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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 802-825
 Header Item Driver Licence Applications
 Header Item Search and Rescue Service Provision
 Header Item Light Rail Projects Provision
 Header Item EU Funding
 Header Item Dublin Bus Services
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item National Transport Authority
 Header Item Road Traffic Legislation
 Header Item State Airports
 Header Item Swimming Pool Programme Applications
 Header Item Road Improvement Schemes
 Header Item Road Improvement Schemes
 Header Item Semi-State Bodies Remuneration
 Header Item Departmental Bodies
 Header Item Consultancy Contracts Data

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 828 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 802-825

Driver Licence Applications

 802. Deputy Joanna Tuffy Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his attention has been drawn to the delay being experienced by applicants for driver licences, including replacement licences; if additional resources are being made available to the new national driver licence service to enable the backlog to be cleared; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3808/14]

 803. Deputy Joanna Tuffy Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his attention has been drawn to the delay being experienced by applicants for driver licences, including replacement licences; if additional resources are being made available to the new national driver licence service to enable the backlog to be cleared; the provision that is being made for drivers pending receipt of their licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3815/14]

 805. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on the difficulties facing drivers who are awaiting renewal of their driver's licence and not in possession of a licence if stopped by gardaí and also if hiring a vehicle; his plans to allow a person to retain his or her driver licence pending the issuing of a new licence to address this situation; his plans to address the delays in processing renewals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3844/14]

 808. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his attention has been drawn to delays in issuing driver licences since the national driver licence service took over, whereby despite promising to issue renewal licences within eight days, it now takes upwards of eight weeks; and his views on the matter.  [3859/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 802, 803, 805 and 808 together.

  The National Driver Licensing Service (NDLS) is the statutory responsibility of the Road Safety Authority (RSA). 

  I  met the acting CEO of the RSA last month to discuss the difficulties people have experienced and how the RSA proposed to address them.

  The RSA acknowledged that there were teething problems when the service opened for business on 29 October 2013.  Some were technical and systems issues, while others related to new staff becoming familiar with rules and processes around driving licences and permits.

  The RSA has responded by increasing resources in NDLS centres experiencing delays, as well as in the licence processing centre, and providing further training to staff.  There are no major technical difficulties now affecting the service.  A booking system to allow for customers to make appointments has been operating in a Pilot Phase, which was successful.  This system will now be provided in all NDLS offices.

  While I understand that there are still some backlogs in relation to applications, the situation has improved.   I have been informed that licence applications that are fully and correctly completed are being issued within 8 days. The RSA has assured me that the remaining backlog will be cleared by mid-February.  The NDLS can also respond to urgent situations where a licence is needed for travel abroad or for work purposes.

  The main reason people are asked to return old licences when renewing their licence is to provide assurance that the old licence is no longer in circulation.  Given the fact that driving licences are used for identification in many contexts, it is important to minimise the risk of identity fraud.  The best way to ensure that old licences cannot be amended in some way and fraudulently reused is for the State to require their return.      

  This practice may raise concerns regarding the legal requirement to produce a licence when requested by a member of An Garda Síochána.  If the person cannot produce the licence at the time, the law allows ten days in which to produce it at a Garda station.  In most cases, if a licence is in process, this is sufficient time for the new licence to arrive.  Where it is not, the Gardaí may choose to exercise discretion.     

  I understand that the NDLS has advised the Gardaí of the delays with issuing some licences.

Search and Rescue Service Provision

 804. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the funding opportunities within his Department for voluntary emergency transport groups such as community mountain rescue services; if his attention has been drawn to supports available to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3832/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Mountain Rescue Ireland (MRI), which holds charitable status, is the all-island umbrella organisation governing mountain rescue in Ireland.  There are 12 mountain rescue teams (MRT) within the ambit of MRI and a further team is maintained by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.  MRI is funded by a combination of public fundraising, Government grants, donations, etc.  As MRI is an all-island organisation, it also avails of assistance in Northern Ireland.  

