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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 163-169
 Header Item Garda Discipline
 Header Item Data Protection
 Header Item Garda Strength
 Header Item Statute of Limitations
 Header Item Data Retention

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 807 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 163-169

Garda Discipline

 163. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if there is a protocol to require members of An Garda Síochána to declare gifts they receive in the form of accommodation or refreshment in places of public resort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29541/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The inappropriate receipt of gifts or gratuities by members of An Garda Siochana is governed by An Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 2007.

Data Protection

 164. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if there is a policy of monitoring the phone and e-mail records of residents here.  [29542/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There is a comprehensive legislative regime in place to deal with such matters in this jurisdiction. With regard to interceptions, the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act, 1993 provides for the interception of postal and telecommunications messages. Under Section 2 of the Act, ministerial authorisation may be given for interceptions solely in the interests of the security of the State or for the purpose of criminal investigation. Such authorisations are only issued following application from the Garda Commissioner or the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, in accordance with the Act. The 2011 Communications (Retention of Data) Act provides for access to traffic data, location data and subscriber data. An application for such data may be made by a member of An Garda Síochána not below the rank of Chief Superintendent to a service provider where the data concerned is required in the context of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of a serious offence, the security of the State or the saving of human life. The content of calls, texts etc. are not disclosed under this Act. A senior officer of the Defence Forces may apply for such data where the data concerned is required in the context of the security of the State and a senior officer of the Revenue Commissioners may apply for data in relation to the investigation of certain revenue offences. Both statutory schemes are subject to judicial oversight. Both the 1993 and 2011 Acts provide for the appointment of a High Court Judge to carry out reviews of their operation and the relevant reports to the Taoiseach are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, the Acts provide for a procedure whereby a member of the public who believes their communications have been intercepted or that their personal data has been accessed (whichever the case may be) may make a complaint to a "Complaints Referee". The current Complaints Referee is a judge of the Circuit Court.

Garda Strength

 165. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline, in tabular form, the current strength of the Garda Síochána in the Balbriggan (Y) District, Dublin; the number of vehicles allocated; the number of Garda reserves present; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [29543/13]

 166. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline, in tabular form, the current strength of the Garda Síochána in the Swords sub-district, Dublin; the number of vehicles allocated; the number of Garda reserves present; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [29544/13]

 167. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline, in tabular form, the current strength of the Garda Síochána in the Malahide sub-district, Dublin; the number of vehicles allocated; the number of Garda reserves present; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [29545/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 to 167, inclusive, together.

  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 however been informed by the Garda Commissioner that Swords and Malahide form part of the Coolock Garda District. The personnel strength, reserves and vehicles in the Balbriggan District and each of the Stations in the Coolock Garda District on 31 May 2013, the latest date for which figures are readily available is set as follows:

District/Station Strength Reserves Vehicles
Balbriggan 90 6 10
Coolock      
Coolock 111 8 15
Malahide 35 3 4
Swords 74 9 10


  The allocation of Garda vehicles is monitored and reviewed on a continual basis. The responsibility for the efficient deployment of all official Garda vehicles in each Division is assigned to the Divisional Officer, who may allocate vehicles between Stations as required by operational circumstances.

