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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 458-479
 Header Item Cross-Border Co-operation
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Traveller Community Issues
 Header Item Court Orders
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences
 Header Item Garda Training
 Header Item Garda Investigations
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item Legislative Programme
 Header Item Court Procedures
 Header Item Naturalisation Applications
 Header Item Garda Remuneration
 Header Item Detention Centres
 Header Item Detention Centres
 Header Item National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan Issues
 Header Item Asylum Support Services
 Header Item Defence Forces Reorganisation
 Header Item Capital Programme Expenditure

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 458-479

Cross-Border Co-operation

 458. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline projects on which his Department co-operates with the Department of Justice in the North.  [54160/12]

 459. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline projects on which his Department cooperates with the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in the North.  [54161/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 458 and 459 together.

The work of my Department in relation to North-South co-operation arises primarily in the context of criminal justice co-operation and is carried out across a range of Divisions in my Department depending on the nature of the work involved. I am and my officials are frequently and closely engaged with our counterparts in Northern Ireland in respect of a wide range of matters relating to North-South criminal justice co-operation. The Deputy will be aware that under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters I meet regularly with David Ford to discuss criminal justice matters of mutual interest or concern in the two jurisdictions; to consider the scope for and develop plans to achieve more effective co-operation and co-ordination on criminal justice matters between the two jurisdictions; to oversee and give direction to the work of the Working Group of senior officials; to exchange information on other criminal justice initiatives taking place in both jurisdictions, and to approve and review progress against the annual work programmes on criminal justice co-operation.

The Agreement established a Working Group of senior officials comprising representatives of my Department, the Northern Ireland Department of Justice and the various criminal justice agencies from both jurisdictions. Its remit is to take forward current co-operation and to identify other areas in which co-operation on criminal justice matters could be enhanced or initiated. A number of project groups established by the Working Group are taking forward a range of co-operation initiatives in relation to forensic science, registered offenders, probation and rehabilitation, victim support, youth justice matters and social diversity.

Outside of the framework of the Intergovernmental Agreement, the officials of my Department maintain regular and productive interaction with their counterparts in the Northern Ireland Department of Justice and the various other Departments of the Northern Ireland Executive, depending on the particular issue at hand. In addition, the officials of my Department maintain close and ongoing contact with their counterparts in the Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Department of Justice in regard to the security situation and the ongoing threat posed by criminal terrorists.

Crime Data

 460. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide the figures for burglaries in each Garda district for 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and the year on year percentage change in each district and the total national figures.  [54168/12]

 461. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide the figures for burglary detection rates in each Garda district for 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and the year on year percentage change in each district and the total national figures.  [54169/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 460 and 461 together.

  The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Garda Deployment

 462. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of Gardaí deployed to the Garda stations at Naas, Newbridge, Athy, Kildare Town, Kilcock, Maynooth and Leixlip in each of the past ten years to date; the extent to which the numbers have fluctuated on an annual basis in line with population trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54336/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of each Garda station referred to by the Deputy on 31 December 2002 to 31 December 2011 and on 31 October 2012, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the following table:

Year
Naas
Newbridge
Athy
Kildare
Kilcock
Maynooth
Leixlip
31/12/02
78
28
16
29
6
14
24
31/12/03
80
29
16
27
5
15
26
31/12/04
78
29
16
27
5
15
28
31/12/05
80
32
18
26
5
15
25
31/12/06
89
33
19
31
5
17
25
31/12/07
98
33
18
30
5
16
24
31/12/08
103
35
23
32
8
18
28
31/12/09
107
44
27
32
8
15
33
31/12/10
101
45
29
33
8
15
35
31/12/11
101
47
31
26
9
13
34
31/10/12
103
49
34
27
10
14
29


The Deputy will be aware that the Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation and I have no direct function in the matter. This allocation of resources is constantly monitored in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Traveller Community Issues

 463. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if the State will formally recognise Irish Travellers as a separate ethnic group.  [54345/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I refer to the reply to Question no 51492/2012 of 20 November 2012. Consideration of the question remains ongoing with a view to ensuring that full analysis of all aspects of the granting of ethnic status to Travellers is available to Government when coming to a decision on the matter.

