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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 882-901
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Application Numbers
 Header Item Mortgage Arrears Proposals
 Header Item State Bodies Establishment
 Header Item Capital Expenditure
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Local Authority Conservation Grants Scheme Applications
 Header Item National Cultural Institutions
 Header Item Forbairt Calaí agus Céanna
 Header Item Job Creation
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Property Transfers

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 162 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 882-901

Carer's Allowance Applications

 882. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on an application for carer's allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [39295/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question. The medical assessment has been completed and the application is awaiting examination by a deciding officer for a means assessment and a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

  Question No. 883 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 884. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on an application for carer's allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [39297/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question. Further medical information and other information sought by the deciding officer has been received from the person in question. The additional medical evidence has been referred to a medical assessor for assessment and opinion.

On completion of the medical assessment, the application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 885. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on a review of domiciliary care will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [39298/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received on the 29th March 2012. This application was referred to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for DCA. A letter issued on the 10th May 2012 refusing the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision.

As part of the appeal process, the case has been forwarded to another of the Department’s Medical Assessors for further consideration, including a review of any new information supplied. Upon receipt of the Medical Assessor’s opinion, the case will be further examined and will be forwarded for consideration by the Appeals Office, if necessary.

Question No. 886 withdrawn.

Rent Supplement Scheme Application Numbers

 887. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will review the impact of the sharp reduction in the rent support in areas in which local demand for rent accommodation is high and local authority housing application waiting lists are excessive in view of the lack of a proper public housing construction programme over the last ten years; if she recognises the need to vary rent support to meet the requirements of applicants for rent support on local authority housing lists; if she will consider local regional loans for the determination of maximum rents as opposed to the country-wide structures currently in existence which are perfectly adequate in areas with available rent accommodation but cause unnecessary hardship to applicants in areas affected by a lack of adequate rented accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [39306/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently over 90,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided €436 million for 2012.

It is my intention to transfer responsibility for the provision of rental assistance to persons with a long term housing need from my Department, currently provided through rent supplement, to housing authorities. This will achieve a key Government commitment of removing barriers to employment and at the same time returning rent supplement to its original purpose of a short-term income support.

A multi-agency steering group has been established to develop proposals to give effect to this transfer. The group is chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and consists of representatives from the Departments of Social Protection; Public Expenditure and Reform; Office of the Revenue Commissioners; the County and City Managers Association, and the Housing Agency.

Policy in relation to social housing provision is a matter for my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

For all counties, major urban population centres were tested as part of the rents limit review. The maximum rent limits are based on an analysis of rental rates rather than house prices or regional loan values. Approximately 33,500 rent supplement claims have been awarded in 2012, representing over 37% of total claims in payment, indicating that accommodation can be secured within the current rent limits.

Department officials dealing with rent supplement tenants will continue to ensure that their accommodation needs are met; there will be no incidence of homelessness due to these changes.

The Department will continue to monitor rent levels throughout the country but at this point I have no plans to revise the existing rent limits.

Mortgage Arrears Proposals

 888. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of accountants that have been selected to participate in the free independent financial advice service for borrowers; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [39363/12]

 889. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the geographical spread of the free independent financial advisers for borrowers; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [39364/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 888 and 889 together.

  The Interdepartmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group (referred to as the Keane group) recommended that an independent mortgage support and advice service be established to advise mortgage holders in arrears or pre-arrears in assessing their options.

  A Working Group chaired by my Department, examined the issues relating to the establishment of such a service. The Working Group recommended a three phased approach to the provision of information and advice to assist people in mortgage distress. The approach differentiates between mortgage information and mortgage advice. The first two phases, the development of a website www.keepingyourhome.ie   and the establishment of a Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline, address the provision of information.

  The third element of the service is the provision of independent financial advice to mortgage holders at the point where a lender presents a borrower with long term forbearance proposals relating to a mortgage secured on the borrower’s primary residence.

  At that point, the lender will advise the borrower to take independent financial advice on the proposed arrangement and that, if the borrower wishes to avail of the option, that the lender will pay €250 (plus VAT where applicable) to an accountant for the provision of specified independent financial advice directly to the borrower.

  The specified advice will be provided by a panel of participating accountants, from the main accountancy bodies. The accountancy bodies have already notified their members about the new service with a view to having the panel in place before the end of September. It is expected that there could be in the region of 1,000 accountants participating in the service.

  The panel will be available on a county by county basis and the details will be available on the Citizens Information Board website www.keepingyourhome.ie.

State Bodies Establishment

 890. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of State bodies that have been set up since 9 March 2011; the rationale behind these decisions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40001/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton No State Body has been set up under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection since 9 March 2011.

Capital Expenditure

 891. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide a list of the payments made by the State to private land owners in 2010 and 2011 to acquire land for use in the public capital programme. [40014/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Responsibility for the acquisition of office accommodation for my Department rests with the Office of Public Works. Accordingly, my Department was not involved in making payments to private landowners to acquire land for use in the public capital programme in 2010 or 2011.

