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 Header Item Crime Prevention (Continued)
 Header Item Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
 Header Item Brexit Issues

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony] Can the Minister commit to that?

  Five years ago, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties published research in this area which indicated that victims of crime with disabilities were not strategically identified as a specific victim group with particular needs and concerns. Will the Minister ensure people with disabilities are seen as such?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I assure the Deputy that the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and I consult on an ongoing basis to ensure that every effort is made to assist people with disabilities. I mentioned earlier a number of practices in order to ensure that victims who have disabilities are treated in a more sensitive manner. For example, I am informed that improvements were made to the Garda PULSE system a number of years ago that included the introduction of a victim assessment screen. This requires mandatory recording of data relating to the apparent motive for a crime incident, such as whether that crime was motivated by discrimination on specific grounds, including age, disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. As part of the Garda policing plan for 2019, work is well under way within An Garda Síochána on the development of a definition and procedures to record hate crimes. Once this is agreed, the Garda intends to run a nationwide campaign to encourage the reporting of such crimes to An Garda.

I am mindful that there has been much discussion recently on whether legislation specifically addressing crimes of this nature should be introduced. I would be happy to give careful consideration to the research from other jurisdictions but I assure the Deputy that these issues are taken seriously by An Garda Síochána and are prosecuted through the courts. A judge often takes into consideration when arriving at an appropriate sentence or sanction the fact that a victim may well be a person with a disability.

Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony I thank the Minister. I also wish to raise the issue of hate crime legislation. Disability hate crimes may be once-off incidents or part of systematic abuse that may continue over weeks, months or years. Hate crime can happen between strangers who have never met, between friends or within the family unit. In October 2016, in conjunction with my colleague Deputy O'Loughlin, I introduced hate crime legislation. I understand that the Government played the money message card in respect of that Bill. I acknowledge that this was before the current Minister's time. In the Bill, we sought to make hate crime relating to disability an offence. Is the Minister committed to this same goal? Is he supporting hate crime legislation? If so, when will his Department move on it?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I assure the Deputy that my Department and I are currently reviewing the law on this issue. We are relying on the 1989 prohibition on incitement to hatred legislation. It is appropriate and timely that it be subject to review. In addition, it is important that we carry out appropriate research and examine legislation and best practice in other countries. We should examine the effectiveness of such legislation. This will inform the Government's approach to this issue. In the meantime, I assure the Deputy that where criminal offences, such as assault, criminal damage and public order offences, are committed with bias or a prejudice motivation, they are prosecuted under the wider criminal law. Trial judges in these circumstances, as in the circumstances I mentioned earlier, can take aggravating factors into account, including whether the offence may be described as a hate crime, whether there is a prejudice motivation or whether there is bias. The forthcoming Judicial Council Bill, which is currently passing through the Seanad, will include provisions on sentencing guidelines. Clearly, hate crimes could be considered in that context.

Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Peadar Tóibín — to discuss the impact of the insurance industry on Irish business; (2) Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice — to discuss delays in the distribution of personal hygiene products from the HSE; (3) Deputy Niamh Smyth — to discuss the need for a women's refuge in Cavan-Monaghan; (4) Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh — to discuss funding for the Donore community drug teams and their youth programme; (5) Deputies Eoin Ó Broin, Thomas P. Broughan and Gino Kenny — to discuss developments in regard to the proposed cannabis access programme; (6) Deputy Eamon Scanlon — to discuss the provision of the emergency ambulance service in the north west; (7) Deputy Fergus O'Dowd — to discuss the allocation of home care hours from the HSE for persons in CHO area 8; (8) Deputy James Browne — the need for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to liaise with IDA Ireland to provide additional jobs and further investment in County Wexford; (9) Deputies Seamus Healy and Mattie McGrath — the urgent need to reverse recently announced changes to municipal districts in County Tipperary and the need to re-establish borough and town councils; (10) Deputy Aindrias Moynihan — to discuss extending Macroom hospital to meet HIQA requirements; (11) Deputy Thomas Pringle — supports for alcohol and gambling addiction in County Donegal after the closure of the Bill W Club; (12) Deputy Shane Cassells — the development of the new St. Mary's special school in Navan; (13) Deputy John Curran — the lack of primary school places for children in Rathcoole; (14) Deputy Frank O'Rourke — to discuss the need for public transport improvements in north Kildare, specifically BusConnects for the Celbridge area; (15) Deputy Robert Troy — to address the potential impact of Brexit on Ireland's tourism industry, in particular the impact on Ireland's strong cruise ship tourism and associated activities; (16) Deputy Pat Buckley — to discuss closure of respite beds at Midleton hospital; (17) Deputy Brian Stanley — to discuss with the Minister for Education and Skills the plans his Department has for a new for site and premises for Coláiste Dhún Másc, Portlaoise; (18) Deputies Fiona O'Loughlin, Thomas Byrne, Barry Cowen and Sean Fleming — the current position on the new school building for St. Paul's, Monasterevin; (19) Deputy Mick Wallace — to discuss the need for the EU to call for an end to the US sanctions in Venezuela; (20) Deputy Martin Ferris — to discuss adult disability services in Kerry; (21) Deputy John Brassil — to ask the Minister for Health his views on the amount of money being allocated to the HSE for residential services for people with disabilities and on the statement by Cork-Kerry Community Healthcare, a local HSE service that criticised the level of funding for these services at national level; and if he will make a statement on the matter; (22) Deputy Martin Kenny — the matter of wheelchair-accessible bus transport on Bus Éireann route 480 between Donegal town and Sligo, including access to Sligo IT; and (23) Deputy Joan Collins — to raise serious concern that an analysis of fire safety documents from the last three years shows that nearly 75% of the appeals against conditions applied by Dublin Fire Brigade have been either overturned or had their key conditions modified significantly and the need for fresh guidelines.

