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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 738 - 757
 Header Item Garda Transport Provision
 Header Item Garda Vetting Applications
 Header Item Garda Vetting Applications
 Header Item Garda Vetting Applications
 Header Item Deportation Orders Data
 Header Item Mortgage Arrears Proposals
 Header Item Same-sex Marriage
 Header Item Northern Ireland Issues
 Header Item Visa Agreements
 Header Item EU Issues
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences
 Header Item Cross-Border Co-operation
 Header Item Insolvency Service of Ireland Issues
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Garda Civilian Staff Numbers
 Header Item Human Trafficking
 Header Item Ministerial Appointments
 Header Item Control of Fireworks
 Header Item Ministerial Appointments
 Header Item Closed Circuit Television Systems

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 819 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 111 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 738 - 757

Garda Transport Provision

 738. Deputy Seán Kenny Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if the Garda R district will receive additional Garda vehicles between now and year end; if so the number of these vehicles that will be marked or unmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45861/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Decisions in relation to the provision and allocation of Garda vehicles are a matter for the Garda Commissioner in the light of his identified operational demands and available resources. I am conscious of the continuing pressures on the Garda fleet and, in that regard, I am very pleased to have secured a further €9m for investment in the fleet, made up of €5m between now and the end of the year and a further €4m in 2014. At this stage, arising from the additional €5m being made available between October and December, the Garda authorities have arranged for the delivery of 305 new vehicles by the end of 2013. These are in addition to the 133 new Garda vehicles already made available during the year. I understand that the specific details in relation to the deployment of the new Garda transport have yet to be finalised but the Deputy can be assured that the vehicles will be allocated as effectively as possible in line with operational circumstances, including the requirements of the Garda R District.

The most recent investment will bring to €18m the total amount spent on the Garda fleet for the three years 2012 to 2014. This represents a very considerable financial investment in Garda transport, particularly at a time when the level of funding available across the public sector is severely limited. It is a clear indication of my commitment to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, An Garda Síochána are provided with sufficient resources to enable them to deliver an effective and efficient policing service.

Garda Vetting Applications

 739. 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 when Garda vetting clearance will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45910/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that no vetting application has been received in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers. In the circumstances, I can only suggest that the person contacts the registered organisation involved.

Garda Vetting Applications

 740. 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 when Garda vetting clearance will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45911/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that no vetting application has been received in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers. In the circumstances, I can only suggest that the person contacts the registered organisation involved.

Garda Vetting Applications

 741. 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 when Garda vetting clearance will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45912/13]

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 2 October, 2013. The application is currently being processed and once completed will be returned to the registered organisation concerned.

The Deputy may wish to note that the number of vetting applications received by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) each year has risen from 187,864 in 2007 to 327,903 in 2012 and it is expected that there will be upwards of 350,000 applications this year. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the current average processing time for applications is now approximately 9 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. Nonetheless, this is a significant improvement on the processing time of 14 weeks which existed in July this year. This improvement reflects the fact that I have given this matter particular priority as it is essential that the GCVU has the resources required to perform this most critical of roles effectively and efficiently.

In that context, I have been actively engaged on this issue with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. As a result of that engagement, I am pleased to say that the Garda Commissioner has confirmed to me that there are now 136 whole time equivalent staff assigned to the GCVU, some 41 of whom have been redeployed from elsewhere in the public service since the end of March 2013. Some of these redeployed staff have only recently completed their training in the vetting process, and the full impact of their work will be seen in the coming weeks. Furthermore, I have also recently received sanction for the redeployment of 40 additional staff to the GCVU. This brings the total number of staff in that service to over 170, more than double that of the average allocation of 78 staff at the Unit over the past two and a half years.

The Deputy may also wish to note that the development of an e-Vetting solution is also underway. This will facilitate the processing of all applications in an e-format, thus removing the time-consuming current process of manually managing all applications received. The initial phase of testing this e-vetting system will take place during late 2013. When this is achieved, this system will streamline the overall vetting process in this jurisdiction, and further contribute to reductions in processing times for all vetting applications.

