB and its functions in legislation in so far as it impacts on growth rates and economic development throughout EU member states with particular reference to the eurozone. In this context, these matters were discussed to a point by the Heads of Government meeting in Brussels and we will continue to do so. For my part, I will raise the impact of interest rates following this decision. The understanding in general conversation is that this might not be the only interest rate increase this year. The ECB has mentioned that possibility. This is obviously a serious concern for people in this country who are struggling, are in negative equity or are just about able to meet their mortgage repayments.
The answer to the Deputy’s question is “Yes”, I will raise the matter, and it is important to be able to comment about the consequences of a bank that is independent. In the context of economic growth factors, this matter was discussed at the last Heads of Government meeting in so far as how the programmes for each country can impact on their individual growth rates, which is obviously very important from Ireland’s point of view as well.
Deputy Micheál Martin: During the recent election campaign the Taoiseach and his party stated clearly that State-supported banks would be prevented from passing on interest rate increases such as this to mortgage holders. Since then, of course, the Government has announced a further major increase in State support for the banks. Will the Taoiseach tell us what he is doing, as promised, to ensure that this interest rate increase will not be passed on to mortgage holders?
The Taoiseach: The Minister for Finance will bring forward a number of proposals in respect of the consequences for mortgage holders in this country. The Deputy is aware of the announcement made today by AIB regarding huge job losses over the near term, which is obviously a very serious concern for those directly affected. We made the point that in reducing the scale of the banks in this country, it would be necessary to dispose of assets which would reduce their overall costs and, therefore, bring them more into line with what they should be doing to provide a proper banking structure and to be able to lend into the economy. The Government considered the overall banking position, made its decision known and that decision has generated positive comment internationally. At last, the first decisive steps have been taken to provide a banking structure that works and we will move on now to enabling banks to lend into the economy so business can be stimulated, growth fostered and jobs created. That is the fundamental commitment in the programme for Government.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Do I have more time?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry but the Deputy’s time is up.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Will it be passed on to mortgage holders or not?
An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot allow that. I call Deputy Adams.
Deputy John McGuinness: No straight answers.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Would the Taoiseach agree that the IMF statement yesterday is proof that the IMF-EU deal is a disaster for Ireland? As revealed yesterday, the figures this deal is based on are false. The deal and the international lending agreements which underpin it are good for the big bankers and their bondholders, but very bad for Irish taxpayers. However, at every turn the Government recommits to this deal. It is bad enough on the part of Fine Gael but the Labour Party and its leadership recommit to it at every turn. Labour Party Ministers are briefing on more austerity policies, more cuts and more pressure on working people, public servants and the unemployed. Seo páirtí James Connolly, mar dhea.
Would the Taoiseach not make different political choices? Paying people’s money into the banks means less money for growth and no money for jobs, front line services and for those who depend on them. It means there is no ability to pay back the burden of the banking debt. Is fear cliste é an Taoiseach. Tá fhios aige nach féidir an dubh a chur ina gheal ach ar feadh seala. Citizens elected the Taoiseach for change but níl athrú ar bith ann. There is no change in people’s pockets and no change between this Government’s policy and that of the last Government. Would the Taoiseach accept that the debt placed on the State by the last Government through the EU-IMF deal is unsustainable and that he, as our representative, must call a halt to it?
The Taoiseach: In the past eight or nine days the response internationally has been positive in respect of the decisive decisions taken by the Government.
Deputy Billy Kelleher: You were opposing them three months ago.
The Taoiseach: The IMF has recognised the validity of the Government’s call for a reduction in the interest rate, which would be important but is only part of the evolution of discussions that are taking place here. International banks and commentators, the European Union, the European Commission and the IMF have recognised the fundamental importance of the decision taken by the Government about the banking sector. That is a start, but it is only the first step in a long process.
In respect of what we must do in this country, yesterday the Government agreed on a comprehensive analysis by every Minister of how money is spent, the value for that money and how effective it is in dealing with the problems with which it is intended to deal, so there is a proper process in place with regard to the preparations for the budget for 2012 and so we do not find ourselves in a position where Ministers, as has been the case from time immemorial, do not know what type of cut will apply or whether any value has been achieved for money spent. This is a serious change in how we look at the expenditure of taxpayers’ money.
The IMF made it clear to both parties in Government, when it met with them before Christmas, that it would be entirely in order to transpose sections or sectors of the IMF-EU programme, one with another, provided compensatory amounts were produced and clarified. The two Ministers with responsibility for finance are meeting with the troika today. From that point of view we want to focus not only on cuts, but also on growth and stimulus in our economy, to provide some certainty and confidence for people who wish to get back to work or hire new workers and to get into a position where we can grow our economy. As the Deputy knows, there has been some public comment about the content of the Government’s jobs initiative which will be published in the next few weeks.
Deputy Gerry Adams: In case the Taoiseach does not know it, the IMF halved its growth prediction to 0.5%. It is reckoned there will be a shortfall of €1 billion in the Exchequer finances. The Taoiseach talks about a jobs budget. Will he introduce more cuts? He has given away the National Pensions Reserve Fund to the big banks. We proposed that it should be used for a jobs stimulus package. The Taoiseach is very clear about robbing the poor, universal social charges and so forth.
Deputy Alex White: Get off the stage.
Deputy Finian McGrath: You had your chance last week.
An Ceann Comhairle: Can we have some order please?
Deputy Micheál Martin: Steady lads.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Why will the Taoiseach not consider a third tax band? Why can he not consider exploiting natural resources for the common good, including offshore oil and gas resources? Why can he not tell the IMF and the EU that we wish to run our own affairs? We cannot always blame Fianna Fáil for what Fine Gael and the Labour Party is doing. Fianna Fáil has its responsibility but the Taoiseach is now repeating every mistake it made.
The Taoiseach: It is important to point out that we are talking about a jobs initiative, not a jobs budget.
Deputy Barry Cowen: Another U-turn.
The Taoiseach: Budgets indicate ranges of tax increases, tax changes and so forth. This jobs initiative was well flagged before the general election. It is part of the programme for Government to stimulate the indigenous economy and give a sense of confidence. I recognise, as does the Deputy, that there is a loss of consumer confidence in this country. The savings ratio of Irish people is very high at present. If one is to restore confidence so there can be job creation and so we can create opportunities, of which there are many, it is important that the Government provides an initiative in that regard. That is our focus. That includes looking at the question of providing some assurance for credit in respect of business where they cannot get it at present. I am quite sure Deputy Adams, in his capacity as a new Deputy, will have had constituents tell him that their overdrafts have been cut, that they cannot get credit and that despite the talk that goes on, there is little credit going out there. We need to be able to assure business with some degree of certainty that credit will be made available to it. That will happen now because of the decisions made in respect of the banking sector. We are talking about a jobs initiative as distinct from what the Deputy calls “a jobs budget”.
Deputy Barry Cowen: What the Taoiseach calls “a jobs budget”.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Taoiseach is the author of that.
The Taoiseach: I hope all of those Deputies who are responsible for driving this economy and our country up on to the rocks will support that initiative when it is published and when it is announced in the House, as distinct from the carry-on in which they used engage in spending taxpayers’ money with considerable amounts of spin and all the rest of it. From that perspective, this is a case of the Government taking a lead in deliberately providing incentives to stimulate the economy where jobs can be created, where opportunities can happen and where people can have some sense of confidence that what we are about is giving them that hope of which we have spoken.
In the context of the IMF-EU deal which constrains our country, the hand of cards with which we have been left is not as good as we would wish and I must play them in the best order in which we decide in the interests of the people and of the country, and that is what we will do.
Deputy Finian McGrath: Is the Taoiseach aware that 27 young persons died in State care over the past year? Is he aware that seven of the deaths were from suicide, four were drugs related and two were homicides?
Would the Taoiseach agree there is a serious situation where young people are dying while in child protection services? Why is there no outcry when these poor and vulnerable children die? Children are suffering because of this. Is the Taoiseach aware that the courts are increasingly being asked to rule on the rights of grandparents where parents cannot care for their children?
Is the Taoiseach aware that the solution lies in the children and parental responsibility Bill, which is awaiting Government action? If these young people were from affluent families, imagine the response. Does the Taoiseach accept that the death of any child is shocking? Today, I ask the Taoiseach what he will do about it. What programmes will he put in place to prevent such deaths? What will the Taoiseach do to protect these children and end these deaths, and will he bail out these children?
The Taoiseach: It is an unfortunate term Deputy Finian McGrath used at the end of his question. I am aware of the numbers of children who have died in State care. This was a matter that I, as Leader of the Opposition, raised on a number of occasions with the previous Minister for Health and Children, the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. That is why one of the decisions taken by the Government was to appoint a full Cabinet position dealing with children and youth affairs. The Deputy can take it that the Minister for Children will report to the House in respect of this matter after consultation with the Minister for Health and the Minister for Justice and Law Reform.
There is no disagreement between the Deputy and me in respect of the impact of suicide on families. It does not affect only persons from more disadvantaged areas of society. Those who live in so-called affluent areas are also subject to the tragic phenomenon of suicide. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, is dealing directly with that as a part of her mental health portfolio as a central issue as part of a health programme. This is one of her priorities.
I do not have the details of the 27 cases Deputy Finian McGrath mentions. Having raised it previously, I am aware of it. I would be happy to supply him with a full Government response in the context of what the new Minister will propose to do.
Deputy Finian McGrath: I thank the Taoiseach for his response. I reiterate strongly that a higher percentage come from disadvantaged families and disadvantaged areas.
Does the Taoiseach accept that there is a major problem with the deaths of persons who have recently left State care? Is he aware that ten young adults who had recently left State care lost their lives? Today in the House, will he support proper after-care for such young people and can he clarify the Government’s position on this? Is he satisfied with the current use of the existing resources? Is money being spent in the right places and can he give a commitment that something will be done to prevent the deaths of such children?
The Taoiseach: The question of young adults receiving after-care has been a sensitive issue in that there were claims that there was not any real interest in looking after children once they had passed that age and become young adults. I would like to think the State at a minimum should have a real interest in seeing that somebody who leaves State care gets continued assistance and help in life. The children first Bill, where a number of these policy issues that Deputy Finian McGrath correctly mentions are under consideration, will be dealt with by the Minister for children here.
It is a difficult position, when one speaks to one of these young people who has left State care and finds himself or herself lonely, isolated and seemingly without help. We must change that. That is an area on which the new Minister will focus.
An Ceann Comhairle: Before coming to the Order of Business, I propose to deal with a number of notices under Standing Order 32. I will call on the Deputies in the order in which their notices were submitted to my office. First, I call on Deputy Healy-Rae. I will move on to Deputy Joan Collins.
Deputy Joan Collins: Under Standing Order 32 of the Dáil, I move the adjournment of the Dáil to discuss the following matter of urgent public importance, namely, the announcement that 2,000 Allied Irish Banks workers are to be made redundant and the implications of this for the workers concerned, for the economy in general and for the already shocking numbers of workers who are unemployed.
Deputy Martin Ferris: Under Standing Order 32, I seek the adjournment of the House to discuss the planned laying off of 2,000 AIB workers, the impact that will have on the workers concerned and the fact that bank staff are being made to suffer while many of those who were directly responsible for the banking crisis have subsequently benefited in the form of large bonuses and have not been held to account for their actions.
An Ceann Comhairle: Having considered the matters raised, they are not in order under Standing Order 32.
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 6, Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Bill 2010 [Seanad] — Second Stage (Resumed). Private Members’ business shall be No. 19, motion re education and training.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are no proposals to be put to the House today. On the Order of Business, I call Deputy Martin.
Deputy Seán Fleming: On a point of order, I raise the issue of Ministers not answering questions here in the House.
Deputy Seán Fleming: I know it is a laugh. It is strictly a point of order. As the Chamber will be aware, Deputy Howlin was announced by the Taoiseach to be Minister for public expenditure and reform and in recent times all questions directed to him, either orally or in writing, have been redirected to the Minister for Finance. I remind the House that the record shows that the last time there was a Minister without portfolio, the Minister answered questions in this House before the legislation to establish the Department was set up. I ask that the Ceann Comhairle examine the matter with a view to making a ruling on it.
An Ceann Comhairle: I will look into the issue on the Deputy’s behalf. I assure him that I make every effort to ensure Deputies’ questions are answered.
Deputy Seán Fleming: Thank you.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Martin on the Order of Business and not the point that his colleague has already addressed.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Standing Order 34 is the one which we seek to invoke.
An Ceann Comhairle: I will deal with that.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Thank you. I hope you do because it is not about answering questions; it is the facility to ask because a Minister who appears on “Morning Ireland”——
An Ceann Comhairle: I thank the Deputy.
Deputy Micheál Martin: ——can be questioned by everyone in the media but cannot be questioned by anyone in this House. That shows the absurdity of the situation. I ask the Taoiseach about the business of reforming the terms of reference of the Dáil because it is bizarre and absurd that Ministers can answer questions on “Morning Ireland” and other media but cannot answer Deputies’ questions. It makes no sense.
An Ceann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to proceed. I am looking into the question.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: We had 14 years of it.
Deputy Micheál Martin: In the context of the amendments to Standing Orders, which I understand the Taoiseach is promoting, and the changes to the committee system, will he ensure there will be genuine consultation between all the parties? There has been no meaningful consultation thus far between the Whips on these important issues and the sense we are getting is that the Government intends to use its large majority to ram through changes to the committee system and Standing Orders. I hope that is not the case but it is certainly the sense we are getting.
The Taoiseach: I want to answer the Deputy directly. There will be meaningful consultations with the Members of this House. I speak with experience of this matter. The first question from the Deputy that I answered was about changing the way we do business in this Chamber to reflect the Ireland of 2011 and the right of every Deputy to contribute and have his or her say. The Whips will be meeting this week to start a real consultative process on changing Standing Orders and the way we do business. Deputies can take it from me that the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, which is under the direction of the Ceann Comhairle has an interest in this. I would like to see committee proceedings being covered by an Oireachtas channel so that the people of the country can see their elected representatives dealing with issues that are relevant to committees and the personnel who attend them. In the context of transparency and accountability, a serious issue arises that needs to be addressed.
I would be more than willing to receive Deputy Martin’s proposals on Dáil reform, unlike when he sat on this side of the House. Time and again we made proposals on changing it and making it more effective but it was like water off a duck’s back to the then Chief Whip and whoever stood here.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
The Taoiseach: I assure the Deputy that while this Government might have the strongest majority in the history of the State, there will be genuine consultation but there will also be a conclusion and a decision in respect of making this place more relevant to the needs of the people and the Deputies who are elected here.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: They are like Punch and Judy over there.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I welcome that commitment and I would like to see it delivered shortly.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I ask whether the Government has made a decision on the scheduling of Report Stage of the Nurses and Midwives Bill 2010. There is considerable interest in this important legislation, which was one of the two Bills prioritised on the first week of the new Dáil. We have received no indication as of yet when Report Stage will present and I ask the Taoiseach to clarify the matter.
In a reply issued to me last week, the Minister for Health and Children stated that the Government is committed to a review of the Mental Health Act 2001 and indicated that the review would be influenced, guided and formed by human rights standards, which I welcomed. The list of proposed legislation which was circulated last week makes reference to the mental health (amendment) Bill. Is it the intention to proceed with that Bill, which was described as technical in nature, or is the Government holding back on the review of the 2001 Act? I ask the Taoiseach to clarify the intentions of the Government and the Department of Health and Children in this regard.
The Taoiseach: I thank the Deputy for his questions. The Nurses and Midwives Bill will be discussed at the Whips’ meeting at 5 p.m. tomorrow and the schedule for taking it can be agreed then. It is expected that the mental health (amendment) Bill will be taken in 2011. It comprises 17 heads and it is being introduced to make technical amendments to the Mental Health Act 2001, which are necessary to correct drafting errors, are mandated by court rulings or are desirable in the interest of clarity.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I wish to clarify the issue, with the Ceann Comhairle’s indulgence.
An Ceann Comhairle: No.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Last week the Minister indicated that a review would be conducted of the 2001 Act. I note some confusion because if we are to proceed with the mental health (amendment) Bill where does the review kick in? Will it be held off until after the review?
The Taoiseach: I am not sure about the clarification of the word “review”. The Chief Whip’s report on the legislative programme clearly indicates that the mental health (amendment) Bill will be taken in 2011. A Seanad Bill, the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008, was also published and is due to be taken on Second Stage in the Dáil. This is a matter which the Deputy can usefully raise at the Whips’ meeting.
Deputy Joe Higgins: Only one week ago, it was announced in regard to the legislative programme that tackling the jobs crisis is the Government’s top priority and that it will shortly publish finance legislation to stimulate job creation. If we are to reflect the Ireland of 2011, as the Taoiseach stated, why are we not having an emergency debate on today’s shocking announcement that 2,000 workers are to be made redundant in Allied Irish Banks? These are not the spivs and speculators who caused this crisis; they are ordinary workers. When will the Government come forward with emergency finance legislation with regard to jobs? Only two weeks after it was announced that €24 billion of taxpayers’ money would go into the banks, their response was to push the numbers unemployed closer to 500,000.
An Ceann Comhairle: I thank the Deputy.
Deputy Joe Higgins: How does the Taoiseach respond to that?
The Taoiseach: I respond by stating, as I stated last week, that the Government will bring forward its jobs initiative before the end of May and it will be announced in the House, where it should be announced and unlike what happened on other occasions. That will be a demonstration of seriousness, in parallel with making decisions on sorting out the banking sector which were left on the long finger for far too long, in order to bring about some restoration of confidence. It will not provide all the answers to the more than 440,000 people, or 14% of the workforce, who are out of work.
Deputy Joe Higgins: It is hardly a good start to put 2,000 workers on the dole.
The Taoiseach: This is a most serious position but there is no point in running away from it. We have to face it down and one way we will restore confidence and hope is by providing a national initiative in terms of stimulating our own economy.
Deputies: Hear hear.
The Taoiseach: That will be announced in this House by the Minister for Finance.
Deputy Michael McGrath: The Minister, Deputy Noonan, previously stated in the House that the finance (No. 2) Bill 2011, which will give legal effect to the jobs initiative to which the Taoiseach referred, will be budget neutral and will therefore include compensatory measures. Can the Taoiseach confirm that in order to fund a reduction in VAT and employer PRSI, we will face further spending cuts or tax increases in the summer to fund the jobs initiative?
The Taoiseach: The jobs initiative Bill will have to be approved by the troika but it indicated when we met it before Christmas that sectors of the IMF-EU deal could be transposed provided they were revenue neutral, and that will be the case. This is not a budget in the sense of proposing new taxes. Adjustments will be made from the internal Votes of Departments.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Given the devastating announcement that 2,000 jobs are to be lost in Allied Irish Banks, an institution which is 92.8% owned by the Government and which we have bailed out ——
An Ceann Comhairle: Sorry Deputy, this is the Order of Business.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: —— to the tune of €20.5 billion, are we not going to have an emergency debate on those job losses and the fact that they are being visited on ordinary workers while, for example, the CEO of that bank is reported as earning €500,000 per year? Are we going to discuss the devastating consequences for the workers concerned?
An Ceann Comhairle: Is time being given for a debate?
The Taoiseach: There are devastating consequences. Clearly, there are also issues of governance in the banks which need to, and will, be addressed. Obviously, this is a matter of the most serious concern to the 2,000 workers, the vast majority of whom had neither hand, act nor part, or who were not involved in any way, in the crisis inflicted on the country. This is a matter where the persons involved should engage in extensive consultation with those workers.
I advise the Deputy to raise this serious matter at the Whips’ meeting which will take place tomorrow. We can make arrangements to have a debate about it, if that is agreeable. I have no objection to that at all.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: In view of the fact the Government owns in excess of 90% of AIB, will it use its position as the major shareholder to ensure there are no compulsory redundancies?
An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a matter for the Order of Business but for when the debate takes place tomorrow.
The Taoiseach: We will include that in the debate.
Deputy Martin Ferris: I asked a question last week of the Minister in regard to the situation of Coillte. I was told it would amalgamate with Bord na Móna and remain in State ownership. However, a senior Minister said on radio this morning that the Government intended to sell off the mature forestry. Will it be sold off to speculators——
An Ceann Comhairle: This is not a matter for the Order of Business.
Deputy Martin Ferris: ——or will it remain in State ownership?
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy tables a question to the Minister——
Deputy Martin Ferris: We deserve an answer to that question. There are two conflicting reports from the Minister.
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy tables a question, he will get a full answer.
Deputy Martin Ferris: We deserve an answer. I have asked the Taoiseach a question.
An Ceann Comhairle: Not on the Order of Business.
Deputy Martin Ferris: What does he intend——
An Ceann Comhairle: Not on the Order of Business.
Deputy Martin Ferris: Is legislation being brought forward to do that?
An Ceann Comhairle: Is there legislation promised in this area?
The Taoiseach: The Government is committed not to sell Coillte but to amalgamate it with Bord na Móna.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Jonathan O’Brien.
Deputy Martin Ferris: The Minister, Deputy Coveney, said this morning that the Government was selling off the majority——
The Taoiseach: I did not hear that.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Jonathan O’Brien.
Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: I notice the mental capacity Bill is being put back to late September or early October. As the Taoiseach will be aware, it was already put back by the previous Government. It is a key piece of legislation providing for the wardship system. With his massive majority, of which the Taoiseach reminds us every day, can he bring it forward to commence before the summer recess?
The Taoiseach: I am sorry but I did not hear the question.
Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: I refer to the mental capacity Bill.
The Taoiseach: One of the things I have tried to do with the parliamentary session is when a commitment is made to bring forward a Bill that it actually happens and that we do not have lists of Bills which are named to be produced at a certain time but which never happens. Let us get a little focus on this. The Bill is scheduled for later in the year. I do not know the position on bringing it forward to an earlier time but I am sure the Minister of State with responsibility will look at that and will let the Deputy know.
Deputy Michael McCarthy: The animal health and welfare Bill is listed on the legislative programme. That Bill is long anticipated and updates existing legislation in the area of animal health and welfare. When will it be published and taken in the House?
The Taoiseach: There is no date listed for that Bill but the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is hopeful that it can be produced before the summer.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: On the Finance (No. 2) Bill, as a previous speaker said, the Minister for Finance informed me it would be cost neutral and that counterbalancing measures would be brought forward. After having his knuckles rapped by the IMF at the weekend, the Taoiseach——
An Ceann Comhairle: I remind the Deputy this is the Order of Business. Has the Deputy a question about promised legislation?
Deputy Pearse Doherty: The promised legislation is the Finance (No. 2) Bill. After having his knuckles rapped by the IMF——
An Ceann Comhairle: We are not having a debate on that.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: ——in regard to the budgetary deficit and given the fact the fiscal parameters to which the Taoiseach has agreed adhere——
An Ceann Comhairle: What does the Deputy want to know about the Bill?
Deputy Pearse Doherty: This is in regard to the legislation.
An Ceann Comhairle: No, it is not.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: It is.
An Ceann Comhairle: It may be but the Deputy may not order a debate at this time. This is the Order of Business which is about promised legislation and when it is due.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: This is promised legislation.
An Ceann Comhairle: I think the Taoiseach has already answered that question.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: Let me ask the question in order that Taoiseach can answer it.
An Ceann Comhairle: No. The Deputy cannot make statements.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: I refer to promised legislation. It is not a statement but a question. Given the fact this Government has agreed to stay within the fiscal parameters laid down which were based on 405,000 unemployed,——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is totally out of order.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: ——a figure we are now exceeding with average unemployment exceeding by 37,000 per month,——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should not abuse——
Deputy Pearse Doherty: ——will the Finance (No. 2) Bill be cost neutral or will this be another austerity budget——
An Ceann Comhairle: That is not allowed on the Order Business.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: ——introduced by this Government——
An Ceann Comhairle: That is not allowed on the Order Business.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: ——to hike up taxes and cut spending on the most vulnerable and weakest in society? Will it be cost neutral or has there been a change in policy after the meeting with the IMF?
An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy please resume his seat? Taoiseach, we are not debating this Bill.
The Taoiseach: We are not.
An Ceann Comhairle: We just want to know when it is being taken.
The Taoiseach: I respect the Ceann Comhairle’s authority. I think Deputy Doherty got his knuckles rapped by the IMF in a couple of the contributions I heard from it in respect of his proposals. I advise him to await and debate the constructive suggestions and proposals that will be in the Government’s jobs initiative. As I said, he will have it before the end of May.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: Will it be cost neutral?
The Taoiseach: Yes.
Deputy Mick Wallace: Will legislation be considered——
An Ceann Comhairle: Is it promised?
Deputy Mick Wallace: ——in regard to debt relief for mortgage holders given that we have just had the first interest rate increase and that there are probably more coming down the tracks? There are huge problems coming down the tracks for many people, especially for those who bought property between 2004 and 2008 who will not have a hope of paying their mortgages. Will the Government consider——
An Ceann Comhairle: Not on the Order of Business.
Deputy Mick Wallace: ——relief for mortgage holders?
An Ceann Comhairle: This is in regard to promised legislation.
The Taoiseach: As the Deputy is aware, the Government is considering a number of proposals in respect of mortgage holders as agreed in the programme for national recovery. They include increasing the mortgage interest relief to 30% for first-time buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008; directing any mortgage provider in receipt of State support to present Government with a plan on how it intends to cut its costs over and above existing plans in a manner that would be fair and sufficient to forego a 25 basis point increase in its variable mortgage rate; introducing a two year moratorium on repossessions of modest family homes in order that people can be assured that the roof will not be taken from over their heads where they are making an honest effort to meet their repayments; and fast tracking bankruptcy reform which is so completely outdated that it is necessary to do this as a matter of urgency and converting the Money Advice and Budgeting Service into a strengthened personal debt management agency. The Minister for Finance will bring forward a number of proposals shortly in that regard.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Will the interest rates be passed on to the mortgage holders? “Yes” or “” No”. That is what the Government promised and committed to.
An Ceann Comhairle: We are not going to promise here.
Deputy Micheál Martin: It was very categoric that the Government would prevent the State supported banks from passing interest rate increases to mortgage holders.
An Ceann Comhairle: This is not a debate.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I asked this question earlier but I did not get a reply.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry but this is not a debate.
The Taoiseach: This is part of a package where the Government made it clear that banks should be required to reduce their cost base in order to ease the burden for borrowers and mortgage holders.
Deputy Micheál Martin: The Government said it would prevent them from passing them on.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Noel Harrington.
Deputy Noel Harrington: When will the sea-fisheries legislation to allow for the decriminalisation of minor sea-fisheries breaches be introduced?
An Ceann Comhairle: Is legislation promised?
Deputy Noel Harrington: It is promised in the legislative programme.
The Taoiseach: I do not have a date for it. It is an important but minor Bill and we are committed to bringing it forward.
Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Deputy Noel Harrington: It has been a while since I first spoke on the Bill. I will declare an interest in the legislation under discussion. I provide a postal service in Castletownbere, west Cork, although I am self-employed and not directly employed by An Post. I am a small operator at the working end of the mail delivery service.
An Ceann Comhairle: I ask for some order for the speaker.
Deputy Noel Harrington: I work in an extremely peripheral part of the country. As an operator in the postal service, I welcome the legislation. It is inevitable that European legislation will allow for the final part of the deregulation of postal services. If it is not dealt with by national legislation and in an efficient manner in the Chamber, we will find ourselves in a situation where we have no control or management. It is important to manage the situation to maximise the legislation to the benefit of our consumers.
There are six or seven main provisions in the legislation that may be the source of serious concern to employees and consumers of An Post, particularly consumers in more remote rural areas where the service could come under the influence of cherry picking by the private sector.  The designation of the universal service provider to An Post is a very important step in this legislation. To some degree, it gives a measure of protection to the company and, more importantly, it gives great protection to the consumer. Consumers in remote areas are worried that the terms of the legislation mean they will face three-day deliveries or severe disruption to postal deliveries. The designation of An Post as the universal service provider is a significant part of the legislation.
The expenditure incurred by An Post to provide for the universal service obligation is serious and must be reviewed on an ongoing basis. It may well be shipped by An Post at an early stage to attract potential users to the postal market. The margins are quite small and it is not attractive at the moment for potential investors and new users to enter the market. There is a major amount of legislation to be dealt with and it is not as attractive as one may first consider it. As the market becomes more deregulated, it is important that the expenditure incurred by An Post be examined with a view to levying the expenditure over the entire market to the new service users. If that is not appropriate, the Exchequer must take up the slack. We can try to provide a decent postal service for our consumers and a level playing field. The Minister outlined that the universal service obligation provides for a daily delivery and collection from every address in this State. It will be very difficult to achieve that if the legislation is not managed in an efficient manner.
The role of ComReg is an important feature of this legislation. It is right that ComReg is tasked with facilitating competition, setting standards, monitoring compliance, issuing directives to operators and discussing standards, pricing and pricing caps. It will be a challenge for ComReg to set up a regulatory system that can attract new postal operators while preserving the network in which An Post has invested. I refer specifically to the major volume of mail sorting facilities in the country, the mail delivery network and the An Post retail network, which is the largest retail and delivery network in the country. Many people gloss over the statistic that there is a presence in almost every town and village in this country. That was not done easily but was built up over decades. A major amount of technology has been developed in recent years. ComReg has the task of allowing new postal service users to piggyback on the network. It will be a difficult balancing act in terms of timing, agreements, compensation and remuneration and ensuring that, from the consumer’s point of view, private operators do not try to cherry pick the most profitable parts of the business. No one in the Chamber supports the idea of an efficient service that leaves some parts of our country and our consumers without a minimal service. This might amount to a three-day week service. There are consequences for everyone and we should avoid that if we can.
ComReg will regulate many of the operators that have sprung up in every town and village over the past ten or 15 years. This applies particularly to parcels and packet services. I refer to companies with a turnover of less than €500,000. Will the register of service providers include operators with a turnover of less than €500,000? Will ComReg impose on those operators terms and obligations that may well put some of the smaller operators out of business? Even though they compete with An Post, they do so very efficiently and no one wants to see small rural and urban operators finding it onerous to continue in business because of a major amount of regulation by ComReg. We must bear this in mind.
The Bill also deals with the offences. I know many people who have worked with An Post and they are told very clearly about offences committed when one does not sail an even keel. It is not clear if the offences will be applied to every other postal service provider in this country. That is a very important point, particularly in respect of delaying, tampering, theft of mail and breaches of confidentiality that can only deeply hurt and affect the efficiency of postal services, irrespective of who provides the service. ComReg has an important role to play, as does the Garda Síochána and other State authorities. More clarity on this point would be helpful.
The provision of postcodes has been discussed in this Chamber over a number of years. I am concerned at the lack of clarity in the Bill. Much work has been done on introducing postcodes. Discussions on the Bill suggested it would provide efficiencies and quality benefits within the sector, stimulate mail volume growth, boost national competitiveness, address the problem of non-unique addressing, assist in the provision of public and private sector services, facilitate the entry of new postal operators to the Irish marketplace and bring Ireland in line with other international markets. While the Bill may to a small degree address all of these issues, I am concerned that a system without postcodes, while it may not work to everyone’s advantage in terms of bringing about the type of vanity addresses some people would like and may mean we are out of line with other European countries, will not provide us with economic advantages or stimulate the type of growth the national postcodes project board believes it will provide.
I am concerned about the misuse of postcodes. If a person dials an incorrect telephone number he or she will not contact the person he or she wants. However, I know from experience working in the postal service, that many people believe mail will get to the right person if the address they put on it is near enough to the correct one and, very often, it does. However, if the consumer does not use the postcode system properly we will lose the benefits of having it. The real crux of introducing a postcode system is the cost to be incurred by An Post, the Exchequer, ComReg or whoever will be tasked with implementing it. In this regard, while I am not sure of what will be the true cost I have heard mention of figures in the region of €14 million and €20 million. In the current climate, this may, in terms of cost, appear a bit of a vanity. It is perhaps money that could be better spent in a more targeted manner.
We have a strong affinity with our townlands, particularly in rural areas. I am not sure if this is unique to Ireland. The reality is that postcodes in parts of our countryside will not provide a person with a unique address. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility to have three or four people with the same Christian and surnames living in the same townland. A postcode will not solve that problem. This is one of the biggest issues with which mail operators must deal on a daily basis. Some mornings, the post office is a bit like Scotland Yard in terms of trying to figure out to whom a particular piece of mail is to be delivered. Mail is often returned to sender because the addressee cannot be determined. While this may not be an issue for the GPO or the headquarters of any other postal operator it is one of the big issues on the ground in terms of resources and time.
The postcode system will not in most cases address the problem of non-unique addressing. It will also not address another issue which many operators experience in terms of delivering mail, namely, the use by many consumers of vanity addresses. These are addresses in a particular area wherein people would like to live rather than those in which they live. This happens quite often. Postcodes can often determine property prices or a person’s chances of getting a good job, although I do not suggest this has happened. This issue must be addressed. There is a lack of clarity in the legislation in this regard.
I would prefer if more thought could be given to the issue of postcodes before a final decision is made. As a new Member, I am not sure if it is possible to provide for a moratorium on a particular section of a Bill following enactment. I am not sure of the procedure in that regard. On that issue alone, some questions remain to be answered.
When it comes to value for money, the charge could be made that we are on an ego trip in terms of spending money on a vanity project at a time when An Post, as a postal carrier, is making huge grounds with its next day delivery service. As I understand it, the figure in that regard is 90%. This has been achieved by way of finding more efficient ways of doing business, without the use of postcodes.
As regards the other provisions, many Members will be interested in the section dealing with free election post for candidates. However, it is not clear who will pay for this service. Will it be postal service provider or the Exchequer? I would like clarity on that issue.
The Minister when moving the Second Stage of the Bill stated that the postal service is under severe threat not alone from deregulation or competition — many people in the postal service embrace competition — but from the electronic mail service. Why not? One can send an e-mail with the touch of a button. More often than not such mail is correct, which is what we all want. I am disappointed that our postal service providers did not embraced the electronic mail service as quickly as they could have. The technology has been in place for decades and has been in use for the past ten years. This service would have provided greater relevancy to post offices, retail outlets and postal service providers. While the level of broadband connectivity in our homes is high, many people do not have access to it. Such people might avail of a service provided by libraries or post offices.
Post offices play a strong role in our communities. We need to tread careful with this legislation. I support its provisions and welcome deregulation and competition. If managed correctly, this legislation will be positive not alone for service providers but for communities.
As this is my first contribution in the Chamber I take this opportunity to thank the people of the constituency of Cork South West for placing their trust in me. I thank them sincerely for doing so. I hope I can live up to it.
An Ceann Comhairle: Congratulations on your maiden speech. I call Deputy Brian Stanley, whom I understand is sharing time with Deputy Catherine Murphy. Deputy Stanley has ten minutes.
Deputy Brian Stanley: I congratulate Deputy Harrington on his maiden speech which was very interesting——
Deputy Peter Mathews: Hear, hear.
Deputy Brian Stanley: ——in particular in terms of what he had to say about vanity addresses. It is amazing what people will do to get noticed.
As a representative of a mostly rural constituency, I am familiar with the challenges facing my community and the counties of Laois and Offaly. Like other rural counties, these counties have been left behind by the Government when it comes to regional development. We have witnessed the withdrawal of vital services such as post offices that were once the heart beat of our communities. I witnessed families who had run local post offices for 40 or 50 years having to lock their doors for the last time.
The Irish Postmasters Union has said that the income of postmasters in some rural areas can be as little as €10,000 per annum. Postmasters are not being replaced on retirement even though post offices are seen as a lifeline for many people living in rural areas. Post offices remain the only public institution in many small towns and villages. Communities are dependent on this public institution for employment. There are 370 people employed in the sorting centre in Portlaoise. They are decent jobs with good working conditions and union representation. They must be some of the last jobs of that kind left in this State, so why is the Government actively trying to jeopardise them? Make no mistake about it, the Bill will close post offices and impact on An Post. More jobs will be lost and another service will be gone. Sadly, such closures are not unique in rural areas. Garda stations, corner shops and local pubs are all suffering the same fate.
The Bill, if passed, will have a profound impact on the lives of rural dwellers as well as postal workers, in particular on the lives of older people. The Government obviously does not realise the importance of the local post office as a social hub for older people. The Bill will allow private operators to cherry pick business, with whom to do business and where the most profit is to be made.
The services will go to highly populated urban areas, leaving the State operator as the sole service provider in rural areas. It has been said that the public service obligation will be protected but private operators will not take on the least profitable part of the service. This kind of arrangement will lead to high costs for doing business in rural areas. The State provider will be obliged to continue the service and will be compelled to fund it by either receiving massive subsidies from the taxpayer or massively increasing its prices, or initiating a combination of both.
Either way, the people of rural communities will lose out. They will face higher costs for basic postal services. Anyone in Government who thinks this will not be the case is living in a dream world. Low income older people in rural areas may already have to drive to the next village to use the post office or to pay their bills. We are all aware of the increases in transport costs and petrol. Such people may only be able to afford to take a trip once a week. When they go to the post office, they pay bills, post letters and perhaps put by some money in savings. The post office acts as an important social centre for them.
Given the very sparsely populated nature of rural Ireland and the isolation experienced by many, communities frequently feel helpless in their ability to halt the decline. Their voices are not being heard in the corridors of power. Their lobbies are too weak to exert the pressure that is needed to bring about change and in any case the Government is certainly not listening to them.
Between 2001 and 2008, some 344 post offices closed and many others were downgraded. The majority of closures took place in rural areas. Closures and downgrading place a huge strain on local communities. The post office increases footfall to local businesses in villages and, therefore, when one post office closes in a rural area, it has a knock-on effect which is felt by other local businesses nearby.
There is a need for a clear Government policy on the minimum number of post offices that are necessary in the State. In order to save a number of post offices at risk of imminent closure, the Government should intervene in the form of a public service obligation order. Sinn Féin has consistently stated there are services that could be expanded in rural post offices to enhance their economic potential, including combining postal services with council services to provide insurance and taxation services, developing post offices as centres of information and making door-to-door deliveries for people with impaired mobility.
I paid my motor tax in a post office in Scotland when I lived there. The local post office van doubled as local public transport. Such things can be done. Rural transport programmes in this State are ill-equipped to offer access to post offices, while travelling to post offices in other towns is time consuming and ecologically damaging. Even if adequate public transport existed, the damage to the social fabric of rural communities would be immeasurable. A number of initiatives have been taken in other countries to prevent the closure of post offices through developing the types of social services to which I referred.
While An Post is mandated by legislation to engage only in profit-making initiatives, the State could intervene in the form of a public service obligation order. If the EU was to authorise such an order, post offices scheduled for closure could be entitled to a subvention and therefore broaden their services to ensure their viability. We have always believed that the Government should intervene in the form of a public service intervention order to enable the subvention of post offices in rural areas to ensure post masters’ incomes are brought to the minimum wage as a matter of priority
This and the previous Government have neglected the importance of the post office in the lives of older people and those in rural areas. Localised services assist older people in living independently in their own homes. Some older people may be relying on a visit from the post man or woman as the only daily contact they have. This is a very important social support that cannot be allowed to disappear.
The social supports provided by post offices consistently go unnoticed and unacknowledged. People who collect social welfare payments in post offices usually pay their bills at the same time and vulnerable people who very often face difficulties in opening a bank account, such as Travellers, unemployed people or refugees, can open accounts without any difficulty in the local post office. Other European states have taken the approach that citizens must be entitled to a postal service within a certain distance of their home.
Why will the Government not do this in Ireland? The answer is quite simple. It is because this Government is not concerned with enhancing public services to maintain employment and ensure that people can access services. It would much rather pass legislation like this Bill that will give private operators a foot in the door and the opportunity to make money while rural people are left high and dry without services or with services that they cannot afford to use. I ask the Government to take heed of what we are saying and not pass this Bill in its current form. Furthermore, we ask it to stop the privatisation agenda it has embarked on.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: We have had a postal service for in excess of 300 years. Therefore, it is a service that is well used to change. Most of the change occurred because of new opportunities and challenges that opened up the opportunity to improve delivery times. The service developed from the initial stagecoach service linked by the designation of post towns to the development of the railways in the 19th century and then onto road transport in the 20th century, particularly after the First World War.
Clearly, the urbanisation of Ireland, which has been the dominant pattern of growth in recent decades, has changed things again. However, the last part of the journey has always been a person physically delivering post door-to-door to a business or a home, which has happened for hundreds of years. At times that was vitally important, such as in the second half of the 19th century when $260 million was delivered by the postal service. We all know just how vital that was. Indeed, it also provided the funds for many to emigrate, which is unfortunately a feature of today’s Ireland.
The changes being debated in this Bill have been brought about by our membership of the European Union and the Single Market in particular. It seeks, according to the document prepared by the Oireachtas library service, to safeguard universal services and facilitate competition within a liberalised postal market. If there is one thing that our financial crisis tells us, it is that the European Union is a very diverse place.
I did not support the Single European Act or the Maastricht treaty. However, as a democrat I respect the view that was expressed at the ballot box by the citizens of Ireland and this is one of the issues that flows from that. What I feel we need to keep in mind when adopting any legislation is what the outcome will be not just now, but in years to come. We also need to look at the practical issues that flow from the changes we make. As this Bill provides for An Post to be the designated universal service provider for the next seven years, there is a temptation to postpone some concerns.
The designation of An Post as the universal service provider followed an evaluation that determined An Post to be the only service provider currently capable of providing the universal service following the market opening. The three things we need to ensure are that we retain a universal service, retain a quality service, which is what I believe we currently have, and that the jobs of those providing the service continue to be of a good standard. The Oireachtas Library document states that in Ireland “it is suggested that the economics of postal service provision may not facilitate low cost competition and will not allow for two operators operating a profitable nationwide delivery network at the same time”. If that is currently the case and given the difficult economic times ahead, it is frankly very difficult to see when this might occur in the medium term, or even at all.
If the service is broken up it will inevitably lead to a less satisfactory and perhaps more expensive service, particularly in rural areas. That must be avoided. The postal service currently provided by An Post is just that; a postal and parcel delivery service. It is often the only human contact people, particularly older people, have and that is not just in rural areas. All sorts of deliveries used to be made door to door on a daily basis, such as milk, bread and insurance. Most of that has stopped and there is a presumption that everyone can make it to the shops, that everyone has a car and that we are all equal. However, we know that is not the case. Everything must not be measured in economic and efficiency terms; it is impossible to quantify the value of human contact. It has a practical outturn for people who are very isolated.
One potential issue raised by the Communication Workers Union is that of zonal pricing. Ultimately, the cost of this would be borne by those living in less populated areas. There needs to be an explicit understanding throughout this Bill that its aim is the provision of a universal service. We should not deviate from that in any way.
ComReg is to take on the mantle of supervising the service. For example, it may issue a direction to the universal service provider to take corrective action where it finds failures and I have no problem with that. Section 39 makes provision that any expenses incurred by ComReg in regulating the postal service can be recouped from postal providers that are providing services under the scope of the universal service provider. We are told that this levy shall be imposed “in an objective and transparent and proportionate manner”. For the moment at least, this levy will be imposed on a monopoly. Additional costs in a situation where there is no scope for State funding means the levy will ultimately be imposed on the consumer. There obviously needs to be some cap on this in order to ensure that such a levy is reasonable.
The ownership of postal infrastructure is also something in which ComReg has an interest. Post boxes and databases might seem like a small issue, but we know potential competitors often seek to access some aspects of the incumbent’s network, rather than build an entire competing network. I saw first hand what occurred when Dublin Bus and a private operator operated in north Kildare. Each had their own time tables, their own bus stops and termini. The one thing that did not seem to be considered was the consumer. The travelling public had to figure out for themselves what they were supposed to do. I saw people standing between two bus stops and guessing the next service that would arrive. This cannot occur with our postal services. Not every service lends itself to competition and I have serious doubts that the postal service can do this, particularly with the structure of our population.
The Bill clearly acknowledges the diversity of the European Union and it does not insist that one size fits all in how liberalization of the market takes place. Those countries that have been designated in the intense competition category are already along the way towards a liberalized postal market. We can see the issues that have been thrown. For example, the Royal Mail has a problem in closing the pension deficit gap and liberalization is taking place in that context. This is not without its consequences. An Post has a €400 million deficit in its own pension fund. How that deficit is to be closed is an issue in itself and it is of concern when dealing with how the market might be liberalised.