   Question No. 892 answered with Question No. 671.

Appointments to State Boards

 893. Deputy Gerald Nash Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of appointments that have been made to positions available on the boards of semi-State companies and statutory agencies following public advertisement; if she will provide details of the names of persons who have been appointed under this initiative and the agencies on which they now sit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40038/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The three statutory bodies under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Board and the Social Welfare Tribunal. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman (which does not have a board) comes under the remit of the Department.

  Citizens Information Board

  I have made two appointments to the Citizens Information Board since coming into office.

  Mr. Eugene McErlean was appointed with effect from 7 September 2011. This followed a public request for expressions of interest from suitably qualified and experienced individuals announced in July 2011. On foot of this request, 172 applications were received and his appointment was made following a rigorous selection process in accordance with the legislation governing appointments to such a board.

  On 1 November 2011, I appointed Ms. Fiona Ward as the Department’s representative on the board. That vacancy, of course, was not publically advertised.

  There are currently three vacancies on the Citizens Information Board, one of which is a staff representative of the Board.

  Pensions Board

  I have made no appointments to the Pensions Board since coming into office. There are currently two vacancies on the Pensions Board. No decision has been made on advertising these vacancies, pending the completion of the Critical Review of the amalgamation of the regulatory function of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator, under the Public Service Reform programme.

  Social Welfare Tribunal

  While the Social Welfare Tribunal is neither a semi-State company nor a statutory agency, it is a statutory body operating under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection and therefore the information provided below may be of interest to the Deputy. The Tribunal consists of a Chairperson and four ordinary members, two on the nomination of Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and two nominated by Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (IBEC). The Tribunal deals with entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance in cases where a claim is refused because it is considered to be connected to a trade dispute. For that reason, the Tribunal is made up of individuals deemed to be representative of employers and employees, nominated by ICTU and IBEC, and accordingly vacancies are not advertised. One of the ICTU members of the Tribunal resigned in 2011 and on the nomination of ICTU, a replacement member, Ms. Chris Rowland, was appointed commencing 24 October 2011.

Departmental Funding

 894. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the funding available to Údarás na Gaeltachta for employment grants in 2011 and 2012; if this has changed since the budget; if the conditions have changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37389/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Dinny McGinley): Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley Údarás na Gaeltachta’s capital allocations from the Exchequer, which is used for enterprise development and employment creation, were €6m and €5.938m in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Both figures were published in the Book of Estimates for the relevant years and remain unchanged. Údarás na Gaeltachta supplements its Exchequer capital allocation with income generated from investments and from the sale of assets. €3.17m was available from these sources in 2011 and €5m is expected to be available in 2012.

  Payment of Údarás na Gaeltachta's capital allocation is subject to standard conditions relating to accountability and good governance, which may change from time to time in accordance with relevant guidelines.

  A detailed breakdown of Údarás na Gaeltachta’s expenditure on job creation projects last year is provided in its 2011 Annual Report and Accounts, which were recently laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.      

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 895. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the progress made on the national plan for raised bogs and when this plan will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [38648/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan My Department has prepared an outline document detailing the proposed approach to the development of the National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan. This draft document was presented to the Peatlands Council and the European Commission, and, following this consultation, feedback has now been incorporated into the proposed approach. The document is available on my Department’s website at www.npws.ie.  

  The proposals made earlier this year at the Peatlands Forum identified relocation as a viable proposition for the majority of our raised bog SACs and the primary focus of the national plan is to develop a long-term conservation approach to each of the sites and relocation options for those who wish to continue turf-cutting.

  While the plan holds out the possibility of finding solutions for even the most difficult of cases, it must be comprehensive and address each of the 53 sites. Its completion is, therefore, dependent on the engagement of turf-cutters on each of the SACs where turf-cutting has been undertaken in recent years.

  When the European Commission and the Government agreed to a National SAC Management Plan approach in April this year, I urged at that time that, for the plan to be a success and to ensure that there was space to concentrate on those bogs where finding alternative solutions was particularly difficult, all those with an interest in the plan’s success should ensure that cutting would not take place this year. However, the breaches that have occurred on a minority of the SAC raised bogs of the requirement not to cut turf have diverted limited resources into enforcement activities and added additional complexity to the process of completing the plan.

  Nonetheless, I am determined that, in collaboration with the Peatlands Council, substantial progress will be made on the plan over the coming year. In this regard, my Department will now be stepping up contact with turf-cutting groups to seek long-term resolutions to the issues for their particular bogs, in compliance with EU and national law. In addition, my Department will shortly be seeking tenders for the carrying out the scientific research work which is essential to underpin the plan.

Local Authority Conservation Grants Scheme Applications

 896. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the position regarding an application for assistance provisions of the local authority conservation grant scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and when payment will issue from his Department in view of the fact that the application has been deemed to be successful.  [38714/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan From 2003 to 2010, my Department provided funding under the Local Authority Conservation Grants Scheme  for the conservation of structures protected under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010. The scheme was administered by the local authorities and operated on an annual basis, subject to Exchequer funding being available. It was a matter for each local authority to assess and prioritise applications under the scheme.

