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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 415 - 435
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Mortgages
 Header Item Waste Management Regulations
 Header Item Air Pollution
 Header Item Local Authority Funding
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding
 Header Item Register of Electors Administration
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Mortgages
 Header Item Official Travel
 Header Item Local Government Reform
 Header Item Nuclear Safety
 Header Item Local Government Reform
 Header Item Water Charges Introduction
 Header Item Legislative Programme
 Header Item Unfinished Housing Developments
 Header Item Immigration Policy
 Header Item Coroners Service

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 415 - 435

Local Authority Housing Mortgages

 415. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of local authority housing loans issued in each of the past four years to date; the number of shared ownership and other loans in this period; the extent if any to which provision will be made to increase availability of such loans in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54554/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan My Department collates and publishes a wide range of housing and planning statistics that inform the preparation and evaluation of policy and those data are available on my Department’s website www.environ.ie . Data on the number of local authority housing loans and shared ownership loans issued are published online. Loan finance remains available from local authorities for low and middle income borrowers and no funding restrictions have been placed on local authorities for the purposes of providing loan finance for house purchase or home improvement. However, in the context of the review of Part V announced by my predecessor on the publication of the Government’s housing policy statement in June 2011, all affordable housing schemes, including the Shared Ownership Scheme, have been stood down.

Waste Management Regulations

 416. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which the various forms of waste management are currently being used with particular reference to the maximum use of reduction, recycling, reuse, land fill or thermal disposal; the extent to which current practice is in accordance with international guidelines in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54555/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Government’s new waste policy, A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland, published in July 2012, sets out the actions through which Ireland will make the further progress necessary to become a recycling society, with a clear focus on resource efficiency and the virtual elimination of landfilling of municipal waste.  The policy contains measures to ensure that prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery are favoured to the disposal of waste in accordance with the waste hierarchy as set out in the Waste Framework Directive. Measures already in place to encourage the development of alternatives to landfill include a landfill levy of €65 per tonne and regulations which require the diversion from landfill of food waste arising on specified premises. 

  The EPA is the national repository for waste management statistics and the most recent available information in respect of waste management can be found in the 2010 National Waste Report available on the EPA’s website at www.epa.ie/downloads/pubs/waste/stats/ . The 2010 Report notes that:

 - Total Municipal Solid Waste disposed to landfill in 2010 declined 13% when compared to 2009 figures; and

 - Ireland is still over-dependent on landfill for residual waste disposal (58% compared to an EU 27 average of 38%), however, the improving recycling rate achieved (38%) compares favourably with the EU 27 average of 40%.   

  I understand that the 2011 National Waste Report is to be published early in the New Year.

Air Pollution

 417. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which air pollution level at various vantage points throughout the country continue to be monitored; the degree to which increases have been noted at specific locations; the action actions proposed in response thereto; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54556/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The main ambient air quality monitoring programme in Ireland is carried out to meet the requirements of EU Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, also known as the CAFE Directive. The Directive sets legally binding limit values, and target values for a range of pollutants and requires that certain minimum levels of monitoring is conducted for the purpose of assessment and management of air quality.   

  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responsibility for the monitoring of air quality in Ireland, and monitors a range of atmospheric pollutants via a network of permanent and fixed-term air quality monitoring stations located around the country, reporting the results on its website at: http://www.epa.ie/whatwedo/monitoring/air/data/.  Monitoring includes the following pollutants: nitrogen oxides; sulphur dioxide; carbon monoxide; ozone; particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), ozone, benzene and volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The EPA publishes also an annual report on air quality, based primarily on the monitoring requirements of the CAFÉ Directive. The most recent report, Air Quality in Ireland 2011 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality  , was published in September 2012 and provides an assessment of air quality in Ireland for 2011, compared to the CAFÉ Directive standards, based on data obtained from the 29 monitoring stations that form the national ambient air quality network.

