236. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of sites that have been entered in every city and council vacant sites register from 1 January 2017 to 1 January 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2184/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Vacant Sites Data)

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 introduced a new measure, the vacant site levy, which is aimed at incentivising the development of vacant, under-utilised sites in urban areas.  Under the Act, planning authorities are required to establish a register of vacant sites in their areas, beginning on 1 January 2017, and to issue notices to owners of vacant sites by 1 June 2018 in respect o...

243. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of the proposed provision of €25 million over 2018 and 2019 to unlock local authority owned lands specifically for affordable models such as co-operative schemes; the progress that has been made in developing models of affordable housing and co-operatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2371/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Housing Provision)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 and 244 together.
Recognising that housing affordability is a major issue for some households and that while initiatives introduced to date are having an impact and will have a greater impact in time, the Government considers that a further package of targeted measures focused on addressing affordability is needed to enable low- to moderate-income households, that do not qualify for s...

244. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the advice which can be given to co-operative housing bodies such as an organisation (details supplied) that wishes to meet with local authorities and present proposals for a co-operative housing project in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area in view of the fact that as yet no process exists for such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2372/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Housing Provision)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 and 244 together.
Recognising that housing affordability is a major issue for some households and that while initiatives introduced to date are having an impact and will have a greater impact in time, the Government considers that a further package of targeted measures focused on addressing affordability is needed to enable low- to moderate-income households, that do not qualify for s...

3. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet Committee B, social policy and public services, will next meet. (Question 1831/18 asked on 16 Jan 2018 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together. 
Cabinet Committee B last met on 16 November. While the date of its next meeting is not yet scheduled, I expect it will be within the next few weeks. The committee oversees the areas of social policy and public service reform including education, children, social inclusion, the Irish language, arts and culture, and continued improvements and reforms to public services. The committee seeks to co-ordinate work across ...

327. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the reason for the decision to remove lidocaine patches from the approved GMS list for chronic pain sufferers; if he will review the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53556/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017 - General Medical Services Scheme)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Medicines play a vital role in improving the health of Irish patients. Securing access to existing and new and innovative medicines is a key objective of the health service. However, the challenge is to do this in an affordable and sustainable manner. The medicines bill for the community drugs schemes – primarily the GMS, Long Term Illness and Drugs Payment schemes and the High Tech Arrangement – is forecast at just over €1.7 billion in 2017. 
To ensur...

647. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her long-term plans with regard to the ECCE scheme; if a decision on the over age exemption from the early childhood care and education scheme will be reversed and not just paused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53625/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017 - Early Childhood Care and Education)

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): I propose to take Questions Nos. 647 and 661 together.
I have committed to consulting further with parents of children with disabilities before a decision is made on the future of the over-age exemption for the ECCE scheme. 
My officials are working closely with the Department of Education and Skills in designing the consultation and also taking advice from the Cross Sectoral Implementation Group (CSIG) of the Access and Inclusi...

691. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason self-employed persons who became disabled and as a result were unable to work in the past number of years are not entitled to invalidity pensions, even if they worked for many years prior to becoming disabled and for a few years were not in a position to make PRSI contributions, are now being penalised for this; her plans to amend the legislation to ensure that all self-employed persons who have become disabled will be entitled to an invalidity pension; if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53538/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017 - Invalidity Pension Eligibility)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Self-employed people who earn €5,000 or more in a contribution year, are liable for PRSI at the class S rate of 4%, subject to a minimum annual payment of €500. This provides them with access to the following benefits: State pension (contributory), widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension (contributory), guardian’s payment (contributory), maternity benefit, adoptive benefit and paternity benefit. 
...

17. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on discussions he has had with President Trump. (Question 52958/17 asked on 13 Dec 2017 - Taoiseach’s Meetings and Engagements)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 to 17, inclusive, together. I can, at this stage, outline my plans for a number of visits abroad, relating both to EU and non-EU business. As the House is aware, I will travel to Brussels for a meeting of the European Council on Thursday and Friday. Further European Council meetings are scheduled for March and June 2018. I plan to travel to Lebanon later this month to visit members of the Defence Forces serving in the UNIFIL mission. My vis...

32. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had discussions with his counterparts in Europe after the announcement by President Trump to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53230/17 asked on 13 Dec 2017 - Middle East Peace Process)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I call Deputy Gino Kenny.
 ...

50. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the conversations he has had with President Trump or the US Administration since the President’s decision to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53229/17 asked on 13 Dec 2017 - Middle East Issues)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 54, 60 and 61 together. 
In relation to the announcement by the United States in relation to Jerusalem, I refer Deputies to my earlier reply to Priority Question no 28.
I was in direct contact with the US authorities to express my concerns before this decision was taken, and I issued a public statement of the Government’s response and views when the announcement was made. Subsequentl...

182. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the services that were provided to persons in Mosney, County Meath in 2007 through the on-site medical centre; and the professions that were represented there. (Question 53455/17 asked on 13 Dec 2017 - Health Services Provision)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): As the issue raised by the Deputy relates to a service matter, I have referred it to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.
 ...

15. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent conversations with Prime Minister May. (Question 52956/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Brexit Negotiations)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 17, inclusive, together.
I spoke by phone with Prime Minister May most recently on Wednesday, 6 December and again on Thursday, 7 December. 
On both occasions we had good conversations as we took stock of the situation that unfolded on Monday, 4 December and the prospects of getting back to a point of satisfactory progress. I reiterated the firm Irish position regarding the text that had been agreed on Monday, 4 December. On Friday morning, ...

18. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the issues he is planning to raise at the next European Council meeting. (Question 50598/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - European Council Meetings)

Taoiseach (Deputy Leo Varadkar)(Deputy Leo Varadkar): I will attend the European Council in Brussels on 14 and 15 December. 
The draft agenda for the main meeting consists of security and defence - including Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) - and social, educational and cultural matters - where we expect a report on the recent Gothenburg Social Summit, and the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Foreign policy issues might also be raised. 
President Tusk will also cha...

57. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to address the specific issues of pay and conditions in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52968/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Defence Forces Remuneration)

Deputy Paul Kehoe: I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 57, 64, 70 and 83 together.
As I said earlier in reply to a previous question, the pay of the Permanent Defence Force, similar to other areas within the public service, was reduced during the financial crisis. The reductions in pay were on a graduated scale with higher percentages being deducted from those on higher earnings. This action was one of the measures that it was necessary to take to stabilise the financial situation which faced...

66. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of commitments if Ireland signs up to the PESCO agreement in view of that agreement’s requirement to regularly increase the defence budget in real terms and to increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defence, research and technology with a view to nearing the 2% of total defence spending collective benchmark; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52967/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Permanent Structured Co-operation)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Following the completion of national requirements, Ireland yesterday joined the other 24 EU partners in collectively launching PESCO at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels
In relation to the target of 2% of total defence spending on defence research and technology, this is a collective benchmark and applies to the combined expenditure of all PESCO participating member States. The benchmarks do not apply individually to Memb...

517. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person in emergency accommodation has an entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance to facilitate a special diet for diagnosed Crohn’s disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52978/17 asked on 12 Dec 2017 - Social Welfare Payments Administration)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Questions Nos. 512 and 517 together.
I was pleased to announce on Budget Day that an 85% Christmas Bonus was to be paid this year to over 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients, such as pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, lone parents and long-term jobseekers at a cost of €219 million, in recognition of their long-term financial dependence on their social welfare payments for all o...

21. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the criteria he plans to establish regarding affordability in local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, funded developments and on publicly owned land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52267/17 asked on 07 Dec 2017 - Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): The Government acknowledges the affordability pressures faced by households with low to moderate incomes, particularly in parts of the country where the demand-supply imbalance is resulting in increasing house prices and rent inflation. It is precisely for that reason that Rebuilding Ireland has prioritised the supply of new homes to meet current and pent-up demand as well as helping to moderate house prices and rents. 
...

51. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to take vacant properties into public ownership in view of the worsening homeless emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52268/17 asked on 07 Dec 2017 - Vacant Properties)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 52 together.
With regard to data on vacant homes (excluding holiday homes), Census 2016 indicates that there were 183,312 dwellings identified as vacant on the Census night of 24 April 2016. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the levels of vacancy recorded as part of Census 2016 have significantly reduced in the interim, particularly in urban areas where many habitable homes...

96. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the conditions in which persons resident in a building (details supplied) are trying to exist; the way in which the building passed inspections carried out by the Reception and Integration Agency and a fire safety company hired by it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52404/17 asked on 07 Dec 2017 - Direct Provision System)

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): My Department has recently been made aware of complaints in relation to the accommodation centre in question. These complaints have been forwarded onto the contractor and a full report has been requested as soon as possible. Any and all appropriate action to remedy any identified defect will immediately be addressed.
All accommodation centres under contract to the Department are inspected by staff from the Rece...

141. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if extra funding for a charity (details supplied) will be allocated for an education officer and information officer which will enable it to provide services for families and persons living with dyspraxia/DCD; the reason for his recent decision to refuse funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52381/17 asked on 07 Dec 2017 - Disability Services Funding)

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 o...

32. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is acceptable that seven members of the board of a school (details supplied) had to go to court in order to protect the school’s playing pitches and the public investment in the school; the actions he will take in regard to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52201/17 asked on 06 Dec 2017 - Schools Property)

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I have raised with the Minister on several occasions, including by way of meeting, the fate of the playing pitches at Clonkeen College. As the Minister is aware, the Christian Brothers are planning to sell 7.5 acres of land used as playing pitches by Clonkeen College. Seven members of the board of management have been forced to take High Court proceedings to prevent this sale, which will rob the current 500 students and future generations of students of playing fie...

37. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the efforts he has made to ensure that the playing pitches at a school (details supplied) will be available for the children of that school into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52012/17 asked on 06 Dec 2017 - Schools Facilities)

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: To continue on the question of Clonkeen College, I find the Minister’s hands-off approach on this matter somewhat difficult to understand. I remind him that the Christian Brothers is selling Clonkeen’s lands in order to pay redress for child abuse. I ask the Minister if he thinks that it is acceptable that the Christian Brothers discharges its debt for historic child abuse by taking pitches from current and future generations of children, compounding the crimes aga...

45. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he will take to protect the playing pitches for the students of a school (details supplied) into the future in view of his Department’s investment in the school over the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52014/17 asked on 06 Dec 2017 - Schools Property)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): As I have already indicated to the Deputy, the fields at the school in question are owned by the Congregation of Christian Brothers. The decision by the Congregation of Christian Brothers to dispose of land owned by the Congregation is a matter for the Brothers.
In July 2017, the Congregation advised my Department in writing that the lands concerned were sold and that the Congregation had signed a legally binding contract with the purch...

76. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will progress plans to ensure equal access to education for all pupils independent of their religion; his views on whether the repeal of section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 is necessary to ensure this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52015/17 asked on 06 Dec 2017 - School Admissions)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): On 16th January 2017 I announced my intention to reform the school admissions system in relation to the role that religion can play in that process.
I have always indicated that I think it is unfair that preference can be given by publicly funded denominational schools to children of their own religion who might live some distance away, ahead of children of a different religion or of no religion who live close to the school. I also belie...

82. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) can expect to have its school building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 52013/17 asked on 06 Dec 2017 - School Accommodation Provision)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The school to which the Deputy refers is currently located on the Notre Dame campus, Upper Churchtown Road, Dublin 14 pending completion of the permanent accommodation for the school at the St. Tiernan’s Community School site in Balally. 
As the Deputy may be aware, outline planning permission at a site in Balally for the school to which the Deputy refers was submitted to the relevant local authority in December 2012 but was refused on t...