Deportation Orders Data

 742. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter how many deportation orders, as distinct from removal orders made against EU citizens, were made against persons of Latvian and Estonian origin, who were categorised as "non-citizens" and holders of non-citizen passports or alien's passport, respectively, in each year since their states' accession to the EU in 2004.  [45949/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Deportation Orders are made under the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and under Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 on the prohibition of refoulement. I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department that there is no record of any Deportation Order being made against persons of Latvian and Estonian origin, who were categorised as "non-citizens" and holders of non-citizen passports or alien's passport, respectively, in any of the years since their States' accession to the EU in 2004.

Mortgage Arrears Proposals

 743. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views on home repossessions. [44114/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter This Government has consistently taken the line that repossession of a home should only be considered as a last resort when all other sustainable options have been fully considered but are not considered viable having regard to all the circumstances of the case. To that end, the Government has introduced a comprehensive framework to tackle the mortgage arrears problem.

- Lending institutions are working with borrowers in arrears to meet targets set by the Central Bank which will see the majority of them being offered sustainable solutions by the end of next year;

- The reform of the personal insolvency legislation, which I piloted through the Oireachtas, will see a range of alternative solutions being availed of by borrowers where their debt situation is not sustainable;

- Advice on dealing with mortgage arrears is available, independently of the lending institutions, through the Citizens Information Board help line and website (www.keepingyourhome.ie);

- Mortgage-to-rent cases are being finalised and agreed on an increasing basis with over 100 families finding solutions through this scheme.

Within the next 12 months, the Government expects that the vast majority of those who are currently in arrears will have been offered and, hopefully, have accepted a sustainable solution. The Central Bank has already set targets for resolving mortgage arrears cases and has made it clear that lending institutions which fail to meet these targets may face financial sanctions. It is essential that the institutions address this challenge as part of the process of repairing our damaged banking system.

Co-operating borrowers have nothing to fear from engaging with the lending institutions to find solutions to their difficulties. Already some 79,000 mortgage holders have had their mortgages restructured. Protections under the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) have been put in place precisely to allow cooperating borrowers the time and space to restructure their mortgage commitments to meet changed financial circumstances. That being said, it is worrying to see that, in the case of some institutions, up to one-third of borrowers in arrears are not engaging at all. I would urge all those in mortgage difficulties to begin the process of resolving the situation by talking to their lender as a matter of urgency.

I should add that, during the passage of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 through the Oireachtas, I took the opportunity to insert two important provisions which will be of benefit to borrowers with arrears. Section 2 of the Act provides that in any future repossession proceedings in respect of a borrower’s principal private residence, the court may adjourn proceedings so that a proposal for a Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) under the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 may be fully explored as an alternative to repossession. Section 3 of the Act introduces a requirement that repossession actions in relation to a principal private residence or family home where the mortgage was created prior to 1 December 2009 must be commenced in the Circuit Court.

Same-sex Marriage

 744. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he has considered a referendum on same sex marriage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43147/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy will be aware, the procedure is that the Government responds to the Constitutional Convention's recommendations within a four-month period. The response to the recommendations of the Convention on equal access to civil marriage will be available very shortly and will be provided via a statement which I will make in this House.

Northern Ireland Issues

 745. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views on the British Government’s decision to rule out a public inquiry into the Omagh bombing by the Real IRA in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41185/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Last year the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group presented a report which it had compiled to the Irish and British Governments setting out matters relating to the atrocity at Omagh which it considered of concern and calling for a public inquiry. The Deputy will be aware that on 12 September the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers MP, announced her decision that the British Government does not propose to hold a public inquiry into certain matters surrounding the Omagh bombing. I understand, as indicated in a statement issued by the Secretary of State, that she does not believe there are sufficient grounds to justify a further review or inquiry above and beyond those that have already taken place or are ongoing. Insofar as this jurisdiction is concerned, I am currently in the process of finalising a detailed consideration of the matters raised by the Omagh Group in as much as they relate to this State and the Garda Síochána. I will conclude this process shortly and once a conclusion has been reached I will communicate directly with the Omagh Group.