  No exceedances of EU limit values were recorded for 2011 and downward trends have been identified for many pollutants. However, levels of particulate matter (PMs) are a concern, especially where there is widespread reliance on solid fuel for residential heating, particularly in towns where the ban on bituminous coal does not apply. To maintain good standards of air quality and ensure that, in the future, air across all Ireland will be healthy and clean, local authorities must continue to enforce the ban on bituminous coal with improved effectiveness. Air quality could also benefit significantly if households used more efficient methods for space heating by shifting from solid fuel to cleaner, more efficient alternatives; this would also have additional climate benefits by lowering greenhouse gas emissions.   

  Following public, industry and local authority consultations, I introduced revised and updated solid fuel regulations to ensure that they remain fit for purpose in safeguarding air quality by limiting harmful emissions of air pollutants arising from the use of residential solid fuels. Under the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012 which were given effect in August 2012,

 - most existing smoky coal ban area boundaries were revised to take recent urban development into account;

 - seven new towns are being added to the ban from May 2013 - Greystones, Letterkenny, Mullingar, Navan, Newbridge, Portlaoise and Wicklow Town; and

 - a prohibition on the burning of bituminous or smoky coal was provided for, to complement the established ban on its marketing, sale and distribution.

  The new regulations will ensure that the ban continues to be effective in maintaining good air quality standards in our cities and towns, protecting human health and the environment. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in larger urban areas, derived mainly from road traffic, have remained relatively static since 2002, with signs of a slight increasing trend in the years 2008-2010. Further reductions of NO2 levels will require improved emission standards from new vehicles, reduced demand for private road transport, increased use of alternatives to the private car such as cycling, walking and public transport.   

Local Authority Funding

 418. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which he hopes to be in a position to provide adequate funding for local authorities in the coming year notwithstanding the economic difficulties he inherited from his predecessor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54557/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Action Programme for Effective Local Government - Putting People First   reinforces local government as the primary means of public service delivery at local level. The programme sets out a comprehensive range of measures to address the challenges of the local government system. The sustainable funding of local government is one such challenge and the programme provides for a strengthening of local government funding, accountability and governance.

  General purpose grants contribute towards meeting the reasonable cost to local authorities of providing services to their customers. In line with previous years, it is my intention to inform local authorities of their 2013 general purpose grant allocations following the announcement of Budget 2013. I will seek to contribute to the general purpose funding of local authorities to the maximum extent possible in 2013, having regard to the current pressures on the public finances and motor tax income.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

 419. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which funding for group water and sewerage schemes and small schemes is likely to be available to the local authorities throughout the country with particular reference to addressing any backlogs or schemes that have not received adequate attention over a number of years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54558/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme, which includes group water schemes, group sewerage schemes and small public water and sewerage schemes, has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The block grant allocations provided by my Department to the water services authorities are based, in the first instance, on the requests for funding received from the water services authorities at the beginning of each year. There may also be some additional allocations, or variations to existing allocations, during the course of the year based on responses from the authorities to any reviews of expenditure which may be carried out.

Decisions on the funding to be provided under the programme in 2013 will be made as early as possible in the New Year after taking into account needs outlined by the local authorities and the available Exchequer resources. The selection, approval and prioritisation of individual schemes for advancement and funding under the programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocations provided, is therefore a matter for the water services authorities.

Register of Electors Administration

 420. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which inaccuracies in the voter's register continue; his plans to review the issues with the possibility of enlisting the assistance of An Post to bring the register up to date and maintain a high degree of accuracy on an on-going basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54559/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan In law, the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register. While there have been improvements in these regards in recent years, I am satisfied that further improvements can be made. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish an Electoral Commission to subsume functions of existing bodies and my Department. In the context of addressing the commitment to establish an Electoral Commission, I will examine matters related to the electoral register, including the suggestion made regarding the possible assistance of An Post.

