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 Header Item Written Answers Nos 110-134
 Header Item Home Care Packages Funding
 Header Item National Treatment Purchase Fund Waiting Times
 Header Item HSE Staff
 Header Item Accident and Emergency Departments
 Header Item Home Help Service Provision
 Header Item Hospital Appointments Administration
 Header Item Ambulance Service Provision
 Header Item Ambulance Service Provision
 Header Item Mental Health Services Staff
 Header Item UK Referendum on EU Membership
 Header Item National Treatment Purchase Fund Waiting Times
 Header Item Home Care Packages Funding
 Header Item Occupational Therapy
 Header Item National Drugs Strategy
 Header Item Disability Services Provision
 Header Item Mental Health Services Staff
 Header Item National Treatment Purchase Fund Waiting Times
 Header Item Health Services Staff Recruitment
 Header Item Inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge sa Státseirbhís
 Header Item Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements
 Header Item Citizens Assembly
 Header Item Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 925 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos 110-134

Home Care Packages Funding

 110. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans and the timeframe for dealing with the shortfall in the budget for home care packages that means that the HSE cannot provide supports for persons in need of home care in some areas and this situation has been the same since June 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30617/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am pleased to say that overall funding for services for older people has increased to €765 million in 2017 - an increase of €82 million since the HSE’s 2016 Service Plan. This has focused on additional funding for home care in particular and is aimed at allowing people to continue to live in their own homes and at facilitating discharge of older people from acute hospitals.

Since the Government took Office, we have significantly increased the funding available for home care. An additional €40m (including €10m as part of the forthcoming Winter initiative) already provided in 2016 represented an increase of over 13% in the total funding available, and means that the number of Home Care Packages provided this year will increase from 15,450 to 15,800 and home help hours from 10.4 million to 10.57 million.

The Winter Initiative will also provide another €1.4m for home care this year which will provide a further 650 Packages by year's end. These will be targeted at 10 specific hospitals to allow people to be discharged home quickly. Over 2016 the number of Home care Packages being provided will have increased by 1,000.

In 2017, €14.6m of the Winter Initiative will be to fund home care, and there will be another €3.8m to maintain existing levels of service and €10m for new developments. Details of the services to be provided with these funds will be set out in the coming weeks in the forthcoming HSE 2017 National Service Plan.

Demand for home care has increased significantly in recent years and this is a continuing trend. This is due to a number of factors including long-run demographic trends, an increased desire on the part of many older people to stay in their own homes and communities for as long as possible and continuing requirements to support discharges from acute hospitals. The resources available for home care came under severe pressure in recent years because of the wider economic environment, and this, coupled with the other factors that I have already mentioned means that we have a good deal of ground to make up. I think we have made a very substantive start to that process but it will take some time to get to where we would ideally want to be in terms of home care services.

National Treatment Purchase Fund Waiting Times

 111. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his views on the September 2016 figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund which showed that in excess of 5,000 children are waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment in the three children's hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30652/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris A key challenge for our health system is to ensure that patients have timely access to health services, in light of increasing demand. This Government is committed to a sustained focus on improving wait times, particularly for those waiting longest.

While the numbers on waiting lists are undoubtedly too high, the key issue is how long children are waiting. According to the September waiting list data published by the NTPF, 82% of children on the Children's Hospital Group waiting lists are waiting less than 12 months for their appointment and nearly 90% are waiting less than 15 months.

My Department works closely with the HSE and the NTPF to implement measures to reduce waiting times. At my request, in August, the HSE developed an action plan to reduce, by year end, the number of patients currently waiting 18 months or more for an impatient-day case procedure.

Also the NTPF is currently implementing an Endoscopy Initiative which aims to ensure that, by year end, no patient will be waiting 12 months or more for an endoscopy procedure.

Furthermore, €7m of the Winter Initiative funding is to be utilised to fund a targeted waiting list programme to provide treatment for patients waiting for orthopaedic, spinal and scoliosis procedures.