One area where An Post has competed with door to door delivery is in the area of advertising material. This has grown so much that many homes have placed “no junk mail” notices on their letter boxes. I estimate that up to 20% of homes in my area have one of these signs. It is not yet a feature in rural areas, but it is dominant in urban areas. I expect that figure will grow and this provides an opportunity for An Post to get better penetration. I presume the delivery of advertising material is excluded from regulation, although I am not entirely sure.
While we are the only country in the EU not to have post codes, we seem to exist fine without them and An Post itself cannot see any benefit from their introduction. This is an expensive luxury at a time of economic difficulty. I can see the value of the codes in the collection of social and economic data, but this does not justify spending €15-20 million. The initiative is intended to improve our postal service, but there is no evidence that will occur. Incidentally, the Bill states that liberalization of postal services will incur no costs on the Exchequer. If the Exchequer does not pick up the €20 million tab for the introduction of post codes, then it will fall to An Post and that will have a knock-on effect on the cost of the service to consumers. We are all acutely aware of that at the moment.
We are told that the introduction of post codes would see the country divided up into 200 post towns, with 40 to 50 properties within each post town. That would have to be sensitively handled. Such identity tags have thrown up conflicts within counties. For example, the proposed change is likely to ignore county boundaries, and although I do not personally have a difficulty with that, the issue of county identity is important for many and there are likely to be conflicts. Do we really need these conflicts? Some of those will have a practical impact. Post codes could be used for insurance purposes, with some people paying a higher premium, or even used as part of the school enrolment criteria. We do not know what way they would be used. We have seen conflicts such as that between Glasnevin and Finglas in Dublin 9 and Dublin 11, and between Ballyfermot and Palmerstown in Dublin 10 and Dublin 20, so we can predict it will happen. We have to resolve many problems in this country, and this one should be long fingered.
Currently there are 5,000 skilled employees in An Post. There seems to be evidence that where liberalization takes place, it can contribute to job losses. The fact that the market is being opened up to competition at a time when new technology is changing work practices makes it difficult to quantify the exact number of jobs, but I have no doubt that it is having an adverse impact and it is valid for postal workers to be concerned.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: I would like to share my time with Deputy Nolan.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: Now that the Bill is before us, it is important we give it strong scrutiny. Will it go to a full committee of the House, rather than remain in here? The committees have not been established yet, so can we delay the legislation until that happens? It needs proper scrutiny in the committee rooms. Interest groups such as the Communication Workers Union could be brought in to update us on their opinion on the Bill. The Bill was dealt with in the Seanad in less than one month before Christmas, at a time when the outgoing Government’s tenure was coming to an end. Committee and Report Stages took place within a week and debate only took place for a couple of hours each day. I do not believe it has had the scrutiny it deserves. It is very important that it has good scrutiny here. There has been an election, with a change of Government, and the present Administration needs to familiarise itself with this legislation and its implications and really think them through. I would like to see interested stakeholders invited in to consider the legislation at Oireachtas committee level and go through it bit by bit.
Most Deputies agree that what we have with An Post should be protected. We should adopt a precautionary principle with the legislation and do the minimum with it so An Post is protected as much as possible. It is a matter of going through the different parts of the Bill with a fine tooth comb. I realise the date for transposition has passed, but what will happen if we take another couple of months, to ensure the committees are up and running so the Bill may be given the fullest consideration possible? I would appreciate if the Government would consider that.
At one stage the Communications Workers Union, CWU, was asking whether there could be a moratorium as regards this legislation. I do not know whether that is possible, but there are many incidences where we do not transpose European Union directives for years, and we allow the Commission to take us all the way to the European Court of Justice, threatening fines and so on. This procedure can continue for many years. Is there an urgency in bringing forward this legislation? Would it not be better for us to take the necessary time to get it right?
The case being made by the Communications Workers Union was to the effect that there should be proper implementation of Recital 16, which states that the directive “is without prejudice to the competence of member states to regulate employment conditions in the postal services sector, which should not, however, lead to unfair competition”. It says social considerations should be duly taken into account when preparing the opening of the postal market. The union, in particular, placed a strong emphasis on the social considerations and the need for these to be taken into account. That has been raised here on many occasions.
The CWU makes the point that we are in a different place now. It is not just that we have had an election, but so much has happened over the last couple of years both in this country and in other parts of the European Union. We should not just keep doing things on the basis that since this was the way something was started we must conclude as it began. We could change our minds and find ways to strengthen the legislation. We have a good postal service. I was looking at some of the statistics provided by the CWU, which show we have very competitive postage costs, the eighth lowest out of the 29 member states. Ireland is the seventh most efficient postal operator out of the 29. An Post operates with no State subvention or taxpayer support. Sometimes people complain about letters not being delivered, but in general our postal service is pretty good. It is remarkable when one thinks about what is involved from once a letter is posted, say, in Dublin to its arrival in Clonakilty, where Deputy Harrington is from, the next day. We have a remarkably good postal service and we do not want to lose that. We want to protect what we have. This legislation must be seen against the backdrop of the philosophy and ideology imposed by the European Union as regards the free market and competition. We need to examine these concepts again at EU level. The EU used to say that Ireland was doing great in respect of the economy, and now look what has happened. Now it wants to punish us. I believe the whole ideology that underpins much of the work of the EU and its member states needs to be re-examined and questioned. Obviously it is very important for the Labour Party as part of Government to reflect on this and what we stand for. What does the left stand for now? While we cannot go back to the time of the Soviet Union, it is fair to say that the policies of the right have failed our economies over the last few years.
All this emanates very much from a right wing perspective, namely, that the free market will somehow reach equilibrium over time. That was often said as regards the Irish housing market.  I saw a documentary where the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, spoke about how in reply to a question, he was told it was the free market and that this would work itself out. We all know, however, that all these matters do not work themselves out. We cannot have free market conditions, with no intervention whatsoever, because we are human beings and we live in a social society. We must look at the legislation in this context.
Most significant, we should take precautions about this legislation and that is why it is very important to take our time and really scrutinise it. Many issues have been raised. The CWU has raised issues to do with ComReg’s role in relation to this as the regulator. We frequently make reference here to the need for the Oireachtas not to reduce its role. Is there anything we can add to the legislation to ensure the regulator can be brought to this House and is answerable? Can we put a halt on the legislation at any stage and stop what the regulator is doing? That is one of the issues.
There is also the issue of proper licensing of private operators. The CWU argues that this legislation should ensure access by competitors should not be below the level of the four mail centres. It is important to protect the type of public sector jobs we have. The public sector should be a benchmark for good working conditions and stable jobs. Those are good developments we have built up over the years and we should not be trying to introduce more temporary workers, poorer working conditions and so on. This is something which should be considered as part of this legislation.
Deputy Derek Nolan: At the outset it is good to ask what we like about the postal service we have. People around the country say they like the price of the stamp, at 55 cent, the extensive delivery network across the country and the fact the service is reliable. In almost all cases a letter arrives the day after it is posted. People relate to and personalise the postal service.
Most people in my constituency in Galway know their postman to see and there is an element of trust in the relationship. There is the daily collection of the post and a daily delivery. It sounds quite basic when it all works properly, but this is what people look for in a postal network, and it is what we have. The Bill seeks to open this to competition, as a result of a European directive under which we are obliged to introduce competition to this market. However, the suitability of this market to be opened to competition has been raised by several speakers. It is a vital public service, and not every market has to be viewed in the same light in terms of competition. There are some businesses and industries that should be treated differently on the grounds they serve a vital social function and the postal service is one of these.
It impacts not just on business and commerce on a daily basis, but is the lifeblood of many offices in terms of their communication with customers and other businesses, while it also has an enormous impact on the personal lives of people. Whether it is receiving correspondence from Revenue or personal letters, the postal service impacts on every aspect of people’s social lives. In that respect we must look upon this legislation as something we have to get right first time. There is no room for error. We cannot come back in two or three years when serious damage could have been done to the postal network to say, in effect, the damage should not have happened, that we should have got it right.
We all remember with regret what happened with Eircom, where a vital company with a key role in new technologies such as broadband was privatised. As a result, the country is only now catching up and is almost a decade behind the rest of Europe. One shudders to think what would have happened if the ESB had been privatised, particularly given the intense capital infrastructure and expenditure required in upgrading the network. One can only wonder whether that would have been feasible if such a small market, as Ireland, had been divided and opened to competition between small providers lacking the scale or ability to invest in their networks.
It is worth examining what we are moving from. As Deputy Tuffy mentioned, postage costs in Ireland are the eighth lowest of the 27 countries in the European Union and An Post is the seventh most efficient operator. In 20 years, postal costs only increased on three occasions and continually lagged behind inflation. We are moving from an efficient, well operated State company that requires no State subvention into the unknown. We are moving towards uncertainty and are fixing a system that in many ways is unbroken. We have a system that does not require State subvention, yet we are talking about introducing competition and a mechanism that will require subvention from the taxpayer for that competition. Therefore, we are moving from no State support to competition, with the potential of State support. This does not make much sense.
The United States could be considered one of the most free market countries in the world, yet it has resisted all attempts to introduce competition in its postal market, believing it to be a market that cannot sustain such competition. The fact there are 300 million people in the US as against our 3 million suggests we should ask questions about changing. Unfortunately, we are where we are and the European directive has been made and agreed by the Government at European level. Therefore we must implement it. We must ensure now that it is implemented as carefully and properly as possible to ensure we maintain the positive aspects of our service of which we are so proud.
Any debate on this legislation cannot be divorced from a debate on An Post. We cannot talk about the postal market without talking about the State postal provider, which has a staff of approximately 10,000. On a daily basis, An Post processes and delivers more than 2.5 million items of mail to 2.2 million business and residential addresses and it has 2,700 cars and almost 1,700 bicycles. These bicycles should be a key component of our climate change policy. These services are all available for the price of a stamp.
There has been much discussion of what occurred when the Royal Mail was broken up following competition. There large pension obligations were left with the parent company. I see no reason the cost of a stamp and the service provided should not cover those obligations. Why can we not subvent these obligations via the cost of a stamp and work that into the new regime?
An Post faces a difficult time over the next number of years. We must commend its staff and management over the past two to three years. Having spoken to workers in An Post, I understand that some 402 staff left in 2009 and that 260 have left this year to date. The overall target reduction of 1,400 has been agreed with the unions, which is another example of unions playing a positive role, recognising the difficulties in the market and ensuring businesses survive for the benefit of the workers remaining.
There are immediate challenges for An Post. It is good and positive news that An Post will remain the universal service provider for 20 years, as committed to in the programme for Government, although the legislation only stipulates a period of seven years. The environment in which An Post operates, where it made a €5.7 million profit in 2009 on a turnover of €804 million, shows that the service basically breaks even. A percentage ratio profit of only €5 million out of €804 million is very low, but this demonstrates the target is not profit. However, in the time since 2009 there has been a decline in mail volume of 16%. Looking at a postal organisation seeing such a decline, one would wonder whether any private operators would enter the market, particularly given the dominance of a single player and the shrinking market. Another factor is the prevalence of electronic substitution and the factor that many utility providers and banking institutions are moving from postal billing.
I have watched this debate from my office and in the Chamber. It has been a good debate, but some themes have recurred constantly, including the viability of the universal service obligation in the liberalised market. Everyone in the House agrees that must continue. I represent a constituency which consists of Galway city, the east of Galway which has a village structure and Connemara where single detached houses are spread over a broad area. The quality of service to all three is excellent and it is important to maintain that quality when the Bill is implemented.
We should not undermine An Post in the future through this structure. Representations have been made with regard to downstream access and ensuring mail enters the postal service network via the mail centres in which An Post has made significant capital investment over the years. Not doing this would represent a waste of taxpayers’ money and would place an undue capital burden on An Post, requiring it to reinvent itself. Given the context of a declining market and customers, this would put an unfair burden on An Post. It would be fairer to set up a system from the outset with those requirements. This would be fairer for both An Post and new operators as they would know the game they were entering and the playing field within which they should operate.
I intended mentioning social dumping and job losses. With regard to job losses, we must not create a situation where competition breeds such ferocity that we see temporary agency workers replacing full-time employees. A statement on the social value of the postal service in the legislation is important and would be welcome. We need careful debate on this issue. We must get it right first time as we cannot revisit it. If we damage the postal service, we damage it irreparable. As Deputy Tuffy said, we need a good committee debate to ensure we get the best possible system.
Deputy Tom Fleming: I wish to share my time with Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Joan Collins.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Tom Fleming: The Government needs to recognise the unique and vital role of the postal service, particularly in rural Ireland, as a means of communication, a vital economic tool and an intrinsic part of the fabric of the community. Our postal service has a social and an economic value. These must be protected as the Government passes this legislation. Postmen and women of this country provide an important public service and function as an integral part of the social fabric of their communities. These men and women who deliver post all over the country are known and trusted. In many cases they are the only human contact our isolated and elderly residents have. In particular, in the adverse weather conditions we experienced over the past number of years, the social contact provided by members of An Post was often the only communication many people living in isolated areas had.
The universal service obligation, which provides everyone with the right to send and receive mail five days a week at a uniform price, has worked well in this country. Under this Bill, An Post will no longer have the monopoly, but no explanation has been provided as to how, without that monopoly, the universal social obligation will be financed to ensure a universal service is available in every corner of the country. In the current economic environment postal volumes are already down and liberalisation could signal the beginning of the end for An Post.
Other countries that have opened their postal markets have experienced many job losses and a general reduction in the quality of service. It is clear the new companies entering the market will resort to cherry-picking by concentrating on the profitable routes thereby forcing An Post to seek State support. While the legislation claims it is bound to protect the USO, it is not clear how the cost of the USO will be met and the already overburdened taxpayer may well need to subsidise the postal service as the profitable parts of the business are taken over by the new companies, which will only be interested in profit and not delivering a very good public service.
As a rural Deputy I have strong reservations about the Bill’s negative effect on individuals and businesses, which will be felt far more strongly in rural areas. The daily deliveries will be under threat and the cost of postage will be likely to increase especially in rural areas. The sense of community will be undermined and isolated customers will face a reduction of service. For the protection of small rural post offices, I ask that the House give serious consideration to the issues I have raised.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: When it comes to postal services, we should apply the wise adage that if it is not broken, do not fix it. Probably nowhere does that wisdom apply more than to the postal service. It is not an exaggeration to say that the postal service is a modern wonder. Everybody gets the same service for next to nothing — it costs 55 cent to post a letter from anywhere to any other place in the country and people receive it within a day or two regardless of how isolated is the place they live.
As many speakers have said, it is not just an efficient and cheap service but it is also a social service. It is a lifeline for people in isolated areas, the elderly, those in rural communities and so on. It also provides good, decent, stable and secure jobs. While we might say that nothing is perfect in this world, the postal service is one of the better things in our society. Given that it works well, is reliable and is loved by people, why should we change it? Why does Europe want to change it and why would we accept its diktats in demanding that it be changed?
It is euphemistically called liberalising the service, but bringing for-profit considerations to bear on this social service would be a better way to describe it. Letting those with greed for money get their teeth into a social service which is so important to the people would be a better term than liberalisation. Is it not absolutely inevitable that if we bring market forces to bear on this service, cherry-picking will take place? Private for-profit companies will be interested in the profitable postal routes where there is high volume of letters and parcels, and will not be interested in those areas with low volumes, namely those isolated rural areas that need the service so much. Once they take the profitable routes from An Post, it will be left with the unprofitable routes and the ability of An Post to provide the service to those unprofitable routes is dependent on it also having those profitable areas. That cross-subsidy is the underpinning of the wonder of the postal service. If that is undermined, as liberalising will do, it will inevitably undermine the basis of what makes our postal service great.
All the good things that Deputy after Deputy has described about the postal service will inevitably be threatened by liberalisation. It will threaten the universal service, the daily service in rural areas and the social service value because for-profit companies are not interested in social services. It will threaten the low cost, which is spread evenly across the entire service, and will threaten jobs as it has done everywhere else liberalisation has been introduced with thousands of jobs lost in the service. In addition it will cause a problem of needless replication of services with several postal providers unnecessarily replicating themselves in particular areas while we will have virtually no service in other areas.
Is this not an example of the addiction of Europe to neoliberal economic dogma through privatisation? This addiction does nothing more than promote the interests of big private corporations which in the absence of being able to make profits anywhere else in the current difficult economic climate see vital public services as an area to prise open and sink their teeth into in order to make profit for themselves without any consideration of the vital nature of those services to the people who avail of them and the workers who work in them.
Did we learn nothing from the disaster of deregulating financial services? The deregulation of the financial and banking sector has led to disaster and underpinned the economic crisis. The deregulation allowing market forces to rip in the housing sector here caused absolute disaster for which we are now paying in spades. The deregulation and privatisation of water services in countries across the world, including Britain, have been disastrous and have been resisted hotly in many places and successfully, I am glad to say, in places such as Latin America. We need to stand up to this insane addiction of Europe representing the interests of corporate vultures by saying we will not allow the ripping up of this vital service, which works, is loved and has no reason to be changed.
I welcome the comments by the previous two Labour Party speakers, Deputies Tuffy and Nolan. It is great that they are saying those things and I could not agree more with them. I hope that when it comes to making a decision on whether we will accept or reject this legislation that threatens to destroy our postal service, they will not cave in, will stand up for the postal service and not capitulate to the insane addiction of Europe and the political establishments across Europe to the failed ideology of privatisation when it comes to the damage it could do to our postal service which is so loved and needed by the people.
Deputy Joan Collins: I declare an interest in that up to five weeks ago I was a postal worker and am still a member of the CWU. I have seen the impact the deregulation of An Post has had on jobs and communities and socially in rural areas. We are facing the third phase of deregulation of postal services. There is considerable concern about that. I agree with what other Members have said. We should consider not implementing the directive in its current form. Recital 16 allows member states to take into account the social impact of the directive on communities. Given the comments made to date it is imperative that we consider the social impacts of the directive and state that we do not accept it, in particular because of the social impact on rural areas.
Thousands of jobs have been lost across Europe due to the liberalisation of postal service in other countries. Various studies bear that out. Most recently, Union Network International conducted a study which found that in Germany, Deutsche Post cut more than 21,000 full-time jobs and more than 12,000 part-time jobs between 1999 and 2006. In The Netherlands the number of full-time equivalent jobs was reduced from 40,000 to as few as 24,000. The Government must use the job initiative, previously a job budget, to keep jobs within An Post and other companies in this country. An Post is one of the largest employers in the south of this country.
There is a campaign in Europe to counteract the liberalisation process. I refer the Minister of State to Recital 16. It is most important that we discuss the issue. I agree with Deputy Tuffy that we should address the matter. We do not want to just push it back and have it come up on the agenda again in six or eight months’ time. As a country we must say we do not need it, that it is not part of our agenda and we will not implement it. Otherwise, we will be reduced to debate a race to the bottom. An Post workers cannot compete against courier companies whose pay and conditions are so different, who do not have trade union recognition or access to pension funds. An Post has a commitment to its workforce. One cannot compete against the low-pay element. It will result in a race to the bottom. As a nation we should not accept that.
The point was made previously that An Post is a much-loved service. Our bin service was much loved but let us consider what happened to it. Currently, up to six private companies travel up and down roads in residential areas to collect waste. The previous collection system involved one, well-organised local authority collection every week on every road, street and estate. Now we have six. So much for the environment. We will face the same situation with the postal service. There will be between six and eight competitors cherry-picking the most profitable areas served by An Post. We cannot accept that.
I could focus on many parts of the Bill. We should examine in particular section 28 and consider tabling amendments on the inward mail level and to protect the provision of the service by outlining what an “inward mail centre” would mean. At this Stage of the debate we must deal with the change in the situation we face and not accept what is proposed. Will the Minister of State clarify whether it is part of the memorandum of understanding to push the legislation through? If that is not the case, we must have a different focus for the debate. I seek clarification on the matter on Committee Stage before we advance matters further.
Proper licensing and regulation is necessary. An Post must adhere to standards set down by ComReg on the speed of delivery of post. New companies will not have to adhere to such standards and they will have no commitment to their workers or to national pay deals. They will not be committed to providing a similar service to that which has been part and parcel of rural communities where a postman or postwoman walks 50 m or 100 m up a by-way, talks to people and can see whether someone is well. If he or she has a problem then they let people in the community know. There is an important social aspect to the service.
Reference has been made to the universal service provided by An Post. No State subvention has been provided to date, yet now taxpayers could be asked to pay such a subvention because we cannot allow a situation where we must depend on other providers, which has happened already in Europe. Deregulation has failed miserably. Many countries such as the United Kingdom, for example, are facing the privatisation of services because they could not rely on private companies to fulfil the universal social obligation. If the proposed changes go ahead we must provide the money to ensure the service is continued.
The legislation does not deal with ministerial oversight of ComReg, which has been given power to decide how distribution is regulated and who is involved. That is totally unacceptable. The legislation must be changed so that the Minister can be held accountable in the Dáil for the day-to-day running of the postal service. It is wholly unacceptable that a regulator without democratic accountability would be given such latitude with a vital public service. It is important that we tackle that issue if the Bill is to progress to further Stages in the Dáil.
Irrespective of the direction we take, e-substitution and e-billing are being used by many companies in an underhand way. People are offered a reduction of 20% on gas or electricity bills as an inducement to pay online. As not everyone has a computer we should introduce legislation to ensure that cannot happen unless everyone has access to a computer and can access the same discount.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: I wish to share time with Deputy Healy-Rae. We will take ten minutes each.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit nua agus deánaim comhghairdeas leis.
The Bill is important legislation. In his remarks on Second Stage the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, indicated that the aim of the Bill is to establish a robust regulatory framework for the newly liberalised postal sector. More importantly, he said the economy and society at large needs a strong and vibrant postal service and that a framework is needed which takes account of the significant challenges facing the sector in the future. That is important.
Notwithstanding the comments made this afternoon in the Chamber, Committee Stage will provide an important opportunity to analyse the Bill and examine all aspects of it. I agree with some of the comments made by Deputies opposite, but not all. It is important that we tease out aspects of the Bill that will have a profound implication.
I participated in a very good debate on the Bill in the Seanad earlier in the year. It is important that we consider the role of ComReg, in particular the section which deals with the development of competition and the innovation of the market in the postal services sector. Equally, if in some cases the Deputies opposite read what is outlined in the Bill on the role of ComReg it would allay some of the fears and suspicions they have concerning it. The dogma and philosophy of some of the speakers opposite must be put in context. From talking to An Post employees it is clear that they are not afraid of competition. They want a fair and level playing field. I remind Deputy Collins that EU legislation forbids the continuing provision of State subsidies to An Post and other such organisations. It is, therefore, important to get the facts right.
This Bill comes at a time of opportunity and challenge for An Post. It is important that, in considering this Bill, we deal with the postal service holistically. The growth of technology, including the Internet, broadband, e-mailing, e-messaging and other forms of electronic communication, poses a challenge. Some regard it as a threat but it should be embraced by An Post. The postal services in the United States and many European countries reinvented themselves. We now have an opportunity to reinvent our postal service.
There has been a decline in the use of our postal service. The second directive, which pertained to competition, did not wipe out An Post but posed a challenge to which it rose. Many friends of mine who are members of the union to which Deputy Collins referred spoke to me about this Bill, and Members spoke about it in the Seanad. They said one of the greatest strengths of An Post is its workers.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: Why are they against it?
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: They have said to me this Bill will not threaten them and, if formulated properly, will enhance the role of An Post.
In preparing for this Bill, we must be honest about the fact that we are living in a different era in which competition is welcome. However, I question genuinely whether we need competition in our postal service. We have a small peripheral nation on the edge of Europe with a population of approximately 4 million. I am not sure we need competition. We have moved away from our traditional form of communication. When moving office after the general election, I found bags and boxes of paper. We did not need it. I was recently at home with my father and found boxes of letters that I received from my mother, family and friends when I was studying in Maynooth in 1984. Today that means of communication has been replaced by the e-mail, text, Skype and other technologies. We live in a challenging, changing world and must not stand still. The stance of some of the Members opposite, who are behaving like the town crier who objects to everything and is for nothing, gets us nowhere.
This Bill must be about the protection of the service user and the employees of An Post. The Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, stated one of the strengths of An Post is its workers. As I stated in the Seanad, postmen in rural and urban areas comprise the strength of the service given. I include the postal worker. The user must be central, be it in respect of the cost or the delivery time of mail.
It must be recognised that some people have not moved towards other forms of communication. The number of people who use traditional mail has declined. There is a big gulf in terms of usage on the part of the business consumer and private consumer. We have not yet debated this. We should have this debate on Committee Stage.
I share the concern that the urban-rural divide will feature. There is genuine concern over cherry-picking. In the Acting Chairman’s constituency, Dublin South, it is very easy to run a service, but it is a much different position in parts of my constituency of Cork South-Central, such as Minane Bridge, and other parts of rural Ireland. We must have a proper debate on this on Committee Stage to tease out all the facts.
Irrespective of whether one lives in a rural or urban area, be it in Mayo, Cork or Dublin, one demands a service characterised by its excellence. It is important that we debate this. I am confident that the market, when it opens, will have the same level of service for all.
I acknowledge the economic climate has changed and that An Post is under pressure. Tá sé faoi bhrú. Competition will improve the service and quality thereof. After the liberalisation of the postal service, we as legislators are required to iron out the flaws in the legislation and work with and consult the stakeholders in this area.
I welcome the fact that the protection of the universal service obligation is in the programme for Government. I very much welcome the commitment made in this regard by the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, in respect of the workers and integrity and cost of the service.
While I welcome this Bill, that does not necessarily mean it is perfect. Our job is not to come in here with vested interests or advocate on behalf of a certain section but to consider how best we can make the Bill work for all involved. Despite the reservations being expressed by many in this Chamber and the Seanad – the former Minister, Mr. Ryan, accepted some of the amendments and the current Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, has committed to examining the legislation – the opening up of the postal service to competition could be positive if managed properly. Those Members opposite who oppose the legislation should look at their ideology, dogma and addiction to opposition for its own sake and embrace change, listen and be open to the idea that this could work.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: The Deputy should look at his addiction to neoliberalism.
Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Sometimes I wonder whether they come in here blindly and oppose for the sake of opposition.
I genuinely believe we will fail in our duty as legislators if we do not consider this Bill on behalf of the workers and service users. We have a very fine postal system and staff. The latter do more than just deliver mail. In many cases, the postman is the only person certain individuals meet in the week. Therefore, it is important, in debating this legislation, that we be cognisant of the mistakes made in other jurisdictions, such as those made by the Royal Mail in England.
I hope the urban-rural divide will be addressed by preventing cherry-picking. We must consider the way in which An Post can reinvent itself and make itself more relevant in a more modern Ireland in which there is a growing move towards technology. The Bill, in bringing about competition, will provide a better service to the users in all communities.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: I congratulate in his absence Deputy Harrington, my neighbour from across the border, on his maiden speech and I wish him well.
I declare an interest in this legislation, which is very close to my heart, because I am the postmaster of a small rural post office. I very much welcome this debate and thank the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, for hosting it this evening because it is very important. I have reservations about the Bill, bearing in mind that the mail volume has fallen by a massive 16% since the start of 2009, with each 1% drop accounting for a loss of €5 million. As traditional letter-writing dies out and customers turn to e-billing, An Post has indicated it will have to cut staff by more than 400 by the end of the year.
The postal service is not just any old business that is being knocked to one side because of the Internet or modern technology; it is a service for the public good. Post offices unite communities and the postal service connects remote regions to the centre.
In the context of the future common agricultural policy and stimulating rural areas, it is necessary to increase the attractiveness of rural areas by ensuring access to various public services and infrastructure such as education, health, broadband, the Internet, transport and postal services. Over the years, our rural countryside has declined greatly in that we have lost small shops, pubs have been decimated and local creameries are gone. A way of life in rural Ireland is being destroyed. We are losing a lot of what made this country so special. People came from all over the world to see what we had, which was something different. It was something that one would not see in other parts of Europe or in the United States. We had a very special way of living in Ireland and I believe our postal service and local post offices were a cornerstone of this. This is why this issue is so important and it has to be dealt with in a very serious fashion in the House. I very much welcome the contributions made by speakers on both sides of the House.
Maintaining services in rural areas will be difficult. However, we must strive to do so. As we look at the falling demand for postal services should we be scared of private operators coming into the market? We should. The unions in An Post have some concerns about this also. There is the argument that the private sector companies which would be looking to enter will be in it purely for profit and will not be concerned about providing a social service or its importance. We are speaking about services to the community. Competition in this area will weaken rural services. There is no provision to protect people against the cherry-picking that will take place. Often, there is no Garda presence in rural areas. In a local town, there may be a little button on a door one can push to speak to a machine to seek a garda.
This legislation will result in a weakening of the personal contact which many people living in isolated rural areas depend on in terms of the social fabric. I do not like this aspect of the legislation. It could be detrimental to a way of life. The historical base of our postal service under the universal service obligation is important in that it obliges the State services to deliver and collect mail for the same price regardless of location. This is akin to the provision of social bus services in the rural countryside. I accept there is a shifting pattern, as the previous speaker outlined, and that more and more people use electronic communications. It may well be that the postal service needs to reassess itself as Deputy Buttimer suggested.
An Post and, more importantly the post men and women, are not merely delivery people. In the vast amount of cases in the rural countryside they may be the only human contact some of our isolated citizens have. Some elderly people living in the countryside look forward to seeing the postman coming into the yard with a letter for a bit of gossip and a chat and to see whether anybody is dead or whether there is any news in the parish. It is the man or lady in the post van who brings this news. Post persons act as social workers. They are a vital link in any community and they are the connection between isolated people and the rest of the community. I want to put on the record of the House that I salute these people, many of whom long ago did large runs on bicycles including in bad weather. In the cities, it is normal to see people on bicycles but long ago in the countryside it was how the mail was delivered in many cases, and delivering the mail involved very long and tough runs up and down hills in all types of weather. I salute the people who are gone to their eternal reward who delivered the post in Ireland and those who do so at present and I thank them for the work they do.
In areas where there is no Garda presence, as I already outlined, post men and women are the eyes and ears of the community. We must be very mindful of the excellent service provided by An Post and its postal workers throughout the country. We must ensure that no decision will be made in this House that would jeopardise this service. I respectfully say to the Minister, the Government and all Deputies that there is a great onus of responsibility on us and we must tread very carefully with this Bill. We must be mindful that decisions taken here could have a detrimental effect.
However, if we do our job properly we may hope that An Post will be able to continue to provide the excellent service it has provided over the years. I look forward to seeing and ensuring that those post people who have done so well in the past for the citizens of Ireland will be allowed to continue to do so in the future and that we will not have big multinational companies coming in and profiteering, cherry-picking and leaving the countryside with a service for perhaps one, two or three days a week. If a letter arrives for a person in the countryside he or she wants it on the day it arrives; he or she does not want to think about it resting somewhere to be delivered after a number of days. That would not be good enough. We must always remember that people in rural Ireland are every bit as entitled to the same quality of service as a person living in Ballsbridge. As I have always said, whether it is Ballsbridge or Ballinskelligs, the people are equal and they are entitled to the same level of service.
Deputy Dara Calleary: I wish to share time with Deputy Barry Cowen.
I was struck by Deputy Buttimer’s remarks that the An Post workers to whom he spoke were not overly worried about this Bill although they see challenges in it. I have heard the opposite. Many workers are concerned. Many Deputies have commented that we need to be very careful when considering the Bill and in the decisions we take, particularly on Committee Stage — whenever the Government gets around to establishing committees. The Second Stage debate allows us to reflect on the role of An Post and on the challenges it faces and perhaps the opportunities that can be vested in An Post to provide it with alternative income sources that may assist it as its mail volumes decrease.
I was struck listening to the contributions of Deputies Harrington, Healy-Rae and Collins, all of whom worked with or on behalf of An Post in various guises. When one thinks of the postal service in Ireland, one thinks of trust, connection and a presence in every community, as has been said. These traits are lacking in many services and areas in Ireland at present. However, An Post has struggled to take commercial advantage and make commercial use of this.
Over the weekend we completed the census. Hundreds of enumerators were employed throughout the country and trained to complete the census process. They will collect the forms this week after which they will be laid off and sent back to the dole queues or their previous jobs. It struck me that An Post should have been given the opportunity to tender for that contract given that it has access into every home, business and community throughout the country and given that it is trusted. We would not have the expense we had training people if we had used the postmen — I will stick with the old variation if Deputy Healy-Rae does not mind — for that service. We might have achieved it more quickly.
The Government has committed itself to substantial reform of many State organisations, including the HSE. The postal service could step into a gap in the community work of the HSE. It is a service with access into every house and it is trusted. Surely through some type of community monitoring of older people and those who are vulnerable it could take on a role done in a half-hearted and half-resourced way by the HSE.
Many people mentioned rural transport and aligned the challenges facing rural transport with those facing rural post offices. If we consider how An Post can access communities, with a little investment and imagination with regard to the postal transport fleet we can combine both services. As Deputy Healy-Rae said, if this goes ahead helter-skelter and there is full liberalisation of the postal market, albeit even after 20 years, we know in our hearts that rural areas will be left waiting and there will not be next day delivery or next day access unless one travels to a main post office. When one considers postal systems throughout the world, it is amazing that in the US, where everything is done automatically, its postal system has not gone down this route. Surely in a small country such as this, where it has the values I mentioned, we should protect those values and seek to maximise them in other ways.
Many Members have referred to the move towards e-billing and use of the Internet. We do not know what is around the corner. Twenty years ago there was no such thing as the Internet and ten years ago nobody would have imagined we would be using it to the extent we do today. Given the progress of technology, the days of letters in the post are numbered. For that reason we must challenge An Post to examine its operations, move away from the comfort of being a sole monopoly provider in the traditional way and devise services it might be able to deliver for other State organisations, such as I have mentioned, or other commercial bodies. It must be more commercial in the way it delivers bulk mailing and more focused in the way it serves the business community in particular. It rose to the challenge when parcel post was liberalised and showed this could be done through Passport Express and the other services it offers.
It is a commercial model that needs change and updating and it is surely within the ability of its personnel to respond to the markets. With regard to the people who work in An Post, over the past ten days there have been a number of cases, ranging from a small case on the Mayo-Roscommon border to a large case in Kildare, where postal staff were terrorised in their homes. We should extend our thoughts to them and acknowledge that the presence of postal staff in communities, which is a major advantage to both An Post and the communities, is a challenge for them, particularly at present. Again, An Post has responsibilities in that regard, be they direct employees or agents. An Post cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect these people, particularly in these times and when rural gardaí are not as plentiful as they were previously.
Urgent clarification is required about the commitment in the programme for Government which states that the universal postal service provider will be in place for 20 years in view of the remarks last week by the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, that the duration of An Post’s designation is something he will consider in the context of the programme for Government proposals. The programme for Government is only approximately one month old. Is this already rowing back on it or just a wrong communication? If An Post is to plan and invest in a postal service, the 20 year guarantee is required so it can come up with commercial models and streams of income that will make it relatively robust commercially when the full market is liberalised.
There are huge opportunities for An Post in the current economy. Consider how we are reorganising our banking system at present. The values I mentioned earlier of trust, connection and presence are still aligned with our postal service, although no longer with any of our banks. An Post has a savings wing. With a little creative thinking in the Department of Finance it should be possible to consider an alliance between An Post and the credit union movement or some type of co-operative banking system that will have the qualities I mentioned that are still part of An Post and the credit union movement. As we move towards the two-pillar banking system there would be some type of alternative available to people, regardless of where they live and their IT skills or access, with the backing of the Government through the An Post bond. This should be given urgent consideration and, again, if it is done properly, it will provide An Post with a commercial revenue that will allow it to sustain whatever challenges emerge in the liberalised market.
We have a fantastic asset in An Post, its personnel and its values. In dealing with this legislation we must be careful not to devalue that asset. This country does not have a good record with the privatisation of State companies, and we can all put our hands up in that regard. As the Bill moves to Committee Stage, we must be very protective of our postal service because it will be impossible to repair it.
Deputy Barry Cowen: I note and acknowledge the rationale for the Bill and its background, dating to when it was first flagged in 1988. The first EU directive came forward in 1997 followed by a second directive in 2002 and a third in 2008. As Deputy Buttimer said, there was a gradual phasing in of competition before the third and final directive. A total of 60% of the sector has been open to competition and the directive will bring that up to 100%.
This Bill came before the Seanad in December and, briefly, before the last Dáil prior to its dissolution. We have had the public consultation process and consultation with stakeholders in a forum. The Bill was published by the previous Government. The current Government recently produced its programme for Government. The fears I expressed, only briefly, when contributing to the debate on the programme for Government are evident again with regard to this Bill and the comments made by the Minister, which I will refer to presently. Specific commitments published only weeks ago in the programme for Government, not only in this regard but in many others, appear to be fading, particularly when one listens to Leaders’ Questions and looks at parliamentary questions, both written and oral. With regard to the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte’s, comments in his speech last Thursday week, I noted his language, tone and demeanour. He spoke about various aspects of the Bill “in the context of the directive”, “in the context of this Bill” and “in the context of our obligations”. He was not very convincing, to say the least.
We are aware of the main provisions of the Bill. It provides for a regulatory framework to be managed by ComReg. It seeks to safeguard universal services and facilitates competition in a liberalised postal market. An Post is to be the universal provider. The Bill further clarifies offences and provides for the establishment of a national postcode system. I welcome that aspect. I doubt that it will be allowed to interfere with the sense of community and place that exists throughout the country in both rural and urban areas. It is essential that a system such as that being put in place should run side by side with our emergency services, so they can operate at maximise response times and so forth. I am thinking in particular of fire service and ambulance service responses.
Everybody recognises the history and value of An Post in their respective communities. I am glad the Bill does not impact on the rural post office network and post office banking and saving services. The delivery of Government financial services is also a pivotal part of the delivery of governance throughout the country, and I note those services are also secure within the post office network. I agree with the Minister that An Post must continue to be dynamic, forge new partnerships, innovate, re-invent and re-invigorate. Having listened to speakers in the House who are involved with the system, and being familiar with the system in my community and beyond, I have no doubt it has the leadership, capacity, willingness and ability within its ranks to meet and, indeed, lead the demands of this new and ever-changing digital communications age.
The Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, said ComReg would be accountable to the Oireachtas and that it will act on his and the Government’s direction on policy issues. While I welcome what appears to be this double accountability, the Minister should clarify whether it is to be one or the other or both. If there is this notion of directing State bodies or semi-State bodies with Government policy, if I may digress briefly, I ask the Minister to elaborate on the programme for Government’s initiative on the sale of non-strategic assets. Is there to be a similar direction from him on Government policy on the part or whole-sale of ESB, the part or whole-sale of Bord na Móna or the part or whole-sale of Coillte? There have been biting remarks across the floor in this regard, not only by myself but by many others, and it is almost time that the Minister made an unequivocal statement in this regard.
The reference to commitments in the programme for Government pertaining to this Bill, and the worrying matter of tone and the apparent softening of attitude, may be clarified, as Deputy Calleary states, by the Minister at the culmination of our comments and in his response. The programme for Government states specifically that the universal service will be assigned to An Post for 20 years. This is a bold statement, considering the Bill has given a guarantee to An Post of seven years upon which ComReg might further lengthen the period based on the success of scheme and the delivery of service to the public in an efficient and cost-effective manner because that is the bottom line of the Bill. It must be done on a cost-effective and social-inclusive manner. All of those issues combine to allow ComReg to make a decision as to whether it continues for a further period.
The Minister, in his comments, stated: “The duration of An Post’s designation is something I will also consider in the context of the programme for Government proposals”. The word “consider” is vastly different from the word “insist”.
Exchequer funding is not an option currently provided for in the legislation. I agree with Deputy Ó Cuív when he spoke on the matter last week. He stated that the Bill contains the power to fine and take profits from those who cherry-pick at the expense of, not necessarily but more than likely, rural or unprofitable areas and that funds raised in this regard would be for onward payment to the universal provider. While the Minister might not necessarily agree with this aspect of the Bill, can he or the Government afford not to? To highlight the apparent contradictions, the programme for Government contains a proposal to provide Exchequer funding but the Minister stated he “will consider this in the context of introducing amendments on Committee Stage”. It is that word “consider” again. It is not “insist”; it is “consider”.
I note the Government has made big commitments in the programme for Government. It has made big commitments in the first weeks of office, claiming to make serious inroads in the first 100 days with a jobs initiative, a jobs budget or whatever it is called — it changed today. It is an admirable commitment. I doubt its ability to deliver such an arduous task. I further doubt, on foot of the news we learned today about the growth rate being halved, an extra €1 billion being required and the same jobs initiative perhaps costing €0.5 billion, where and how the Government can find Exchequer funding for this when the Bill, as I stated, contains the capability of raising funds.
Returning to the Bill, and specifically to the commitments relating to it, I would appeal to the Minister, both on the commitments he made here and on those his party has given on semi-State bodies and State assets on many occasions, to stick to the principles that he honed when in the Workers Party, in Democratic Left and in the Labour Party, and to not be swayed or convinced by Fine Gael, now that he is coalescing with it, by that party’s opinions on semi-State bodies. Looking on at the Minister, who is Dublin based, who is at full Cabinet and who is from Mayo, in the context of the geography of the Cabinet, surely he can succeed in maintaining the service and facilities.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: It is a recipe that could not fail.
Deputy James Bannon: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this Bill which has far-reaching implications for the postal services. The legislation has two principal components: the deregulation of the protected segments of the postal market and the introduction of postal codes. These are necessary, long overdue but, nonetheless, welcome, provisions.
While I recognise and accept the march of progress, my concern, and I am sure, that of the Minister, is the protection of rural communities. Post offices are the cornerstone of rural interaction. With the previous Government, of which Deputy Cowen’s brother was Taoiseach, striking a lethal blow against remote areas and, in particular, the elderly, it is necessary to bring a new look to bear on the issue of essential services for remote areas.
Accessibility is the key to the survival of rural dwellers. Expecting the elderly to travel a lengthy distance to collect their pensions, etc., is inhumane and unrealistic. I am sure that Fine Gael and the Labour Party in Government will bring a more caring face to bear on such legislation.
There is a genuine fear in rural areas that the introduction of competition will mean that people could fail to get their post. This can be to some extent insured against by designating An Post as a universal service provider for seven years following the enactment of this legislation. ComReg is the designated regulator and I would hope that the seven-year term will be enforced with an eye on further provision. However, no guarantee has been built-in following this period. While this could lead to worry about what will happen after seven years, there is, on the other side of the coin, a rapidly changing face of communications which perhaps will negate the need for further provision. However, it is up to the regulator to ensure a smooth transition.
The closure of post offices is an ongoing issue and people are deeply concerned that the social service role they play, particularly in remote areas, may be lost. Such closures leave the elderly out on a limb. As we know, social isolation is the scourge of rural life for many in remote areas. The local post office provides not only essential services but an important social outlet. Many older people combine a trip to the post office on pension day with other activities such as active retirement groups, church services and visiting friends. This is the reality of rural life. Perhaps the worst outcome of the closure of rural post offices is the forcing of the elderly to take buses or taxis to travel miles in order to collect their pensions.
Deputy Brendan Smith: I move:
With the permission of the House, I will share time with Deputy Dara Calleary.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Brendan Smith: The Minister for Education and Skills has pointed out that there is a clerical error in the motion circulated; the total number of primary teachers should be 31,700, which represents an increase of 51%.
In the last month a series of urgent issues has rightly dominated our discussions in this House. However, we should never lose sight of the need to make sure longer term issues also receive attention. Nobody can question the idea that education lies at the heart of the future of the country. The major expansions in provision and participation levels in the past four decades provided the essential foundations for broad and deep social and economic progress. As we consider the policies required to help Ireland to build a lasting recovery, we should be clear in stating education is a priority.