Local Authority Housing Mortgages

 421. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if and when he expects to be in a position to introduce a local authority loans system to facilitate the needs of first time house buyers in the medium to lower income sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54560/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I refer to the replies to Questions Nos. 111 of 15 September 2011, 143 of 8 March 2012, 222 of 3 May 2012 and 454 of 23 October 2012. The position is unchanged: loan finance remains available from local authorities for low and middle income borrowers and no funding restrictions have been placed on local authorities for the purposes of providing loan finance for house purchase or home improvement. Indeed the amount available has increased significantly in recent years. The allocation of €55m for 2012 represented an increase of 8% on the allocation for 2011 which was itself an increase of almost €20m (or 61%) on the 2010 allocation.

Official Travel

 422. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will outline in tabular form the total cost to the Exchequer of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Summit in Doha including accommodation, cost per person and the number of person's attending from the Irish delegation, and flights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54562/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Participation in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process is an important element of Ireland’s, and the EU’s, engagement in international environmental issues. This is especially so in the context of Ireland’s role as incoming EU Presidency, during which we will be responsible for leading the EU’s follow-up work to the Doha Conference of the Parties over the course of the first half of 2013. As incoming Presidency, we are already involved in a large number of additional engagements in Doha, working with the current Presidency (Cyprus), the Council Secretariat and the European Commission, as they conduct bilateral engagements with key delegations from other Parties and regional groupings.

Insofar as my Department’s element of the Irish delegation is concerned, in addition to my own participation in the High-Level Segment, a total of nine officials from my Department are attending part or all of the two-weeks involved, with four officials attending the full conference (and EU preparatory meetings). During the High Level Segment, I also intend to take the opportunity to hold pre-Presidency Ministerial bi-laterals with Ministers from other EU Member States.

The Department’s full delegation will be staying at the Kempinski Hotel. This was chosen on the basis that the current EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat are all staying there and, as incoming Presidency, it is useful to co-locate with others forming part of the overall EU delegation to facilitate close co-operation and, where necessary, allow for easy arrangement of early morning/late night meetings at short notice. In all cases, the bookings are for the lowest of three available categories of accommodation in the hotel. The total cost of accommodation for my Department’s attendance at the conference (a total of 108 person nights of accommodation) is approximately €16,000 (subject to exchange rate variations) or an average of approximately €149 per person per night. All flights to/from Doha for the Department’s delegation are in economy class, with an aggregate cost to the Department of just over €5,000, or an average of approximately €500 per person.

  Question No. 423 answered with Question No. 378.

Local Government Reform

 424. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan as part of local government reform, if he will introduce the D'Hondt method of appointing councillors to chairs and to local authority committees.  [54576/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I presume the question refers to the D'Hondt system, also known as the highest average method for appointing Councillors to chairs and to local authority committees.   

  Part 7 of the Local Government Act 2001 makes provision for local authorities to establish committees including Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs). Guidance issued by my Department in relation to the involvement of Councillors on SPCs states that every County/City Councillor should, as a matter of equity and good practice, have the opportunity to serve on an SPC and that SPC Councillor membership should reflect the proportionality and the distribution of elected representation on the full Council. This guidance goes on to state that the allocation of SPC chairs should also reflect equitably the spread of   elected representation on the Council. The purpose of these guidelines, which acknowledge the difficulty in legislating fully for such good will and practice , is to ensure that the various political and other interests represented on the full   Council are treated fairly, and equitably represented in the SPC system.     

  In implementing the Action Programme for Effective Local Government – Putting People First, chairs of SPCs and the Corporate Policy Group (CPG) will continue to be filled pro-rata, based on the size of the relevant groups within the Council. Membership of the CPG will be extended to include leaders of party or other groupings (where these are not already members by virtue of being chairs of SPCs) to ensure that the strategic guidance of SPCs reflects the political balance of the Council. In view of the current arrangements and their continuance in implementing Putting People First, I do not propose to prescribe any methodology, including the D'Hondt method, which could have a negative impact in ensuring an equitable spread of elected representation on local authority committees and their chairs as between representatives of political parties and independent councillors . It is, however, open to any local authority to use the methodology where this would be compatible with the guidance detailed above.

