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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 380 - 397
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Courts Service Issues
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Residential Institutions Redress Scheme
 Header Item Sentencing Policy
 Header Item Drugs Crime
 Header Item Crime Investigation
 Header Item Legal Services Regulation
 Header Item Gambling Legislation
 Header Item Anti-Social Behaviour
 Header Item Court Accommodation Refurbishment
 Header Item Probation and Welfare Service
 Header Item Immigration Policy
 Header Item Visa Applications
 Header Item Garda Vetting Applications
 Header Item Departmental Staff Sick Leave
 Header Item Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 807 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 380 - 397

Garda Deployment

 380. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy 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 a Garda is being transferred from a country station (details supplied) in County Offaly leaving the station with just one Garda; when will this vacancy be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28933/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will be aware that the Garda 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 demographics, 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.

  I have been informed by the Garda authorities that, as of 31 May 2013, the latest date which figures are readily available, there was one Garda assigned to Shinrone Garda Station. Shinrone Garda Station is in the Laois/Offaly Garda Division and the personnel strength of the Laois/Offaly Garda Division on that date was 294. There are also 31 Garda Reserves and 22 Civilians attached to the Laois/Offaly Garda Division. Divisional resources are further augmented, where necessary, by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit (GNDU), the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units.   

Courts Service Issues

 381. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the discussions held by the Building Committee of the Courts Service at their last meeting that is chaired by a High Court Judge; the decisions and recommendations that the committee made or did during that meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28943/13]

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

  The Building Committee is a committee established by the Courts Service Board to advise on matters relating to court accommodation and the capital building and public private partnership programme. The Committee reports directly to the Board on such matters.

  However, in order to be of further assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and have been informed that on 16 May 2013 the Building Committee of the Courts Service Board met to consider a range of issues relating to courts accommodation. These included: proposals in relation to venue closures, progress in relation to the courts building programme, repair works in the Four Courts, the future use of Kilmainham Courthouse in Dublin, the proposed service level agreement between the Courts Service and the Office of Public Works, the current position in a legal case and discussions regarding the Children’s Court in Dublin.

I am informed that following the meeting a number of recommendations will be made to the Courts Service Board for consideration at its meeting on 27th June, 2013. I understand that recommendations in relation to venue closures are conveyed to those who participated in the consultative process in order to give them an opportunity to furnish any final submissions they may wish to make before the Board takes a final decision. As the Deputy will be aware, these matters are the responsibility of the Courts Service Board and I have no function in the matter.

Appointments to State Boards

 382. 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 the number of appointments made to State boards under his Department's remit since March 2011; the number of positions that have been advertised; the number of applications to the boards; the number of appointments to the boards that were drawn from the applications; the current number of vacancies on each board; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28980/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am interpreting the Deputy’s question in a broad manner so as to provide the information which I believe he is seeking. The term State Boards is somewhat imprecise as it includes bodies with a wide and diverse range of functions many of which would not fall into the more commonly understood definition of Board which is a body with a governance oversight of an organisation. To be of assistance to the Deputy I have interpreted his question as embracing all bodies called Boards, irrespective of their functions, as well as other bodies with a governance remit whose title does not include the term “Board”. In the cases where expressions of interest were sought, details of the appointments are provided below.

  Censorship of Publications Board

  There are currently five vacancies on the Censorship of Publications Board. Following my invitation for expressions of interest, a total of 36 applications were received. I expect to make appointments to these positions in the near future.

  Censorship of Publications Appeal Board

  There are currently five vacancies on the Censorship of Publications Appeal Board. Following my invitation for expressions of interest, a total of 33 applications were received. Again I expect to fill these positions shortly.

  Children Detention Schools Board of Management

 One appointment was made to the Children Detention Schools Board of Management. The position was not advertised as the appointment was made under Section 167(4)(a) of the Children Act, 2001 as amended, which requires at least one officer of the Minister. The person appointed was a civil servant.

