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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 687-711
 Header Item Naturalisation Applications
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation
 Header Item Deportation Orders
 Header Item Inquiry into the Death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission
 Header Item Coroners Service
 Header Item Prison Mental Health Services
 Header Item Public Consultation Process
 Header Item Prison Facilities
 Header Item Immigration Status
 Header Item Citizenship Applications
 Header Item Family Law Cases
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Family Reunification
 Header Item Family Reunification
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Dublin-Monaghan Bombings
 Header Item Naturalisation Applications
 Header Item Naturalisation Applications

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 101 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 687-711

Naturalisation Applications

 687. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied). [44918/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The application of the person referred to by the Deputy has been received by the Immigration Service of my Department and I am advised that their passport will be returned to them in the coming days. My Department has not suspended the receipt or processing of citizenship applications at any stage during the pandemic. However, processing rates have unfortunately been negatively impacted by the attendant health and safety related restrictions.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Commencement of Legislation

 688. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she will address a matter (details supplied) with regard to the Parole Act 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45027/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I wish to assure the Deputy that I am committed to ensuring the necessary arrangements are in place for the Parole Act 2019 to be commenced and the new Parole Board to be established this year.

On 26 December 2020, I announced my plan to begin the full operation of the Parole Board, including the development of a critical path to its establishment, which envisages the new Board being fully operational by July 2021.

The Government has supported this commitment with funding allocated for the Parole Board for 2021 of €1.3 million, which is more than double previous allocations. This substantial increase will allow for the implementation of the model of parole as envisaged under the Parole Board Act.

Since my appointment as Minister for Justice in June 2020, I have put in place a dedicated project team to coordinate, track and drive forward this work across this Department and the Justice Sector. To date, the team has consulted with a number of key stakeholders and an outline project plan has been finalised. This plan maps out a critical path of the various milestones to be achieved from now through to the commencement of the Act and the establishment of the Board in 2021.

In terms of next steps, I expect accommodation for the new Board to be secured in Q1 2021, with the appointment of staff and the CEO will take place soon thereafter. Further to that, a draft Legal Aid Scheme with accompanying legal procedures and guidance should be prepared in Q2 2020. My goal is for the full complement of Board members to be ready and available for appointment by mid-June 2021.

The final stage of the process will be the drafting and signing of the Commencement Order, which I expect to be ready by July 2021. Once this is signed the Board members will be appointed and the new Statutory based Parole Board established.

Deportation Orders

 689. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of deportations carried out between January and December 2020, by month, in tabular form. [45039/20]

 700. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if her attention has been drawn to the recent deportation of a man in Dublin Airport; the current policy in relation to deportations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45152/20]

 727. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of deportations of persons seeking asylum per month in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1551/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 689, 700 and 727 together.

  While neither I nor my Department can comment on individual cases, I can confirm that in line with the clear commitments that both I and the Taoiseach have given, the position remains that no further deportation orders are being enforced during the Covid-19 pandemic except in circumstances where an individual may be a threat to national security and whose presence in Ireland would be contrary to the public interest.

  Furthermore, my Department has consistently adopted a pragmatic approach in relation to immigration arrangements in the context of Covid-19. This pragmatic approach to deportation orders will continue for as long as is necessary. As evidence of this, a total of 154 deportation orders were enforced in 2019 as compared with only 42 in 2020 and 34 of those 42 occurred in the first three months of 2020.

  A decision was taken some time ago to suspend the issuing of negative international protection decisions during periods when Level 5 restrictions are in place and that position continues at the present time. The same position also applies to the making and service of deportation orders, with the exception of the very limited circumstances I have outlined above.

  The table below gives a breakdown of all deportation orders effected in 2020, including in the context of those persons who had an application for international protection refused.

  Deportation orders enforced by month in 2020

Month All deportation orders enforced* Deportation orders enforced in respect of failed international protection applicants
January 14 9
February 13 9
March 7 6
April 0 0
May 0 0
June 0 0
July 1 0
August 0 0
September 0 0
October 3 1
November 0 0
December 4 2
Totals 42 27


  *The figures for all deportation orders enforced (42) includes those deportation orders enforced in respect of failed international protection applicants. By way of comparison, a total of 154 deportation orders were enforced in 2019.