The matters raised by Deputies Tóibín, Fitzmaurice, Ó Snodaigh and Aindrias Moynihan have been selected for discussion.

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Brexit Issues

 6. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans to ensure that the threats posed by Brexit to the rights and equality of persons resident in Northern Ireland with Irish citizenship, particularly such as they relate to nationality, are addressed; and his plans to bring forward legislation to address this matter. [11875/19]

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an mhéid a bhí le rá ag an Aire, an Teachta Flanagan, agus é ag freagairt na ceiste deireanaí. Nuair a bhí an Bille um Tharraingt Siar na Ríochta Aontaithe as an Aontas Eorpach (Forálacha Iarmhartacha), 2019 á phlé sa Teach seo, bhí díospóireacht fhada againn ar impleachtaí an Bhreatimeachta ar chearta saoránaigh an Tuaiscirt. Is léir go bhfuil folús agus faillí ann ó thaobh náisiúntachta agus saoránachta de, agus go bhfuil gá le reachtaíocht. Céard atá i gceist ag an Aire a dhéanamh faoin cheist seo?

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Under any scenario for the UK's exit from the European Union, the obligations and commitments of the Irish and UK Governments under the Good Friday Agreement remain. The Government will continue to work with the UK Government as co-guarantor to secure the full implementation of the agreement.

Eligibility for Irish citizenship is based on the nationality of either of a person's parents.  Alternatively, a request for naturalisation is based on fulfilling certain residence requirements along with other criteria.  The granting of citizenship carries with it, for both the applicant and the State, a number of obligations, and the criteria for the granting of Irish citizenship are set down in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK will leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. Under EU law, Irish citizens resident in Northern Ireland will remain EU citizens.  As Union citizens, they will continue to enjoy the right to move and reside freely throughout the EU, benefiting from the important right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality while doing so. It is important to re-emphasise that both the Irish and British Governments have committed to the maintenance of the common travel area in all circumstances, which means that Irish and British nationals will continue to enjoy the rights currently in operation under this arrangement, including a right of residence and associated rights and privileges.

The provisions within the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, take account of the Good Friday Agreement and, therefore, recognise the birth right of "all of the people of Northern Ireland" to identify themselves and be recognised as Irish or British, or both, as a matter of individual choice. This will continue to be the case after 29 March, or post Brexit, irrespective of whether the withdrawal agreement is ratified. Both this Government and our British counterparts have repeatedly and unequivocally committed to upholding the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and to the continued existence of the common travel area.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Mar atá ráite agam cheana, d'fhéadfadh dha fhadhb a bheith ann - na hathruithe ar cearta a tharlódh i gcás Breatimeacht gan beart a aistriú, agus an easpa cearta atá ann faoi láthair. There are already some deficits, even in the context of pre-Brexit or pre-hard-Brexit scenarios, and even as things stand. I have quoted on a number of occasions the hearings of the justice committee in January on rights and equality in the context of Brexit. We heard from the Committee on the Administration of Justice, which I have quoted previously, and also from Professor Colin Harvey. Professor Harvey stated:

[T]here is a rights and equality deficit in the North.   I would put it as strongly as saying that there is a crisis in the North relating to rights and equality.

That is obviously of significant concern. It speaks to the lack of action by both Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, in holding up the commitments that relate to this specific area.

  Dr. Maurice Manning, in his capacity as president of the Irish Human Rights Commission, stated the following a number of years ago:

We have advised that a Charter would not need to create any new protections.   It could restate the fundamental human rights that already exist in both jurisdictions, thereby helping to underpin the peace process and providing a basis from which political parties could demonstrate their continued commitment to human rights.

This lays the onus on both Governments to establish a charter of rights.


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