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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 204-220
 Header Item Ministerial Appointments
 Header Item Landowners' Indemnity Scheme
 Header Item Alternative Energy Projects
 Header Item House Repossessions
 Header Item Joint Policing Committees Establishment
 Header Item Garda Training
 Header Item Community Text Alert Systems
 Header Item Closed Circuit Television Systems
 Header Item Garda Training
 Header Item Garda Divisional Headquarters
 Header Item Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Issues
 Header Item Garda Stations Closures
 Header Item Road Traffic Accidents Data
 Header Item Sex Offenders Notification Requirements
 Header Item Legislative Programme
 Header Item Proposed Legislation

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 76 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 204-220

Ministerial Appointments

 204. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if it is intended to appoint an independent chairperson to Comhairle na Tuaithe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57742/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) which was established in 2004 , continuously supports and oversees the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy and its associated schemes, programmes and activities. It meets on a regular basis to discuss relevant issues and progress activities. Meetings are chaired by a senior member of the Rural Recreation Section within my Department; I am satisfied with how Comhairle na Tuaithe operates and have no plans to change it.

Landowners' Indemnity Scheme

 205. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the progress made to date in providing a state indemnity scheme against claims by recreational users walking on farm land; the reason this has not been introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57744/12]

 206. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide details of the proposal from the State Claims Agency for a national indemnity scheme for farmers against claims by recreational users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57745/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 and 206 together.

There is an indemnity scheme in place for private landowners whose lands are traversed by trails that are accredited by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council. This scheme is underwritten by Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd.

However, a national indemnity scheme for landowners to further facilitate access to private lands for recreation purposes, rather than specifically for walking, is currently under development through Comhairle na Tuaithe. The Occupiers Liability Act of 1995 already provides significant protection to landowners, but the upfront costs of successfully defending a claim from a recreational user can be significant. In that regard, the proposed indemnity scheme would remove the burden of dealing with insurance companies and engaging legal advisers from any landowner faced with the prospect of a claim arising from injury or damage to the property of a recreational user.

The possibility of introducing a national indemnity scheme for private landowners facilitating access to their lands for recreation purposes is under discussion with the State Claims Agency. There are a number of important issues and technical matters to be addressed as part of this process. In addition, a comprehensive and robust risk assessment model must be developed and subsequent risk management processes identified and put in place. The full scope of the scheme is also under consideration and it will seek to address access to private lands in rural areas only.

Initially, it was envisaged that individual indemnity schemes would be provided to facilitate Mountain Access and other recreational projects in specific areas but due to the administrative and financial costs associated with such a fragmented approach it was determined that this option was not viable. Comhairle na Tuaithe agreed that my Department should investigate, in association with the State Claims Agency, a national indemnity scheme that could be administered in an efficient and cost effective manner. Progress has been made in this regard but some issues still remain to be finalised. I expect that discussions will continue with all stakeholders involved with a view to introducing a national indemnity scheme in 2013.

Alternative Energy Projects

 207. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when he or Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan will meet a community organisation (details supplied) concerned regarding planning policy in relation to wind farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57751/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan On 13 December I received a request for a meeting from the organisation referred to in the question. I intend to meet with this organisation in the New Year.

House Repossessions

 208. 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 if, arising from the recent statement issued by the Revenue Commissioners, it is expected that home repossessions referred to are likely to be in respect of the family home; if it is intended to ensure that every effort is made to protect the family home and encourage the lending agencies in this direction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57652/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I must inform the Deputy that I am unaware of any statements issued by the Revenue Commissioners on this particular subject.

  The Deputy should be aware that all mortgage contracts contain remedies, such as repossession, that may be exercised by lending institutions in cases of mortgage default. My Department is consulting with the Office of the Attorney General with a view to framing an appropriate legislative response to recent High Court judgments which have created uncertainty in this area of the law. I want to stress that this issue is not about facilitating wide-scale repossessions by banks and other lending institutions. It is, if it becomes necessary, about correcting an unintended consequence of reforming legislation enacted in 2009.