Court Orders

 464. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps he is taking to introduce legislation to enable periodic payments be made in respect of personal injuries awards in catastrophic injuries; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54346/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce legislation to facilitate courts making provision for structured settlements in circumstances where lump sums are currently awarded as a consequence of individuals suffering catastrophic injury because of the negligence of another. The successful operation of a statutory scheme for structured or periodic payments requires the establishment of a financial infrastructure to ensure that continuity of payment is secure. In this regard the High Court Working Group Report on Periodic Payments recommended that the State, through the agency of the National Treasury Management Agency, be empowered to provide injured victims with the necessary security for periodic payments either by the provision of annuities to insurers and others or in such other manner as may be appropriate. Alternatively it was recommended that consideration be given to the introduction of a statutory scheme whereby payments made under periodic payment orders will be statutorily protected and guaranteed. The NTMA has concluded an actuarial review on the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the State acting as an annuity provider to insurers and indemnity providers in personal injury actions to enable compliance with the security of payment principle. The NTMA report is being considered in consultation with the Minister for Finance with a view to the development of legislative proposals which I expect to bring to Government for consideration in the near future.

Road Traffic Offences

 465. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if drivers who have been convicted of road traffic offences and are required to hand over their licence to the Courts Service are now doing so; the number of licences that have been handed over to the Courts Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54410/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As I previously advised the Deputy, the Courts Service has put in place arrangements to ensure that summonses issued since May 2012 include wording to advise persons charged with an offence under the Road Traffic Acts to bring their driving licence together with a photocopy of the licence when they are attending court. I am informed that the Courts Service has communicated with the judiciary to facilitate an arrangement that defendants who appear before the court are requested in court to produce their driving licence and a copy thereof to the court registrar for the purpose of having the driving licence number recorded. Additionally, Registrars have been requested to record whether or not the licence or a copy thereof was produced to the court.

The Courts Service has indicated that in the period 1 September 2012 to 15 November 2012 a total of 1510 driving licence numbers were recorded arising from convictions for penalty point offences. As I previously indicated, I have asked the Courts Service to furnish a report to me on this matter. I am informed that the report is currently being prepared by the Service. I expect to receive the report shortly and I will arrange to forward further details to the Deputy at that time.

Garda Training

 466. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of gardaí who have undertaken intoxilyser training courses in November 2012; the number who will undertake the training in December 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54411/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that a total of 17 members have been trained in Evidential Breath Testing Training in November 2012. It is anticipated that approximately 60 Garda members will undertake this training in December 2012.

Garda Investigations

 467. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will reconsider giving approval for DNA testing on recent skull and bone finds off the Wexford coast as these finds are in the vicinity of Hook Head where there were a number of fishermen fatalities in 2007; if he will allow the tests to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54420/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that pathological, anthropological, carbon dating, geographic and investigative enquiries have been conducted in respect of the remains found off Hook Head. Despite numerous attempts by the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to extract DNA from the remains in an effort to generate DNA profiles, all attempts to date have proved unsuccessful.

I am advised that the extraction of DNA profiles from bones that have been in water for a long period of time is extremely difficult as the sea has been found to cause extensive degrading of Nuclear DNA over time. In this regard, I am advised that Garda enquiries with the FSL indicate that further tests outside the jurisdiction may not necessarily be any more successful than testing that has taken place to date in the FSL. I am also informed that new profiling technology will be introduced at the FSL, in early 2013, and it is expected that further tests will be carried out on the remains discovered off the Wexford coast using this technology.

I am very much aware of the concerns which have been expressed in relation to these remains and my Department has conveyed these concerns to the Garda authorities. I am confident that in cases of missing persons, whether at sea or on land, An Garda Síochána does all in its power to assist families of those who have been lost and, in particular, would contact families when they have any information of substance to impart. The Government is committed to the early establishment of a DNA Database to assist An Garda Síochána in the investigation of crime. The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill, which will provide for the establishment and operation of the database, is currently being drafted and I expect to be in a position to publish the Bill this session with a view to its enactment in 2013.

Human Rights Issues

 468. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will report on the progress of the creation of the new Irish Human Rights Equality Commission. [54455/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy will be aware, I published the General Scheme of a Bill to replace the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission with a new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on the 5th June, 2012.

