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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 114-138
 Header Item Foreign Policy
 Header Item Foreign Policy
 Header Item Passport Applications Refusals
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Brexit Negotiations
 Header Item VAT Rate Application
 Header Item Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Reports
 Header Item Banking Sector
 Header Item Employment Investment Incentive Scheme Data
 Header Item Tax Code
 Header Item Foreign Earnings Deduction
 Header Item Knowledge Development Box
 Header Item Tax Reliefs Costs
 Header Item Tax Credits
 Header Item Duty Free Sales
 Header Item Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears
 Header Item Public Sector Allowances
 Header Item Garda Stations
 Header Item Garda Station Closures
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service Data
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service Administration
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service Data
 Header Item School Curriculum

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 975 No. 6

First Page Previous Page Page of 85 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 114-138

Foreign Policy

 114. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of the political situation in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49740/18]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As it stands, the political situation in Sri Lanka remains uncertain and is still evolving. President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to replace Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with a new appointee, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and to dissolve the parliament has led to protests across the country. The decision to dissolve parliament has since been suspended by the Supreme Court until 7th December. We have been closely monitoring these recent political developments in Sri Lanka, which have received extensive international media coverage. Current events are a test of Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions and it is important for Sri Lanka to find a solution that is respectful of the country’s constitution and also avoids violence and provocation.

Officials in my Department, including at the Embassy of Ireland in New Delhi, which is also accredited to Sri Lanka, continue to monitor closely the situation as it develops. I have asked that Ireland’s Ambassador in New Delhi keep me updated on the situation.

Foreign Policy

 115. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will report on the political situation in Brazil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49742/18]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Mr. Jair Bolsonaro was elected as President of Brazil on 28 October 2018 and will be inaugurated on 1 January next year. Officials in my Department in Dublin, at our Embassy in Brasília, and at our Consulate-General in São Paulo followed the election process closely, and have continued to monitor political developments since, including proposals the incoming Government is considering once it takes office next year. Brazil is Latin America’s largest democracy and I note that, according to the head of the OAS election observation mission, former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, the election took place in a peaceful manner and citizens were able to exercise their democratic right to vote. Ireland takes a keen interest in the region, and Ireland and Brazil have a longstanding and warm relationship. Brazil is an important partner of Ireland in a number of areas, including on multilateral issues, such as disarmament and non-proliferation, and is our second largest trading partner in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Brazilians are the sixth largest non-Irish group in our population, with nearly 16,000 Brazilians living in Ireland in 2016.

Brazil is currently in a period of transition, and I welcome early indications from the President-elect that he will govern in strict accordance with the Brazilian constitution. It is important to note that the full plan for the new government will not be clear until after President-elect Bolsonaro and his new administration assume office on 1 January 2019. While we have taken note of statements made by the President-elect and Ministers-designate, it will be some time before official government policy becomes apparent.

Ireland will continue to monitor developments closely, engaging with the outgoing and incoming administrations, our EU and other partners in Brazil. I look forward to building and strengthening our relationship with Brazil in the years to come.

Passport Applications Refusals

 116. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason a person (details supplied) has been refused an Irish passport; if he will review the appeal that has been subsequently lodged; if there is an avenue through which this person can secure an Irish passport without having to engage in the naturalisation process; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [49762/18]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008. The Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him/her. Entitlement to Irish citizenship is in turn determined by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, under which and in general, Irish citizenship may be obtained by birth, by descent, or by naturalisation. I am advised by the Passport Service that the application form submitted in respect of this person’s application selected post nuptial citizenship as the category of citizenship to which the person belonged. In order to meet the requirement of the Passports Act 2008, each person must demonstrate an entitlement to Irish citizenship by providing acceptable documentary evidence of this entitlement. Post nuptial citizenship was repealed with effect from 30 November 2005. The Passport Service will accept a valid post-nuptial certificate as evidence of citizenship if this post nuptial certificate was awarded prior to November 30 2005. Currently, there is no provision for the spouse of an Irish citizen to acquire Irish citizenship solely by virtue of marriage and there is no provision to apply for post nuptial citizenship retrospectively. Spouses of Irish citizens without any other claim to Irish citizenship (such as, for example, citizenship by descent) may apply for naturalisation if they wish to establish Irish citizenship. Naturalisation comes under the auspices of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service within the Department of Justice and Equality. Details of how to apply for citizenship through naturalisation can be found at their website www.inis.gov.ie

The Passport Service has been in correspondence with the person in question with regard to the requirements which need to be fulfilled for their application to resume. No formal appeals, as outlined by section 19 of the Passports Act 2008, have been lodged with the Passport Service in respect of this application. The appeals procedure does not apply where a passport application has been refused on the basis that the entitlement to citizenship has not been demonstrated.