Visa Agreements

 746. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the progress he has made in seeking a new agreement on shared visitor visas with the UK; if there are any further countries with which he is considering seeking such an agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40839/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Irish short-stay Visa Waiver Programme for holders of certain categories of UK visa, which commenced in July 2011, is a demonstration of the Government's determination to maximise, to the greatest possible extent, the economic potential of the Common Travel Area (CTA). The Visa Waiver Programme allows persons from seventeen designated countries to travel to Ireland on the basis of a UK visa and it has proved very effective in attracting increased numbers of visitors from emerging tourist markets. The number of participating countries in the programme is kept under review. Figures from Tourism Ireland indicate that the total number of trips to Ireland by residents of countries covered by the programme increased by approximately 38% in the 18 months after the programme was introduced. In addition, in relation to China and India alone, Tourism Ireland advises that some 55 new tour operator programmes to Ireland have been developed as a result of the introduction of the waiver programme. These programmes alone have contributed to over 13,000 additional visitors to Ireland from India and China.

Building on success of the Programme, work is continuing in partnership with the UK Home Office on the development of short-stay CTA visa arrangements to allow tourists and business visitors to travel to the CTA, with first arrival in either jurisdiction, and thereafter to travel freely throughout the CTA. It is planned for the roll out of such visa arrangements to commence in 2014. These initiatives have been universally welcomed by tourism bodies and tour operators particularly those operating in emerging markets. Prior to its introduction, the necessary technical and operational arrangements, including the capture of biometric data (fingerprints) in electronic format for visa applicants, need to be put in place between the two jurisdictions.

As Ireland does not participate in the border control aspects of Schengen it will not be possible to enter into similar visa arrangements with other EU Member States at this time. I have set out in response to previous Parliamentary Questions why it is not possible for Ireland to join Schengen while the UK does not. In effect, it would involve dismantling the Common Travel arrangements that currently allow free movement between ourselves and the UK. It would also mean that Northern Ireland would become the external border of the Schengen area. The reality is that we cannot operate a common travel area with the UK with all the benefits that brings and unilaterally be part of the Schengen zone at the same time.

EU Issues

 747. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the progress he has made in advancing the Irish role in EU judicial and home affairs co-operation as set out in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [41213/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Advancing the Irish role in EU Judicial and Home Affairs cooperation has been one of my uppermost priorities since my appointment as Minister for Justice and Equality. To this end, I have strived to attend and actively participate in as many meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council as possible. I have partaken in 13 of the 14 formal meetings and all five informal meetings of the Council held in the period since my appointment. These include the two formal meetings and one informal meeting held during Ireland's recent EU Presidency, each of which I chaired. To date, the only JHA Council meeting which I have not been able to attend was an extraordinary one-day meeting convened at short notice in May 2011 to discuss immigration and asylum issues arising from political developments in North Africa. On that occasion, Ireland was represented by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, T.D.

  As well as active participation in the Council, I have also taken the opportunity to engage as much as possible with the European Commission and the European Parliament. These engagements were through bilateral meetings with the relevant EU Commissioners and addressing the relevant Parliamentary Committees.

  Of course, enhancing Ireland's role in JHA co-operation means much more than simply participating in Council meetings; it also entails participating in relevant EU policy and legislative measures to the greatest extent consistent with other legal and policy imperatives at home. The Deputy will be aware that most of the proposed measures in the JHA area are subject to the 21st Protocol annexed to the Lisbon Treaty. This Protocol provides Ireland and the UK with discretion as to whether or not to participate in such measures on a case-by-case basis. My policy as Minister has consistently been that Ireland should opt into as many of these measures as is practicable while having regard to the necessities of preserving the fundamental character of our criminal justice system and of protecting our Common Travel Area with the UK.

  The following are some of the key measures or proposed measures which Ireland has opted into since this Government took office:

  - A Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime;

  - A Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters (which ensures that, for example, a civil barring order obtained by a domestic violence victim is valid throughout the EU);

  - A Directive on the use of Passenger Name Record data within the EU for tackling terrorism and other serious crime;

  - A Regulation creating a European Account Preservation Order to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters;

  - A Directive on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime in the EU;

  - A Regulation to reform the Union's existing legal framework on insolvency proceedings;

  - A Directive to combat fraud against the Union's financial interests;

  - A Directive on the protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting;

  - A Regulation establishing an Asylum and Migration Fund for the period 2014 to 2020;

  - A Regulation establishing a funding instrument for police co-operation in the fight against serious crime as part of the Internal Security Fund for the period 2014 to 2020.

