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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 186-209
 Header Item Passport Controls
 Header Item Passport Applications Fees
 Header Item Ministerial Functions
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Lobbying Data
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Paternity Leave
 Header Item Parental Leave
 Header Item Court Accommodation Refurbishment
 Header Item Garda Complaints Procedures
 Header Item Property Services Regulatory Authority
 Header Item Garda Stations
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Immigrant Investor Programme Administration
 Header Item Immigrant Investor Programme Administration
 Header Item Immigrant Investor Programme Administration
 Header Item Refugee Status Applications
 Header Item Garda Reserve
 Header Item Probation and Welfare Service
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Prisoner Transfers
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation
 Header Item Courts Service Administration

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 95 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 186-209

Passport Controls

 186. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the Irish and EU legislation, which requires Irish citizens to input their passport information into the website of their chosen airline before they depart the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42524/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Passports are internationally recognised travel documents which attest to the identity and nationality of the bearer.

  The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for the issuance of passports to Irish citizens and for the maintenance of the security and integrity of the Irish passport.

  However, immigration or administrative requirements for entry into third States are not a matter within the competence of the Passport Service.

Passport Applications Fees

 187. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to subsidise or make a grant available to persons over 70 years of age applying for passports in Budget 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42688/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not provide grants or subsidies to any particular category of applicant for a passport.

The cost of the standard ten-year (adult) Irish passport compares favourably with many other jurisdictions. At a cost of €80, which breaks down to €8 per year, the Irish passport fee compares with approximately €8.30 per year for a British passport, €8.60 per year for a French passport, €9.40 per year for an American passport and €18.50 per year for an Australian passport. I do not have any plans at this time to reduce the fee for a passport or to award grants in connection with passport applications. .

Ministerial Functions

 188. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the powers he has delegated to the Ministers of State in his Department; the date on which such delegation was made; if there were changes in powers delegated relative to the situation in place prior to 14 June 2017; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42781/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney There are two Ministers of State at my Department: Ciarán Cannon, T.D., and Helen McEntee, T.D. Minister of State Cannon was appointed Minister of State with special responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development at my Department on 15 June 2017. Minister of State McEntee was appointed Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs at my Department on 20 June 2017.

The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No.2) Act, 1977 provides for the delegation of statutory Ministerial powers and duties to Ministers of State. This may be done at the request of the Minister concerned, by Government Order. My statutory powers as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade relate to consular, passport and other technical matters and it is not the practice, nor is it considered necessary, to delegate these functions. .

Foreign Conflicts

 189. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will raise with the Spanish government the recent and concerning actions of that government in Catalonia (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42209/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Concerns have been raised in the Oireachtas on a number of occasions in recent weeks, including when the Taoiseach spoke last week of his dismay and that of all of Government at the violence that took place on 1 October.

The Government’s concern about the situation has been conveyed to the Spanish authorities by Minister of State Helen McEntee at a meeting with the Spanish Ambassador last week and by our Embassy in Madrid. The Embassy is also keeping its travel advice under review and is updating it on a regular basis to reflect developments.

Over the past week we have seen large scale demonstrations in Barcelona on 4 October, and over the past weekend in Madrid, Barcelona, and a number of other locations across Spain. Spanish citizens have taken these opportunities to express a range of views on Catalonia.

Ireland respects the constitution and territorial unity of Spain. It remains the Government's view that it is for Spanish citizens to determine for themselves their preferred constitutional and political arrangements through their own democratic institutions and within the law. Upholding the constitution and the rule of law in all its aspects is a key underpinning of a modern democracy.

Political developments in democracies take place within a legal framework. This is what protects the rights of all of our citizens. Respecting the rule of law and the limits that it imposes is not a choice but an obligation. Differences of opinion should be contested robustly by public representatives and others, and all parties should do so with full respect for the law and the rights of citizens. This is the foundation that underpins and protects modern, democratic societies.

