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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 397-415
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility
 Header Item Redundancy Payments
 Header Item Child Benefit Payments
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Commemorative Events
 Header Item Deer Hunting
 Header Item Ministerial Staff
 Header Item Turbary Rights
 Header Item State Bodies Numbers
 Header Item Commemorative Events
 Header Item Commemorative Events

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 789 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 397-415

Carer's Allowance Applications

 397. Deputy Noel Coonan Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for carer's allowance will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3017/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on 17th  January 2013, who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required hold an oral hearing.

  The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 398. 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 the number of appeals for backdating of entitlement to disability allowance; the number of such that were late appeals; the number of requests for late appeals granted; the basis on which the decision is made to grant and/or refuse appeals in such instances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3026/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that date of award of payment was an issue under appeal in 72 disability allowance appeals decided by Appeals Officers during 2012, of which 33 were allowed, 8 partially allowed and 33 disallowed. Appeals Officers consider all evidence before them in coming to their decision and each appellant's appeal is decided on its own merits.

Statistics are not maintained in respect of the processing of late appeals and therefore the Social Welfare Appeals Office is not in a position to supply the information sought by the Deputy in relation to this matter.

In the normal course, an appeal against the decision of a Deciding Officer must be made within 21 days of a decision being notified. Appeals received outside of this time limit may be accepted at the discretion of the Chief Appeals Officer. This limit is not rigidly enforced but the length of time which has elapsed since the appellant was notified of the decision, and the absence of an acceptable explanation for the failure to make the appeal within the prescribed time are taken into consideration when deciding not to admit a late appeal.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 399. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if the means test relative to the claim for a jobseekers allowance will be reviewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford.  [3093/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned together with the relevant Departmental papers and the comments of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal was received in that office on 15th  January 2013. The case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.   

  The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 400. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [3095/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An application for domiciliary care allowance was received from the person concerned on the 8th August 2012. This application was referred to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 11th  September 2012 advising of the decision. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision and supplied additional information on the child’s condition. As part of the appeal process, the application along with the additional information provided was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who found the child to be medically eligible for the allowance.

  The person concerned was notified of the decision on the 14th January 2013. Arrears have issued by cheque and further payments will issue from 19th  February 2013.

  Question No. 401 withdrawn.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

 402. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 449 of 16 January 2013, if she will review the application for contributory pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare on foot of their PRSI liability for the tax year 2006 being corrected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3104/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I can confirm that following a review of the application for State pension (contributory) in the case of the person concerned a letter of award issued on 15 January 2013 detailing his weekly entitlements. A further communication has also issued confirming the amount of arrears of pension entitlement due for the period from 30 August 2012 to 17 January 2013.

Redundancy Payments

 403. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if, in view of recent examples of companies entering receivership or examinership, if further consideration can be given to introducing a tiered redundancy rebate scheme based on turnover/company size which would provide a safety net for smaller, indigenous enterprises as well as ensuring adequate provision for employees in the unfortunate event of a company collapsing or downsizing. [3111/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the redundancy payments scheme is to compensate workers, under the Redundancy Payments Acts, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy.

Compensation is based on the worker’s length of reckonable service and reckonable weekly remuneration, subject to a ceiling of €600.00 per week.

It is the responsibility of the employer to pay statutory redundancy to all their eligible employees. Employers who pay statutory redundancy payments to their employees are entitled to a rebate of a portion of that payment from the State if the date of dismissal by reason of redundancy is before 1 January 2013.

In Budget 2012 I reduced the level of the rebate from 60% to 15% and in Budget 2013 the Government decided to remove the redundancy rebate to employers in respect of redundancies where the date of dismissal is on or after 1 January 2013.

Where an employer can prove that he/she cannot afford to pay a statutory redundancy payment, the State makes a lump sum payment directly to the individual and a debt is raised against the employer which the State will endeavour to recover. The Budget change will have no impact on the level of these payments.

Rebates to employers and lump sums paid directly to employees are paid from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).

I am very concerned about the deficit in the SIF. One of the factors which influenced the Government’s decision to reduce the level of the rebate initially and to remove it in Budget 2013 was the increasing cost of rebates in recent years.

In term of redundancy rebate payments to employers, €152.2 million was paid out in 2006; €167.4 million in 2007; €161.8 million in 2008; €247.9 million in 2009; €373.2 million in 2010 and €185.3 million in 2011. The amounts paid out in lump sums to employees have also increased. While the SIF is constituted primarily from employer contributions, the taxpayers’ contribution is also significant.

I do not see why this country should continue to borrow money to plug the hole in the Social Insurance Fund in order to compensate often profitable companies for the cost of making their employees redundant in Ireland and, in some cases, transferring their employment abroad.

The continuation of the rebate payment is not sustainable in the current economic climate. While this may cause difficulties for employers it should be noted that redundancy rebate payments to employers are not common in many EU and other jurisdictions. The new arrangements bring Ireland more closely into line with practice in other countries.

It is not proposed to introduce a tiered system of redundancy rebate rates or to make exceptions for small businesses.

  Question No. 404 answered with Question No. 322.