Inquiry into the Death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell

 690. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if there shall be no further extensions to the work being carried out by a judge into the death of a person (details supplied); and if the scoping inquiry will conclude on 29 January 2021. [45057/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As Deputy O’Callaghan will be aware, a retired Judge, Gerard Haughton, is currently conducting the scoping exercise into the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of the late Shane O'Farrell.

Judge Haughton furnished an interim report to my predecessor in November 2019. In his interim report, the Judge stated that he would not restrict or limit Shane's family in their submissions to him or the nature and extent of the documentation they wished to furnish to him in his scoping exercise.

I can confirm that my Department recently received a letter from Judge Haughton updating the Department on his progress. In this correspondence, the Judge requested a further extension of the timeline to 29 January 2021 and set out a clear and detailed rationale for this extension. I understand from Judge Haughton that he provided a copy of this letter to the O'Farrell family and I also wrote to the family to inform them of the extension.

While I genuinely regret this further delay, I am also aware that the Judge is doing all that he can to ensure that the concerns which the family have raised with him during the process are followed through to the greatest extent possible and this requires additional time. With regard to any further extensions, the Judge is of course completely independent in his work on this scoping exercise, and I cannot intervene in the process, nor can I place any restrictions on the Judge. My Department is providing all necessary assistance to the Judge to enable him to complete his report, and I look forward to receiving it in the near future.

Animal Welfare

 691. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of arrests and prosecutions that have been made in each of the past five years in relation to unregulated puppy farms and animal cruelty for each breed. [45061/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I understand that all complaints of cruelty to animals made to An Garda Síochána are subject to investigation. The Deputy will appreciate that in any case, it is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide if a prosecution should take place, and for what offence.

  Matters relating to animal welfare are not under my remit as Minister for Justice. I understand that the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which is within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, provides a modern and robust framework for dealing with issues relating to animal welfare.

  I understand that An Garda Síochána liaises and works closely with both local authorities and the local offices of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  I am informed by An Garda Síochána that tables 1 and 2 contain the number of incidents reported to An Garda Síochána between the years 2016 and 2020 which have been recorded on PULSE as ‘Offences Against Animals’. ‘Offences Against Animals’ includes cases of animal cruelty among other offences such as hunting without a licence, failure to take care of an animal, failure to comply with authorised officers (for example, during an inspection) and non-compliance with animal identification procedures. There are no specific offence codes on PULSE for offences relating to puppy farms or animal cruelty specifically, such offences are captured under the broader code of 'Offences Against Animals'.

  Table 1: Reported ‘Offences Against Animals’ incidents for the years 2016 – 2020 by subject animal family

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Canine 75 67 56 68 75
Bovine/Ovine 56 60 72 46 35
Equine 39 48 77 31 49
Feline 7 8 13 8 15
Others 31 43 36 21 22
Total 208 226 254 174 196
   

  Table 2: Reported ‘Offences Against Animals’ incidents for the years 2016 – 2020 by subject animal family with one or more associated charge or summons
  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Canine 18 21 13 25 21
Others 34 30 69 36 19
Total 52 51 82 61 40


I am advised by the Garda authorities that data was downloaded from PULSE on 6th   January 2021. Crime counting rules were not applied to data.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission

 692. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she read the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, report in respect of a person (details supplied); if she has engaged with or plans to engage with the person’s relatives; if she will clarify the appeals process in respect of GSOC reports and-or the course of action persons may take in respect of GSOC reports that they are dissatisfied with; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45064/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The sudden and untimely death in this case was an awful tragedy and I offer my most sincere condolences to the bereaved family on their terrible loss.

I can inform the Deputy that I am aware of the investigation undertaken by the Ombudsman Commission in this case. However, as the matter is still open pending the conclusion of an inquest into the death by the Coroner for Westmeath, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

While the Garda Síochána Act 2005 does not make provision for appeals against GSOC investigations, persons who have issues with the conduct of an investigations may contact the Ombudsman Commission directly to articulate their concerns. Individuals may also seek independent legal advice in such circumstances.