 Classification of Films Appeal Board

  There are currently nine vacancies on the Classification of Films Appeal Board. Following my invitation for expressions of interest, a total of 44 applications were received. I expect to make appointments to these positions in the near future.

  Courts Service Board

  The Courts Service Board has 17 members, it is chaired by the Chief Justice and includes eight other judges, the CEO of the Courts Service, persons nominated by the Law Society, Bar Council and ICTU, an elected staff representative and three persons nominated by the Minister for Justice. There have been 15 appointments, three of which were individuals nominated by myself including a civil servant from my Department. There are no vacancies at present.

  Garda Síochána Arbitration Board

  The Garda Síochána Arbitration Board is appointed by the Government and consists of a Chairperson, a member nominated by the representatives associations and a member nominated by the Government. The Chairperson is appointed on the nomination of the Ministers for Justice & Equality and Public Expenditure & Reform in agreement with the representative associations. Four appointments were made to the board. There are no current vacancies.

  Garda Síochána Complaints Board

  Eight of the outgoing members were re-appointed as the Board, which has been replaced by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, only has a few outstanding cases on hands. The 9th appointee is a civil servant.

  Judicial Appointments Advisory Board

  Six appointments were made to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. The Board consists of 10 members, it is chaired by the Chief Justice and includes three other judges, the Attorney General, persons nominated by the Law Society and Bar Council and three persons nominated by the Minister for Justice and Equality. Three of the appointments were individuals nominated by myself. There are no current vacancies.

  Legal Aid Board

  Fourteen vacancies occurred. Of the 14 appointments to this Board, eight were civil or public servants. There are no current vacancies.

  Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board

  Four appointments were made to the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board. There are currently no vacancies.

  National Disability Authority (NDA)

  One appointment was made to the board of the National Disability Authority (NDA).   I made the appointment after seeking expressions of interest of which I received 12 applications. This appointment was from a public applicant. There are currently no vacancies on the board of the NDA.

  Parole Board

  There were ten appointments made to the Parole Board. There are currently no vacancies.

  Private Security Appeal Board

  Four vacancies occurred. The Government appointed four people on 3 April, 2012. The proposed Chairperson appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence. There are no current vacancies.

 Private Security Authority (PSA)

  Eleven vacancies occurred. Out of these seven positions were advertised as the remaining four positions, in accordance with the relevant legislation, are to be nominated representatives from my own Department, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, An Garda Síochána and the PSA itself. Following my invitation for expressions of interest, a total of 29 applications were received. While I have not yet announced details of the Board, I can advise that I expect to fill the seven positions from those 29 applications received.

  Property Registration Authority

  Three appointments were made to the Property Registration Authority, of which, in accordance with the legislation, one is a nominee of the Law Society, one is a nominee of the Bar Council and the 3rd the elected Property Registration Authority staff representative. There are no current vacancies.

  Property Services Appeal Board

  The Government made six appointments after seeking expressions of interest of which my Department received 41 applications. Those appointed were public applicants. The proposed Chairperson appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence.   There are no current vacancies.

  Property Services Regulatory Authority

  Eleven appointments were made to the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA). I received 114 applications after seeking expressions of interest from members of the public. Nine of those appointed were public applicants, one is a civil servant and the Chairperson, who was a member of the Property Services Regulatory Authority Implementation Team, was appointed in order to provide continuity to the Authority which had operated on a non-statutory basis for a number of years. The proposed Chairperson appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence. There are no current vacancies.

  The Equality Authority

  The fourteen outgoing board members of the Equality Authority accepted reappointment in September 2011 for a further term which concluded at the end of July 2012, and therefore the issues of selection did not arise. The Deputy will be aware that the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority are in the process of merging to form a new enhanced Irish Human Rights and Equality Authority Commission (IHREC) to promote human rights and equality issues in a more efficient, effective and coherent way.   The Working Group that I established to advise me on the practical issues in relation to the establishment of a new Commission in its Report of April 2012 recommended that an independent Selection Panel be set up for the purpose of appointing the new members. This is in line with a fundamental requirement of the Paris Principles that the members of the IHREC be independent and that the selection process be independent of Government.

