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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 62-70
 Header Item Departmental Legal Costs
 Header Item Public Sector Staff Redundancies
 Header Item Flood Prevention Measures
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Funding
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Funding
 Header Item Croke Park Agreement Savings
 Header Item Banking Inquiry

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 804 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 70 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 62-70

Departmental Legal Costs

 62. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his views on whether sufficient progress is being made in reducing the State's legal bill in his Department and any State agencies under his aegis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25165/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Legal fees incurred by the State, in defending cases which are brought to court, are generally not met directly by my Department. In accordance with financial procedures in cases involving damages or compensation against the State, costs are generally charged to the Chief State Solicitor's Office Vote as sanctioned by the Attorney General. If expenditure on legal matters does arise it is continuously monitored in the same manner as all expenditure to ensure the most efficient use of exchequer funds.

Public Sector Staff Redundancies

 63. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin his views on a query (details supplied) regarding redundancies in the public sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24798/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin As the Deputy is aware this Government is committed to developing a leaner, more efficient Public Service. To this end, we agreed on 2 October 2012 to accelerate the reduction in Public Service numbers in order to achieve the previous end 2015 target of 282,500 by end 2014 instead.

Greater efficiencies in the way the Public Service is going about its business means that some posts have been identified by Departments as surplus. Where surplus staff cannot be redeployed, Voluntary Redundancy can now be used. Initially Voluntary Redundancy is being rolled out in three areas – the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and specific parts of the Health and Education Sectors. These Departments have estimated that there will be scope to effect about 2,000 exits from these areas over time, mainly from back office and support areas and management and administrative grades. How this estimated number of exits translates into actual savings over the next few years will be determined by a number of variables including the take-up rate among staff in the targeted areas, their number and grade mix, timing of departure, etc., information on which will not become apparent until the scheme is offered to the effected staff.

Analysis by my Department estimates that for every 1,000 employees who opt to participate in a voluntary redundancy programme there will be a gross cost of approximately €109 million. The gross payroll savings for 1,000 employees will amount to €57 million every year. Therefore the initial cost of 1,000 employees leaving would be recouped in two years. Further savings will be realised in the future when these employees reach retirement age, because of their reduced pension entitlements. A more definitive estimate of the cost of the scheme will emerge as the relevant Departments determine the precise areas and numbers to be targeted for VR.

Flood Prevention Measures

 64. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if the Office of Public Works proposes to carry out works on the Bulkawn River, Ballinrobe, County Mayo, due to the amount of land in this area that is flooding on a regular basis and causing great inconvenience to persons in the area; if remedial works will be carried out at two pinch points on the river namely at the Sportlann in Ballinrobe and at the concrete dam west of the Neale road bridge, which needs to be lowered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24912/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The area in question is a limestone area with a high water table and therefore wet land is characteristic of the area. The Office of Public Works carries out maintenance works on the channel at this location, as it is a maintainable watercourse under the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act. The OPW has committed to carry out extensive weed cutting in the channel three times per year, subject to resources being available. It has also committed to removing 150mm from the weir (west of the Neale road bridge) this summer, subject to consent from all interested parties. The OPW intends to assess the pinch point alongside the hotel on the Kilmaine Road with the view to removing any obstructions to flow if practical.

EU Directives

 65. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if there have been any EU Directives signed into Irish law which alter responsibility for coastal protection. [24927/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The Office of Public Works is not aware of any EU Directives signed into Irish law which alter responsibility for coastal protection.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

 66. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will provide a special fund to address and alleviate the flooding that is occurring in a housing estate (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24930/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes Kenmare has been designated as an Area for Further Assessment (AFA) under the South West Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (SWCFRAM) study, currently underway. This is an in-depth examination of the flood risk in the main river catchments in the South West region. A detailed plan with specific recommendations on measures to manage that risk will be produced by consultants, Mott McDonald Ireland.

The problem of flooding in Kenmare generally, including Scarteen Park, is being assessed to a high level to identify the risks. Draft flood maps will be available in early 2014 and these will be subject to full public consultation. All feasible options for alleviation of flood risk will be identified. In the meantime it is open to Kerry County Council to submit an application for funding to the OPW under the Minor Works and Coastal Protection Scheme in relation to the flooding problem in the housing estate. All requests for funding will be assessed in accordance with the scheme's criteria and having regard to the availability of funding.

Proposed Legislation

 67. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin further to Parliamentary Question No. 142 of 16 May 2013 regarding the proposed Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill, if he will clarify the current legislative position regarding communications and privilege for papers, emails and documents sent, received and held by members of the Houses of the Oireachtas and their staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24932/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Government, at its meeting on 14 May 2013, approved the publication of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013. The Bill provides for a statutory qualified privilege for private papers of Members and official documents of the Houses. These provisions are intended to apply in all circumstances and are not restricted to inquiries carried out under the Bill. The Bill also provides for a qualified privilege for confidential communication from members of the public to Members of the Oireachtas.