Each MRT manages its own administrative and operational practices as well as its own training schedule to ensure that its members are appropriately skilled and equipped when needed.  Responsibility for tasking the MRT's is vested in the Garda Síochána under the Framework for Major Emergency Management. My Department's role in relation to mountain rescue is the administration of an annual grant scheme which provides funding both to MRI and to the individual MRTs. The monies provide assistance primarily for current expenditure and in 2013 amounted to some €170,000. Despite the economic climate it has been possible to maintain the grant at this level in recent years and it is intended to do so for the current year also.  

In response to Parliamentary Question 7 of the 19th December, I stated that I  was open to considering the introduction of a modest capital grant scheme and that my officials would engage with Mountain Rescue Ireland on the issues involved. As the Deputy will appreciate, there are significant constraints on my Department's overall capital budget and there are other capital demands from my primary responsibility to provide a marine emergency response service.  It may also be the case that it could be some time later this year before it can be established whether there is any capital funding that could be utilised for mountain rescue services.  

The MRI is also the recipient of a grant aid package from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.  This assistance, which is directed at core costs such as insurance, amounted to almost €66,000 in 2013.          

  Question No. 805 answered with Question No. 802.

Light Rail Projects Provision

 806. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a feasibility study will be initiated to give future consideration to extending the Luas cross-city line to other areas without rail links on the north side of Dublin from Broombridge and Phibsborough.  [3847/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, the implementation and development of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), including Luas Light Rail projects, comes within the remit of the NTA.  

I understand, however, that the NTA are in the process of seeking proposals for a technical consultancy to assess the long term rail transport requirements of the North Dublin/Fingal corridor, extending from Finglas to Malahide and including Dublin Airport and Swords.  This review will examine existing proposals as well as other options for a rail-based transport solution to meet the area’s needs in the long term.  This could involve, among other options, (1) an extension of the new Luas Cross City line from Broombridge or Cabra northwards to serve DCU, Ballymun, the airport and Swords (2) a Bus Rapid Transit solution serving Swords, the airport and the Northside via Drumcondra and (3) Metro North as is, or with amendments. The outcome of this study will inform the selection and prioritisation of projects to be covered in the next Capital Development Plan.  

I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed response.  Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.  

EU Funding

 807. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his Department will make applications to the European Transport Infrastructure Programme to fund planned infrastructure projects such as metro north; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3851/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I presume the Deputy is referring to the 2013 Call under the Trans European Network–Transport (TEN-T).

  My Department is currently engaging with its agencies to examine the scope for submitting applications under this Call. While the deadline for submissions is 11 March, I understand that the decisions regarding successful applications will not be announced until later this year.

  Metro North is a proposed light-rail line serving a commuter purpose and linking Dublin Airport.  Therefore, it does not qualify for grant funding as a TEN-T project but could qualify for an EIB loan. 

  Question No. 808 answered with Question No. 802.

Dublin Bus Services

 809. Deputy Seán Kenny Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if discussions have taken place between the National Transport Authority and Dublin Bus regarding offering commuters cheaper fares for travelling on buses during off-peak times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3902/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA), in conjunction with Dublin Bus, and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Driver Licences

 810. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will detail all jurisdictions where Ireland has a reciprocal relationship for the exchange of driving licences; if he will provide an update on current negotiations; if he is considering further jurisdictions, including Australia, where this agreement could be expanded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3904/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Under EU legislation we have mutual recognition arrangements for driver licence exchange with our fellow Member States.  The first EU driver licensing Directive was Directive 80/1263.  This and subsequent Directives provide for recognition of EU licences.  The identities of the Member States are a matter of public record, as are the dates of accessions of States joining the EU since 1980.   

  As part of the EU framework we also recognise licences from the following European Economic Area States:

  Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and we recognise licences from the Gibraltar as a British Overseas Territory.   

