7. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way in which he will ensure that public servants who opt to work until 70 years of age will be doing so out of a desire to work as opposed to feeling compelled to do so for economic reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53259/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017 - Public Service Retirement Age)

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: The Deputy will be aware that last week the Government decided to increase the compulsory retirement age from 65 to 70 for public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004. I announced this on Wednesday last with the Ministers of State, Deputies O’Donovan and Moran. The decision to remain at work beyond the age of 65 will be completely voluntary on the part of the employee. There will be no change to the minimum pension age, that is, the age at which a public servant ca...

64. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will raise with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the ongoing incarceration of a person (details supplied) who had their licence revoked in March 2016 but has not received due process or opportunity to answer charges against them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53233/17 asked on 13 Dec 2017 - Northern Ireland)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers and my officials in the Belfast Secretariat monitor this and other cases as part of their ongoing work on prison issues generally in Northern Ireland.
The person concerned was detained in March 2016 when the release licence granted to him under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement was revoked by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers. The ca...

56. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his Department has prepared legislation to accord enhanced rights for PDFORRA and RACO in anticipation of the outcome of the European Committee on Social Rights case taken by EUROMIL; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52916/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Legislative Programme)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): A case was brought to the European Committee of Social Rights by EUROCOP, on behalf of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. EUROMIL, a European umbrella body for military associations, made a similar complaint to the Committee on behalf of PDFORRA about the lack of union rights for military Representative Associations in Ireland.
PDFORRA are claiming most of the same violations of the European Social Charter as AG...

84. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has engaged with members of a group (details supplied) on 30 November 2017 during their 24-hour protest outside Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52915/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Ministerial Meetings)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I did not meet with members of the Group on this occasion but I met with some of their members earlier this year. I am aware of their concerns.
Like other areas within the Public Service, the pay of the Permanent Defence Force was reduced during the financial crisis. The reductions in pay and the introduction of a Pension Related Deduction was on a graduated basis with increased rates of deductions for those on higher earnings....

234. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will raise with a company (details supplied) which is engaged by the HSE on State contracts the reason it does not recognise a union which represents its staff in view of the fact that it recognises a union in Northern Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53235/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Trade Union Recognition)

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I thank the Deputy for bringing this matter to attention but should point out that under Irish law there is no requirement for an employer to recognise trade unions for the purpose of collective bargaining. 
Article 40 of the Irish Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to form associations and unions. It has been established in a number of legal cases that the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of associati...

352. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health the reason the decision was made to no longer cover medical and adhesive tape on the medical card; and if alternative funding arrangements have been made to cover costs for those that require it for daily use. (Question 53087/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Medical Card Eligibility)

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.
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364. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health if he will raise with a company (details supplied) that is engaged by the HSE on State contracts the reason it does not recognise a union which represents its staff in view of the fact that it recognises a union in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53234/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Trade Union Recognition)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly on this matter. 
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487. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will raise with a company (details supplied) that are engaged by the HSE on State contracts the reason they do not recognise a union which represents its staff in view of the fact that they recognise a union in Northern Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53236/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Departmental Contracts)

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): The Department of Children and Youth Affairs have a contract with the organisation concerned to provide the pilot Bail Supervision Scheme for a 2 year period following a public tender. This Department has no role in the operation of this organisation or in Human Resources within their organisation.
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43. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reconsider his Department’s refusal to fund a new space at a school (details supplied) for resource teaching; and his further plans to reconsider his refusal to a previous request that his officials have a face-to-face meeting with the principal and board of management of the school. (Question 52002/17 asked on 06 Dec 2017 - School Accommodation Provision)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): My Department is satisfied that the delivery of a project in recent years at the school referred to by the Deputy, to provide six new mainstream classrooms and new toilet facilities, provides sufficient accommodation to cater for the school’s mainstream requirements.  In addition, I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department approved the provision of a two-class ASD Unit in February of this year which will further improve the facilitie...

181. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will request the professional development service for teachers to review the level of continuous professional development for teachers of mathematics particularly in the Cork area in which an absence of such a service is reported by teachers. (Question 51548/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017 - Teachers’ Professional Development)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The new post-primary mathematics curriculums were introduced in 2010.  Continuing Professional Development (CPD) was developed to support the implementation of the revised curriculums and has been made available to all teachers of mathematics.
The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), since September last, has assumed responsibility for CPD support in this area.  A priority for this service is the provision of support for...

186. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills the mechanisms in place regarding proof of address for independent students applying for the SUSI grant in view of the predominance of precarious tenancies and the rise of apartment living (details supplied). (Question 51582/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017 - Student Grant Scheme)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Very significant numbers of third-level students move out of home to go to college and continue to be supported by their parents while in full-time education. Confirmation that a student is living separately from his/her parents is of itself, not sufficient to establish independent status.
When considering whether a student meets the conditions to be assessed independently of his or her parents, grant awarding authorities like SUSI are o...

187. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the situation in County Cork whereby children in special class placements are not entitled to access to transport with an escort (details supplied). (Question 51583/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017 - School Transport Eligibility)

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.
Currently over 114,000 children, including over 11,000 children with special educational needs, are being transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.
The purpose of the scheme for Children with Special Educ...

379. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health the reason for the decision not to provide funding applied for by an organisation (details supplied) for an education and information officer; and the considerations in the new allocation model for SNAs that was given for children with dyspraxia in view of the fact that the new guidelines mean persons with this condition are likely to be overlooked. (Question 51912/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017 - Services for People with Disabilities)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality ...

505. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason persons in receipt of illness benefit do not receive a Christmas bonus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 51913/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017 - Illness Benefit Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Christmas bonus is payable to persons who are in receipt of long term social welfare payments. Illness Benefit is primarily a short term scheme and, as such, is not a qualifying payment for the purpose of the Christmas bonus.
A person who finds that their means are insufficient to meet their needs may be eligible for assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme. Application may be made to the Commu...

524. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to fund the appointment by local authorities of additional staff in order that timely inspections of HAP properties can take place in cases in which persons make complaints regarding standards of accommodation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 51911/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017 - Rental Accommodation Standards)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 524, 530 and 531 together.
The Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, set out a series of measures to be introduced to ensure the quality of private rental accommodation by strengthening the applicable standards and improving the inspection and enforcement systems.
On 1 July 2017, updated regulatory standards, the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017...

141. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) can be included on the school build programme for a new build on a locally identified site in view of the rapid expansion in numbers at the school since 2013 and the condition of the current building. (Question 51113/17 asked on 29 Nov 2017 - Schools Building Projects Applications)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): I can confirm that my Department received a major capital application from the school to which the Deputy refers for the development of a new school building. 
A project for the school has not been included in my Department’s 6 Year Construction Programme and it is, therefore, not possible to provide an indicative timeframe for the delivery of a major project for the school at this time. 
However, my Department has recently granted appro...

273. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will direct the Chief State Solicitor’s Office to make an appropriate payment in view of the conclusion of a High Court case (details supplied). (Question 51114/17 asked on 29 Nov 2017 - Court Judgments)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers.
I note that no actual award was made by the Supreme Court in the case. There was a suggestion that the State make an ex-gratia payment. No final decision has been made on how the matter will be resolved and I am informed that the Garda Síochána and the Chief State Solicitor’s Office are still considering how to advance the issues.
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77. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will report on the tendering of bus routes in County Waterford. (Question 49426/17 asked on 22 Nov 2017 - Bus Services)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 it is a statutory function of the National Transport Authority (NTA) to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered Public Service Obligation (PSO) bus services.  Arising from this, it is the NTA’s role to conduct the public procurement process relating to its decision to tender out of 10% of the PSO bus network, including the recent tendering of PSO sevic...

90. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regrading the implementation of the new rosters in Bus Éireann and his engagement with the trade unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 49425/17 asked on 22 Nov 2017 - Bus Éireann Services)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): I propose to take Questions Nos. 56, 62, 84, 90 and 94 together.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.
As the Deputies will be aware, in April last, following a 3 week strike, the Labour Court made a Recommendation in relation to Bus Éireann. This was accepted by b...

24. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health his views on the increase in mental health problems reported in the most recent census; the impact of the level of mental health funding in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 48284/17 asked on 15 Nov 2017 - Mental Health Services Funding)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): According to census 2016, the number of people with psychological or emotional conditions increased from 96,004 in 2011 to 123,515 in 2016. The Government has taken action to address this and the consequent increase in demand for services. Over the period in question, there has been a substantial parallel increase in awareness of mental well-being in society and a reduction in the stigma associated with mental health issues.
In b...

39. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health if the provision of anomaly scanning for all pregnancies will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 48181/17 asked on 15 Nov 2017 - Maternity Services Provision)

Deputy Robert Troy: When does the Minister envisage anomaly scans will be available in the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar?
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59. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health his views on the high numbers of Travellers affected by suicide (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 48182/17 asked on 15 Nov 2017 - Traveller Community)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): In 2015, the Government launched Connecting for Life, Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide with the aim of reducing suicide and self-harm over 2015-2020. The Strategy sets out a vision where fewer lives are lost through suicide, and where communities and individuals are empowered to improve their mental health and well-being. It provides community-based organisations with guidelines, protocols and training on effective s...

92. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health his plans to deal with the trolley crisis and emergency department overcrowding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 48179/17 asked on 15 Nov 2017 - Hospital Overcrowding)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 96 and 189 together.
I would like to acknowledge the distress for patients and their families, and the impact on staff, caused by cramped and overcrowded conditions in some of our hospital Emergency Departments. 
This year so far, Emergency Department attendances are up over 1.8% or over 16,000 patients by the end of September, including a 5% increase in Emergency Department attendances by people over 75 years. With...

95. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health his plans for eliminating waiting times of more than 12 weeks for inpatient procedures, 10 weeks for outpatient appointments and 10 days for diagnostic tests. (Question 48178/17 asked on 15 Nov 2017 - Hospital Waiting Lists Action Plans)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): I acknowledge that waiting times are often unacceptably long and I am conscious of the burden that this places on patients and their families.
Reducing waiting times for the longest waiting patients is one of this Government’s key priorities. Consequently, Budget 2017 allocated €20 million to the NTPF, rising to €55 million in 2018. Budget 2018 allocated additional funding in the region of €10m for the remainder of 2017 to fund patient treatment across...

98. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health if an analysis has been conducted regarding the equality impact of minimum unit pricing for alcohol and its potential effects on chronic alcoholics and their families. (Question 48180/17 asked on 15 Nov 2017 - Alcohol Pricing)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Research carried out on behalf of my Department by The University of Sheffield on minimum unit pricing, considered the impact by income on those who consume alcohol. 
The research indicated that the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol products will impact on drinkers in all income groups. The impacts on high risk drinkers will be substantial and greater than on low risk drinkers. 
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