The independent Selection Panel set up to select new members of the Commission has commenced work on the selection process and last month invited applications from members of the public with a deadline for expressions of interest of the 29 November. I hope that the remaining stages of the selection process will be completed shortly. Once the Selection Panel have made a decision and communicated that decision to the Government, the intention is that the successful applicants will meet the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. I also intend that the successful applicants will be appointed to the two existing bodies, pending enactment of the necessary legislation to effect the merger. This will ensure that the two organisations can start to operate as a cohesive whole, with a transition programme being prepared and put in place, that the board(s) can commence preparing a Strategic Plan for the new body and that work can be taken forward rapidly on the staffing review envisaged in the Working Group Report.

Legislative Programme

 469. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will confirm if his Department will be drafting or publishing the heads of a Bill to address the discriminatory effects of Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act which is having a particular adverse impact on members of the teaching profession.  [54456/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Government has undertaken in its Programme for Government to ensure that people of non-faith or minority religious backgrounds and publically identified LGBT people should not be deterred from training or taking up employment as teachers in the State.

I have previously expressed concern about the potential impact of section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. This section is designed to allow schools and other institutions to maintain their religious ethos. It was examined by the Supreme Court in 1996 when the Employment Equality Bill of 1996 was referred to it under Article 26 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court found that it is a reasonable balancing in legislation of the different rights involved, including chiefly the right to earn a living and the rights to freedom of religion and association. I am concerned however that, in practice, the balance is not a fair one and that in practice this provision can operate in a way that is unfair to LGBT persons. I consider that an extensive consultative process and formal assessment of the options should be undertaken. It is therefore my intention to ask the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commissioners to examine the issue as a priority and to report on their views and recommendations to the two Ministers centrally concerned, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn and myself as the Minister for Justice and Equality and to the House. I am committed to bringing forward Government proposals for any necessary anti-discrimination amendment to this provision once this consultation process is completed.

Court Procedures

 470. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter further to Parliamentary Question No. 292 of 10 May 2011, if he has considered the judgement of the case pertaining to jury service by citizens who are deaf or have hearing impairments; and if measures will be introduced to facilitate such citizens in undertaking this important civic duty.  [54457/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy may be aware, the Law Reform Commission is considering Jury Service as part of its Third Programme of Law Reform 2008 - 2014. The Commission has engaged in a wide ranging public consultation and I look forward to the publication of their final report and recommendations which I understand the Commission intends to complete in the first half of 2013. The High Court judgment in the Clarke case, to which the Deputy refers, will be further considered in the context of the overall examination of any matters arising from the Law Reform Commission report.

  It is worth noting that section 64 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008 introduced an amendment to the First Schedule of the Juries Act 1976 which places the emphasis on a person's capacity to perform the duties of jury service and ensures that no person is automatically excluded because of an infirmity.

Naturalisation Applications

 471. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter when naturalisation status will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54493/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in September, 2009.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. While good progress continues to be made in reducing the large volume of cases on hands, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that for a broad range of reasons some cases will take longer than others to process. It is a statutory requirement that, inter alia, applicants for naturalisation be of good character. In some instances that can be established relatively quickly and in other cases completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time. I can, however, inform the Deputy that enormous progress has been made in dealing with the backlog and steps are being taken to process all outstanding applications as quickly as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Garda Remuneration

 472. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to review the payment of the pre Christmas allowance for unsocial working hours for the period of November prior to 2013 for members of the Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54573/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that overtime and unsocial hours allowances are paid to members of An Garda Síochána, up to and including the rank of Inspector. Members are paid these allowances on a 28 day roster basis, in arrears, with the payment process commencing at the beginning of each pay roster period in respect of work carried out during the previous period. There are 13 such periods in each year and there are 13 payments made each year to members of An Garda Síochána based on individual claims submitted by the members. There are no plans at present to change this arrangement.