Nuclear Safety

 425. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the cost in producing the report Risks to Ireland from Incidents at the Sellafield Site; and if the British Government covered any of this cost. [54577/12]

 426. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the terms of reference for those who drafted the report Risks to Ireland from Incidents at the Sellafield Site. [54578/12]

 427. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he remains opposed to the Sellafield plant and other installations in the UK which pose a risk to our people  [54579/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 425 to 427, inclusive, together.

  In 2008, a joint confidential technical information exchange project relating to Sellafield and its associated facilities was set up by the Irish and British Governments. The shared objective of the project was to provide an established co-operative process for sharing information and addressing any technical issues arising. This represented a significant advance in addressing Ireland’s long-standing concerns about Sellafield.

  The Government engaged a team of independent technical experts that included nuclear physicists, chemists and engineers. The expert team brought specialist knowledge and expertise which is not readily available within the Irish Government system due to the absence of a nuclear power generation or reprocessing industry here. The function of the team was to conduct a comprehensive, objective and scientific assessment of the technical information on Sellafield and its associated facilities made available from the intergovernmental exchange project. The key output is a Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) report of the risks to Ireland and Irish interests from incidents at the Sellafield nuclear site.

  The team paid a number of site visits to Sellafield, examined various facilities, accessed extensive documentation, and conducted a number of technical exchanges with operators at the site and with UK regulators which enabled the team to develop reliable, accurate, risk models and calculations. The expert team used additional sources of information such as their own knowledge of operating history and data from similar nuclear facilities around the world to make expert judgments.   

  On completion of the project, the team produced a 1,000 page main report. A public summary document was released as the team recommended that the full report should not be published because to have such a substantial volume of security-sensitive information in the public domain would serve to increase the risks posed by Sellafield to both the UK and to Ireland. This 4 year project cost €4.8m gross, or €4.0m net of VAT. As the team’s brief was explicitly to assess the risks posed to Ireland from Sellafield, the UK did not meet any of these costs, though the UK would have incurred its own costs through, for example, facilitating the information exchange and hosting site visits.   

  My Department and others will now study the information in the report in detail and use it in the context of Government policies relating to Sellafield and the nuclear sector more broadly. Ireland must continue to be vigilant in relation to Sellafield as work to decommission the site over the lifetime of the “Sellafield Plan” continues. It is critical from an Irish perspective that the UK decommissioning of the site is undertaken safely and in accordance with best international practice. The finalisation of this report marks the improved information sharing process that has developed between the Irish and UK Governments since 2008. Particularly given our status as a non-nuclear country, Ireland looks forward to continued timely sharing of key information with the UK authorities in the future on nuclear matters, including Sellafield and the UK nuclear new-build programme.

Local Government Reform

 428. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan in order to facilitate smaller parties, if he will consider increasing the number of councillors representing each local authority on regional authorities. [54581/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Action Programme for Effective Local Government: Putting People First, which I published in October 2012 following Government approval, sets out the Government’s decision regarding new arrangements at regional level. Regional structures will be revised and strengthened through the replacement of the present eight regional authorities and two regional assemblies by three new regional assemblies (i.e. Connaught-Ulster, Southern, and Eastern–Midlands) to perform an up-dated range of strategic functions. As indicated in the Action Programme, the Government has decided that, following the 2014 local elections, the membership of each of the new regional assemblies will be composed of two members from each constituent city or county council.

Water Charges Introduction

 429. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan in the event of a household not paying the forthcoming water charge if he intends to deduct this charge for their source of income. [54582/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Government has decided that Irish Water, a new State-owned water company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, will be responsible for the domestic water metering programme and for the collection of water charges from households. The Government has also decided to assign responsibility for the economic regulation of the water sector to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The primary role of the regulator will be to protect the interests of customers and to ensure a consistent and appropriate level of service is provided to customers; the regulator will be given appropriate powers in this regard. There are no plans to deduct water charges from income.