  Ireland does not have bilateral arrangements with provinces or other non-state entities.  We have recognition arrangements with the following States, entered into in the following years:   

  - Japan                 1990

  - Australia             1993

  - Isle of Man          1993

  - Jersey                 1993

  - Switzerland         1993

  - South Africa       1994

  - South Korea       1999

  - Guernsey             2007

  - New Zealand       2010

  - Taiwan                 2010   

  The foundation of exchange relationships on driving licences with other jurisdictions is mutual examination of the driver licensing regimes to make sure that they are compatible.  On the Irish side, this task is undertaken by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).  With regard to current negotiations, I understand that the RSA has been engaging for some time with a number of provinces in Canada, with the assistance of the Irish embassy in Ottawa, with a view to reaching agreements on mutual exchange.     

  In Canada, driver licensing operates at provincial rather than national level.  This means that agreements have to be reached with the individual provinces.     

  The RSA has indicated to me that it is satisfied following discussions with Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador that agreement can be reached with those provinces on the exchange of driver licences.  The next step will be to conclude a formal agreement with those provinces (a type of Memorandum of Understanding).  When this is done, I expect to sign the necessary regulations to give effect to the arrangements.   

  I would be happy to consider exploring further possible exchange arrangements where appropriate.  At present there are discussions under way at EU level on the preparation of guidelines for mutual recognition with non-EU States, and I do not propose to consider any further arrangements until these guidelines have been agreed.   

National Transport Authority

 811. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide adequate funding for a bus shelter for Killorglin town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3935/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In accordance with the Taxi Regulation Act 2013 (Public Service Contracts) (Commencement) Order 2013, which came into effect on 1st   January 2014, the functions of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in relation to public transport infrastructure have been extended to include securing or providing bus stops, bus shelters, bus stations, stands and bus fleets in the State.     

  Noting this I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.  

Road Traffic Legislation

 812. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will consider making funding available to local authorities for the specific purpose of carrying out countywide speed limit reviews, as local authorities are not prioritising these reviews while inappropriate speed limits apply at very dangerous locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3945/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Road Traffic Act 2004 established default speed limits that apply to defined categories of roads.  These limits may be amended by the Elected Members of local authorities by means of Special Speed Limit Orders, and Section 9 of the 2004 Act sets out the range of special speed limits available to local authorities for that purpose.  

  To assist in setting Special Speed Limits, my Department issued Guidelines for the Application of Special Speed Limits to all local authorities in January 2011 and the onus is on all local authorities to take the Guidelines into account when setting special speed limits.

  The Speed Limits Review which I published on the 21st November 2013 contains eighteen actions which are designed to address a number of matters relating to the operation of speed limits on Irish roads.  I have accepted all the recommendations contained in the Report, which will be implemented over a two year period.    

  I have made provision in 2014 to fund various action points in the Speed Limit Review report. However, it is not envisaged that this would extend to the financing of speed limit reviews by local authorities as such an exercise is considered to be part of their normal responsibilities.    

State Airports

 813. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the debt profile of the Dublin Airport Authority as at 1 December 2012; the amount of debt of the DAA at that date linked to Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3961/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Deputy will be aware, Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) operates under a clear commercial mandate.   As such, the amount of DAA's debt is a matter for the DAA.   The Company's Annual Report and Financial Statement which includes, amongst other things, its debt profile is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas each year and is available in the Library of the Houses. The annual accounts are also available on www.daa.ie.    

  The transfer of the business of Shannon airport on 31 December 2012 from the DAA Group to the SAA was brought into effect by a dividend in specie amounting to €105.5 million equating to the book value of the net assets transferred.  DAA Group debt was not affected by this dividend.  This mechanism for effecting the separation of Shannon airport was decided by the then Fianna Fáil-led Government in 2003 and it underpins the State Airports Act 2004 which was also sponsored by that Government.

Swimming Pool Programme Applications

 814. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position regarding the local authority swimming pool projects; the total spend to date on the projects; the location of new pools; the status of the project in County Kildare including completed pools, pools construction or redevelopment and planned pools; if any consideration has been given to a pool in the Leixlip area, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3992/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme was closed to new applicants on 31 July 2000. No application was made in respect of a swimming pool in Leixlip before that date.     

  Since 2000, 58 projects have been or are being dealt with under the Programme of which 49 have been completed and the other 9 projects are at various stages of the Programme.    