This is the first time education has been debated in the 31st Dáil. It is not the typical partisan motion which has too often been the mainstay of Private Members’ debates in recent years. Our intention is to put before the House a constructive motion based on a core principle which all parties should be able to support. The motion points to a number of areas in which it is impossible to deny progress, but it equally acknowledges that serious problems remain in the education system. It expresses the belief education will be central to recovery and states the House believes it should be a priority. It attacks nobody and demands no extra spending. It simply states that in the allocation of what is available education and training should be a priority. We believe it is important for the Dáil to make this statement not just because it is early in a new term but also because budget policy is being discussed by the Government and important decisions will be made in the near future.
In the past few weeks there has been a number of occasions on which a wider consensus of the House could have been achieved on a motion had the Government been willing either to consult the Opposition or pass up an opportunity to introduce an amendment to require the Opposition to endorse the Government. I hope the Government will not insist on pursuing this tactic in tomorrow night’s vote, but it is clear from the reaction of the Minister for Education and Skills that this will be the case. There is nothing in the motion which is incompatible with the manifesto of either Government party or the programme for Government. On a number of occasions in the last month we have supported Government proposals and I hope this will be reciprocated in the vote on this motion.
One of the great failings of debate in this House has been that issues have been approached in an almost cartoonish way by different sides. Our debates are generally framed around the idea that everything can be seen as black or white. The Opposition denies progress and the Government is reluctant to concede that there are problems. A new variation was pursued by the Government last month when it was implied that nothing positive had happened in Ireland before 9 March. I acknowledge the ingenuity of Government scriptwriters in finding new ways to explain how policies which were disastrous on 8 March are radical and visionary today. The ungenerous and narrow approach to spinning and diminishing clear advances made in recent years reflects poorly on those involved. They would be well advised to understand such spinning has a habit of rebounding badly in the long run. Fundamentally, we cannot have a constructive debate on policy if we insist on denying progress has been made. It is not possible to set a credible and effective agenda for the future of the education system if we blindly refuse to give any credit for past policies or accept that many things are better today than they were in the past.
Serious issues remain to be addressed in the education system in the years ahead. Many of these have been identified in the programme for Government and were identified by parties on all sides of the House during the campaign in February. However, let us not fail to recognise what has been achieved or fall into the trap of believing every problem we face is uniquely Irish. I recognise there are unique elements to our system, but the underlying educational issues in areas such as literacy and standards are ones shared with many countries. The fact is there has been significant expansion in every element of the education system in recent years. Resources have expanded, as have the positive outcomes in the system. Class sizes in Ireland are high in some schools, but they have been steadily reduced in all schools and are today at their lowest levels in history. There are many schools in significant need of capital investment, but the largest building and refurbishment programme in our history has been under way for many years. The OECD has shown that, on average, our school buildings rate well internationally. Participation in third level education remains unequal, but the rate of increase has been fastest in groups which have historically had very low participation rates.
While education is at the core of any commitment to social progress, its economic role is undeniable. At a time of enormous pressures those areas of the economy most reliant on the education system are also the strongest. In areas in which education based skills and knowledge are the key to success Ireland is continuing to be a world leader. Knowledge intensive industries that are our greatest bright spot present our greatest opportunities for the future. Every serious examination of how Ireland will recover sees export-led, knowledge intensive industries as the essential element. That is why the Dáil should signal that education will be a priority when vital fiscal decisions are taken. It should also support a programme of addressing key weaknesses within the system.
The expansion in the primary education sector in recent years has been unprecedented and is something which happened by choice. In early 1997 the then Government endorsed a fiscal policy based on the idea that there would be a reduction in the number of teachers. It also entrenched capital funding policies which put up an enormous roadblock against parents and communities which wanted to build new schools or expand existing ones. No one in the House could dispute that the move away from this policy towards a sustained programme to increase teaching resources and enable new schools to be provided was the right one. The expansion in the number of primary teaching positions from 21,000 to 31,700 has been enormously beneficial, as has the increase in non-traditional patronage of schools which has been enabled to reach critical mass which allows for further expansion. These new teachers and schools are doing great work which should not be undermined as we seek to deal with our undoubted problems.
I have always had a personal interest in special needs education and intend to raise the issue regularly as my party’s spokesperson. I hope Deputies will acknowledge the dramatic increase in support for children with special needs in recent years. By any measure, the increase in the number of special needs assistants from 250 to 10,000 is significant. Each of us, as individuals or public representatives, knows students who have benefited from this worthwhile and necessary investment.
The most recent literacy surveys have highlighted important concerns. While factoring in the reality of non native speakers in the figures, there is no doubt that Ireland needs to improve literacy levels in its primary schools.
Fianna Fáil welcomes the Government’s stated intention to prioritise this area and I heard the Minister speak eloquently on this. I welcome the move from a rigid curriculum which ultimately excluded as many as it helped. The introduction of many important areas into the curriculum in the last decade has been very positive but the need to revisit and strengthen the emphasis on literacy is clear. The Minister will find us to be constructive on this matter and eager to debate evidence-based solutions to the problem.
The four year fiscal strategy outlined in November last contained funding to increase the numbers of posts in education and maintain a high level of funding for school building. We hope that this high priority given to education will be maintained.
On a number of occasions, the Minister has pointed out that Ireland has an unusually large number of small primary schools primarily, although not exclusively, in rural areas. He has rightly pointed out that there is a value for money audit going on into the spending attached to these schools. Our position on this review is that it is about maximising the educational return to communities from these schools and not about finding ways of rationalising them. There may be areas where shared resources, such as specialist teaching and IT support, could make a big difference. In my county, our vocational education committee provides information technology services to voluntary secondary schools and to a number of primary schools. That type of initiative must be given further momentum in all areas of public service, whether central or local government. This would correspond to some of the clustering work which has been carried out so well under disadvantaged area schemes. However, I want to make it clear, as we did well before the election, we do not, and will not, support any programme to rationalise smaller schools.
In government we very explicitly increased the teaching and other resources available to small schools. The number of one teacher schools was cut not by closing them but by giving them extra teachers. We did this because we see local primary schools as an irreplaceable part of community life. This is true for areas with few people as well as for minority religious communities. In fact, the biggest beneficiaries of expanded support for small schools have been the schools of Protestant denominations outside of Dublin.
The Minister should be clear that we will support him if his agenda is to increase the educational gain from spending on these schools. If his agenda is to reintroduce the rationalisation programme which we abandoned in 1997, we will oppose him as strongly as we can.
At second level, school completion figures have increased over the long-term due to a range of measures, including curriculum diversity. Research indicates that completion is likely to increase further due to economic circumstances. There is no doubt that the issue of standards and the relevance of courses is the most important item on the Minister’s agenda.
The programme for Government commits to the reform of the junior certificate and leaving certificate, including reform of mathematics and science teaching at second level. The Government also plans to introduce a bonus system for mathematics, make science a compulsory subject by 2014 and continue investment in the professional development of mathematics and science teachers. I strongly welcome this commitment to the improvement of mathematics and science teaching at second level, building on progress made in recent years. As a recent study from the Higher Education Authority showed, prior educational attainment, particularly in leaving certificate mathematics, is closely associated with successful progression through higher education. In terms of individual subjects, leaving certificate mathematics appears to be most strongly linked to successful progression to higher education after secondary school.
The HEA study last October also found that prior educational attainment outweighs all other factors, including social class, gender and choice of education institution, when determining how likely it is that a student will go on to college and complete his or her certificate or degree. Students with low levels of achievement in leaving certificate mathematics are the most likely to drop out of the higher education course where such students have enrolled in scientific or technological courses.
In the past couple of years, a major programme of reform was introduced designed to encourage a better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce the practical relevance of mathematics to everyday life and to ensure better continuity between primary and second levels and between junior and senior cycles.
The former Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe, introduced the project mathematics initiative in 2008 which was first piloted in 24 schools but has since been mainstreamed in all secondary schools across the country since September 2010. This initiative was supported by a national programme of professional development for teachers which began in 2009. While it is early days, the emerging results are positive with 18.5% taking higher level mathematics in those schools where project mathematics was piloted compared to 16% nationally. I welcome the Government’s commitment to this initiative.
In science, there have also been further increases in participation rates in chemistry and biology but participation in physics was down very slightly this year. Engineering and technology have also had increases in participation rates at higher level. I welcome the proposal in the programme for Government to make science a compulsory subject by 2014.
The report of the innovation task force recommended the introduction of bonus points for higher level mathematics so students beginning their leaving certificate can make informed decisions about subject and level choice now. The former Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan, indicated her own view at the time of the desirability of sending a clear signal to second level students about the introduction of CAO bonus points for achievement in leaving certificate mathematics at higher level. She wrote to all seven universities and they all agreed last year to the introduction of bonus points for mathematics. This scheme will run on a pilot basis for four years from 2012.
This Government’s commitment to follow through with measures on mathematics and science reform is to be welcomed and we support it. I would also like to see the Government make a clear commitment to protect funding for the project mathematics initiative and the professional development of mathematics and science teachers.
We acknowledge that problems remain in our system in terms of early school leaving and that more can be done to encourage greater completion levels at leaving certificate level, particularly among young males. An ESRI report, No Way Back, found that approximately 9,000 teenagers are leaving school every year without completing second level education. Since the mid-1990s the level of school completion has remained relatively stable at 80% to 83%, with gender and social class strong determinants in early school leaving. Young men from working class or unemployed households are most likely to leave school before completing the leaving certificate. The report found that Ireland occupies an intermediate position in rates of early school leaving in Europe with levels of early leaving lower in Ireland than the European average.
In order to tackle early school leaving, we need to tackle disadvantage within our school system. We welcome the Government’s commitment to follow through on measures aimed at tackling disadvantage in our schools. The programme for Government commits to maintaining the free pre-school year in early childhood care and early childhood care and education and commits to considering the recommendations of the review of the DEIS programme. While it is too soon to assess the impact of the free pre-school year, the take up of the scheme has been considerable and it is welcome news that the Government is proceeding with this important initiative. The introduction of the free pre-school year has been widely welcomed by people, in particular by child care providers and by many parents. The initiative has been mentioned to me many times by parents since its introduction a relatively short time ago. It is an innovative and a positive measure which has produced very good results.
For those who leave school early or who have completed their schooling, a wide range of training measures are required for people of all abilities. The national recovery plan provided for stronger activation measures for the unemployed, including the setting up of a community work placement programme, a skills development internship programme and additional placements on the work placement programme.
Last December a suite of new and expanded initiatives were announced which were designed to provide assistance to the unemployed, with a particular focus on graduates and apprentices. These included the creation of a new €20 million multi-annual higher education labour market fund, an expanded redundant apprentice placement scheme for up to 1,000 apprentices, 700 places in the institutes of technology for redundant apprentices to complete their training, 5,000 places on a new skills development and internship programme and the expansion of the work placement programme from 5,000 to 7,500 places.
These initiatives are in addition to a total of almost 465,000 training and education places currently available in 2011. Of those, 140,000 are training places, 168,000 are in the further education sector and 156,000 are in the higher education sector. We believe in the importance of providing training for people according to their own abilities. I hope to have the opportunity to debate further education in the near future. There is major potential to provide that upskilling in a good geographic spread because of the presence of our post leaving certificate colleges and our colleges of further education in areas where there is no easy access to institutes of technology or FÁS training centres.
The programme for Government commits to providing additional training, work experience and education places for the unemployed and to do so in a supplementary budget. However, it is unclear which additional training measures it intends to pursue. We urge the Government to prioritise the introduction of training measures focused on key skills needs of the economy.
One of the most surprising aspects of the programme for Government is the lack of detail around the Government’s strategy for higher education. It simply says that it will review the recommendations of the recent Hunt report and reform third level funding. With higher education playing such a crucial role in our economic recovery and job creation, greater clarity is needed around its plans for the sector.
Last week, a unique new world university ranking by subject placed a number of Irish universities in the top 100 for their engineering and technology degree programmes. The survey was unique in that the ranking took into account the employability of graduates. The results of this survey are hugely significant for Ireland and the universities involved. Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University College Cork all achieved placing in the world’s top 100.
These results confirm that the massive investment in the third level sector is paying off. Not only are we producing some of best graduates in the world, but we are employing some of the best graduates in the world in computer science, technology and engineering. These sectors are critical to economic recovery and job creation. This country cannot afford for this progress to be squandered. Progress must be built upon.
During our time in government we were hugely successful in pursuing ambitious goals to widen participation and increase student and graduate numbers. As a result, we have positioned ourselves in the front rank of OECD countries. The expansion of opportunities for higher education in Ireland is reflected best in the attainment levels of young adults, 45% of whom have now acquired a higher education qualification. The proportion of 18-year-old people entering higher education is approaching two thirds. Alongside this dramatic expansion, we significantly increased retention rates at third level over the past decade. A recent HEA study on the issue of early college leaving found that 85% of students progress from first year to second year and that the Irish higher education system compares favourably with other countries in terms of student progression and course completion. There is a progression rate in the university sector of 91% and in the institute of technology sector of 84% on honours degree programmes. As with every country with expanding tertiary provision, we have to be vigilant about the use of the money and the standards achieved within the system. We will support the Minister in his efforts in this area.
Over the past decade we have witnessed a dramatic transformation of the research landscape in Ireland. In 1997 the exact total of dedicated research funding allocated to the Department of Education was zero. Not only has the level of funding changed, it is a great example of clear, measurable progress emerging as an output. Last year, a comprehensive international study of higher education research performance ranked Ireland eighth on the impact of our research publications and also noted that the volume of research articles and reviews from Irish universities and colleges published in recognised international journals more than doubled in the past decade. On volume, Ireland shows an impressive increase of 33% in terms of research output for the five years 2002-07, second only to China in terms of the increase.
According to the chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, not only have we become a serious player in research but we have made an impact. I hope the Government will place the same level of importance on investment in research and that the next step for the Government will be to increase collaboration between universities in the area of research, and between institutions in Northern Ireland and the Republic. The synergy and benefits of collaboration on an all-Ireland basis must be pursued.
Investment in education and training has delivered great progress to Ireland in the past and will be central to building a positive future. Even at a time of great fiscal pressure there are choices that can be made in allocating funds and there are many initiatives that require few if any resources. Education cannot escape untouched, but it can and should be given a priority. The Government has many welcome education proposals in its programme, as well as many areas that remain unformed. We will support the Minister in many of his intended initiatives but we will also strongly oppose him where we disagree. I commend the motion to the House.
Deputy Dara Calleary: I am happy to second the motion and I commend Deputy Smith on tabling it. This is the first occasion I have been in the Chamber since the appointment of the Minister and I wish him every success in his term of office. I commend the Government for not opposing this motion. As outlined by Deputy Smith, it sends a good signal on the ability of this House to co-operate on education.
I will start where Deputy Smith finished. In the last Dáil, in my capacity as Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and an Innovation, I had the occasion to visit several research centres, including the centre at Trinity College Dublin, across the road in the Minister’s constituency. It was an amazing experience. For someone with an allergy to science and anything to do with it, it opened my eyes to the investment the country has made and the ability to make that investment apply to people’s daily lives. The equipment in that centre was far superior to many of the world leading companies based in Ireland. I saw the commitment of the researchers and the work they did. One could make the connection between that work and the positive impact on people’s daily lives in the months and years ahead. Investment in research and development in our education system is real and it goes far beyond the boundaries of education. That has been typical of the State’s investment in education. It has gone beyond the boundaries of education for many decades and generations and through many Governments. That should continue.
I also visited NUIG and Sligo IT to see the physical investment on campuses. Superb management, including people such as Terri Scott, has transformed the presentation of the campuses and their ability to attract private investment. The business innovation centre at Sligo IT is a must see for the Minister. It gives students doing research the chance to commercialise their findings and a chance to remain in the supportive environment of the campus while testing their feet in the commercial waters. We must also use the physical investment to challenge teaching standards and ambitions. I refer in particular to our IT structure. The Croke Park agreement gives the Minister and the education system an ambitious roadmap. After some delay, most unions have signed up to it. Let us take the Croke Park agreement ball and run quickly with it. Our third level education system has often broken barriers for Ireland’s economy. The Ballyfermot College of Further Education introduced animation as an Irish industry and challenged those students. It showed that Irish students could be animators and they went on to win Oscars. DCU, UL and the National Institute for Higher Education, NIHE, which I am young enough to remember, provided courses on international relations and were the first colleges to bring trade on to the Irish academic syllabus. It is that sector that must challenge where the jobs and income for Ireland will be in the future. With the investments being made, including the physical and academic investments, and with far greater numbers than heretofore of Irish academics now travelling abroad and coming back with new knowledge, the jobs of the future, which we cannot yet envisage, will come.
I also acknowledge the role played by the College of Surgeons in flying the flag for Ireland abroad, including in Middle East markets. Some 30 or 40 years ago the College of Surgeons was opening doors to markets we now take for granted in terms of so much more than education, including food, medical devices and so on. This shows that education is not boxed but affects our entire economy, country and culture. The benefit of all of this is lost if we cannot get people into or keep them in the system. Deputy Smith referred to educational disadvantage. I see education as the ultimate roadmap out of disadvantage. If we offer young disadvantaged people a proper chance to engage and, more importantly, remain in education we give them a chance to get out of that disadvantaged situation.
We have invested a huge amount of money over many years in various disadvantage programmes. While that investment was big in terms of monetary value, its effectiveness may have been lost owing to the scattered and dispersed nature of how it was managed. The Departments of Education and Skills, Health and Children, through the HSE, Social Protection and local area based partnerships are involved in this area. If we could centralise that investment in one spending centre we could then track outcomes and ensure there is consistency of outcomes and that those taking part in these programmes get the best chances.
I encourage the Minister to publish the DEIS review as soon as possible. For me, DEIS presents serious problems. I fear that it does not fully capture rural disadvantage in particular. The measurements of DEIS are urban focused and because of this rural disadvantage is losing out. For example, Erris in County Mayo has 21 primary schools pending the Department’s review. Some 20 of those schools are designated DEIS schools, the 21st should be so designated but there are issues in the school. These 20 schools feed three secondary schools, two of which are designated DEIS schools while the third is not. Two of the three secondary schools are located on the one campus beside each other, one of which is designated DEIS and the other is not. Therefore, a person from the designated DEIS secondary school is disadvantaged while his or her sibling who attends the non-designated DEIS school is not. When DEIS is removed from a school the loss in terms of supports from school books to teaching support is significant.
I note from the 2006 review that rural disadvantage in particular is not tracked. I wonder if in putting disadvantage funding into a school model we are losing sight of the fact that the disadvantage may be arising in the home as opposed to the school the child attends. Should we, in the context of that review, on which I want to engage with the Minister, consider attaching the funding to the student rather than the physical entity that is the school? A disadvantage programme should start in the home. We all know that many students go to school without breakfast, without which they are not able to concentrate at school. A disadvantage programme should continue in the school towards resource teachers, the student, SNAs if needed and school lunches to ensure children receive nutrition. School lunches are funded by the Department of Social Protection.
A disadvantage programme should continue in a post-school situation through homework clubs, which are outstanding and are operated through area based partnerships. The homework clubs are essential because the concept of study and after school attention is often not understood or encouraged. This is where everything done in the classroom is lost. Any programme of disadvantage needs to be consistent and less dispersed and scattered. We should, perhaps, consider how we ensure the disadvantaged person, the student, rather than the physical entity, the school, remains at the heart of the programme.
There are two other issues I wish to deal with before moving on to the issue of rural schools. I plead with the Minister to resolve the conundrum that is ABA education in relation to autistic children. Many Ministers from my party tried to do so when in government, some enthusiastically, some less so. There is an issue within the Department of Education and Skills in regard to the treatment of ABA education. Many parents with autistic children swear by it. Who knows a child better than a parent? I am aware there are court cases pending in this regard. For the sake of those parents who have autistic children who are responding to ABA education let us address this issue. Surely all of us in this House who have an interest in this can knock heads together for once and for all and get rid of the vested interests around this.
The programme for national recovery provided for a cutback in Traveller education. While I acknowledge this measure was introduced by the last Government I ask that it be reviewed. Traveller education requires many more approaches than used in standard education. I fear that if we pull back from the resource teachers engaged in this area, we will lose many of the gains made. Adopting a common approach for Traveller education will damage what we are trying to do in terms of introducing education as a value. I join with Deputy Smith in expressing serious concern about remarks attributed to the Minister, perhaps out of context, in relation to rural schools.
Rural schools are essential to the fabric of rural Ireland. Earlier today, we were discussing rural post offices. If we allow the school to go we allow the value and identity of the parish to go with it. We allow people who return to education and have pride in a school to go too. In considering this in financial terms, we miss so much more. We miss the advantages that children in a rural school have in terms of their educational attainment and standard. While it might be better for some to be in a bigger school, generally, teachers and support staff who serve rural schools are model teachers in terms of their contributions not alone to the school but to the wider school community. This is an issue that I fear the Minister and I will fall out on unless it is handled properly.
We should all celebrate Irish education. We should celebrate its achievements since the foundation of the State and celebrate what it has done for us on this island and internationally. We should also not be afraid to point out its weaknesses, as Deputy Smith has done. The incoming education committee has an important role to play in terms of identifying priorities rather than trying to tackle everything that is wrong. Let us take chunks out of the problems and turn them into opportunities. If we do so, we will at the end of the Minister’s term in office and that of the 31st Dáil, have done the State some service.
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I wish to share time with Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O’Dowd.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I congratulate Deputy Smith on his appointment as Fianna Fáil spokesperson on education. I hope to have a constructive and positive relationship with him, as we have had in the past. On the comments made by Deputy Calleary, let me take this opportunity to clarify the record in regard to the value for money exercise in rural schools. There are 620 rural schools in the country with less than 50 pupils. Last October, the former Minister and Deputy, Mary Coughlan, commissioned a value for money exercise in line with normal Government practice. The deadline for submissions for that VFM expired recently, which is the reason for the publicity and attention attaching to them.
I, as Minister for Education and Skills, and the Government, of which I am proud to be a member, have absolutely no viewpoint, position or prejudiced outlook on rural schools. We will simply await the outcome of the value for money exercise and approach its conclusions without prejudice. I know it has been suggested in some quarters that there is some kind of bias but there is none. It is simply a value for money exercise initiated by the previous Administration.
I want to confirm that this Government will not oppose this motion, call for a vote tomorrow or vote against it. In fact, I doubt there is anyone in this Chamber who would disagree that education and training will play a central part in economic recovery and job creation in the years ahead and that education and training should therefore be protected as a priority area for funding in future budgets. The resources that have been put into education in this country over the past number of decades are proof of the importance attached to having a well educated workforce, which has provided this small country with a very valuable competitive advantage and has played a key role in our economic development.
The big problem, however, is that while there is indeed much more that needs to be done to give us the first class education system that this country, and especially our young people deserve, Ireland has, in blunt terms, been placed into receivership by the previous Fianna Fáil-led Administration. Thanks to economic mismanagement on a grand scale, which has saddled every family and child in Ireland with a significant long-term debt, we are now in the position where much of the money we spend on our public servants and public services comes not from our taxes but from ECB moneys provided to our banking system.
This situation of indebtedness is of course unsustainable, which is why this new national Government has come together with one overriding objective, namely, to regain our economic sovereignty and once again give us control over our own economic destiny, a control where the power to make and take decisions rests with ourselves as the citizens of this Republic.
To regain control of our sovereignty, however, will not be easy. It will take hard work on all of our parts and will require this Government to carry through some difficult decisions that will impact on all of us. Some of these savings decisions have already been incorporated as specific budgetary targets that underpin the agreed EU and IMF programme, compliance with which is currently being monitored by a team of EU and IMF experts who recently arrived in this country.
The Government has effectively had no choice but to sign up to the decisions in the agreement that must be met in 2011 and 2012. These decisions include a number of savings measures across the education sector decided by the previous Government. Some other savings decisions, covering the period 2012-14, have yet to be formulated in order for the overall EU and IMF expenditure reduction targets to be reached. Identifying and securing further savings in the education sector will be a challenge.
Therefore, while as I said I am happy to support this motion, it is important that we acknowledge the gravity of the economic situation that we have inherited and the constraints it places on us. Our hands are to a great extent tied by the rope of indebtedness that the previous Government has woven for us. In spite of the challenging position in which we find ourselves, I believe that the new programme for Government will provide the basis to restore confidence and get our economy moving again.
In regard to education, this Government’s ambition in the new programme, which was ratified by the Dáil, is to build a knowledge society and for education to be at the heart of a more cohesive and more equal society and to be the engine of sustainable economic growth. We need to shift the debate from one about inputs to one about outcomes. There is a range of proposals in the programme for Government that seeks to ensure maximum quality outcomes at all levels of the education system.
The programme for Government also contains proposals to resource a jobs fund which will provide additional places in training, work experience and educational opportunities for those who are out of work and to provide a range of initiatives to increase access to further higher level education for the unemployed. Further details regarding the jobs fund will be announced shortly by Government.
Before I refer to some of the specific education and training aims of the new programme for Government, it is important to state that achieving these aims will require us to spend astutely and efficiently and to target our resources in a more effective manner in order that we can achieve the best educational outcomes. While the 2011 expenditure allocation for my Department, at €8.91 billion, is one of the largest across Government, much of this, in fact 77% of current expenditure, goes on pay and pensions. Some 30%, or 103,000, of those employed in the public sector at the end of last year were employed in the education sector. More than 71,000 of these are either teachers or special needs assistants.
Securing further savings in the education sector while endeavouring to protect front line education and training services consequently presents a very significant challenge. The comprehensive spending reviews agreed in principle by Government yesterday will constitute an important mechanism to assist us in preparing the budget for 2012 and for future years. All Departments, including mine, will immediately set about preparing comprehensive expenditure reports by the end of June to identify expenditure programme savings, scope for savings arising from efficiencies and other reforms, proposals for rationalisation of agencies and the scope for further reductions in staffing.
The reviews will be assessed by a steering committee and finalised for presentation to the Government’s economic management council in September, feeding into the budget process.  For the benefit of the House, I should confirm that the council comprises the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and Deputy Howlin.
It is intended that the reviews will provide the Government with a comprehensive set of decisions which will, among other things, help to do the following — meet the overall fiscal consolidation objectives as set out in the EU and IMF agreement; facilitate the further reductions in public service numbers set out in the programme for Government and which are essential if the public sector pay bill is to be managed; realign spending with priorities in the new programme for Government; and identify new ways of achieving Government objectives in a more efficient way, in effect, doing more with less.
When the review process is completed we should have a clearer picture of the environment in which budgetary decisions for 2012 are to be taken. The process will also include an initiative to allow all stakeholders, including public servants, the social partners, State bodies and the general public to provide a direct input to the review exercise. This is an important and welcome feature of the process.
During the recent general election campaign, the Labour Party promised to prioritise a comprehensive spending review and the new Government has quickly implemented this agreed policy proposal. While this spending review will involve difficult decisions, it will also afford the opportunity to reform the public service to enhance efficiency and eliminate waste. Rather than adopting a piecemeal, cheese-paring approach which results in crude and damaging cuts that damage future growth and public services, as Fianna Fáil did when in office, the new Government will insist on a properly planned multi-annual expenditure strategy.
This motion notes the increases that have taken place in numbers of teachers in schools and improvements in pupil-teacher ratios. As Minister for Finance during the previous rainbow Government I, and many of my colleagues here on the Government benches, worked incredibly hard to ensure Ireland was one of the most competitive economies in the European Union. The economic track record of that Government is worth repeating for the benefit of the House.
We had first planned Government surplus in more than three decades, inflation was kept low and the national debt fell to 63% of GDP. When we left office in 1997, 1,000 new jobs were being created each week in the Irish economy. This prudent management of the economy laid a solid foundation for the improvements in resources to schools that occurred subsequently. Teacher numbers have increased significantly since but sadly through the mismanagement of recent years we are hard pressed to maintain those improvements.
The key drivers of the growth in teacher numbers over recent years include an overall increase of more than 40,000 pupils in our primary schools and the provision of dedicated supports for pupils with special needs. The number of teachers for pupils with special needs has increased from a very low base to a current level of close to 10,000 teachers between both primary and post-primary levels. There have also been improvements in the staffing schedule for allocating teachers to schools. There is now an average of one mainstream classroom teacher for every 28 pupils.
Another improvement is the provision of dedicated supports for pupils with English language needs. Some ten years ago we had about 260 of these language teachers in our schools while today we have more than 1,400 such teachers.
However, as I begin the annual round of conferences in the primary and post-primary school sectors, I need to make clear that we no longer have the capacity, given the current economic and fiscal situation, continually to increase teacher numbers. We have to operate on the basis that we must do more with less.
The Government has decided to adopt the specific budgetary targets under the EU-IMF programme that must be met in 2011. There are specific EU-IMF commitments and targets in 2012 for a reduction in the overall number of public servants on the payroll, including teachers. The importance of meeting the targets cannot be overstated. It is only by meeting those targets that the EU-IMF funding will continue to arrive in this country, to enable us continue to fund services while we make difficult and painful fiscal adjustments.
The task of managing the education budget is complicated by the fact that enrolments will continue to increase over the next few years. Between now and 2016, we are expecting that there will be close to an extra 70,000 pupils in our primary and post-primary schools. While the Government is committed to protecting front line education services to the greatest extent possible, we must not underestimate the challenge in doing so against a background of this level of rising enrolments, with its implications for teacher numbers and increased expenditure on capitation payments and on school building. For example, the expected increase of 57,000 pupils at primary level by 2018 could necessitate the provision of up to 2,050 additional classrooms. Notwithstanding provision for additional posts to meet demographics, the national recovery plan provided for a net reduction in teacher numbers in 2011. The detail on these measures was outlined in the 2011 budget. Given the previous legacy of economic mismanagement and the financial constraints in which this country now finds itself, it is not possible to reverse these changes.
My Department also has to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the number of teachers employed in schools is consistent with the EU-IMF programme of support for Ireland. Flexible redeployment arrangements are required to ensure all surplus permanent teachers are redeployed into vacancies. Given our budgetary situation, we need to have sufficient flexibility in the redeployment arrangements to ensure that surplus teachers in all schools, regardless of patronage type, can be readily redeployed to vacancies wherever they exist. In the public sector context where there is job security, we must be able to maximise effectiveness by redeploying staff. Given the exceptional arrangements applying whereby teacher vacancies are being filled, unlike other areas of the public service, we have a responsibility in this matter. The country simply cannot afford to have surplus teachers in a school while permitting recruitment to take place in another school. My Department will be seeking to recommence discussions with the relevant education partners at primary level, on further changes that will be necessary if we are to achieve our objective of absorbing all surplus teachers into vacancies that exist in other primary schools.
We also have a new cross-sectoral redeployment scheme at post-primary level. The added complexity at post-primary level is the requirement to match surplus teachers with specific qualifications into vacancies in those subject areas. However, we do not have a choice and it is essential that the new redeployment arrangements work well. During my recent visits to the school managers’ conferences, I was interested to hear how modern technology is helping to enhance the range of subjects being taught in two separate schools in Ballybunion and Listowel in County Kerry. I want to encourage a greater take up of this type of co-operation as a practical example of how the resources we provide can be used to maximum effect.
Preparatory work will be commencing shortly for the 2012 budget. The EU-IMF agreement and the planning underpinning it recognised the need to make further payroll savings in 2012. There is provision for consultation with the education partners on how best to achieve a further reduction in teacher payroll costs from 2012. Should the consultation process not produce alternative feasible measures to deliver the required savings, the introduction of appropriate increases in the classroom teacher allocation schedules is envisaged. My Department will be inviting the relevant partners to work on identifying measures that can deliver further savings.  We need to ensure that any inefficiencies in our systems are eliminated so we minimise the impact on front-line services.
I have described the recent OECD rankings for Ireland as a “wake-up call” for the Irish education system. The programme for Government makes clear our commitment to improving radically the literacy and numeracy standards achieved by our young people. No child should leave an Irish school unable to read and write. This will be one of the major goals of the Government and I am determined that we will address the serious weaknesses in young people’s learning that national assessments, inspection reports and international surveys have identified. What we do for early childhood and primary education can have a significant bearing on how successful we will be. This is an issue for second level schools as well. A cultural shift is needed so that all teachers in second level schools, not just those teaching languages or resource teachers, recognise that they can play a constructive role in fostering improvement in literacy levels. This is especially true for geography and history teachers.
The programme for Government commits us to developing and implementing a national literacy and numeracy strategy which will provide a comprehensive set of measures to improve learning outcomes for children and young people. My Department is engaged in a public consultation process on the contents of the strategy. We have received over 460 written submissions and my officials are meeting education partners and interest groups as part of the process. The strategy must provide a comprehensive approach to improvement. Literacy begins in the home. It is not just the responsibility of teachers, but of families and schools working together. That must be part and parcel of our approach to this issue.
I support this Private Members’ motion. I think it reflects the will of us as legislators, as citizens and as parents to ensure that the significant investment made in our education and training system is protected so it will continue to play a key part in the personal and professional development of our young people and contribute to economic recovery and job creation in the months and years ahead. However, we must recognise the economic reality arising from decisions of the past, and acknowledge the competing demands for limited resources and the requirement to reduce public sector numbers further. While acknowledging this reality, the Government will seek as far as possible to protect funding for education and training as a priority. I also commend this motion to the House.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): Cuidím leis an méid a dúirt an t-Aire ar an rún seo. Tá sé an-thábhachtach go mbeadh díospóireacht oscailte againn agus go mbeimis in ann anseo ár n-aigne a nochtadh i dtaobh conas mar is féidir oideachas a chur i gceartlár ár bpolasaí, ní hamháin i gceartlár na tíre agus na daltaí, ach i dtaobh cúrsaí eacnamaíochta de chomh maith. Is as cúrsaí oideachais is mó a thiocfaidh saol nua agus poist. Tá sé an-thábhachtach ar fad go mbeadh caighdeán níos airde agus níos fearr, más féidir é a bheith ann agus go mbeadh gach duine ag comhoibriú le chéile, idir an Rialtas, na múinteorí, na polaiteoirí agus muintir na h-Éireann.
Is áit í seo anois nach rabhamar riamh inti. Tá an tír in áit uafásach ar fad ó thaobh fostaíochta de. Má táimid chun rudaí a chur ar bun chun cúrsaí eacnamaíochta a fheabhsú, tá sé in am go mbeadh tuiscint níos fearr againn ar cén fáth nach bhfuilimid ag déanamh chomh maith, sa PISA ach go h-áirithe. PISA measures the cognitive skills of our students compared internationally across OECD countries. At the heart of our economic recovery, there must be a better outcome for all of our students as measured internationally by PISA scales and by a radical reform of our education system.
The international literature emphasises the importance of cognitive skills for our 15 and 16 year olds at the end of compulsory education. These skills largely measure the effectiveness of primary and lower secondary levels, and these are the levels that lay important educational foundations.
They largely predict later university entry and success. Comparative national performances in PISA predict later comparative national economic performances. That is a very important point. The better we do on the PISA international measurements the better we will do economically. That is a fundamental issue which we have to address here. The proportion of high achievers in such tests also indicates how well we are going to do. Cognitive skill results outweigh years of schooling as predictors of national economic progress. This is really a key issue.
In the 2009 PISA tests, Ireland exhibited a major absolute and comparative decline in performance over the past decade. A fundamental review and reform of Ireland’s primary and lower secondary education is required to raise these skills. This review should affect teacher education, qualifications and professional development and the reform of school organisation and curriculum. If our students are not doing as well as other students internationally of the same age, what do we need to change? What new interventions can we have in education that will assist in bringing forward students who are rightly and properly able to achieve the best they possibly can? Internationally there are many forms of remedial intervention to assist those who may experience difficulties in education. These include preschool and home-school liaison, remedial teaching at primary and second levels, and disadvantaged schools, such as, for example, the DEIS programme. All these are a very substantial help to students in this area.
Higher education institutions run second chance access courses as well. Remedial intervention and its effectiveness has been the subject of much research. Nobel Prize winner, James Heckman, and others state that the earlier the intervention the bigger the social and economic return. This should be a key part of our economic, social and educational policy. By targeting children at preschool level, especially those who come from disadvantaged areas, the incremental gain that can be made from increased investment will make a phenomenal impact on our PISA scales and on the ability of those extremely talented young people who, in many cases, leave school far too early. The literature indicates that it is mainly males who leave school, and that is where a significant reallocation of resources is needed.
There is also the question of male underachievement and lack of participation. The evidence for male comparative underachievement is overwhelming and is seen at all levels in our education system. In the PISA reading tests in 2009, a high proportion of males showed low reading skills. I stand to be corrected, but I believe the figure was something like 21% of males aged 15 or 16 who were not functionally literate. They were not able to read or write in a capacity that would allow them to carry out a normal job in a normal place of employment. That is not peculiar to Ireland and happens in other countries too, but with single-minded focus on this issue we can change how our children do at school and persuade more people, particularly young males, to stay in education. More males than females account for early school leavers. The entry rate for university is 60% female and 40% male. It is also a fact that the prison population largely comprises young illiterate males. Addressing male underachievement successfully promises major social benefits and strong comparative economic advantage, since this is an international phenomenon. Male underachievement is especially strong among males from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
One of the measures in which we are doing very poorly internationally, as the Minister indicated in his speech, is the results for languages, reading English and our capacity to be bilingual or trilingual. Finland, the most successful European country in PISA tests, has a successful policy of promoting trilingualism in its education system. Ireland, with its broad leaving certificate programme, has the potential, with effective language teaching, to confer active multilingualism on its citizens. In the PISA 2009 results Ireland showed a major disimprovement, with a decline which was the largest among the countries that participated in 2000. Ireland has as a major advantage the mastery and creative fluency in use of English. The decline in reading and writing skills as well as the high proportion of young males with low reading skills is not compatible with the exploitation of such an advantage. At leaving certificate level, fewer males than females take languages at higher level. A smaller proportion of these than the female proportion obtain higher grades. Promoting male language achievement must be part of our national language policy.
In the future there will be two other global European languages, Spanish and Portuguese. These will be of major economic and cultural importance. Spanish, although small, is growing in Irish schools. Portuguese, already the sixth global language, attracts few leaving certificate candidates. Schools and universities should have regard to the future importance of these languages. Many of our students attend school until whatever age and learn Irish. In many cases, however, they leave school without a fundamental grasp or speaking knowledge of Irish. I am a total gaelgeoir who spent all my summers in the Gaeltacht since I was very young and am a great supporter of all things Gaelic. However, there is something fundamental at the heart of our language which needs to be changed. One of the problems is that we have to open our minds to how we can improve the knowledge that young people have of Irish, particularly in primary school. I accept and acknowledge the great progress that has been made in our society in terms of the use of Irish in gaelscoileanna. These are very important and fruitful ventures. I would like to see the development of the gaelscoileanna and scoileanna lán-Gaelach after the primary level and believe there is a deficit in that regard. However, fundamental changes have to be made.
If we do this fundamental review and make these changes, as a country Ireland will be able to stand right in the top rank internationally as measured by our PISA score. If we do not do that, we shall never bring out the best in our children. Fundamentally, I would go back to those students who come from socially disadvantaged areas. If we really invest in preschool education, we can make a fundamental change for the benefit of our young people, nationally and internationally.
Deputy Seán Crowe: I move amendment No. 2:
I propose to share my time with Deputies Michael Colreavy and Sandra McLellan, with the permission of the House.
I have listened to the previous speakers and we in Sinn Féin have moved an amendment to the motion. We believe our amendment is much more comprehensive and reflects the reality of the education system, both past and present. It is visionary in its outlook in that regard. It calls on the Government to reverse the cuts to education and ensure that at least 6% of GDP is ring-fenced for education. The cap should be lifted on special needs assistance and the introduction of third level fees under any guise should be rejected. The amendment calls for a reversal in the recent changes for the qualifying criteria for the non-adjacent rates of maintenance grants and seeks to have education made a central tool of economic recovery.
I listened carefully to some of the speakers. The proposers of the motion talked in terms of the positive things that have emerged from the education system. Many of the positive gains in resources came at a time when the country was supposed to be awash with money. However, it was also a time when the gap between rich and poor in society widened considerably and when many schools and parents had to scrimp and save. Many schools are still in that difficult position.
I listened to the Minister speak about some of the positive aspects of our education system. He said education should be at the heart of a more cohesive and equal society and be the engine of sustainable economic growth. That is a sound principle. However, he also said we needed to shift the debate from being about inputs to being about outcomes. That is grand and while outcomes are important, education is also about inputs. Education should be about outcomes and not incomes, and that is where the difficulty lies. It is about people’s income, and this attitude has been perpetuated down the years. If people have a higher income, the chances their children will go on to further education is greater. The difficulty for many parents currently is that if they have more than one child, they must make the choice as to which child will benefit from going on with their education. No family should be put in that position.
The Fianna Fáil motion mentions the significant increases in resources allocated to training over the years. Let us look back at the measures included in last year’s budget with regard to education, leaving aside those introduced in the previous years which were equally appalling. Last year there was a reduction of 5% in the capitation grants available to schools. This grant covers day to day running costs such as electricity and heat. There was a withdrawal of resource teachers for Travellers and the proposed withdrawal of 500 language support teachers over four years. There was also a hike in the school transport fee and a new fee introduced for primary school students. Rural co-ordinator posts allocated to disadvantaged rural schools were removed and a cap was imposed on the number of special needs assistants. Student registration charges were increased to €2,000 per year, a new €200 charge was imposed for PLC courses and there was a reduction in grant payments of 4%. Inservice budgets were slashed from 2008 onwards and cuts were made to education centre budgets. ICT support teachers were removed and no book grant was provided in 2009. The motion mentions special needs education and gives Fianna Fáil another pat on the back in this regard, but let us take a look at Fianna Fáil’s miserable record on special needs education. In 2000, we had the closure of more than 100 special classes in primary schools. Since then, pupils throughout the State have lost special needs assistants, schools have had resources cut and, most recently, a cap has been imposed on the recruitment of SNAs.
In response to a recent parliamentary question, the Minister, Deputy Quinn, mentioned special needs. I welcome his commitment to review the arbitrary deadline for awarding SNAs. This deadline makes no sense to schools considering there is no way of knowing how many new entrants will have special needs or how many newly diagnosed children there will be. The Minister must ensure that children with special education needs have access to an SNA based on educational need alone, rather than on how many SNAs the Government is willing to pay.
The Fianna Fáil motion also mentions participation in third level education and notes that this has expanded. That is all very well, but the motion does not mention the total hames the previous Government made of the third level sector. The student registration fee has increased year on year since its inception and has now reached a staggering €2,000 per student per year. This is a scandal. What is even more of a scandal is that the Labour Party, which seemed to be to the fore in voicing its opposition to tuition fees, has been completely silent on the issue since elected to Government. Fees by stealth are still fees. By increasing the registration fee, the Minister is implementing fees through the back door. I urge the Minister to stand by his commitment to oppose the introduction of student fees in any guise.
In recent years those from disadvantaged areas and those on low and middle incomes have been the worst hit by draconian education budgets. Cuts to Traveller education administered by the previous Government and upheld by the current Government are disgraceful. The withdrawal of resource teachers for Travellers will see disadvantaged children further marginalised in the education context. These are the types of issues the new Government and the Minister need to prioritise. They are also examples which demonstrate how austerity measures dictated by the EU and IMF affect people on the ground. We need to make education a tool for recovery and change.
Deputy Michael Colreavy: I wish the Minister for Education and Skills the best. His is probably one of the most important Ministries. Decisions made by the Department over the next five years will shape the future of the nation for the next 50 years and beyond. His portfolio is critically important and I wish him well with it.
I want to zone in on the value for money review of the smaller primary schools currently taking place. I represent Sligo and north Leitrim where there are many small two or three-teacher schools. The pupils, parents, management boards, teachers and wider communities in these areas fear that the value for money review of smaller schools is not a value for money review, but an exercise in discovering how primary education can be provided more cheaply.  A value for money review requires that we are able to measure and compare outcomes between the smaller and larger schools. However, I am not aware that any outcome measurements are available or are being used. The INTO maintains that the outcomes from smaller primary schools are at least as good as outcomes from larger schools.
Based on Department figures of the number of smaller schools in the country, the projected savings for each school amalgamated would be approximately €80,000 per annum —€80,000 for what? The result would be higher transport charges, children would spend longer on the school bus morning and evening and children from closed smaller schools would be sent to larger schools which might be already overcrowded and lack adequate facilities.