The situation in Catalonia will continue to be closely monitored by the Government. .

Lobbying Data

 190. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of occasions on which he has been lobbied in respect of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill since March 2016; the persons he has met with; the dates of these meetings; the details of the basis of the lobbying; his views on the issues raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42292/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  Neither my predecessor as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, nor I, have held any meetings specifically on the subject of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill during the period in question.

However, the broader issue of alcohol policy was raised with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in the context of two meetings since March 2016 regarding the UK’s departure from the EU. At both meetings, there was no substantive discussion on alcohol policy and the exchanges remained focused on Brexit.

The first occasion on which alcohol policy was raised was at a meeting regarding Brexit between Minister Flanagan and representatives of Diageo (Oliver Loomes, Dan Mobley, Liam Reid) on 5 October 2016. The second occasion was a meeting I held regarding Brexit with the Food and Drink Ireland group, IBEC, on 26 September 2017. Those in attendance from Food and Drink Ireland were Colin Gordon, Maurice Hickey, Oliver Loomes, Jim Woulfe, Philip Tallon, Philip Carroll, Patricia Callan, Paul Kelly, Kevin McPartlan, Conor Mulvihill and Joe Ryan. .

Human Rights

 191. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of the case of a person (details supplied); and if he has discussed the case with his Filipino counterpart recently. [42325/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is continuing to do everything it can to support and assist this citizen. However, what the Irish Government can do in the case of an Irish citizen who is involved in a criminal case overseas is limited. The Irish Government cannot intervene in a matter that is before the courts in another jurisdiction, just as no foreign government can interfere in our judicial system.

Nonetheless, both my officials and I have been working very hard on this citizen’s behalf. We have made repeated representations to the authorities in Manila stressing the humanitarian concerns in this case and requesting that the pending appeal against this man’s conviction be expedited.

The Irish Government made a direct request to the Administrator of the Supreme Court to ask that this Appeal be expedited on humanitarian grounds. In April of this year, the Administrator of the Supreme Court acknowledged the Irish Government’s concerns and interests in the matter and instructed that the papers related to the Appeal should be elevated to the Supreme Court for consideration.

In July 2017, attorneys acting on behalf of this citizen advised that all relevant papers had been filed in relation to the appeal. The matter is now with the Supreme Court for resolution.

Last month, while I was attending the UN General Assembly session in New York, I personally raised the case directly with the Philippines Foreign Minister, Mr. Alan Cayetano. I underlined the Irish Government’s concerns about this situation and asked for Foreign Minister Cayetano’s assistance, specifically in relation to our request that the Supreme Court consider the appeal urgently. Minister Cayetano agreed to follow up on the matter on his return to Manila.

The Irish Ambassador to the Philippines has also, on my instruction, raised the case again at senior official level in recent weeks with the Philippines Ministry of Foreign Affairs. .

Paternity Leave

 192. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on allowing paternity leave to be taken within the first year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42678/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton As the Deputy will be aware, the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 creates a statutory entitlement to two weeks' paternity leave and benefit, which can be taken at any point within 26 weeks of the date of the baby's birth (or in the case of adoption, within 26 weeks of the day of placement).

Parents want choice and flexibility, and the provisions contained in the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act give them a considerable degree of flexibility by allowing to choose when they take the time off to care for their child, within a six-month timeframe.

The Deputy will also be aware of the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to increase, over the course of the next five years, paid statutory leave afforded to parents during the first year of a child’s life. My intention is to publish my proposals in that regard in due course for inclusion in the Family Leave Bill. The Bill will also review all existing family leave legislation such as parental leave, carer's leave, maternity leave, and adoptive leave and consolidate this legislation into one Act. .

Parental Leave

 193. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans to amend the parental leave legislation to extend the age limit in order to allow parental leave be taken up to the age that a child finishes their primary education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42718/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton As the Deputy will be aware, under the Parental Leave Act 1998, as amended by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006, an entitlement was created for parents to 14 weeks of unpaid parental leave on the birth or adoption of a child. Such leave was to be taken until the child had reached the age of eight years, with certain extensions allowed in the case of adoptees and children with a disability or long-term illness.