Legislative Programme

 430. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the pieces of legislation needed to action Putting People First; and the timeframe for this legislation..  [54583/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 67 and 69 on today’s order paper which sets out the position on this matter.

Unfinished Housing Developments

 431. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will issue specific instructions to local authorities to intervene on public health grounds to maintain treatment plants in unfinished housing estates in circumstances in which developers refuse, or are no longer in a position to do. [54584/12]

 432. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will make local authorities put in place speed ramps and other traffic calming measures when requested to do so by residents associations in unfinished estates to deal with road safety issues. [54585/12]

 433. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the legislative measures or regulations he will introduce to deal with ghost estates and unfinished estates in order to bring some certainty and closure to residents of all such estates. [54586/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I propose to take Questions Nos. 431 to 433, inclusive, together.

  I am chairing the National Co-ordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments to oversee implementation of the Report of the Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments, together with the Government’s response to the recommendations. Both documents were published on 9 June 2011 and are available on my Department’s website - www.environ.ie.  The Committee has met on ten occasions since it was established in June 2011 and has harnessed the input of members representing the banking, construction, and local authority sectors as well as NAMA and residents.   

  To date, my Department has made allocations totalling some €3.5 million to local authorities to address immediate safety issues. The types of works that have been approved to date include the fencing off of unsecured and hazardous areas, capping of pipes, installation of street lighting, and other works to secure sites. My Department will be making further allocations as applications are received from local authorities and assessed.   It is open to local authorities to make application for funding under the scheme where the estate in question qualifies for funding.

  Planning authorities are making progress in securing the co-operation of developers, financial institutions and/or bond holders, thereby obviating the need to use Exchequer resources to fund such work. Developers and owners of unfinished housing developments (or their receivers, where appointed) have the primary legal obligation in addressing outstanding problems associated with these developments.   

  As part of the work of the National Co-Ordination Committee, a legislative review group was set up to assess the adequacy of existing legislation in tackling the issues associated with unfinished housing developments. Its remit was to review legislation such as the Derelict Sites Act 1990; the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1964, the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010 and the Water Services Act, 2007 with a view to strengthening or amending provisions to take account of the issues associated with unfinished developments. It concluded that the existing legislation was adequate and no amending legislation was necessary. Road safety issues come within the remit of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Immigration Policy

 434. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if his attention has been drawn to an incident which occurred on 16 November, when persons queuing outside the Garda National Immigration Bureau on Burgh Quay, Dublin, were asked to leave by the gardaí and told to return the following Monday when the cost of registration would increase from €150 to €330; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [53723/12]

 453. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the reason a 100% increase made in the fees charged to students having to renew their visas was introduced at less than a week’s notice; her views on criticism that students attempting to apply for the visa on the Friday before the increase came into effect, and who were asked to return the following Monday to resubmit their documentation, were unfairly penalised as a result of being charged the new higher rate of €300. [54032/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 434 and 453 together.

  In the Dublin Metropolitan Region, the registration of non-nationals is undertaken by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) at the Registration Office situated at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2. There are extended opening hours in operation in the office from Monday to Thursday (8:00 AM to 10:00 PM); on Friday the hours are 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. As it happens, September and October are the peak months for registrations in the State primarily as a result of students beginning or returning to their studies. In recognition of this, special arrangements are put in place in September and October to facilitate the registration of students in major public and private colleges. Periods of time are set aside in the public office of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 specifically for registration of students.

  This year these arrangements were extended into November. Naturally, at particularly busy periods and not withstanding the special arrangements put in place, there may be occasions when, based on the numbers seeking to register and estimated processing times, processing capacity is reached for that day and persons attending beyond that point are asked to return at another time. This is simply a matter of managing demand on the day in a sensible, proactive and safe manner.