Brexit Issues

 117. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the UK will cease to be a member state of the EU at the end of March 2019 even if a withdrawal treaty is ratified and a transition period to the end of 2020 comes into effect.  [49781/18]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy’s understanding is correct.On 29 March 2017, Prime Minister May notified the President of the European Council, Mr Donald Tusk, of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. Under the terms of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties will cease to apply to the UK, which will therefore cease to be a Member State of the EU, at 11.00 pm British time on 29 March 2019. This will occur irrespective of whether or not a Withdrawal Agreement has been concluded between the Union and the United Kingdom The Withdrawal Agreement, endorsed by the European Council on 25 November, sets out the terms under which the UK’s withdrawal will happen in an orderly manner. It must now be approved by the European Parliament and the House of Commons before its final conclusion.

The Agreement provides for a period of transition, up to December 2020, during which EU rules and regulations will continue to apply to the UK, though the UK will no longer be a Member State and will not be represented in the Union’s institutions. It allows for the possibility of a single extension of the transition period of “one or two years.”

The transition period will allow for the negotiation of an agreement on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. The framework for that relationship is set out in the Political Declaration adopted by the European Council on 25 November.

It is our very strong hope that the Withdrawal Agreement will come into effect on 29 March 2019.

Brexit Negotiations

 118. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the outcome of the recent European Council meeting in relation to the British withdrawal agreement with the EU with particular reference to the need to ensure the free movement of persons, goods and services on the island of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49832/18]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The European Council (Article 50) on Sunday 25 November formally endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement, approved the Political Declaration on the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK, and thanked Michel Barnier for his efforts over the course of the negotiations. The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which forms an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement, contains several commitments and assurances regarding the Good Friday Agreement, North-South cooperation and the all-island economy. It also confirms that the UK and Ireland can continue to make arrangements between themselves in relation to the Common Travel Area, whereby Irish and British can live, work, study, and access healthcare, social security and public services in each other’s jurisdictions.

It ensures that there can be no re-emergence of a hard border on the island under any circumstances. Under the‘backstop’, should it be required after the period of transition, the UK and the EU will establish a single customs territory. This will involve no tariffs or quotas, and includes well established rules to ensure a level playing field. Northern Ireland would remain aligned to those rules of the Single Market that are indispensable to avoiding a hard border.

To facilitate this – and to ensure that there can be no unfair competitive advantage – the Agreement also provides that, if the backstop is invoked, rules to ensure a level playing field in areas such as environment, state aid, and labour standards will apply.

The Political Declaration which establishes the framework for the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, makes clear the determination of both sides to achieve an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership. As part of this future relationship, it is also the intention of the UK and the EU to establish alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border on a permanent footing.

While the Withdrawal Agreement has been endorsed by the European Council, significant steps still need to be taken. The European Parliament must also provide its consent. The UK must ratify the Agreement according to its own constitutional arrangements.

VAT Rate Application

 119. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe his views on the Revenue Commissioners’ decision to seek the imposition of a 23% VAT rate on a majority of food supplements; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [49776/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Currently, the standard rate of VAT applies to food supplements. However, there is a Revenue concession which allows the zero rate to be applied to certain types of food supplements (vitamins, minerals and fish oils). The practice of zero rating vitamins, minerals and fish oil food supplements has been applied since the introduction of VAT in November 1972 when the marketplace for food supplements was small. However, this concession is proving to be extremely problematic.

Elements of the food supplement industry has made a sustained challenge to the application of the standard rate of VAT to a range of food supplements. There are concerns that while elements of the industry apply the correct rates, others have a competitive advantage by applying the zero rate to products that are properly liable at the 23% VAT rate. Their argument is generally that the products concerned are similar and compete with other products that are zero rated.

There has been protracted correspondence on the issues raised which has raised concerns regarding possible non-compliance in the sector, in particular the zero rating of products that should be standard rated which may result in a degree of unfair competition between compliant and non-compliant businesses.