The majority of members receive this payment on the third Thursday after the end of a particular roster period. In the case of the period which ends on December 9th, this would be due to be paid on 27th December. However, the year-end payrolls are brought forward due to such matters as extra bank holidays which occur during the Christmas and New Year periods, the testing of new computer software to cater for any budgetary changes, inputting of payroll reference data changes for 2013 and the high volume of payroll administration required at the Financial Year End. This in turn means that the payroll date of 27 December has to be brought forward to 20 December. The payroll data for that pay date must be submitted by 7 December 2012.

This practice outlined above has always been the case and is not a new development. Garda members always have and continue to receive 13 payments each year for 13 four week periods. It must be remembered that with regard to normal salary payments, Gardaí are paid on a weekly basis and will receive their pay up to and including the pay day of 27 December before the end of the year. In fact, they will receive their salary payment for paydays 20 and 27 December in advance of Christmas on 18 and 20 December respectively.

  Question No. 473 answered with Question No. 451.

Detention Centres

 474. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he is pressing for action, including prosecution if appropriate, against those officers responsible for the ill-treatment of young offenders detained in St. Patrick's Institution, as recently exposed by the Inspector of Prisons report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46760/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As I have previously informed the House, the type of abuse outlined by the Inspector of Prisons in his report on St. Patrick's Institution is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The Deputy will be aware that following the publication of the Inspector's Report in October, I published the Irish Prison Service's Action plan for implementing the Inspector's recommendations.

A new prisoner complaints procedure was introduced with effect from the 1 November 2012. All complaints made by prisoners alleging serious ill treatment, use of excessive force, serious intimidation/discrimination or threats by a member of staff of the Irish Prison Service, are now investigated by an independent investigator. In addition, a number of the new investigators have been appointed to carry out an examination of historical complaints in St Patrick's Institution, including those referred to by the Inspector in his report. I can assure the Deputy that should breaches of discipline be found to have occurred, disciplinary action will be initiated under the Prison (Disciplinary Code for Officers) Rules, 1996.

Detention Centres

 475. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps he is taking to address the situation described by the Ombudsman for Children when she reported to senior personnel in his Department last year her concerns for children detained in St. Patrick's Institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46757/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can assure the Deputy that I greatly valued the report prepared by the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, last year following her discussions with young people detained in St Patrick's. Her work is much appreciated and she can be assured of my full support. My Department also appreciates the work of the Ombudsman for Children. Any issues relating to the health and welfare of children and young persons are treated with the utmost seriousness by my Department; Ms. Logan and the work of her Office are held in the highest of respect.

  In this context, in July of this year, I extended the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to include the examination of complaints from children detained in St Patrick's Institution. This is something she had been seeking for a number of years that previous Governments had refused to authorise. She can be assured of my Department's full support and will be facilitated in every way possible. As you will be aware the Government committed, in the Programme for Government to remove 16 and 17 year old offenders completely from the adult prison system. In this context, the practice of sending 16 year old boys to St Patrick's ceased on 1st May, 2012. From that date, all newly remanded or sentenced 16 year olds have been detained in the children detention facilities in Oberstown. The Government also sanctioned the provision of the necessary funding for a new detention facility at Oberstown. This is due for completion in mid-2014. These matters were all dealt with by me in cooperation with my colleague Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

  In the interim, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has agreed to examine the feasibility of accommodating some categories of 17 year old boys in Oberstown on a phased basis earlier than mid 2014, if possible. Arrangements are also being made for a number of care staff from the Children Detention Schools to work on placement in St Patrick's Institution alongside Prison Staff. Discussions are ongoing between the officials of the Irish Prison Service, the youth Justice Service, St. Patrick's and Obsertown and it is intended that this will take place in the near future.    

National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan Issues

 476. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his response to the appeal by nine leading disability organisations issued on 17 September 2012 calling on him to show leadership on an implementation plan for the National Disability Strategy in keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  [48969/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch The National Disability Strategy was launched in September 2004 and its implementation continues to be the focus of Government policy for the sector. However, a specific implementation plan for the strategy had not previously been developed. This Government is now addressing this.