Child Benefit Payments

 405. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide, in tabular form, and from the available data held by her Department and the Revenue Commissioners, the percentage of households with children receiving child benefit that are earning less than €30,000 gross income per annum, earning less than €50,000 gross income per annum, earning more than €70,000 gross income per annum, earning more than €80,000 gross income per annum, earning more than €100,000 gross income per annum, earning more than €200,000 gross income per annum; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [3139/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Child benefit is a universal payment that assists parents with the cost of raising children and it contributes towards alleviating child poverty. Child benefit is paid to around 600,000 families in respect of some 1.15 million children. The Government is conscious that child benefit, as a universal payment, can be an important source of income for all families, especially during a time of recession and high unemployment.

Given the universal nature of child benefit, claimants are not asked to make a declaration of their income or that of other members in their family. It is not therefore possible to make a reliable estimate on the basis of available data of the percentages of households with children receiving child benefit in the income categories detailed. A detailed estimate of this nature would not only require current household income data but also detailed specifications of the definition of income, whose income was to be included, what time period was to be considered etc.

Appointments to State Boards

 406. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will report on the new procedures the Government have introduced for appointments to State boards. [3579/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The statutory bodies under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Board, the Social Welfare Tribunal and the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman.

Citizens Information Board (CIB)

  The CIB operates in accordance with the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.

  I have made three appointments to the CIB since coming into office. One of these was made following a public request for expressions of interest from suitably qualified and experienced individuals. Advertisement was by way of the Department’s website on www.welfare.ie. The Department also notified its Customer Representative Groups and other stakeholder parties, i.e., MABS companies and Citizen Information Services, of the vacancy. Interested parties registered their interest through the Public Appointments Service (PAS) website; www.publicjobs.ie. The other two appointments did not require public advertisement as one was the Department’s representative to the Board and the other was the CIB’s staff representative to the Board.

Pensions Board

  The Pensions Board operates in accordance with the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.

  There are currently two unfilled vacancies on the Pensions Board which have not been advertised. This is due to the fact that the Public Service Reform Programme provides for a critical review of the integration of the regulatory functions of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator and the merging of the Pensions Ombudsman with the Financial Services Ombudsman. The review is to include identifying any potential savings arising from such an amalgamation.

  The Critical Review Group, established to carry out the reviews announced under the Public Service Reform Programme, is finalising a draft report with recommendations.

  I expect to receive the final report from the Group in the very near future. Following receipt of this report, decisions in relation to the filling of vacancies in the context of possible reforms will be taken.

Social Welfare Tribunal

  The revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies does not apply to the Social Welfare Tribunal due to its structure and purpose.

Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

  The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman does not have a board.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 407. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he will detail the new and amended sites of community importance which were proposed by Ireland to the Commission for the Atlantic bio-geographical region since 2010 which necessitated the Commission implementing decision of 16 November 2012 adopting a sixth updated list of sites of community importance for the Atlantic bio-geographical region, C(2012) 8222 final; and if he will outline the restrictions and-or impact these new and amended sites will have for citizens who own land and property in these sites of community importance.  [2519/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan Ireland’s list of Sites of Community Importance, as adopted by the European Commission in its decision of 2010, extended to 423 sites. The sixth updated list for the Atlantic bio-geographic region, referred to in the Deputy's Question, did not contain any new sites from Ireland. The areas of a number of sites changed between 2010 and 2012. Changes to area can arise for a variety of reasons, including map validation and the conclusion of appeals taken by landowners. Some Coillte lands were added to the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) network during this period as part of a commitment given under EU LIFE blanket bog and woodland restoration projects.

In the last week of November 2012, I proposed the addition of six new marine SACs and these will be transmitted to the Commission for adoption in due course. People who have been identified by my Department as being potentially affected by the designations have been notified directly regarding the areas and the implications of the proposed designations. A series of press and radio advertisements were also utilised.

Commemorative Events

 408. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if consideration will be given to including the 800th anniversary of the introduction of the Magna Carta Hiberniae, Great Irish Charter, which was the Irish, and only other variation, of the Magna Carta in the Decade of Commemorations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3138/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The special programme being developed with regard to the Decade of Commemorations relates only to the centenary anniversaries occurring in the period 1912-1922.

  Reflecting the profound historic significance of the events of 1916, the national commemorative arrangements in 2016 will be organised towards a comprehensive exploration of the political, social and cultural experience of Ireland at the time.

  The Great Charter of Ireland (Magna Carta Hiberniae) which issued on 12 November 1216 is of historic importance. I would welcome a commemorative initiative in this regard brought forward by an academic, legal institution or cultural institution.

Deer Hunting

 409. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he intends to alter the current open season for wild female deer to begin on 1 October and end on 30 April in place of the current open season which starts on 1 November and ending on 28 February in view of the fact that female deer give birth beginning in May and are heavily pregnant from February onwards carrying a fully formed foetus and during October female deer still have dependent calves or fawns and to kill the mother at this time would result in the death from starvation over a number of weeks for the orphaned calf or fawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [2605/13]

 410. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Wild Deer Association of Ireland is the lead organisation representing those who work with deer and their management here and they recently stated that wild deer numbers have been decimated in many areas due to illegal taking or poaching of deer and that this crime is currently at epidemic levels nationally; and the actions he intends to take in dealing with this crime. [2663/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I propose to take Questions Nos. 409 and 410 together.