  In November 2012 advertisements inviting expressions of interest for the position of Chief Commissioner and of "ordinary" member appeared in the media. The independent panel forwarded its recommendations of 14 names in March 2013. While the persons recommended cannot be appointed to the IHREC in advance of the required legislation being enacted and commenced, the Government has appointed the 14 individuals as members of the Human Rights Commission and subsequently they will be appointed as members of the IHREC when the legislation is enacted, on a 3 year or 5 year basis to ensure that the term of office of all members of the new Commission will not come to an end at the same time so as to preserve institutional continuity.    On 31 May 2013, I appointed 12 of their number to the board of the Equality Authority, under the Employment Equality Act 1998, as amended, on an interim basis of 3 years, but which will otherwise expire when the Bill to establish the IHREC is enacted and commenced and the two bodies are dissolved.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

 383. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he has yet considered the Bethany Survivors Group's request for inclusion within the residential institutions redress scheme or a similar type scheme designed for children who had been in the Bethany Home; if he has made a decision on this matter; if he has reverted to the group on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28989/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I met with members of the Bethany Survivors Group together with Minister for State Kathleen Lynch on Tuesday 16 April. The group raised the question of their inclusion within the Residential Institutions Redress scheme or a similar type scheme designed for children who had been in the Bethany Home. They also raised the question of access to personal records, a memorial and an apology.

Many of the issues raised fall outside the remit of my Department. However, I informed the group that I would consider the matter in consultation with my cabinet colleagues and revert back to them. Minister Lynch and I am in the process of finalising this consultation and will respond to the Bethany Survivors Group very soon.

Sentencing Policy

 384. 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 action he intends to take in response to the recent report from the Law Reform Commission on mandatory sentencing and other issues; if he is considering the recommendations made therein and especially the requirement to place the Parole Board on an independent statutory footing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29003/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Law Reform Commission's report on mandatory sentences published on 11 June examines mandatory sentences in their various forms including life sentences, presumptive minimum sentences and mandatory minimum sentences.

The Working Group conducting a Strategic Review of Penal Policy is currently examining all aspects of penal policy including sentencing policies, parole and other release mechanisms from prison and I expect that the Group's deliberations will be informed by the Commission's Report. The Group is due to report later this year and its report and that of the Commission will be considered at that time.

The Commission's recommendation in relation to the Parole Board is one that I had already decided to proceed with and legislation to place the Board on a statutory footing is being prepared. The Commission's report and any recommendations that emerge from the Strategic Review Group will inform the final shape of that legislation insofar as the role, functions and relationship with the overall justice system, of a statutory Parole Board are concerned.

Drugs Crime

 385. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps local gardaí are taking to deal with an issue of drug use in towns in south County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [29012/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to this matter and I will further advise the Deputy in this regard when the report is to hand.   

Crime Investigation

 386. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide a report on the number of break-ins and disturbances in an area (details supplied) Dublin 9; and if he will review the current resource allocation for the area.  [29015/13]

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 area referred to is in the Clontarf Garda Sub-District. Local Garda management is aware of the level of burglary offences in the area with figures showing a 33% decrease in burglaries throughout the Clontarf Sub-District in 2013 to date when compared with the same period last year.

All crime trends nationally, including burglary, are monitored closely by Garda management and a coordinated, intelligence-led strategy has been implemented to proactively target high impact offenders and suspects involved in this type of criminality. The Garda Commissioner has put Operation Fiacla in place in order to address incidents of burglary, aggravated burglaries and related offences throughout the country. Operation Fiacla is intelligence driven and specific burglary initiatives have been implemented in each Garda Region to target suspect offenders. As of 31 May, 5,233 persons have been arrested and 2,903 persons have been charged with burglary offences under Operation Fiacla.