On 8 March 2013, the European Union (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013 increased the amount of parental leave available to each parent per child from 14 weeks to 18 weeks. The regulations also extended the age limit for a child with a disability or long-term illness to 16 years old.

As the Deputy will also be aware, the Government has approved drafting of a Family Leave Bill, which I intend to publish in early course. The Bill will consolidate all existing family leave legislation such as parental leave, carer's leave, maternity leave and adoptive leave into one Act while making necessary amendments and improvements.  .

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

 194. Deputy Eamon Scanlon Information on Eamon Scanlon Zoom on Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan when essential remedial work is to commence on Ballinamore courthouse, County Leitrim, which is in a dilapidated condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42876/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that work was due to be undertaken earlier this year on the roof of Ballinamore courthouse. The Courts Service has further informed me that the Office of Public Works advised that a report on the structure of the building is required before any work could commence. The Courts Service is currently awaiting a structural engineer's report on the building which will inform the refurbishment process.

Garda Complaints Procedures

 195. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on the follow-up that is being planned further to the meeting with persons (details supplied) regarding the tragic death of their son.  [42992/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As I have previously explained to the Deputy, this tragic case was considered under the Independent Review Mechanism, IRM, and the recommendation was that no further action should be taken. Counsel for the IRM pointed out that the appropriate forum for raising matters related to alleged Garda failings was the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, who were already investigating certain matters arising from the tragic death in this case.

GSOC is an independent body tasked with the investigation of complaints against members of the Garda Síochána. That independence is crucial to confidence in the process of investigating such complaints. Therefore, it is a matter entirely for GSOC as to how it carries out its investigations and it would be entirely inappropriate for me, as Minister, to comment on any current GSOC investigation.

I am aware that GSOC met with members of the family in question recently and my understanding is they were given a full update on the current position with regard to the investigation of their complaints.

In the circumstances, I can only say that I await the outcome of the GSOC investigation. When that outcome is known, the question of whether, and if so, what further action can be taken, will be considered. .

Property Services Regulatory Authority

 196. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans to amend legislation, secondary or primary, to tighten up regulation of companies which offer foreign property investment opportunities to ordinary investors in view of numerous instances of such companies retaining deposits on properties that are never built. [43002/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Property Services Regulatory Authority, PSRA, was established on 3 April 2012 pursuant to the provisions of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011. The PSRA is mandated to control, supervise and regulate Property Service Providers, PSPs, i.e. auctioneers/estate agents, letting agents and management agents. The PSRA, which is independent in the performance of its statutory functions, operates a comprehensive licensing system in respect of all PSPs, administers a system of investigation and adjudication of complaints against PSPs, and maintains a sector-funded compensation fund where licensed PSPs have acted dishonestly.

The provision of property services by a licensed PSP or a relevant person (as provided for under Section 82 of the 2011 Act, i.e. property service providers from other EU countries), includes the auction of property other than land, the purchase or sale, by whatever means of land (including property), the letting of land or property management services in respect of property both within and outside the State. The purchase or sale of overseas properties by licensed PSPs is a property service for the purposes of the Act if the service is provided in the State.

Section 65 of the 2011 Act provides for the PSRA to investigate complaints made against licensed PSPs. Following an investigation where a licensed PSP is found to be negligent in retaining a booking deposit, a sanction may be imposed and or a claim against the PSP's professional indemnity insurance may be made. However, where an act of dishonesty is established against a licensed PSP, the client may make a claim on the Property Services Compensation Fund.

I am advised by the Authority that this is not an issue which has been brought to its attention to date. Accordingly, there are no specific plans at this time for legislative change to the property services regulatory regime to address this specific matter. However, it may be the case that other Irish regulatory bodies may have a more direct responsibility in this regard, for example, the Central Bank, as the regulator of investment companies..