Revenue’s position is that food supplements are not food and, as such, are not entitled under VAT law to the zero rate of VAT; therefore, the standard rate of VAT applies. The concession in relation to vitamins and the like is proving unworkable as the industry seeks to use the concession to achieve a zero rating for much of the product range in the sector.

After consultations between Revenue, Department of Health and my Department concerning policy options that might be considered in the context of Budget 2019, reservations were expressed by the Department of Health as to the implications a change might may have on the promotion of food supplements in certain circumstances. For these reasons, I decided not to make any changes in this year’s Budget and Finance Bill. However, I have asked my officials to address this matter in the context of the Tax Strategy Group next year.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Reports

 120. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the actions he has taken on foot of the five recommendations of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in its report Personal Contract Plans: the Irish Market of 6 March 2018 as they relate to his Department. [49675/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Following the publication of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) report on Personal Contract Plans (PCPs) and the Central Bank of Ireland "Economic Letter" overview of the Irish PCP market last March, I commissioned Mr. Michael Tutty , a former Second Secretary General in the Department of Finance and Chairman of the Commission for Energy Regulation to conduct a review of the current PCP market and, in particular, to consider the adequacy of the existing consumer protection regulations framework in respect of such financial agreements. As part of his work process, Mr. Tutty considered both the CCPC and the Central Bank documents (including the recommendations contained in the CCPC report), as well as directly consulting both public bodies and some other relevant bodies.

  Mr. Tutty subsequently completed his review and submitted his report which contained his conclusions and recommendations - this report has now been published on the Department of Finance website https://www.finance.gov.ie/updates/minister-darcy-announces-governments-intention-in-respect-of-review-of-personal-contract-plan-market-and-regulatory-structure/.

  In overall terms, the Tutty report found that there is currently no evidence of consumer detriment arising from PCPs; nevertheless, it also found that there is a risk, that certain potential problems could arise at a future point and that it would be prudent to address such matters at this point before possible problems materialize. Among the key conclusions contained in the Tutty report is that clarification should be obtained on the precise legal status of PCPs and that relevant provisions of the Central Bank Consumer Protection Code, in particular the requirement to check the financial capacity of consumers, should apply to such financial agreements. I consider that the report's recommendations are worthy of adoption and that they will improve the level of consumer protection in relation to PCPs. Accordingly, I have asked my Department to liaise closely with the Central Bank, the Attorney General's Office and the CCPC with a view to implementing the report's conclusions, and this process has now commenced.

Banking Sector

 121. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the progress that has been made in establishing a banking culture board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49741/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe As I have stated previously and to clarify for the Deputy, the Irish Banking Culture Board is a private initiative from the banking industry in Ireland aimed at rebuilding trust and confidence in the industry following the tracker mortgage scandal, and as such it is not within the remit of my Department nor the Central Bank as regulator.

It is intended that the Irish Banking Culture Board will be an independently led entity to ensure that the industry is focused on the best interests of the customer and leads to a sustainable banking industry that promotes the highest standards of behaviour and professionalism.

I have been informed by representatives of the five main lenders that over the next 12 months, the search for an independent Chairperson will be concluded, the wider Board will be appointed, and there will be an initial culture survey and a stakeholder consultation process.

The initiative does not seek to replace or diminish existing regulation and will be run out of a separate entity to the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) and the banks. The establishment costs and annual running costs will be funded by the retail banks themselves. The Board will not act as a lobbying or representative organisation. It will not act as a regulatory body nor duplicate the work of individual banks or the regulator.

Again I will reiterate that I welcome this initiative by the banks to regain the trust of customers, but it is no substitute for regulation. To that end, my officials have been working with the Central Bank on policies to be addressed in a forthcoming Central Bank (Amendment) Bill.

Employment Investment Incentive Scheme Data

 122. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the number of participants in the employment and investment incentive scheme in each of the years 2011 to 2017 and to date in 2018 in tabular form. [49764/18]

 123. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the estimated cost in a full year based on latest data at hand of adapting the employment and investment incentive by measures (details supplied) in tabular form, [49765/18]

 124. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the estimated cost in a full year based on latest data at hand of adapting the employment and investment incentive by a proposal (details supplied) in tabular form. [49766/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 to 124, inclusive, together.

  As EII is a tax relief designed to assist companies raise risk equity financing, I assume that when referring to participants, the Deputy is referring to companies who raised funds under the EII scheme. I am advised by Revenue that details of the companies who are approved under EII and SURE are published on the Revenue website:

https://www.revenue.ie/en/starting-a-business/documents/bes-scs-shares.csv.   