Sometimes we and the Government seem to forget that we are unlike the rest of Europe, in that we have dispersed settlements. Not all of us live in cities and larger towns and villages. That is part of our heritage and culture and what we are. People in rural areas have witnessed the closure of post offices, Garda stations, pubs and shops. They face difficulty getting planning permission and their football clubs have been weakened through emigration. Such issues have worsened and accelerated over the past decade. Now these people face the threat of closure of smaller primary schools.
Seldom does one hear somebody from the Opposition praise a Minister or Minister of State. However, I will do so. I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy John Perry, on the unequivocal undertaking he gave at a public meeting in Sligo last night that no smaller school in Sligo or Leitrim would be closed on his watch. I appreciate his clarity on this. I ask the Minister for Education and Skills to provide similar clarity for smaller primary schools State-wide.
Deputy Sandra McLellan: Sinn Féin opposes the Fianna Fáil Private Members’ motion and I urge Members of the House to support our amendment. We take issue with the spin used in the first part of the motion and what could only be described as the wholly unwarranted self-congratulatory tone used by Fianna Fáil throughout the text. This motion must go much further if we are to truly stand up for educational rights in this State.
Education in Ireland is now a commodity. Taxpayers are expected to pay the wages of teachers in private schools while their own children go to school in mouldy prefabs. The child from a privileged background can afford extra tuition while children with special needs go without appropriate supports. Special needs assistants are paid just over the minimum wage and yet they are the ones losing their jobs. Why does the Government not stop paying the salaries of teachers in private schools? It is nothing short of a scandal that Fianna Fáil and the Green Party engaged in a full-blown attack on education services by cutting capital funding, increasing the pupil-teacher ratio, cutting funds for special needs and education disadvantage, and administering a comically inadequate back-to-school allowance. Fine Gael and Labour are now quite happy to continue this.
The Fianna Fáil Private Members’ motion notes the expansion in third level participation. While we welcome this, it was its budget that made changes to the grant system that increased the qualifying distance for the non-adjacent grant from 24 km to 45 km. While we would call for a complete overhaul of the grant system so that grant rates reflect the true costs of going to college, the original qualifying criteria must be restored as an interim measure.
The Fine Gael-Labour programme for Government was full of well-meaning platitudes about education. Buzz words such as “radical”, “reform” and “equality” are featured prominently. These buzzwords mean nothing to the young people from places such as Balbriggan who cannot afford to move out of their homes and must sit on buses for almost four hours a day commuting to and from UCD because the meagre grant they receive barely allows them to buy books let alone move to be near their college. Those four hours could be spent studying.
Once again, as we saw with the universal social charge, there is no equality of outcome here. Those who receive third level grants are already on the lower end of the income scale. Clearly ensuring equality in education is not a priority for Fine Gael or Labour. Have they taken the view that the working poor, the low income families who are scrimping and saving to feed and educate their children, can sustain this? Why have low-income people become the Government’s financial punch bag? This increase in the qualifying distance for the non-adjacent grant was a cruel measure initiated by Fianna Fáil and carried on by Fine Gael and Labour. Simply because the criteria moved by 20 km on a particular day it does not mean that young people in receipt of those grants have any more money than they did before it was moved. All it means is that those young people who are only barely managing financially when it comes to going to third-level education will find it even harder.
The Government knows the furore that will ensue if they introduce third level fees — which is most definitely on the cards — so it is doing it by stealth. It is attempting to make it so difficult for low-income young people to attend third level that eventually they will just drop out or not even apply in the first place. Constructive dismissal has now reached the classrooms of our universities.
Sinn Féin will not support this motion and will call on Members to support our amendment. Fianna Fáil Members have hard necks laying this motion before the House. One thing is certain. If they had as hard a neck with the IMF as they did with the ordinary working person in this State, we would all be considerably better off.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: I wish to share time with Deputy Mattie McGrath.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: We all agree that we need to continue our investment in education. I would have liked to have seen the issue of pre-school education addressed in the motion because that type of investment brings great returns. Primary principals to whom I have spoken have commented positively about the investment in that it has made pupils’ in junior infants classes more uniform in their readiness for school. Prior to this the children, whose parents could afford to send them to pre-school, might have stood out. Even at this early stage it has shown a definite return and it is important that this investment is protected.
The motion refers to the pupil-teacher ratio. While the ratio may apply nationally, class sizes differ considerably depending on the part of the country. I have no difficulty with positive discrimination favouring areas that are subject to social deprivation, but I have difficulty with an unfair distribution of resources. Kildare North and other areas that have grown rapidly in recent years tend to have much larger class sizes which impacts on the ability of the teacher to deliver a more interactive learning. Unfortunately class sizes of well in excess of 30 are not unusual. Particular problems arise when there are one or more children with special needs and perhaps one or more SNAs. The physical size of the classroom can be an issue. Teachers have told me they often feel they are dealing with crowd control. It is essential that there is fair play. It did not occur in the good times under the previous Administration and I am asking that this Government should pay attention to fair play.
I acknowledge the increase in SNAs. However, prior to this change we must remember that children with special needs were often educated in special schools. It is far more common for these children to be educated in mainstream schools now with the assistance of SNAs who often assist in individual education plans. We know those numbers are capped and while it often takes months to get an SNA appointed for a child, it only takes minutes to have the SNA removed, which is a retrograde step.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: I was pleased to hear the Minister and the Minister of State say earlier that they will try to maintain funding to the education sector to the best of their ability. We have made great progress in the past decade in many aspects of education, including the secondary school DEIS programme, special needs assistants at all levels, second chance education and the area of crèches and the naíonraí. In many cases where we had naíonraí and playschools, they were set up by voluntary groups and occasionally a limited company gave guarantees. They were often set up by one person using his or her own intuition, who worked very hard at it. While crèches and child-care facilities got funding in recent times under the different programmes, they still need to be supported. I welcome the subvention that is available this year. They need to be supported and we need children to get in there. As other speakers have said, children who have had pre-school education are more capable and ready to go into primary school. While we have made progress in many areas we need to continue the investment. We will be watching the Minister to ensure he treats all sectors fairly.
For job creation and economic recovery, it is vital to have people upskilled and reskilled so that they will be ready and able to take up the challenges to get us out of the situation in which we find ourselves at present. I would caution two areas. First is the so-called value for money audit on smaller schools, including two-classroom schools. These form the bedrock of society in many areas. So many times in the past it has been proved that big is not greater than everything else and there is an important close-knit relationship with the community in those areas. I ask the Government to be very careful in that regard and not to do anything rash.
The VEC sector was threatened with reorganisation by the previous Minister. The VECs have served our country very well and in the fullness of time will stand up to any scrutiny. In many areas of education and especially in adult education the VEC sector was the only sector delivering adult education programmes before it was fashionable or even desired. As a member of a VEC and chair of its adult education board for many years, I saw at first hand the valuable work and the many voluntary tutors that were there. There was a plethora of education offerings and VECs are willing to expand into national schools and other areas including linking to third level. I would not like to see the axe wielded there too willingly and I would appeal to the Minister to be prudent.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sorry but I will have to wield the axe.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: I appreciate that. I heard you had a big one, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
Deputy Frank Feighan: Is the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, aware that the Lough Allen gas field in the north west, covering the counties of Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo and Fermanagh could be of great benefit to the taxpayer? What measures is the Government taking to benefit from the potential resource? As a country we have not been to the fore in recognising the vast resources that exist. Through mismanagement and what some refer to as dodgy deals we seem to have lost control of vast amounts of licences from which the country could benefit substantially. Perhaps now is the time to set up a State oil company or gas company to help us get out of the recession. The State could buy out the existing licences. More importantly, it would allow us to wear the green jersey and benefit enormously from the potential resources.
The vast Lough Allen field stretches to counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo. Given the rising price of natural gas and the application of new technology such as horizontal drilling, exploration in the area will be of considerable interest. In Texas horizontal drilling has replaced vertical drilling which has resulted in considerable growth in the sector. The Fort Worth chamber of commerce once compared the growth to having ten Boeing aircraft plants plunked down on the prairie overnight. Jobs were created in record numbers, royalty payments of billions of dollars poured into local landowners and the money began to circulate through the economy. This country’s tax coffers will swell if the State gains more control of the sector.
Many years ago I was involved in exploration shares and I have knowledge of exploration companies. I am interested in the area because I believe it would be of significant benefit to this country. I do not have a personal interest. This country should consider setting up major exploration companies. We should consider taking the licences for ourselves. We should take a risk on behalf of the economy. We have seen what has happened off the west coast where we effectively lost control of licences and where considerable opposition exists to what is happening. I do not say that what is happening to Shell is right or wrong but it is important to have control of our own destiny. When one has such control, one has control of the tax take and where the profits go. Will the Minister outline what exactly we are doing to ensure we have control of the vast natural resources around our coasts but more importantly, onshore, where it is much more economical and less risky to exploit natural gas? That would be of considerable benefit and would be of huge interest to the taxpayer.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): I am replying to this matter on behalf on the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte. I thank Deputy Feighan for his remarks and for giving an opportunity to the House to discuss the matter relating to the Lough Allen gas field in the north west.
The Lough Allen, or North West Carboniferous, Basin is situated in the north west of the country and includes parts of counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo, Monaghan, Roscommon and Sligo. The North West Carboniferous Basin also extends into Northern Ireland.
The basin has been subject to a number of petroleum exploration authorisations since the early 1960s. Six exploration wells have been drilled in the area since 1963 and while some natural gas potential was identified, it was not considered to be commercially viable. In recent years there has been renewed interest in exploring the natural gas resource potential of the area. Earlier this year, following an open competition, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources offered onshore petroleum licensing options to Tamboran Resources Limited covering 986 km2 over parts of Cavan, Leitrim and Sligo and to the Lough Allen Natural Gas Company Limited covering 467 km2 over parts of Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo. The licensing options offered are for a two year period and are subject to agreed work programmes. The work programmes include procurement of all available and relevant technical data, including geological and geophysical studies, along with new data acquisition projects as considered necessary. Exploration drilling is not allowed under these authorisations, but shallow geological sampling is permitted where subsurface penetrations would typically not exceed 100 m to 200 m. Option holders wishing to enter on to land would need the landowner’s permission.
While exploration activities under these licensing options are at an early stage, the licensing options will allow the companies to participate in developing exploration objectives and assess the petroleum potential of their acreage before deciding on whether to progress to an exploration licence. It is positive that these two companies, one Irish and one Australian, have demonstrated an interest in investing in exploring the petroleum potential of the North West Carboniferous Basin. Ireland’s petroleum potential, both onshore and offshore, can only be proven through effective exploration.
On the return to the State from any possible future commercial finds of hydrocarbons in the area, a comprehensive review of Ireland’s licensing terms was carried out in 2007 by independent economic consultants. Following this review both the fiscal and non-fiscal licensing terms were revised. The revised terms apply to all exploration licences issued since 1 January 2007. The terms provide for a new profit resource rent tax of up to 15%, in addition to the 25% corporate tax rate previously applying. The revised terms ensure that the direct return to the State would be up to 40% in the case of very profitable fields.
The tax regime applicable to petroleum production is a key factor in attracting internationally mobile exploration investment to Ireland. The tax terms offered to companies reflect the fact that Ireland’s petroleum potential is largely unproven and that we need to encourage a higher level of exploration activity. It is, however, much too early to talk about a possible commercial development. While the exploration activity planned for the next two years will help develop the understanding of the area’s hydrocarbon potential, it will not prove the existence of commercial quantities of hydrocarbons. That could only happen in a number of years, after a further programme of exploration work is carried out, including successful exploration drilling. Before that could happen the two companies mentioned would each have to apply to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources for an exploration licence.
Deputy Tom Fleming: I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan. In the previous budget the then Minister of State with responsibility for housing and local services, Michael Finneran, announced the new tenant purchase scheme which was widely welcomed by local authorities and tenants’ groups, offering more families around the county the opportunity to purchase their own home.
In February the Minister released details of the new scheme and in recent weeks local authorities have been publicising the scheme to their tenants. The new scheme provides long-standing tenants with the opportunity to buy their homes at a discount rate of up to 45% on market price, which as we are all aware is already much reduced. With the equivalent of the owner-occupier grant of approximately €4,000 the discount amounts to approximately 50%. The main details of the scheme are as follows. The maximum discount on market price will be 45% at a rate of 3% per year of tenancy up to 15 years maximum. The new scheme will apply to tenants of more than 15 years standing. All applications to purchase must be received by the relevant housing authority before the end of the current year and the purchase completed no later than 31 December 2012. This scheme offers possibilities for families and local authorities to benefit from the sale of local authority properties. The moneys generated from the scheme will stay with the local authorities and contribute to their funding. However, due to the lack of access to credit, many potential purchasers are being forced out of the market.
This scheme has really caught the imagination of tenants in my constituency in Kerry, as it has done around the country. However, the problem now is ensuring that people can avail of the scheme. I am calling on the Ministers with responsibility for the environment, housing and finance to consider the introduction of affordable credit lines specifically for those wishing to access this new scheme. They could, perhaps, work with financial institutions, banks, credit unions, and local authorities. I would welcome their comments on this.
Deputy Phil Hogan: I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The most recent tenant purchase scheme, introduced in the last budget, is an enhancement of the existing scheme. It provides for a discount of up to 45% for qualifying tenants. Given that the discount is applied to the open market value of the property, and that house prices have fallen considerably in recent years, the scheme is both generous and attractive for prospective purchasers.
My Department is anxious to facilitate home ownership under this and other schemes for as many local authority tenants as possible. In order to advance such acquisitions, local authorities have been making loan finance available for a good many years. A considerable number of people have benefited from access to funding from this source when no other options were open to them. My Department and the local authorities will continue to explore more imaginative modes of housing delivery in the coming years. In advancing loans for housing acquisition, it is of pressing importance that the funding be made available based upon sound lending criteria. We owe it to our borrowers to ensure that loans are granted fairly and transparently. We also have a responsibility to ensure that the borrower can sustain the loan and keep intact the realisation of the goal of home ownership to which he has aspired.
Of equal importance, in view of recent developments in the domestic property market, is the imperative for local authorities to ensure that prudence and pragmatism are applied to all aspects of the management of their housing loans books. In a time of limited resources, deploying those resources in a focused and effective manner ensures the management of the loans portfolio can be achieved as efficiently as possible.
The current credit policy has been in effect since 2009. It was deemed appropriate at that time to update the elements associated with local authority lending and to have a homogenous regime in place that ensured best practice was followed across the sector. My Department constantly monitors these trends and reacts accordingly. A revised set of guidelines, which are in preparation and which will issue shortly, will voluntarily incorporate recent changes made to the Financial Regulator’s code of practice. Under this protocol, all applicants are assessed according to the same criteria, and their applications subjected to the same independent scrutiny. It is desirable to make adequate lending provision available to local authority tenants who wish to avail of the tenant purchase schemes, while also adhering to prudent lending practices. The current and impending revised guidelines achieve equitable consideration of all applications.
I am happy that the current regime is a fair scheme that adequately meets the needs of prospective borrowers and facilitates participation in housing acquisition initiatives such as the existing and revised tenant purchase schemes.
Deputy Olivia Mitchell: I welcome the opportunity to raise this issue with the Minister, specifically the impact of section 48 levies and, where they exist, section 49 levies on business activity, primarily in my constituency but also nationally. I realise there is an elegance to the notion underlying the system of levies in that those who benefit from development should be the ones who pay for the infrastructure that is supported. However, the reality in this climate is that this is simply not practical. I do not believe it was ever practical or realistic.
It is true that in the Celtic tiger years businesses and developers were willing to pay almost anything to obtain planning permission. However, the levy was calculated in such a way that there was an incentive for local authorities to over-zone, overdevelop, increase densities and have one eye at all times on every single zoning and planning decision.
Levies are calculated by dividing the cost of the infrastructure by the quantum of expected development. The greater the quantum, the more infrastructure that local authorities could provide. We all know how that ended. The problem now, however, is that there is no building taking place. Where somebody wants to build, the levy is still in place at the old rate. All other prices have fallen and levies have not. They are now acting as a brake on development and preventing otherwise viable developments and business decisions. The levy is preventing those who might have made the decision to expand their business or add an extension to their home from doing so. Small amounts of activity are being stymied by the levies and development.
In my constituency, even to convert a warehouse from an old use to a new use attracts a levy of thousands of euro. The net result is that jobs that might have been created are not created, and businesses that might have grown decide not to bother expanding.
It is true that local authorities unilaterally decide to reduce the levies but, understandably, they are reluctant to move on their own primarily because it could attract business from one local authority area to another. However, it does not solve the overall problem, nor does it, without some nod from central government, give some indication as to how infrastructure would be tackled in the future.
The real issue, which I do not expect the Minister to deal with today, is the very vexed question of how and by whom infrastructure should be funded. The previous Government fuelled the property bubble by loading all costs of all infrastructure onto those responsible for newly built projects. That is not sustainable, except in very unusual circumstances where there is constant expansion of the population. This only ever happens for a few years, during which it is sustainable, but thereafter one runs into the kind of trouble we have run into.
A more sustainable funding source must be identified and a fair distribution of infrastructure costs between central and local government must be found. In my constituency, I benefit from the Luas, for which I paid no contribution whatsoever. My neighbour’s children, however, are paying for it owing to their new houses. The new residents and businesses pay while the others do not. That is fundamentally unfair and it is also unsustainable. I ask the Minister to address, in the short term, the immediate issue of asking businesses to pay what are effectively Celtic tiger prices in a bailout economy.
Deputy Phil Hogan: I thank the Deputy for raising this issue.
The key objective set out in the programme for Government is to get people back to work, and this will be reflected in policy and programme development across Departments, agencies and local authorities, now and for the coming years.
The Planning and Development Act 2000 provided for a radical overhaul of the development contribution system. One of the central tenets of the reforms under the Act was to introduce greater transparency in the way in which development contributions were levied and applied. Under section 48 of the Act, elected members in local government were given the powers to make, amend or reject the development contribution scheme proposed by the manager following a public consultation process. It is the elected members, therefore, that have the central role in overseeing the level of contributions being sought and the way in which these contributions are spent by the local authority.
Section 49 of the Act provides for the drawing up of a supplementary development contribution scheme to fund a particular strategic public infrastructure service or project and these have been used typically, but not exclusively, to fund in part transport infrastructure projects. Notwithstanding that, I understand where Deputy Mitchell is coming from in regard to the contributions that accrue to the local authority under these schemes and the part they play in drawing down necessary infrastructural finance from the Departments, particularly from mine.
The policy guidance framework for development contributions set out by my Department is designed to draw the attention of local authorities to their obligations under the legislation, while also recognising that the adoption of development contribution schemes remains a reserved function. The most recent policy guidance requires the county development board to be consulted in the framing of development contribution schemes, thus ensuring input from a broad spectrum of sectors.
Section 135 of the Local Government Act 2001 requires managers, before the start of each financial year, to prepare and submit to the council a report indicating the programme of capital projects proposed for the forthcoming and following two years. The development contributions collected by local authorities are ring-fenced and committed to fund a planned capital programme as set out in the development contribution scheme adopted by the elected members. The rate of development contributions must have regard to the actual estimated cost of providing the classes of public infrastructure and facilities. There has been a steep decline in revenue from these schemes and income will undoubtedly continue to be adversely impacted upon in the current economic climate.
A number of local authorities have responded to the difficult economic circumstances by amending the scheme to reduce their contribution rates, in particular for employment generating projects. For example, Louth County Council has halved its development contribution rates for expansions to authorised industrial and manufacturing operations, for IDA and Enterprise Ireland supported manufacturing, international trade and the financial services sector, and for businesses grant-aided by the county enterprise board. This is an example of what local authorities can do if they have the existing resources to achieve it. The Department is also aware that in many cases the payment of development contributions has been phased by local authorities.
The Department is preparing updated guidance for local authorities which will require them to consider the impact of development contributions on businesses and competitiveness generally in the development of the scheme in the current climate. The guidance will be finalised by the middle of this year. Any changes made by local authorities to their schemes on foot of this updated guidance will also have to consider the overall funding of the authority, existing contractual commitments and the importance of supporting local employment through projects funded by development contributions.
I am conscious of the difficulties projects have in getting off the ground because of the imposition in recent years of development contributions that may be more closely related to more buoyant economic times. I am glad to say these schemes are constantly under review and will be continually monitored in the coming months to see whether we can ensure the development contribution scheme is not hampering business and employment projects from commencing.
Deputy James Bannon: I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan. I also thank the Ceann Comhairle for affording me time to discuss this important matter, namely the need for the Minister for Health and Children to outline his position on the issue of agency nurses, given the untenable cutbacks in the wages of such health care professionals and the abuses in the system which are leading to a stranglehold in the employment of such staff through the endorsement by the HSE of the monopoly position of one agency which I believe was paid €47 million in the period 2007 to 2011.
I cannot stress more strongly the need to address the current situation in the employment of nursing personnel which is leading to what I can only describe as a major abuse of the health care system. While I am aware that this is in no way an indictment of the position of the Minister who inherited the problem from the previous Administration, it is one that needs to be urgently addressed. That money needed for patient care is being squandered on private employment agencies is scandalous.
From my perspective and that of any taxpayer, it is an outrage a situation has been allowed to develop which has seen an embargo on the employment of front-line staff and resulted in money being made hand over fist by a private employment agency at the expense of the sick and vulnerable and nursing staff. All right thinking people are outraged that the embargo on the employment of front-line medical staff has led to a situation where a gravy train has been created for private agencies. The €376 million spent by the HSE on agency nurse wages employed by 277 companies between 2007 and June 2010, with €100 million going to agency owners, is indicative of the abuse of the system.
For the HSE to have handed a monopoly in the provision of agency staff to one private agency is incomprehensible and very annoying. It is my understanding €100 million has been paid to agencies to attempt to maintain staffing levels without breaking the previous Government’s moratorium on the employment of new staff. To put it mildly, this is criminal. Given that it has been proved that employing a stand-in nurse can cost more than one third more than a full-time staff member, where is the logic in continuing this practice? It is obvious that patients do not benefit from the continual turn-around of staff; nurses do not benefit in any way from engaging in temporary work and, to make matters worse, the taxpayer is being screwed yet again. It should be borne in mind that agency nurses are now at the mercy of one agency and have seen pre-tax salary cutbacks of between 20% and 50%. They enjoy none of the rights of full-time employees. They have no entitlement to sick pay, pensions, maternity leave or paid further education programmes such as postgraduate courses.
I understand an attempt has been made by the HSE to establish a national pool of nurses, which would eliminate the middle man or woman. While this would go some way towards removing the terrible waste, I cannot help but think that if the health boards were still in place, this could be done better at a regional or local level.
Another abuse of the system is the allowing of double-jobbing. Nurses who availed of the buy-out package or early retirement are returning to the system on a temporary basis, which means they are receiving both a pension and a salary. This is totally unfair to those who are struggling to make ends meet on wages which have been paired to the bone.
Slashing the pay of agency nurses would not improve services. In the long run it would be detrimental, as having high numbers of rotating agency nurses on wards would remove continuity of care, leaving patients, staff nurses, doctors and management with new faces on a daily basis. While all agency nurses are professionals, it takes time to adjust to a new ward, thereby causing potential inefficiencies at ward level.
Last week alone in one midlands hospital 58 shift periods were left uncovered. The first consideration is patient care. Another is the stress on ward staff to make good the lack of necessary personnel. Front-line services are being severely affected by the lack of staff. Wards are being closed, services reduced and waiting lists are becoming ever longer. Unless one has an emergency one will not be treated in a timely manner and many less urgent illnesses or ailments are left being untreated owing to a lack of services.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Joanna Tuffy): The Deputy’s time is up.
Deputy James Bannon: These ailments may not be life-threatening, but they are often the cause of people being unable to work which, in turn, places an economic burden on our already crumbling economy.
Agency nurses are very much aware of the economic crisis, as most are struggling to survive and many of them are the only person in a family working and they pay taxes like everyone else. Does the Minster believe it is right and just that anyone’s pre-tax wages should be cut by between 20% and 50%?
Acting Chairman (Deputy Joanna Tuffy): I have to call the Minister.
Deputy James Bannon: These nurses work alongside colleagues and perform the same duties and have the same responsibilities and level of accountability, yet they have no pension, sick pay or maternity leave entitlements. Now they do not even have a decent wage. I ask the Minister to bring to bear some logical thinking on the issue of the employment of nursing staff. I am certain that he cannot see any benefit in putting in place an embargo on employment only to spend three times the amount on the employment of temporary staff.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Joanna Tuffy): The Deputy went well over time.
Deputy Phil Hogan: I thank Deputy Bannon for raising this matter and apologise for the absence of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy James Reilly, who has asked me to reply on his behalf.
The HSE introduced new arrangements for contracting agency staff on 14 March 2011. The appointment of agencies to provide health staff, including agency nurses, is a HSE procurement matter. The new contract for agency staff is part of the approved HSE service plan for 2011 and will deliver cost savings in excess of €40 million across the health sector, thus helping to protect services. The use of agency staff has always been a feature of the health system and will remain an ongoing requirement to fill short-term vacancies and ensure continuity of service provision. All agency staff, including agency nurses, are employed directly by the agencies that are successful in the HSE’s tendering competitions.
The new agency contract was raised by health service trade unions at the health sector implementation body established under the public service agreement and was subsequently considered by the national level implementation body. I understand the unions expressed serious concerns about the fact that agency nurses would now be paid at a lower rate than had previously been the case. The HSE pointed out that this was a matter for the agency concerned. The implementation body noted that a process of engagement between both the social partners at national level and the parties within the public service on the implications of the utilisation, terms and conditions of agency staffing, arising from the transposition due by December of this year of the directive on temporary agency work, 2008/104/EC, should commence as soon as possible. The body also recommended that the parties should seek the assistance of the Labour Relations Commission regarding implementation issues.
In summary, therefore, the contract negotiated by the HSE remains in place, but it is my understanding that both parties will attend the Labour Relations Commission to discuss certain issues relating to its implementation. The HSE is required as part of the employment control framework to keep the use of agency staff to a minimum. It has indicated that where possible, in the context of the employment control framework, part-time and work sharing staff will be offered the opportunity to increase the number of hours they work before agency staff are used. However, the HSE is also required to achieve the overall employment targets set out under the Employment Control Framework 2011-2014 as part of the package of measures being undertaken by the Government to address the crisis in the public finances. The framework requires the HSE to achieve a net reduction in employment of approximately 1,500 each year from 2011 to 2014.
The employment control framework provides that agency personnel can be used in exceptional circumstances to provide emergency relief for medical-professional staff providing essential front line health, welfare and protection services. Furthermore, the HSE is allowed under the framework to fill posts on an exceptional basis to maintain essential services at risk and to meet priority service change and reconfiguration requirements once the overall required reduction in employment is being met.
The new contract secured by the HSE for agency staff is only one of a wide range of measures being put in place within the health service to protect services while still achieving the expenditure reductions required under the EU-IMF agreed programme for the stabilisation and recovery of the public finances. The health aspects of the public service agreement recognised that reductions in expenditure and employment numbers would be required and were specifically designed to help protect services in this way.
The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 29, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 30 to 36, inclusive, answered orally.
37. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for the delivery of a new general practitioner contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7546/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Róisín Shortall): The current General Medical Services (GMS) GP Capitation Contract was introduced in 1989 and is based on a diagnosis and treatment model. The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a new GMS GP contract with an increased emphasis on the management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. I would envisage that the new contract will also focus on prevention and will include a requirement for GPs to provide care as part of integrated multidisciplinary Primary Care Teams.
I have already asked the Department, in consultation with the HSE, to finalise proposals for a new contract. I have also asked the Department to explore how best to address the competition law issues that will need to be taken into account in introducing a new contract.
38. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the impact the changes in funding will make to hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7558/11]
44. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health and Children when he will commence the promised delivery of free primary health care for all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7538/11]
49. Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health and Children when the promised White Paper on universal health insurance will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7522/11]
55. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that general practitioners in the Dutch health system see 70 patients a day and that GPs receive nine euro per visit under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7526/11]
59. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to turn public hospitals into not for profit independent trusts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7520/11]
72. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has met with representatives from the Irish medical organisations with a view to rolling out universal health insurance; and if so, if he has discussed the amount general practitioners would receive per patient visit. [7528/11]
370. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to change the funding models for hospitals as per his press comments of 24 March 2011 and the way this change will affect district and community hospitals around the country. [7350/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 44, 49, 55, 59, 72 and 370 together.
The Government is embarking on a major reform programme for the health system. The aim of this reform process is to deliver a single-tier health service that will deliver equal access to care based on need, not income. There are three key elements in the reform process.
The first involves significant strengthening of primary care services to deliver universal primary care with removal of cost as a barrier to access for patients. This commitment will be achieved on a phased basis to allow for the recruitment of additional doctors, nurses and other primary care professionals.
The second area to be addressed involves the reform of the acute hospital sector and this will be achieved in parallel to the development of the primary care sector. We have committed to tackling the issue of waiting times and waiting lists by introducing new initiatives such as the Special Delivery Unit. We will also introduce a “Money Follows the Patient” funding system for hospitals. This is a more efficient financing mechanism than the current block grant funding allocations. We will also introduce a purchaser/provider split in the hospital sector by establishing hospitals as independent not for profit trusts.
Once the key building blocks, such as a strengthened primary care system and “Money Follows the Patient” funding, have been put in place, the health sector will be ready for the final part of the reform process. This involves introducing a new universal health insurance system. This system will give patients a choice of insurer and will guarantee that every citizen has equal access to a comprehensive range of curative services, including both primary and hospital care.
The Government is committed to implementing a comprehensive programme of health reform. The detailed implementation arrangements will be subject to careful examination and I intend to consult widely throughout this process. The Government has set clear goals for the health service, namely:
I believe these goals can command widespread support within our health service based upon their connection to the values and professionalism of those who work in the health service. I will be communicating on an ongoing basis as the detailed arrangements for examination and implementation of key reforms are progressed. This will include the publication of a White Paper on the Financing of Universal Health Insurance, as set out in the Programme for Government. The process of policy development and implementation will include issues raised by Deputies, such as the financing of GP services and district and community nursing hospitals. Finally, I refer to Deputy Kelleher’s question on the Dutch system. Firstly, I understand that GPs in the Netherlands are paid on the basis of both an annual capitation fee and a fee per consultation in respect of each patient. Secondly, it should be noted that the design of health reforms will fully consider international best practice and this will include the achievements and learning associated with the Dutch reforms. However, any reforms implemented here will be designed to fit the Irish system and to obtain the best outcomes for Irish patients.
39. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will review the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7391/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The future of the National Treatment Purchase Fund is among the issues to be considered in the context of the implementation of the Government’s commitment to the introduction of a system of Universal Health Insurance. Currently, the NTPF is responsible for arranging care for those patients who have been waiting longest for hospital treatment and for the negotiation, on behalf of the HSE, of nursing home prices under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. I recognise that the Fund has developed considerable expertise in negotiating and purchasing acute and long-term care. I wish to consider the best way in which to apply this expertise in the interests of improving public access to clinical services.
40. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will publish the North-South study on health care co-operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7534/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): In 2007 the Department of Health and Children, and the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Northern Ireland), agreed to undertake a Feasibility Study on the potential for future cross border cooperation. A Project Board comprising representatives of the two Departments, the Health Service Executive, and Cooperation And Working Together (CAWT) was established to oversee the Study. The Study, completed in 2009, examined the potential for joint cooperation in health across an extensive range of health and social care services and made a number of recommendations for future cooperation.
The Study was conducted jointly and it was agreed that it would constitute a report to the two Ministers. Any action arising from the report, including a decision to formally publish the report, requires the agreement of both Ministers.
The Study was presented to the Ministers of the two health Departments in 2009 and while the former Minister for Health and Children, Ms. Mary Harney, T.D., indicated her approval for the Study’s recommendations, Minister McGimpsey was not persuaded that the report should be progressed at that time.
It would be wrong to construe the non-publication of the Study as an indication of lack of cooperation on health matters. Cross Border working on health has existed for many years and both Departments and the relevant health authorities continue to collaborate on a wide range of health and social care issues including, for example, radiotherapy services, paediatric congenital cardiac services, child protection, and suicide prevention.
Health Ministers meet under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council and continually review the existing arrangements for cooperation and explore other areas for collaboration where mutual benefit for both populations is demonstrated.
41. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for the delivery of a new consultants’ contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7556/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): New Contractual arrangements for medical consultants were agreed with their representative organisations, the IHCA and the IMO, in 2008 following more than four years of protracted and detailed negotiations. Currently 2,121 consultants hold the 2008 Contract while approximately 200 consultants continue to work under the 1997 Contract. The 2008 contract provides for consultants to work as part of a team over an extended working day of 8 am to 8 pm, an increase in the length of the working week and also structured weekend work. It also includes new private practice provisions ranging from a total prohibition on such practice to an upper limit of 20% for newly appointed consultants.
The successful implementation of Consultant Contract 2008 continues to be a priority for my Department and the Health Service Executive. The Executive has been focussing, in particular, on provisions aimed at maximising consultant availability to public patients.
Changes to the conditions of employment of any health professional working in the public health service will be considered in the context of reform of the health services as set out in the Programme for Government and changes to the model for delivery of services. The consultant contract will also be considered having regard to the broader industrial relations framework, including the Public Services Agreement, and the changed economic circumstances that the Government has to address.
42. Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures he will take to reduce the incidence of smoking which has risen to the level of the pre-smoking ban in public places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7530/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): Since the late 1970s, my Department, and successive Ministers, have pursued a long term agenda with regard to tobacco control which has been successful to a significant degree. The introduction of the ban on smoking in the workplace in 2004 and the prohibitions on display and advertising at point of sale, the restrictions on self-service vending machines and the introduction of a retail register in 2009 have consolidated Ireland’s position as a world leader in terms of tobacco control legislation.
My Department is currently undertaking a review of tobacco policy. In this regard a workshop took place in June 2010 involving all the key stakeholders involved in smoking policy. Subsequently, my Department established a small group comprising of the Department and the Health Service Executive to develop proposals on what further measures might be taken to reduce initiation and prevalence of smoking in Ireland. I look forward to receiving the Group’s Report later this year.
43. Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to introduce a voluntary redundancy scheme for Health Service Executive staff; when he will do so; the number of positions that will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7525/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Government is committed to bringing about a significant reduction in the number of staff across the public service over the period to 2015, to realise efficiencies in the delivery of public services and contribute to the overall correction of the national finances, while protecting front-line services as far as possible.
The Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform is currently considering the range of measures that will be necessary to bring about the necessary numbers reductions. Policy measures across various areas of Government activity should contribute to this overall objective, and the Government will be carrying out a comprehensive review of expenditure this year to examine all areas where savings and numbers reductions might be identified.
Part of the overall policy on public service numbers may involve voluntary staff exit mechanisms, and the options in this regard will be considered by the Government in this overall context. I have said on a number of occasions that I believe there should be a voluntary exit scheme for the health sector. However any such scheme needs to be carefully targeted and people need to be given more time to consider their options. I believe that the experience of the recent exit package in the health sector will be very helpful for Government in considering these issues.
Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 38.
45. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional resources and support will be provided to Crumlin children’s hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7540/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Health Service Executive continues to work with paediatric hospitals to support service delivery to our sick children. The HSE has established a paediatric hospital network across the three Dublin paediatric hospitals at Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght. This network is supported by the appointment of a Clinical Director working across the three hospitals and focuses on maximum co-operation between the three sites. A number of conjoint working groups have been established aimed at maximising service delivery across the three hospitals and ensuring the best and speediest possible care for patients. A single Department of Surgery is now in place which will facilitate single waiting lists into the future. Robust cross site structures are in place to ensure optimum service delivery from the most appropriate resource.
A number of additional resources have been put in place at Crumlin Hospital and a number of others are in the planning stage.
Key initiatives include:
The Health Service Executive continues to work with the paediatric hospitals to support the optimum appropriate service delivery across the three sites.
46. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health and Children the person to whom he has assigned responsibility for co-ordinating policy on older persons. [5808/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): I am pleased to confirm that I have now been assigned responsibility for older people’s issues. My priorities will be to complete and implement the National Positive Ageing Strategy and to drive the Government’s agenda to enable people as they grow older to maintain and improve their physical, social and mental well-being and to live in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
I would like to reassure the Deputy that policy for older people in Ireland is a priority for this Government. While policy in relation to health services is a matter for the Minister for Health, positive, active, healthy ageing must not be considered to be solely a health issue. Given the wide range of issues which directly impact on the lives of older people and on the process of ageing, it is a matter for every Minister to address issues relevant to older people and respond accordingly.
As the deputy may be aware, the Programme for Government commits us to complete and implement the National Positive Ageing Strategy. Work on preparing and developing the Strategy, which will establish the strategic framework for future policies, programmes and services for older people in Ireland, is continuing in my Department. It is envisaged that the Strategy will set out a common framework for the development of operational plans by Government Departments clearly setting out their objectives relating to older people, as well as the development of ongoing mechanisms designed to monitor progress and identify challenges facing older people in the future. The development of the Strategy is being assisted by a Cross-Departmental Group (CDG), comprised of officials from 11 Government Departments, the Central Statistics Office and An Garda Síochána, and is chaired by the Director of the Office for Older People.
Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 36.
48. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children his priorities in his first 100 days in office. [7519/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The areas that I have identified as requiring priority attention are as follows:
Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 38.
50. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional supports and resources he will put in place for Tallaght hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7551/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): Tallaght Hospital is a key part of acute hospital services in the Dublin area. It has a budget of some €176.4m and 2,489 staff (whole time equivalents).
At present a phased capital equipment replacement programme is being put in place at the hospital.
The hospital is working with the Coombe Maternity Hospital on plans to relocate the Coombe Hospital in line with the recommendations of the KPMG Report on Maternity Services in Dublin.
A new Urgent and Ambulatory Care Centre is planned for Tallaght Hospital as part of the development of the new National Children’s Hospital.
The hospital, in conjunction with the HSE, is exploring the possibility of developing a centre for integrated chronic disease management.
Other service developments currently being pursued at Tallaght Hospital include the opening of a new laboratory, at a cost of €2m, and participation in the roll-out of the HSE’s Clinical Care Programmes including the Acute Medicine Programme. The new laboratory will allow the hospital to meet the relevant accreditation standards.
Following on from the recommendations of the Tallaght Hospital Review, the hospital has now received funding for radiology equipment and is in the process of procuring it.
Additional posts have been provided for the Emergency Department and to support the implementation of the Acute Medical Programme which will greatly improve the care of patients in the hospital.
The provision of additional dermatology, neurology and rheumatology posts are at the final approval stage with the HSE. The hospital is also awaiting approval from the HSE for 3 additional Radiologist posts which will significantly improve waiting times for patients. This was also recommended by the Tallaght Hospital Review.
51. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to amend disciplinary procedures for social workers who fail in their duty to protect children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7555/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a system of statutory registration for twelve health and social care professions including Social Workers. The structure of the system of statutory registration will comprise a registration board for each of the professions to be registered, a Health and Social Care Professionals Council (HSCPC) with overall responsibility for the regulatory system and a committee structure to deal with disciplinary matters under the fitness to practise framework. The Act is being commenced on a phased basis.
The first Registration Board to be established under the HSCPC, the Social Workers Registration Board, was appointed in August 2010 and has been working with the Council to put in place the administrative arrangements for the opening of the Register. It is envisaged that the Social Workers Register will be open to registrants by early summer this year. Part 4 of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 refers to issues of registration, including the establishment and maintenance of registers and the granting of registration by a registration board. Section 38(1)(c) of the 2005 Act provides that the registration board of a designated profession shall grant registration to any person who satisfies the board that he or she is a fit and proper person to engage in the practice of the profession.
Part 6 of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 refers to issues concerning complaints and disciplinary sanction in relation to registrants. A complaint may be made to the Council concerning a registrant on a number of issues including, professional misconduct, poor professional performance, or impairment of the registrant’s ability to practice the designated profession concerned because of a physical or mental ailment, an emotional disturbance or an addiction to alcohol or drugs. It is planned to commence this provision in respect of Social Workers as soon as is practicable.
52. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans in relation to organ donation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7557/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce an opt-out system of organ donation in order to improve the availability of organs for patients in need. My Department has consulted widely on this issue and is preparing legislative proposals on the donation and use of human organs for transplantation. These proposals will be included in a Human Tissue Bill which will also take into account the recommendations of the Madden Report on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures. My Department is working to finalise the proposals for me as soon as possible.
In addition to consent systems, there is evidence from other countries that good co-ordination at hospital level and counselling arrangements for relatives are significant factors in achieving high organ donation rates. I am therefore also considering what practices and organisational changes could further improve donation rates in this country. I welcome the establishment of a National Office for Organ Donation and Transplantation by the HSE. The Clinical Lead in that Office will endeavour to enhance organ donation in Ireland and underpin the quality of outcomes for patients following organ donation in line with the standards set in Directive 2010/53/EU on quality and safety of human organs intended for transplantation.
53. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures he will put in place to increase the number of general practitioners, particularly in view of the shortage of GPs in many areas, including large working class areas in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7549/11]
61. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to increase the number of general practitioners here in advance of implementing universal health insurance. [7527/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 61 together.
There are some 2,600 General Practitioners (GPs) in active practice (full and part time) in the State with another 300 doctors working as locums. The HSE has contracts with some 2,200 GPs for the provision of services to medical card and GP visit card patients under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme.
The Programme for Government provides that during the term of this Government, GP training places will be increased, GPs will be encouraged to defer retirement and GPs will be recruited from abroad. In addition, the EU/IMF programme provides for the elimination of restrictions on the number of GPs qualifying and the removal of restrictions on GPs wishing to treat public patients.
With effect from 1st July 2010, the number of GP training places increased from 120 to 157 per annum. The GP training programme is of four years duration — two years spent in hospital posts and two years in an approved general practice. There are currently 407 trainees participating on the programme. One of the enabling steps which resulted in the increase to 157 training places was the setting up of an additional GP training programme in Dublin’s North Inner City, an area identified by both the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) and the HSE as requiring additional GPs.
The HSE is in discussion with the ICGP to identify a fast track mechanism of up-skilling doctors who are not eligible for GMS contracts because they are not fully qualified.
In relation to removing restrictions on GPs wishing to treat public patients, I have already asked the Department, in consultation with the HSE, to finalise proposals for the implementation of this commitment. In relation to GP retirement, it is worth noting that GPs who hold a contract or contracts under the GMS Scheme and/or the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme and/or the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme may from 1st October 2009 continue to hold their contract(s) until their 70th birthday. Similar arrangements also apply to new contract holders. To-date, 24 GPs who were due to retire in 2009/2010 and 11 who were due to retire in 2011 have benefited from this extension.
All vacant GMS posts are advertised on the HSE website. It is expected that the removal of restrictions on access to GMS contracts will provide an incentive for GPs from abroad to come to practice here. The continued expansion of Primary Care Teams and Primary Care Centres will also assist in attracting GPs.
Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 36.
Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 38.
56. Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason staffing levels for allied health care professionals such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists in County Wexford are significantly below surrounding counties; if he will confirm that the elimination of such inequalities of health care provision was in the mission statement of the Health Service Executive when it was established in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7529/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.
57. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will reverse the cutbacks to dental treatment services imposed by the previous Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7541/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Róisín Shortall): I am considering the measures introduced by the HSE to contain expenditure on the Dental Treatment Services Scheme at the level of €63m.
58. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health and Children the financial implications for the taxpayer following his decision to axe co-location. [7524/11]
68. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health and Children the total cost to the State of the now abandoned scheme for the co-location of private for profit hospitals on public hospital sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7537/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 68 together.
It is the Government’s intention, as set out in the Programme for Government, that the existing private hospital co-location policy will come to an end.
The HSE has informed my Department that the extensions granted in respect of the project agreements for the four most advanced co-location projects expired at the end of March. This was a matter for the HSE as the Minister for Health is not a contracting party in accordance with the provisions of these agreements. The HSE has also contacted the private parties involved with the other co-location projects, which were at earlier stages of the procurement and contractual processes, to inform them that it will not be proceeding with those projects.