Garda Stations

 197. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will publish the terms of reference for the interim reports and final report regarding the reopening of six Garda stations on a pilot basis; the length of time the stations will be reopened as part of the pilot scheme; if other considerations will be given in determining if a pilot station will remain open on a full-time basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42470/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The report to which the Deputy refers was published on 30 September 2017, along with a letter from the Tánaiste and then Minister for Justice and Equality to the Garda Commissioner. I understand that the final report is due to be completed in the coming weeks and the Government will consider the matter in due course.

Garda Deployment

 198. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of gardaí stationed at Clondalkin, Lucan, Ronanstown and Rathcoole; the comparable figures for each of the years 2012 to 2016 and to date in 2017, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42500/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. I am assured by the Commissioner that the allocation of Gardaí is continually monitored and reviewed taking into account all relevant factors including crime trends, demographics, and security assessments relating to the area in question so as to ensure optimal use is made of Garda human resources.

  I am informed by the Commissioner that in regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Garda Division. It is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his or her Division.

  As the Deputy will be aware, Clondalkin, Lucan, Ronanstown and Rathcoole Garda Stations form part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region, DMR, West Garda Division. I am informed that on 31 August 2017, the total strength of the DMR West Garda Division was 664. There are also 27 Garda Reserves and 47 civilians attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of the Division is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

  This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

  This plan is progressing well. This year, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Funding has also been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves.

  I am pleased to announce today that I have secured sufficient funding to provide for the recruitment of another 800 new Garda recruits in 2018, which will ensure that the planned Garda strength of 15,000 by 2021 remains on course to be achieved. Budget 2018 will also facilitate the recruitment of a further 500 civilians and the strengthening of the Reserve.

  I am advised by the Commissioner, that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of which 119 were assigned to the DMR West Division and 17 of which were assigned following last September's attestation. I understand that another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest this year, which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.

  This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to allow to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the DMR West Division, in the coming years.

  This investment in personnel is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. The Deputy will be aware of the significant resources that have been made available to An Garda Síochána under the Government's Capital Plan 2016-2021. In particular, some €205 million in additional funding for Garda ICT and €46 million for new Garda vehicles has been allocated over the lifetime of the plan. This investment will facilitate the provision of more effective policing services, and I have no doubt that these new resources now coming on stream will see an increase in Garda visibility in our communities.   

  I am informed by the Commissioner that as of 31 August 2017, the latest date for which figures are available, the Garda strength of Clondalkin, Lucan, Ronanstown and Rathcoole Garda Stations from 2012 up to 2017 are as set out in the tables below.

  Garda Strength by Station 2012-2017 

Station 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017*
Clondalkin 95 91 89 87 94 99
Lucan 73 72 74 73 74 69
Ronanstown 93 91 91 94 91 93
Rathcoole 26 23 23 21 19 15
  *Up to 31 August 2017

Immigrant Investor Programme Administration

 199. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if a project (details supplied) was referred to the immigrant investor programme committee; if so, the reason it was not successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42503/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have been advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department that enquiries were made to officials in the Immigrant Investor Programme Unit in relation to the project referred to by the Deputy. However, the project was not submitted to the Evaluation Committee based on the advice given. .

Immigrant Investor Programme Administration

 200. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the due diligence that is carried out on companies submitting projects to the immigrant investor programme; if an assessment was made of a company (details supplied) that has submitted projects; if tax clearance and other checks are carried out on companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42504/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department that the purpose of the immigrant investor programme is to incentivise investment in Ireland by high-net-worth non-EEA nationals. As part of the investment, the non-national receives a specific immigration permission. There is no contractual relationship between my Department and individual developers or agents, such as the company referred to by the Deputy. In that context, a requirement to demand a tax clearance certificate or other form of certificate from such companies does not arise. It is the investor who is entering into a relationship with the company in question and he or she would be prudent to do due diligence before committing a sum of €1 million to a project.