  The increase in the fee in respect of the issue of a registration certificate under the Immigration Act, 2004 came into effect on 19 November, 2012. Any person issued with a registration certificate from that date will be required to pay the new fee of €300 unless they come within those categories exempted from the charge. In respect of persons who may have been seeking to obtain a re-entry visa, I should point out that the fees for same have not changed.

  It should be noted that in recognition of the circumstances of certain categories of person, there are specific exemptions from paying the registration fee set out in the regulations; these are the following:

  - UN Convention Refugees;

  - Family members of such refugees who have been admitted to the State in accordance with section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996;

  - Persons who are under 18 years of age at the time of registration;

  - Spouses, civil partners, widows and widowers of Irish citizens;

  - Spouses and Dependants of EU nationals who receive a residence permit under EU Directive 38/04;

  - Programme Refugees, as defined by section 24 of the Refugee Act, 1996; and

  - Persons subject to arrangements for victims of human trafficking.

  The above categories of non-nationals exempted from the fee payment are almost 20% of the total numbers registering. Last year alone, this amounted to 21, 443 persons and €3.2 million in fees waived.

  It is an unavoidable consequence that people seeking to register will fall on the either side of the fee increase introduction. It is understandable too that many people would have sought to avail of the lower rate in advance of the fee increase resulting in numbers at the public office Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) rising to exceptional levels at certain times.

  For the sake of completeness, I should also add that the cost of various services to immigrants here compares favourably with other jurisdictions and that, in particular in respect of student immigrants, the fee charged for immigration services is, in the great majority of cases, a small proportion of the overall fees they are required to pay the supplier of educational services. I would point out that this is the first increase since 2008 and that the fee increase itself will be used to defray some of the costs of providing and developing enhanced services to migrants.

  The following information was provided under Standing Order 40A.

  The main issue that gave rise to the difficulty on the day in question was physical capacity in the office which deals with immigration registration which is performed by civilian employees of An Garda Síochána.

  At an early stage of the day in question, it became clear that physical capacity to the office to deal with applications had been reached and indeed exceeded. Because of this a number of applicants were turned away and advised to return on the following week - at which time of course the fee increase had come into effect. It is not possible to say with complete accuracy how many people were in this category but the Gardaí estimate that it may have been in the region of 60 people. I am also advised that this number is likely to include people who had other immigration related business on that day which was unrelated to registration.

  Having reflected on the matter, in addition to turning these applicants away and requesting them to return on another occasion, it would also have been appropriate to take their details so that upon their return a lower fee could have been charged to them. In saying this, I think it is important to acknowledge that everyone acted in good faith and made their best endeavours to deal with a huge increase in the volume of callers to the office where this business is conducted.

  While clearly there will always be difficulties in circumstances where fees are being increased where some will inevitably fall outside the cut off point, nevertheless it should be possible to put in place some arrangement to deal with the type of situation which occurred in this instance.

  Accordingly, I have requested my officials in conjunctions with the Garda National Immigration Bureau to devise a system which would to the greatest extent possible avoid a recurrence of such a problem.

  In the meantime, I would like to apologise to the individuals in question for any inconvenience caused to them. It is not possible to independently identify such persons so therefore they cannot be refunded the additional fee charge.

Coroners Service

 435. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if there is enough in the Coroner’s Act to deal with the death of a person (details supplied) and if this legislation needs updating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53728/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Under the Coroners Act 1962, a coroner is an independent office holder with responsibility under the law for the medico-legal investigation of the circumstances of sudden, unexplained, violent and unnatural deaths. I am satisfied that the provisions of the current legislation are sufficient to investigate those deaths that require to be reported to the coroner. That would include the death referred to by the Deputy. However, as he will appreciate, that is currently the subject of an inquiry by the coroner in that jurisdiction. In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter. The Coroners Bill 2007 is before the Seanad having been restored to the Order Paper on my initiative. The Bill is in the course of being reviewed in my Department with a view, among other matters, to making it as cost-effective as possible. The Bill, as published, provides for the comprehensive reform of the existing legislation and structures relating to coroners and provides for the establishment of a new Coroner Service.


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