A core principle underlying the co-location initiative was that the private sector should bear all normal business risks. The HSE has indicated that the private partners paid a non-refundable deposit of €350,000 in respect of each of the four projects where project agreements were signed. The intention of this requirement was to allow the HSE to defray the legal and other costs involved. My Department has requested the HSE to provide the information sought by the Deputies in relation to the net cost of the co-location competition held by the Executive and I will be in further communication with them as soon as possible.
Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 38.
60. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will commission an independent inquiry into Dr. Michael Shine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7523/11]
417. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will establish an inquiry into the manner in which the testimony of victims of the former consultant surgeon at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Michael Shine, were dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7770/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 417 together.
In 2010, the Drogheda Review was established by the then Minister for Health and Children to advise on whether a further investigation into the case of a former Consultant at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda would be of benefit and to advise on whether any additional information or insights were likely to be achieved from a further full investigation. The former surgeon worked in Drogheda from 1964 until 1995. The issues arising from the case have been the subject of an independent review commissioned by the then North Eastern Health Board and chaired by Dr. Miriam Hederman O’Brien, which reported in 1995.
A former High Court Judge, Mr. T.C. Smyth, was appointed chair of the Drogheda Review.
Having examined the matter, Judge Smyth recommended that a further investigation should not be held at this time. He also recommended that, in order to avoid prejudicing any civil or criminal cases, the report should not be published.
The then Attorney General concurred with this advice but agreed that a short summary of the report could be prepared and published. Accordingly the Department, in consultation with the Attorney General and Judge Smyth, prepared a summary which was sent for information to two patient support groups in January 2011.
In light of Judge Smyth’s recommendation, I do not intend to institute an inquiry into this case. However, I will discuss matters relating to the case further with the Attorney General.
Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 53.
62. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Health and Children the current position of Health Service Executive lands at a location (details supplied) in County Louth and his plans to utilise these lands. [7390/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): Management of the Health Service Executive property portfolio is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.
63. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will commission the framing of a national strategy for chronic pain management here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7539/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I appreciate the significant difficulties experienced by people living with chronic pain, and the impact that their condition can have on their personal and working lives. My Department is at present in discussion with the HSE about the best way in which to meet the care and service needs of persons suffering from chronic pain.
64. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans for the accelerated delivery of promised primary care centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7548/11]
73. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health and Children the persons who will oversee the new network of primary care centres promised, and if the Health Service Executive was being phased out. [7521/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Róisín Shortall): I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 73 together.
The HSE has responsibility for the development of Primary Care Centres in line with the Primary Care Strategy and it is the intention that the majority of these will be provided by the private sector through leasing agreements.
In this context the Executive has developed a generic design model for Primary Care Centres, with accommodation for up to three Primary Care Teams per centre. It is the HSE’s intention to deliver up to 200 Primary Care Centres using this leasing strategy. The HSE states that, to date, 16 Primary Care Centres are open and a further 12 are under construction or in fit-out.
In addition, the HSE has signed letters of intent in a further 23 locations. The letter of intent indicates that a preferred bidder has been identified. The HSE has indicated that these figures may vary as negotiations for any location may break down due to issues which include cost, planning permissions, developers’ access to finance, GP participation, etc.
The HSE expects that approximately 115 Primary Care Centres will be operational by 2013, supporting some 160 Primary Care Teams.
Primary Care Centres in disadvantaged urban and small rural towns / isolated areas will continue to be funded from the Exchequer. Prior to the development of the leasing strategy, a pilot programme provided primary care centres at seven locations. A further nine Exchequer funded centres have been completed to date.
Any decisions regarding the future of the Health Service Executive are a matter for the Government and will be considered in accordance with commitments set out in the Programme for Government.
65. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health and Children his timetable for the development of a regional hospital for the north east; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7536/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I am committed to ensuring that acute hospital services at national, regional and local level are provided in a clinically appropriate and efficient manner. In particular I want to ensure that as many services as possible can be provided safely in smaller, local hospitals. In order to fully consider the issues involved, I am being briefed by my Department and the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the organisation of acute services in each region and on the important clinical programmes being developed by the HSE. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals’ needs.
The question of developing a single regional hospital in the north east is of relevance in this regard. However, having regard to the capital resources that are likely to be available over the coming years, the focus at present must be to continue developing integrated, well functioning services in the Cavan / Monaghan and Louth / Meath Hospital Groups.
Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 36.
67. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will ensure that there are no further closures of public hospital beds in 2011; if he will bring forward a plan to reopen this year the wards and beds currently closed due to cutbacks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7532/11]
75. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the closure of 900 beds; the plans to cut more beds; the hospitals specifically that are at risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7559/11]
351. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and locations of public hospital beds currently closed due to cutbacks; the number closed since February 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8026/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 67, 75 and 351 together.
There are approximately 11,600 in-patient beds and 1,800 day beds in the public hospital system. The number of beds available at any one time fluctuates, depending on planned activity levels, maintenance and refurbishment requirements and staff leave arrangements. Beds may also be closed from time to time in order to control expenditure, given the need for every hospital to operate within its allotted budget. I am advised that based on the existing methodology, approximately 960 acute beds are closed at present but this cannot be regarded as a precise figure because hospitals have been using different criteria to measure bed closures. The HSE is at present reviewing the existing methodology for measuring bed closures in acute hospitals in order to ensure that a consistent approach is applied across the public hospital system.
It is important in any case to emphasise that hospital beds represent a service input and are not in themselves a measure of how the system is performing. In recent years there has been a much-increased emphasis on improved efficiency in acute hospitals. In particular, the focus has been on reducing inpatient care activity levels through the provision of more appropriate service responses, delivering a shift to care on a day case basis where appropriate, and on performance improvements such as surgery on the day of admission and reducing inappropriate lengths of stay. Specific targets under these heading are included in the HSE’s 2011 National Service Plan.
In this context the HSE’s Directorate of Clinical Strategy and Programmes is leading a coordinated programme of work to improve service quality, cost-effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that care is provided in the setting most appropriate to individuals’ needs, with due regard to patient safety considerations. I have met with the clinicians leading this multidisciplinary process and strongly support their work, which I believe will enable services to be delivered in a manner that is appropriate and sustainable into the future.
Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 58.
69. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures he will take to strengthen neurological care services in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7346/11]
387. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the action plan for neurological care as recently issued by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland. [7485/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 387 together.
In 2010 the Director of the Office of Clinical Strategy and Programmes in the HSE met the Irish Consultant Neurologists’ Association (Neurology Faculty) to discuss how best to move neurological services forward in Ireland. Following discussions it was agreed to appoint a number of Neurologists to lead three key national programmes, giving neurological care a major focus in the HSE.
The first programme deals with neurology out patient departments and aims to provide standardised care for neurology patients and to increase access so that patients will not wait more than 30 days for an appointment. The programme will establish referral guidelines and encourage the increased use of neurolink.
The second programme deals with epilepsy services and aims to introduce of rapid access clinics to assist with admission avoidance and reduce the number of attendances to emergency departments. This will include the introduction of twenty four hour, seven day a week telephone access to expert opinion for all healthcare professionals. The HSE’s service plan has made provision for the recruitment of twenty epilepsy specialist nurses to provide satellite/outreach services to patients.
The third programme deals with stroke services and aims to establish robust clinical governance systems for stroke care, including local stroke teams and regional stroke networks. This is due to include access to safe and effective stroke thrombolysis in all hospitals admitting acute stroke on a twenty four hour, seven day a week basis. The HSE’s service plan also provides for the establishment of nine new acute stroke units in hospital admitting significant numbers of stroke patient.
The setting up of these programmes shows the importance that the HSE gives to neurological care and its commitment to improving access to neurological services.
Furthermore, the HSE has emphasised to my Department that all national programmes, including those concentrating on neurology, will have a focus on patient advocacy. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals’ needs.
I am being briefed by my Department and the HSE on these important clinical programmes and on the organisation of acute services in each region.
I welcome the action plan for neurological care by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland, which emphasises the importance of neurological care and raises many issues that these Neurology programmes will address, including a comprehensive plan for improving neurological care including acute services and increasing staffing.
The action plan includes reference to access to neurological rehabilitation services. My Department is in the process of finalising a National Policy and Strategy for the delivery of Neuro-Rehabiltation Services in Ireland 2011 — 2015.
The Health Service Executive’s National Service Plan for 2011 also includes a commitment to
70. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will provide a breakdown per each Health Service Executive south area of the number and location of public orthopaedic consultants; the numbers on waiting lists and being treated by each consultant and any vacant public orthopaedic consultant posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7518/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 36.
Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 38.
Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 64.
74. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health and Children the date on which he will introduce legislation for the provision of soft information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7542/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The National Vetting Bureau Bill will provide a statutory basis for the vetting of all applicants for employment and employees working with children. The Bill will provide for vetting to identify information relating to the endangerment, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, or risk thereof, to children.
The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Law Reform is preparing the Heads of the Bill and general scheme for submission to Government at the earliest possible date.
Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 67.
Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 36.
77. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of social workers who will be employed by his proposed child welfare and protection agency; and the total number of staff that will be employed by this body. [7554/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Government is committed to fundamental reform of the delivery of child protection services and in this context a new agency with dedicated responsibility for this service is to be established.
Preliminary work has commenced on a range of matters relating to the establishment of the new agency including consideration of the various functions to be discharged, the legal framework necessary to underpin the establishment of the agency and the associated governance and staffing arrangements. Minister Fitzgerald will make a further announcement in this regard at an early date.
78. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health and Children when the expert group to address the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights subsequent to the ruling of the Irish Supreme Court on the X case will be established. [6849/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Department is in the process of carrying out the preliminary work to facilitate the establishment of an Expert Group; however, the details of this Group have not been finalised.
79. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will provide a breakdown per each Health Service Executive south area of the number of persons on a public waiting list for an initial appointment to see an orthopaedic consultant; and the number of persons who have seen a consultant and are on a public waiting list for surgery. [7517/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the HSE and the individual hospitals concerned. I have, therefore, referred the Deputy’s question to the Executive for direct reply.
80. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to address youth homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7552/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): The Youth Homelessness Strategy was published in 2001 and its stated goal is to reduce and if possible eliminate youth homelessness. It focuses on preventative measures, keeping or re-integrating a child within their own community. It makes clear that children who are homeless need more than a bed for the night and outlines why some children and youths are vulnerable to becoming homeless, including those leaving state care or detention.
The causes for young children becoming homeless are varied and accordingly, it is a complicated issue for which there is no one solution. In 2004 a study, commissioned by the Office for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, found that the early to mid-teenage years was the period of greatest risk of homelessness; the process of becoming homeless could be traced to early childhood and disruption of various kinds, such as household instability, family conflict, family illness; almost all resided in poor neighbourhoods and a large number grew up in households where their parent(s) or caregiver(s) struggled to provide them with adequate care or attention; most had endured multiple forms of childhood adversity, including hardship, neglect, inadequate or inconsistent care of abuse; Parental illness or death was common, as was family conflict and parental alcohol or drug abuse. Frequent moves to and from different locations and living situation featured in several accounts as did physical and less frequently, sexual abuse during childhood and for the majority schooling was severely disrupted, and many found it difficult to maintain academic standards and the expectations of the schools they attended, resulting in specific literacy and / or numeracy problems. Furthermore, a key international research finding is that young people leaving care are vulnerable to becoming homeless.
Collecting accurate information on youth homelessness has proven very difficult as, by its very nature, the young people may not be engaged with a service, there may be multiple referrals for a single child, and children who are not homeless, but may be in care or in need of a short term placement, may also use the day and social work services from time to time.
The Office for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the strategy and priority has been given to a review of the Youth Homelessness Strategy in 2011. Over recent months, a number of meetings have been held with the HSE to review the implementation of the youth homelessness strategy nationwide, to improve the quality of information and to improve the aftercare service. As part of this review, the Office for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will also be engaging with relevant key personnel in both the public and voluntary sector with a view to making recommendations as to how youth homelessness can best be tackled into the future.
The HSE has recently established a Youth Homelessness Group and an audit of existing services, including the use of Section 5 of the Child Care Act, 1995, is currently underway. From January of this year, the HSE is collecting details on the numbers of individual young people using the youth homeless services and not, as previously, the number of referrals. Reporting requirements have been enhanced by the inclusion of a number of new ‘Performance Activity and Performance Indicators’ (P.I.s) under the Children and Family heading which will provide useful information on children accessing youth homeless centres, the Out of Hours services or the Emergency Place of Safety services. It is important not to confuse the short term use of homelessness services and fostercare services for the provision of “emergency placements” with the issue of youth homelessness.
The provision of an appropriate aftercare service has been highlighted as a key element to achieving positive outcomes for young people leaving care. Aftercare services assist young people leaving care to achieve a successful transition from the care environment to independent adult life in the community. TheHSE has now finalised its National Aftercare Policy and implementation of the Policy has now commenced with the establishment of the Implementation Group underway. The Group represents HSE staff and managers, representatives of the voluntary sector and a young persons representative.
81. Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the implications of the closure of the Cork Medical Centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7544/11]
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): I met with representatives of the Cork Medical Centre on 10 March 2011 and explained that I could not intervene in what are commercial decisions for the VHI, but that I would discuss the issue with the VHI.
At a meeting with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the VHI on 11 March 2011, I expressed my disappointment with the decision taken by the VHI in relation to the Cork Medical Centre, which would lead to the closure of this modern facility and a consequent loss of jobs.
VHI has stated that it considers there is sufficient private hospital capacity in the Cork area at the present time to service the healthcare needs of its customers.
While it is not appropriate for me to intervene in the decisions of the VHI as to which health service providers it makes arrangements with on behalf of its customers, I am anxious to deal with the perceived dominance of the VHI in the private health insurance market. In that regard, I have instructed my officials to proceed with the appointment of financial and legal advisers to examine options for the rebalancing of the market, with a view to addressing this position.
82. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Taoiseach if the Central Statistics Office was aware of the very serious allegations that were being made about a company's (details supplied) involvement in interrogating detainees in Abu Ghraib before it was awarded the contract; if so, did it raise the matter with the company; if there was any correspondence in relation to the matter; and if they discussed the matter with the Government at the time. [7315/11]
83. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Taoiseach the supports and services a company (details supplied) is providing in relation to Census 2011; and whether it is software support or services or hardware support or services. [7316/11]
84. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Taoiseach the access a company (details supplied) will have to the software or hardware systems where the data is stored and-or analysed. [7317/11]
85. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Taoiseach the checks or security procedures the Central Statistics Office has in place to ensure that the data collected is secure and that it cannot be abused by outside contractors. [7318/11]
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 to 85, inclusive, together.
The census is a major undertaking for the CSO and contractors have been employed to assist with specialised parts of the work. For 2011 the contract for the design and print of the census forms, and the provision and onsite support of the hardware and software required for the scanning, capture and coding of the census forms was awarded to a UK company CACI (UK) Ltd. CACI (UK) Ltd. were first awarded a similar type contract for the 2002 and 2006 censuses and more recently won the contract for Census 2011. Of the proposals assessed by CSO, CACI (UK) Ltd provided best value for money for the Irish taxpayer. EU rules do not allow bidders to be excluded because they are foreign companies.
The printing of the census forms was sub-contracted by CACI (UK) Ltd. to a Dublin based printer.
The CSO is aware of abuse allegations against the American parent company of CACI (UK) Ltd, namely CACI International. CACI (UK) Ltd. states that the allegation against CACI International was not substantiated by any evidence or proof at the time it was made, and subsequent investigations by both CACI International and the US government could not confirm it. CACI International have stated publicly that they take this allegation extremely seriously, that they do not condone, tolerate or endorse any illegal behaviour by its employees in any circumstances or at any time and they have held in the past, and always will hold, themselves to the highest ethical standards.
As a public body the Central Statistics Office is clearly fundamentally committed to ethical and proper conduct in all matters and would never consider having any dealings with a company convicted of human rights abuse. EU procurement rules allows bidders to be excluded if they have been convicted of certain criminal or other offences but none of these exclusions apply to CACI (UK) Ltd. or indeed to its US parent.
Regarding the protection of census data, confidentiality is the cornerstone of all work conducted by the CSO. All information collected in the census is treated as strictly confidential by the CSO and will be used only for statistical purposes. This confidentiality is guaranteed by law. CACI (UK) Ltd’s American parent company is not involved in any way in the preparation or delivery of systems for the Irish Census. All Census 2011 forms will be processed in CSO’s census office located in Swords where all information is stored on a dedicated closed CSO network which is wholly owned by the CSO. At no time will any of the detailed census information be copied or otherwise removed from this network. All staff who are employed to work on the processing of the 2011 census data are signed-up as Officers of Statistics under the Statistics Act 1993 which legally prohibits them from divulging confidential statistical data of any sort. The penalty for breach of this provision of the Act is set at €25,000
The CSO is the only organisation that will have access to identifiable census information relating to individuals or households.
The CSO is justifiably proud of its unblemished record in protecting the confidentiality of data. It is one their top priorities to maintain this record.
86. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Taoiseach the number of retired public servants employed on short-term contracts by his Department and by all bodies under its aegis, and the total cost of that employment for all purposes, including interview boards, in the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010. [7188/11]
The Taoiseach: Neither my Department, nor the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), which is the only body under its aegis, employed any former public servants on short-term contracts in the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010.
87. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Taoiseach the number of special advisers appointed in his Department between June 1997 and February 2011; the cost of each special adviser appointed to his office between June 1997 and February 2011; the gender ratio surrounding these appointments between June 1997 and February 2011; the number of appointments to State boards made during the period June 1997 and February 2011; and the gender ratio of appointments made to State boards during the period June 1997 and February 2011. [7427/11]
The Taoiseach: I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide the information requested in the time available. I will write to the Deputy with the information requested as soon as it is available.
88. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Taoiseach the number of Council of the European Union’s meetings that his predecessor was entitled to attend in the year before 9 March 2011; the dates of such meetings; in each case if his predecessor attended the meeting or if the meeting was attended by officials in his place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7450/11]
The Taoiseach: There were six meetings of the European Council in the year preceding 9 March 2011, as follows:
All were attended by the former Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen. There is no provision for officials to deputise.
89. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Taoiseach the reason the phrase “current civil status” is not included in the current census particularly in relation to the Civil Partnership Act. [7596/11]
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): As part of its preparation for Census 2011 the Central Statistics Office convened a broadly representative census advisory group to advise it on the questions to be included on the census form. A public consultation took place in 2008 and following this the advisory group decided on the questions to be tested in a census pilot survey which was carried out in April 2009. The survey covered over 10,000 households in 32 enumeration areas throughout the State.
In anticipation of same sex civil partnership being a legal marital status in 2011, a new variant of the marital status question (version B) was included in half of the questionnaires administered in the pilot survey. The purpose of this question was to test the impact on the accuracy and levels of response when a reference to same-sex civil partnership was included. In the remaining 50 percent of households the Census 2006 version of the question (version A) was asked.
The results of the pilot test showed that the level of non-response to the marital status question was 4.6 per cent in the case of version B compared with 2 per cent for version A. Furthermore, the percentage of single people was lower using version B than version A (37% compared with 40%). It is worth noting that version B — the same version used in the UK census — did not have the word ‘single’ in any of the categories.
In deciding on which version of the marital status question to put forward for Government agreement two factors favoured the retention of the existing (2006) version. Firstly, at the time when the census forms were being finalised there was uncertainty about the timescale for the introduction of legislation covering same sex civil partnerships. Secondly, the results of the pilot indicated that the revised version of the question was not fully understood. For both these reasons the advisory group recommended that the 2006 question on marital status be retained for Census 2011 and the Government agreed with this recommendation.
90. Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach the amount and value of honey imported in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7773/11]
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The information requested by Deputy Stanton is presented in the table below.
The table shows the total amount and value of natural honey imports for the years January-December 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Traders with imports from other EU member states exceeding €191,000 annually and/or exports to other EU member states exceeding €635,000 annually must submit Intrastat returns.
91. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions he has had with cross-Border bodies regarding the promotion of Ireland abroad in view of the upcoming visits by the Queen of England and the US President Barack Obama. [7501/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): These historic visits provide us with a significant opportunity to focus on economic, trade, investment and tourism opportunities with Britain and the US, our two most important economic partners. There will also be a high level of international media interest which will provide the opportunity to put out a positive and forward looking message that Ireland is open for business. The Government, in consultation with State agencies, will maximise the opportunities that the visits and media attention provide to promote Ireland’s economic recovery, including the all- island economy and the North South dimension. As the programmes, events and messaging around these visits are finalised, the Government will ensure that the North South dimension is included. In this regard, I would mention, in particular, Tourism Ireland. Since its incorporation, Tourism Ireland has been very effective in carrying out its remit, with notable successes in both the United States and in Britain. It is exceptionally well placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by both visits. The Department has been in contact with Tourism Ireland and plans to maximise the tourism promotion potential arising from both visits is at an advanced stage.
92. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of retired public servants employed on short-term contracts by his Department and by all bodies under its aegis, and the total cost of that employment for all purposes, including interview boards, in the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010. [7184/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The vast majority of temporary staff employed by the Department of Foreign Affairs are engaged as Temporary Clerical Officers (TCOs), some 50-80 of whom are recruited annually to help alleviate seasonal demand pressures in the Passport Office; and interns. Information regarding the previous public service employment history of such employees, if any, is not readily available. A total of 14 officials known to have been retired public servants were employed during 2010. The total cost of their remuneration was €154,689.93. Of that, €132,924 related to the remuneration for four officials deployed to the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia and the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo.
There are four bodies operating under the aegis of my Department. Three of these are administered directly by my Department and do not have independent budgets. The fourth, the Board of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange (known as the Fulbright Commission) is jointly financed by the Irish and US Governments and enjoys autonomy of management and administration, in accordance with the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991.
93. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the cost to his Department of sign replacement resulting from the requirement of the Department and all agencies and bodies under the Department’s remit to replace signs which were in place prior to March 2009 where the existing signs in Irish did not or would not meet the requirements in terms of Irish text required by 2012. [7199/11]
94. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the anticipated cost to his Department of ensuring compliance by the Department and by all agencies and bodies under its remit with the requirements under the Official Languages Act to replace any sign currently in English only by March 2013. [7214/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 94 together.
All external signage for offices occupied by my Department complies with the requirements of the Official Languages Act. The internal signage for the Passport Offices in Dublin and Cork and the Irish Aid Information and Volunteering Centre in Dublin also comply with the requirements of the Official Languages Act. One sign for the Department’s Consular Office is currently in English only, this will require replacement at a moderate cost.
There are four bodies operating under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs. These are: the Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission); the Development Education Advisory Committee; the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group; and the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee.
The Fulbright Commission, financed jointly by the Irish and US Governments, enjoys autonomy of management and administration in accordance with the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991 and questions regarding its compliance with the Official Languages Act are a matter for the Fulbright Commission itself. With regard to the remaining bodies, these are advisory committees none of which has its own office accommodation. Therefore no costs will arise for my Department to ensure their compliance with the requirements of the Official Languages Act.
95. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts that he is making to provide support to Japan since the occurrence of the recent tsunami; if he will consider a proposal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7398/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): One month on from the largest emergency in its post war history, Japan continues to respond to the effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck its north east coast on 11 March. At least 28,000 people have now been confirmed dead or missing, with approximately 170,000 people continuing to live in evacuation centres.
Japan has a long history of coping with natural disasters and has one of the best-developed systems of civil protection anywhere in the world. Procedures for dealing with emergencies are well-rehearsed and the country maintains stockpiles of supplies for deployment in case of a crisis. Nevertheless, once the scale of the crisis became apparent, and needs had been properly assessed, the country officially appealed for assistance from the European Union.
Ireland responded immediately to this appeal through the Government’s decision to allocate €1 million to the Japanese Red Cross, which has been central to the emergency response operation. Ireland also offered Japan the use of emergency shelter, water and sanitation equipment from stockpiles in Dubai and Malaysia.
While at present many thousands of people remain in evacuation centres, the Government of Japan has developed plans to provide them with accommodation and has requested the housing industry to construct 30,000 temporary homes. Construction work has already begun in some prefectures. The Japanese authorities have also begun to identify vacant public housing across the country that can be used to accommodate those who have lost their homes. Temporary accommodation for up to 43% of the affected population has been identified in parts of the country which were not directly affected by the crisis.
Ireland remains ready to continue our support to the Japanese people in the coming days and weeks and in light of the needs identified by the Japanese authorities on the ground.
96. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of special advisers appointed in his Department between June 1997 and February 2011; the cost of each special adviser appointed to his office between June 1997 and February 2011; the gender ratio of these appointments between June 1997 and February 2011; the number of appointments to State boards made during the period June 1997 to February 2011; and the gender ratio of appointments made to State boards during the period June 1997 to February 2011. [7423/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The information about special advisers sought by the Deputy is set out in the table below. A total of 11 appointments were made, of which one was female.
|Number and Gender||Remuneration (Gross) for duration of appointment|
|1 Male||€207,612.68 + £67,685.54|
There are currently four bodies operating under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs to which the Minister makes appointments and the information requested by the Deputy on appointments to these bodies during the period in question is provided below. These are the Development Education Advisory Committee, the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group, the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee and the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission). Six other bodies, which are no longer in existence, had appointments made to them during the period in question. These were the Hunger Task Force, the Advisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA), the Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO), the Irish Refugee Agency, the National Committee for Development Education (NCDE) and the Cultural Relations Committee (CRC). It has not been possible, in the time available, to include information in relation to the Irish Refugee Agency, the NCDE or the CRC, which ceased to exist in 2001.
|The Board of the Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange — (The Fulbright Commission)||1996||2||2||4|
|Development Education Advisory Committee||2003||7||6||13|
|Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group||2010||4||2||6|
|Emigrant Services Advisory Committee — note: two Officers of the Embassy in London also serve on the Committee.||2003/04||5||6||11|
|The Hunger Task Force||2007||10||6||16|
|The Advisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA)||2002||9||3||12|
|The Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO) — note: the information across relates to the Board members as at the 31 December each year, rather than the year appointments were made.||1997/98||5||6||11|
97. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of European Council meetings that his predecessor was entitled to attend in the year before 9 March 2011; the dates of such meetings; in each case, if his predecessor attended the meeting or if the meeting was attended by officials in his place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7446/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs attend meetings of the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council, which usually take place on the same day. They also attend twice-yearly informal meetings of Foreign Ministers, the so-called “Gymnich” meetings. In the year before 9 March 2011 there were eleven meetings of the General Affairs Council. Of these, Mr Micheál Martin T.D., who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs for the period in question up to 11 January 2011, attended three. The then Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen, retained the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs from 11 January to 9 March 2011. Mr Dick Roche, who served as Minister of State for European Affairs for the duration of the period in question, headed the Irish delegation at five meetings. Ireland was represented at three meetings by the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the European Union.
There were twelve meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council in the period (including one extraordinary meeting at the same time as the 16 September European Council). Of these, Minister Martin attended three while the Minister of State headed the delegation at six. Ireland was represented at two meetings by the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the European Union.
There were also two Gymnich meetings, both of which were attended by the Minister.
The dates of these meetings and representation by Ireland at them were as follows:
The regular meetings of the Council of Ministers are important in themselves for the transaction of EU business that takes place there. They provide the opportunity to input the Irish point of view and, more generally, to make a constructive contribution. They are also occasions when bilateral contacts with individual partners and with the EU institutions can be pursued. Accordingly, my colleagues and I intend to use such opportunities as part of an effort to enhance Ireland’s standing in the Union.
98. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will extend an invitation to Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, to visit Killarney, County Kerry during her forthcoming visit to Ireland, to mark the 150th anniversary of the visit of Queen Victoria to Killarney; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7454/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): A State Visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II will take place from 17-20 May 2011. The programme will include a ceremonial welcome by President McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin; a ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance; a courtesy call on the Taoiseach at Government Buildings; and a State dinner in Dublin Castle, at which both the Queen and the President will deliver speeches.
The programme will also include events at Trinity College Dublin, at the National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, at the Guinness Storehouse and at Croke Park. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will also visit the Irish National Stud in Kildare as well as Cashel and Cork.
We continue to work closely with the British side on developing this programme which we believe reflects the strength and vibrancy of our bilateral relationship. We are very conscious of the many historical resonances associated with other locations, such as Killarney, and we would hope to be in a position to consider them for inclusion in programmes for any visits from high level dignitaries which may arise in the future.
99. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding a passport in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7571/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Under the Passport Act, 2008 the Minister for Foreign Affairs must be satisfied that before issuing a passport that each person who is a guardian of the child consents to the issue of a passport to the child. In most cases, the guardians of a child are the married parents. However, a single mother or, on occasion, other family members may be the appointed a guardian or sole guardian of child. The circumstances of each case may differ. As no application for the person in question has been received by the Passport Service, it is not possible to comment on this application or to judge the adequacy of the unsighted custody order. As court orders can vary depending on individual circumstances it would be necessary to see the terms of this specific court order before being in a position to determine whether it would suffice alone. Given the variables in this complex area of the passport application process, the guardian(s) of the child should submit a fully completed and witnessed application directly to Joseph Nugent, Director of Passport Services, at the Passport Office, Molesworth Street (tel 01-6733558) where this matter will receive immediate and sensitive attention. It should be noted that the application should be supported by the following documents:
100. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 61 of 5 April 2011, if he will talk to the Scottish First Minister regarding the problem of racism, rather than sectarianism, against the Irish community in Scotland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7591/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I am aware that, notwithstanding significant efforts by the relevant authorities, instances of sectarian behaviour continue to occur in Scotland. Such incidents are frequently inspired and occasioned by sporting rivalries. I acknowledge the distress and offence that such incidents cause to the community. However, given the long and complex history of two-way migrations between Ireland and Scotland, I would hesitate to categorise this problem as racial, rather than sectarian.
The Scottish Government has made it very clear that it is committed to ensuring that sectarianism has no place in any aspect of Scottish society. I fully support the efforts of the Scottish Government, Police and Football Association to tackle sectarian behaviour, from whatever quarter. First Minister Alex Salmond, recently announced that £527,000 is to be committed to anti-sectarian and anti-racist bodies in Scotland, and a crackdown on sectarian abuse on websites has been implemented in recent weeks.
I welcome the establishment of the Joint Action Group which has been specifically tasked by the Scottish Government with addressing such issues as alcohol misuse, sectarianism, racism, domestic abuse and violence. I understand that the Joint Action Group is to report back to Ministers with concrete proposals to tackle these issues before the start of the new football season and I have asked our Consulate General in Edinburgh to keep me appraised of developments in this regard.
Since its opening in 1998, the Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh has maintained a wide-ranging dialogue with the Scottish Government, including on incidents of anti-Irish abuse. I can assure the Deputy that the Consulate General will continue to closely follow this situation very closely.
101. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs when new passport application forms will be issued to take account of the additional requirements for adult first-time applicants and those replacing a lost or stolen passport; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that these requirements were introduced in January and the forms have not been updated, and the inconvenience this causes to applicants whose applications are returned to them. [7603/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Additional requirements were introduced for first time applicants aged 18 or over and for those replacing a lost or stolen passport with effect from 17 January 2011. The aim of the new requirements was to strengthen procedures to best protect against identity theft and fraudulent passport applications. Given the importance of strengthening procedures, it was decided that the new requirements should be introduced without delay. The new requirements were publicised on the Passport Office website www.passport.ie and on the Passport Office telephone information line. Information regarding the new requirements was also issued to An Garda Síochána and to An Post, who operate the Passport Express Service used by over 60% of passport applicants. Public notices were published in national newspapers to inform the public of the new requirements. In terms of printing new application forms and information notes, there would be a significant cost involved in destroying existing forms and printing new forms. Given that those affected by the new requirements represent a relatively low percentage of overall applicants, it was considered disproportionate to recall and destroy all existing stock at that time. Revised information notes and application forms, which include information on the new requirements introduced in January and other passport changes since that time, are currently being developed. The new forms will be available from June 2011.
102. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the issue of developing a peace process in Colombia at UN and EU levels. [7620/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Colombia has witnessed the longest period of upheaval of any country in Latin America — over 50 years in all. The Colombian people have endured relentless suffering, reflected in the fact that approximately 10% of the population has been internally displaced over the past number of years, a number second only to that of Sudan. The degree of lawlessness that arises from the absence of peace presents a major challenge to any government. The effects of terrorism and narco-trafficking have blighted the lives of many innocent people. The indictment of a large number of senators for association with the FARC, ELN and AUC illustrates the extent of the problems facing the Colombian Government. However, compared with the situation ten years ago, Colombia today has become a safer place to live. Colombians’ belief in the prospects for a peaceful future and the impressive recent social and economic development reflected in the strong inward investment flows reinforce the impression that the country is slowly emerging from a grim past. In order to succeed, a peace process in Colombia must tackle the various social and economic elements underlying the conflict. Our approach, and that of the European Union and UN, is to assist and influence the Colombian Government in a manner that results in economic and social development while progressively improving human rights standards.
The Government of Colombia has repeatedly stated its determination to bring an end to violence within the framework of the Justice and Peace Law, passed in 2005, which provides an overall legal framework for the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of illegal armed groups into Colombian society. The Irish Government has given both moral and financial support to the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law.
The Government will continue to monitor the situation in Colombia through our Embassy in Mexico City, which is accredited to Colombia, as well as in cooperation with our EU partners with resident diplomatic missions in that country. We are fully supportive of efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Colombia, and will continue to support the Government of Colombia in its search for a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict.
103. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the Uptake project administered by him. [7680/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The Certificate of Irish Heritage is in the process of being established by my Department in direct response to a strong demand for such a scheme from those members of our Diaspora who are not entitled to Irish citizenship. I believe that the scheme will provide a practical demonstration of the inclusive approach adopted by successive Governments to our Diaspora. The Certificate of Irish Heritage will give official recognition to the many people worldwide who are conscious of their Irish heritage and feel a strong affinity for Ireland. It will not, however, confer any citizenship or other legal rights or entitlements to the successful applicants. Those applying for Certificates of Irish Heritage will be required to submit comprehensive details of their Irish ancestral connections and relevant documents and certificates to show their connection with Ireland.
It is expected that contract negotiations with the company selected to operate the service on behalf of my Department will be completed shortly and an announcement will be made thereafter.
While there may be scope, in due course, for some Government Departments and State Agencies to develop products and services aimed at Certificate holders, our primary focus at present is to establish the Certificate scheme itself.
The Certificate is just one of a number of initiatives being undertaken by the Government to build further practical links between Ireland and the global Irish.
104. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of passports that have been issued to residents of Counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan since 2006 by county, and to annualise the figures; the number of passports issued in Counties Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Kerry and Limerick in the same period, and to provide the information in the same format. [7681/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The Passport Service is not in a position to maintain statistical information in relation to place of residency for passport applicants. I regret, therefore, that it is not possible to provide the detail sought by the Deputy.
105. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of all persons appointed by him to serve as members of boards or review groups or to prepare reports for him since his appointment. [7747/11]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I have recently appointed the members of the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee (ESAC), for a term to run until 31 December 2012. The primary role of theEmigrant Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) is to advise the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the allocation of grants to Irish community organisations in Britain under the Emigrant Support Programme. The Committee consists of thirteen members including two officers from our Embassy in London, who act as Chair and Secretary to the Committee. The additional eleven members of the committee serve in a voluntary capacity.
After consultation with our Embassy in London and the Irish Abroad Unit in the Department, I made the following appointments to the Committee:
106. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his plans to revisit suggestions that the excise duty on wine will be increased because many jobs have already been lost in the off-license industry as a result of earlier closing times, cross-Border shopping and the economic downturn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7231/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): As the Deputy will be aware, taxes are considered in the context of the Budget process. It is the usual practice for the Minister for Finance not to speculate in advance of a Budget on what it will contain; and I do not propose to deviate from that practice.
107. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 has had their appeal for benchmarking pay refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7468/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The then Minister for Finance made a determination in this case which issued on 13 November 2009. That determination contained a full consideration of the appeal and gave the reasons for the determination. The individual sought a pension increase in line with the Benchmarking awards paid to comparator grades in An Garda Síochána. However, his pension is paid under the terms of the funded Dublin Port and Docks Board Superannuation Scheme 1960 (as amended) which has no provision for such a linkage. The Determination also advised that the matter may be pursued under Pensions Ombudsman’s Regulations 2003.
108. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance his plans to assist struggling road hauliers who are having difficulties due to the price of diesel. [7480/11]
109. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance how increasing cost of fuel for road hauliers has, by extension, increased the Exchequer fuel tax take since the beginning of 2010. [7481/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 109 together.
Ireland, as with other countries, has experienced an increase in the cost of petrol and auto-diesel. The increase in fuel prices is an international phenomenon. Fuel prices are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty in Northern Africa and the Middle East with potential supply disruptions.
The excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 57.6 cent on a litre of petrol and 46.6 cent on a litre of auto-diesel. Ireland’s excise rates are the ninth and fourth highest in the EU27 for petrol and auto-diesel respectively. The introduction of the carbon tax in Budget 2010 led to a slight increase in MOT yields in 2010 versus 2009. Budget 2011 raised excise on auto-diesel by 2 cent (VAT inclusive) and must be seen in the context of difficult Budgetary decisions at that time which has impacted on all businesses and households. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK.
The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT per litre of fuel, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase.
It is on this latter basis that there are often demands to reduce taxes on fuel. However, I would point-out that the Exchequer gain may be limited because:
It should also be noted that businesses are of course entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on their business inputs, including VAT incurred on fuel. For example, VAT incurred on auto-diesel and marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. VAT on petrol cannot be deducted/reclaimed.
There are no plans for temporary taxation adjustments for specific sectors or businesses in general, as to do so, could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was briefly discussed by EU Finance Ministers at the ECOFIN meeting on 15 March and they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.
110. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the regulations and licensing requirements concerning the establishment of a certain facility (details supplied). [7721/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a licence from them is required for the activity in question, and that a person applying for such a licence must provide a Tax Clearance Certificate. In addition, the premises where the activity is to be carried on must be approved as a tax warehouse by the Revenue Commissioners in accordance with section 109 of the Finance Act 2001.
111. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the visit by EU and International Monetary Fund officials assessing the implementation of the EU/IMF programme for assistance agreed in November 2010. [7496/11]
112. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of his engagement with International Monetary Fund and EU officials over the past week. [7497/11]
113. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with EU and International Monetary Fund officials regarding the introduction of a jobs budget, including the reversal of the new minimum wage; and the outcome of these discussions. [7498/11]
114. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to move forward the last Government’s negotiations on an interest rate reduction following the publication of the stress test results. [7499/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 to 114, inclusive, together.
Part of the conditions of the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland is that there should be quarterly reviews of the programme to assess progress against the agreed targets. The first review was scheduled for February but was deferred because of the election and has now been combined with the second review which is currently underway and will finish this Friday, 15th April 2011.
The Review comprises a series of meetings to evaluate all the elements of the programme including fiscal developments, the macroeconomic outlook, progress on commitments in the restructuring of the financial sector and structural reform. These meetings, which are ongoing, range from technical discussions at official level to policy discussions at senior official and political level.
The outcome of these discussions will be a revised set of targets – which will take into account recent developments. Additional detail will be specified in respect of some conditions, while further conditions will be added, for example in relation to the structural benchmarks contained in the Memorandum for Economic and Financial Policies, and the policy conditions in the Memorandum of Understanding on Specific Economic Policy Conditionality.
Regarding the Government’s planned Jobs Fund and matters relating to the minimum wage, these are all up for ongoing consideration at Government and the decisions will be announced in due course.
Since this Government came to office, it has been seeking to achieve reductions in the interest rates on EU loans to Ireland as part of its overall approach on the EU-IMF programme. The decision on this will be made by Eurogroup and ECOFIN Ministers, and it is being addressed through that forum. However, the Government is availing of every opportunity to present our case on the interest rate – including the current Mission.
Finally, I would like to point out that our discussions with the external partners – the EU and IMF — are ongoing and when completed the Government will comment further.
115. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the number of retired public servants employed on short-term contracts by his Department and by all bodies under its aegis, and the total cost of that employment for all purposes, including interview boards, in the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010. [7183/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Retired public servants are engaged by my Department from time to time for specific tasks or assignments. Such engagements are normally remunerated on a fee basis (provision exists for fees to be abated, where appropriate, by reference to pension payments). In my Department, 9 retired public servants were employed on short-term contracts in the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010 at a cost of €90,152.
C&AGs: The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General conducted 2 interview processes in 2010. The Public Appointments Service employed two retired public servants to act in the process and the Office paid their fees. Neither of these two individuals had retired from the Office itself. Total fees were €1,428.
Office of Public Works (OPW): 6 retired civil servants were engaged on short-term contracts under the abatement principle by the Office of Public Works at a total cost of €104,208 during the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010.
Public Appointments Service: Employed no retired public servants on a contract basis in 2010. The PAS used 61 former public servants on a variety of interview boards in 2010 (on a board by board basis rather than a contract basis). Although these were former public servants, we cannot confirm that they retired (some may have resigned or their contract of service was completed).
The total cost for the above 61 people on interview boards in 2010 was €317,587.42.
Revenue Commissioners: I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that two retired (non-Revenue) public servants, received a total sum of €424 for Irish proficiency interviews during the period in question.
Valuation Office: The total number of public servants employed in the Valuation Office in 2010 was 2 (two) and the cost was €24,885.
116. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the cost to his Department of sign replacement resulting from the requirement of the Department and all agencies and bodies under the Department’s remit to replace signs which were in place prior to March 2009 where the existing signs in Irish did not or would not meet the requirements in terms of Irish text by 2012. [7198/11]
117. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the anticipated cost to his Department of ensuring compliance by the Department and by all agencies and bodies under its remit with the requirements under the Official Languages Act to replace any sign currently in English only by March 2013. [7213/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 117 together.
In response to the Deputy’s question it is not possible to give an estimated costing in relation to my Department and all bodies under the aegis of my Department in ensuring that the requirements under the terms of the Official Languages Act to have the correct Irish wording on all existing signs by 2012 and replace English only signs by March 2013.
The cost for this work will be dependant on the number of signs requiring amendment or replacement and the charges imposed by the prospective suppliers engaged to carry out the work.
My Department will endeavour to ensure that the required deadlines as set out in the Official Languages Act are met both by the Department and bodies under the remit of the Department.
118. Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance his views on the announcement in the recent UK budget that the British Government is considering applying a new 12.5% corporation tax rate to Northern Ireland; his further views that a new rate would affect the ability of the Border counties to attract higher levels of foreign direct investment; if he has plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7245/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The British Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget Statement on 23 March 2011 that Her Majesty’s Treasury would publish a paper on how to help the private sector grow in Northern Ireland. He indicated that the paper would consider the case for Northern Ireland having a lower rate of corporation tax than the rest of the United Kingdom and would also look at mechanisms for devolving power to vary the corporation tax rate to Northern Ireland. A consultation paper, entitled “Rebalancing the Northern Ireland Economy”, was published on 24 March 2011. It sets out the various options that could be taken to support the rebalancing of the Northern Ireland Economy, including the issues involved in devolving power on corporation tax issues to the Northern Ireland Executive.
The paper does not make any recommendations but simply attempts to canvass views and submissions on the costs and benefits that a separate corporate tax rate would involve for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
While the paper acknowledges the significant role that a reduced corporation tax rate could have in encouraging private sector investment and growth, it also acknowledges the risks that it would pose for the Northern Ireland Executive, including having to comply with the conditions of institutional, procedural and fiscal autonomy, under EU state aid rules.
As the Deputy will be aware, taxation is a matter of national competence and the issues raised in the consultation paper are first and foremost a matter for the UK Authorities.
119. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he will accept the provisions of the Construction Contracts Bill or make similar regulations; if he will consider the points raised by an organisation in correspondence (details supplied) and other representative groups and organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7297/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Deputy will be aware that the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 was introduced by Senator Feargal Quinn and passed Committee and remaining stages in the Seanad on 8 March 2011. It is now before the Dáil. The two main points raised in the correspondence supplied relate to the exemption contracts under €200,000 from the provisions of the Bill and the provision in the Bill that an adjudicator’s decision is non-binding where the dispute is referred to arbitration.