All projects being proposed for consideration as applicable projects are, however, required to submit a detailed business plan with all relevant supporting documentation and where the agent is a developer or project proposer then all statutory requirements and regulations must be supported with appropriate documents..

Immigrant Investor Programme Administration

 201. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the representations made by members of the Government for projects submitted under the immigrant investor programme in each of the past three years; if he will release the representations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42505/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have been advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department that no representations by members of the Government in support of projects submitted under the Immigrant Investor Programme, IIP, have been received in each of the past three years.   

Refugee Status Applications

 202. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the Government will give consideration to granting refugee status to persons fleeing the ongoing persecution within Venezuela; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42523/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy will be aware that Ireland is a signatory to the United Nations 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. As such, Ireland is bound by international law to provide international protection to refugees and it is an obligation taken very seriously by Government.

In the International Protection Act 2015, a refugee is defined as, "a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside his or her country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or a stateless person, who, being outside of the country of former habitual residence for the same reasons as mentioned above, is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it".

Applications for International Protection in Ireland are processed by the International Protection Office, IPO. The Chief International Protection Officer and the International Protection Officers of the Office are independent by law in the exercise of their international protection functions.

All applicants for international protection, including those made by Venezuelan nationals in Ireland, are carefully interviewed and their cases are individually assessed by trained caseworkers. The circumstances of each individual case are assessed having regard to both the subjective elements (the applicant’s own account or personal history) and objective elements (up-to-date information on the applicant’s country or place of origin). Supporting documentation submitted by applicants is also taken into account. .

Garda Reserve

 203. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the progress which has been made in recruiting Garda reserves in view of the fact that funding has been provided to recruit 300 Garda reserves in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42538/17]

 204. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the progress which has been made in recruiting Garda recruits in view of the fact that funding has been provided to recruit 800 Garda recruits in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42539/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 204 together.

This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

Taking account of projected retirements, reaching a strength of 15,000 by 2021 will require some 2,400 new Garda members to be recruited on a phased basis over the next three years in addition to the 2,000 that will have been recruited by the end of this year since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014.

The workforce plan is progressing apace. I am informed by the Commissioner that, since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. I am also informed that another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest later this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016. In addition to this, a further 800 Garda trainees are expected to attest in 2018.

I am pleased to announce today that I have secured sufficient funding to provide for the recruitment of another 800 new Garda recruits in 2018, which will ensure that the planned Garda strength of 15,000 by 2021 remains on course.

In relation to the Garda Reserve, which has significant potential to be a visible presence on the ground, engaging with local communities funding has been provided for the recruitment of 300 new Reserves this year. That process is well under way with the Public Appointments Service undertaking the selection process on behalf of the Commissioner. It is expected that successful candidates from will enter training early in the New Year. I am also pleased that Budget 2018 will facilitate the continued strengthening of the Reserve next year. .

Probation and Welfare Service

 205. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the position regarding the modernisation of the probate system, having previously stated that a report with recommendations for the modernisation of same was due by mid-2017, to be presented to the senior management team of the Courts Service and to the Courts Service Board for their consideration; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that delays within the current probate system are causing undue hardship on many persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42575/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Probate Office is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998. Probate functions are also carried out by County Registrars at District Probate Registries in 14 provincial court offices.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that backlogs in the probate system are a cause for concern and that if an issue of hardship is brought to the attention of the Probate Office or a District Probate Registry, a Grant of Representation is expedited.

The main reason for requests to expedite the issue of a grant in a deceased person's estate is to facilitate the sale of property, and where requests for such expedites arise, the grant issues promptly. In the Probate Office in Dublin, it usually issues within a two- to three-week timeframe in solicitors' applications, while personal applicants are seen by appointment as soon as possible and the grant issues within three to four days of their appointment with the Probate Office.