  I should add that under section 99 of the Personal Insolvency Bill as passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 19 December 2012, a Personal Insolvency Arrangement proposal shall in so far as is reasonably practicable, be formulated in such a way that will not require the debtor to dispose of an interest in or cease to occupy his or her principal private residence. However, this significant protection is necessarily tempered to take into account that the debtor may not wish to continue to occupy the house or where the costs of the debtor continuing to reside therein are disproportionately large.

  The Government is aware of the real and significant difficulties some mortgage holders are facing and is committed to advancing appropriate measures to assist those mortgage holders who are experiencing real and genuine difficulty.  Apart from insolvency reform, which is a key to addressing the problem, the Government is also implementing the other measures as recommended in the 2011 ‘Keane Report’ (Inter-Departmental Working Group on Mortgage Arrears).  These include the implementation of mortgage arrears resolution strategies by lenders as overseen by the Central Bank, the launch of the "mortgage to rent" initiative on a nationwide basis and the provision of an independent mortgage advice framework including an enhanced website www.keepingyourhome.ie.  In addition, the Central Bank’s Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears remains a key protection and provides that each mortgage lender regulated by the Central Bank must put in place a formal Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process to deal with its mortgage customers who are in arrears (or pre-arrears) and in particular it also provides that such lenders must adopt at least a twelve month moratorium in respect of co-operating mortgage holders before applying to the Courts to commence legal action for repossession of a borrower’s primary residence.  This protection remains in place.

Joint Policing Committees Establishment

 209. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if his attention has been drawn to the fact that although there are three town councils and a county council in County Louth, there are only three regional county JPCs rather than three town JPCs and one country JPC; if he will investigate the reasons for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57409/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I refer the Deputy to my reply to him contained in Parliamentary Question No. 487 of 18 December 2012.

Garda Training

 210. 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 next date for the evidential breath test training day; the number of Gardaí who will take part in the course; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57443/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that it is proposed to hold further evidential breath test training in late December 2012.

  It is envisaged that approximately 20 Garda members will be trained during this training session.

Community Text Alert Systems

 211. 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 his plans to have the Garda community text alert scheme in operation in the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57444/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that text alert systems may be used by Gardaí, via Community Alert or other such groups, to alert the community in relation to suspicious activity or vehicles in their area, appeal for information, inform the community about road closures or to provide crime prevention advice. The content of the messages sent are vetted locally by An Garda Síochána.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that there are at present two local text alert systems operating in particular areas within the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

An Garda Síochána is currently examining text alert systems to determine whether it is feasible to roll out such systems nationally.

Closed Circuit Television Systems

 212. 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 Garda stations in which the custody area is fitted with CCTV cameras; his plans to increase this number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57445/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that the four Garda stations listed below currently have a fully commissioned and operational internal audio/visual CCTV system installed in public and custody areas.

Station No. of cameras
Bridewell Prison 31
Store Street 10
Pearse Street 11
Letterkenny 10


  Work in relation to the installation of CCTV is currently ongoing in the following stations:

- Irishtown

- Ballymun

- Finglas

- Leixlip

- Navan

- Ronanstown

- Castlerea

- Carrickmacross

  It is proposed that further stations will be fitted out with CCTV cameras. This is a programme which will be undertaken in the light of operational requirements and the availability of financial resources.

Garda Training

 213. 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 all the recommendations in the An Garda Síochána Training and Development Review Group Report 2009 have been fully implemented; if not, when the outstanding recommendations will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57446/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that An Garda Síochána is continuing to implement the recommendations of the report taking into account the changed economic climate and the subsequent impact on the availability of resources.

The terms of reference for the Review of Training and Development were to "examine all training and development in An Garda Síochána for Garda and Civilian personnel and to make recommendations for the future". The project aimed to ensure that people entering the organisation and throughout their career received the highest quality training in line with international best standards delivered in an efficient and cost-effective manner and ensuring value for the training investment.

While a majority of the report's recommendations are either implemented, completed or being progressed, it is not possible to give a precise timetable for full implementation. In particular, some of the recommendations relate to Garda student/probation training, and implementation of any such recommendations will be linked to a resumption of recruitment.

