1. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the 2012 restructuring of the Defence Forces will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20687/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Reorganisation)

Deputy Jack Chambers: I echo the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s welcome to the delegation.
My question is to ask the Minister of State at the Department of Defence if he will review the 2012 restructuring of the Defence Forces and if he will make a statement on the matter. As the Minister of State knows, we had the first southern brigade headquarters in Cork, the second eastern headquarters in Dublin and the fourth western headquarters in Athlone. That consolidation was done on the basis of claimed e...

3. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the personnel strength of the Defence Forces was lower at the end of February 2018 than at the end of February 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20688/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Strength)

Deputy Jack Chambers: What are the reasons the personnel strength of the Defence Forces was lower at the end of February 2018 than at the end of February 2017? Will the Minister of State make a statement on the matter? As he knows, the Defence Forces face a full-blown retention crisis. Despite attempts to enhance recruitment we are haemorrhaging massive numbers. Why does the Minister of State believe that despite the recruitment campaign he is trying to promote, almost the same number of peo...

17. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to scrap or lower intelligence tests which are used to select recruits to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20387/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Recruitment)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I am aware of recent media reports that Psychometric Tests may be scrapped for Defence Forces recruitment and that the Department of Defence is “looking at dropping or lowering the bar on psychometric testing”. This is factually incorrect and misleading.
The Defence Forces utilise Psychometric Tests, as distinct from intelligence tests, during the recruitment process. They have advised that, according to the latest research, psy...

26. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the 2012 restructuring of the Defence Forces will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20385/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Reorganisation)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): As part of a major reorganisation of the Defence Forces in 2012, a decision was taken to consolidate the three understrength Army brigades into two full strength brigades. The decision was taken because it was clear that the previous three-brigade structure was no longer viable, particularly when compared to international norms. Key aspects of the reorganisation included the consolidation of understrength units into a smaller ...

27. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if an exit snapshot survey or interview has been carried out by the Defence Forces on members leaving the force; if so, the findings of the survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20386/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Military life places unique physical and psychological demands on individuals and given the rigors of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service.
Exit questionnaires are given to personnel as part of the administrative processing of t...

43. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the personnel strength of the Defence Forces was lower at the end of February 2018 than at the end of February 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20384/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Strength)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, as at:
 - 28 February 2018 was 9,057 (Whole Time Equivalent) personnel.
 - 28 February 2017 was 9,070 (Whole Time Equivalent) personnel.
The overall difference in strength in February 2017 and February 2018 is a reduction of 13 personnel. Variations in strength figures are not an unusual occurrence and, particularly in the short term, are ...

80. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of new recruits in the Defence Forces since 2011; and the number of those recruits who are no longer in the Defence Forces. (Question 20390/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The following table sets out the number of general service recruits inducted for each of the years 2002 to 2017 inclusive. It does not include those in cadetships. Data collated by the military authorities does not track individual entrants but is collated in the aggregate. As set out in the table, it is not unusual to have more than 20% of any annual recruitment intake leave during induction training.  
 Year Number...

97. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 194 of 27 February 2018, the status of pension increases which were due to be applied shortly including arrears due to the start of the year; when this will occur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20257/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Public Sector Pensions)

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): As I informed the Deputy in my previous answer on 27 February 2018, my Department issued a circular in January of this year authorising and giving guidance in relation to the application to qualifying pensions of pay increases under the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. Responsibility for implementing these increases lies with the various public service pension/payroll providers. I understand that work is underway to ...

266. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the average processing times for applications for partial capacity benefit; her views on whether the time it is taking to process such applications is discouraging persons from returning to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20301/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Partial Capacity Benefit Scheme Administration)

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): The partial capacity benefit (PCB) scheme allows people with restricted capacity to avail of employment opportunities while still in receipt of an income support. The scheme is open to people who:
a) have been in receipt of illness benefit for a minimum of six months;
or
b) are in receipt of invalidity pension.
The process of claiming PCB involves the submission and consideration of medica...

99. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if media reports that in 2016 it cost the taxpayer €15 million to replace Defence Forces personnel that left were accurate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19817/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 to 101, inclusive, together.
Given the unique and demanding nature of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service. This is a necessary feature of military organisations and allows for continu...

100. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of members of the Permanent Defence Force in whole-time equivalent terms, that left the service in each of the years 2013 to 2017, for reasons other than retirement; the branch of the service of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19818/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 to 101, inclusive, together.
Given the unique and demanding nature of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service. This is a necessary feature of military organisations and allows for continu...

101. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the estimated savings that would be made in terms of training and recruitment if the numbers leaving the Permanent Defence Force in 2018 for reasons other than retirement were halved relative to 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19819/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 to 101, inclusive, together.
Given the unique and demanding nature of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service. This is a necessary feature of military organisations and allows for continu...

265. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Health if transplant patients who must take immunosuppressant medication for the rest of their lives following transplantations will be covered under the long-term illness scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19688/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Long-Term Illness Scheme Coverage)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): The Long Term Illness (LTI) Scheme was established under section 59(3) of the Health Act 1970 (as amended). The conditions covered by the LTI are: acute leukaemia; mental handicap; cerebral palsy; mental illness (in a person under 16); cystic fibrosis; multiple sclerosis; diabetes insipidus; muscular dystrophies; diabetes mellitus; parkinsonism; epilepsy; phenylketonuria; haemophilia; spina bifida; hydrocephalus; and conditions arising from the use of ...

149. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Health if there is a levy (details supplied) on overnight hospital bed stays; if so, the reason the levy exists; the cost in this regard; the persons who are exempt from the levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19343/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Hospital Charges)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): The Health Act 1970 (as amended) provides that all persons ordinarily resident in the country are, subject to certain charges, eligible for public in-patient hospital services. As provided for by the Health (Amendment) Act 2013, the current public hospital statutory in-patient charge for public in-patient and day-case services is €80 per day, subject to a maximum of €800 in any period of twelve consecutive months. 
This nominal charge represents a contr...

157. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Health the status of his plans to add the FreeStyle Libre blood monitoring sensor to the long-term illness or drug reimbursement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19356/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Medicinal Products Supply)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.
 ...

147. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to develop improved bus services for persons using the bus to access Connolly hospital and St. Francis Hospice in Dublin 15; his further plans to ensure buses serve the hospital on a more frequent basis and collect and drop off persons closer to the entrance to Connolly hospital; if real time bus displays and a bus shelter will be installed at the hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19209/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Bus Services)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) 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 response within ten working days.
 ...

110. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the construction of a new permanent school building for a school (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the challenges and restrictions for pupils and teachers with the existing arrangements for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18433/18 asked on 26 Apr 2018 - Schools Building Projects Status)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): I am pleased to advise the Deputy that architectural planning has commenced for the delivery of the new school under the Department’s Design and Build Programme. Site surveys have commenced in advance of preparing the Planning Application which will be the next key milestone in the progression of the project.
 ...

212. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will address overcrowding issues on the Connolly to Maynooth rail service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18489/18 asked on 26 Apr 2018 - Rail Services)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): The National Transport Authority’s (NTA) Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area provides the overarching framework for the planning and delivery of transport infrastructure and services for Dublin over the next two decades. 
The recently published National Development Plan (NDP), which was launched earlier this year by Government as part of Project Ireland 2040, also confirms investment in heavy rail, including DART Expansion...

213. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will address excessive noise from traffic affecting residents living near the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18490/18 asked on 26 Apr 2018 - Noise Pollution)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  The planning, design and operation of individual roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.  
Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy’s question to TII for direct reply.  Please advise...

235. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding the working group comprising officials from planning authorities and his Department which was established to review and revise the 2005 planning guidelines on sustainable rural housing; if the review has concluded; if he has engaged with the European Commission on proposed changes to the guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18424/18 asked on 26 Apr 2018 - Planning Guidelines)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department regarding the 2013 European Court of Justice ruling in the “Flemish Decree” case, a working group, comprising senior representatives from my Department and planning authorities, was established in May 2017 to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, issued under section 28 of the Plan...

75. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on whether fast accrual is designed to deliver optimal final benefits after 30 years of contributions and that standard accrual is designed to deliver optimal benefits after 40 years of contributions in Defence Forces pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18315/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Defence Forces Pensions)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Military occupational pension (superannuation) schemes operate within the broader context and framework of public service pension policy as determined by Government.  The design, structure etc. of military superannuation arrangements has evolved in the overall context of public service pension reforms, especially developments over the past two decades or more.  For operational and HR policy reasons, Permanent Defence Force (PDF)...

76. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who have incurred injuries or illness in the course of their duties in each of the years 2015 to 2017; the number of Defence Forces personnel on public hospital waiting lists as a consequence of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18316/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The maintenance of a cadre of personnel capable of meeting the physical demands of a career in the Defence Forces is a key human resources requirement. The provision of medical services by the Defence Forces is designed to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are medically fit to undertake the duties assigned to them. The granting of sick leave or the administration of medical treatment is not a determination on how injuries or ...

77. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who receive private health cover as part of their terms and conditions of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18317/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Defence Forces Medical Services)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The provision of medical services within the Defence Forces is a combination of primary care, secondary care and an occupational medical service designed to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are medically fit to undertake the duties assigned to them and to treat any medical conditions arising, which would inhibit their capacity to undertake such duties. 
Medical Services provided to members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF...

100. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans to extend the July provision scheme to allow more children to qualify, including children with a particular diagnosis (details supplied), in view of the commitment in the programme for partnership Government to examine the adequacy of special education access and funding provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18264/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Special Educational Needs Service Provision)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): In 2018, almost €1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 43% since 2011.
This funding includes provision for over 13,400 Special Education Teaching posts in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2017/2018 school year, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs, and approximately 1,300 special classes, with 169 new Special...

112. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship being processed by his Department; the number of active applications being processed for more than one, two, three and five years, respectively; the average waiting time per application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18221/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Citizenship Applications)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the number of applications for naturalisation currently on hands, by year of application for each of the years 2015 - 2018 inclusive and 2014 and earlier is as follows:
 Year of Application   2014 and earlier  2015  2016  2017 2018 to date  Total Applications currently on hand  340  330  1,700  7,330  2,770  12,470 

It ...