The Courts Service has advised that the review of the probate system is ongoing, and that it is anticipated that a report will be completed before the end of 2017 for presentation to the senior management team of the Courts Service and to the Courts Service Board..

Garda Deployment

 206. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the reason An Garda Síochána is advertising internally for one sergeant and two gardaí for the penalty point office; if the policy of placing gardaí on policing duty and away from administration has changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42594/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for carrying on and managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including the arranging of competitions at the ranks of Garda, Sergeant and Inspector, and I as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. 

As part of its Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána, the Government has agreed an overall vision for a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 to include 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. This very substantial investment in personnel is driven by our commitment to ensure all citizens have the reassurance of a visible, responsive and effective policing service. The projected number of 4,000 civilians will effectively double the current figure and represents a medium-term target of a Garda organisation 20% comprised of civilians. That will bring An Garda Síochána, currently 14% comprised of civilians, more in-line with international norms and ensure that trained Gardaí are not engaging in administrative and technical duties which could be done by suitably qualified civilian staff.

The 20% target will be achieved through a twin-track approach of, firstly, a “civilian by default” policy to be adopted in relation to the filling of all new posts other than operational policing posts and for non-operational policing posts that become vacant and, secondly, the redeployment of Gardaí and backfilling by suitably qualified civilians where necessary. In its, "Changing Policing in Ireland", report, the Garda Inspectorate has estimated that there may be up to 1,250 Gardaí currently in such posts and the Government’s plan aims to return as many of these Gardaí as possible to front-line duties over the next five years. Work is in train on the development of redeployment plan and the first batch of 43 Gardaí to be redeployed has been identified with a further 120 in the process of being identified.

Funding for the recruitment of up to 500 civilians was provided in Budget 2017 to facilitate the Commissioner in addressing capacity and critical skills gaps across the organisation including in corporate supports, change management, human resources and financial management at the national, regional and divisional level. These appointments are intended to facilitate deeper civilianisation in the coming years. In addition, I am pleased to announce that Budget 2018 will facilitate the recruitment of an additional 500 civilians next year to continue to support the civilianisation agenda.

I have requested a report from the Commissioner in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy and I will revert to him when it is to hand. .

The deferred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.

Prisoner Transfers

 207. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the status of the prisoner transfer scheme following the Supreme Court judgment in the Rafferty et. al. v. Governor of Portlaoise case; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42608/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan On 12 July, 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed the State's appeal in the case known as, "O'Farrell, McDonald, Rafferty v. The Governor of Portlaoise Prison". The case concerns an appeal taken by the State against a judgement of the High Court ordering the release of the three named prisoners who had been transferred to Ireland from the UK where they had been sentenced, under the provisions of the Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners Acts, 1995 -1997.

  The judgement is detailed and has implications for the continuance in its present form of the process operated by the Irish Prison Service for transferring prisoners from other States to Ireland. The practical effect of this judgement and whether it will necessitate legislative or administrative changes is being examined by officials of the Irish Prison Service and my Department in consultation with Attorney General. Given the complex nature of the review being undertaken, it is not possible at this stage to indicate a timeframe for its conclusion.

Commencement of Legislation

 208. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan when a commencement order will be signed to commence the operation of Part 12 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42611/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Under Part 12 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, there is to be a new Advisory Committee on the Grant of Patents of Precedence that will be established by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. As well as receiving and considering relevant applications, the Committee will recommend legal practitioners, that is to say solicitors or barristers, it considers suitable to use the title of Senior Counsel to the Government by way of their being granted a Patent of Precedence. The Committee will also establish the criteria to be met by legal practitioners in order for such a recommendation to be made. These will be based on a number of objectives specified in section 173(2) of the 2015 Act including that the legal practitioner concerned will, in his or her practice, have displayed a degree of competence and a degree of probity appropriate to and consistent with the granting of a Patent of Precedence along with professional independence. These objectives also include a proven capacity for excellence in the practice of advocacy; in the practice of specialist litigation; or in specialist knowledge of an area of law. The Advisory Committee framework will, therefore, replace the current procedures in this area while also placing them on a more formal and transparent footing.