In relation to the exemption of contracts below €200,000 from the Construction Contracts Bill 2010, I understand that the Senator pointed out in the Seanad that this threshold was proposed to reduce the administrative burden on contractors involved in smaller contracts.
I understand that the provision making the decision of an adjudicator non-binding where the dispute is referred to arbitration was included in the Senator’s Bill to ensure that the State had the right to appeal a decision to protect the taxpayer.
These two concerns remain valid, nonetheless, I am now examining the Bill and will then decide how best to proceed.
It is important that a solution to the problem of non-payment must not place an unnecessary regulatory or cost burden on the parties to the dispute, other parties involved in the project, or the State.
120. Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Finance the number of employees that paid the pension levy in the past year that have been made unemployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7302/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Questions relating to the numbers of public service employees who had their employment terminated would be a matter for individual Departments. In the case of the Department of Finance, no employees had their employment terminated compulsorily.
121. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a local authority certification process following the implementation of flood alleviation measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7309/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Brian Hayes): The Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works have met with the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) during 2010 concerning the provision of insurance to householders and businesses in areas considered prone to flooding. Liaison with the IIF is ongoing and includes consideration of works carried out to date and the present national review of flood risk being undertaken as part of the Flood Risk Assessment and Management Programme.
To this end, OPW will continue its liaison with the Irish Insurance Federation in 2011 and will endeavour to assist in any practical way with keeping the IIF fully informed as to its various programmes of flood alleviation.
It is the position of the Department of Finance that the flood defence works undertaken by the OPW should always be considered and reflected in the provision and cost of flood insurance and the IIF has noted this point for consideration.
122. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if a risk assessment has been carried out since September 2008 in relation to a sovereign default; if so, what are the contingency arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7310/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): In relation to the issue of sovereign default, let me be clear: Ireland has never contemplated the possibility of defaulting on its sovereign debt and this position has been restated on several occasions. The Government, without any question, will fully honour all its legal obligations to its creditors and has no intention whatsoever of allowing a default.
123. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if a risk assessment has been carried out in relation to the collapse of the euro; if so, what are the contingency arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7311/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The question of a collapse of the euro does not arise. A comprehensive package of measures has been developed and adopted at European level to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area.
The global economic and financial crisis that first emerged in 2008 has had wide ranging repercussions both internally and externally for Europe and the euro area. While the scale and scope of the euro area’s challenges remain considerable it is important to note the actions already taken.
At a national level, Ireland’s membership of the European Union and the Eurozone in particular has played a vital role in our response to the current crisis. The European Central Bank has provided considerable support to the Irish banks since the wholesale markets effectively closed to Irish banks. This support has been and remains crucial.
At a broader European level, the European Council of 24/25 March adopted a comprehensive package of measures to respond to the crisis, to preserve financial stability and to lay the ground for smart, sustainable, socially inclusive and job-creating growth. This package will strengthen the economic governance of the European Union and ensure the lasting stability of the euro area as a whole.
The adopted package includes a reform of the Stability and Growth Pact aimed at enhancing the surveillance of fiscal policies and applying enforcement measures more consistently and at an earlier stage, new provisions on national fiscal frameworks and a new surveillance of macroeconomic imbalances. The new Euro Plus Pact agreed by the Heads of State or Government of the euro area joined by Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania will further strengthen the economic pillar of EMU and achieve a new quality of economic policy coordination. The Council also decided on the setting up of the European Stability Mechanism to further ensure the financial stability of the euro area.
Again, as part of our programme for Government, we will bring forward domestic rules to strengthen our Budgetary framework. This development will have the advantage of improving confidence in our framework while at the same time ensuring that Governments in future run more sustainable budgets.
124. D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Airgeadais, i bhfianaise an fhreagra ar cheist phairliminte Uibh. 106 cén t-ionchur a bhíonn ag Ranna Stáit agus eagraíochtaí eile leis an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí i dtaobh sonrú cáilíochtaí do phoist faoina gcúram, le déanamh cinnte de go mbeidh na daoine a cheapfar cáilithe go sásúil do na poist atá ar fáil; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [7326/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Tá earcaíocht don Státseirbís Phoiblí agus do réimsíáirithe eile den tseirbhís phoiblí leathan faoi réir an Achta um Bhainistíocht na Seirbhíse Poiblí (Earcaíocht agus Ceapacháin) 2004. Faoin Acht bunaíodh an Coimisiún um Cheapacháin Seirbhíse Poiblí (CCSP) agus an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí (SCP). Leagann an CCSP amach na caighdeáin a bhaineann le hearcaíocht daoine le haghaidh post sa Státseirbhís agus i gcomhlachtaíáirithe eile sa tseirbhís phoiblí. Feidhmíonn an SCP mar an gcomhlacht lárnaithe earcaíochta, measúnaithe agus roghnaithe don Státseirbhís agus soláthraíonn sí a chomhionann de sheirbhís, nuair a iarrtar uirthi, do na húdaráis áitiúla agus do Fheidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte, do An Garda Síochána, don Údarás um Fhaisnéis agus Cáilíocht Sláinte, HIQA agus do chomhlachtaíáirithe eile sa tseirbhís phoiblí. Foráiltear faoi Alt 58(1)(a) den Acht go bhfuil an tAire Airgeadais freagrach as gach gnó a bhaineann le hearcaíocht sa státseirbhís. Cuimsítear anseo gnóthaí a bhaineann le critéir incháilitheachta, líon foirne, grádú, pá agus toscaí oibre eile go léir i leith státseirbíseach. I gcomhthéacs na hearcaíochta de, tá an fhreagracht ar an Aire Airgeadais freisin maidir le húsáid nó cumas Gaeilge sa státseirbhís.
Foráiltear faoi Alt 58(1)(b) i gcomhthéacs earcaíochta don tseirbhís phoiblí leathan, go bhfuil Airí difriúla freagrach as na gnóthaí seo, ar a bhfuil úsáid nó cumas Gaeilge, laistigh dá n-earnálacha freagrachta.
Baineann Allt 5(d) den Acht le ceapacháin do phoist amhail Príomh-Oifigigh Feidhmiúcháin Coistí Gairmoideachais. Maidir le ceapacháin den sórt seo, is í feidhm an SCP na gnáthaimh go léir is gá a chomhlíonadh chun earcú, measúnú agus roghnú daoine le haghaidh ceapacháin a chur i gcrích. Tá ceapacháin mar Phríomh-Oifigigh Feidhmiúcháin do Choistí Gairmoideachais faoi réir an Acht Gairmoideachais 1930. Luaitear san Acht go bhfuil cáilíochtaí faoi réir formheasta ag an Aire Oideachais. Ní foláir nó go mbeidh cumas i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla araon ar iarrthóirí le haghaidh na bpost seo, mar a leagtar amach sna cáilíochtaí atá formheasta ag an Aire.
125. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the proposed exemption of contracts below a certain monetary threshold from the Construction Contracts Bill 2010; the reason behind this provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7334/11]
126. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position, in the context of the Construction Contracts Bill 2010, regarding the proposal that an adjudicator’s decision is not binding where the dispute is referred to arbitration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7335/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 126 together.
The Deputy will be aware that the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 was introduced by Senator Feargal Quinn and passed Committee and remaining stages in the Seanad on 8 March 2011. It is now before the Dáil.
In relation to the exemption of contracts below €200,000 from the Construction Contracts Bill 2010, I understand that the Senator pointed out in the Seanad that this threshold was proposed to reduce the administrative burden on contractors involved in smaller contracts.
I understand that the provision making the decision of an adjudicator non-binding where the dispute is referred to arbitration was included in the Senator’s Bill to ensure that the State had the right to appeal a decision to protect the taxpayer.
These two concerns remain valid, nonetheless, I am now examining the Bill and will then decide how best to proceed.
It is important that a solution to the problem of non-payment must not place an unnecessary regulatory or cost burden on the parties to the dispute, other parties involved in the project, or the State.
127. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself with the level of briefing and cooperation he received from his Department prior to the election on 25 February 2011; if he was given a complete overview of the country’s finances; if his attention has been drawn to all aspects of the EU-International Monetary Fund agreement regarding bank restructuring; if he has satisfied himself that he was fully informed of the budgetary position by the officials before his appointment as Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7397/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Deputy will be aware of the arrangements put in place by the previous Government to facilitate the confidential briefings which were provided to the Opposition parties in the autumn of 2010. The Department of Finance also provided costings, on a confidential basis, to parties that requested them for the purposes of the election, a facility which was also provided for previous elections. In the period between the general election on 25 February 2011 and the appointment of the Government, Department of Finance officials and officials of other Departments and agencies, provided detailed briefings to the parties which were negotiating a programme for Government, at their request, on the matters mentioned by the Deputy. I also received briefings from officials from other Departments. I have no reason to believe that these briefings were other than full and frank.
128. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance his plans to publish legislation to establish a strategic State investment bank, as outlined in the programme for Government; if he raised this issue in discussions with the International Monetary Fund delegation recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7400/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The programme for Government contains a clear commitment to creating a Strategic Investment Bank that will become a provider of finance to large capital projects, a conduit for venture capital and a lender to SMEs. As I indicated in a reply to PQ No. 26 on 23 March, the Government will only be in a position to decide on the timing and the structure for setting up the Strategic Investment Bank when the necessary detailed assessment and planning work has been done. Therefore it would be premature to discuss this with the IMF at this stage. For the same reasons the Government Legislation Programme for the summer session which was published on 5 April does not contain legislation in relation to the Strategic Investment Bank.
129. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding correspondence (details supplied); if the VAT refund sought via the unregistered VAT repayment section will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7412/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to respond to the Deputy about this case for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality and data protection. In that context, Revenue point out that when Deputies make representations or ask Parliamentary Questions on behalf of individual taxpayers there must be, and generally there is, enough evidence to reasonably support Revenue in a presumption of consent on the part of the taxpayer about whose affairs the representations or question is being raised. In this instance however, the Commissioners are aware that the representations are on behalf of a third party not directly connected to the claim in question.
I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Deputy has already been advised to this effect.
130. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance the number of special advisers appointed in his Department between June 1997 and February 2011; the cost of each special adviser appointed to his Office between June 1997 and February 2011; the gender ratio of these appointments between June 1997 and February 2011; the number of appointments to State boards made during the period June 1997 to February 2011; and the gender ratio of appointments made to State boards during the period June 1997 to February 2011. [7422/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): During the period 1997 to 2004 the then Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, did not employ any special advisors. During the period 2004 to 2007 the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen employed the following special advisors:
|Colin Hunt ( September 2006 to June 2007)||Mr. Hunt concurrently performed the special adviser role to Mr Brian Cowen TD and the then Minister for Transport, Mr Martin Cullen TD. However, he was engaged under a single contract of employment with the Minister for Transport and was paid by that Department|
During the period 7 May 2008 to 9 March 2011, the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan employed two Special Advisors, details as follows:
|Alan Ahearne||€131,308 per annum|
|Cathy Herbert||€84,066 —€103,982|
In the period 1997 to February 2011 my Department has made approximately 565 appointments and reappointments, excluding ex-officio appointments, to various State Boards under the aegis of my Department. Since 2002 approximately 25 percent of the appointments and reappointments made were female.
131. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance if he has any proposals to make the National Asset Management Agency more transparent, in view of recent public criticism. [7433/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Programme for Government states that this Government will insist on the highest standards of transparency in NAMA’s operations. I have already met with the NAMA Board and explained that I expect the agency to comply with this commitment to the maximum extent possible. The board has also been made aware that this is an issue that I will be following closely. The NAMA legislation also provides for various reporting mechanisms that are designed to enhance the transparency and accountability of the Agency, including the publication of quarterly reports. I recently have received the report for the 4th quarter of 2010 and I expect to lay this report before both houses of the Oireachtas shortly.
132. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of European Council meetings that his predecessor was entitled to attend in the year before 9 March 2011; the dates of such meetings; in each case, if his predecessor attended the meeting or if the meeting was attended by officials in his place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7445/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The euro group and the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) usually meets monthly, although they can meet more frequently, if required. Finance Ministers of the seventeen Eurozone Member States meet in the Eurogroup on the eve of Ecofin meetings to discuss economic, monetary and other issues that relate to the euro area. There were in addition a number of meetings of a Ministerial level taskforce which was established to consider the Van Rompuy Taskforce on Economic Governance. Eurozone and Ecofin Ministers also participated in some teleconferences during 2010.
The table at Annex 1 sets out the details of all Eurogroup, Taskforce and Ecofin meetings for the twelve months prior to 9th March 2011.
|11/04/2010||Minister participated in teleconference|
|16-18/04/2010||Ambassador to Spain Due to the sudden closure of Irish airspace which prevented travel from Dublin||—||Informal Ecofin Ambassador to Spain|
|02/05/2010||Senior DOF Official|
|17/05/2010-18/05/2010||Minister of State||Permanent Representative to the EU|
|07/06/2010-08/06/2010||Minister||—||Permanent Representative to the EU|
|12/07/2010-13/07/2010||Minister of State||Minister of State||Minister of State|
|06/09/2010-07/09/2010||Minister||Minister||Permanent Representative to the EU|
|30/09/2010-01/10/2010||Minister of State||—||Informal Ecofin
Minister of State
|18/10/2010-19/10/2010||Senior D/Finance Official||—||Permanent Representative to the EU|
|21/11/2010||Minister participated in Teleconference||Minister participated in Teleconference|
|06/12/2010-07/12/2010||Senior D/Finance Official||—||Permanent Representative to the EU|
|17/01/2011-18/01/2011||Minister||—||Permanent Representative to the EU|
NOTE: A number of Ecofin meetings that the Minister could not attend took place on the same day as Government meetings in Dublin, which the Minister for Finance had to attend.
133. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding liability for the universal social charge in respect of persons on medical cards; if a concession exists for medical card holders, if he will clarify the situation regarding those who hold a medical card by virtue of household income and those who hold a medical card arising from a specific medical condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7566/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Universal Social Charge was introduced with effect from 1 January 2011. There is an exempt annual threshold of €4,004 (€77 per week). However, where this threshold is exceeded, the entire amount is chargeable. The standard rates of charge are:
The maximum rate of charge for individuals in possession of a full medical card or a Health Amendment Act card is 4% irrespective of the level of their income. However, where an individual has a full medical card or a Health Amendment Act card, and has self-employment income in excess of €100,000 for a tax year, the maximum rate rises to 7% on the amount of the excess over €100,000.
The criteria used in awarding full medical cards or Health Amendment Act cards are a matter for the Minister for Health and Children.
134. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support the case of an organisation (details supplied) regarding a vacant site. [7595/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Brian Hayes): The Commissioners of Public Works are currently reviewing the situation regarding the site in question.
135. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance, in the context of the planned sale or run-off of more than €70 billion of non-core assets in AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS and Irish Permanent, if he will confirm the expected overall loss or discount on the sale of these non-core assets which have been factored into the recapitalisation figure of €24 billion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7602/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): On 31 March the Central Bank published full details of the capital requirements for AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS and Irish Life and Permanent. In their Financials Measures Programme document they provided a detailed breakdown of the calculations that underpinned their €24bn capital requirement which they identified for these banks. In arriving at this €24bn figure, the Central Bank indicated that a loss of €13.2bn had been allowed for the cost of deleveraging loans. This cost represents the impairment loss associated with loans that are scheduled to be sold over the 2011-13 period, net of provisions taken,and for clarity included a loss for so called NAMA 2 exposures, or those land and development loans in AIB and Bank of Ireland with a value less than €20m that were to transfer to NAMA. I should point out that this €13.2bn cost is not the exact capital impact associated with these disposals and as such is not directly comparable with the €24bn capital number identified for the banking system. There are certain accounting adjustments for risk weighted asset relief etc. that must be implemented before the strictly equivalent capital figure can be determined.
136. Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Finance when he expects to sign the commencement order for the employment and investment incentive scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7646/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Business Expansion Scheme (BES) is being replaced by the new Employment and Investment Incentive (EII). Under the new incentive, the lifetime limit that can be raised by companies will be increased from €2 million to €10 million, and the amount that can be raised in any twelve month period will be increased from €1.5 to €2.5 million. The certification requirements will also be simplified. Full details of the new incentive were set out in Section 33 of Finance Act 2011. The new incentive is subject to the approval of the European Commission. Pending the receipt of this approval, the existing BES will continue to operate.
It is not possible to stipulate when the approval of the European Commission will be forthcoming and therefore I am not in a position to indicate when the Commencement Order bringing the EII into operation will be signed.
137. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance if any concerns have been raised with him regarding the inability of contractors to raise suitable funding for public private partnership projects resulting from concerns about Ireland’s sovereign debt. [7651/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): There are some difficulties in the PPP funding market at present, resulting in a reduction in the number of banks participating in the market. Reflecting this, the Government has taken a number of steps to improve the market for PPPs and projects should be able to secure funding on a value for money basis.
138. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a matter involving the Revenue (details supplied). [7679/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that this matter has been resolved. An amended notice of assessment issued on 23rd March 2011. A repayment of the resulting refund issued on 28th March 2011.
If there are any further queries on this matter they should be directed to Cork South West District, Telephone No. 021-6027058.
139. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of unguaranteed senior and subordinated debt in each of the banks in which the State has a stake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7737/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): On 1 April 2011, the Central Bank published the total senior and subordinated debt issuances by those banks covered by the Guarantee as at March 2011. This information is available on the Central Bank’s website at www.centralbank.ie. The Central Bank published the individual figures on a once-off basis and were disclosed with the consent of the financial institutions and does not form part of any Central Bank statistical series. While the Central Bank does not usually publish this information, the Central Bank has advised me that as at 1 April 2011, the total unguaranteed senior debt in the covered institutions is €36,001m of which €19,944m is unguaranteed secured debt and €16,057m is unguaranteed unsecured. The total subordinated debt amount is €6,223m.
140. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the details of all persons appointed by him to serve as members of boards, review groups or to prepare reports for him since his appointment. [7746/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I have made no appointments as outlined in the Deputy’s question since my apppointment as Minister for Finance.
141. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired public servants employed on short-term contracts by his Department and by all bodies under its aegis, and the total cost of that employment for all purposes, including interview boards, in the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010. [7180/11]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): A total of 59 retired public servants were employed on short-term contracts by my Department in 2010 at a cost of some €499,000 in total.
My Department uses the services of retired public servants for a range of duties including, for example, the facilitation of various appeals processes such as those provided for under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 and those that relate to teaching staff allocations to primary and postprimary schools.
With regard to the bodies under the aegis of my Department, any expenditure incurred with regard to the employment of consultants, etc. on short term contracts is an administrative matter for each agency. This information is not collated centrally by my Department. However if the Deputy has a particular agency in mind I would be happy to have my officials obtain the relevant details and communicate them to the Deputy.
142. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost to his Department of sign replacement resulting from the requirement of the Department and all agencies and bodies under the Department’s remit to replace signs which were in place prior to March 2009 where the existing signs in Irish did not or would not meet the requirements in terms of Irish text required by 2012. [7195/11]
143. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the anticipated cost to his Department of ensuring compliance by the Department and by all agencies and bodies under its remit with the requirements under the Official Languages Act to replace any sign currently in English only by March 2013. [7210/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.
Under Section 9(1) of the Official Languages Act, 2003, Government Departments must comply with the Regulations made by the then Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to ensure that signs are provided in Irish only, or in English and Irish, in accordance with specific criteria set out in the Regulations.
The Regulations come into effect over a period of time. In this regard, all new signs placed on any of my Department’s sites since 1 March 2009 are in compliance with the Regulations.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, an inventory of all signs will be undertaken to determine new signage required in respect of (a) signs placed on any Department site before 1 March 2009 which would fulfil the requirements of these Regulations except where there is an error in the Irish text, (b) signs placed on any Department site before 1 March 2009 which are in English only (c) signs placed on any Department site that comply with the Regulations except the text in Irish is less prominent, visible or legible than the text in English or the letters in the text in Irish are smaller in size than the letters in the text in English.
The deadline for compliance for signs at (a) above is 1 March 2012, at (b) above 1 March 2013 and (c) above is 1 January 2026. My Department is not in a position to anticipate the costs to implement the legislation until the inventory has been completed.
With regard to the bodies under the aegis of my Department, the expenditure incurred in respect of signage is an administrative matter for each agency. Agencies have been notified of their statutory duty and a further reminder will issue nearer the date for compliance.
144. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will support the request from an organisation (details supplied) for funding for a new academy to address the educational and developmental needs of children with autism within the framework of an applied behaviour analysis (ABA) environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7223/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I wish to advise the Deputy that a proposal for an academy for children with autism has been received by officials in my Department who will revert to the organisation in question shortly. However it is important to emphasise that the proposal will be considered in the context of my Department’s policy in this regard.
My Department’s policy is focused on ensuring that all children including those with autism can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers who may draw from a range of autism-specific interventions, including ABA, special needs assistants, and the appropriate school curriculum with the option where possible of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. As each child with autism is unique it is important that children have access to a range of interventions so their broader needs can be met.
My Department’s policy is to provide for children with special educational needs, including autism, to be included in mainstream schools unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. Some children may be supported in a special class attached to a mainstream school. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Other children may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school. Students with special educational needs have access to a range of support services including additional teaching and/or care supports. In special schools and special classes, students are supported through lower pupil teacher ratios. Special needs assistants may also be recruited specifically where pupils with disabilities and significant care needs are enrolled.
Reflective of the important role of continuing professional development my Department has put in place a training programme for teachers in autism-specific interventions including Treatment and Education of Autistic Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), Picture Exchange Communications System (PECS) and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) through the Special Education Support Service.
The Deputy will be familiar with the ABA pilot scheme which was funded by my Department for the past decade. All of the centres which participated in this scheme have been granted recognition as special schools for children with autism. These schools will operate in line with my Department’s policy. I am pleased to update the Deputy that following their recognition the new schools are currently progressing well in the transitional phase. Eight schools have opened and the remaining five are scheduled to open shortly. It is my intention to continue to support this transitional process.
The pilot scheme was established in the absence of a network of school-based special classes for children with autism which is now available. The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of this network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 430 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools.
145. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7228/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for the works as outlined under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme.
Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. As outlined in the Circular governing the operation of the scheme, applications for works in the higher categories of eligible works were prioritised and it was not possible to include the school referred to by the Deputy in the list of 453 successful schools that was announced on 30 March 2011. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.
146. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make available funding for the construction of a new school building (details supplied) in County Dublin; the date on which this funding will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7252/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The school to which the Deputy refers was included in the January announcement of schools to progress to secure planning permission with a view to preparing tender documents for 2011 or 2012. The project is at an advanced stage of the architectural planning process and will be lodged for planning permission once this stage is complete.
Officials from my Department will be in touch with the school authorities shortly to arrange a meeting prior to lodging for planning permission. Progression of the project to construction will be contingent on receiving the necessary statutory approvals.
147. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received correspondence (details supplied); his views on its contents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7258/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I am aware of the correspondence referred to by the Deputy wherein the Presentation Brothers set out their concerns regarding the commitment in the Programme for Government to negotiate the transfer of school infrastructure currently owned by the 18 religious orders cited in the Ryan Report, at no extra cost to the State.
I intend discussing this commitment in the Programme for Government with my Cabinet colleagues in the near future. This discussion will take account of my Department’s engagement with the Congregations in relation to the potential use of the various property offers made to date and their acceptability to the State and the Congregations’ potential to augment their offers, so as to realise a 50:50 sharing of the costs of the response to residential institutional abuse. Following this discussion there will be further engagement with the congregations involved.
148. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an inquiry conducted by him into certain matters pertaining to a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the findings of the report will be made public; his plans regarding the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7278/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Inquiry Officer has furnished my Department with an Interim Report on the matter referred to by the Deputy. My Department sought legal advice in relation to certain aspects of the Interim Report and these advices have just been received.
I have given careful consideration to the content of the Interim Report and the advices received from the Office of the Attorney General. I am communicating directly this week with the relevant parties in relation to the matter.
149. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the school bus (details supplied) in County Kilkenny does not provide the same service on the return journey after school resulting in some children being left off the bus and if he will have the matter investigated. [7281/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport schemes on behalf of my Department, has informed my Department that henceforth the designated route will be operated both morning and evening.
150. Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the 2011 summer works scheme is going to be restricted to mechanical and electrical projects only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7290/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. As outlined in the Circular governing the operation of the scheme, applications for works in the higher categories of eligible works were prioritised in the list of 453 successful schools that was announced on 30 March 2011. These works included Gas, Mechanical and Electrical Works.
151. Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Monaghan will qualify for funding under the summer works scheme for the provision of a training facility and enclosed all weather facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7292/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for the works as outlined under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme.
Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. As outlined in the Circular governing the operation of the scheme, applications for works in the higher categories of eligible works were prioritised and it was not possible to include the school referred to by the Deputy in the list of 453 successful schools that was announced on 30 March 2011. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.
152. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider the 26 week rule whereby teachers with experience on temporary contracts who subsequently emigrate for work are considered new entrants on their return to Ireland with consequent implications for their pay and pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7298/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 abolished the maximum age of retirement for new entrants to employment in the public service from 1 April 2004. It also raised the minimum pension age for new entrants to age 65. In general terms, a new entrant to employment in the public service (including employment as a teacher) is a person who enters public service employment for the first time on or after 1 April 2004, (including employment in a temporary or fixed-term capacity, whether full-time, or part-time), OR, a person who becomes re-employed in the public service, (including employment as a teacher) following a break of more than 26 weeks, where that break occurred at anytime on or after 1 April 2004).
The provisions of this legislation are of general application to public servants and there are no proposals to make exceptions for any particular individual or group.
As part of Budget 2011, introduced by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party government, a 10% reduction in the pay of new appointees to the public service applies from 1 January 2011 and all new recruits to the entry grades of the public service will start at the first point of the relevant pay scale without exception. A person in the situation referred to by the Deputy who had service prior to 1 January 2011 is not regarded as a new entrant for this purpose.
153. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the timetable for the construction of a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow and for details regarding the funding available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7299/11]
181. Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a progress report on the application from a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if he will ensure that there are no undue delays in the tender process in view of the fact that this school has been seeking funding from the Department for the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7677/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 181 together.
The school to which the Deputy refers was authorised to proceed to tender in February. Subject to no issues arising, it is anticipated that the project will proceed to construction in late 2011.
154. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way he will deal with the fact that the implementation of Circular 19/2011 requiring schools to take from the panel may result in gaelscoileanna having to recruit staff who may not have the required standard of Irish to teach through that medium, therefore undermining the ethos of the school. [7307/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): There are no additional qualification requirements required to teach in a Gaelscoil. The introduction of any such requirements would impact on the capacity to redeploy surplus permanent teachers to any primary school.
My Department will be seeking in the coming period to recommence discussions with the relevant education partners, on changes necessary to achieve our objective of absorbing all surplus teachers into vacancies that exist in other schools. The purpose of this measure is to ensure that all teachers with either permanent posts or contracts of indefinite duration are deployed in the most efficient and equitable manner within our education system.
Flexible redeployment arrangements are required in order to ensure all surplus permanent teachers are redeployed into vacancies. The country simply cannot afford to have surplus teachers in a school while permitting recruitment to take place in another school. The Government is committed to ensuring the delivery of frontline services is protected as much as possible in our education system. I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed by the Gaelscoileana movement at this proposed redeployment. Over half of the Gaelscoileanna are under Catholic patronage and the redeployment of surplus teachers from these schools is through the relevant diocesan panels. Under the existing redeployment arrangements a Board of management has the right to interview, once there is more than one teacher on a panel.
My Department had discussions recently with An Foras Pátrúnachta in relation to its request for a separate panel for Gaelscoileanna under its patronage. These discussions are on-going and a key issue for my Department is how best to facilitate this request in a manner that avoids the inherent inefficiencies of a separate panel for a relatively small number of schools. Given our budgetary situation we need to have sufficient flexibility in the redeployment arrangements to ensure that surplus teachers in all schools regardless of patronage type can be readily redeployed to vacancies wherever they exist.
The existing arrangements for the redeployment of surplus teachers operate between schools of the same patronage and are not certain to bring about the redeployment of all surplus teachers. To address the current limitations my Department will be seeking in the coming period to recommence discussions with the relevant education partners, including An Foras Pátrúnachta, on changes necessary to achieve our objective of absorbing all surplus teachers into vacancies that exist in other schools. These discussions can also deal with the request for a separate redeployment panel for Gaelscoileanna under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta.
155. Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue on the change of status of a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7321/11]
156. Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the discussions he has had with the patron regarding the application for a change of status for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7322/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.
I would like to advise the Deputy that in May 2008 the school in question applied for a change of status on foot of which my Department requested a report from the Inspector as part of its examination of the matter. The Inspectorate consulted with the three schools most directly impacted and considered the matter under a number of headings including:
All decisions regarding the change of status ultimately lie with the Patron. In the absence of clear and unconditional Patron approval for the proposed change of status coupled with the outcome of the Inspector’s Report, it is the Department’s view that a change of status would not be in the best interests of future educational provision in the area at that time and in that context, the school’s application for change of status was not progressed.
157. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the Grangegorman campus development, Dublin; when is it expected to begin construction and when will the GDA be in a position to hire architects and so on for this project. [7325/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Grangegorman Development Agency is currently finalising a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) planning application. It is envisaged that the SDZ will be submitted to Dublin City Council for consideration shortly.
Enabling works to facilitate the delivery of new Mental Health Facilities on the Grangegorman site are on-going and the Agency hope to be in a position to sign the main contract for the construction of these facilities in the coming weeks.
The Agency has already appointed Architects and Engineers for some elements of the design of the development and it is intended that further public tendering and subsequent appointments will be conducted over the coming months including for the appointment technical and legal advisors to assist with the delivery of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) elements of the development.
158. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their redundancy payment. [7331/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I can confirm that an application for redundancy has been received by my Department from the person referred to by the Deputy.
Applications for redundancy are being received on an ongoing basis and are processed in date order of receipt. The application in question will be dealt with as soon as possible.
159. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will issue a response on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7338/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Junkkouture initiative supports aspects of the Art Craft and Design, Home Economics, Civic Social and Political Education, Science, Business and Social and Environmental studies aspects of the curriculum in second level schools. Overall, education for sustainable development and environmental awareness and care are significant themes underpinning many subjects within the curriculum in our schools.
These issues also feature in the Transition Year programme, where each school has the flexibility to design its own programme within a framework set out by my Department. As part of this, schools are encouraged to provide for innovative activities which develop students’ key competences in such areas as research, planning and budgeting, design, team work, and evaluation. Many schools provide musicals, fashion shows and participate in competitions as part of this approach. Schools therefore have discretion as to whether they wish to participate in Junkkouture in meeting the learning objectives of the Transition Year Programme, or in supporting other aspects of the curriculum. They may also fund participation in the programme from the capitation grants and other programme resources allocated to schools, should they wish to do so.
My Department must meet a range of competing demands in a difficult budgetary climate. Accordingly I am not in a position to provide funding for this initiative.
160. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a full list of all schools in County Mayo who applied for funding under the summer works scheme 2011. [7354/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I am pleased to inform the Deputy that details of the successful applicants under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were announced on 30th March, 2011 and published on my Department’s website, www.education.ie. Applications were assessed in accordance with the availability of funding on a top down basis in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria.
A list of all applicants from Mayo is set out below for the Deputy’s convenience.
There was a total of 105 applications received for the Summer Works Scheme from schools in Mayo. Out of the 105 applications, 13 schools, 11 at primary level and 2 at post primary level, were successful in their applications for funding for works to be carried out. My Department has contacted all schools approved for grant aid with details and instructions on how to proceed and is in the process of issuing letters to those not approved.
|Roll No.||Name of School||School Address||Project|
|02912G||Scoil na gCoillini||Miliuc, Beal Atha na Muice, Co. Mhaigh Eo||Windows|
|07054L||Culeens N.S.||Knockduff, Beal Atha an Fheadha, Co. Mhaigh Eo||Mechanical|
|07075T||SN Naomh Feichin||An Crois, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||Electrical|
|09040K||Newtownwhite N.S.||Ballysokerry, Ballina, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|11725I||Beheymore N.S.||Beheymore, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|12467R||Craggagh N.S.||Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|12568A||SN Inbhear||Barr na Tra, Beal an Atha, Co. Mhaigh Eo||External Environment|
|12569C||SN Ros Dumhach||Beal Atha an Fheadha, Co. Mhaigh Eo||External Environment|
|12815O||Creggduff N.S.||Creggduff, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|13080V||Kilmovee N.S.||Kilmovee, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|13145A||S. N. Naomh Colm Cille||Westport, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|13222P||S.N. Gleann a Chaisil||Bun na hAbhna, Beal an Atha, Co. Mhaigh Eo||Structural|
|13225V||Scoil Naisiúnta Chormaic Naofa||Moygownagh, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|13311O||St Patrick’s N.S.||Kille, Clare Island, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|13383Q||SN an Tsraith||Bun na hAbhann, Beal an Atha, Co. Mhaigh Eo||External Environment|
|13389F||S.N. Trian Lair||Beal Atha na Muiche, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|13444K||S.S. Beal Atha na hEin||Castlebar, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|13555T||S.N. an Fhaitche||Fahy, Westport, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|13667H||S.N. Muine Chonallain||Beal an Atha, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|13684H||Beannchor N.S.||Bangor, Erris, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Access for All|
|13773G||Scoil Naisiúnta Gort an Eadain||Facefield, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|13797U||Lecanvey N.S.||Lecanvey, Westport, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|13945J||Eskeragh N.S.||Dooleeg, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Access for All|
|14188A||Barnatra N.S.||Barnatra, Ballina, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|14193Q||S.N. Dubh Thuama||Gaoth Saile, Beal an Atha, Co. Mhaigh Eo||External Environment|
|14195U||An Gleanna Mhóir S.N.||Glenmore, Crossmolina, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|14258S||Cill Mhór Iorrais||Beal an Mhuirthead, Co. Mhaigh Eo||Mechanical|
|14290O||Scoil Naomh Brid||Main Street, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|14400S||S.N. Cill Mhuire (Richmond N.S.)||Crossmolina, Co. Mayo||Structural|
|14418O||Bofield N.S.||Attymass, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Structural|
|14808E||Irishtown N.S.||Irishtown, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|14863M||Achill Sound Convent N.S.||Achill Sound, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|15032U||S.N. Muire Gan Smal||Ceathru Thaidgh, Beal Atha an Fheadha, Co. Mhaigh Eo||Windows|
|15257V||Quignamanger N.S.||Creggs Road, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|15539I||St John’s N.S.||Lugboy, Tulrahan, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|15555G||Breaffy N.S.||Breaffy, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|15967G||Crimlin N.S.||Crimlin, Ross, Castlebar, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|16021U||Lisaniska N.S.||Lisaniska, Foxford, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|16122D||Knock N.S.||Knock, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|16173U||Kinaffe N.S.||Swinford, Co. Mayo||Structural|
|16269K||Killasser N.S.||Killasser, Swinford, Co. Mayo||Structural|
|16283E||Pullathomas N.S.||Pullathomas, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Access for All|
|16618J||St Brendan’s N.S.||Myna, Kilmeena, Westport, Co. Mayo||Access for All|
|16630W||Ceara N.S.||Bonniconlon, Ballina, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|16780S||Culmore N.S.||Swinford, Co. Mayo||Structural|
|16904K||Lankill N.S.||Lankill, Westport, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|16984L||St Joseph’s N.S.||Shrule, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|17098O||Ardagh N.S.||Ardagh, Ballymanagh, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|17176I||S.N. Realt na Mara||Mulranny, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|17209U||Cooneal N.S.||Cooneal, Ballina Co. Mayo||Windows|
|17482P||Holy Angels N.S.||Clogher, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|17483R||Carraholly N.S.||Carraholly, Westport, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|17562N||S.N. Oilean Eadaigh||Caislean a Bharraigh, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|17585C||Belcarra N.S.||Belcarra, Castlebar, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|17727T||Belmullet Senior N.S.||Pearse Street, Belmullet, Co. Mayo||Access for All|
|17922R||Cloghan’s Hill N.S.||Cloghan’s Hill, Tuam, Co. Galway||Roofs|
|17923T||Belmullet Junior N.S.||Pearse Street, Belmullet, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|18003F||St Attracta’s N.S.||Lowpark, Charlestown, Co.Mayo||External Environment|
|18506I||S. N. Naomh Padraig B||Market Square, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|18542M||St Patrick’s De La Salle Boys N.S.||Upper Chapel Street, Castlebar, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|18561Q||S. N. Naomh Ioseph||Rehins, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|18562S||S.N. an TeaghlaighParke N.S.||An Phairc, Turloch, Caislean an Bharraigh, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|18694M||Convent of Mercy N.S.||The Lawn, Castlebar, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|18712L||Knockrooskey N.S.||Knockrooskey, Westport, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|18876S||St Joseph’s N.S.||Ballycushion, Cloghan’s Hill, Kilconley, Tuam, Co. Galway||Mechanical|
|19324H||S.N. Teaghlaigh Naofa||Kileen, Loiusburgh, Co. Mayo||Access for All|
|19402B||Ballyvary Central N.S.||Ballyvary, Castlebar, Co. Mayo||Electrical|
|19451O||Newport Central N.S.||Newport, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|19488O||St Feichin’s N.S.||Attymass, Balina, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|19710M||Barnacarroll N.S.||Barnacarroll, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|19798G||St Colman’s N.S.||Dernabruck, Cloontia, Ballymote, Co. Sligo||External Environment|
|19812U||Foxford Central N.S.||Foxford, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|19903A||Kiltimagh Central N.S.||Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|19911W||St Patrick’s Central N.S.||Kilmaine, Co. Mayo||Toilet Upgrade|
|19951L||Swinford N.S.||Swinford, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|19972T||Gaelscoil Uileog de Búrca||Lochán na mBan, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|20089H||St Joseph’s N.S.||Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|20125I||Crossmolina N.S.||Crossmolina, Co. Mayo||Access for All|
|20275E||Scoil Íosa||Convent Hill, Ballina, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|64500G||Balla Secondary School||Balla, Castlebar, Co. Mayo||Toilet Upgrade|
|64510J||St Muredach’s College||Sligo Road, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Gas Works|
|64520M||St Mary’s Secondary School||Convent of Mercy, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Structural|
|64570E||Our Lady’s Secondary School||Belmullet, Co. Mayo||Structural|
|64590K||Naomh Iosaef||Clochar na Trócaire, Caisleán an Bharraigh, Co. Mhaigh Eo||Windows|
|64600K||St Joseph’s Secondary School||Charlestown, Co. Mayo||Electrical|
|64610N||Coláiste Cholmáin||Claremorris, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|64620Q||Mount St. Michael Secondary School||Convent of Mercy, Claremorris, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|64630T||Jesus & Mary Secondary School||Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|64640W||St Joseph’s Secondary School||Foxford, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|64660F||Sancta Maria College||Louisburgh, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|64690O||Scoil Muire agus Padraig||Swinford, Co. Mayo||Curricular Requirements|
|64691Q||Coláiste Muire||Tuar Mhic Éadaigh, Co. Maigh Eo||Toilet Upgrade|
|64700O||Rice College||Castlebar Road, Westport, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|64710R||Sacred Heart School||Castlebar Road, Westport, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
|72020L||Moyne College||Ballina, Co. Mayo||Mechanical|
|72050U||St Brendan’s College||Belmullet, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|72070D||McHale College||Achill Sound, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|72100J||St Tiernan’s College||Crossmolina, Ballina, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|72130S||St Patrick’s College||Lacken Cross, Killala, Ballina, Co. Mayo||External Environment|
|72140V||Coláiste Chomáin||Rossport, Ballina, Co. Mayo||Curricular Requirements|
|72160E||Carrowbeg College||Westport, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|76060U||Davitt College||Springfield, Castlebar, Co. Mayo||External Environment & Windows|
|91461C||Ballyhaunis Community School||Knock Road, Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo||Curricular Requirements|
|91462E||Ballinrobe Community School||Convent Road, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo||Windows|
|91494R||St Louis Community School||Chapel Street, Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo||Roofs|
161. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide on a county basis the name of each school that has two or fewer teachers; the number of teachers per school; the number of pupils per school as at 31 March 2011 in tabular form and the number of support staff per school. [7355/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The information requested is provided in the National School Annual Census Return. Results from the Census for the current school year (2010/2011) will be available on the 1st of September 2011. The following table, sourced from the 2009/2010 Census, shows a list of schools by county with two mainstream teaching teachers, the number of non-mainstream teachers in the school and the number of pupils enrolled as per the of 30th September 2009. This is the latest date for which data is available. Data on non-teaching staff by school is not readily available in this format.