I am advised that Gardaí from Clontarf Sub-District, including the Community Policing Unit and the local Detective and Drug Unit, assisted by Divisional Traffic Units and Divisional Crime Task Force Units, conduct analysis led checkpoints and patrols to target specific areas and case manage targeted offenders. These targeted patrols and checkpoints are kept under review to maintain effective focus and patrols are concentrated in specific areas identified from crime trend analysis.

Local Garda Management closely monitors such patrols, and other operational strategies in place, in conjunction with crime trends and policing needs of the communities in these areas to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The situation will be kept under review and paramount consideration is given to the needs of residents.

Legal Services Regulation

 387. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the proposals, if any, he has to include rights to legal executives in respect of the Legal Services Bill. [29045/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The situation in relation to this matter remains as set out in my Written Replies to Questions No. 152 and 154 of 30 January 2013 and Question No. 278 of 14 February 2013 which I will, therefore, reiterate. As the Deputy will be aware, the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 has completed Second Stage in the Dáil and is scheduled to commence Committee Stage next month. The Bill does not make any provision in relation to the role or status of "legal executives" nor is any such provision envisaged. It is clear from the correspondence I have received from the Irish Institute of Legal Executives Ltd that the scope of their proposals to confer legal status and a whole range of functions on such a category of persons is extensive and goes beyond those measures to be introduced under the Legal Services Regulation Bill.

It is evident that the proposals being made by the Irish Institute of Legal Executives Ltd, on behalf of its members, are far-reaching from the fact that they relate inter alia  to "a right of audience in the District and Circuit Courts, before tribunals and, subject to review, subsequently in all courts", and to the eligibility of members for quasi-judicial and judicial appointments (e.g as District Court judges or members of Tribunals). These proposals also draw heavily from the regulatory and practise models of England and Wales which do not always correspond to those of our jurisdiction nor to those set out under current Government policy in the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011.

  While recognising that there may be additional benefits and efficiencies to be found for consumers and for the legal services sector in a more developed role for "legal executives", the far-reaching proposals being made on their behalf at this time lie beyond the scope of the Legal Services Regulation Bill impinging, as they do, on aspects of the courts and the judiciary. Such matters will, therefore, need to be considered separately on their own merits, while others may come to be considered in due course by the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority.     

Gambling Legislation

 388. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his reason for not compiling, as is the practice in other countries, a national gambling impact study as recommended by the Institute of Public Health; his views on whether there is an increase in the number of persons presenting with gambling addiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [29047/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will be aware that my Department has been developing a General Scheme of a Bill that sets out my proposals on the updating of our laws on gambling. I hope to secure the Government's approval for my proposals in the near future.

Under current law, regulation is, in general, sector specific, with a number of State agencies performing functions in relation to the sector in question. My Department's Scheme will replace those current systems with the result that, for the first time, all regulatory, licensing and enforcement functions will come under a single agency, namely the Minister for Justice and Equality. I would expect that the reorganisation of responsibilities now being proposed should overcome problems that may have in the past made it more difficult to undertake initiatives to, for example, measure on a national basis the scale and impact of gambling across different sectors.

The Scheme will also provide for the creation of a statutory Fund. The Fund will be based on contributions by the industry. Its purpose is to support research, education and awareness as well as treatment programmes for persons who have acquired a harmful gambling habit or addiction. The Fund will be managed independently.

I can tell the Deputy that, pending the enactment and coming into operation of the new legislation, my Department is actively looking at ways to collect data that is current and reliable and that can be used for the developments of policies to address gambling difficulties.

My Department does not have access to information that would support, or otherwise, suggestions of an increase in the numbers of persons presenting with addiction problems. I am not, therefore, in a position to comment on the matter other than to say that information on not only numbers, but other factors such as age and gender could assist in targeting our policies. The scarcity of information on this and on other impacts of gambling underlines the need for measures such as the Fund I referred to above.

