1. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his Department’s plans to conduct market research. (Question 41633/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Departmental Communications)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together. The strategic communications unit in my Department represents a step change in how we as a Government communicate with our people. It is about informing people of the work of Government in a co-ordinated, focused and cross-governmental way so that it becomes easier for people to understand what the Government is doing and the full range of State services, benefits and entitlements available to people, both new and cur...

4. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the advertising undertaken by his Department. (Question 43749/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Departmental Communications)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together. The strategic communications unit in my Department represents a step change in how we as a Government communicate with our people. It is about informing people of the work of Government in a co-ordinated, focused and cross-governmental way so that it becomes easier for people to understand what the Government is doing and the full range of State services, benefits and entitlements available to people, both new and cur...

9. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet Committee A (Economy) last met. (Question 43751/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.
Cabinet Committee A held its first meeting on 12 September. Its focus is on economic issues, including implementation of the Action Plan for Jobs 2017 and preparation of a new, more focused, action plan for next year; labour market policies, including implementation of Pathways to Work and responding to emerging skills pressures; competitiveness and productivity challenges for businesses, including pressures from rece...

15. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the EU digital summit in Estonia. (Question 43750/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - EU Summits)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, together.
The digital summit in Tallinn was an important opportunity for EU leaders to discuss the evolution of digital technologies and their wide-ranging implications in a less formal setting than regular European Council business. The Estonian Presidency prepared a very useful, forward-looking agenda to stimulate discussion on how Europe can develop its competitive advantages in a fast-changing digital world which is re-sha...

207. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on the proposed Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights, COM/2017/251 final, that is due to be agreed by the European Parliament, the EU Council and the EU Commission at the Gothenburg Social Summit on 17 November 2017; the issues she has raised during the discussions on this initiative at European level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44184/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - EU Agreements)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The proposed Interinstitutional Proclamation (i.e. between the EU Council, Commission and Parliament) on the European Pillar of Social Rights was published by the Commission in April of this year following an extensive Commission consultation throughout 2016 on the EU Pillar of Social Rights. 
Ireland has been fully engaged throughout the process, publishing a detailed response to the Commission consultation which ...

4. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach to set out the number of political staff and advisors he has employed; and the role of each. (Question 41631/17 asked on 17 Oct 2017 - Departmental Staff)

The Taoiseach: I look forward to the proponent explaining what a great idea it all is.
 ...

345. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health if funding for a further podiatrist in County Wexford will be made available to support persons with diabetes; if his attention has been drawn to the recent data released which indicates that County Wexford has the largest year on year increase in the incidence of diabetes related foot ulcers and amputations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 42712/17 asked on 10 Oct 2017 - Health Services Funding)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): As this is a service matter, this question has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
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6. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with Mr. Guy Verhofstadt and the issues raised. (Question 41718/17 asked on 04 Oct 2017 - Taoiseach’s Meetings and Engagements)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, together.
 Ongoing political engagement with our EU and international partners is crucial, especially as negotiations on Brexit proceed. I will continue to use every opportunity to ensure that other member states and EU institutions fully understand our particular concerns arising from Brexit in order to enable the best possible outcome for this country. Other Ministers, in particular the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade,...

9. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the functions that have been delegated to Ministers of State assigned to his Department. (Question 41720/17 asked on 04 Oct 2017 - Ministerial Responsibilities)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.
On 14 June 2017 the Government appointed Deputy Joe Mcl-lugh as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at my Department and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with special responsibility for Gaeilge, the Gaeltacht and the islands and Deputy Paul Kehoe as Minister of State at my Department and the Department of Defence with special responsibility for defence. On 20 June the Government appointed Deputy Pat B...

84. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his plans for Seanad reform. (Question 41721/17 asked on 04 Oct 2017 - Seanad Reform)

Taoiseach (Deputy Leo Varadkar)(Deputy Leo Varadkar): In the Programme for a Partnership Government, the Government stated its commitment to pursuing the implementation of the Report of the Working Group on Seanad Reform (the Manning Report).
That Report was published in 2015 and it is available on my Department’s website. 
One of the recommendations of the Report was the establishment of an Implementation Group to oversee implementation of the reforms contained in the Report. 
As my predec...

12. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his visit to Canada and his meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister. (Question 41632/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - Overseas Visits)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 13, inclusive, together. At the invitation of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, I visited Canada between 19 and 23 August. The visit was an excellent opportunity to further deepen the very important economic and cultural links that exist between our two countries. My visit commenced in Montréal with an official welcoming ceremony and a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister, during which we discussed the provisional implementa...

81. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his Department’s role in delivering his commitments on Global Footprint 2025. (Question 41634/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - Trade Strategy)

The Taoiseach: While in Canada recently I announced a plan to double Ireland’s global footprint by 2025. 
It is clear that there is a new self-confidence in Ireland, as an island at the centre of the world, and that national self-confidence requires that we always be ambitious, visible and active in promoting the interests of our nation on the international stage. 
I expect that this initiative will involve new and augmented diplomatic missions, as well as an increased presence of our investment...

147. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when his Department expects a project (details supplied) to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41332/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - Schools Building Projects Status)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The brief for the school referred to by the Deputy is for a new three storey building of 5926m², containing 20 classrooms, Junior/Senior dining area, GP Hall, Library, Special Teacher rooms, Multi- Sensory, Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy rooms, nurse’s area, kitchen, ancillary storage and services.   
In July of this year, the Stage 2b (Detailed Design) was approved, pending the completion of the process to carry out a Prequalifica...

208. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps taken by the Government, including at EU level, to aid organisations offering essential medical and psycho social support in addition to legal support to ensure access to justice and reparation (details supplied); if Ireland contributes to funding the International Commission on Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina; his views on the recommendations in a recent report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41311/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - International Relations)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 208 and 212 together.
I am aware of Amnesty International’s report “ We Need Support, Not Pity ” which gives a very disturbing account of the legacy of wartime violence, and in particular the horrific crimes of sexual violence which were perpetrated against the women and girls of Bosnia during the Balkan Wars. I take this opportunity to recall the appalling atrocities at Srebrenica in July 1995, whic...

212. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to recent Dáil Éireann statements on the 22nd anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, the steps he has taken, including at EU level, to aid organisations offering essential medical, psycho-social and legal support to ensure access to justice and reparation; if Ireland contributes to funding the International Commission on Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina; his views on the recommendations in a recent report by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41755/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - International Relations)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 208 and 212 together.
I am aware of Amnesty International’s report “ We Need Support, Not Pity ” which gives a very disturbing account of the legacy of wartime violence, and in particular the horrific crimes of sexual violence which were perpetrated against the women and girls of Bosnia during the Balkan Wars. I take this opportunity to recall the appalling atrocities at Srebrenica in July 1995, whic...

566. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing child benefit and the domiciliary care allowance by €5 in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41329/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - Social Welfare Benefits)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid to around 619,880 families in respect of some 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of over €2 billion i...

567. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing the PRSI credit to €15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41330/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - Social Insurance)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The tapered PRSI credit was introduced in January 2016 for PRSI class A and Class H employees earning between €352.01 and €424.00 per week.
The maximum weekly credit of €12 applies at gross earnings of €352.01. As earnings increase, the €12 is reduced by one-sixth of weekly earnings in excess of €352.01. At earnings of €424.01, the credit is exhausted. 
It is estimated that the cost of increasing the maximum weekly ...

568. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of providing a Christmas bonus at 100% and 85% respectively to all long term social welfare recipients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41331/17 asked on 03 Oct 2017 - Social Welfare Benefits)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Last December, an 85% Christmas Bonus was paid to some 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients, including pensioners, people with disabilities, carers and the long-term unemployed, in recognition of their financial dependence on their social welfare payments for all or most of their income. 
The cost of a 100% or 85% Bonus is estimated at approximately €260 million and €221 million respectively in 2017. It sh...

164. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health the cost of extending access to the counselling in primary care service to all those aged 16 to 25 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41063/17 asked on 28 Sep 2017 - Mental Health Services Expenditure)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): As indicated in the HSE Service Plan 2017, the Counselling in Primary Care Service expects to see around 8,900 adults this year, and collaboration is also progressing between mental health and primary care in relation to developing counselling for those under age 18. Around 3,000 adults will also be seen by the HSE National Counselling Service. Other service initiatives aimed at developing counselling or advice from a prevention o...

165. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health the number of home help hours funded in 2017; the cost of increasing the allocation by 10%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41064/17 asked on 28 Sep 2017 - Home Help Service Expenditure)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 166 together.
As these are service matters I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.
 ...

166. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health the funding required to address all cases in which a need for a home care package has been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41065/17 asked on 28 Sep 2017 - Home Help Service Expenditure)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 166 together.
As these are service matters I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.
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2. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee E, health, last met. (Question 39628/17 asked on 27 Sep 2017 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.
Cabinet committee E met on 12 September. A date for the next meeting is not yet confirmed. Cabinet committee E covers issues relating to the health service. As well as addressing current issues and challenges faced by the health service, the Cabinet committee will oversee the development of the Government’s response to the Sláintecare report.
As I have previously stated, the Government agrees with the broad principle...

5. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the establishment of a strategic communications unit in his Department. (Question 39626/17 asked on 27 Sep 2017 - Government Information Service)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, together.
Communications is an essential part of effectiveness of any modern organisation. That is particularly true of Departments and public service bodies in all countries, given the impact of their activities on the lives of citizens. That is why communications should be treated as a strategic, whole-of-government activity which should be conducted to the same level of professionalism as any other activity, such as human re...

15. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet Committee C - European Union, including Brexit - last met. (Question 39627/17 asked on 27 Sep 2017 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: As outlined to the House in July, the Government agreed a new streamlined Cabinet Committee structure and approved the establishment of 6 new Committees, one of which is Cabinet Committee C. 
This Cabinet Committee will cover issues relating to the European Union, and will assist the Government in its ongoing consideration of Brexit. Cabinet Committee C will also support the Taoiseach’s participation as a member of the European Council. 
The Cabinet Committee, which I chair,...

98. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost of improving the staffing schedule in primary schools to reduce class sizes by one point each year in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40879/17 asked on 27 Sep 2017 - Departmental Expenditure)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Budget 2017 represented the start of a major reinvestment in education, and the first phase of implementation of the Action Plan for Education, aimed at becoming the best education system in Europe within a decade. The budget provided for over 2,400 additional teaching posts for our primary and post primary schools in the 2017/18 school year. 
Each 1 point adjustment to the staffing schedule is estimated to cost in the region of €15m - ...