  The Programme for Government states that “the Government will publish, following wide consultation, a realistic implementation plan for the National Disability Strategy, including sectoral plans with achievable timescales and targets within available resources and ensure whole of government involvement and monitoring of the Strategy, in partnership with the disability sector”. I have established and am personally chairing a new group to develop a realistic implementation plan for progressing the Strategy, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. The new Group has replaced the previous National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group while maintaining the cross-departmental focus and the collaboration with stakeholders. The National Disability Strategy Implementation Group comprises representatives from across Government, a representative from the City and County Managers Association, the National Disability Authority, a broad range of disability organisations, and a number of individuals appointed in their personal capacity to bring their lived experience to the table.

  The aim of the Implementation Plan is, through engaging with the disability sector and building on the traditional problem-solving and constructive approach of the community and voluntary sector, to make progress to achieve our common interests. More targeted, innovative and flexible services, designed and delivered on the basis of the evidence drawn from systematic evaluation will help ensure that available resources, which are of course diminished across Government due to the current economic climate, are used to deliver services that meet the needs of the community as efficiently and effectively as possible. This Implementation Plan will seek to ensure these resources are used as effectively as possible in ensuring that the living standards and access to essential services for people with disabilities are maintained.

  The Implementation Plan is developing well with the identification by Departments of actions, timelines and Key Performance Indicators. Discussions are ongoing between the Disability Stakeholders Group and Government Departments in an effort to reach agreement on the suite of actions contained in the Plan. At the most recent meeting of the Implementation Group on the 1st of November it was agreed that every effort will be made to finalise the Plan at the next meeting of the Group which will be held in Quarter 1 of 2013. Once agreed, the Plan will be published as soon as possible thereafter.

  The National Disability Authority is helping Departments in setting performance indicators and outcomes for the Plan’s targets and have held one-on-one meetings with Departments to assist them in identifying actions to be included in the Implementation Plan. Work by the Authority in relation to Disability Indicators is also at an advanced stage and will be signed off by the Senior Official’s Group and the Disability Stakeholder Group shortly. These indicators will allow real measurement of how the actions contained in the plan translate into improved quality of life for people with disabilities.

  As part of the process of developing the Implementation Plan, the identification and recording of actions which will be required in order to ensure that Ireland will be in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when ratification takes place is also being undertaken. Each action in the Plan will be linked to the Article of the Convention and obligations therein which will be met through implementation of that action.

  Outside of the Implementation Group, I also convened a Disability Forum, under the stewardship of the National Disability Authority, to ensure the voices of people with disabilities, their needs and concerns are being heard. The first meeting of the Disability Forum, which was attended by over 300 people with disabilities, their carers, and family members was held on the 19th of June this year and a report of the views expressed will be published shortly. This report will form part of the considerations of the Implementation Group in relation to actions in the Implementation Plan.

Asylum Support Services

 477. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his responsibilities in relation to children residing here in extreme poverty who are asylum seekers or the children of asylum seekers; if his attention has been drawn to the challenges faced by children who are living in direct provision, many of whom lack the most basic of opportunities for education and development; the extent of his Department's function in seeking to alleviate these challenges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46573/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision. Currently, RIA accommodates 4,822 asylum seekers at 35 accommodation centres throughout the State. I do not accept the premise of the question that persons residing in the Direct Provision system are in extreme poverty. The system is essentially cashless but no asylum seeker who has sought international protection from this State has ever been left homeless; residents get nourishment on a par with, and in some cases superior to, that available to the general population; residents receive a health service on the same basis as Irish citizens; and children are provided with primary and secondary education in the local community on the same basis as the children of Irish citizens.

To elaborate on these services, it is worth noting the following. Accommodation in reception and accommodation centres is provided on a full board basis which includes the provision of a room / family room (as appropriate) and three meals per day as well as school lunches. All accommodation costs, together with the costs of meals, heat, light, laundry and maintenance are paid directly by the State. Residents are paid a weekly direct provision allowance. In addition, asylum seekers can access exceptional needs payments and clothing and footwear allowances. Parents may also apply for payments to allow their children to avail of school activities, sports and other activities. An exemption from fees for State Examinations is also available to asylum seekers who are holders of medical cards. Homework clubs and quiet spaces are provided in family centres to facilitate children doing their homework.