  Question No. 389 answered with Question No. 358.

Anti-Social Behaviour

 390. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline the legal position regarding the powers of an Garda Síochána to deal with anti-social behaviour in private residential streets and estates; and the avenues of civil redress citizens may pursue. [29148/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There is a range of strong legislative provisions available to an An Garda Síochána to combat anti-social behaviour.

The following are some of the more important pieces of legislation and there are many others which may be relevant depending on the nature and gravity of the behaviour at issue.

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 modernised the law in relation to anti-social behaviour and related criminal actions. It provides for a range of offences which cover behaviours such as disorderly conduct, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, wilful obstruction, trespass and entry with intent to commit an offence as well as categories of violent behaviour. The Act also provides for offences for failure to comply with Garda directions.

In addition, the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008 and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provide Gardaí with powers to address public order problems and anti-social behaviour related to the misuse of alcohol. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provides Gardaí with powers to deal with anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking, including exclusion orders in respect of premises and closure orders for licensed premises and catering outlets following anti-social behaviour related offences. The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 gives further powers to Gardaí to tackle the misuse of alcohol, including the power to seize alcohol in the possession of an under 18 year old which they suspect is for consumption in a public place. Gardaí may can also seize alcohol to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Fixed charge notices may be issued for the offences of intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place. This option has the benefit of a more efficient use of Garda and Court resources, while also allowing an offender who complies with the notice to avoid a possible criminal record.

Where anti-social behaviour is directed at property, the Gardaí may have recourse to the provisions of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 which provides a range of offences and penalties, up to and including, on conviction on indictment, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years for the damage, threat of damage or possession of anything with intent to damage, a person’s property.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults and Part 13 of the Act relates to anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and finally to the making of a behaviour order by the Children Court. With regard to adults, they include a warning and the making of a civil order by the court.

I am advised that there are some issues which come within the remit of my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government which could be relevant to the matters referred to in the Deputy's question. In the case of private rented dwellings landlords are responsible for enforcing the obligations that apply to their tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. In this regard the Act prohibits a tenant in a private residential tenancy from engaging in anti-social behaviour in, or in the vicinity of, a dwelling to which the Act applies it also allows a landlord to terminate any tenancy where the tenant is engaging in or allowing others to engage in such behaviour, subject to a notice period of only 7 days in the case of serious anti-social behaviour or 28 days in the case of less serious but persistent behaviour.

The Residential Tenancies Act also provides that a third party directly and adversely affected by anti-social behaviour may, subject to certain conditions, refer a complaint to the Private Residential Tenancies Board against a landlord who has failed to enforce tenant obligations. A specific condition is that the third party complainant must have taken reasonable steps to resolve the matter by communicating or attempting to communicate with the parties to the tenancy concerned.

In relation to avenues of civil redress generally, it is, of course, always open to a person to seek independent legal advice in relation to the forms of redress, including civil remedies, which might be relevant to particular situations.

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

 391. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the position regarding planning for the proposed extension and refurbishment of Waterford courthouse; what the development will entail; the estimated total cost; and when he expects the project to commence construction.  [29149/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter In July 2012 the Government announced an investment package which includes seven courthouse projects, including Waterford.

  As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions. In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that discussions are ongoing with the Office of Public Works and the National Development Finance Agency in order to progress the projects. The projects are to be procured and delivered through a Public Private Partnership.

I am informed that the Office of Public Works is currently working on a design for the Waterford project. The development will include 6 courtrooms, replacing the current 2 courtrooms, and improved facilities for all court users, including jurors, persons in custody, and victim support. Consultation facilities will also be improved. There will be discussions with court users on the proposed design in the coming weeks.