Garda Divisional Headquarters

 214. 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 timeframe for the development of the new Garda divisional headquarters in north Dublin as announced in the recent stimulus plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57447/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The provision of three new Garda Divisional Headquarters for Kevin Street (Dublin), Galway and Wexford was included in the special Government stimulus package announced in July. These projects are to be delivered by means of a Public Private Partnership and discussions are taking place between the relevant agencies regarding the follow-up action to be undertaken in the light of the Government announcement.

  As the arrangements to be put in place for Public Private Partnerships are complex, it is not possible at this stage to indicate when the projects will be completed. However, I can assure the Deputy that they are being treated as a priority.     

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Issues

 215. 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 he will report on Garda Operation Vacuum; the amount of drugs seized to date; the number of persons arrested and charged to date; the number of successful convictions obtained to date; if this operation is still active; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57448/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that 'Operation Vacuum' was the policing operational name given to an investigation into the cultivation of cannabis.

  This operation led to the seizure of approximately 655 cannabis plants and 2 kilograms of cannabis with an approximate street value at that time of €300,000.

  I am further informed that four persons arrested and charged with offences relating to the investigation were all subsequently convicted in the Dublin Circuit Court.

  This operation is not active at this time.

Garda Stations Closures

 216. 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 he has received a submission from an organisation (details supplied) in relation to the proposed closure of 100 Garda stations in 2013 in rural areas; his plans to address the concerns regarding the level of policing in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57528/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I received correspondence from the organisation in question on 12th December and quite separately I received an email from them on 14 December 2012. This email was also sent to a number of Deputies and other addressees at the same time. I will of course be replying directly to the correspondence in due course.

The Deputy will be aware that the Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2013, which I laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 5th December 2012, sets out details of the closure of 100 Garda stations throughout the country, the future opening hours of other stations in Cork and Dublin and a number of District amalgamations. It is important to remember that while some Garda stations are listed for revised opening hours from 24 hour stations, they will remain as functioning Garda stations on a 24 hour basis. The full list of these details is available in the Policing Plan which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Commissioner has concluded that resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the front-line if particular stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained or if the public opening hours of other stations could be reduced at off-peak times. In making that decision he has reiterated the commitment of An Garda Síochána to providing a professional and effective service to all communities, including those in rural areas. Each Divisional Officer with responsibility for a Division that will be affected by this decision has been tasked with developing a comprehensive consultation strategy together with a tailored implementation plan that will meet the particular needs of their Division.

We also need to be honest about the level of policing service that was capable of being provided from the stations that were and are to be closed. Of the 100 stations to be closed next year, 98% are only open part-time, 94% are open for 3 hours a day or less, 88% are served by 1 Garda and only 5% are served by 3 or more Garda personnel. In fact, of the 39 stations closed this year, 8 were not actually open at all. Their closure was a paper exercise which simply recognised reality.

The intention will be that at all times optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The revised structures will continue to support the community policing philosophy of An Garda Síochána through the clustering of services at policing hubs. This centralisation of services will facilitate the introduction of an enhanced grid patrolling system that will be operational and intelligence led.  This patrol system will ensure that a high visibility and community oriented policing service continues to be delivered throughout the country.

Road Traffic Accidents Data

 217. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter when the Gardaí intend to publish data compiled by their road accident investigation unit into the cause of road accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57580/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána do not publish data complied by Garda Forensic Collision Investigators. I am further advised that, in accordance with the provisions of the Road Safety Authority Act 2006, the RSA is responsible for the preparation, compilation and publication of information and statistics in respect of road safety matters.

Sex Offenders Notification Requirements

 218. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of persons registered with the Gardaí who must comply with Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001; the number actually complying with Part 2 of the Act of 2001; the steps being taken to trace those who are not in compliance with the Act; the number of prosecutions for offences contrary to Part 2 of the Act to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57584/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Sex Offenders Act 2001 contains a comprehensive series of provisions aimed at protecting children and other persons. Part 2 of the Act makes persons convicted of a range of sexual offences subject to notification requirements. The provisions of the Act also extend to any offenders convicted abroad of the same range of sexual offences who enter the State.