Finally, the Budget 2017 provides for the treatment of our longest-waiting patients. €20m is being allocated to the NTPF, rising to €55m in 2018. Planning of this initiative is at an advanced stage by the NTPF, my Department and the HSE.

In relation to the specific query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.

HSE Staff

 112. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the status of the restructuring of HSE management; the number of additional managerial posts that are being put in place in each hospital group and CHO; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30644/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly on this matter.

Accident and Emergency Departments

 113. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the measures that will be taken to address the persistent emergency department overcrowding in University Hospital Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30665/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.

Home Help Service Provision

 114. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the proposals in place to increase the number of home help hours in counties Cavan and Monaghan in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30675/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Appointments Administration

 115. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing cancellation of outpatient appointments for oncology services in Galway University Hospital; the explanation that has been offered by the Health Service Executive for these cancellations; the steps he will take to cease this practice in view of the vulnerability of the patients in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30395/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris My Department is aware that a number of outpatient oncology appointments have had to be rescheduled at University Hospital Galway. The HSE has advised that this is due to a high volume of patients listed for attendance at the Oncology/Haemotology day ward. The patients involved have been provided with rescheduled dates and every effort is being made to see all patients in a timely fashion.

Waiting list data published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund in September shows that 83% of all patients on the outpatient waiting lists for University Hospital Galway are waiting less than 12 months for their appointment and nearly 90% are waiting less than 15 months.

Also, the Budget for 2017 makes provision for the treatment of longest-waiting patients. A total of €20m is being allocated to the National Treatment Purchase Fund, rising to €55m in 2018. Planning of this initiative across all hospitals by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, my Department and the HSE is at an advanced stage.

Ambulance Service Provision

 116. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the status of the review of ambulance services in the mid-west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30695/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The National Ambulance Service has undergone a programme of modernisation in recent years and a number of significant service innovations and developments have taken place. These developments will continue in 2017 with increased funding which will be available to the National Ambulance Service for 2017.

With regard to the specific enquiry raised by the Deputy, as this is a service matter I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.

Ambulance Service Provision

 117. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the details of the proposed review of the provision of ambulance services in County Clare; if he will undertake that this review will not lead to a reduction in the number of National Ambulance Service vehicles in the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30671/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The National Ambulance Service has undergone a programme of modernisation in recent years and a number of significant service innovations and developments have taken place. These developments will continue in 2017 with increased funding which will be available to the National Ambulance Service for 2017.

With regard to the specific enquiry raised by the Deputy, as this is a service matter I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.

Mental Health Services Staff

 118. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the targets in place for child and adolescent mental health service teams staff levels in CHO 7 in 2017 to bring them closer to the target set in A Vision for Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30678/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As this is a service issue, this question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

UK Referendum on EU Membership

 119. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the papers his Department has put together on the implications of Brexit for cross-Border health co-operation; if he had any contact with his counterpart in the North outside of the NSMC on these issues; if he will be increasing frequency of contact on this in view of the fact the Brexit negotiation process is set to commence in March 2017; the number of whole-time equivalents that his Department assigned to work in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30498/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris My Department has built on initial work completed to undertake a full audit of the possible impacts, risks, opportunities and contingencies arising over the longer term as a result of the UK's decision to leave the EU, including in the area of cross-border health co-operation. This work is being conducted by a sub-committee of the Management Board set up to examine the potential consequences of a UK decision to leave the EU on healthcare in Ireland and for Irish citizens. This sub-committee is chaired at senior level and meets regularly, with each division within my Department providing support and analysis. In this way, work on Brexit-related issues is mainstreamed throughout the Department. The work of the Management Board sub-committee feeds into the Senior Officials Group on EU Affairs and the Interdepartmental Group on EU/UK Affairs, which are coordinated centrally by the Department of the Taoiseach.