I am informed that the delivery of a project of this scale as a traditional capital project would be likely to cost in excess of €20m. However, as the project is to be delivered on a Public Private Partnership basis, the total cost will include not only the cost of construction but also the costs of maintenance and other services to be provided by the PPP company. This will be paid by way of charges over a period of 25 years.

It is intended that this project will go through the Part 9 Planning process later this year with the PPP procurement process commencing around the end of the year. I am informed that construction could commence during 2015 with the project being completed and the courthouse being operational during 2016.

Probation and Welfare Service

 392. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of probation staff currently in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29165/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed that the number of Probation Service staff currently assigned in County Donegal is as follows:

1 Senior Probation Officer (with responsibility for adult and young probation);

4 Probation Officers;

2 Community Service Supervisors (part time); and

1 Clerical Officer.

This amounts to a total full-time staffing complement of 7 at the present time.

  The Deputy may wish to note that the Probation Service prioritises its workload and allocates resources in such a way as to maximise efficiency and effectiveness. This prioritisation includes particular focus on the delivery of front-line services and the supervision of Community Service Orders.

Immigration Policy

 393. Deputy Anne Ferris Information on Anne Ferris Zoom on Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter when he expects to proceed with the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [29166/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Work on the details of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 is ongoing at my Department pursuant to current Government policy which is committed, under the Programme for National Recovery, to "introduce comprehensive reforms of the immigration, residency and asylum systems, which will include a statutory appeals system and set out rights and obligations in a transparent way". As I have outlined previously to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence, several hundred amendments to the Bill are anticipated, the majority of a technical nature. I also expressed the considered view that instead of engaging in an extremely cumbersome process of tabling hundreds of amendments to the 2010 Bill, it would be much more efficient to publish a new and enhanced text. Such an approach can incorporate the many anticipated amendments while addressing key outstanding issues, several of which have been of concern to Members including those being raised by the Deputy on this occasion. This proposition was broadly welcomed by the Joint Committee and work on the Bill continues, therefore, on that basis while also taking account of any intervening matters of relevance such as decisions by the Courts. It remains my objective under this new approach, and subject to having to deal with the competing legislative demands of our EU/IMF/ECB Programme commitments, to be in a position to bring a revised Bill to Government for approval and publication before the end of the year.

Visa Applications

 394. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the position regarding an Irish person living in Thailand for almost three years who has been with their partner for almost three years (details supplied); the position regarding them coming to Ireland once they are married; the visas that will be required; where these visas may be obtained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29204/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter A person, who is visa-required, wishing to come to Ireland to reside in the State with his/her spouse, must apply for a "Join Spouse" visa. The applicant is required to submit their application and all relevant documentation to their nearest Consulate or Embassy.

  Where all the required documentation/evidence has been furnished and the Visa Officer is satisfied with the bona fides of the application, a D-type, long stay Visa would normally be approved.

  It is important to note that marriage to an Irish national does not grant any automatic right to enter or reside in the State solely on the basis of the marriage.

  Comprehensive information on the Visa Application process and the supporting documentation required is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, www.inis.gov.ie.   

Garda Vetting Applications

 395. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the reason for the delay in having Garda vetting clearance issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10. [29237/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that a vetting application on behalf of the individual referred to by the Deputy was received by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) on 30 April 2013. The application is being processed and will be returned to the registered organisation once completed.

  The current average processing time for applications is approximately 14 weeks from date of receipt.   However, seasonal fluctuations and the necessity to seek additional information on particular applications can result in this processing time being exceeded on occasion.

  All organisations registered for Garda Vetting are aware of the processing time-frames for the receipt of Garda vetting and have been advised to factor this into their recruitment and selection process. In order to observe equity and fairness in respect of all applicants for Garda Vetting, standard processing procedures are such that applications are processed in chronological order, from the date of receipt at the Central Vetting Unit.   

  I remain in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner as to how best the service can continue to be delivered and improved upon, while at all times protecting the integrity of the process. Clearly, the protection of children and vulnerable adults is the primary objective of the GCVU and this must remain the case.