|County Name||Roll No.||Official School Name||Address||Current Open/Closed Status Desc||Mainstream Class Pupils||Special Class Pupils||Total Pupils||Full-time equivalent Mainstream class teachers||Non mainstream class teachers full-time||Non mainstream class teachers part-time|
|Carlow||17096K||S N NMH FHINGIN||GARRYHILL, MUINEBHEAG, CO. CARLOW||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Carlow||17481N||ST BRENDANS N S||DRUMMOND, ST MULLINS, KILKENNY||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Carlow||18609S||S N FIONTAIN NAOFA||RATHMORE, TULLOW, CO. CARLOW||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Carlow||17462J||SCOIL NAIS MHICHIL||BAILE NUA, BORRIS, CO. CARLOW||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Carlow||17796P||OOU LADY’S NATIONAL SCHOOL||NURNEY, CARLOW, CO. CARLOW||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Carlow||18510W||ST. PATRICK’S NATIONAL SCHOOL||BALLYMURPHY, BORRIS, CO. CARLOW||Open||46||46||2||0||0|
|Carlow||17669I||S N TREASA NAOMHA||CILL TEAGAIN, CO. CILLE MANNTAIN||Open||52||52||2||0||0|
|Cavan||11590L||ARVA CHURCH OF IRELAND N S||ARVA, CO. CAVAN||Closed||8||8||1||0||0|
|Cavan||14320U||CORLEA N S||KINGSCOURT, CO. CAVAN||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Cavan||12713G||CORRATOBER N S||ARVA, CO. CAVAN||Open||22||22||2||0||0|
|Cavan||11409V||BALLYCONELL CENTRAL N S||BALLYCONNELL, CO. CAVAN||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Cavan||10146K||CORLISS N S||KILLESHANDRA, CO. CAVAN||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Cavan||13271F||FAIRGREEN N S||BELTURBET, CO. CAVAN||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Cavan||19921C||DRUNG NO 2 NS||DRUNG, CO. CAVAN||Open||33||33||2||0||1|
|Cavan||16767D||CORONEA N S||ARVA, CO. CAVAN||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Cavan||17990L||S N DROM CNAMH||DROM CNAMH, CO. CAVAN||Open||37||37||2||0||3|
|Cavan||19322D||KILMORE CENTRAL N S||KILMORE, CO. CAVAN||Open||37||37||2||0||1|
|Cavan||16959M||S N CORRABHA||GLANGEVLIN N S, CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Cavan||15452T||KILDALLON N S||ARDLOUGHER, BELTURBET, CO. CAVAN||Open||50||50||2||0||1|
|Clare||15968I||BALTARD N S||BALTARD, DOONBEG, KILRUSH, CO. CLARE||Open||5||5||2||0||2|
|Clare||08241P||SCROPUL N S||MULLAGH, ENNIS, CO. CLARE||Open||9||9||2||1||0|
|Clare||12848G||DOONAHA N S||KILKEE, CO. CLARE||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Clare||13351D||CLONIGULANE N S||KILMIHIL, KILRUSH, CO. CLARE||Open||13||13||2||0||0|
|Clare||13379C||S N PADRAIG NFA FANOIR||BALLYVAUGHAN, CO. CLARE||Open||14||14||2||0||0|
|Clare||17898A||S N IOSEP NAOFA||BROADFORD, VIA LIMERICK, CO. CLARE||Open||14||14||2||0||0|
|Clare||10763L||BOSTON N S||TUBBER, GORT, CO. GALWAY||Open||14||14||2||1||0|
|Clare||10191P||S N NA CORADH||MULLACH, INIS, CO. CLARE||Open||17||17||2||0||1|
|Clare||18339P||SN IOSEF NAOFA||AN MHAIGH, LEACHT UI CHONCHUBHAIR, INIS, CO. AN CHLAIR||Open||17||17||2||1||0|
|Clare||17687K||S N TULACH CRUINN||CILL RUIS, CO. CLARE||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Clare||18540I||CLUAIN DRAIGNEACH||CLUAIN DRAIGHNEACH, LIOS UI CHATASAI, INIS, CO. AN CHLAIR||Open||19||19||2||1||0|
|Clare||15327Q||CAHERMURPHY N S||KILMIHIL, CO. CLARE||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Clare||10886E||TUBBER N S||TUBBER, CO. CLARE||Open||21||21||2||0||2|
|Clare||18630J||CARRIGAHOLT MIXED N S||CARRIGAHOLT, ENNIS, CO. CLARE||Open||22||22||2||2||0|
|Clare||18950E||S N DROIMAN DUDHAIRE||CAHER, VIA LIMERICK, CO. CLARE||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Clare||16930L||SCOIL AN SRAITH S N||TULACH BRACH, CILL ROIS, CO. AN CHLAIR||Open||25||25||2||1||0|
|Clare||18740Q||SHANNON AIRPORT NO 2 NS||SHANNON AIRPORT, CO. CLARE||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Clare||13804O||S N NA CRANNAIGHE||CRANNACH, CILL ROIS, CO. CLARE||Open||26||26||2||1||0|
|Clare||18190H||S N CRONAIN NFA AN CARN||INIS, CO. CLARE||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Clare||18846J||AN DAINGIN||TULLA, ENNIS, CO. CLARE||Open||27||27||2||0||1|
|Clare||10568N||S N CUIBHREANN||CILL CHAOI, CO. AN CHLAIR||Open||27||27||2||1||0|
|Clare||14111L||CROSS N S||KILRUSH, CO. CLARE||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Clare||12633I||COOLMEEN N S||KILMURRAY MCMAHON, KILRUSH, CO. CLARE||Open||28||28||2||1||0|
|Clare||09425H||RINEEN N S||MILTOWN MALBAY, CO. CLARE||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Clare||17847G||S N AIBHISTIN NAOFA||CILL SEANAIGH, INIS, CO. AN CHLAIR||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Clare||11990E||BODYKE N S||BODYKE, CO. CLARE||Open||29||29||2||1||0|
|Clare||18565B||S N MA SHEASTA||MOYASTA, CO. CLARE||Open||31||31||2||1||0|
|Clare||17246D||S N CLUAIN AN ATHA||EIDHNEACH, INIS, CO. CLARE||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Clare||18327I||S N CNOC DOIRE||COORACLARE, KILRUSH, CO. CLARE||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Clare||18541K||S N CATHAIR AODHA||LISSYCASEY, ENNIS, CO. CLARE||Open||32||32||2||0||1|
|Clare||19386G||LABASHEEDA CENTRAL N S||LABASHEEDA, CO. CLARE||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Clare||13730L||CLOHANES N S||MULLACH, CO. CLARE||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Clare||15981A||LAKYLE N S||WHITEGATE VIA LIMERICK, CO. CLARE||Open||33||33||2||1||0|
|Clare||18359V||S N CUAN||CILL BEATHACH, INIS, CO. CLARE||Open||34||34||2||0||1|
|Clare||13478E||DROIMDIOGACH N S||KILLMURRY MC MAHON, CO. CLARE||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Clare||18768P||FORGLEANN N S||FORGLEANN, LEACHT UI CHONCHUIR, CO. AN CHLAIR||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Clare||11234M||CLOHANBEG N S||CREE, KILRUSH, CO. CLARE||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Clare||17270A||S N COLM CILLE||INIS DIOMAIN, CO. CLARE||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Clare||18168O||S N AN CHRIOCH||AN CHRIOCH, CO. AN CHLAIR||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
|Clare||17020A||QUILTY NS||QUILTY, ENNIS, CO. CLARE||Open||42||42||2||1||0|
|Clare||09390O||ROCKMOUNT MIXED N S||MILTOWN MALBAY, CO. CLARE||Open||43||43||2||1||0|
|Cork||09385V||RATHDUANE N S||RATHMORE, MALLOW, CO. CORK||Closed||8||8||2||0||0|
|Cork||14065H||SHERKIN ISLAND N S||BALTIMORE, CO. CORK||Open||9||9||2||0||0|
|Cork||14303U||S N CLEIRE||OILEAN CHLEIRE, AN SCIOBAIRIN, CO. CHORCAI||Open||11||11||2||0||1|
|Cork||14993C||S N RAE NA NDOIRI||RAE NA NDOIRI, MAIGH CHROMTHA, CO. CHORCAI||Open||13||13||2||0||0|
|Cork||17079K||S N CARRAIG AN IME||MACROOM, CO. CORK||Open||13||13||2||0||0|
|Cork||12685E||RUSHNACAHARA N S||DURRNS, BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||14||14||2||0||0|
|Cork||17324U||SCOIL NAOMH BREANDAN||CNOC AN CHUILINN, AN RATH MHOR, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||14||14||2||0||0|
|Cork||09872J||CLOGHOOLA MIXED N S||MILLSTREET, CO. CORK||Open||16||16||2||0||0|
|Cork||17794L||S N AN PHAIRC||YOUGHAL, CO. CORK||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Cork||16863W||DESERTSERGES N S||ENNISKEAN, CO. CORK||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Cork||17050J||S N NAOMH SHEAMUIS||DURRUS, CO. CORK||Open||19||19||2||0||1|
|Cork||19525R||MHICHIL NAOFA||BALLINAKILLA, BERE ISLAND, BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Cork||09815U||TULLASLEASE MIXED N S||RATHLUIRC, CO. CORK||Open||20||20||2||1||0|
|Cork||15140A||BALLINGREE MXD N S||MACROOM, CO. CORK||Open||22||22||2||0||0|
|Cork||10771K||COBH N S||BELLEVUE, COBH, CO. CORK||Open||22||22||2||1||0|
|Cork||11931L||S N IOSEPH||DRINAGH, DUNMANWAY, CO. CORK||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Cork||15410D||KILCROHANE N S||DURRUS, BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||24||24||2||0||1|
|Cork||10499U||KILGARIFFE N S||CLONAKILTY, CO. CORK||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Cork||07101R||INCHICLOUGH N S||BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Cork||10548H||ST BRENDANS NATIONAL SCHOOL||BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Cork||17011W||MOCOMHOG N S||CAPPABOY, KEALKIL, BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||26||26||2||1||0|
|Cork||18100D||LISGRIFFIN N S||GOLEEN, SKIBBEREEN, CO. CORK||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Cork||16885J||ADRIGOLE N S||ADRIGOLE, BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||27||27||2||1||0|
|Cork||17715M||S N RATH A BHARRAIGH||CLONAKILTY, CO. CORK||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Cork||08828B||KILCORNEY MIXED N S||RATHCOOLE, MALLOW, CO. CORK||Open||29||29||2||1||0|
|Cork||05565D||TRAFRASK MIXED N S||BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Cork||18246I||S N BAILE MUINE||BALLINEEN, CO. CORK||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Cork||18388F||SCOIL NAOMH MICHEAL||CHURCH ROAD, BLACKROCK, CORK||Open||32||32||2||0||1|
|Cork||18475A||S N BAILE UI CHROININ||CLOYNE, MIDDLETON, CO. CORK||Open||33||33||2||0||1|
|Cork||20182U||ST ENDAS NS||KILNADUR, DUNMANWAY, CO. CORK||Open||33||33||2||1||0|
|Cork||12259K||S N OIR CHEANN||EYERIES, BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||36||36||2||0||1|
|Cork||14002G||KNOCKACLARIG MXD N S||BROSNA, TRALEE, CO. KERRY||Open||36||36||2||0||1|
|Cork||12382J||CURRIGLASS NS||CURRIGLASS, MALLOW, CO. CORK||Open||37||37||2||1||0|
|Cork||04442F||KYLE N S||YOUGHAL, CO. CORK||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Cork||16955E||S N NA MONA FLICHE||MACROOM, CO. CORK||Open||39||39||2||0||1|
|Cork||17790D||CURRAGHAGALLA N S||KILWORTH, CO. CORK||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Cork||18461M||S N MUIRE NA DOIRINI||SKIBBEREEN, CO. CORK||Open||40||40||2||0||1|
|Cork||10523O||FERMOY ADAIR N S||FERMOY, CO. CORK||Open||40||40||2||1||0|
|Cork||04578H||BALLYVONGANE MIXED N S||AGHINA, CO. CORK||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Cork||05656G||S N AN GHOILIN||SCIOBAIRIN, CO. CORK||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Cork||17763A||ROCKCHAPEL N S||ROCKCHAPEL NS, MALLOW, CO. CORK||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
|Cork||16945B||LISGRIFFIN N S||BUTTEVANT, CO. CORK||Open||44||44||2||0||1|
|Cork||16246V||DRUMCLUGH N S||BANTRY, CO. CORK||Open||46||46||2||0||0|
|Cork||18468D||SCOIL MHUIRE||CAISLEAN UI DHONNABHAIN, DRIMOLEAGUE, CO. CORK||Open||49||49||2||0||0|
|Cork||05636A||DUNMANWAY MODEL N S||DUNMANWAY, CO. CORK||Open||49||49||2||2||0|
|Cork||17515E||S N ACHADH BOLG||ACHADH AN CHRIOSTE, CO. CORCAIGH||Open||51||51||2||0||0|
|Cork||10739O||BALLINCARRIGA MXD N S||BALLINACARRIGA MXD, DUNMANWAY, CORK||Open||52||52||2||0||0|
|Donegal||05164I||SCOIL NAOMH CHOLMCILLE||OILEAN THORAI, AN BHUN BHIG, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||8||8||1||0||1|
|Donegal||16142J||S N MIN NA MANRACH||AN CLOCHAN LIATH, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16384K||SN ARAINN MHOR II||ARAINN MHOR, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16242N||S N DUMHACH BEAG||DUMHACH BEAG, BAILE LAIR, CO. DUN NA NGALL||Open||8||4||12||2||1||0|
|Donegal||01733B||ARDARA MIXED N S||ARDARA, CO. DONEGAL||Open||16||16||2||0||0|
|Donegal||13755E||GARTAN N S||GARTAN, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||16||16||2||0||0|
|Donegal||10062E||CREESLOUGH N S||CREESLOUGH, CO. DONEGAL||Open||17||17||2||0||0|
|Donegal||17122I||SN EADAN FHIONNFHAOICH||NA GLEANNTA, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||18||18||2||1||1|
|Donegal||09748I||GLENMAQUIN NO 2 N S||KNOCKBRACK, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18874O||KILLYGORDAN N S||MAIN STREET, KILLYGORDON, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16458N||INVER N S||INVER, CO. DONEGAL||Open||19||19||2||1||0|
|Donegal||18319J||S N TRIANTA||TRIANTAGH, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|County Name||Roll No.||Official School Name||Address||Current Open/Closed Status Desc||Mainstream Class Pupils||Special Class Pupils||Total Pupils||Full-time equivalent Mainstream class teachers||Non mainstream class teachers full-time||Non mainstream class teachers part-time|
|Donegal||14704P||MURROE NATIONAL SCHOOL||MURROE, DUNFANAHY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||20||20||2||1||0|
|Donegal||18250W||S N BAILE MOR||DUNFANAGHY PO, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||20||20||2||1||0|
|Donegal||16823K||MIN A GHABHANN N S||LETTERMACAWARD, DONEGAL||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16850N||ST GARVAN’S N.S.||DRUM HALLA, RATHMAOLAIN, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||21||21||2||0||1|
|Donegal||16279N||SCOIL CHOLUIM||BALLYHEERIN, FANAD, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||22||22||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18295V||S N MIN AN AOIRE||AN CHARRAIG, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||22||22||2||0||0|
|Donegal||10595Q||KILBARRON N S||KILBARRON, BALLYSHANNON, CO. DONEGAL||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Donegal||13563S||S N CHILL COINNIGH||CILL CHOINNIGH, GLENTIES, CO. DONEGAL||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16837V||S N DUCHORAIDH||DUCHORAIDH, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Donegal||03294L||S N CAISEAL NA GCORR||GORT A CHOIRCE, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||24||24||2||1||0|
|Donegal||16471F||ST DAVADOGS N S||TAMNEY, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||24||24||2||1||0|
|Donegal||07143K||MONREAGH N S||MONREAGH, CARRIGANS LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18703K||S N BAILE AN BHAILSIG||BAILE AN BHAILSIGH, WELCHTOWN, BALLYBOFEY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||25||25||2||1||0|
|Donegal||16137Q||DRUMFAD N S||BALLYNASHANAGH P O, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16611S||GLENTOGHER CON N S||CARNDONAGH, CO. DONEGAL||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Donegal||17822N||SCOIL BHRIGHDE||MIN A CHLADHAIGH, GORT A CHOIRCE, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16763S||S N GLASAIN||CRAOSLOCH, LEITIRCEANAINN, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Donegal||17447N||S N CRANNAIGHE BUIDHE||CRANNOG BUI, ARDARA, CO. DONEGAL||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16603T||S N AN CHILLIN||AN CILLIN, INVER, CO. DONEGAL||Open||30||30||2||1||0|
|Donegal||17469A||SCOIL CUILM CILLE||BALLINDRAIT, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18131O||S N MUIRE GAN SMAL||ARD ARATHA, CO. DUN NA NGALL||Open||31||31||2||2||0|
|Donegal||17552K||SCOIL BHRIGHDE||PORTHALL, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18700E||S N BAILE AN CAISLEAN||BAILE AN CHAISLEAIN,ST JOHNSTON LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Donegal||19009W||CRAANFORD N S||CRAANFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||32||32||2||1||0|
|Donegal||18508M||NAOMH ADHAMHNAIN||LAGHEY PO, DONEGAL, CO. DONEGAL||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Donegal||04809A||SCOIL AN AINGIL CHOIMHEADAI||AN CHEIDIDH, BURTONPORT, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||33||33||2||1||0|
|Donegal||15532R||CROAGHROSS N S||PORTSALON, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||33||33||2||1||0|
|Donegal||16854V||BUNCRANA N S||BUNCRANA, CO. DONEGAL||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18058H||SCOIL NAOMH SEOSAMH||RATHDOMHNAILL, TREANTACH, CO. DUN NA NGALL||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16664Q||BRUCKLESS N S||BRUCKLESS, CO. DONEGAL||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Donegal||15763N||MOVILLE N S||MOVILLE, CO. DONEGAL||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Donegal||15554E||GORTNACART N S||GORTNACART, ARDARA, CO. DONEGAL||Open||37||37||2||0||1|
|Donegal||18939Q||S N DONAIGH||CARNDONAGH, CO. DONEGAL||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Donegal||15847T||S N LEITIR MHIC AN BHAIRD||LEITHBHEARR, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||38||38||2||1||0|
|Donegal||18710H||SN NA CROISE NAOFA||DUNFANAGHY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||39||39||2||1||0|
|Donegal||17241Q||S N DOMHNACH MOR||CASTLEFIN, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Donegal||17716O||ST RIAGHANS NS||DRIMNACROSH, KILRAINE P.O., CO. DONEGAL||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18086M||DUNFANAGHY N S||DUNFANAGHY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16869L||S N AN BHREACAIGH||ARD A RATHA, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Donegal||19089A||KILLAGHTEE N S||KILLAGHTEE, DUNKINEELY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Donegal||18731P||ROBERTSON N S||BALLYBOFEY P O., LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL||Open||42||42||2||0||1|
|Donegal||07464H||BROWNEKNOWE N S||BROWNKNOWE, RAMELTON, CO. DONEGAL||Open||43||43||2||0||0|
|Donegal||07626H||S N AN IORBALL RIABAIGH||BAILE UI GHORMAIN, LETHBHEARR, TIR CHONAILL||Open||43||43||2||0||0|
|Donegal||16903I||S N FOTHAR||PORT NA BLAITHCHE, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO. DUN NA NGALL||Open||45||45||2||0||0|
|Donegal||15170J||CASHELSHANAGHAN N S||BALLYMALEEL P O, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||46||46||2||0||0|
|Donegal||19235I||PORTLEAN N S||KILMACRENNAN, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL||Open||46||46||2||0||0|
|Donegal||09009Q||ROCKFIELD N S||ROCKFIELD BALLYSHANNON, CO. DONEGAL||Open||48||48||2||0||0|
|Donegal||15208I||S N NA SRAITHE MOIRE||MIN A LABAIN, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO. DHUN NA NGALL||Open||56||56||2||1||1|
|Dublin||19480V||ST PATRICKS||ST PATRICKS CLOSE, DUBLIN 8||Open||17||17||2||0||0|
|Dublin||16983J||S N NAOMH CILLIN||ROBINHOOD RD., BLUEBELL, INCHICORE, DUBLIN 12||Open||20||20||2||0||1|
|Dublin||14463T||ST COLUMBAS N S MXD||NORTH STRAND, DUBLIN 3||Open||31||31||2||0||1|
|Dublin||10653E||CHAPELIZOD N S||CHAPELIZOD, DUBLIN 20||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Dublin||19464A||SN NAOMH COLMCILLE||HOMELAWNS, TALLAGHT, DUBLIN 24||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Dublin||20334R||GAELSCOIL ROS EO,||ST MAURS GAA, RUSH, CO. DUBLIN||Open||41||41||2||0||1|
|Dublin||15895H||DRUMCONDRA N S||CHURCH AVENUE, DRUMCONDRA, DUBLIN 9||Open||43||43||2||0||0|
|Galway||15900U||THE GLEBE N.S.||AUGHRIM, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||6||6||1||0||0|
|Galway||18113M||S N CILL SOLAIN||KILLASOLAN, CALTRA, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||9||9||1||1||0|
|Galway||16982H||S N ATH EASCRACH CHUAIN||BEAL ATHA NA SLUAGH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||5||8||13||1||1||0|
|Galway||12339I||S N INIS MEADHOIN||ARAINN, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||12||12||2||0||1|
|Galway||13951E||S N LEITIR MUCU||CAMAS, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Galway||17998E||SN MUIRE AN TSOLAIS,||SN MUIRE AN TSOLAIS, MOTA GRAINNE OIGE, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Galway||18490T||SN M AN CROI GAN SMAL||LEENANE, CO. GALWAY||Open||14||14||2||0||0|
|Galway||17770U||S N NAOMH COLMAIN,||c/o SCOIL CHOLMAIN, MUIGHROS, CÁRNA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||15||15||2||0||0|
|Galway||18211M||S N CIARAIN NAOFA||CILL LIATHAN NEWBRIDGE, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||15||15||2||0||0|
|Galway||18222R||SN CEATHRU NA GAOITHE||MILLTOWN, TUAM, CO. GALWAY||Open||17||17||2||0||0|
|Galway||19357W||SN TIR NA CILLE||AN MAM, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Galway||17289V||S N CAOMHAIN||INIS OIRTHIR, ARAINN, GAILLIMH||Open||20||20||2||0||1|
|Galway||17242S||S N PAIRC NA SLINNE||MAGH GLAS, BAILE LOCHA RIACH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||20||20||2||1||0|
|Galway||11290W||S N MUIRE GAN SMAL||CAMAS, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Galway||13927H||INISHBOFIN N S||INISHBOFIN, CO. GALWAY||Open||21||21||2||0||1|
|Galway||13952G||S N BHRIDE||LEITIR CALADH, LETTERMORE, CO. GALWAY||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Galway||10095T||S N NAOMH TREASA||KILLURE, AHASCRAGH, CO. GALWAY||Open||21||21||2||1||0|
|Galway||09833W||S N LEITIRGEIS||LEITIRGEIS N S, RINN AN MHAOIL, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||23||23||2||1||0|
|Galway||17574U||S N NAOMH CIARAIN||CILL CHIARAIN, CONAMARA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||23||23||2||1||0|
|Galway||14425L||S N DOIRE UI BHRIAIN||BAILE LOCHA RIABHACH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Galway||15228O||S N PADRAIG NAOFA||CORR GHARRA, MOUNTBELLEW, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Galway||13665D||S N AN CILLIN||BALLYSHRULE, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Galway||12138V||S N CEATHRU NA LAITHIGH||TUAM, CO. GALWAY||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Galway||16596C||ST FEICHINS N SCHOOL||ABBEY, LOUGHREA, CO. GALWAY||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Galway||17488E||SN AN AILL BHREACH||BAILE CONAOLA, CONNAMARA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Galway||14421D||S N ARD||AIRD THIAR, CARNA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Galway||17793J||S N PADRAIG NAOFA||CLOIDEACH, ATH CINN, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Galway||13699U||S N COLMCILLE||LETTERMORE, CO. GALWAY||Open||29||29||2||1||0|
|Galway||18441G||SCOIL NAOMH CHUAN||CILL IOMAIR, BEAL ATHA NA SLUAGH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||27||3||30||2||0||0|
|Galway||11373D||S N MHUIRE||TURLACH BEAG, ROSMUC, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||30||30||2||1||0|
|Galway||14724V||SCOIL RONAIN||OILEAN TRA BHAN, LEITIR MOR, GAILLIMH||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Galway||19770H||GURTEEN CENTRAL NS||BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Galway||12574S||LURGA N S||GORT, CO. GALWAY||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Galway||17331R||S N AN DROMA||BALLINAKILL, LOUGHREA, CO. GALWAY||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Galway||13821O||S N NA NAOMH UILE||CLEGGAN, CO. GALWAY||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Galway||12106I||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||AN CHLOCH BHREAC, CLONBUR, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||34||34||2||1||0|
|Galway||14273O||S N PADRAIG NAOFA||LISIN NA HEILTE, BOYOUNAGH, CASTLEREA, CO. GALWAY||Open||34||34||2||1||0|
|Galway||17547R||S N BREANDAN NAOFA||DOIRE IUBHAIR, GURTEENY WOODFORD, LOUGHREA, CO. GALWAY||Open||34||34||2||1||0|
|Galway||18686N||S N GORT NA LEIME||DUNMORE, TUAM, CO. GALWAY||Open||34||34||2||1||0|
|Galway||16293H||S N CILL RICHILL||BAILE LOCHA RIABHACH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||35||35||2||1||0|
|Galway||18252D||SCOIL MHUIRE||DOIRE GLINNE, CROSS BHOTHAR MHAMA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||36||36||2||0||1|
|Galway||12095G||S N NAOMH ANTOINE||BAILE CHONRAOI, AN CLOCHAN, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Galway||17463L||S N BRIOCAIN||AN GORT MOR, ROSMUC, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Galway||18111I||S N GORT NA GAOITHE||GORT NA GAOITHE TUAMARD, BEAL ATHA NA SLUA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Galway||16121B||ATTYMON N S||ATTYMON, ATHENRY, CO. GALWAY||Open||37||37||2||1||0|
|Galway||17071R||S N BAILE A MHOININ||DROICHEAD, BEIL AN ATHA MHOIR, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||37||37||2||1||0|
|Galway||17154V||S N BREANDAIN NAOFA||MULLAGH GORT UI MHAIDIN, BAILE LOCHA RIABHACH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||37||37||2||2||0|
|Galway||18043R||S N MUIRE GAN SMAL||TIR NA NEASRACH, BALLYCRISSANE, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|County Name||Roll No.||Official School Name||Address||Current Open/Closed Status Desc||Mainstream Class Pupils||Special Class Pupils||Total Pupils||Full-time equivalent Mainstream class teachers||Non mainstream class teachers full-time||Non mainstream class teachers part-time|
|Galway||17660N||S N NAOMH TREASA||CAISEAL, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||38||38||2||1||0|
|Galway||12946G||S N COILM CILLE||ROS-A-MHIL, BAILE NA HABHANN, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||39||39||2||1||0|
|Galway||17648A||S N BREANDAIN NAOFA||ATH CINN, GAILLIMH||Open||39||39||2||1||0|
|Galway||18309G||SCOIL BRIDE||BRIERFIELD, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||40||40||2||0||1|
|Galway||11669B||S N NAOMH BRID||NEAD AN IOLRAIDH, RENVYLE, CO. GALWAY||Open||40||40||2||1||0|
|Galway||08958O||S N AN EANAIGH CAILINI||BALLYGLUNIN, CO. GALWAY||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Galway||12502Q||S N EANNA||ROUNDSTONE, CO. GALWAY||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Galway||17529P||S N IOMAIR NAOFA||BRACKLOON CILL TULCHA, BEAL ATHA N RIOGH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
|Galway||19290Q||BALLYCONEELY N S||CLIFDEN, CO. GALWAY||Open||43||43||2||2||0|
|Galway||18121L||S N MHUIRE||CARNA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||44||44||2||1||0|
|Galway||17095I||S N NA CEALLTRAIGHE||KINCLARE, CEALLTRACH, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||45||45||2||0||0|
|Galway||17485V||S N PADRAIG NAOFA||FOTHAINE, ATH EASCRACH, BEAL ATHA NA SLUA, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||45||45||2||0||0|
|Galway||14278B||SCOIL NAOMH PADRAIG||KNOCKROON, HEADFORD, CO. GALWAY||Open||45||45||2||1||0|
|Galway||17655U||S N CALADH NA MUC||ROS CATHAIL, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||46||46||2||0||1|
|Galway||08379V||GORTANUMERA N S||BALLYSHRULE, BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||48||48||2||0||0|
|Galway||18608Q||S N MUIRE GAN SMAL||CLADACH DUBH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||49||49||2||0||1|
|Galway||17980I||SCOIL MHUIRE||CLOONMINDA, CASTLEREA, CO. GALWAY||Open||50||50||2||0||0|
|Galway||17919F||AIBHISTIN NAOFA||CLUAIN TUAISCIRT, BEAL ATHA NA SLUAGH, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||36||18||54||2||2||0|
|Galway||17197Q||S N AN LEATH BHAILE||TUAIM, CO. NA GAILLIMHE||Open||55||55||2||2||0|
|Galway||17475S||S N AINE NAOFA||LOCH CUTRA, GORT, CO. GALWAY||Open||56||56||2||2||0|
|Kerry||18901O||RATHMORREL N S||CAUSEWAY, TRALEE, CO. KERRY||Open||8||8||2||0||0|
|Kerry||18440E||SCOIL MHUIRE||CLUAIN CHAOIN, KILLARNEY, CO. KERRY||Open||12||12||2||1||0|
|Kerry||10531N||DROMERIN N S||LISTOWEL, CO. KERRY||Open||15||15||2||0||0|
|Kerry||17747C||S N NA SRONA||RATHMORE, CO. KERRY||Open||15||15||2||0||0|
|Kerry||17349N||S N AN LEANA MHOIR||BEAL ATHA LONGPHOIRT, VIA LISTOWEL, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Kerry||05348S||SCOIL EOIN||TAHILLA, SNEEM, CO. KERRY||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Kerry||16281A||SN NAOMH GOBNAIT||BAILE AN FHEIRTÉARAIGH, TRÁ LÍ, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Kerry||08147A||SN AN GHLEANNA||BAILE AN SCEILG, CILL AIRNE, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Kerry||18214S||CIL CONLA N S||CILL CONLA, BALLYBUNION, CO. KERRY||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Kerry||08530W||LAURAGH NATIONAL SCHOOL||KILLARNEY, CO. KERRY||Open||23||23||2||0||1|
|Kerry||09782I||BALLYMACELLIGOTT 1 N S||TRALEE, CO. KERRY||Open||24||24||2||0||1|
|Kerry||09837H||THE BLACK VALLEY NATIONAL SCHOOL||BEAUFORT, CO. KERRY||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Kerry||14366V||LOUGHFOUDER N S||KNOCKNAGOSHEL, CO. KERRY||Open||26||26||2||1||0|
|Kerry||17915U||FREASTOGAIL MHUIRE MXD||KILLAHAN, ABBEYDORNEY, CO. KERRY||Open||20||6||26||2||3||0|
|Kerry||07990F||SCOIL NAOMH CARTHACH||NA FOITHRE, CILL AIRNE, CO CHIARRAI||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Kerry||09841V||S N BHAILE AN CHROSAIGH||BALLYDUFF, TRALEE, CO. KERRY||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Kerry||18039D||NA MINTEOGA N S||HEADFORD, CO. KERRY||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Kerry||14998M||LYRE A CROMPANE N S||LISTOWEL, CO. KERRY||Open||30||30||2||1||0|
|Kerry||08687J||S N MUIRE GAN SMAL||NA CORRA, CATHAIR SAIBHIN, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Kerry||09302O||GLENFLESK N S||KILLARNEY, CO. KERRY||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Kerry||16779K||SCOIL CAITLIN NAOFA||CILL MHIC A DOMHNAIGH, CEANNTRA TRA LI, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||32||32||2||0||1|
|Kerry||17161S||KILTALLAGH N S||KILTALLAGH, CASTLEMAINE, CO. KERRY||Open||32||32||2||0||1|
|Kerry||01396J||TULLOHA NATIONAL SCHOOL||KENMARE, CO. KERRY||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Kerry||11248A||SN AN GHLEANNA||AN DAINGEAN, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Kerry||18573A||SOIL CHRIOST RI||DRUMNACARRA, CAUSEWAY, CO. KERRY||Open||35||35||2||1||0|
|Kerry||09304S||RAHEEN NATIONAL SCHOOL||HEADFORD, KILLARNEY, CO. KERRY||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Kerry||15878H||DERRYQUAY MXD N S||TRALEE, CO. KERRY||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Kerry||17699R||S N TUAIRIN CATHAIL||RATHMORE, CO. KERRY||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Kerry||18184M||S N CILL LÚRAIGH||CAUSEWAY, TRALEE, CO. KERRY||Open||41||41||2||1||0|
|Kerry||06227L||SN MHAOLCHEADAIR||BAILE NA NGALL, TRA LI, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||39||3||42||2||2||0|
|Kerry||12354E||CLOGHER MXD N S||BALLYMACELLIGOTT, CO. KERRY||Open||43||43||2||0||0|
|Kerry||10239R||CROCHAN NAOFA N S||CATHAIR DONALL, CILL AIRNE, CO. CHIARRAI||Open||44||44||2||0||0|
|Kerry||16744O||BOHESHILL MXD||GLENCAR, CO. KERRY||Open||44||44||2||0||0|
|Kerry||12701W||SCOIL AN FHAILL MOR||CAHERCIVEEN, CO. KERRY||Open||46||46||2||0||1|
|Kerry||11419B||SCOIL BHREANAINN||PORTMAGEE, CO. KERRY||Open||47||47||2||0||0|
|Kerry||12875J||DOUGLAS N.S.||KILLORGLIN, CO. KERRY||Open||48||48||2||1||0|
|Kerry||15978L||CURRAHEEN MXD N S||GLENBEIGH, CO. KERRY||Open||50||50||2||0||0|
|Kerry||10775S||SCOIL CHORP CHÍOST||KNOCKANURE, MOYVANE, CO. KERRY||Open||51||51||2||1||0|
|Kerry||16851P||BALLYBUNION B N S||BALLYBUNION, CO. KERRY||Open||51||51||2||2||0|
|Kildare||18378C||S N NAOMH IOSEPH||BAILE AILBHIR, KILCULLEN, CO. KILDARE||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Kildare||14643V||S N NA CLOICHE MOIRE||BALLYRAGGAN, RATHVILLY, CO. CARLOW||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Kildare||16535F||TIMOLIN N S||TIMOLIN, CO. KILDARE.||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Kildare||12182B||ST. JOHN’S NATIONAL SCHOOL||MONASTEREVAN, CO. KILDARE||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||17374M||S N CHRION CHOILL||GATHABAWN, VIA THURLES, CO. KILKENNY||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||17200C||S N COLMAIN||CONAHY, JENKINSTOWN, CO. KILKENNY||Open||22||22||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||17758H||SCOIL MHICHIL NAOFA||CROSSPATRICK, CO. KILKENNY (VIA THURLES)||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||17911M||COLMCILLE MIXED N S||BIGWOOD, MULLINAVAT, CO. WATERFORD||Open||30||30||2||0||1|
|Kilkenny||01300Q||ST MICHAELS NATIONAL SCHOOL||KILKENNY, CO. KILKENNY||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||07481H||KILMOGANNY MIXED N S||KILMOGANNY N S, KILKENNY||Open||33||33||2||0||1|
|Kilkenny||17566V||S N BHRIDHE||KELLS, CO. KILKENNY||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||18257N||S N BAILE AN FHASAIGH||BALLYFACEY, GLENMORE, CO. WATERFORD||Open||35||35||2||1||0|
|Kilkenny||17471K||S N SHEAN BHOTH||NEW ROSS, CO. WEXFORD||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||02749V||BALLYRAGGET BOYS||BALLYRAGGET, CO. KILKENNY||Open||36||36||2||1||0|
|Kilkenny||17590S||S N MOIN RUADH MIXED||KNOCKTOPHER, CO. KILKENNY||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Kilkenny||16230G||S N LISNAFUNCHIN||CASTLECOMER, CO. KILKENNY||Open||44||44||2||0||0|
|Laois||18265M||BHRIDE N S||ARD DUACH, CARLOW, CO. CARLOW||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Laois||17441B||SCOIL MHUIRE||WOLFHILL, ATHY, CO. KILDARE||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Laois||10544W||COSBY N S||COSBY, STRADBALLY, CO. LAOIS||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Laois||15446B||TRUMMERA N S||TRUMMERA, MOUNTRATH, CO. LAOIS||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Laois||19369G||ST PAULS N S||ST PAULS RECTORY, MOUNTMELLICK, CO. LAOIS||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Laois||17084D||CILL AN IUBHAIR N S||CILL AN IUBHAIR, MOUNTRATH, CO. LAOIS||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Laois||18014K||SCOIL AN CHROI RO NAOFA||THE SWAN N.S., VIA ATHY, CO. LAOIS||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Laois||12231L||RUSH HALL MIXED N S||PORTLAOISE, CO. LAOIS||Open||28||28||2||0||1|
|Laois||20224K||GAELSCOIL AN TSLI DALA||BOIRIS MOR OSSARI, CONTAE LAOISE||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Laois||18433H||NAOMH PIUS X N S||BALLACOLLA, PORTLAOISE, CO. LAOIS||Open||35||35||2||1||1|
|Laois||18547W||FAOLAN NAOFA N S||BAILE UI RUAIN, PORTLAOISE, CO. LAOIS||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Laois||17271C||SCOIL MHUIRE MUIGHEO||CRETTYARD, CARLOW, CO. CARLOW||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Laois||18075H||RATHDOMHNAIGH N S||RATHDOWNEY, CO. LAOIS||Open||50||50||2||0||0|
|Laois||18294T||BARR NA SRUTHAN N S||BARR NA SRUTHAN, MOUNTMELLICK, CO. LAOIS||Open||51||51||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||16951T||S N NA CRAOIBHELEITHE||DRUMKEERAN, CO. LEITRIM||Open||13||13||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||17132L||DRUMNAMORE N S||LAWDERDALE CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||16||16||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||17558W||S N ROSAN||CARRIGALLEN, CO. LEITRIM||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||13908D||BALLAGHAMEEHAN N S||ROSSINVER, SLIGO||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||08390J||MASTERSONS N S||MANORHAMILTON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||16932P||AUGHAWILLAN NS||GARADICE, CO. LEITRIM||Open||24||24||2||1||0|
|Leitrim||09353I||NEWTOWNGORE N S 1||CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||14898I||DRUMEELA N S||CARRIGALLEN P.O, CO. LEITRIM, VIA CAVAN||Open||28||28||2||0||1|
|Leitrim||08673V||THE HUNT N S||CASTLE STREET, MOHILL, CO. LEITRIM||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||18139H||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||TEARMON SPENCER HARBOUR, CARRICK-ON-SHANNON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||18589P||S N MHIC DIARMADA||COILLTE CLOCHAIR, CO. LEITRIM||Open||32||32||2||1||0|
|Leitrim||17206O||GLEBE N S||LARGY N S, KINLOUGH, CO. LEITRIM||Open||32||32||2||2||0|
|Leitrim||18329M||S N NAOMH MHUIRE||LECKANN, CO. LEITRIM||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||15116D||ARDVARNEY MXD N S||DROMAHAIR, CO. LEITRIM||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||17125O||DIFFEREEN N S||MANORHAMILTON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Leitrim||18492A||S N NAOMH BRIGHID||COILL NA GCROS, CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||57||57||2||2||0|
|Limerick||17293M||SCOIL IOSEPH NAOFA||BALLYORGAN, KILFINANE, CO. LUIMNI||Closed||7||7||1||0||0|
|Limerick||17076E||SCOIL MHUIRE||GLEANN RUADH, KILMALLOCK, CO. LIMERICK||Open||20||20||2||1||0|
|Limerick||11955C||COOLCAPPA N S||ARDAGH, CO. LIMERICK||Open||24||24||2||0||2|
|Limerick||10929T||RATHKEALE N S 2||RATHKEALE, CO. LIMERICK||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Limerick||07900B||BALLYSTEEN N S||ASKEATON, CO. LIMERICK||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Limerick||08342V||BOHERMORE N S||BALLYSIMON, CO. LIMERICK||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Limerick||17593B||SCOIL NAOMH MHUIRE||CNOC UI COILEAIN, ABBEYFEALE, CO. LIMERICK||Open||31||31||2||1||0|
|Limerick||16764U||KILMEEDY N S||KILMEEDY, CO. LIMERICK||Open||33||33||2||1||0|
|Limerick||16896O||SCOIL NAOMH IDE||ATH NA FUINNSEOIGE, BEALACH CO. LUIMNI||Open||34||34||2||1||0|
|Limerick||11809O||S N CNOCH A DEAGA||BALLYLANDERS, CO. LIMERICK||Open||35||35||2||1||0|
|County Name||Roll No.||Official School Name||Address||Current Open/Closed Status Desc||Mainstream Class Pupils||Special Class Pupils||Total Pupils||Full-time equivalent Mainstream class teachers||Non mainstream class teachers full-time||Non mainstream class teachers part-time|
|Limerick||09915B||MARTINSTOWN N S||KILLMALLOCK, CO. LIMERICK||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Limerick||10991B||GARRYDOOLIS N S||PALLASAGREEN, CO. LIMERICK||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Limerick||14005M||KILTEELY N S||KILTEELY, CO. LIMERICK||Open||37||37||2||2||0|
|Limerick||14067L||FEDAMORE N S||FEDAMORE, KILLMALLOCK, CO. LIMERICK||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Limerick||07117J||S N LOCH GUIR||HOLY CROSS, KILLMALLOCK, CO. LIMERICK||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Limerick||17298W||KILBEHENNY N S||KILBEHENNY, MITCHELSTOWN, CO. CORK||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Limerick||16715H||ST JOHN THE BAPTIST BOYS N S||DOWNEY STREET, PENNYWELL, LIMERICK||Open||34||6||40||2||2||0|
|Limerick||12368P||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||ABBEYFEALE, CO. LIMERICK||Open||44||44||2||0||0|
|Limerick||15700M||CLOVERFIELD N S||CLOVERFIELD, DROMCHAOIN, CO. LIMERICK||Open||44||44||2||0||0|
|Limerick||17814O||GEAROID UI GHRIOBHTHA||LOUGHILL, MOUNTRENCHARD, CO. LIMERICK||Open||44||44||2||1||0|
|Limerick||13790G||BULGADEN N S||BULGADEN, KILMALLOCK, CO. LIMERICK||Open||45||45||2||0||1|
|Longford||17724N||BAILE AN CLOCHAIN N S||BALLYCLOGHAN, CARRAIG BHUIDHE, CO. LONGFOIRT||Open||16||16||2||0||1|
|Longford||13313S||ST. JOHN’S NATIONAL SCHOOL||BALLINALEE ROAD, EDGEWORTHSTOWN, CO. LONGFORD||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Longford||14650S||CLOONTAGH MIXED N S||CLOONTAGH, KILLASHEE, CO. LONGFORD||Open||30||30||2||0||1|
|Longford||00860D||FORGNEY N S||MOYVORE, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Longford||13752V||NAOMH PADRAIG N S||MUCKERSTAFF, COOLARTY, CO. LONGFORD||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Longford||18258P||NAOMH EARNAIN N S||KILASHEE, LONGFORD, CO. LONGFORD||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Longford||10223C||TASHINNY N S||TASHINNY, COLEHILL, CO. LONGFORD||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
|Longford||12813K||ST COLUMBAS MXD N S||CLOONAGH, DRING, CO. LONGFORD||Open||46||46||2||0||1|
|Longford||18733T||S N MHUIRE||CLUAIN DE RATH, CO. LONGPHORT||Open||52||52||2||1||1|
|Louth||16431Q||S N OILIBEAR BEANNAITHE||STONETOWN LUBHADH, DUNDALK, CO. LOUTH||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Louth||20259G||ST. FRANCIS NATIONAL SCHOOL||C/O PARISH CENTRE, SANDY LANE, BLACKROCK, DUNDALK||Open||43||43||2||0||0|
|Louth||18001B||S N NAOMH LORCAN||OMEATH, DUNDALK, CO. LOUTH||Open||46||46||2||1||1|
|Mayo||13174H||ST COLUMBAS N.S.||INISHTURK, CO. GALWAY||Open||6||6||1||0||0|
|Mayo||14195U||AN GLEANNA MHOIR S N||CROSSMOLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||9||9||2||0||0|
|Mayo||17922R||CLOGHANS HILL N S||TUAM, CO. GALWAY||Open||11||11||2||0||0|
|Mayo||15705W||RATHKELL N S||CASTLEHILL, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Mayo||16952V||COOGUE N S||AGHAMORE, BALLYHAUNIS, CO. MAYO||Open||15||15||2||0||0|
|Mayo||16295L||SN AN CHORRAIN||GOB A CHOIRE, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||16||16||2||1||0|
|Mayo||13945J||ESKERAGH N S||DOOLEEG, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Mayo||14923E||KEENAGH N S||KEENAGHBEG P O, BEAL ATHA AN FHEADHA, CO. MAYO||Open||18||18||2||0||1|
|Mayo||13311O||ST PATRICKS NS||CLARE ISLAND, WESTPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||18||18||2||1||0|
|Mayo||15113U||S N SHEAMAIS||BARNACOGUE, SWINFORD, CO. MAYO||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Mayo||14865Q||KILLOCRANN N S||CASTLE HILL, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||19||19||2||1||0|
|Mayo||12808R||SHRAHEEN N S||FAO: GABRIEL O LAIMHIN, PRINCIPAL, CNOC MHOR, FOXFORD, CO. MAYO||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Mayo||05120L||LEHINCH N S||HOLLYMOUNT, CO. MAYO||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Mayo||17039V||S N COILL MOR||DRUMMIN, WESTPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||22||22||2||0||0|
|Mayo||14866S||SN BEAL A BHULAIN||BUN AN CHORRAIGH, CATHAIR NA MART, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||22||22||2||1||0|
|Mayo||14873P||DOOKINELLA N.S.||KEEL, ACHILL, CO. MAYO||Open||22||22||2||2||0|
|Mayo||16379R||VALLEY N S||DUGORT, ACHILL, CO. MAYO||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Mayo||18818E||S N NAOMH IOSAF||LEITIR, CASTLEBAR, CO. MAYO||Open||23||23||2||1||0|
|Mayo||11834N||CLOONDAFF N S||NEWPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Mayo||12815O||CREGDUFF N S||BALLINROBE, CO. MAYO||Open||24||24||2||1||1|
|Mayo||09040K||NEWTOWNWHITE N S||BALLYSOKERRY, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Mayo||09658H||GLENISLAND N S||CASTLEBAR, CO. MAYO||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Mayo||12792F||SAINT MICHAELS N S||CHURCH ROAD, ARDNAREE, BALLINA, CO. MAYO.||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Mayo||16173U||KINAFFE N S||SWINFORD, CO. MAYO||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Mayo||18880J||S N GORT SCEICHE||ANNEFIELD, HOLLYMOUNT, CO. MAYO||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Mayo||13383Q||S N AN TSRAITH||BUN NA HABHANN, BEAL AN ATHA, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||25||25||2||1||0|
|Mayo||12626L||SN COILL A TSIDHEAIN||TUAR MHIC EADAIGH, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Mayo||14188A||BARNATRA N S||BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Mayo||16780S||CULMORE N S||SWINFORD, CO. MAYO||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Mayo||13882L||S N GLEANN NA MUAIDHE N S||BEAL AN ATHA, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||26||26||2||2||0|
|Mayo||18754E||SN NAOMH SEOSAMH N S||BUN AN CHORRAIGH, CATHAIR NA MART, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||24||2||26||2||3||0|
|Mayo||13797U||LECANVEY N S||WESTPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Mayo||17874J||GLENCORRIB N S||GLENCORRIB, SHRULE VIA GALWAY, CO. MAYO||Open||27||27||2||0||1|
|Mayo||18175L||S N BEANNCHAIR||CARROWMORE, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Mayo||17321O||S N AN COILL MHOR||NEWPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||27||27||2||1||0|
|Mayo||14193Q||S N DUBH THUAMA||GAOTH SAILE, BEAL AN ATHA, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Mayo||15967G||CRIMLIN N S||CASTLEBAR, CO. MAYO||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Mayo||17532E||S N DRUIM SLAOD||BAILE CRUAICH, CATHAIR NA MART, CO. MAYO||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Mayo||06852L||GARRACLOON N S||BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Mayo||16052I||S N NAOMH PADRAIG SAILE||GOB A CHOIRE, ACAILL, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Mayo||19798G||ST COLMANS NS||DERNABRUCK, CLOONTIA, BALLYMOTE, CO. SLIGO||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Mayo||17129W||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||RATH NA MBEACH, CROSSMOLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||30||30||2||1||0|
|Mayo||13773G||S N GORT AN EADAIN||CLAR CHLAINNE MHUIRIS, CO. MHUIGHEO||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Mayo||16170O||CLOGHANS N S||BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Mayo||18876S||BALLYCUSHION NS||BALLYCUSHION, KILCONLY, TUAM, CO. GALWAY||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Mayo||15032U||S N MUIRE GAN SMAL||CEATHRU THAIDGH, BEAL ATHA AN FHEADHA, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||31||31||2||1||0|
|Mayo||15866A||CARRAKENNEDY N S||WESTPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Mayo||14671D||S N NA CRAOBHAIGHE||CARROWMORE-LACKEN, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Mayo||12816Q||S N CEATHRU AN CHLOCHAR||BALLINROBE, CO. MAYO||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Mayo||16562I||KNOCKANILLO N S||BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Mayo||17482P||CLOGHER NS||CLOGHER PO, CLAREMORRIS, CO. MAYO||Open||35||35||2||1||0|
|Mayo||17678J||S N FIONDALBHA||CASTLEBAR, CO. MAYO||Open||35||35||2||1||0|
|Mayo||16269K||KILLASSER NS||KILLASSER, SWINFORD, CO. MAYO||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Mayo||19808G||TAVRANE CENTRAL NS||KILKELLY, CO. MAYO||Open||36||36||2||1||0|
|Mayo||18594I||S N ACHAIDH AN GHLAISIN||BEAL AN MHUIRTHEAD, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Mayo||14497N||S N B CURNANOOL||CASTLEBAR, CO. MAYO||Open||34||3||37||2||1||0|
|Mayo||16832L||MUIRISC NS||MUIRISC, WESTPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||37||37||2||1||0|
|Mayo||13758K||TEMPLEMARY N S||KILLALA, CO. MAYO||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Mayo||05756K||BURRISCARRA N S||CARNACON, BALLYGLASS, CLAREMORRIS, CO. MAYO||Open||38||38||2||1||0|
|Mayo||17682A||S N COLM NAOFA||COGGALE, WESTPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||38||38||2||1||0|
|Mayo||14064F||S N COILL AN BHAILE||WESTPORT, CO. MAYO||Open||39||39||2||0||1|
|Mayo||16113C||SN TOIN NA GAOITHE||TOIN NA GAOITHE, CATHAIR NA MART, CO. MHAIGH EO||Open||39||39||2||1||0|
|Mayo||14418O||BOFIELD MIXED N S||ATTYMASS, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||40||40||2||1||0|
|Mayo||16630W||CEARA N S||BONNICONLON, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Mayo||14863M||ACHILL SOUND CONVENT NS||ACHILL SOUND, CO. MAYO||Open||41||41||2||1||0|
|Mayo||19394F||ROBEEN CENTRAL N S||HOLLYMOUNT, CO. MAYO||Open||42||42||2||0||2|
|Mayo||13225V||CORMAIC NFA||GARRANARD P O, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||50||50||2||0||1|
|Mayo||12467R||CRAGGAGH N S||KILTIMAGH, CO. MAYO||Open||50||50||2||1||0|
|Meath||17946I||SCOIL NAIS NAOMH AINE||MAIO, TIERWORKER, KELLS, CO. MEATH||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Meath||14348T||CARRICKLECK N S||CARRICKLECK, KINGSCOURT, CO. MEATH||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Meath||18037W||S N MHUIRE||BAILE UI EARAIN, BAILE LOIBIN, CO. NA MI||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Meath||12897T||UGHTYNEILL N S||UGHTYNEILL, MOYNALTY, KELLS, CO. MEATH||Open||34||34||2||1||0|
|Meath||18429Q||S N MHUIRE||CUL RONAIN, BAILE IOMHAIR, CO. MEATH||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Meath||15483H||ST LOUIS N S||RATHKENNY, NAVAN, CO. MEATH||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Meath||13775K||ST PATRICKS N S||TRIM, CO. MEATH||Open||42||42||2||0||1|
|Monaghan||17776J||S N COMHGHALL||COININSI, CLONES, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||19884W||BALLYBAY CENTRAL NS||BALLYBAY, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||19703P||DRUMCORRIN N S||DRUM, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||10751E||CLONTIBRET N S||CLONTIBRET, MONAGHAN||Open||28||28||2||0||1|