  This was last updated in September 2018. The number of companies which issued shares during the years 2011 to 2018, and which have been approved by Revenue as Qualifying Companies are:

Year No. of companies Amount raised in year
2011 322 €42m
2012 314 €43m
2013 417 €59m
2014 501 €85m
2015 496 €104m
2016 361 €111m
2017* 87 €23m
2018** 3 €2m


   * This table is based on the data as at 1 September 2018. Companies which issued shares in 2017 and were approved after that date are not included in the above analysis.

  ** Companies which issued shares in 2018 will not generally apply for Revenue approval until 2019.

  With regards to enabling individual investors with tax relief of 30% in respect of investments of up to: €250,000, €500,000, €750,000, €1 million, €1.25 million; €1.5 million; €1.75 million; €2 million per annum; EII currently allows tax relief up to a maximum investment of €150,000 each year. Those who invest more than €150,000 in a year can carry any unused amount forward for use in future years. I am advised by Revenue that most taxpayers do not make the maximum investment allowed. The majority of the investments are for less than €50,000. As such, there is therefore no basis on which to develop a reliable estimate uptake if the maximum investment were increased as described by the Deputy.

  I am further advised by Revenue that, if the EII was altered to allow for the entirety of the 40% of the investment to be claimed in year one, the additional cost of the scheme would be some €11m in a full year, based on 2016 data. The cost of the scheme in that year was €32 million. To calculate the cost of disregarding the relief for USC liability also, would require a significant manual review of records, which it is not feasible to undertake. Issues concerning PRSI policy are matters in the first instance for my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Tax Code

 125. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the separate estimated costs in a full year of adapting the research and development tax credit regime by proposals (details supplied). [49767/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I am advised by Revenue that the information required in order to estimate the costs of the additional outsourcing limits and adaptations to the research and development tax credit mentioned in the Deputy’s Question is not available from tax returns. For this reason, it is not possible for Revenue to provide the requested estimates.

  Statistical information in respect of research and development tax credit is published on the Revenue website at:

www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/r-and-d-tax-credits.aspx.

Foreign Earnings Deduction

 126. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the estimated cost in a full year based on latest data at hand of a proposal (details supplied). [49768/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Foreign Earnings Deduction applies to taxpayers who work abroad during a tax year and one of the conditions of receiving the deduction is that the taxpayer must work in a relevant state, of which there are 30 eligible states. All of these 30 relevant states are non EEA states. In 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, the incentive cost €3.5 million and benefitted some 413 individuals.

I am advised by Revenue that given the number of variable factors involved, for example, the extra uptake as a result of the broadening of the incentive to all non-EEA States; the number of qualifying days that might be worked abroad; and the salary level of the additional taxpayers that may take up this deduction, it is not possible to estimate the additional cost to the Exchequer of the Deputy's proposal with any degree of reliability.

Knowledge Development Box

 127. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe his plans to retain the knowledge development box beyond its scheduled sunset date of 31 December 2020; and the annual cost of this scheme. [49769/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Knowledge Development Box (“KDB”) was introduced by Finance Act 2015. In general, it provides for relief from tax on the profits earned from the exploitation of patents and copyrighted software, provided they were developed through R&D carried out in Ireland. It also provides for relief for profits earned from the exploitation of other intellectual property of small companies, provided that intellectual property is certified by the controller of patents.

I am informed by Revenue that a small number of companies (less than 10) with accounting periods ended on or before 31 December 2016 have claimed the KDB relief to date. The tax cost of these claims to-date is in the region of €5 million. Due to taxpayer confidentiality, Revenue cannot comment further on the size or nature of the claimant companies to date.

  I would note that relief under the KDB was introduced for accounting periods ending on or after 1 January 2016. Therefore, the first corporation tax returns in which relief could be claimed were due for filing up to 23 September 2017. However, as the regime is complex and a company must make an irrevocable election into the KDB, the legislation provides that companies have a 24-month period in which to make their claim for relief. Therefore, most companies have until the end of this year to submit their claims for the 2016 accounting periods.

In line with Guidelines for Tax Expenditure Evaluation published by my Department in 2014, there is a commitment to regular evaluations of tax expenditures. For expenditures with a sunset clause, evaluations are to occur in the year of expiry under the guidelines. The objective of time-limited expenditures and regular evaluations are to ensure the continued relevance of tax expenditures with regards to achieving a policy objective. These evaluations can also assess the value for money of a given tax expenditure scheme.