The current hunting dates for deer species are prescribed by the Wildlife (Wild Mammals) (Open Seasons) Orders, 2005-2012. These Orders currently allow the hunting of female Sika, Fallow and Red Deer between the first day of November and the last day of February each year. I recently removed the hunting of female Red Deer from County Kerry from these Orders.

A review of the Open Season Orders for deer species is currently being undertaken by my Department. This review includes consideration of the most appropriate dates and time periods for the hunting of all deer species and sexes.

The review process has involved a public consultation element whereby interested parties were asked for their views. My Department received over thirty submissions from a wide range of stakeholders, including hunting, conservation, farming and sporting rights organisations, as well as from the general public. I am aware that there are differing opinions about extending the open season for female deer species. These views will be taken into account in any final decision to amend the Open Seasons Order. In the meantime, there will be no alteration to the current hunting season for female deer species, which ends on 28 February 2013.

My Department is aware of the illegal killing of deer in certain areas of the country and organisations such as the Wild Deer Association of Ireland have provided information to my Department on such incidents. All such reports are followed up insofar as possible within existing staffing levels. I am aware that staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department have carried out an increased number of patrols, including night patrols, in the last few months in Co. Kerry, where there have been reports of increased illegal deer killings. Persons involved in such illegal activity are, of course, subject to prosecution.

Ministerial Staff

 411. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the number of immediate or extended family members employed by his Department; the names and remuneration in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2893/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I can advise the Deputy that no family members or related party members are employed by me.

Turbary Rights

 412. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan further to Parliamentary Question No. 438 of 27 November 2012, when payment of bog compensation will issue to persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2919/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan As outlined in my reply to Question No 438 of 27 November last, the individuals referred to in the Deputy’s Question sold their interest in land in a raised bog special area of conservation under the voluntary bog purchase scheme, administered by my Department. An incentive bonus of €5,400, available under the scheme, was also paid to the applicants at the time of purchase on the condition that they were selling all plots of bog land in their possession and registered or unregistered turbary rights within a designated area.

  The individuals have applied for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme. The qualifying criteria for this scheme are that:

- The claimant must have a legal interest in one of the 53 raised bog special areas of conservation – ownership or turbary right;

- The claimant must have been the owner or entitled to exercise turbary rights on the land in question on 25 May 2010;

- The turbary on the site must not be exhausted;

- The claimant must have been cutting turf on the land in question during the relevant five year period; and

- No turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property.

  The application is being assessed within my Department. My officials have been in contact with the applicants recently and will be writing to them in the coming weeks about the status of their application.

State Bodies Numbers

 413. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he shares concerns regarding the future of an Údáras na Gaeltachta -run company (details supplied) in County Galway on which many local companies rely; and if consideration will be given to arranging a consultation process with experts in this industry who could provide insight on courses of action which would safeguard the future of other local businesses while building upon the expert growth already evident.  [3087/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Dinny McGinley): Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley The company referred to by the Deputy is a fully owned subsidiary of Údarás na Gaeltachta. As the Deputy will be aware, Údarás na Gaeltachta is a statutory organisation with an independent board that operates under the aegis of my Department. Accordingly, I have no function in regard to day-to-day operational matters of Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Having said that, I understand from Údarás na Gaeltachta that the company in question is performing satisfactorily and that there is a process in place to secure a strategic partner to ensure the long-term future of the company and its stakeholders. I also understand that the position of local indigenous companies is a key criterion in the decision making process regarding the future of the company in question.

Commemorative Events

 414. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the plans that have been made to mark, on 13 November 2013, the centenary of the decision, taken at a meeting at Wynn's Hotel, Dublin 1, to establish the Irish Volunteers, fore-runner of the Irish National Army and of the present day Oglaigh na hÉireann / Defence Forces Ireland; if in particular the contribution of Bulmer Hobson, the Volunteers' first Secretary General / Quartermaster General and future historian of the volunteers, will be appropriately acknowledged; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3101/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The founding of the Irish Volunteers is among the historic events of 1913 that will feature in the commemorative programme this year. The arrangements for commemoration are currently under consideration and will include the Defence Forces. Contributing towards an enhanced understanding of the period, I feel that the imminent centenary anniversary presents a welcome opportunity to explore and acknowledge the role and actions of the founders.

Commemorative Events

 415. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan in view of the fact that the Republic declared on Easter Monday 1916 was declared by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the plans he has to research and publish information, in the context of the Bureau of Military History, or otherwise, on the membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood over the decade from the decision in August 1914 to stage a rising up to the dissolution of the IRB in March 1924; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3102/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The priority commitment of official archives and institutions in relation to research and publication of records will be to enhance access for scholars and the public, rather than to commission research. This is being achieved through occasional new releases of material and the digitisation of collections for online access.

I am confident that historical research will be assisted by the increased use of records arising from ongoing digitisation projects, as well as the production of additional finding aids and outreach initiatives, including lectures for historical groups and universities.


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