  The total spent from 2000 to 2013 inclusive is €168.59m.  This includes the payment of grants under the energy upgrade / disabled access initiative.    

  Completed new or replacement pools are located in Enniscorthy, Navan, Courtown/Gorey, Wicklow, Dundalk, Ennis, Ballinasloe, Finglas, Grove Island Limerick, Ballymun, Tuam, Drogheda, Monaghan Town, Cobh, Youghal, Jobstown, Ballybunion, Letterkenny, Askeaton, Longford, Portlaoise, Clondalkin, Thurles, St Michael's House Dublin, Killarney, Bray, Ballyfermot, Greystones, Tullamore, Kilkenny City, Athy, Naas, Dundrum, Claremorris, Roscrea, Ballybofey/Stranorlar and New Ross. Of the nine projects remaining in the current programme, none are in County Kildare. Replacement pools were however opened in Athy and Naas in 2009.   

  No decision has been taken on any new round of the Programme. If the Programme re-opens it would be open to each Local Authority, including Kildare County Council on behalf of Leixlip, to submit an application under the terms that would apply at that time.   

  Questions Nos. 815 to 820, inclusive, answered with Question No. 800.

Road Improvement Schemes

 821. Deputy Jim Daly Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update from the National Roads Authority on its plans to upgrade the N71 in West Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [4108/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects such as the N71 is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Given that, I have referred the Deputy's Question to the NRA for direct response. If the Deputy does not receive a response within ten working days, please contact my private office.

Road Improvement Schemes

 822. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the results of the survey carried out on a tunnel on the N71 between Kenmare and Glengariff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4140/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects such as the N71 road is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NRA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within 10 working days.

Semi-State Bodies Remuneration

 823. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of semi-State companies under the remit of his Department that have paid bonuses to their employees in 2011, 2012 and 2013; if he will identify these semi-State companies, the number of employees and the level of bonuses paid; his views on the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [4163/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar One of the first actions I took as Minister in 2011 was to inform all Chairpersons and CEOs under my remit that, in line with Government policy, no bonuses would be paid. I can confirm that no bonuses have been paid to the CEOs of the State companies under the remit of my Department in respect of performance for 2011 onwards.   

  I have already been in contact with all the State companies under the remit of my Department seeking information on bonus payments paid to staff. I will provide this information to the Deputy as soon as it is available. 

Departmental Bodies

 824. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide details of the current membership of his Department's audit committee; the date of appointment of each member; the fees paid to each member; if members of the committee are required to hold certain professional qualifications; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [4225/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Audit Committee in my Department comprises 4 members and operates under an Audit Committee Charter approved by the Secretary General and the Chairman of the Committee. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I do not have a role in matters relating to the Audit Committee. There are 2 Executive and 2 Non-Executive members on the Committee – the Chairperson is a Non-Executive Member.

  Details of current membership are as follows:   

  Non-Executive members

- Mr. John Lawlor (Chairperson), Head of Management Information Systems Group at Trinity College Dublin – appointed 6 August 2004

- Mr. Richard Byrne, retired Chartered Accountant – appointed 20 March 2008   

  Executive Members

- Mr. Maurice Mullen, Assistant Secretary – appointed 7 February 2013

- Mr. Maurice Treacy, Principal Officer – appointed 11 December 2009   

  Fees are paid to Non-Executive members of the Committee only,  at the rates sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The fees currently applicable are:

  - Chairperson - €363.06 per diem (subject to a maximum of €8,068 per annum)

  - Non-Executive member - €256.60 per diem (subject to a maximum of €5,130 per annum)   

  It is not a requirement that Committee members hold specific professional qualifications. However, appointments are carefully considered to ensure that an appropriate balance of experience and expertise is maintained.

Consultancy Contracts Data

 825. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide a list of the top 20 consulting firms engaged by his Department, including public bodies, in order of fee generation-cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [4627/14]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The information requested by the Deputy on consultants is published on my Department's website and can be found at the following link http://www.dttas.ie/corporate/english/expenditure-external-services.


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