Coroners Service

 693. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the reason for the delay in conducting an inquest regarding a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45066/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee Coroners are statutory officers exercising quasi-judicial functions, in relation to which they are completely independent. Neither I nor my Department have any function in this regard. However, to be of assistance, officials from my Department contacted the relevant Coroner’s office. It is understood that the death referred to occurred on 30 September 2018 in Tallaght Hospital, and that the Coroner directed that a Post Mortem examination be conducted. The result of the Post Mortem examination was received on 23 November 2018, on foot of which the Coroner decided to hold an inquest.

In the Dublin District, the average interval between date of death and the holding of an inquest is 20 months due to volume of work. The holding of this inquest might have been expected to have occurred mid-2020. However, complex inquests requiring clinical witnesses to attend court, as in this case, have been significantly delayed due to COVID-19 related public safety restrictions.

I understand that the Dublin Coroner’s office has been in communication with the bereaved family in relation to this matter, most recently on 15 December 2020.

Prison Mental Health Services

 694. Deputy Martin Kenny Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she will consider the mental health and addiction challenges of those in prison considering the recent report from the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and with work ongoing to establish the terms of reference and the structure of a cross-agency task force; and if funding is currently being ring-fenced within the budget of her Department to fund future recommendations.  [45077/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I wish to assure the Deputy that providing for the complex needs of people with mental health difficulties who come into contact with the criminal justice system is a priority issue for this Government and for my Department.

As the Deputy will be aware, the priority status afforded to this issue is acknowledged in the Programme for Government in that it commits to establishing the high-level cross-departmental / cross-agency taskforce to which the Deputy refers. This high-level taskforce will, inter alia, consider how best to provide for the mental health and addiction challenges of those imprisoned, and primary care support on release.

In order to progress this matter, I met with my colleague the Minister for Health in September to lay the foundations for advancing work on this commitment without delay because I believe that a properly constituted taskforce with the support of both Departments can drive much needed transformation in this area.

It is widely acknowledged that every person with mental health difficulties coming in contact with the criminal justice system should have access to comprehensive mental health support. The Deputy may appreciate that delivering on this requires considerable planning for, and implementation of, an appropriate model of care for this vulnerable group.

This will be a complex body of work with a number of cross-cutting issues that cannot be addressed in isolation.

I am pleased to say that collaboration with the Department of Health on the development of Terms of Reference and structure for the establishment of the Task Force is now at an advanced stage. The terms of reference have been agreed in principle between the two Departments. Work is now underway to identify a chair and put in place other administrative details as soon as possible.

We do recognise the urgent need to design and put in place proper systems to care for the most vulnerable people who come into contact with the criminal justice system as a priority and our objective, at present, is to move this matter forward in the first quarter of 2021. Any future funding considerations will also form part of the ongoing work to progress this matter.

Finally, I believe that it is important for me to state that this Government is fully committed to implementing the longer-term changes required to make our penal system safe, effective and responsive to the needs of all prisoners, especially vulnerable persons. While it is unlikely there are quick fix solutions to some of the issues as highlighted by the recent report from the Council of Europe Committee on the Prevent of Torture, we are determined to work intensively together to ensure all people get the care and support they need from our system.

Public Consultation Process

 695. Deputy Martin Kenny Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if her Department has a protocol or checklist that is used for public consultations in relation to recent public consultations. [45078/20]

 696. Deputy Martin Kenny Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if her Department has considered the introduction of a summary report for civil society organisations between the submissions stage and the publication of a strategy by her Department in relation to recent public consultations.  [45079/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 695 and 696 together.

  My Department is fully committed to engaging with the public and our stakeholders as part of the development of new strategies, public policy or proposed changes to legislation. In recent years, the Department of Justice has put a lot of energy into transforming the way it works, with the objective of becoming a more outward facing, collaborative and more effective organisation.

  This includes the use of public consultations to engage directly with communities and members of the public to listen and better understand their views and perspectives. In 2020, my Department conducted a wide-range of public consultations on a variety of key strategies and initiatives, including:

  - The Department’s Strategy Statement;

  - Hate speech;

  - Spent convictions;

  - Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017;

  - Strategy for the Criminal Justice System;

  - Discount rate in personal injury cases; and

  - Youth Justice Strategy.