  As the KDB was introduced for accounting periods ending on or after 1 January 2016 it has not been subject to an ex post evaluation yet. As the KDB has a sunset clause of 31 December 2020, an ex post evaluation of the relief will occur prior to Budget 2021. This allows my Department time to monitor the relief and assess its continued relevance.

Tax Reliefs Costs

 128. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the estimated cost in a full year based on latest data of a proposal (details supplied) in tabular form. [49770/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the revised Entrepreneur Relief provided for in Section 597AA of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The current lifetime limit applicable to this relief is €1 million in chargeable gains at a CGT rate of 10 per cent.

  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that information in respect of potential future disposals by entrepreneurs is not available. However, based on 2016 data (the latest available), the estimated full year cost of the lifetime limits suggested by the Deputy are outlined in the table.

Lifetime limit Estimated Cost
€2.5m €29m
€5.0m €39m
€7.5m €45m
€10m €47m
€12.5m €49m

Tax Credits

 129. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the estimated cost in a full year based on latest data at hand of a proposal (details supplied). [49771/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The estimated costings sought by the Deputy are set out in the table:

Earned Income Tax Credit First Year Cost €m Full Year Cost €m
€1,450 13.6 24
€1,550 26.7 48
€1,650 40 72


I am advised by Revenue that the estimated cost of increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit can be found on page 6 of the Revenue Ready Reckoner which is available on the Revenue website: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/documents/statistics/ready-reckoner.pdf.

  Costs not displayed in the Ready Reckoner can be estimated on a straight-line or pro-rata basis from the costs shown.

Duty Free Sales

 130. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the potential economic benefits to the tourism and indigenous distillery and associated sectors and to regional ports and airports associated with the reintroduction of duty free sales when the UK departs the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49784/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Department of Finance has been assessing and preparing for the impact of Brexit since well before the referendum on 23 June 2016.

The primary policy areas for the Department relate to the economic and financial sector implications stemming from Brexit. This work is being undertaken within the whole-of-Government framework coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and is vital to guaranteeing Ireland’s interests are protected in the negotiation process to ensure that any adverse impacts on our economy are minimised.

Extensive and detailed Brexit preparedness and contingency work across all Government Departments and Agencies is ongoing. In line with that work, the Department undertakes a rolling analysis which focuses on the key Brexit related policy issues, which includes taxation. Duty Free sales was examined as part of the Tax Strategy Group paper in 2018 (TSG 18-08 – Brexit).

On 25 November 2018 the European Council endorsed the Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, and approved the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship. The arrangements for taxation shall therefore depend on the outcome of future relationship negotiations between the EU and UK. Detailed negotiations on the exact nature of the future relationship may not begin until after the UK formally ceases to be an EU Member State on 29 March 2019.

As part of the Withdrawal Agreement a transition period has been agreed within the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, in order to allow additional time for the EU and the UK to finalise the details of the future relationship. During the transition period, the whole of the EU acquis will apply to the UK which will preserve the status quo during that period, thus avoiding any gaps or cliff edge effects between the UK leaving the EU and when a future relationship agreement enters into force.

Considering that taxation and level playing field issues will form part of the future relationship economic discussions, it is therefore too early to speculate further whilst negotiations are ongoing.

Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears

 131. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if he will intervene in cases in which a financial management company (details supplied) is refusing to restructure and engage with debtors with sustainable mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49809/18]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe As Minister for Finance, I am unable to intervene in the commercial decision-making of any financial institution. I have also been advised by the Central Bank of Ireland that they cannot comment on any individual firm.

  However, within the remit of the Central Bank’s responsibilities for safeguarding stability and protecting consumers, its approach to mortgage arrears resolution is focused on ensuring the fair treatment of borrowers through a strong consumer protection framework and ensuring that regulated entities have appropriate arrears resolution strategies and operations in place.

  The Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) forms part of the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Framework. It is a statutory Code which provides a strong consumer protection framework, aimed specifically at the process to be followed by relevant firms, to ensure borrowers in arrears or pre-arrears in respect of a mortgage loan secured on a primary residence are treated in a timely, transparent and fair manner. Banks, retail credit firms and credit servicing firms are all required to comply with the CCMA.

