16. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the actions his Department is taking in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann to improve punctuality in the services of each of the companies and the quality of service provided by each company. (Question 54130/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Public Transport)

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): The National Transport Authority (NTA) entered into separate contracts with the three CIÉ companies for the provision of Public Service Obligation (PSO) services. Among other things,  the contracts set standards of operational performance and customer service and contain penalties for non-performance. The NTA monitors the contracted performance of each PSO operator on a quarterly basis and the reports are av...

19. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the strategic investment framework for land transport being undertaken by his Department; and if he will report on his proposals to incorporate metro north into this framework. (Question 54129/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Infrastructure and Capital Investment Programme)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Work on developing a strategic framework for investment in land transport is ongoing within my Department. The assessment of specific projects required to meet current and future demand will, however, remain subject to detailed appraisal of the benefits and costs of each individual project. Many issues shall be addressed in this investment framework. Future transport demand depends on a wide array of drivers, such as  projected d...

61. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of new passports issued in the years 2012 and to date in 2013. (Question 54843/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Passport Application Numbers)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The Irish Passport Service produced a total of 632,073 new passports in 2012. The Irish Passport Service produced a total of 623,955 new passports from 01 January 2013 to 13 December 2013 (inclusive).
 ...

83. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the additional potential yield to the Exchequer if the domicile levy was increased to €350,000. (Question 54841/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Tax Yield)

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on the numbers of taxpayers paying the Domicile Levy since its introduction, the full year yield on a straightforward arithmetic basis from an increase in the Domicile Levy from €200,000 to €350,000 could be in the region of €2.3 million. Various factors, including fluctuations in asset values and income, could affect the numbers liable to pay the levy in future years. It must be borne in mind ...

131. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason Dublin Business School and other private third level institutions have not been expressly included on the list of non-eligible institutions for the purposes of applications for the student maintenance grant; and if provision can be made in the application system of Student Universal Support Ireland to automatically prompt applicants to the fact that private third level institutions, by naming the specific institutions concerned, are not eligible for maintenance grants. (Question 54866/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Student Grant Scheme Eligibility)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Private colleges operated on a for-profit basis are not listed as approved institutions for student grant purposes. The student grant scheme and the student support regulations which specify the criteria for approved courses as well as approved institutions, are widely available to the general public on my Department’s website. Also they are available via the www.susi.ie and studentfinance.ie websites. 
The SUSI website, provides a compre...

243. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if additional members of An Garda Síochána will be deployed to Operation Clean Tram during the Christmas and new year period. (Question 54842/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Garda Operations)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): The Deputy will be aware that the allocation of resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and one in which I have no function. While it would not be appropriate to comment on any ongoing operational matters, I can inform the Deputy that Operation Clean Tram is a specific operation involving liaison between Veolia Transport Security and An Garda Síochána and involves LUAS Security Ticket Checkers being accompanied by members of An G...

256. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the potential illegal activities of some gambling operators offering gambling services online in circumstances where they have been found to be breaching existing gambling control laws in other jurisdictions, such as Australia; the measures that will be put in place in the Gambling Control Bill to tackle potential breaches of gambling control laws in this jurisdiction, particularly those perpetrated by online operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 54945/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Gambling Legislation)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): While I am unable to comment on activities by on-line gambling operators in other jurisdictions, I can assure the Deputy that I am aware that the regulation of on-line operators, especially unlicensed on-line operators presents particular difficulties. I will therefore be including two particular measures in the forthcoming Gambling Control Bill that are targeted at this particular issue. These measures are in addition to a comprehensive s...

351. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if the required number of staff will be employed at the new day care building at St. Joseph’s Raheny, Dublin 5; and if he will provide the timeline for these potential employments. (Question 54844/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Health Services Staff Recruitment)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
 ...

352. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of approved additional posts in mental health services which have been filled to date this year; and when it is expected that any outstanding vacant posts will be filled. (Question 54845/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Health Services Staff Recruitment)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Following on from the special allocation of €35 million for mental health in Budget 2012, a further €35 million was provided in Budget 2013 for the continued development of our mental health services. Some 900 new posts have been provided primarily to strengthen Community Mental Health Teams for both adults and children and to enhance specialist community mental health services for older people with a mental illness, those w...

357. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the reason a significant number of nursing posts in hospitals across Ireland have recently been advertised by the Health Service Executive to be filled by foreign nationals when thousands of nurses are graduating from colleges and universities in this State each year; the reason an extended period of training in theatre and critical care is not made available to recent Irish graduates rather than sourcing staff from overseas for these specialties. (Question 54865/13 asked on 19 Dec 2013 - Health Services Staff Recruitment)

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): The Health Service Executive has recently advertised internationally to fill 54 theatre nursing posts and 34 critical care posts. This reflects a significant level of ongoing vacancies and difficulties in attracting candidates for these posts following recruitment campaigns in Ireland. 
While a considerable number of nurses graduate each year, approximately 1,500, it is not possible to offer the vacant posts to such graduates. Candidates for these post...

30. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 178 of 13 November 2013, the actions being taken and that will be taken to ensure that citizens requiring long-term residential care are provided with appropriate care and supports as expediently as possible. (Question 53983/13 asked on 18 Dec 2013 - Nursing Home Services)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): The HSE makes every effort to ensure that individuals who qualify for financial support under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme are provided with such support as expediently as possible. However, there is a set budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme each year and the HSE must operate within it. The budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme in 2013 is €974m.
As outlined in my previous reply, the HSE operates a national ...

78. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if it is planned that residential child care centres run by private operators in which children in the care of the State are cared for will come under the inspection remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority. (Question 53791/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Child Care Services Inspections)

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Minister told me that up to August 2013 there were 115 children in the care of the State who were placed in private residential child care centres, at a cost of up to €8,000 a week for some placements in HSE south. On a key point, given that there is a significant lack of public knowledge about the number of children who are placed in private residential care, why, as she stated specifically, does HIQA not have a role in invigilating those places and keeping them ...

93. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the actions she will take in tandem with the newly established Child and Family Agency to reduce and ultimately eliminate the number of Irish children placed in residential care outside of Ireland who are detained under special care orders and therefore provide the necessary care and supports to these children in this jurisdiction. (Question 53792/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Children in Care)

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The HSE Children and Family services provides a comprehensive range of placements for over 6,400 children in care within residential and family based placements. Placements are planned and provided on the basis of the individual needs of each child. Where possible children are placed within their own extended family network and within their own community. Currently 92% of children are in the care of the HSE are placed in fos...

191. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the timeline for the completion of the proposed survey of parents on school uniforms; the level of consultation that has taken place with retailers or manufacturers of school uniforms and their employees’ representatives prior to the circular on the matter being published. (Question 53780/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - School Uniforms)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The timeline for the conduct of the school uniform ballots is a matter for each schools Board of Management. My Department suggests that questionnaires be sent to parents by February 2014 before deciding on the position to be adopted for the next school year. In this context, when schools are balloting the parents in their schools, I would expect for discussions to take place within school communities about the value of school unif...

518. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if public health nurses are excluded from the remit of the Child and Family Agency; if she will be liaising with the Department of Health to introduce reforms in the public health nursing system to support public health nurses in their vital role as the first point of contact with many families and potentially assisting the provision of early intervention to families in need. (Question 54038/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Child and Family Agency Establishment)

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The legislation to establish the new Child and Family Agency (CFA) has recently completed its passage through the Oireachtas. The Child and Family Agency Bill has been signed by the President and it is now the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 (No. 40 of 2013). The necessary Commencement and Establishment Orders are in preparation to allow for establishment of the Agency on 1 January 2014 as planned. The establishment of the ...

519. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the Early Years strategy will be compiled following the publication of the report of the expert group on the Early Years strategy. (Question 54040/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Early Years Strategy Implementation)

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Following the announcement of the preparation of Ireland’s first Early Years Strategy, I appointed an Expert Advisory Group, chaired by Dr Eilis Hennessy of UCD, to advise the Minister and her Department on recommendations for inclusion in the Strategy. The work of this Group has concluded, and their comprehensive report, ‘Right from the Start’, was launched recently.
A wide range of recommendations is set out in the report fo...

584. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if his Department will be liaising with the Health Information and Quality Authority to ensure that a full and thorough investigation is carried out following complaints made about certain incidents of concern in an organisation (details supplied) working with persons with intellectual disabilities. (Question 54037/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Services for People with Disabilities)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): This government announced the commencement of a new scheme of registration and inspection of Residential Services for People with Disabilities by the Health Information and Quality Authority from 1 November 2013. HIQA are now able to set and monitor standards for designated centres which include residential services provided to persons with disabilities. HIQA are also now empowered to undertake investigations as to the safet...

585. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of facilities providing services to persons with intellectual disabilities inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority since the new inspection regime for such facilities became operational in November 2013. (Question 54039/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Services for People with Disabilities)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): On 1 November, 2013, I announced the commencement of a new scheme of registration and inspection of residential services for people with disabilities by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). This marked a new era in protecting people with disabilities in residential services and ensured that HIQA are empowered to undertake investigations as to the safety, quality and standards of residential services for peopl...

589. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if a national vision strategy will be developed by his Department in view of research which indicates that blindness is preventable for the majority of sufferers. (Question 54064/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Health Strategies)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): I propose to take Questions Nos. 551 and 589 together.
I understand that my colleague Deputy James Reilly. Minister for Health, has arranged a meeting with the National Coalition for Vision Health early in the New Year.
The issues involved in eye health span a number of areas in the health sector with regard to access to treatment, patient safety and quality of care. There are a number of eye conditions which require special...

590. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of temporary employments in the Health Service Executive for which a company (details supplied) has recruited the successful applicants in the years 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. (Question 54066/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Health Services Staff Data)

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take questions Nos. 590 and 592 together.
As these are operational matters they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
 ...

592. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the expenditure incurred by the Health Service Executive in engaging the services of a company (details supplied) in the years 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. (Question 54069/13 asked on 17 Dec 2013 - Health Services Staff Data)

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): I propose to take questions Nos. 590 and 592 together.
As these are operational matters they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
 ...

27. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding his proposal to introduce paid parking at Howth harbour. (Question 52930/13 asked on 12 Dec 2013 - Parking Charges)

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): The House will be aware that I have been considering introducing a charge for parking facilities within Howth Fishery Harbour Centre for some time:
- to assist in operating Howth Fishery Harbour Centre on a financially-sound basis;
- to provide a source of revenue for further investment in Fishery Harbour Centre facilities;
- as part of an overall traffic management plan; and
- in order to maximise the return on this significa...

38. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the current legal penalties for the sale of contraband cigarettes; and if it is his intention to significantly increase those penalties in line with the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions, in view of the fact that a single large container load of contraband may cost the State up to €3 million in excise revenue foregone. (Question 53512/13 asked on 12 Dec 2013 - Tobacco Smuggling)

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the fines that apply for an offence of evasion, or attempted evasion of excise duty on excisable products, including cigarettes, were increased substantially in the Finance Acts 2008 and 2010. The penalty in the case of a summary conviction for the smuggling or illegal sale of unstamped tobacco products is now a fine of €5,000, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both a fine and a term...

139. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 27 of 5 December 2013, if he will provide a breakdown, based on each local authority administrative area, of the locations of the 25,731 units of accommodation which were provided by approved housing bodies following approval by his Department under its capital funding schemes up to the end of 2012. (Question 53484/13 asked on 12 Dec 2013 - Voluntary Housing Sector)

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): My Department’s role in relation to the voluntary housing capital funding schemes relates primarily to the provision of funds to support the annual construction and housing acquisitions programmes by the sector. It is a matter for the relevant housing authority to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the schemes, and to have appropriate oversight and liaison arrangements...

142. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is intended to extend the estate management powers of local authorities under the Housing Acts, 1966 to 2009, to include tenancies supported by rent supplement or housing benefit. (Question 53510/13 asked on 12 Dec 2013 - Rent Supplement Scheme Administration)

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together. 
Housing authorities have no function in relation to the rent supplement scheme, which is operated by the Department of Social Protection. Insofar as the rental accommodation scheme (RAS) and the proposed scheme of housing assistance payments (HAP) are concerned, responsibility for estate management in relation to private rented a...