The North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) Plenary in July provided an important opportunity for an initial strategic discussion between the Government and the NI Executive on the impact of the recent UK referendum. In order to optimise joint planning and engagement on key issues arising following the UK referendum result, the NSMC agreed to work together to ensure that Northern Ireland's interests are protected and advanced and the benefits of North/South co-operation are fully recognised in any new arrangements which emerge as regards the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union. NSMC ministerial sectorial meetings will provide an important forum for consideration of the strategic and cross-cutting issues arising from the UK referendum. The next NSMC Health and Food Safety ministerial sectorial meeting will take place in Armagh on 9 November 2016. Minister O'Neill and I will continue our consideration of the potential implications of the leave vote for North/South co-operation on the areas for which we have responsibility.

Regular contact with counterparts at political and official level will be maintained and intensified in advance of and throughout the Brexit negotiation process. There will also be continued engagement with parliamentarians throughout these islands through the work of the North South Inter-Parliamentary Association; the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

National Treatment Purchase Fund Waiting Times

 120. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his views on the September 2016 figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund which showed that 1,674 persons are waiting more than 18 months for an outpatient appointment in Cork University Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30658/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris A key challenge for our health system is to ensure that patients have timely access to health services, in light of increasing demand. This Government is committed to a sustained focus on improving wait times, particularly for those waiting longest.

While the numbers on waiting lists are undoubtedly too high, the key issue is how long people are waiting. According to the September waiting list data published by the NTPF, 80% of patients on the outpatient waiting lists for Cork University Hospital are waiting less than 12 months for their appointment and 88% are waiting less than 15 months.

My Department works closely with the HSE and the NTPF to implement measures to reduce waiting times. At my request, in August, the HSE developed an action plan to reduce, by year end, the number of patients currently waiting 18 months or more for an impatient-day case procedure.

Also the NTPF is currently implementing an Endoscopy Initiative which aims to ensure that, by year end, no patient will be waiting 12 months or more for an endoscopy procedure.

Furthermore, €7m of the Winter Initiative funding is to be utilised to fund a targeted waiting list programme to provide treatment for patients waiting for orthopaedic, spinal and scoliosis procedures.

Finally, the Budget 2017 provides for the treatment of our longest-waiting patients. €20m is being allocated to the NTPF, rising to €55m in 2018. Planning of this initiative is at an advanced stage by the NTPF, my Department and the HSE.

In relation to the specific query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.

Home Care Packages Funding

 121. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans to invest in home-based care to support and enable persons with dementia to remain living at home in budget 2017; and his views on whether an initial investment of at least €50 million plus in the budget is necessary which then must be built on year on year. [30294/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee Home care services are critical to allow older people, including people with dementia, to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. They can also provide respite to carers and support them in their caring role. I am pleased to say that overall funding for services for older people has increased to €765 million in 2017 - an increase of €82 million since the HSE's 2016 Service Plan. This has focused on additional funding for home care in particular and is aimed at allowing people to continue to live in their own homes and at facilitating discharge of older people from acute hospitals. A significant proportion of those availing of home care services are people with dementia.

Since the Government took Office, we have significantly increased the funding available for home care. An additional €40m (including €10m as part of the forthcoming Winter initiative) already provided in 2016 represented an increase of over 13% in the total funding available, and means that the number of Home Care Packages provided this year increase from 15,450 to 15,800 and home help hours from 10.4 million to 10.57 million.

The Winter Initiative will also provide another €1.4m for home care this year which will provide a further 650 Packages by year's end. These will be targeted at 10 specific hospitals to allow people to be discharged home quickly. Over 2016 the number of Home care Packages being provided will have increased by 1,000.

In 2017, €14.6m of the Winter Initiative will be to fund home care, and there will be another €3.8m to maintain existing levels of service and €10m for new developments. Details of the services to be provided with these funds will be set out in the coming weeks in the forthcoming HSE 2017 National Service Plan.

The Implementation Programme, co-funded by the HSE and the Atlantic Philanthropies, which accompanies the Irish National Dementia Strategy, includes the provision of Intensive Home Care Packages for people with dementia valued at €22.1 million. To date 133 people living with dementia have benefitted at an average cost of €1,000 per package per week and 71 people are currently in receipt of such a package. Up to 500 people with dementia and their families are expected to benefit from Intensive Home Care Packages over the lifetime of the Implementation Programme.

