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Waterways Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The project involves the provision of floating moorings in the inner basin of the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin City to provide approximately 55 new berths. The berths form a "necklace" around the Waterways Ireland visitor centre and access to the moorings is from the existing walkway serving the visitor centre.

The cost is approximately €600,000.00.

Tenders were sought by public advertisement and placed in the Official Journal of the European Communities in July 2003. Tenders were received from seven companies. One company from Northern Ireland submitted a tender. The contract was awarded per the criteria set out in the documentation which was provided to all tenderers.

Ards and Down Area Plan

Lord Kilcooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

22 Jul 2004 : Column WA66

Baroness Amos: The draft Ards and Down Area Plan was published on 10 December 2002. The decision to hold a public inquiry was made in September 2003. The inquiry is programmed to commence on 10 January 2005. The timing of the report will depend on the time required by the Planning Appeals Commission to hold the inquiry and report its findings to the Department of the Environment's planning service.

In considering planning applications, the planning service will continue to give due regard to the draft area plan as a material consideration. Urgent consideration is also being given to whether any further action is needed in this respect at a policy level.

Northern Ireland Civil Service:Sick Absence

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: Sick absence statistics for the Northern Ireland departments are analysed by financial year as opposed to calendar year. The information sought is readily available for the 11 departments of the NI administration and their agencies for the period 1999–2000 to 2002–03. Published statistics for Northern Ireland departments for the financial years 2000–01 to 2002–03 are accessible on the department's website at

The table below details the average number of days lost during the period 2000–01 to 2002–03 for the 11 departments of the NI administration and their agencies.
22 Jul 2004 : Column WA67

Department/AgencyAverage Days Lost per Staff Year

Staff from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Complaints and the Planning Appeals Commission are included in the DFP figures.

Staff from HSENI and OFREG are incuded in the DETI figures.

The level of sick absence has been a matter of concern over the recent years and a range of corporate and departmental initiatives has been and is being taken forward to reduce the current levels of sick absence. NI departments have set individual targets for reduction in sick absence.

Northern Ireland: School Funding

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The department is aware of nine instances of development proposals for new schools turned down because the schools failed to meet the viability criteria—two secondary schools and seven primary schools. Records relating to the establishment of integrated schools prior to 1995 are no longer available.

The schools concerned are listed on the attached Appendix A.

In all but the two most recent cases, the viability criteria was achieved eventually and a subsequent development proposal was successful.

There were only two schools which received funding without strictly meeting the full criteria. An explanation for these is in Appendix B.

Appendix A

Primary Schools
Year turned downSchoolSubsequent proposal
2004Gaelscoil an Lonnain, Belfast
2004+Lir Integrated PS, Ballycastle
1998Gaelscoil Ui Neill, Coalisland
Approved from Dec 2000
and 1997+Oakwood Integrated PS
Approved from Dec 1998
1995Bunscoil an Iuir, Newry
Approved from Oct 1996
1995Bunscoil an tSleibhe Dhuibh
Approved from August 1996
1995Bunscoil Ben Mhadagain
Approved from
Apr 1997

+ reasons for non-approval in these two cases related to the adverse effect on the enrolments at another nearby school and uncertainty about long-term demand and religious balance.

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Secondary Schools
Year turned downSchoolSubsequent proposal
1997*Strangford Int CollegeApproved from Dec 1998
1997 and 1998*East Antrim (Ulidia) Int CollegeApproved from Sept 2000

*Although viability was a factor in these schools not being approved, they also were unable initially to demonstrate the "potential to sustain a minimum religious balance of 30:70 within a long-term enrolment of 500".

Appendix B

Schools which received funding without fully meeting the viability criteria

(i) In 1996, Meanscoil Feirste, the only Irish-medium post-primary school in Northern Ireland, was awarded grant-aided status, although it did not achieve the required intake. There was however firm evidence from the school's previous intakes and the growth in the Irish-medium primary school sector that the school would shortly achieve the level of enrolments and that these would be sustainable.

(ii) In 2002, Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche, an existing independent Irish-medium primary school in Castlewellan, was approved for funding with a year-one intake of 10 instead of 12. The decision was taken on the basis that the school had just fallen short of the minimum but had 12 pre-school children in the attached pre-school unit. The school at the time also had a total of 32 children of compulsory school age already attending.

North-South Ministerial Council

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

22 Jul 2004 : Column WA69

Baroness Amos: I refer the noble Lord to my Answer of 7 July (WA 80). The North-South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat has no involvement in decisions about grants issued by the Ulster-Scots Agency, and has made no comments on such disbursements.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The duties of the staff of the North-South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat include holding meetings with persons who are neither civil servants nor members of the North-South Implementation Bodies. Over a period of more than 18 months, since January 2003, such meetings have been numerous, of varying degrees of significance, and many have been unrecorded. It is not possible to list them all with accuracy.

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