  The overriding objective of the CCMA is to ensure the fair and transparent treatment of consumers in mortgage arrears or pre-arrears, and that due regard is given to the fact that each case of mortgage arrears is unique and needs to be considered on its own merits. The CCMA recognises that it is in the interests of borrowers and regulated firms to address financial difficulties as speedily, effectively and sympathetically as circumstances allow.

  The CCMA sets out the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process, (MARP), a four-step process that regulated entities must follow:

Step 1:   Communicate with borrower;

Step 2:   Gather financial information;

Step 3:   Assess the borrower’s circumstances; and

Step 4:   Propose a resolution

  Each regulated entity must consider the borrower’s situation in the context of the solutions they provide, which may differ from firm to firm. The CCMA does not prescribe the solution which must be offered.   At the end of the MARP process, regulated entities are required to provide a three-month notice period to allow co-operating borrowers time to consider their options, such as voluntary surrender or an arrangement under the Personal Solvency Act, before legal action can commence. The CCMA includes requirements that arrangements be sustainable and based on a full assessment of the individual circumstances of the borrower and that repossession be used only as a last resort.

  Under the CCMA, a regulated entity may only commence legal proceedings for repossession where it has made every reasonable effort to agree an alternative repayment arrangement (ARA) with the borrowers and other clear requirements are met or the borrower has been classified as not co-operating.

  This framework requires lenders to exhaust the options available from the suite of ARAs offered before taking action which may result in the borrower losing his/her home (whether by voluntary sale or repossession).

  Sections 49 to 55 of the CCMA sets out the appeals process available to borrowers which includes the establishment of an Appeals Board by every lender to consider and determine appeals made by borrowers in relation to decisions made by lenders.   

  Finally, I published the Central Bank's review of the CCMA earlier this month and the key finding of the Report is that for borrowers who engage with the process, the CCMA is working effectively and as intended in the context of the sale of loans by regulated lenders.

Public Sector Allowances

 132. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the number of injury warrants issued historically by his Department for members of the Irish Prison Service, An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49807/18]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Civil Service Injury Warrants are a series of statutory instruments made under the Superannuation Acts. They provide additional benefits over and above normal pension entitlements, to or in respect of officers who, through no fault of their own, are killed or injured in the performance of their duties. The injury must be attributable to the nature of their duties.

An annual allowance may be granted to an officer who is forced to retire as a result of their injuries, or in respect of an officer who dies within 7 years and as a result of the injury. Special gratuities may be granted in cases of death or injury in the course of duty while travelling by air, or as a direct result of war, insurrection or civil unrest.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and An Garda Síochána are not civil servants and so do not come within the scope of the Superannuation Acts. Therefore they are not eligible for Civil Service Injury Warrants. However, I understand sectoral provisions, similar in purpose to the Injury Warrants, exist for members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and an Garda Síochána under their respective pension schemes. Further information on the numbers of awards granted under these provisions will be available from the Ministers for Defence and Justice and Equality, respectively.

In relation to Prison Officers, and civilian employees of an Garda Síochána and the Defences Forces, who fall under the Superannuation Acts, no Injury Warrants have been awarded to former officers who fall into these categories in the last 20 years. The information sought by the Deputy in relation to possible Injury Warrant awards granted before this time is not readily available and its compilation would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work.

Garda Stations

 133. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe when a project (details supplied) will proceed to the next stage; the timescale for construction and provision of new accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49817/18]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe It is expected that the Part 9 Planning Application phase for this project will be concluded shortly.

  At this point in time it is not possible to give a definitive completion date for the construction of the new Station until the Planning process, the required Public Procurement process and Contract Award are completed.

Garda Station Closures

 134. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49836/18]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The 2012 and 2013 policing plans for An Garda Síochána identified 139 Garda stations for closure including the former Garda Station referred to by the Deputy. Many of these properties reverted to the Office of Public Works (OPW) to identify an alternative State use or manage their disposal.

In 2016, An Garda Síochána/Policing Authority undertook a review of the closed Garda Stations. In late 2017, the preliminary review initially identified six stations for re-opening.

The final Review by the Policing Authority is expected to conclude at the end of this year. Following the publication of this review at the end of the year, in consultation with An Garda Siochana, the OPW will be in a position to determine the future uses of the former Garda Stations, including this specific property.

National Educational Psychological Service Data

 135. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the number of NEPS practitioners employed by county; the number of vacancies for NEPS posts by county; the number of approved posts that are not filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [49604/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).