|Monaghan||13811L||CORCREAGH N S||CORCREAGH, SHERCOCK, CO. CAVAN||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||20055N||GAELSCOIL EOIS||EANACH CILLE, LIOS DARACH, CO. MHUINEACHAIN||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||10282S||DRUMACRUTTIN N S||DRUMACRUTTIN, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||19036C||SCOIL PHADRAIG||GARRANN, TYHOLLAND, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||19737J||CASTLEBLAYNEY CENT N S||CASTLEBLAYNEY, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||36||36||2||1||0|
|Monaghan||20246U||THE BILLIS NATIONAL SCHOOL||GLASLOUGH, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||20067U||ST JOSEPHS N S||KNOCKATALLON, SCOTSTOWN, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||16954C||SCOIL MHICHIL||ROCKWALLACE, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||39||39||2||1||0|
|Monaghan||06028F||ROCKCORRY N S||ROCKCORRY, MONAGHAN||Open||40||40||2||1||1|
|Monaghan||18234B||SCOIL NAOMH PADRAIG||EO-DHRUIM, CASTLEBLANEY, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||45||45||2||0||0|
|Monaghan||16968N||S N BLAITHIN IOSA||MACAIRE CLUANA, CARRAIG MHACAIRE ROIS, CO. MONAGHAN||Open||46||46||2||0||0|
|County Name||Roll No.||Official School Name||Address||Current Open/Closed Status Desc||Mainstream Class Pupils||Special Class Pupils||Total Pupils||Full-time equivalent Mainstream class teachers||Non mainstream class teachers full-time||Non mainstream class teachers part-time|
|Offaly||17359Q||ST CORMACS N S||KILCORMAC, CO. OFFALY||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Offaly||17753U||S N CHIARAIN NAOFA||BREACH CHOILL, KILCORMAC, BIRR, CO. OFFALY||Open||27||27||2||0||1|
|Offaly||18537T||S N ROS COM RUA||ROS CUM RUA, ROSCREA, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Offaly||18068K||S N PEADAR AGUS POL||ATH AN URCHAIR, MOATE, CO. OFFALY||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Offaly||15923J||CLONEYHURKE N S||CLONEYHURKE, PORTARLINGTON, CO. OFFALY||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Offaly||15395K||MOUNT BOLUS N S||MOUNT BOLUS, TULLAMORE, CO. OFFALY||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
|Offaly||20332N||GAELSCOIL ÉADAN OIRE||CLUBSACAIR BHAILE ÉADAIN DOIRE, ÉADAN DOIRE, CO. UÍBH FHÁILÍ||Open||42||42||2||0||1|
|Roscommon||02327S||MANTUA N S||CASTLEREA, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||6||6||1||0||0|
|Roscommon||11466K||LISMOIL N S||CURRAGBOY, ATHLONE, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||18005J||SCOIL MHUIRE GAN SMAL||FIOBHACH DISEART, BEAL ATHA NA SLUAIGHE, CO. ROSCOMAIN||Open||12||12||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||11201U||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||SCRABBAGH NS, KILMORE, CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||13||13||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||15980V||CAMCLOON N S||ATHLONE, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||14||14||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||13262E||CLOVER HILL N S||ROSCOMMON, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||16||16||2||0||1|
|Roscommon||06100K||S N CILL RONAIN||BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||11242L||CLOONBONNIF N S||CASTLEREA, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||18||18||2||0||1|
|Roscommon||12003V||S N RONAIN||CAISLEAN SAMSAIN, BEAL AN MULLA, ATHLONE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||20||20||2||0||1|
|Roscommon||16291D||CLOONCAGH N S||STROKESTOWN, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||21||21||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||17622F||S N LASAIR NAOFA||ARIGNA, CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. LEITRIM||Open||21||21||2||1||0|
|Roscommon||17329H||S N PAROISTEACH||BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||17709R||S N NAOMH MHUIRE||DRUMBOYLAN, LEITRIM P.O., CARRICK-ON-SHANNNON, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||18182I||NAOMH ATRACHTA||KINGSLAND, MAINISTIR NA BUILLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||25||25||2||0||1|
|Roscommon||05220P||S N MICHIL NAOFA||WOODBROOK, CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||13978B||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||BEAL ATHA FEARNAN, BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||13879W||SLATTA N S||S N SLATACH, KILGLASS, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||28||28||2||0||1|
|Roscommon||17094G||S N RATH CRUACHAN||BEAL ATHA NA GCEARR, CAISLEAN RIABHACH, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||17353E||S N CILL TROSTAIN||STROKESTOWN, CO. ROSCOMMON,||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||15308M||ATHLEAGUE N S||ATHLEAGUE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||29||29||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||16816N||ATTYRORY N S||BALLINASLOE, CO. GALWAY||Open||29||29||2||0||1|
|Roscommon||16427C||CLONOWN N S||ATHLONE, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||17100V||S N RATH ARADH||ROSCOMMON, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||17492S||S N MHUIRE||KILMURRAY, CASTLEREA, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||13839K||CARRICK N S||CURRAGBOY, ATHLONE, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||31||31||2||1||0|
|Roscommon||19257S||STRABAGGAN N S||LOCH AILLINNE, CARA DROMA RUISG, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||31||31||2||1||0|
|Roscommon||11943S||BALLINLOUGH N S||BALLINLOUGH, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||14056G||MOUNT TALBOT N S||MOUNT TALBOT, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||14925I||S N NAOMH EOIN||BALLINAMEEN, BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||15425Q||FAIRYMOUNT N S||FAIRYMOUNT NS, CASTLEREA, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||10967E||THREEN N S||CASTLEREA, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||35||35||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||17849K||S N O DUBHLAIN||BALLAGH, KILROOSKEY, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||14684M||AUGHRIM N S||HILLSTREET, CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||36||36||2||1||1|
|Roscommon||15584N||GRANGE N S||BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||15664L||GRANLAHAN G N S||BALLINLOUGH, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||37||37||2||1||1|
|Roscommon||18272J||S N NAOMH EOIN||LECARROW, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||38||38||2||1||0|
|Roscommon||15045G||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||BEAL ATHA NA MBUILLI, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||18027T||CLOONIQUIN N S||AILFIONN, CAISLEAN RIABHACH, CO. ROS COMAIN||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||13498K||CLOONFOUR N S||ROOSKEY, VIA CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||15255R||DON N S||BALLAGHADERREEN, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||50||50||2||0||0|
|Roscommon||17571O||KILMORE N S||CARRICK ON SHANNON, CO. ROSCOMMON,||Open||52||52||2||0||0|
|Sligo||18711J||SIN MUIRE GAN SMAL||EANACH MOR, GURTEEN BALLYMOTE, CO. SLIGO||Closed||5||5||1||0||0|
|Sligo||13944H||S N NAOMH ATRACHTA||KILMACTIGUE, ACLARE, CO. SLIGO||Open||13||13||2||0||0|
|Sligo||15496Q||LEAFFONEY N S||KILGLASS, CO. SLIGO||Open||15||15||2||1||0|
|Sligo||18580U||S N MUIRE GAN SMAL||CILL RUIS IOCHTAR, TEAMPALL BUI, SLIGEACH||Open||17||17||2||1||0|
|Sligo||13196R||RIVERSTOWN 2 N S||RIVERSTOWN, BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Sligo||12767G||S N RONAIN NAOFA||CLOONLOO, BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Sligo||12140I||CULLEENS N S||CULLEENS, CO. SLIGO||Open||26||26||2||0||0|
|Sligo||16927W||S N NAOMH SHEOSAIMH||KILMACTRANY, BOYLE, CO. ROSCOMMON||Open||29||29||2||0||1|
|Sligo||15431L||KILLAVILLE N S||BALLYMOTE, CO. SLIGO||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Sligo||09691F||KILLEENDUFF N S||KILLEENDUFF, EASKEY, BALLINA, CO. MAYO||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Sligo||18592E||S N NAOMH IOSEF||ARD CHILL, TEMPLEBOY, CO. SLIGO||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Sligo||17725P||S N BHRIDE||CARN, MONEYGOLD, CO. SLIGO||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Sligo||14051T||STOKANE NS||ENNISCRONE, BALLINA, CO. SLIGO||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Sligo||15337T||S N MHUIRE||CAISLEAN GEAL, CLIFFONEY, CO. SLIGO||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Sligo||17599N||S N BAILE AN LUIG||BEAL TRA, SLIGEACH||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Sligo||18366S||S N AODAIN||BALLINTRILLICK, CLIFFONEY, CO. SLIGO||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Sligo||19923G||ST. JOSEPHS NATIONAL SCHOOL||BANADA, TOURLESTRANE, CO. SLIGO||Open||36||36||2||0||0|
|Sligo||15342M||S N NAOMH MHUIRE||CEIS CHORAINN, BALLYMOTE, CO. SLIGO||Open||41||41||2||1||0|
|Sligo||17967Q||S N MULLACH RUA||GURTEEN, BALLYMOTE, CO. SLIGO||Open||43||43||2||0||0|
|Sligo||03924S||OWENBEG N S||OWENBEG P O, BALLINA, CO. SLIGO||Open||50||50||2||1||1|
|Tipperary||17244W||S N NAOMH RUADHAIN||LORRHA, NENAGH, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||14||14||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||15299O||GAILE N S||HOLYCROSS, THURLES, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||15||5||20||2||1||0|
|Tipperary||18512D||SCOIL PHROINSIAS NAOFA||GARRYSHANE, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||21||21||2||1||0|
|Tipperary||08316U||NEWTOWN N S||NEWTOWN, SOLOHEAD, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||22||22||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||07245S||CULLEN N S||CULLEN, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||17679L||S N BRIGHDE||FANTAN, BORRISOLEIGH, THURLES, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||17850S||S N PHADRAIG NAOFA||PAIRC NA COILLE, BORRISOKANE, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||23||23||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||18559G||S N CILL NA NAOMH||KILLEEN, NENAGH, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||15795D||ST MARYS N S||TEMPLEMORE, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||10533R||BALLYDREHID N S||CAHIR, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||30||30||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||02428B||LACKAMORE N S||NEWPORT, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||17332T||ST MARYS PAROCHIAL SCHOOL||CLONMEL, CO. TIPPERARY.||Open||31||31||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||17653Q||CASTLE INY N S||LUACH MAGH, TEMPLEMORE, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||19421F||KILROSS NS||KILROSS, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||33||33||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||14460N||KILLEA N S||TEMPLEMORE, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||18087O||S N ODHRAN NAOFA||BAILE NA CLOICHE, SILVERMINES, NENAGH, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||34||34||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||07358I||S N SCEICHIN A RINCE||AN CHUIRT DOITE, AN CHATHAIR, CO. THIOBRAID ARANN||Open||36||36||2||1||1|
|Tipperary||17621D||S N AN BHEALAIGH||CLONOULTY, GOOLDS CROSS, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||17712G||S N CHIARDA NAOFA||KILKEARY, NENAGH, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||18443K||S N IOSEF NAOFA||EAGLAIS, BORRISOKANE, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||05144C||NEW INN B N S||CASHEL, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||16111V||KILLUSTY N S||FETHARD, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||38||38||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||17140K||S N BAILE SLUAGH||THURLES, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||17783G||S N CHUIRT DOIGHTE||CAHIR, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||18285S||S N CILL CHUIMIN||THURLES, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||13678M||KILLURNEY N S||BALLYPATRICK, CLONMEL, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||07048Q||MOHOBER N S||MOHOBER, MULLINAHONE, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||19696V||CASHEL DEANERY||CASHEL, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||41||41||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||13847J||HOLLYFORD N S||HOLLYFORD, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||02237R||DUALLA N S||DUALLA, CASHEL, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||45||45||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||18326G||S N NAOMH PADRAIG||CILL CHAIS, CLONMEL, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||46||46||2||0||1|
|Tipperary||18459C||SCOIL MHUIRE||CILL MHEANMAN, MULLINAHONE, THURLES, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||48||48||2||0||1|
|Tipperary||09967U||UPPER NEWTOWN N S||UPPER NEWTOWN, CARRICK ON SUIR, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||50||50||2||0||0|
|Tipperary||11470B||SLIEVEARDAGH N S||THE COMMONS, THURLES, CO. TIPPERARY||Open||53||53||2||1||0|
|Waterford||19726E||STRADBALLY C. OF IRE. NS||STRADBALLY, CO. WATERFORD||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Waterford||01767S||S N NA CROISE NAOFA||STRADBALLY, KILMACTHOMAS, CO. WATERFORD||Open||25||25||2||0||1|
|Waterford||17643N||S N CILL BHRIAIN||BALLINAMULT, CLONMEL, CO. WATERFORD||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Waterford||18077L||S N CNOC MACHAN||BUN MACHAN, CO. WATERFORD||Open||31||31||2||0||1|
|Waterford||07441S||BALLYCURRANE N S||CLASHMORE, YOUGHAL, CO. WATERFORD||Open||32||32||2||0||0|
|Waterford||07737Q||VILLIERSTOWN N S||CAPPOQUIN, CO. WATERFORD||Open||34||34||2||0||1|
|Waterford||14164J||S N LIOS MOR MOCHUDA||LIOS MOR, CO. WATERFORD||Open||44||44||2||0||0|
|Waterford||18167M||S N AINE NFA SEAFIELD||BONMAHON, CO. WATERFORD||Open||46||46||2||0||0|
|Waterford||17570M||S N NA BHFIODH||CILL MHIC THOMAIS, CO. WATERFORD||Open||47||47||2||0||0|
|County Name||Roll No.||Official School Name||Address||Current Open/Closed Status Desc||Mainstream Class Pupils||Special Class Pupils||Total Pupils||Full-time equivalent Mainstream class teachers||Non mainstream class teachers full-time||Non mainstream class teachers part-time|
|Westmeath||13571R||DRUMRANEY MIXED N S||DRUMRANEY, ATHLONE, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||17||17||2||1||0|
|Westmeath||18591C||NAOMH TOMAS N S||RATHOWEN, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||18||18||2||0||0|
|Westmeath||17606H||NAOMH MICHEAL N S||CASTLETOWN-FINEA, MULLINGAR, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||24||24||2||0||0|
|Westmeath||17743R||NAOMH MUIRE N S||FIODH AN ATHA, MULLINGAR, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Westmeath||10857U||CASTLEPOLLARD PAROC. NS||CASTLEPOLLARD, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||31||31||2||1||0|
|Westmeath||17432A||MAGH MORA N S||MOYVORE, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||33||33||2||0||1|
|Westmeath||17882I||S N AODHA NAOFA||KILBEGGAN, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||37||37||2||0||1|
|Westmeath||00941D||S N BHRIDE||EMPER, BALLYNACARGY, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||38||38||2||1||0|
|Westmeath||17236A||BOHER N S||BOHER, STREAMSTOWN, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||40||40||2||0||0|
|Westmeath||17290G||DYSART N S||DYSART, MULLINGAR, CO. WESTMEATH||Open||44||44||2||0||0|
|Wexford||15883A||KILLEGNEY N S||KILLEGNEY, CLONROCHE, ENNISCORTHY, CO. WEXFORD||Open||20||20||2||0||0|
|Wexford||17267L||SCOIL IOBAR NAOFA||ST IBARS NS, CLOHAMON, ENNISCORTHY, CO. WEXFORD||Open||23||23||2||1||0|
|Wexford||13999J||KILNAMANAGH N S||KILNAMANAGH, OULART, GOREY, CO. WEXFORD||Open||25||25||2||0||0|
|Wexford||18714P||ST EDANS N S||FERNS, CO. WEXFORD||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Wexford||10780L||BALLYOUGHTER N S||BALLYOUGHTER, BALLYCANEW, CO. WEXFORD||Open||33||33||2||1||0|
|Wexford||17519M||S N CAISLEAN DOCHRAILL||BALLYCARNEY, ENNISCORTHY, CO. WEXFORD||Open||35||35||2||1||0|
|Wexford||17734Q||S N GALLBHAILE||BALLYHOGUE, GALLBHAILE, INIS CORTHAIDH, CO. LOCH GARMAN||Open||36||36||2||1||0|
|Wexford||09184L||SHIELBEGGAN CONVENT||SHIELBEGGAN, RAMSGRANGE, CO. WEXFORD||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Wexford||20333P||WEXFORD EDUCATE TOGETHER NATIONAL SCHOOL||WHITEMILL, CLONARD, WEXFORD||Open||39||39||2||0||0|
|Wexford||15940J||TOMBRACK N S||TOMBRACK, FERNS, CO. WEXFORD||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
|Wexford||15948C||CLOLOGUE N S||CLOLOGUE, FERNS, CO. WEXFORD||Open||42||5||47||2||0||0|
|County Name||Roll No.||Official School Name||Address||Current Open/Closed Status Desc||Mainstream Class Pupils||Special Class Pupils||Total Pupils||Full-time equivalent Mainstream class teachers||Non mainstream class teachers full-time||Non mainstream class teachers part-time|
|Wicklow||13224T||BALLINTEMPLE N S||BALLINTEMPLE, AVOCA, CO. WICKLOW||Open||17||1||18||2||1||0|
|Wicklow||14972R||ALL SAINTS NATIONAL SCHOOL||CARNEW, CO. WICKLOW||Open||19||19||2||0||0|
|Wicklow||14269A||JONATHAN SWIFT NS||DUNLAVIN, CO. WICKLOW||Open||27||27||2||0||0|
|Wicklow||15359G||SHILLELAGH NO 1 N S||SHILLELAGH, CO. WICKLOW||Open||28||28||2||0||0|
|Wicklow||12688K||KILTEGAN N S||KILTEGAN, CO. WICKLOW||Open||37||37||2||0||0|
|Wicklow||14829M||REDCROSS 1 N S||REDCROSS, CO. WICKLOW||Open||42||42||2||0||0|
162. Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a special needs assistant will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7375/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department’s criteria in allocating such support. They must also have regard to the cap on the number of overall SNA posts.
This number is 10,575 whole time equivalent (WTE) posts. This is a significant number of posts and unlike other areas of the public sector vacancies are being filled up to this number. It also represents continual increases in the number of SNAs over recent years. For example, there were 10,543 WTE SNA posts in place at the end of 2010 and 10,342 at end 2009.
It is considered that with equitable and careful management and distribution of these resources that there should be sufficient posts to provide access to SNA support for all children who require such care support to attend school, in accordance with Departmental criteria.
The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools.
My Department and I will be glad to consider any suggestions from school management or parent representative organisations as to how the allocation of SNA resources can best be managed within the context of the overall limit on SNA numbers established. In this regard I am committed to making whatever improvements are possible to the resource allocation system.
I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.
All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child’s special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie
163. Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to continue the policy of merging vocational education committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7379/11]
167. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a progress report surrounding the restructuring and intended mergers of the vocational educational committees throughout the country. [7435/11]
171. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if Kerry Education Service will remain a single entity following proposed amalgamations of vocational educational committees throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7457/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I propose to take Questions Nos. 163, 167 and 171 together.
I have recently extended an invitation to the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA), given their concerns about the current proposals for VEC aggregation, to submit alternative proposals for my consideration. The IVEA has indicated that it will respond later this month and I will be considering their proposals in the coming period.
While I am open to proposals on alternative configurations, I am anxious to ensure that swift progress continues to be made in the work of bringing about a reduction in the number of VECs.
165. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will set aside funding to finance the provision of pedestrian crossings outside schools in the interest of the safety of school children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7395/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): In general, individual school authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care, including traffic management measures.
The issue of road safety measures outside the vested site areas of schools, such as road signage, traffic calming measures etc., is a matter that should be raised in the first instance with the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools and should ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children.
166. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special advisers appointed in his Department between June 1997 and February 2011; the cost of each special adviser appointed to his office between June 1997 and February 2011; the gender ratio surrounding these appointments between June 1997 and February 2011; the number of appointments to State boards made during the period June 1997 and February 2011; and the gender ratio of appointments made to State Boards during the period June 1997 and February 2011. [7419/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): There have been 10 Special Advisers appointed to my Department between June 1997 and February 2011. The gender breakdown of these appointments is 80% male and 20% female. The costs associated with each Special Adviser are set out in the spreadsheet below.
With regard to appointments made to State Boards and the gender ratio of these appointments, the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available for the period up to December 2006. From 1st January 2007 up to end February 2011 I can confirm that there were 638 appointments made to State Boards of which 363 were male and 275 female.
*Gerry Murray and *Deirdre McDonnell were both serving Principal Officers in the Department.
1Costs include pay, allowances, PRSI, travel and subsistence.
Question No. 167 answered with Question No. 163.
168. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a programme of work in relation to the school building programme has been finalised for the respective schools in the programme. [7435/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The 2011 school building work programme, which was announced in January, is outlined on my Department's website including details of all the schools involved.
The current status of all projects on the school building programme is published on my Department's web-site and this programme will be regularly updated throughout the year. The attached tabular statements provide details on the current status of each project on the programme.
|1||Carlow||17501Q||Bennykerry NS, Bennykerry||New School||At Tender Stage|
|2||Cork||13450F||Rushbrook NS, Cobh||New School||At Tender Stage|
|3||Cork||16746S||Ballygarvan NS||New School||On Site|
|4||Cork||18279A||St. Mary’s NS, Waterpark, Carrigaline||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|5||Cork||20106E||Scoil Nioclais, Frankfield, Grange||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|6||Dublin||00697S||St. Brigid’s NS, Castleknock||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|7||Dublin||15315J||St. George’s NS, Naul Road, Balbriggan, Dublin 15||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|8||Dublin||17936F||Scoil Eoin Baisde Snr, Clontarf||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|9||Dublin||19006Q||Scoil Eoin Baisde B Sois, Clontarf||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|10||Dublin||19374W||Garran Mhuire, Goatstown, Dublin 14||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|11||Dublin||20161M||Donabate\Portrane Educate Together||New School||On Site|
|12||Dublin||20201V||Tyrrelstown Educate Together||New School||On Site|
|13||Dublin||20252P||GS Bhaile Brigín, Castlelands, Balbriggan||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|14||Dublin||20282B||Bracken Educate Together, Castlelands, Balbriggan||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|15||Dublin||20303G||Lucan East Educate Together, Clonburris||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|16||Dublin||60450U||Coláiste Mhuire, CID campus, Cabra, Dublin 7||New School||At Tender Stage|
|17||Galway||19506N||Cappataggle Central School, Ballinasloe||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|18||Galway City||19858V||Gaelscoil Dara, Galway City||New School||On Site|
|19||Kerry||17646T||O’Brennan NS, Kielduff, Tralee||New School||At Tender Stage|
|20||Kerry||20197K||Kenmare NS, Kenmare||New School||On Site|
|21||Kerry||61440W||St Mary’s CBS, Tralee||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|22||Kildare||06209J||Athy Model NS||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|23||Kildare||16705E||Scoil Phadraig Naofa, Athy||New School||On Site|
|24||Kildare||20192A||Scoil Áth Í, Athy||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|25||Kildare||20271T||Scoil na Naomh Uilig, Rickardstown, Newbridge (Phase II)||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|26||Kilkenny||61580P||Loreto Secondary School, Granges Road||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|27||Laois||07442U||Convent of Mercy NS, Borris in Ossory||New School||At Tender Stage|
|28||Laois||17617M||Scoil Chomhgain Naofa, Killeshin||New School||At Tender Stage|
|29||Limerick||19587Q||St. Augustine’s Youth Encounter Project, Limerick City||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|30||Longford||20128O||St. Matthew’s Mixed NS, Ballymahon||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|31||Louth||20294I||Aston Village Educate Together, Drogheda||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|32||Mayo||20142I||Scoil Íosa, Abbeyquarter, Ballyhaunis||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|33||Meath||17213L||SN Mhuire, Ma Nealta, Ceannanus Mór||New School||At Tender Stage|
|34||Meath||20215J||St. Paul’s NS, Ratoath||New School||On Site|
|35||Meath||63870L||Drogheda Grammar School||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|36||Meath||76103M||Colaiste Na hInse, Laytown||New School||At Tender Stage|
|37||Offaly||18267Q||Croinchoill NS, Birr||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|38||Sligo||65170Q||Summerhill College, Sligo||New School||On Site|
|39||Tipperary||15696B||Silvermines National School||New School||At Tender Stage|
|40||Tipperary||65470F||Ursuline Convent, Thurles||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|41||Tipperary||72370P||Borrisokane Community College, Tipperary||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|42||Tipperary||72440K||Nenagh Vocational School, Nenagh||Extension/Refurbishment||At Tender Stage|
|43||Waterford||20050D||Gaelscoil na Deise, Grace Dieu Road, Waterford City||New School||At Tender Stage|
|44||Waterford||20160K||Waterford Educate Together NS, Waterford City||New School||At Tender Stage|
|45||Waterford||64970U||Coláiste na Maighdine, Presentation Secondary School, Waterford City||New School||On Site|
|46||Westmeath||63290Q||Loreto College, Mullingar||New School||On Site|
|47||Wexford||76127D||Gorey Community College||New School (temporary accommodation pending delivery of the permanent PPP project)||On Site|
|48||Wicklow||09760V||Powerscourt NS, Powerscourt, Enniskerry||New School||On Site|
|1||Carlow||18363M||SN Muire gan Smal, Green Lane||Extension/ refurbishment||On Site|
|2||Cavan||06998Q||SN Tulach a Mhile, Corlough||New school||On Site|
|3||Cavan||61060M||St Patrick’s College, Cavan,||New School||On Site|
|4||Cork||20105C||Star of the Sea Primary School, Passage West||New school||On Site|
|5||Donegal||17268N||SN An Br M O Cleirigh, Creevy, Ballyshannon||Extension/refurbishment||On Site|
|6||Donegal||18219F||SN Chonaill, Machaire Chlochair, Bun Beag||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|7||Donegal||71240U||Stranorlar Vocational School (Finn Valley College)||New school||On Site|
|8||Donegal||91409A||Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, Derrybeg, Letterkenny||PE Hall, car park and associated works||On Site|
|9||Dublin||18324C||Scoil Bride C, Palmerstown||Extension/ Refurbishment||On Site|
|10||Dublin||19898K||Gaelscoil an Duinnigh, Feltrim, Swords||New School||On Site|
|11||Dublin||20095C||Gaelscoil Bhrian Bóroimhe||New School||On Site|
|12||Dublin||20139T||Inchicore NS, Sarsfield Road, Dublin 10||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|13||Dublin||20145O||Swords Educate Together NS||New School||On Site|
|14||Dublin||60010P||Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|15||Dublin||60860Q||Our Lady’s School, Templeogue Road, Terenure, Dublin 6W||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|16||Dublin||70030E||Senior College, Dún Laoghaire, Eblana Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, CO. Dublin||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|17||Dublin||76098W||Pobail Scoil Setanta, Phibblestown||New School||On Site|
|18||Dublin||76104O||Donabate Community College||New School||On Site|
|19||Dublin||16964F||Scoil Mhuire Ogh 1, Loreto College, Crumlin Rd, Dublin 12||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|20||Galway||62970K||Coláiste Iognáid SJ Bothar na Mara, Galway||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|21||Kerry||20196I||Ballybunion NS||New School||On Site|
|22||Kildare||11976K||Scoil Choca Naofa, Kilcock||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|23||Kildare||17662R||Scoil Bhride NS, Kill||New School||On Site|
|24||Kildare||17674B||SN Aine Naofa, Ard Cloc, Straffan||New School||On Site|
|25||Kildare||18654A||Caragh NS, Naas||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|26||Kildare||20058T||Sc Uí Fhiach, Maynooth||New School||On Site|
|27||Kildare||61710C||Meánscoil Iognáid Ris, Naas||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|28||Kilkenny||15160G||Marymount N.S., The Rower, Inistioge||Extension/ Refurbishment||On Site|
|29||Laois||14260F||Abbeyleix Sth NS, Abbeyleix||New School||On Site|
|30||Laois||20071L||Scoil Bhríde, Rathdowney||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|31||Limerick||13026P||Kilfinane National School||New School||On Site|
|32||Limerick||18991S||JFK Memorial School, Ennis Road, Limerick||New School||On Site|
|33||Limerick||64201T||Ardscoil Ris, North Circular Rd, Limerick||Extension /Refurbishment||On Site|
|34||Longford||71690F||Ballymahon Vocational School||Extension/Refurbishment||Completed|
|35||Louth||18069M||Naomh Seosamh, Mell, Drogheda||New School||On Site|
|36||Louth||19598V||Muire na nGael NS, Bay Estate, Dundalk||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|37||Louth||20205G||St Mary’s Parish School, Drogheda||New School||On Site|
|38||Mayo||20046M||Gaelscoil Na Cruaiche, Cathair na Mart||New School||On Site|
|39||Meath||19253K||Scoil Naomh Barra, Wilkinstown||Extension/refurbishment||On Site|
|40||Meath||20180Q||Scoil Eoin National School, Navan||New School||On Site|
|41||Monaghan||18028V||Corr a Chrainn NS, Corr a Chrainn||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|42||Offaly||17523D||SN Cronain Naofa, Dromakeenan||Extension/ Refurbishment||On Site|
|43||Offaly||17637S||SN Sheosaimh Naofa, Beál Átha na gCarr, Tullamore||New School||On Site|
|44||Offaly||65610S||Colaiste Choilm, O’Moore Street, Tullamore||New School||On Site|
|45||Roscommon||65100S||Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown||Extension /Refurbishment||On Site|
|46||Waterford||19629G||Holy Cross School, Ballycarnane, Tramore||New School||On Site|
|47||Waterford||20076V||Bunscoil Bhothar na Naomh, Lismore||Extension/Refurbishment||On Site|
|48||Westmeath||18812P||Loch an Ghair NS Mullingar||New School||Completed|
|49||Wexford||71630K||Vocational College, Enniscorthy||New School||Completed|
|50||Wicklow||20016D||Gaelscoil Uí Cheadaigh, Bray||Extension/ Refurbishment||On Site|
|51||Wicklow||61800D||Presentation College, Bray||New School||On Site|
169. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of Council of the European Union’s meetings that his predecessor was entitled to attend in the year before 9 March 2011; the dates of such meetings; in each case if his predecessor attended the meeting or if the meeting was attended by officials in his place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7442/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): There were three meetings of the Council of the European Union in the year to 9 March 2011. They took place on 11 May 2010, 18 November 2010 and 14 February 2011. As the then Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills was unable to attend them personally, officials attended the meetings of 11 May 2010 and 14 February 2011 on her behalf, and Minister of State Séan Haughey attended that of 18 November 2010.
170. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered the additional social welfare costs that will ensue due to forthcoming changes to the higher education grant system in view of the fact that many students will be forced to withdraw from participation in education; if he will review the proposed changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7455/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I understand that the changes to the student grant schemes introduced under Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party government were designed to manage additional cost pressures arising from a significant increase in the number of students qualifying for grants, a proportionate increase in the number of students qualifying for higher rates of grants and payment of the Student Service Charge on behalf of grant-holders.
While the different budgetary measures will result in changes to the rate of grant payable to individual students, I understand that they will not result in a student losing a grant or becoming ineligible for a grant. Critically, top-up grants remain available for those on particularly low incomes and some €5m will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need.
Nonetheless, I understand the concerns of students with regard to the budgetary measures and I will take account of these in considering any future changes as part of the budgetary process for 2012 and beyond, having regard to the position of the public finances.
Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 163.
172. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the mechanism used to add persons to membership of school boards of management and the mechanisms available to remove members from boards of management. [7472/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): In accordance with section 14 of the Education Act 1998 it is the duty of the patron of a recognised school to appoint, where practicable, a board of management.
The composition of a board of management is based on centrally agreed arrangements between the relevant stakeholders and the agreed compositions differ between the various education sectors.
Under section 16 of the Act and subject to the consent of the Minister, the patron may for good and valid reasons, stated in writing to a member of a board of management, remove that member from that office. Where a patron proposes to remove a member of a board of management, he/she must adhere to the procedures under section 16 which require, inter alia, that a period of one month’s notice is given to allow for representations to be made to the patron by or on behalf of the board member concerned.
173. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which the building of a school (details supplied) will begin; the date on which this will be completed; if his attention has been drawn to the present unacceptable situation where children are currently attending classes in prefab buildings and his plans to urgently address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7473/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I am pleased to be able to confirm to the Deputy that a major project for the school to which he refers was included on the list of projects on the work programme for 2011, which was announced on 24 January 2011, where briefs will be formulated in 2011 and the process of appointing a Design Team will commence. My officials will be in further contact with the school authority in due course relating to the steps to be taken to progress the project.
174. Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the progress made in securing the future of the swimming pool at Tallaght community school sports complex, Dublin 24. [7516/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The sports complexes attached to a small number of Community and Comprehensive Schools, including Tallaght Community School, were established in the early 1970s on the basis that they would operate on a self-financing basis. In recent times, the complex at Tallaght Community School has experienced some difficulty in matching its operating costs and its income. Accordingly, the Board of Management, in consultation with the Trustees, has agreed to develop a business plan with a view to balancing the accounts of the sports complex and thereby ensure its continued viability. My Department has been kept informed by the Board of Management on the issues involved, and will support the Board and the Trustees in their efforts.
175. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to fill a post on a permanent basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7565/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Vacancies in the remainder of the 2010/11 school year may be filled only on a temporary basis. The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for the 2011/12 school year and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching positions takes place in the context of the Programme for National Recovery, the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014.
In relation to the Programme for National Recovery and the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland it is necessary for the Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the number of teachers employed in schools is consistent with those programmes. The Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 gives a commitment in relation to job security for public servants including primary teachers, contingent on the operation of redeployment arrangements. Consequently it is necessary for the Department to ensure this year that all permanent and fixed term positions, including the vacancy referred to by the Deputy, are in the first instance made available to those permanent and CID holding teachers that are surplus and are to be redeployed. Detailed information in relation to the commencement of the redeployment process is set out in Circular 0019/2011.
176. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will take immediate action to end the abuses of employment law in universities and other third level institutions, under which postdoctoral researchers are deprived of continuity of employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7587/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Higher education institutions are autonomous bodies and the employment conditions of all employees are a matter for those institutions. As employers, universities and other third level institutions are legally obliged to adhere to the provisions of employment legislation in respect of all their employees, including post-doctoral researchers. In the case of employees on fixed term contracts, relevant employment law and, in particular, the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Workers) Act 2003 provides that these employees are not treated less favourably than comparable permanent employees.
I am aware of the range of reports over the last number of years, both national and European, which have called for the development of better career structures and supports for researchers. And while considerable improvements have been made, I also believe more needs to be done in ensuring that the research community feels valued and that the important role researchers play in the development of a knowledge and innovation economy is acknowledged.
The recently published Higher Education Strategy, commonly known as the Hunt Report, recommends the establishment of a clear career path for researchers that develops their talents and rewards them appropriately. My Department, in consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, funding agencies and higher education institutions, will advance work on this as part of the wider implementation plan for the strategy. We will also be cognisant of developments at an EU level. As with all processes, I feel it is important that we engage with all stakeholders to ensure we are adopting the right approach and I welcome further engagement with researchers in our third level sector on this issue.
177. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of a pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [7619/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The details requested are being prepared and will be forwarded shortly by my department, directly to the person concerned.
178. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the changes he proposes to make to the current school transport scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7650/11]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): The changes to the school transport scheme were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from a recommendation in the recently published Value for Money Review of the scheme. From the beginning of the 2011/12 school year a €50 charge, which applies to all eligible primary pupils, is being introduced to ensure that school transport provided for these pupils is fully utilised in a cost efficient manner. The annual charge for post-primary pupils will also be increased by €50 from €300 to €350. Eligible pupils holding medical cards and pupils with special educational needs will be exempted from paying the charge. In addition, the maximum family charge at primary level for eligible pupils will be €110 while the overall combined maximum charge per family is not being increased from the current rate of €650 per annum. Parents will continue to be given the option of spreading the annual payments over two instalments in July and December.
The changes to school transport provision under the Closed School Rule means that the distance criteria will be applied uniformly and equitably on a national basis. From the 2012/2013 school year, school transport eligibility for all pupils newly entering national schools will be determined by reference to the nearest national school, having regard to ethos and language. Existing eligible primary pupils availing of transport under the Closed School Rule will retain transport eligibility for the duration of their schooling, provided the requisite distance is met. Services under the minimum numbers, either single services or which are part of double tripping arrangements, will be discontinued. A pick up density of 10 eligible pupils in a distinct locality on a particular route will be required to establish or retain services.
From the 2012/13 school year, the use of the catchment boundary system will cease for all new post-primary children. Eligibility for all new children entering post-primary transport will be on the basis of the nearest post-primary centre or school. Existing arrangements will remain in place for existing post primary pupils for the duration of their schooling. Finally, new arrangements will be put in place with Bus Éireann on a phased basis for the operation of the scheme.
Given the major financial constraints facing the country, I cannot reverse the changes to school transport as announced by the previous government in Budget 2011. We all have to understand the legacy of economic mismanagement which the last Government gave to the country.
179. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider an extension to a school (details supplied) to cater for the increase in children who each year leave the local primary school and seek access to another school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7674/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The most recent projections produced by my Department are forecasting an increase in the projected enrolments at post-primary level in the coming years. It is within this context that the Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of analysing all areas in the country in order to determine the level of additional provision which will be required at both primary and post primary level up to 2017. Overall post-primary requirements in the area to which the Deputy refers will be considered as part of this process and an appropriate long term accommodation solution to the needs of the area will be considered in the context of my Department’s multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.
180. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the administration of the higher education grant scheme under particular circumstances (details supplied). [7675/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): In recognition of the fact that a student under 23 yeas of age can be estranged from his/her parents, it is possible under the student grant schemes, as an exceptional measure, for such a candidate to be assessed without reference to his/her parents’/guardian’s income or address. However, compelling independent evidence of estrangement must be provided to the grant awarding authority to enable this. The type of independent evidence includes a letter from a social worker or other appropriate officer of the Health Service Executive explaining the circumstances of the estrangement. Confirmation that a candidate is living separately from his/her parents/guardians is not sufficient.
A decision on grant eligibility is a matter for a candidate’s local grant awarding authority in the first instance. To help avoid delays in processing her grant application, the candidate in question is advised to contact her grant awarding authority to discuss this issue and to make sure that the relevant supporting documentation is submitted with her grant application.
Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 153.
182. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application process for resource hours for vulnerable childr