  As part of the consultation process, the Department uses a variety of methods, leveraging technology and real-time information, to increase awareness of our consultations and maximise engagement, including:

  - ‘Policy forum’ events, involving key stakeholder groups from NGOs and civil society, legal practitioners and academics;

  - Online surveys;

  - Online consultations/workshops;

  - Call for written submissions; and

  - Targeted digital engagement across our social media platforms.

  As the Deputy can appreciate, the COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges in relation to the physical aspect of our public consultations. Recognising the importance of public engagement, my Department re-designed its consultation processes to include online workshops, ensuring our public consultations could continue.

  Feedback is central to the consultative process and all contributions are considered as part of the development of new polices and legislation. The results of consultations are posted online, with the exception of submissions that are deemed sensitive or include personal information. As every consultation is different, there is no current checklist used.

  In addition, the Department always welcomes and considers all suggestions and feedback on ways to improve the consultation process.

Prison Facilities

 697. Deputy Martin Kenny Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the reason, in view of numerous media reports, that the progressive policies long associated with Dóchas women's prison were rolled back in 2019 and brought into alignment with prisons for men, even though when Ireland voted along with 192 other nations to pass unanimously the Bangkok rules at the United Nations in 2010, we committed to respecting and meeting the special characteristics and needs of women in the criminal justice system. [45080/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I wish to reassure the Deputy that the Dóchas Centre is operated in full compliance with the Bangkok Rules passed at the United Nations in 2010.

The ethos upon which the Dóchas Centre is operated is that the women prisoners should live together in a community style setting. The women are accommodated in houses rather than cell blocks and there is no categorisation of female prisoners. The regime in the Dóchas Centre is very much focused on training and rehabilitation.

However, the requirement to ensure the safety and security of all those who live and work in our prisons is universal and in that regard there were changes made in 2019 to enhance the structure of the prison day in the Dóchas. I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that this has enhanced the regime in the prison and allowed for greater access to vital rehabilitative services. As a result, the women accommodated in the Dóchas now have better access to important services such as mental health services, Psychology Service and Addiction Counsellors.

The Prison Service is acutely aware of the fact that women prisoners are a vulnerable group within the prison system and is aware that the supports for female offenders and their rehabilitative needs are very different to male offenders.

The Deputy will wish to be aware that staff working with female offenders are provided with bespoke training and in February 2020 the Prison Service introduced a new tailored programme for staff to address the special needs of women prisoners called ‘Working with Women in Custody’.

To enhance the rehabilitative opportunities for female offenders a new programme in partnership with the Probation Service, called the Outlook Programme which is a step down unit for women offenders, was opened in May 2019. The project is managed by Focus Ireland and the vision of the programme is to promote the rehabilitation and re-integration of women leaving prison and those who have accommodation needs requiring support in the community.

Finally, it may interest the Deputy to know that the construction of a new prison facility to provide accommodation for 50 female prisoners in Limerick Prison is scheduled to become operational in Q4 2021. The design of the facility is based on the principle of rehabilitation and normalisation recognising the unique requirements of female offenders.

Immigration Status

 698. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the position in relation to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45086/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am advised by the Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) area of my Department that the person concerned has ongoing legal proceedings before the High Court in the context of their immigration case. As a result, it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment on the immigration case of the person concerned at this time.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility, which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Citizenship Applications

 699. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the current average processing time for citizenship applications; if she will address concerns from applicants that there are currently long delays with citizenship applications being processed, which results in their passports not being returned for a long time; if she will consider steps to improve the turnaround time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45132/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is a requirement of the naturalisation process that a current passport must accompany every application. The identity of every applicant must be confirmed to the greatest extent possible and a passport is a primary identifier.

Under normal circumstances, passports are returned approximately 10 days after their receipt. However, the current limits on staff attendance in the office due to COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in delays in the return of some passports.

Applicants are advised not to send in their application during the pandemic if they anticipate that they may have to travel at short notice. However, I fully appreciate that people may have to travel at short notice for emergency reasons. The citizenship website advises that in these circumstances, applicants should email the citizenship helpdesk with the relevant details. Any request must be accompanied by appropriate scanned supporting material detailing the reasons for travel, such as medical information. Any request of this nature is dealt with promptly.