  The Deputy may also be aware that under Budget 2017 the approved number of NEPS psychologist posts was increased (from Sept 2017) from 173 to 184 whole-time equivalents (w.t.e.). Budget 2018 further increased NEPS numbers with 10 new posts being santioned from September 2018 bring total approved numbers to 194 w.t.e.

  NEPS recruits its psychologist from Regional panels of suitably qualified personnel organised by the Public Appointments Service following a national recruitment competition. These panels have been recently replenished following a competition which was completed in early September.

  Currently there are 173 w.t.e. psychologist staff serving in NEPS with 12 vacancies (7 of whom have occurred since July) and nine new posts due from the 2018 Budgetary allocation. PAS are currently processing candidates from the regional panel to fulfill this immediate demand for 21 posts. Current information in relation to this process shows that four candidates cleared the PAS process, have been referred to my Department’s H.R. Unit and have agreed start dates for early in the new year.   A further 12 candidates are currently in PAS clearance and it is envisaged that they will shortly be referred on to my Department for contract negotiations. It is intended to have these staff in place as soon as possible in the new year. PAS has indicated that it will continue to seek to recruit psychologists from the panel to fill the remaining vacancies.

  In relation to the Deputy’s question I can clarify that NEPS psychologists are not, per se, assigned by county but work within a regional and local office structure serving the needs of schools in their immediate vicinity. I attach therefore for the Deputy’s information a breakdown of NEPS staff (whole-time equivalent) by Region and Office location along with the sites of the current vacancies and new posts described above.

Number of NEPS psychologists by Region and Office 27th Nov. 2018

NEPS Region Office Existing W.T.E. Existing Vacancy New Posts from Sept ‘18 Total Sanctioned Posts
Dublin Blanchardstown Office 12.2     12.2
  James Joyce St. Office 13.6 1 1 15.60
Dublin/Mid Leinster Clondalkin Office 5.8     5.80
  Dun Laoghaire Office 16.1 1 1 18.10
  Naas Office 5 3   8.00
Mid-Munster Clonmel Office 4.6     4.60
  Cork- Mahon 19.06   1 20.06
N-East Cavan Office 3.6 1 1 5.60
  Drogheda Office 6.8 1   7.80
  Navan Office 6.6 1   7.60
N-West Letterkenny Office 6.2 1   8.20
  Mullingar Office 6.8     6.80
  Sligo Office 3.53   1 3.53
S-East Kilkenny Office 6.13   1 7.13
  Portlaoise Office 4.9   1 5.90
  Waterford Office 5.6     5.60
  Wexford Office 6.1   1 7.10
South West Ennis Office 5.8     5.80
  Limerick Office 10   1 11.00
  Tralee Office 6     6.00
West Castlebar Office 6     6.00
  Galway Office 8.93 2   10.93
  Roscommon Office 1.8   1 2.80
No Region NEPS Head Office 1.8     1.8
Grand Total   172.95 12 9 193.95

National Educational Psychological Service Administration

 136. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the rationale for no waiting list being kept for NEPS services; the method by which delivery of NEPS services are measured to ensure delivery of services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49605/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy will be aware NEPS is a school-based educational psychological service, which supports the personal, social and educational development of all children, having particular regard for children with special educational needs (SEN) and those at risk of marginalisation due to educational disadvantage. NEPS also has a particular focus on supporting schools to promote the wellbeing of all children and young people. The scope of the NEPS service is broad and requires NEPS to work in a cross-cutting, collaborative manner with different sections of the DES and its agencies, and with service providers external to the DES.

My Department, through the Special Education Teacher Model, has set out the Continuum of Support framework to assist schools in identifying and responding to the diverse needs of all learners. This framework recognises that special educational needs occur along a continuum, ranging from mild to severe, and from transient to enduring, and that students require different levels of support depending on their identified educational needs. The Continuum of Support enables schools to identify and respond to needs in a flexible way. This means that needs can be responded to as early as possible. My Department supports schools to implement a continuum of support through the deployment and front-loading of some 13,350 special education teachers, including 9255 allocated to primary schools, and 4130 allocated to post primary schools. Additionally, a total of 15,000 Special Needs Assistants are also available to allocate to schools. This overall framework of support ensures that all children access an appropriate level of support in school, with students with the greatest level of need having access to the greatest levels of support. My Department further supports schools to provide a continuum of support for all learners, through the provision of support services, including an educational psychological service, NEPS.