  Ireland's recent Presidency of the Council of the European Union provided a valuable opportunity to take centre stage in advancing the JHA agenda and in enhancing Ireland's reputation as an enthusiastic and committed player in this field. My officials and I were determined to make the most of this opportunity and with this in mind we set ambitious targets, which I am happy to report were achieved and in some cases exceeded. Ireland's EU Presidency priorities in the JHA area, and the progress made on each, are set out below. An updated draft of Chapters 1 to 4 of the General Data Protection Regulation was produced and general support secured for certain fundamental concepts and key aspects which will be an excellent basis for future work. This proposed Regulation provides for the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.

  Political guidelines were agreed on the draft Regulation on Insolvency Proceedings. These guidelines will inform the continuing negotiations on the Regulation, which seeks to reform the existing EU insolvency laws to reflect the fact that businesses increasingly have operations in more than one Member State. Work was also advanced on the European Account Preservation Order, which is a cross-border debt recovery measure in civil and commercial matters. The Regulation providing for mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters was adopted, which means that civil protection measures (such as barring orders) can still be enforced if a victim moves from one Member State to another.

  Turning to the criminal justice sphere, the Irish Presidency secured agreement with the European Parliament on the Directive on Access to a Lawyer in Criminal Proceedings, which forms part of the wider criminal justice procedural rights package. The Presidency also secured Council agreement on a general approach to a draft Directive to strengthen the existing arrangements to protect the Union's financial interests against fraud, corruption and money laundering.

  The internal security of the Union will always be a priority for each Presidency, and in this regard the Irish Presidency kept the fight against organised crime and terrorism firmly on the agenda. During the March JHA Council I chaired an extensive debate on the threat to internal security from the Sahel and Maghreb regions of Africa, with a particular focus on terrorism originating in Mali. As part of the June Council, I chaired a discussion on the issue of EU citizens travelling to third countries as foreign fighters and the associated radicalisation risk posed by these persons on returning home. The Presidency also secured the agreement of Council to revise the Union's Strategy on combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism.

  In the area of organised crime and drugs, the Irish Presidency obtained Council agreement on the next four-year EU Action Plan on Drugs and on the Europol priorities for the next four-year policy cycle on organised crime.

  In the field of asylum and migration, the Irish Presidency secured agreement on the two remaining elements of the Common European Asylum System, viz. the Asylum Procedures Directive (which provides minimum standards on procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status) and the Eurodac Regulation, which concerns the system for comparing the fingerprints of asylum seekers. We also reached a provisional agreement with the European Parliament on the Regulation establishing a European Border Surveillance System, known as Eurosur. New visa facilitation agreements with Moldova, the Ukraine, Armenia and Cape Verde were secured, as were readmission agreements with the latter two countries. Substantial progress was also made on an EU-Russia visa facilitation agreement.

  The ongoing Syrian crisis and its wider impacts loomed large throughout Ireland's Presidency. At the informal JHA meeting which I chaired in Dublin in January, I invited the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to participate in an important debate on the escalating refugee crisis arising from the Syrian conflict and the actions that the EU could take to assist in its alleviation. As mentioned above, the proceedings of the June Council included a timely discussion on the phenomenon of EU citizens fighting in Syria and in other conflicts.

  Finally, the Irish Presidency secured a major agreement with the European Parliament on the Schengen Governance Package, which will enhance the security and stability of the border-free arrangements for participating States. Agreement on this package also enabled progress to resume on five separate files in the Home Affairs area upon which the European Parliament had suspended negotiations since June 2012. The Irish Presidency also oversaw the successful migration to the second generation Schengen Information System, better known as SIS II.

Road Traffic Offences

 748. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the action he is taking to crack down on the road based offences which most contribute to accidents involving cyclists. [40903/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Policing Priorities I have set for 2013 include an emphasis on continuing to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads and An Garda Síochána has my full support in this regard. Insofar as collisions involving cyclists are concerned, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Roads Policing Operations Plan 2013 includes targeted national and regional high visibility enforcement measures such as Operation Pedal Cycle, and the Dublin Metropolitan Region Casualty Reduction Campaign, as well as a continued focus on road user behaviour which presents significant risks to vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

I am further informed that members of An Garda Síochána enforce the law on pedal cycling as part of their normal duties on an ongoing basis. In addition to the day to day enforcement of the relevant provisions of the Road Traffic Acts, breaches of the legislation in respect of pedal cycle behaviour are regularly targeted by way of specific Garda operations throughout the country. Where breaches of legislation are detected, members of An Garda Síochána, depending on the circumstances, may deal with the incident by way of advice or caution or by initiating criminal proceedings.