Statute of Limitations

 168. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views regarding the lifting of the statute bar to allow for women who were victims of symphysiotomy. [29570/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have already publicly stated that I believe the practice of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy, the experience of which has been well articulated by the 'Survivors of Symphysiotomy' representative group, was both brutal and, in many cases, medically unjustified. The Deputy will also be aware that a Private Members' Bill seeking to temporarily lift the Statute of Limitations for women who experienced these procedures was published in April of this year. The Government remains committed to dealing with this issue and to finding a just and workable resolution for those victims who have been adversely affected by this appalling practice. This objective informs the approach being taken by the Government in relation to the ongoing consultations being conducted under the stewardship of Minister of Health, Deputy Reilly, and his officials in the Department of Health. In that context, the outcomes of the final phase of consultations under the independent research into the practice of symphysiotomy, which had been commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer, will further help determine the best way to resolve this issue. The real challenge for the Government is to find a solution that will balance the need for an early resolution to this issue with the legal complexities of achieving this by means of an amendment to the legislation governing the limitation of actions. This area of law is also the subject of a report and recommendations published by the Law Reform Commission in 2011. That report considered the existing limitation of actions framework to be unnecessarily complex and in need of reform and simplification. As the Minister, Deputy Reilly, explained in his statement to this House on the occasion of the publication of the Private Members' Bill on 14 April, the Government is not yet persuaded that lifting the bar will resolve the problems facing the women who wish to bring their cases before the courts and we do not wish to see a situation where women who have suffered enough are faced with high litigation costs in potentially unsuccessful challenges. The limitation of actions aspect is, therefore, one in relation to which all options will be examined by the Department of Health in conjunction with my Department, which deals with the framework legislation for this area, and in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General from whom legal advices have been obtained.

In conclusion, therefore, I wish to reiterate my commitment and that of the Government to resolving the complex issues presented by the brutal legacy of symphysiotomy at both the human and legal levels. I also wish to acknowledge the wider support being given by Members of both Houses to the early realisation of this objective. I will continue to work with the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, in bringing together the competencies of our respective Departments to achieve this in the most appropriate and fairest way possible for the victims concerned.

Data Retention

 169. 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 his views on the concerns of the Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, regarding the PRISM surveillance programme run by the National Security Agency in the United States (details supplied); the ramifications it has for Irish and EU citizens data; if he has concerns that PRISM or similar programmes is aimed at Irish citizens; if this was raised at the EU-US Justice Ministerial meeting on 14 June and if Ireland was represented at this meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [29604/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I, of course, fully understand the concerns which have arisen here and in other countries in the wake of recent media reports about the PRISM programme. These concerns mainly centre on data privacy rights not being adequately respected. Commissioner Reding and myself raised these concerns with the US Attorney General Eric Holder at the EU-US Ministerial meeting last week. I also raised the matter at a bilateral meeting which I had with Attorney General Holder. At these meetings, the US Attorney General provided clarity on a number of issues, in particular that the information collected and processed relates only to metadata i.e. phone numbers, duration of calls etc. but not the content of calls. He also advised that the data was collected under judicial authority and only where there was a reasonable suspicion of serious crime, such as terrorism or cybersecurity/cybercrime. The courts only allow the data to be queried when there is a reasonable suspicion based on specific facts that the basis of the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organisation. He further stated that Congressional oversight applied to these programmes. It was agreed to set up a working group between the EU side and the US security services to continue dialogue in relation to this matter. We cannot ignore the very important fact that there is a recognised need to protect our citizens from terrorist threats and dealing with that does require access to certain data. In doing so, however, it is necessary to ensure that the information used is properly obtained and subject to appropriate safeguards. The importance of protecting individual rights to privacy and ensuring respect for individual human rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights was emphasised to the US side. The crucial need to ensure that any security surveillance undertaken is balanced and proportionate was also emphasised as was the need to give essential assurances to non-US citizens on this score. The US authorities have indicated that their practices are proportionate to the threat they are trying to deal with.

We do have, in this country, robust data protection legislation to protect individuals against unwarranted invasion into their privacy. Access to call content is governed by the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 and may only take place under Ministerial warrant. Access to retained data in this jurisdiction is governed by the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011.Under the Act access may only be granted following a request to the particular mobile phone company or internet provider in connection with the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of a serious offence, the safeguarding of the security of the State or the saving of human life. The operation of both Acts is subject to judicial oversight and there is a complaints procedure which individuals can avail of if there is a concern that the Acts have been breached in relation to their calls or their data. There are also procedures in place under Mutual Assistance legislation to cover requests to and from other countries for this type of information.


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