Departmental Staff Sick Leave

 396. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide in tabular form the total number of uncertified sick days taken by employees in his Department; the average uncertified sick days per employee taken; the total certified sick days taken by employees; the average certified sick days per employee; the total sick days taken by employees; the average total sick days and median overall sick days per employee in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. [29276/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The information sought by the Deputy in relation to sick leave for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 is set out in the table. Uncertified sick leave is now classed as self-certified sick leave.

Year Total self certified sick days Average self certified sick days per employee Total certified sick days Average certified sick days per employee Total sick days

(certified and self certified)
Average sick days (certified and self certified) per employee
2009 2005 0.86 22394 9.5 24399 10.4
2010 1595 0.75 17623 8.3 19218 9.1
2011 1654 0.74 17060 7.5 18714 8.2
2012 1348 0.64 18010 8.5 19358 9.1


  It is not possible to provide median details as to do so would require the allocation of a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and resources.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

 397. 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 outline the efforts he has made to increase the use of non-judicial alternatives, such as mediation, for resolving disputes and settling issues. [29285/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter An EU Directive to facilitate access to alternative dispute resolution and to promote the amicable settlement of disputes by encouraging the use of mediation was given effect in this jurisdiction in the European Communities (Mediation) Regulations 2011. In addition to the introduction of the Directive, it is my intention to bring forward, by the end of the year, a broadly-based Mediation Bill to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings, thereby reducing legal costs and speeding up the resolution of disputes. The legislation, which is currently being drafted, will introduce an obligation on solicitors and barristers to advise any person wishing to commence court proceedings to consider mediation as a means of resolving a dispute before embarking on such proceedings. It will also provide that a court may, following the commencement of proceedings, on its own initiative invite parties to consider mediation and suspend the proceedings to facilitate the mediation process. 

  I should add that since 2010 Ireland has had a modern Arbitration Act – the Arbitration Act 2010 – which applies the Model Law on Arbitration to all arbitrations which take place within the State.    The legislation incorporates key principles which are important to commercial arbitrations such as party autonomy and a court intervention system which is supportive of arbitration but which aims at minimal interference in the overall process.

  In addition, the Deputy should note that, the following non-judicial alternatives for resolving disputes and settling issues are available within the court system:

  Superior Courts

  New rules to promote mediation and conciliation in proceedings in the Superior Courts have been in force since 2010. These rules provide for a mechanism similar to the type used extensively in the Commercial Court whereby a judge can order the parties to engage in an alternative dispute resolution process. The provisions specify that the refusal or failure without good reason of a party to participate in mediation or conciliation may be taken into account by the court when awarding costs. The aim of this measure is to minimise the cost of the proceedings and to ensure that the time and other resources of the court are employed optimally.

  Family Law

  A unique tripartite initiative involving the Courts Service, Legal Aid Board and the Family Mediation Service commenced in March 2011 in the Family Law Court in Dolphin House District Court. The project’s objective is to offer a more appropriate means of resolving certain family disputes through, in the first instance, offering mediation information to persons who have made contact with the Courts Service with a view to issuing proceedings in relation to access, custody or guardianship matters.

  The Circuit Court in Dublin is facilitating mediation information sessions free of charge to parties in family law cases. This is provided by mediators from the Mediators Institute of Ireland, Friary Hall and the Family Mediation Service.

  Civil Law

  Callers to the Dublin Circuit and District Civil Court Office are encouraged to use the mediation process when seeking certain court remedies. The County Registrar may also refer cases from her court which she deems suitable for mediation. The initiative, supported by the Courts Service, involves three mediation services - South Dublin Mediation Service, Ballymun Mediation and Mediation Northside and is supported by the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland (MII). Disputes considered appropriate for mediation include boundary disputes, private prosecutions for breach of the peace, complaints about noise or nuisance and disputes between adult family members on questions of property.


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