These Dementia-Specific Intensive Home Care Packages, together with mainstream home help and standard packages, will facilitate people with dementia whose needs have been assessed as requiring these supports to remain in their own homes and communities in accordance with the objectives of the National Dementia Strategy.

Occupational Therapy

 122. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the action that will be taken to reduce waiting times for children needing occupational therapy in counties Laois and Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30669/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to a decisive shift within the health service towards primary care in order to deliver better care close to home in communities across the country. Occupational Therapy has, as one of its core values, the principle of enabling people to remain in their own homes and communities.

I can advise the Deputy that the HSE National Therapy Service Review Group will address waiting lists in Occupational Therapy as a joint project across the Primary Care and Social Care Divisions. This will include a detailed analysis of waiting times and resource deployment across the country. The Group will consult with the professional bodies and other stakeholders with the aim of having better access to services and a standardised approach to the delivery of Occupational Therapy services across the country.

I am confident that the review will have a positive impact on the future delivery of Occupational Therapy services throughout the country.

As this question relates to occupational therapy service matters in Laois and Offaly, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

National Drugs Strategy

 123. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the additional funding that is being provided for the drugs strategy in 2017; the targets the funds are expected to deliver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30657/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne On 12 October 2016, I announced the allocation of an additional €3m in the 2017 Budget to increase support for interventions aimed at improving the health outcomes of the most vulnerable in our society, including Traveller and Roma communities, those affected by addiction issues, those experiencing homelessness and asylum seekers and refugees.

The additional funding will also be used to support the establishment of a pilot supervised injecting facility in Dublin city centre during 2017. Legislation is being drafted to allow for the establishment and licensing of supervised injecting facilities by the Minister for Health. Drafting is at advanced stage and it is intended to publish the Bill during the current Dáil session.

I also intend to use the additional funding to address my other key priorities, which include increasing the availability of buprenorphine/naloxone treatment, as an alternative treatment, for the identified cohorts of patients for whom methadone treatment is not suitable; addressing gaps in addiction service provision for under 18s and providing more detox places in community and residential settings next year.

As the Deputy will be aware, a Steering Committee, with an independent chair, has been established to advise me on a new National Drugs Strategy, which will take effect in 2017, when the current policy expires. I expect to receive a report from the Steering Committee early in the New Year. Minister Harris and I intend to develop and bring to Government a proposal for multi-annual investment in drugs as part of the memorandum for Government on the new Strategy.

Disability Services Provision

 124. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans to improve disability services for children in counties Laois and Offaly. [30296/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services Staff

 125. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the targets in place for child and adolescent mental health service teams staff levels in CHO 5 in 2017 to bring them closer to the target set in A Vision for Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30660/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As this is a service issue, this question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

  Question No. 126 answered with Question No. 62.

National Treatment Purchase Fund Waiting Times

 127. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his views on the September 2016 figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund which showed that 1,137 persons are waiting more than 12 months for an outpatient appointment in Cavan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30674/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris A key challenge for our health system is to ensure that patients have timely access to health services, in light of increasing demand. This Government is committed to a sustained focus on improving wait times, particularly for those waiting longest.

While the numbers on waiting lists are undoubtedly too high, the key issue is how long people are waiting. According to the September waiting list data published by the NTPF, 86% of patients on the outpatient waiting lists for Cavan Hospital are waiting less than 12 months for their appointment and nearly 95% are waiting less than 15 months.

My Department works closely with the HSE and the NTPF to implement measures to reduce waiting times. At my request, in August, the HSE developed an action plan to reduce, by year end, the number of patients currently waiting 18 months or more for an impatient-day case procedure.

Also the NTPF is currently implementing an Endoscopy Initiative which aims to ensure that, by year end, no patient will be waiting 12 months or more for an endoscopy procedure.