  In 2010 my Department provided €185,500 in funding to Limerick County Council under the Local Authority Conservation Grants Scheme. I understand that €7,000 of this amount was provided for the preparation of a conservation study relating to the case referred to by the Deputy.

In 2011, due to budgetary constraints, the Local Authority Conservation Grants Scheme was replaced by a more limited Structures at Risk Fund  to assist with works to those protected structures deemed most at risk. This fund is also being administered by local authorities.

  The allocation for this fund in 2012 is fully committed with 27 local authorities having been issued with, and accepted, grant offers for a total of 41 projects under the fund. I am advised there is no record of an application for the case referred to by the Deputy being submitted to my Department by Limerick County Council under the Structures at Risk Fund  in 2011 or 2012. In these circumstances, the Deputy may wish to make further queries directly with Limerick County Council.

National Cultural Institutions

 897. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if he will consider making experts from the National Library or National Archives available to community organisations seeking to organise genealogy events in their locality.  [38828/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I am advised that neither the National Archives nor the National Library are in a position to make such services available.

Forbairt Calaí agus Céanna

 898. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon; Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le huasghrádú agus forbairt a dhéanamh ar Ché Inis Oírr, cén uair a bhfuil súil aige go dtosóidh an obair ar an gcé; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [39048/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Dinny McGinley): Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley Tuigtear do mo Roinn go bhfuil cead pleanála agus ceadúnas forchladaigh faighte ag Comhairle Contae na Gaillimhe d’fhorbairt na cé atá luaite ag an Teachta. Tuigtear do mo Roinn fosta nach bhfuil sé beartaithe dul chun tairisceana sa ghearrthéarma toisc nach bhfuil na hacmhainní ar fáil faoi láthair chun dul i mbun na forbartha.

Job Creation

 899. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if he has carried out an analysis on the impact on jobs of removing the jobs role from Údarás; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [36977/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Dinny McGinley): Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley At the outset, I should point out to the Deputy that its enterprise development function has not been removed from Údarás na Gaeltachta. On the contrary, in light of the organisation’s expertise with regard to the economic development of the Gaeltacht, the Government decided on 31 May 2011 that Údarás na Gaeltachta should retain its current functions, including its enterprise functions, subject to: statutory provision being made to enable the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to direct Údarás na Gaeltachta to focus its limited resources towards specific enterprise sectors; and the development of a mechanism to facilitate Údarás na Gaeltachta to co-operate with other enterprise development agencies, particularly with regard to significant Gaeltacht projects with high potential. The Gaeltacht Act 2012, which was enacted on 25 July 2012, includes the statutory provision referred to above. In addition, officials from my Department have been working closely with their counterparts in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the relevant State development agencies with a view to devising an appropriate mechanism for co-operation between Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 900. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys in view of the fact that protected bogs are being cut by turf cutters, if he has had any success in securing a 12 month extension in the derogation from the EC on these bogs; if he will provide an update regarding the talks with the EC on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [36978/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan In January 2011, legal proceedings were commenced by the European Commission against Ireland in regard to the continued cutting of turf on sites nominated for designation as Special Areas of Conservation for the protection of raised bog habitat.

  In its complaint, the Commission contends that there was no basis in European Law for the original 10 year derogation which the then Irish Government introduced in 1999. The extension of such a derogation, or the continuation of turf extraction from these sites outside the legal requirements of the Habitats Directive, has been clearly ruled out by the Commission, most recently in Environment Commissioner Potočnik’s response in July to European Parliamentary Questions (P-006637/2012) put down by Ms Mairéad McGuinness, MEP, regarding certain proposals made by the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association (TCCA). In his response, the Commissioner stated: “Further turf cutting can only legally take place if the requirements of Articles 6(3) and (4) of Directive 92/43/EEC are fully satisfied”. He also stated:   "The Commission did not give TCCA, or any other party, reason to believe that such continued extraction was possible. Moreover, the Commission does not believe that the Irish authorities have the legal discretion to agree to it either."

  In April of this year, the Government, in discussions with Commissioner Potočnik, succeeded in securing agreement on an approach to the preparation of a National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan. The approach has also been considered by the Peatlands Council and is outlined in a document available on my Department’s website at www.npws.ie  . The Commission also made clear, in its reply referred to above, that continued peat extraction on Ireland's 53 raised bog Sites of Community Importance while a national management plan is being prepared would be contrary to the provisions of the applicable EU legislation. My Department will continue to work closely with the Commission in relation to the preparation of this plan.

Property Transfers

 901. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if it remains his position that he intends to take Bank of Ireland's College Green Branch into the hands of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [36980/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I refer the Deputies to my previous replies on this matter. As outlined in those replies, I met the Chair and Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland and had a constructive engagement on the issues.


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