Currently there is no general statutory underpinning for privilege attaching to private papers of Members or communications with Members. Section 17 of the Defamation Act 2009 provides absolute privilege in relation to certain statements made in the Houses, or committees appointed by either House, or both Houses, and in relation to certain reports containing such statements.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

 68. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin further to previous Parliamentary Questions in respect of homes that have been and are at risk of flooding from the Cullavaw river in Rathmore, County Kerry, if he will now make the necessary funding available to protect the homes of those families that are at risk; if officials from the Office of Public Works have investigated the problem on the ground; the action he will take to ensure that the OPW carry out emergency works to avoid further flooding incidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24939/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes As stated in replies to previous questions on this matter, the Office of Public Works has no responsibility for the maintenance of the river concerned. However, the OPW and Kerry County Council engineers are shortly to visit this location to assess its suitability for an application for funding under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme. Any application received will be assessed under the eligibility criteria for the scheme, which include a requirement that any measures are cost beneficial, and having regard to the overall availability of funding.

Croke Park Agreement Savings

 69. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if his Department is no longer seeking savings of €300 million on the public sector pay and pensions bill during the remainder of 2013; the required savings now for 2013; the impact any reduction in the required savings may have on the budget deficit targets for 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24967/13]

 71. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the extent to which he expects to achieve the targets identified by the Troika as set out in the Croke Park Agreement and its current revision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25000/13]

 72. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the extent to which he remains satisfied that projected savings in public expenditure remain achievable in the context of the current review of the Croke Park Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25001/13]

 73. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will indicate whether in the context of discussions taking place at the LRC with his Department, he expects to continue to meet the targets set out by his predecessors with the Troika; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25002/13]

 74. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the extent to which agreement in principle is likely to be reached in the course of current discussions in respect of achieving savings throughout the public sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25003/13]

 78. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the extent to which ongoing discussions are taking place with various groups in the public sector in the context of the revision of the Croke Park Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25007/13]

 80. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will indicate whether all targets identified under the Croke Park Agreement and approved by his predecessors in office remain fully achievable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25009/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I propose to take Questions Nos. 69, 71 to 74, inclusive and 78 and 80 together.

  The Government is determined to achieve €300m in savings this year and €1bn by 2015 in the public service pay and pensions bill to ensure that it meets its fiscal targets and restores the public finances to a sustainable position. These savings are in addition to the savings enabled by the original framework of the Public Service (or Croke Park) Agreement 2010-2014. The deputy will be aware that the Government’s preference is to secure these savings on a negotiated basis.

  On foot of the rejection by the Public Services Committee of ICTU, of the LRC proposals negotiated in February of this year, the Government had asked the Chief Executive of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), Mr. Kieran Mulvey, to initiate discussions with various public sector unions and representative associations on whether or not there was a basis for a negotiated agreement for achieving the necessary savings. Mr. Mulvey and his team have been engaged in intensive discussions with the parties over recent weeks and he has kept me fully informed of developments. Those discussions concluded on Monday last, and unions now have draft proposals for agreement for consideration under their own rules and procedures.

  The Government is pleased with the outcome of the LRC process and I would like to thank all those involved in the talks, particularly the LRC who facilitated the discussions. It provides us with an opportunity to achieve the necessary savings; to afford the protection of a collective agreement to public servants and to provide industrial peace in the public service at a crucial time for our economy. The essential elements and protections of the existing Public Service Agreement will also remain in place and industrial peace in the public service can be secured at a critical time in our path to economic recovery.

  Also today I have published legislation to give effect to the pay reduction for those earning over €65,000, the parallel reduction in public service pensions and other contingent measures to enable the Government achieve its savings requirements in the event of non-ratification of collective agreements. Ireland has successfully concluded the tenth review mission of our EU-IMF Programme which was completed on 2nd May 2013. In line with each of the previous quarterly reviews, Ireland has met its commitments and our continued strong programme implementation has been recognized by the Troika.

  In relation to the existing Public Service Agreement, the Implementation Body, which is charged with driving the implementation of the Agreement has carried out two annual reviews of the Agreement to date. These reviews have found that approximately €1.5bn in savings has been facilitated by the Agreement during its first two years, comprising of €810m and €678m in sustainable pay bill and non-pay (efficiency) savings respectively.

  The reports of the Body also show that significant reforms have been delivered across the sectors of the public service, including for example: 1. Extensive redeployment and reassignment of staff, for example in the health and education sectors. 2. Progress on rationalising structures and office requirements, for example Department of Agriculture and Revenue local offices, court venues and Teagasc offices. 3. Introduction of revised rosters, for example in An Garda Síochána and health service locations to better match resources with demands. 4. Local authorities have changed structures, the way in which services are delivered and the way staff are organized and deployed in order to manage the significant reduction in staff in the sector, as approximately 8,500 have left the sector since 2008.

  The Implementation Body is currently completing the third annual review of the Agreement which will assess the level of savings achieved and progress on implementing the reform commitments under the framework of that Agreement during the relevant period. I expect to receive the Body’s Report shortly.

Banking Inquiry

 70. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if any decision has been taken on the holding of a banking inquiry; his views on this matter; when a decision is expected to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24968/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin As the Deputy will be aware, the Government, at its meeting on 14th May 2013, approved the publication of the text of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013. The aim of this Bill is to establish a comprehensive statutory framework for the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries within the current constitutional parameters.

As is evident from the text of the Bill, the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013 envisages a central role for the Oireachtas in both initiating and conducting a parliamentary inquiry. Under the Bill, responsibility is assigned exclusively to the Houses of the Oireachtas to determine the requirement for a formal inquiry, the terms of reference of that inquiry, the appropriate committee to conduct an inquiry and the procedural and organisational aspects of the inquiry.


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