Furthermore, €7m of the Winter Initiative funding is to be utilised to fund a targeted waiting list programme to provide treatment for patients waiting for orthopaedic, spinal and scoliosis procedures.

Finally, the Budget 2017 provides for the treatment of our longest-waiting patients. €20m is being allocated to the NTPF, rising to €55m in 2018. Planning of this initiative is at an advanced stage by the NTPF, my Department and the HSE.

In relation to the specific query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.

Health Services Staff Recruitment

 128. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if he envisages difficulties in recruiting additional nurses and midwives that have been outlined in the budget speech of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in view of the inferior terms and conditions for new nurses and midwives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30838/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris It is recognised that recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives is a significant issue at present. This is due to a range of factors including intense competition globally and from private providers for nurses due to a world wide shortage and the international standing of public nurses trained in Ireland, working conditions and lifestyle choices. I am committed to making terms and conditions for all nurses and midwives working in the Irish public health system as attractive as possible.

A number of specific measures have also been taken in relation to pay that will support the recruitment and retention of Irish nursing and midwifery graduates. Measures to date include the first stage of pay restoration under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, additional pay in return for taking on some duties from doctors and an increase in the rate of pay for the student nursing placement to 70% of the first point of the staff nurse pay scale.

In the past week the Government has approved restoration of incremental credit for all nurses in respect of the 36 week clinical placement undertaken by 4th year student nurses in the context of the 2017 Estimates. This decision means that all nurses and midwives will have incremental credit for the 36 week placement restored from 1 January 2017, restoration of the credit to 2016 and future graduates having been approved earlier this year. It is estimated that the inclusion of 2011 to 2015 graduates will benefit around 4,000 nurses who are currently working within the public health service and potentially another 3,000 who may wish to return to the public system in the future.

The HSE is offering permanent posts to 2016 degree programme graduates, and full time permanent contracts to those in temporary posts. The HSE is also focused on converting agency staffing to permanent posts. The HSE's National Recruitment Service is actively operating rolling nursing recruitment campaigns. The campaigns encompass General, Mental Health, Intellectual Disability and Registered Children's Nurses, and also Midwives. In addition, a relocation package of up to €1,500 is available to nurses who return from overseas.

There has been increase of 1,163 nurses employed in the public health service (34,375 to 35,538) from August 2014 to August 2016, numbers having fallen by almost 4,600 from 2007 to 2014. The total budget for the health service in 2017 is €14.6 billion, the highest ever health budget, and this will allow for the filling of an additional 1,000 nursing posts.

  Question No. 129 withdrawn.

Inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge sa Státseirbhís

 130. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín den Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar cad é an líon daoine a bhfuil cumas feidhmeach acu sa Ghaeilge agus atá ag obair ina Roinn. [30062/16]

 131. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín den Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar an bhfuil sprioc leagtha amach maidir le líon daoine a bhfuil cumas feidhmeach acu sa Ghaeilge a bheith ag obair sa Roinn de réir reachtaíochta agus an bhfuil an sprioc sin bainte amach go fóill. [30063/16]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 130 agus 131 le chéile.

Ba cheart a thabhairt ar aird go mbaineann formhór obair mo Roinne leis an Rialtas, le Ranna Rialtais agus le Gníomhaireachtaí eile Rialtais. Mar thoradh air sin, ní bhíonn aon éileamh mór ag an bpobal ar ár gcuid seirbhísí i nGaeilge.

É sin ráite, aithníonn mo Roinnse an tábhacht atá le roinnt ball foirne a bheith sa Roinn atá líofa sa Ghaeilge agus atá in ann seirbhísí a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Go deimhin, deirtear i gCairt Chustaiméirí mo Roinne go ndéanfar freastal ar chustaiméirí ar mian leo a ngnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Tá curtha in iúl ag roinnt ball foirne atá ag obair i mo Roinn go bhfuil siad inniúil sa Ghaeilge agus go bhfuil siad in ann leibhéil éagsúla seirbhíse a chur ar fáil do chustaiméirí trí Ghaeilge. Tá cúigear ball foirne sainaitheanta chun an tseirbhís seo a chur ar fáil.

