Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 183-194
 Header Item Garda Operations
 Header Item Property Management Company Issues
 Header Item Magdalen Laundries Issues
 Header Item Magdalen Laundries Issues
 Header Item Magdalen Laundries Issues
 Header Item Legal Aid Service Reform
 Header Item Garda Maternity Leave
 Header Item Garda Sick Leave
 Header Item Legal Aid Service Expenditure
 Header Item Information and Communications Technology Issues

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 797 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 71 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 183-194

Garda Operations

 183. 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 Redline; the number of persons arrested and charged to date; the number of successful convictions obtained to date; if he will allocate additional Garda personnel to this operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14430/13]

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 Redline aims to target public disorder, drunkenness, loitering and thefts on the Luas Red Line and at Luas stops and their environs, with a particular emphasis on the city centre.

I am further informed that to date, there have been three joint operations implemented in conjunction with Veolia Transport, STT Security, and An Garda Síochána in an effort to combat fare avoidance and anti-social behaviour on the Luas Red Line route, which runs from the O2 Arena in the City Centre to Tallaght and Saggart in the west of Dublin. To date, Operation Redline has led to 27 arrests which resulted in 32 charges or summonses and 10 convictions.

A bimonthly meeting, at which all Garda Districts along the Luas Red Line are represented, takes place with Veolia and local Garda Management continues to liaise with Veolia in respect of relevant policing issues in relation to the Luas. I am advised that there is excellent cooperation between Gardaí and Veolia and this will continue to underpin efforts to address any issues of concern.

Property Management Company Issues

 184. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the laws that are in place to support homeowners in developments in which the management company is not fulfilling their duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14436/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The position is that the primary purpose of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 is to reform the law relating to the ownership and management of common areas of multi-unit developments and to facilitate the fair, efficient and effective management of owners' management companies (OMCs). These are companies registered under the Companies Act which are established for the management of such areas, the membership of which comprise the owners of residential units within the development. The manner in which the company operates is regulated under the Companies Acts and under the Articles of Association of the company.

Having said that, section 24 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 contains provisions for the resolution of disputes relating to multi-unit developments. In general, it provides that a person may apply to court for an order to enforce any rights conferred or obligations imposed by the Act. The court, if satisfied that a right has been infringed or an obligation has not been discharged, may make such remedial order as it deems appropriate in the circumstances with a view to ensuring the effective enforcement of the right or the effective discharge of the obligation in respect of the development concerned.

Magdalen Laundries Issues

 185. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the reason, having included Stanhope Street Laundry, the Athy or Newtownforbes Laundries were not included in the redress scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14446/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Government decision of 19 February relates to Magdalen Laundries which were examined by the Inter-Departmental Committee set up to establish the facts of State involvement. There were a wide variety of institutions which had laundries run by different religious congregations and no decision has been made to include them all within the scope of the Magdalen Scheme.

As regards the specific institutions referred to by the Deputy I have seen no evidence to suggest that the institutions in question share the characteristics associated with the 10 Magdalen Laundries.

Magdalen Laundries Issues

 186. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will consider the creation of a dedicated unit within his Department that will function as a single point of contact for survivors of State institutions, seeking assistance and-or access to State services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14447/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Government has asked the Retired High Court Judge and current President of the Law Reform Commission Mr Justice John Quirke to undertake a three month review and, taking into account the findings of the report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries, to make recommendations as to the criteria that should be applied in assessing the help that the Government can provide in the areas of payments and other supports.

How the recommendations of Judge Quirke will be administered will not be decided in advance of him making such recommendations.

Magdalen Laundries Issues

 187. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter in view of Government funding for a UK group to work with survivors of State institutions living in the London area, the amount of such funds, if any, that have been designated to assist survivors in Ireland or in other parts of the diaspora; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14448/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Government decided on 19 February 2013 to establish a scheme of supports for women who had been in Magdalen laundries and requested Mr Justice Quirke to make recommendations in this regard. No decision on the details will be made until after his recommendations have been received but it is intended to apply to all women who were in Magdalen laundries even if they no longer reside in the State.