The Advisory Committee, which can also recommend the revocation of a Patent of Precedence, will be chaired by the Chief Justice and will also comprise the President of the High Court; the Attorney General; the Chairperson of the Bar Council; the President of the Law Society and a lay member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority who will be nominated by the Minister for Justice and Equality. I will also be bringing forward an amendment to the 2015 Act to include, as a member, the President of the Court of Appeal whose coming into office had not been anticipated at the time of publication of the Legal Services Regulation Bill in 2011.

The establishment of the Advisory Committee on the Grant of Patents of Precedence is both a key reform and a key component of the managed and phased roll-out of its legislative functions by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, including in the matching development of its organisational capacities and office and staffing resources. This will, in addition to the amendment to which I have referred, involve the detailed preparation by the Regulatory Authority of the procedures and application criteria for the consideration and recommendation of candidates for the title of Senior Counsel and the inauguration of the Advisory Committee. In respecting the Authority's independence in the roll-out and exercise of its statutory functions, I and my Department continue to work closely with the Authority to enable it to come into substantive regulatory mode at the earliest opportunity. The phased start-up of its various functions, including those which arise under Part 12, will continue to need careful project management. It will also require the ongoing identification, in conjunction with the Authority, of the more specific delivery dates for the respective independent functions involved during the remainder of this year and into 2018. These are matters in support of which I will make the relevant Commencement Orders at the appropriate time. .

Courts Service Administration

 209. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if steps can be taken to alleviate the pressure on District Courts that are hearing contested family law matters late into the evening; if plans are in place to improve the determination of family law disputes before courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42615/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. Furthermore, the scheduling of court cases and the allocation of court business is a matter the President of the District Court and the presiding judge who are, under the constitution, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.

  However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the President of the District Court monitors waiting times and workload across all court lists and seeks to ensure the optimum use of court time and judicial resources. Wherever possible, the President targets additional judicial resources at the areas of greatest need.

  I am also informed that delays in the hearing of cases and the size of court lists can be impacted by a number of factors, many of which are outside the control of the courts and the Courts Service, for example, the unavailability of a witness or vital evidence, delays in the furnishing of reports or because the parties and/or legal practitioners are not ready to proceed on allocated dates. This gives rise to adjournments, which can have a major impact on the time taken to complete the hearing of a case and on the number of cases which are listed in a court sitting.

  Domestic violence applications are prioritised in all District Courts throughout the country. Applications such as Protection Orders are prioritised in the District Court and they are usually granted where the Court so decides on the date the application is made to the Court. Typically, interim barring orders, which are also an emergency application, are also made ex parte and granted on the date of application. There are, therefore, no delays in dealing with such applications.

  In provincial locations, Barring Order applications are generally listed for the next dedicated family law day (most Districts have at least one day per month dedicated to family law only). This means that such cases are generally listed for hearing between two to six weeks from the issue date. There are exceptions, however, and in some instances the first listing for the hearing of a barring order summons may be up to 14 weeks. Applications for Barring Orders are prioritised within court lists, and a decision is generally made on such applications on the first listing date. Where adjournments occur, they are generally granted at the request of one or both parties.

  The President of the District Court as well as the Courts Service will continue to monitor the position in regard to waiting times and the length of court lists and where possible appropriate consideration will be given to allocating additional judicial resources to address any issues that may arise.

  The 2011-2016 Programme for Government contained a commitment to establish a, “distinct and separate system of family courts to streamline family law court processes and make them more efficient and less costly ”, and draft legislation is in preparation to give effect to this commitment.

  A working group comprised of the Department, the Courts Service and the Legal Aid Board is currently in place to examine, among other things, how the new Family Court would operate on the ground and what are the implications for family law cases.


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