I can also assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána is committed to working closely with all road safety agencies to maintain a roads policing focus and conducts specific awareness raising initiatives targeting vulnerable road users such as cyclists. The Garda authorities regularly give educational talks, including through the Garda Schools Programme, on road safety and road traffic legislation, including on pedal cycling, to young people and other identified high-risk road users to encourage increased compliance.

Cross-Border Co-operation

 749. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update on his engagement with his Northern counterpart Minister Ford.  [46011/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am happy to inform the House that I have developed and maintain a close and positive working relationship with the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, David Ford. We meet very regularly and maintain contact by telephone to address matters of mutual concern with regard to policing and criminal justice on this island. Under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters we operate a structured framework of co-operation between my Department and the Northern Ireland Department of Justice, and the related police services and criminal justice agencies North and South. Personnel from the police and criminal justice agencies work together in bringing forward an annual work programme of co-operation which is established by Minister Ford and me. The work is brought forward by a number of project groups covering such areas as probation, youth justice, victims' issues, forensic science, social diversity and registered offenders. The officials from our Departments also meet regularly to assess and report to us on developments. I will be meeting with Minister Ford in the framework of the Agreement in the very near future.

I also maintain close co-operation with Minister Ford on matters of common interest relating to policing and criminal justice outside of the formal framework of the Agreement. For example, Minister Ford and I recently attended a joint North-South forum on Human Trafficking with representatives from State bodies, law enforcement, NGOs and international organisations representing the island of Ireland, along with delegates from other jurisdictions. The event was organised to mark EU Anti-Trafficking Day on 18 October. Combating the scourge of human trafficking is one of the important areas in which there is close and productive co-operation between the two jurisdictions on this island.

Of course, there is ongoing close co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland on all aspects of policing. The two police services operate a joint Cross Border Policing Strategy which has as its aims to improve public safety throughout Ireland, to disrupt criminal activity and to enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island. The joint Cross Border Policing Strategy includes sections dealing with Operations; Cross Border Investigations; Intelligence-sharing and Security; Information and Communications Technology; Training; Human Resources, and Emergency Planning. The two police services are jointly engaged in implementing a number of initiatives in all these areas. North-South co-operation in combating crime is both positive and dynamic. The challenges that crime presents are shared ones and joint working will continue to support and enhance our efforts to improve community safety for all communities on this island.

Insolvency Service of Ireland Issues

 750. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the current position regarding the personal insolvency service.  [46012/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As of 1 November 2013, there are a total of 72 Personal Insolvency Practitioners (PIPs) currently authorised by the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI). In addition, on the same date there are 18 MABS companies representing 47 individuals authorised to act as Approved Intermediaries (AIs). The location and contact details of AIs and PIPs are publicly available on the relevant Registers on the ISI's website, www.isi.gov.ie. It is expected that the number of authorised AIs and PIPs will increase over the coming months.

The ISI is currently processing a number of debt relief applications. However, as I have previously advised, the ISI has stated that in the interest of confidentiality, it will not be providing breakdowns of the numbers of applications for the various debt relief solutions received or being processed at this time. The ISI fully intends to provide quarterly statistics once a statistically meaningful number of applications have been processed.

It is a welcome development that the Circuit Court recently issued the first Protective Certificate for a Debt Settlement Arrangement. Debt Settlement Arrangements and Personal Insolvency Arrangements are conducted in a two stage process. The Protective Certificate at stage one offers a 70 day window for Practitioners to develop a proposal to the satisfaction of the debtor and creditors. This means that the first Debt Settlement Arrangements and Personal Insolvency Arrangements will issue in the near future - approximately 70 days after a Protective Certificate has issued. It might be noted that as soon as the Protective Certificate issues, debtors are protected from any action that creditors, subject to the Protective Certificate, may be inclined to take.