Ag teacht le beartas an Rialtais, sonraítear i Scéim Teangacha Oifigiúla mo Roinne 2016-2019 (faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla) dhá Phost a bhfuil Gaeilge ag teastáil ina leith - ceann amháin i m'Oifig Phríobháideach agus ceann eile i bPreas-Oifig an Rialtais. Tá an dá phost líonta faoi láthair.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

 132. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the details and outcomes of his discussion with a person (details supplied) following their meeting last week. [30446/16]

 137. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on his recent meeting with European Commissioner, Michel Barnier; if Commissioner Barnier appreciates the special difficulties of Ireland with regard to an exit by the UK from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30875/16]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 137 together.

I welcomed the European Commission's Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier, to Government Buildings on 12 October.

Mr. Barnier's visit to Dublin was one of a series of engagements with EU capitals, in order to prepare for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. Our discussions were timely, especially given the recent indication by Prime Minister May that she will trigger Article 50 no later than March next year. During his visit, Mr Barnier also met with the Tánaiste; the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Minister for European Affairs, as well as senior officials.

Mr. Barnier, who took office as Head of the European Commission's Brexit Taskforce on 1 October, will lead the EU's technical negotiations with the UK.

This process will advance under the political guidance of EU Heads of State or Government at the European Council, once the UK Government has formally triggered Article 50.

My exchange with Mr Barnier was open and constructive. He is well-known to us in Ireland, given his various roles at national and at EU levels. Consequently he has a nuanced appreciation of our close historical, political and economic ties with the UK.

During our discussions, I took the opportunity to emphasise and explain in some detail Ireland's unique set of concerns arising from Brexit, in relation to Northern Ireland, the peace process, and citizenship issues; the Common Travel Area and border issues; and the depth of our economic and trade relationship with the UK. We also spoke about Ireland's strong support for EU membership and our commitment to play a full part in the negotiations process. In this context, I briefed Mr. Barnier about the various strands of work which are advancing here at political and official levels to prepare Ireland to the maximum extent possible for the period ahead.

Given the critical role of Mr. Barnier and the Commission, it was also useful to hear his thoughts about the process and how negotiations might be handled in the next, critical phase.

I assured Mr. Barnier that we looked forward to working closely with the Commission team in the months ahead and we agreed to stay in close contact.

Citizens Assembly

 133. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the schedule of topics to be discussed at the upcoming Citizens Assembly and, specifically, when the discussion regarding the eighth amendment is expected to take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30549/16]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Dáil and Seanad Éireann passed a Resolution in July approving the establishment of the Citizens' Assembly with a mandate to look at the following issues:

  (i)   the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution

  (ii) how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population;

  (iii) fixed term parliaments;

  (iv) the manner in which referenda are held; and

  (v) how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.

  The Assembly will also be asked to consider such other matters as may be referred to it.

  The Resolution provides that the Assembly will make a report on each item to the Houses of the Oireachtas, that its first report will be on item (i), the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, and that it will report on each remaining item not later than one year from the date of its first meeting.

  The Assembly is chaired by a Supreme Court Judge, Ms Justice Laffoy, and operates independently of the Government and will report directly to the Houses of the Oireachtas. It decides on all matters relating to its operation, including its rules and procedures, the timing of its meetings and, subject to the Resolution passed by the Houses, the prioritisation of its work programme.

  The inaugural meeting of the Assembly took place last Saturday, 15 October and I understand it will meet again on the last weekend in November, at which time it will begin its consideration of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

 134. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny his plans for bilateral meetings with other Heads of Government in the period up to end-March 2017. [30718/16]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will meet the President of Cyprus today Tuesday 18 October as part of his State visit to Ireland. I will meet with the Prime Minister of Malta next month.

  While there are proposals for meetings with other Heads of Government, there are no other confirmed meetings in my diary at this point.


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