Nevertheless the Government was conscious that the organisation which represents the largest number of women who were in Magdalen laundries is based in the UK and those women fall outside the scope of the standard supports provided by this State. As an interim measure, the Government agreed to make an initial sum of €250,000 available to a UK based organisation to provide supports for the women in question. This payment is subject to approval of certain legal documentation.

Arrangements were made in the past by other Departments for payments to be made to Irish and UK based groups working with former residents of other institutions such as industrial schools located in this State. This is a separate matter to the Magdalen laundries and if the Deputy is seeking information on funds relating to these other institutions he should in the first instance contact the Minister for Education and Skills.

Legal Aid Service Reform

 188. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if his attention has been drawn to the recently published report Access to Justice; A Report of the Legal Aid Task Force; his views on the concerns raised in the report regarding increased pressure placed on the civil legal aid scheme resulting in a denial of access to justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14449/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I wish to inform the Deputy that I welcome the Report of the Legal Aid Task Force and would like to commend the Task Force for their work in this very important area of public policy. There are a number of specific recommendations in the report about the services provided by the Legal Aid Board and I will address these in my reply.

Having regard to the significantly increased demand for services from the Legal Aid Board in recent years, it was decided to maintain the Board’s grant-in-aid for 2013 at the same level as last year. The Board, in common with all public service organisations, has to manage the delivery of their services in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible having regard to ongoing pressure on the public finances. Notwithstanding the pressures on resources, I have further supported the Board by approving exemptions from the moratorium to enable the organisation to recruit front-line staff for direct service delivery. The Public Appointments Service is currently running a solicitor recruitment competition for the Board from which appointments, both temporary and permanent, will be made in the coming months.

The Board has examined its current operating environment as well as the international experience of civil legal aid services. It has also considered and examined the possible evolution of future service delivery models in order to address increasing demand for services. This examination has led to the evolution of three central principles which will enable the organisation to deliver services in different and innovative ways that makes optimum use of the resources at the Board’s disposal. These principles, which are fully consistent with government policy in relation to reforming our public services, are:

- to move away from a “litigation first” outlook to the provision of services to a more robust emphasis on alternative dispute resolution;

- a much greater engagement with the use of IT resources to improve efficiency and throughput of cases (the Board has recently introduced a new legal case management system (EOS) which is designed to improve efficiency and case throughput in law centres while also providing better management information to the Board); and

- to manage risk and performance more effectively both organisation wide and locally building on existing arrangements and ensuring a greater emphasis on compliance with procedures for quality assuring service delivery.

The decision to transfer responsibility for the Family Mediation Service from the Family Support Agency to the Legal Aid Board has enabled the Board to take a more integrated approach to resolving family law disputes. In this connection, a review of the operation of the integrated family mediation initiative in Dolphin House in Dublin, involving the Board and the Courts Service, has resulted in a significant number of family law disputes being resolved through mediation. Such disputes would traditionally have been dealt with through litigation at greater cost to the state and often with a greater level of personal trauma for the parties involved. The Board has recently extended this approach to both Cork and Naas in cooperation with the Courts Service. I welcome the Board’s efforts in this regard as it is fully consistent with government policy to extend the scope of mediation generally as a more cost effective means of resolving disputes that might otherwise end up before the courts.

The Board is also in the processing of extending a ”triage service” across its law centre network which involves providing applicants with access to a solicitor for advice within four weeks of their application for legal services being accepted. A review of the operation of a pilot “triage service” in five locations during 2012 demonstrated that applicants were overwhelmingly satisfied with this particular service initiative. This was because they got early access to a solicitor for advice on their legal disputes that provided clarity about the options open to them and the process through which their disputes might be resolved.