All offenders subject to the notification requirements are monitored by the Sex Offender Management and Intelligence Unit (SOMIU) at the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Unit is supported by Garda Inspectors nominated in each Garda Division throughout the State. I am informed that the nominated Inspector in each Division has access to all necessary resources within his/her Division to assist him/her in carrying out his/her duties.

Where An Garda Síochána becomes aware that an offender subject to the notification requirements has breached those requirements, appropriate action is taken, including circulation through PULSE of their information, as well as inquiries to identify their current whereabouts. I am confident that the appropriate level of monitoring is carried out by An Garda Síochána and that all breaches of the requirements which come to notice are pursued.

In this regard, I am informed by the Garda authorities that, to 18 December, 2012, there were 1,239 persons subject to the requirements of Part 2 of the Act. I am further informed that there have been 54 prosecutions for offences contrary to Part 2 of the Act to date in 2012.

I am also informed that when the Garda authorities become aware that a convicted sex offender has left or is intending to leave the State, the Sex Offender Management and Intelligence Unit ensures that the relevant law enforcement agency in the country of destination is advised via Interpol.

Legislative Programme

 219. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter when he intends to publish legislation reforming the Sex Offenders Act 2001; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57585/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter My Department has been conducting an examination of the law on sexual offences generally. This includes a review of the Sex Offenders Act 2001. Having regard to competing legislative priorities, the review has been progressed as speedily as possible. This work is close to completion and I expect to bring a draft General Scheme to Government shortly with a view to seeking approval for the drafting of the necessary legislation.

This will be wide-ranging legislation and is not limited to reform of the Sex Offenders Act 2001. Inter alia, it will also implement the recommendations of two Oireachtas committees, facilitate full compliance with the criminal law provisions of relevant EU, UN and Council of Europe legal instruments, and reform the law on incest.

Proposed Legislation

 220. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the progress made on the drafting of the legal costs Bill and the family law Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57587/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 makes provision, among other things, for a new legal costs regime, applicable to both solicitors and barristers. It will bring greater transparency to how legal costs are charged and better balance the interests of legal practitioners and their clients as consumers. The new legal costs regime includes the requirement for a detailed 'Notice' to be provided by legal practitioners to their clients which includes either the known costs involved or, where this is not yet available, the basis upon which the relevant costs are to be calculated. The Notice, and any updates to it, will allow for a cooling-off period for consideration by the client. The Bill also sets out a series of Legal Costs Principles and provides for the creation of a new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator. This new Office will take over the current functions of the Office of the Taxing-Master and will modernise the way disputed legal costs are adjudicated. It will be empowered to prepare and publish Legal Costs Guidelines for the guidance of Legal Costs Adjudicators, legal practitioners and the public. It will also establish and maintain a publicly available Register of Determinations which will include the outcomes and reasons for its decisions about disputed legal costs. Two new Taxing-Masters have been already been appointed by public competition in preparing the way for these reforms. Other reforms contained in the Bill include -

- a new, independent, Legal Services Regulatory Authority with responsibility for the oversight of both solicitors and barristers.

- an independent complaints system to deal with public complaints including those relating to professional misconduct. There will also be an independent Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal to deal with both legal professions.

- a framework for new forms of legal services provision similar to those already being rolled out in other common law jurisdictions. These new or "alternative" business structures will be entirely optional alongside the more traditional forms of legal practice. Their availability will address a growing competitive disadvantage for our indigenous legal services sector.

I expect the Legal Services Regulation Bill, which completed Second Stage in the Dáil earlier this year, to commence Committee Stage in the first quarter of 2013.

The Government Legislation Programme includes a Family Law Bill to make provision for pension adjustments in the context of separation agreements and certain other reforms. Work on this Bill is under way in my Department. I am also, as I indicated in response to Parliamentary Question No. 66 of 11 December 2012, engaged in the preparation of a Family Relationships and Children Bill.


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