The ISI continues to engage with key stakeholders on a number of issues and is working on the following:

- standardising a Personal Insolvency Arrangement template;

- establishing a Complaints Panel for complaints of improper conduct by PIPs;

- establishing a PIP education oversight committee;

- PIP forum facilitation;

- Integration of the Office of the Official Assignee and preparation for the anticipated increase in bankruptcy cases.

Proposed Legislation

 751. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if the inclusion of automatic guardianship rights for both parents is being considered as part of the Family Relationships and Children's Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46031/13]

 783. 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 the progress made to regulate and overhaul surrogacy law here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46266/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 751 and 783 together.

As I have previously indicated, I am engaged in the preparation of the General Scheme of a Family Relationships and Children Bill and work on the General Scheme is at an advanced stage in my Department. In this context, I am considering the issue of extending guardianship rights to more fathers as well as seeking to ensure that children's welfare and best interests are fully safeguarded. I also intend, subject to the necessary consultations, to clarify the law on parentage in cases of surrogacy. These are very complex areas of law in which the constitutional rights of all of the parties must be carefully balanced. I expect to bring my detailed proposals for the General Scheme to Government in the near future.

Garda Civilian Staff Numbers

 752. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the way civilianisation rates in An Garda Síochána stand up to international comparison; the targets he has set in respect of this initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46055/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of full-time equivalent civilian staff employed in An Garda Síochána has increased from 1,166 at 31 December 2005 to 2,037 on 25 October 2013. This represents an increase of 871 staff (or just over 74%) in this period. The current ratio of civilians to members of An Garda Síochána stands at approximately 1:6. Given the different legal systems and different policing structures in different countries, eg common law or civil law jurisdictions, multiple police forces with different roles etc., and the fact that An Garda Síochána is a single national police force which is also responsible for security and intelligence services, comparisons with other countries are not always viable. Notwithstanding this, the ratio of 1:6 would appear to be lower than in some other comparable jurisdictions where it could be as high as 1:3 or 2:5.

The Haddington Road Agreement provides for a “review and make recommendations on the use by An Garda Síochána of the resources available to it, with the objective of achieving and maintaining the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness in its operation and administration". The review will provide an opportunity to consider the scope for further civilianisation in An Garda Síochána.

Human Trafficking

 753. Deputy Ciara Conway Information on Ciara Conway Zoom on Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide in tabular form, the number of investigations into suspected trafficking crimes for 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; if he will also publish in tabular form the number of convictions in relation to trafficking offences; if he will provide details of the countries where persons being trafficked here originated from via percentage breakdown; his views on the main trafficking routes and means of travel to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46062/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of my Department publishes annual reports setting out in detail the nature and extent of human trafficking in Ireland. To date, annual reports for 2009, 2010 and 2011 have been published and are available from Ireland's dedicated anti-human trafficking website www.blueblindfold.gov.ie and on my Department's website. As the report for 2012 is to be published soon the figures for 2012 are preliminary as are the figures for 2013. The information you are seeking is as follows:

YEAR
Number of Investigations
Number of Convictions
2010
69
3
2011
53
4
2012
37
6
2013
31
3


NOTE:

1. The figures for 2013 relate to the period from 1 January to 30 September 2013.

2. Convictions are in respect of offences under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and in respect of other offences related to human trafficking under other Acts e.g. Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.

3. Convictions occurring in any calendar year may be the result of prosecutions initiated in previous calendar years.

  To protect the identity of victims I have set out below the region of origin (as opposed to country of origin) given the very small numbers from some countries.
-
2010
2011
2012
2013
-
%
%
%
%
Africa
-
-
-
-
Western Africa
39
40
17
32
Southern Africa
6
5
4
10
South East Africa
4
-
-
-
Eastern Africa
3
2
-
-
Northern Africa
3
4
-
-
Central Africa
-
-
-
3
Europe
-
-
-
-
EU (except Ireland)
22
16
21
19
Ireland
8
11
40
3
Europe (Non-EU)
4
4
6
3
Asia
-
-
-
-
Southern Asia
6
7
2
-
Eastern Asia
4
2
-
16
South East Asia
3
5
6
3
America
-
-
-
-
Latin America
-
-
4
3
Unknown
-
-
-
7
  I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that persons, mostly from Africa, travelled to Ireland either via hub European airports or alternatively, in a small number of cases, via the UK entering Ireland from Northern Ireland. There are no direct flights from Africa to Ireland.