In relation to some of the other specific recommendations in the report of the Task Force, the Board is examining the manner in which it uses private solicitors to assist with the provision of legal services with a view to ensuring that the benefits from their use are maximised within the resources available. In 2012, over 5,000 applicants for legal aid were referred to private practitioners, mainly for district court remedies. The Board has also made a proposal to my Department that no financial contribution should be payable by a person who is seeking legal services to defend proceedings on foot of the Child Care Act 1991. I am currently considering this specific matter in the context of an overall package of proposals from the Board for the revision of the financial eligibility provisions governing the granting of civil legal aid. I will also have regard to the views of the Task Force in reaching a decision on this matter in due course. Under the existing regulations, the Board already has in place provisions for waiving financial contributions where not to do so would cause undue hardship to the person seeking legal services. Accordingly, this particular provision can be applied in the meantime, at the Board’s discretion, to cases involving the defence of proceedings under the Child Care Act 1991.

Garda Maternity Leave

 189. 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 the number of Gardaí that availed of maternity leave in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14460/13]

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 number of Gardaí who availed of maternity leave in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013 is as set out in the table hereunder:

Year
Paid Maternity Leave
Unpaid Maternity Leave
2011
273
123
2012
330
121
2013
88
23

Garda Sick Leave

 190. 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 the number of Gardaí that availed of sick leave in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013, broken down by district and division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14461/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and it has not been possible for the Garda authorities to supply the information requested within the allotted time scale. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Legal Aid Service Expenditure

 191. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the cost of free legal aid in the years 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14476/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Total expenditure on criminal legal aid for the years referred to by the Deputy was as follows:

Year Total Expenditure
2011 €56.1 million
2012 €50.5 million


  The Deputy will note that total expenditure for 2012 represented a reduction of 10% over 2011. This reduction in the annual expenditure is the largest ever recorded and represents a fall of approximately €10 million, or 16%, over the peak recorded in 2009. This follows savings measures introduced since I came into office including cuts to fees in the course of 2011.

Information and Communications Technology Issues

 192. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the progress made within his Department on phasing out the use of LoCall 1890 numbers that can be extremely expensive when dialled from mobile phones and introducing 076 number, which generally included in tariff bundles provided by most mobile network operators and are charged at the same rate as national calls, in view of the fact that the number of mobile phones exceed the number of landlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14488/13]

 193. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he has considered the use of, or implemented, integrated voice response systems in his Department's phone systems or in the phone systems of agencies within his remit; if the staff and salary cost savings which might arise have been assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14504/13]

 194. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if his Department has given any consideration to the use of telephony switchboard services that are shared with another Govlernment Department or another public body in order to reduce costs and increase call handling capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14517/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 to 194, inclusive, together.

The Department's ICT Shared Service which provides services to the Department and numerous agencies in the Justice sector is currently scoping the possible provision and implementation of unified communications, including IP telephony across the Department and related agencies. The intention is to drive additional organisational business efficiencies and flexibilities, remove the need to purchase additional hardware and expertise in the day to day running of our telephony systems and avoid unnecessary investment and maintenance in older technologies. This will reduce both deployment and administration costs and provide additional efficiencies and cost savings into the future. In order to achieve these goals the existing communications infrastructure of the Irish Prison Service, which has sufficient call handling capacity to service the needs of my Department, is being utilised thereby leveraging existing assets and investment in the Justice sector.

The ongoing implementation and roll-out of new technologies in the Justice sector under the auspices of the ICT Shared Services will facilitate the adoption of integrated voice response systems where required as well as numerous other features and services. This strategy is specifically intended to facilitate the consolidation of existing switchboard and related services along the lines raised by the Deputy but the ultimate benefits will be far broader as the strategy will enable the consolidation and integration of existing diverse services. My Department has also gone to tender for the provision of telephonist and receptionist services for it and some of its agencies. The procurement process is still ongoing and should result in further cost savings.

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has introduced an 076 number for the new Insolvency Service of Ireland rather than an 1890 number. My Department will work with agencies on its ICT Shared Service who have existing 1890 numbers with a view to implementing a phased transition to 076 numbers. The strategy of leveraging and further developing investment in ICT is intended to drive internal business efficiencies, including cost savings, facilitate a better service to the public and allow my Department and related agencies to take full advantage of the possibilities afforded by newer technologies.


Last Updated: 29/04/2020 08:06:09 First Page Previous Page Page of 71 Next Page Last Page