On-site pre-school services are available in some of the larger direct provision centres. However, in all cases parents may opt to send their children to privately run pre-schools in the community. The Early Child Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides for free pre-school placements to all children, including children of asylum seekers in direct provision accommodation. Centre management work with local schools, community groups, sports clubs and NGOs to link children and families into community initiatives, sports and other activities to ensure access to the best available package of services. Many centres will, for example, facilitate parties and will also facilitate NGOs who organise outings etc.

An issue to be acknowledged is the length of time spent in the direct provision system. On the matter of application processing times and consequent length of time spent in the direct provision system, some cases can take significantly longer to complete owing to, for example, delays arising from medical issues or because of judicial review proceedings. All asylum applications and appeals are processed in accordance with the Refugee Act 1996 and high quality and fair decision-making in all cases continues to be a key priority at all stages of the asylum process.

For the sake of completeness, it is necessary to point out that persons who are refused a declaration under section 17 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, enter what is commonly referred to as the “leave to remain” process which generally has two elements to it: an application for subsidiary protection and further consideration to be given under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended. This is separate from the asylum or refugee status determination process. The processing of cases at this point is also complex and extremely resource intensive and there are no quick or easy decisions to make. Given the life changing consequences for the persons involved, these are decisions which must be taken with the most scrupulous care and attention.

I have taken steps to speed up the processing of applications, primarily by redeploying staff from the refugee determination bodies. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, 2010 which I intend to republish in the near future provides for the introduction of a single procedure to determine applications for protection and other reasons to remain in the State. This should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements. This reorganisation of the protection application processing framework will remove the current multi-layered processes and provide applicants with a final decision on their applications in a more straightforward and timely fashion.

Defence Forces Reorganisation

 478. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if the changes to the Reserve Defence Forces is causing major hardship particularly now with having to travel to Athlone from Dublin.  [53919/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Report of the VFM Review of the Reserve Defence Force, which was recently published, concluded that the current Reserve organisation required radical reform. The current effective strength of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve at 4,500 personnel is less than half that for which the organisational structures were designed. The Permanent Defence Force (PDF) support framework for the Reserve was, therefore, inefficient and the retention of the current numbers of full time PDF personnel assigned to Reserve duties was no longer sustainable within a strength ceiling of 9,500 PDF personnel.

A central recommendation from the VFM Steering Committee is for the retention of the Reserve with 4,000 personnel spread countrywide, based in PDF barracks and in 16 other locations. This requires consolidation of existing Reserve Units throughout the country into a smaller number of full-strength Units. You will appreciate that this smaller number of full sized Units, outside of PDF installations, must cover the entire country. Amongst other considerations, the selection of locations for these Units sought to ensure continued opportunities for people throughout the country to serve in the Reserve.

A new “Single Force” concept will see PDF Units having Reserve components, rather than a separate stand-alone Reserve as at present. This concept offers significant potential advantages in terms of training and development of the Reserve. Reserve Units within barracks will be supported by their parent PDF Unit and the 16 Units outside of PDF installations will be supported by dedicated full time PDF personnel. All Reserve Combat Support and Combat Service Support components will be co-located with their PDF ‘Parent Unit’. Reserve personnel will be afforded the opportunity to apply for positions in the new organisational structure that best suits their individual circumstances. Every effort will be made to accommodate personnel within their geographic location and retraining will be available if required. Whilst there will inevitably be disruption for certain individual members of the Reserve, this re-organisation is necessary in order to ensure the future viability of the Reserve. The contribution of all members of the Reserve is valued by Government and I sincerely hope that all current members will continue to serve in the new organisation.

Capital Programme Expenditure

 479. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter in respect of the October Exchequer returns, the reason the capital spending for his Department was €2m below profile for this period; his plans to ensure that the full capital spending is implemented before the end of the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [53828/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  The variance between profiled and actual expenditure to the end of October 2012 is largely due to some of the more significant projects in the capital building programme for this year not progressing as originally scheduled. This was mainly due to delays in projects arising from unforeseen additional works and also changes arising from the Defence Forces re-organisation and the recommendations of the review of the Reserve Defence Force. Due to the delays on these projects the Department has applied for a Deferred Surrender of Capital funds to 2013 to meet current year commitments which will not mature before year end. It is expected that the remaining funding for 2012 will be spent by year end.


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