Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
100. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the remedies available to the growing numbers of homeowners whose properties are a fire hazard and are in breach of fire regulations. [46127/12]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): The resolution of problems arising between building owners and builders is a matter for the parties concerned, namely the building owner, the relevant developer and the builder’s insurers. Where the construction of a building is the subject of a contract between the client and the builder enforcement is a civil matter. Enforcement of the building regulations is the responsibility of the 37 local building control authorities. The authorities are empowered to carry out inspections and initiate enforcement proceedings, where considered necessary. In addition to prosecution on indictment in the Circuit Court, building control authorities may also bring summary prosecutions for building code offences in the District Court and have wide powers to make application to the High Court to secure Orders where buildings do not comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations.
Failure to comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations where a successful prosecution takes place may result, on summary prosecution, in a maximum fine of €5,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to six months or both. A further fine of €500 in respect of each day on which the offence is committed after summary conviction can also be applied. A successful conviction on indictment may result in a maximum fine of €50,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to two years or both. Apart from their powers under the Building Control Acts, local authorities also have strong enforcement powers available to them under the Fire Services Act 1981 when acting in their capacity as fire authorities.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): I refer to the reply to Question No. 40 of 18 September 2012. The position is unchanged. Detailed cost estimates for the metering programme have been prepared by my Department. However, it would be inappropriate to publish these cost estimates in advance of the competitive procurement process.
102. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider a reduction in the contribution required from local authorities towards housing adaptation grants in view of the many schemes that are currently suspended around the country despite the great need from those who are ill or elderly from housing adaptation works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46189/12]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): The Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. It is a matter for each local authority to decide on the specific level of funding to be directed to each of the various grant measures, and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within their allocation.
Exchequer allocations for 2012 in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, totalling some €54.2 million, were notified to local authorities on 28 February 2012. At the end of September, €33.3 million of this had been drawn down by local authorities, facilitating the payment of over 6,376 grants. In assessing the demand for grants each year local authorities are requested to set out the amount of matching funding being provided to meet the authority’s 20% share of the grant payments. While a number of authorities have advised my Department of constraints on their Revenue budgets, earlier this year local authorities collectively indicated that some €18.65 million in matching funds was available in 2012.
Over the period 2008 to 2011, over €337 million was paid out in grants in respect of approved adaptation works and extensions. Over 48,000 individual applicants received grant assistance over that period. As part of the preparatory arrangements for the 2013 grants programme, my Department will be contacting each local authority shortly to ascertain the level of demand under each of the grant schemes and to quantify the level of revenue or other funding to be made available for the schemes in 2013. I will review the matter of the local authority own resources contribution in the light of this information.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): All matters relating to the rates of pay of civil servants are dealt with at central level by my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. However, there would be gross savings of approx. €500,000 per annum, inclusive of Employer’s PRSI, if salaries in my Department were capped at €100,000 per annum.
104. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way he intends the proposed voluntary redundancy scheme outlined in his proposals for local government reform to be applied across local authorities; if this scheme will take into account existing per capita staffing level differences across local authorities; if the scheme will have regard to a need to maintain certain essential functions; if he has any proposal to redeploy remaining staff to balance out any service gaps which may emerge; if he intends to ultimately eliminate the existing wide variance in per capita staffing levels through this process of reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46125/12]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): In the context of the broader public service reform process, the local government sector has been at the forefront in driving greater efficiencies and securing financial savings. The first two annual progress reports under “Croke Park” from the Local Government Sector identified very significant savings of c€450m. Payroll savings have been delivered mainly through staff reductions of almost 8,600 (23%) from 37,243 (June 2008) to 28,652 (September 2012).
107. Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Taoiseach if he will commit to adding the Right to a Home to the second phase of the Constitutional Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46038/12]
The Taoiseach: The resolutions passed by the Dáil and Seanad approving the calling of the Constitutional Convention outlined the issues to be considered by it. The resolutions of course also noted that following completion of reports on those issues, the Convention can report on such other relevant Constitutional amendments as may be recommended by it.
The Taoiseach: Preparations are being finalised on a series of bilateral visits, including to Berlin, before Ireland assumes the Presidency of the Council next January. In addition to this, I will of course attend the meetings of the European Councils scheduled for 22-23 November, and 13-14 December.
109. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Taoiseach if he will provide in tabular form, in respect of 2011, to show separately the number of payments issued by his Department and each agency within the remit of his Department to suppliers in respect of the supply of goods and services ; and splitting the payments between those issued within 30 days of receipt of the invoice; between 30 and 60 days of receipt of the invoice; between 60 and 90 days of receipt of the invoice; between 90 and 120 days of receipt of the invoice; and in excess of 120 days of receipt of the invoice. [45654/12]
110. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will provide in tabular form for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date 2012 of the total amount of expenditure on consultancy by his Department, anybody under his aegis or State agency for which he has responsibility; the names of the consultancy companies awarded contracts; the nature of the work concerned; the fees paid to each consultant and if the matter was advertised for competitive tender;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45655/12]
111. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will provide details in tabular form for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date 2012, inclusive, of the arrangements entered into by him, anybody under his aegis or State agency for which he has responsibility for the obtaining of advice from a senior or junior counsel and or a firm of solicitors; the subject matter for which advice was sought; the names of the barristers and solicitors firms concerned and the fees paid; the nature of the work concerned; if in each case the matter was advertised for competitive tender;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45656/12]
The Taoiseach: My Department did not incur legal expenses from a firm of solicitors or from Senior or Junior Counsel, other than through the State's legal Offices, during the period in question. The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) incorporating the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), is the only body under the aegis of my Department. In 2006 NESDO conducted a competitive tendering process for the provision of legal advice and the contract was awarded to Mason Hayes Curran. NESDO did not incur any expenditure on legal services from 2009 to date. Details of the expenditure incured by NESDO on legal services in 2008 are set out in the table below:
112. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a list of all companies or persons providing an external professional service to his Department such as ICT, legal advice, advertising, project management and including any other external professional service not listed; the amount invoiced by each company to him over the past 12 months, in tabular form. [45657/12]
The Taoiseach: The table below sets out the list of suppliers to my Department of professional services, where professional services withholding tax has been applied, and the total paid from 1 October 2011 to end September 2012, including professional services withholding tax, according to my Department's Financial Management System.
*A contract for the provision of website services for the EU Presidency was awarded to TerminalFour Solutions Limited on the 23rd of December 2011. TerminalFour's European headquarters are based on Dublin and they are experienced in delivering large multilingual websites and their services to this Department include; web design & development of a website and mobile site in 4 languages, provision of a content management system and provision of training & support.
115. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will provide in a tabular form a list of quasi-governmental organisations and agencies that have been created since 9 March 2011;the date on which the body was created; the name of the body; the 2012 budget for the body; the number of employees of the body and if the body engages manpower resources from outside the body. [45991/12]
116. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reasons a child (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received an Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45637/12]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The Passports Act, 2008 provides, among other things, that only Irish citizens are entitled to be issued with Irish passports. Each application received by the Passport Service must, therefore, demonstrate that person’s entitlement to Irish citizenship before a passport can issue. As the applicant was born in Dublin on 7 May, 2009, his entitlement to Irish citizenship is subject to section 6A of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended (the Act). This provides that a person, born in the State on or after 1 January 2005, where neither parent is an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction at the time of that person’s birth, may claim citizenship by birth in the State (and thereby establish eligibility for an Irish passport) only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for three of the four years immediately preceding that person’s birth.
In line with guidelines provided by Department of Justice and Equality, which is the Department responsible for immigration and citizenship, the proofs of lawful residence, which are accepted and considered by this Department for passport applications, are immigration stamps in passports and/or the registration cards/books. These are issued to persons registering their lawful presence in the State with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). These are official documents/permits, which can be objectively verified by the Passport Service, if required.
The child’s father is a non-EU national and the mother a Romanian and therefore EU citizen. The proofs above would therefore be required for all of the father’s residence and for any of the mother’s residence prior to Romania’s entry into the EU on 1 January, 2007. After this date, the mother’s residence is subject to section 6B(2) of the Act, which makes particular provision for parents from EU Member States whereby such nationals may make a declaration (Form A) in a prescribed form concerning their residence in the island of Ireland within the four years immediately preceding the birth of their children. This declaration must be supported by the submission of the parent’s EU passport and by documentary evidence of that parent’s lawful residence in Ireland. That parent will then be regarded as having resided in the island of Ireland for the declared periods for the purposes of section 6A of the Act, unless the contrary is proved.
Two applications were made on behalf of the person in question by his parents – the first in October, 2010 and the second in August, 2011. On both occasions the submitted evidence of the parent’s lawful residence in the State in the four year period immediately preceding their son’s date of birth (i.e. 7 May, 2005 to 6 May, 2009) was examined. Neither parent had the required amount of reckonable residence to demonstrate their child’s entitlement to Irish citizenship. Accordingly, these applications could not be approved for passport issue under the Passports Act, 2008 on the grounds that the child is not an Irish citizen.
117. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide in tabular form all appointments to State boards under his ambit since the Government took office; when the person was appointed; if the position entitles the holder to remuneration and if so the amount in each case; if the appointment was made in accordance with new procedures whereby Departments have to invite expressions of interest from the public in vacancies on the boards under their aegis. [45805/12]
118. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of chairs of State boards that have been appointed since the Government came into office; if there is a remuneration for the position and if so the amount of same; if the appointee was required to go before Oireachtas Committees to discuss what they have to offer to the particular Board or Committee to which they are being appointed. [45821/12]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 118 together.
119. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade for his views regarding human rights abuses in occupied Palestine territories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45886/12]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question 4 of 17 October 2012, which was as follows:
120. Deputy John Halligan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will clarify the rationale behind the Passport Office ceasing to issue same day emergency or temporary one journey passports to the public, where an emergency arises in a business situation the financial burden which results from a persons inability to freely travel can have devastating implications for small businesses (details supplied); his plans to provide Irish citizens with travel documentation to facilitate more flexible travel within the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45949/12]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The fastest turnaround time for passport applications is three working days. During the peak season, the Passport Service receives between 300 and 400 applications per day for passports at short notice. In these circumstances, it is not possible to provide citizens with a same day service without significantly disrupting the service to other applicants. I have therefore asked the Passport Service to examine the feasibility and additional cost, to both the State and the customer, of providing a premium fast turnaround service. In relation to the provision of alternate travel documents, some European countries have identity cards which are accepted by the immigration services of other countries. Ireland does not issue identity cards to its citizens. However, we do issue emergency passports and emergency travel certificates on occasion. In order to minimise disruption of the regular service, the risk of identity theft and the circulation of falsified travel documents, such documents are generally only issued in cases of a necessity to travel for reasons of family emergency. i.e. travel is necessitated by the death, illness or welfare of a family member.
121. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the situation whereby a person holding an Australian licence with approved truck and bus categories can drive legally here but there is no similar cover for Irish licence holders in Australia; if his further attention has been drawn to the inconvenience it is causing to Irish citizens in Australia in that they face having to sit a second driving test; his views on whether this is acceptable; if it is possible for him to liaise with the Australian Transport Ministry with a view to putting a reciprocal agreement in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46475/12]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Matters relating to the processing of driving licences in Ireland and reciprocal exchange agreements are the responsibility of the Road Safety Authority which falls under the aegis of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. I appreciate that varying licensing requirements can pose difficulties for Irish people seeking to take up work in Australia. In Australia, driving licences are issued by state and territory governments, and requirements can vary from state to state. In some cases, recognition of driving licences also depends on the immigration status of the holder with different criteria applying for short-term temporary visitors including Working Holiday participants, and permanent residents.
Issues around the recognition of Irish qualifications and skills at federal and state level, including driving licence qualifications, are kept under constant review by my officials in the Embassy in Canberra who would be happy to take up specific concerns raised. I have requested the Ambassador in Canberra to contact the various state and territorial governments to clarify the precise requirements for various categories of Irish licences and the scope for improving recognition of Irish licences. In addition, the issue of mutual recognition of driving licences is also a topic that under discussion between the European Union and Australia and any changes agreed at this level would apply to Irish licence holders.
122. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance if he will establish a national insurance scheme to provide cover for those persons who are most in need following the repeated flooding in Clonakilty, County Cork, over the past few months, in view of the fact that millions of euros of damages was caused to both business and residential properties, and that private insurance was unavailable to many affected; if his attention has been drawn to difficulties Clonakilty faces in view of the flooding in terms of commerce, sustainable employment and its tourism reputation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45889/12]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): At the outset, the Deputy should note that I am aware of the particular difficulties that Clonakilty faces and have been advised by the OPW that consultants have commenced work on an accelerated programme under the South West CFRAM study to assess the flooding situation in Clonakilty and to develop a preferred option for measures to protect the town to an acceptable level from river and tidal flooding. A Public Information Day was held on 16th March 2012 where the public were invited to provide as much information as possible to the consultants on the flooding events which have occurred in the town. The consultants work is expected to be finalised by summer 2013. The preferred option will then have to be progressed to a full scheme design followed by procurement of a contractor. All this will take some time, however pending this, the OPW has informed me that Cork County Council intends to proceed with interim works to provide some short term alleviation to the flooding situation, primarily focused on measures to improve the surface water drainage in the town.
On the issue of a national insurance scheme, it should be noted that this matter was considered by the previous Government, amongst other options, in the aftermath of the November 2009 flooding and a decision was made not to proceed with such an arrangement because of its significant cost and also because of the potential for regulatory issues with such a proposal. I have recently reviewed this matter and have decided against any further change of policy. Because the vast majority of people are able to obtain flood cover, any such scheme would almost certainly be confined to those areas where the insurance industry has withdrawn cover because of previous claims experience. Due to the limited population base, premiums would either be excessively high in an effort to cover the cost of claims, or the scheme would never be in a position to meet claims thus creating a large ongoing long-term exposure to the Exchequer. In addition an inevitable development from the introduction of such a scheme would be a combination of the withdrawal of insurance companies from high risk and medium risk areas where they currently provide cover (cherrypicking) and people in these areas faced with increasing insurance premiums deciding to discontinue cover on the basis that the state scheme would provide the necessary protection to them at a lesser charge (moral hazard) thereby increasing the burden on the State.
It should also be noted that from a regulatory perspective, the Central Bank has previously indicated that creating a State insurance company would raise a range of regulatory and capital issues and that such a proposal has the potential to distort the market and possibly could create state aid issues.
Finally, it is difficult to estimate what the cost to the State of such a scheme would be as weather events by their nature are unpredictable. However over the 12 year period 2000-2012 the Irish Insurance Federation has indicated that there have been eight major floods costing the insurance industry approximately €672m in flood claims. These costs to the State would be in addition to the normal infrastructure costs which arise from flooding such as repair of roads, bridges etc which the State as a matter of course looks after.
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