  An Garda Síochána, in its Policing Plan for 2013, has highlighted the prevention and detection of Human Trafficking as one of eight stated priorities. The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in my Department and An Garda Síochána are continually vigilant for any emerging trends relating to human trafficking and they maintain regular dialogue on this matter with relevant State agencies, NGOs and International organisations working in this area.

Ministerial Appointments

 754. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the name, qualifications and current salary of each political staff member appointed by him. [46091/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter In my capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality I have made the following appointments:

My original appointments as Special Advisers were Ms. Jane Lehane and Mr. Thomas Cooney. I recently appointed Ms. Jennifer Carroll MacNeill as my Special Adviser following the retirement of Mr Cooney. The salary in all cases was the Principal Officer standard scale (€75,647 - €92,550 with effect from 1 July, 2013). Ms. Lorraine Hall was appointed as my Personal Assistant (salary scale €43,715 - €56,060) and Ms. Cleo Lambert was appointed as my Personal Secretary (salary scale €23,820 - €47,755).

I am satisfied that all those that I have appointed are ably qualified to discharge their responsibilities. In compliance with the Ethics in Public Office Act, Statements of Qualification are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, and would be available for the Deputy's inspection.

Control of Fireworks

 755. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if, in view of serious hazards being encountered in communities, especially in Border counties like County Louth, he will consider strengthening the control of fireworks; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46143/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I would like to assure the Deputy that Ireland’s laws governing fireworks are already particularly robust. My Department has always been conscious of the dangers which fireworks can present, and following full consultation with various interested parties, a number of amendments to the legislation were included in the Criminal Justice Act 2006. These amendments provided for new offences governing the misuse of fireworks and created an offence for the possession of illegally imported fireworks with intent to sell or supply. The amendments also provided for significantly increased penalties governing the illegal possession and use of fireworks including making it an offence to throw an ignited firework at any person or property or to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

  Unfortunately there will always be some unscrupulous trader who will source such fireworks from outside the State and attempt to sell them on. I can however assure the Deputy that the Garda authorities take many pro-active steps each year in the area of prevention and enforcement by putting specific provisions in place in the lead up to Halloween. Attention is paid, in particular, in the border Divisions and in the Dublin Metropolitan Region to prevent and detect the organised importation for sale of illegal fireworks. Since 2006, An Garda Síochána have additional powers to conduct searches of people and vehicles suspected of carrying illegal fireworks with intent to sell or supply. If the Gardaí suspect that an offence of sale or supply of illegal fireworks has been committed by a person, they may arrest that person without a warrant. As I have already mentioned, the penalties for such offences have been significantly increased and fines of up to €10,000 or five years imprisonment or both may be imposed.

  The Deputy may be interested to note that on Friday 25 October 2013, I issued a press release about the dangers of illegal fireworks and the penalties associated with their misuse. I also drew the public's attention to the fact that each year, as Halloween approaches, my Department runs a public information campaign in the print media highlighting both the public safety aspect as well as the illegality of using fireworks. Whereas my Department and the Garda Authorities will continue to do everything possible to prevent the misuse of fireworks, it is incumbent on all of us to play our part in ensuring that we can all enjoy the festivities of Halloween in a safe environment.

Ministerial Appointments

 756. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will be nominating a new Irish member to the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; when he will have a replacement installed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46159/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Consideration is currently being given to the nomination of a new Irish Member to the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). I do not have a date as yet but three individuals will be selected as the Irish nominees in line with the procedures for nomination to the CPT. It will then be a matter for the Council of Europe to decide which nominee should be appointed.

Closed Circuit Television Systems

 757. 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 the funding available to fund or co-fund the installation of a CCTV system in a town (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46172/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Community-based CCTV Scheme was launched in 2005 to provide financial assistance towards the capital costs of establishing a Community CCTV system. To date, two major rounds of the Scheme have been advertised, in 2005/2006 and 2007, seeking applications from interested community groups. Funding provided under the previous rounds of the Community CCTV Scheme has been fully allocated and at present there are no proposals to further extend the Scheme. However, the matter will continue to be kept under ongoing review in the context of overall policy considerations and the availability of resources.


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