NEPS does not maintain waiting lists, but instead, provides a consultative, tiered model of service to schools, underpinning schools’ provision of a continuum of support. This model of service is in line with international best practice for the effective and efficient delivery of educational psychological services that best meet the needs of all pupils/students in schools. It allows NEPS psychologists to support schools to provide an effective continuum of support. At a whole-school level the focus of NEPS is on promoting inclusive practice in schools, ensuring appropriate support structures are in place and building capacity to provide universal, evidence-based approaches and early intervention to promote academic and social/emotional competence and well-being for all. This includes the provision of training in the Incredible Years Teacher programme, the Friends programmes and support for schools in the event of a critical incident. This is a crucial element of the support that NEPS provides, leading to increased capacity within the system to provide high-quality early intervention and prevention in an effective manner.

Schools are encouraged to engage in initial assessment, educational planning and intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties, documented in a Student Support file. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts, in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become directly involved with an individual child for more intensive support (casework). This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually.

The measure of NEPS output ranges across all aspect of the service as described above. For example in the last academic year NEPS psychologists undertook direct casework with 8,288 pupils/students, and it is estimated that a further 25,100 teachers were supported by NEPS via consultation or training.

National Educational Psychological Service Data

 137. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the number of schools that have requested an intervention from a NEPS practitioner in the event of a critical incident in the 2017-2018 term; the number of incidents at which a NEPS practitioner did not act; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [49606/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh By way of background I might inform you that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides guidelines and resource materials for schools to enable them to deal with certain traumatic events which can adversely affect pupils and school staff. This publication 'Responding to Critical Incidents: NEPS Guidelines and Resource Materials for Schools' also outlines how schools can plan for crises. The guidelines refer to preventive approaches that schools can adopt in creating a safe and supportive environment.

  The publication provides practical step-by-step guidelines for teachers and principals on how to respond when a tragedy occurs. It offers support to schools at a potentially overwhelming time.

  The guidelines focus upon alerting schools to planning processes, structures and actions which will better allow them to cope with a traumatic incidents such as suicide or suspected suicide, murder, accidental death including road traffic accidents and drowning, and death through illness of members of the school community. In relation to suicide, advice is also given on prevention and positive mental health stratagems and approaches.

  The Guidelines are kept under constant review and a third edition was circulated by NEPS to schools in 2016. Training in critical incident planning is part of the service provided by NEPS to schools and is a focus of my Department’s Action Plan for Education 2016-19 for post-primary schools.

  NEPS psychologists will also, at the specific invitation of school authorities, attend at schools immediately following such incidents to offer direct advice and assistance to school staff in managing the situation.

  In relation to the Deputy's specific questions in this regard, critical incidents are by their nature situations so named by schools themselves – traumatic events which have the potential to overwhelm the normal operation of the school. Depending upon the nature, severity or context of an event, schools may telephone NEPS for advice and support as to how they should proceed in relation to a particular event. In many situations this advice and support is adequate to equip schools to respond appropriately, without further support required from NEPS. In other situations, as is set out above, school authorities may request the attendance of NEPS psychologists on-site to provide support, advice and assistance in the delivery of the response. Therefore, in answer to the Deputy’s specific quest, all critical incidents notified to NEPS are acted upon as appropriate to the context and the wishes of school authorities.

  For data purposes NEPS records critical incidents at three response levels:

Level 1   - an incident which involves a telephone response to the school but where no on-site presence of NEPS staff is requested,

Level 2   – where the school, in their contact with NEPS, request the presence of NEPS personnel on-site to advise and assist,

Level 3   – events which have NEPS personnel on-site but are of a magnitude that involves a broader community response from other support services such as the HSE.

NEPS records show that some 328 critical incidents were registered in 2017/18, many of which relate to events in single schools, but some of which impacted on more than one school. Of these 328 events some 167 were at Level 1, 130 at Level 2 and 31 at Level 3. In all, some 1,927 hours input was recorded by NEPS psychologists in the period,   224 hours were at Level 1, 877 hours at Level 2 and 825 hours   at Level 3.   

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

School Curriculum

 138. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he will reconsider the decision to remove geography as a subject from the core curriculum in secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49608/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As part of the rollout of the new Framework for Junior Cycle, Geography was one of five new subject specifications that were introduced to schools in September of this year. There are no plans to make the subject mandatory in schools.


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