In general, the current target is that it should take around 12 months for a standard application for a certificate of naturalisation to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made. However, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. Processing timescales can be impacted by incomplete applications having to be returned; further documentation being required from the applicant; where the payment of the required certificate fee is awaited; or if the applicant has not been engaging with the Immigration Service of my Department.

In some instances, the input of several government agencies, both within and outside the jurisdiction is required to process an application and the request and receipt of information from these sources can result in delays in processing some applications. Issues can also arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light, which is required to be considered before a final decision is taken.

I am conscious that a significant backlog has built up regarding the granting of citizenships due to the inability to hold in person ceremonies during Covid-19. Unfortunately, the pandemic has prevented the holding of such ceremonies, which are usually attended by hundreds of people and which have become a welcome addition to our public and civic life. This month, I will re-start the process of granting citizenship, without the need to hold in person ceremonies, and I will outline the details of this shortly.

  Question No. 700 answered with Question No. 689.

Family Law Cases

 701. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if her attention has been drawn to the memo of concern to the WHO regarding parent alienation (details supplied); her views on the concerns set out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45154/20]

 707. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee her views on recommendation 36 of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality Report on Reform of the Family Law System; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45181/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 701 and 707 together.

The Government is committed to modernising the operation of the Family Justice system, to ensure we have more efficient and user-friendly family court system that puts the family at the centre of its work.

I have noted that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality Report on Reform of the Family Law System includes recommendations on a range of issues connected with family justice including the recommendation referred to by the Deputy on parental alienation.

As the Deputy may be aware, there is no specific legislative provision regarding parental alienation in Irish family law. However section 246 of the Children Act 2001 provides for an offence of frightening, bullying or threatening a child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child's physical, mental or emotional health or wellbeing. There are also legislative provisions in place to deal with child welfare particularly regarding the relationship between a child and his/her parents or guardians, providing the framework for a legal response to a wide spectrum of child welfare issues.

As this is a complex area, I am planning for research to be carried out on parental alienation by my Department this year.

My Department has also recently established the Family Justice Oversight Group which will agree a high-level vision and key medium and longer-term objectives for the development of a national family justice system in parallel with the establishment of a dedicated Family Court structure as envisaged by the forthcoming Family Court Bill and set out in the Programme for Government. As part of its work, the oversight group will consider the various recommendations, including the recommendation on parental alienation, contained in the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on Reform of the Family Law System.

The Family Court Bill will be a key element of the development of a more efficient and user-friendly family court system that puts families at the centre of its activities, provides access to specialist supports and encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution in family law proceedings. The development of sensible, comprehensive and sensitive family law procedures, particularly for vulnerable families, will be central to the new system.

Proposed Legislation

 702. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if hate crime will be a stand-alone criminal offence under her new proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45161/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As you are aware, I recently announced my intention to bring forward new legislation to combat incitement to hatred and hate crime in Ireland. This announcement followed on from the publication of the results of a widespread consultation process, which included in-depth consultations with various civil society and community groups, academics and experts, a public consultation process and a detailed comparative study of approaches to hate crime in 5 other jurisdictions.

  The purpose of this extensive work was to ensure the Department could identify how Ireland’s law in this area could be improved, based on a clear understanding the experiences of those impacted by hate speech and hate crime.

  The report is published on my Department's website and sets out ten conclusions which will be used to inform the new legislation:

  1. The 1989 Act should be replaced with a single piece of legislation to cover both hate speech and hate crime

  2. The list of protected characteristics should be updated to include disability and gender.

  3. The Travelling community should be included in the main definition of ethnicity.

  4. Deliberately or recklessly inciting hatred against a person or group because they are associated with a protected characteristic should be a crime, and distributing or displaying material that incites hatred should be a crime.

  5. Strong safeguards will be needed to protect freedom of expression, so that genuine, reasonable contributions to fields such as literature, art, political discussion, science or academic discussion will not be criminalised.

  6. The threshold for criminal prosecution under the new law should be high, but not impossible.

  7. Companies who have effective measures in place to deal with criminal hate speech, and who are applying those measures properly, should not be prosecuted for content that they could not have known was being shared on their platform.

  8. There is a need for new specific, hate-aggravated versions of existing criminal offences.

  9. Extra measures such as alternative verdicts will be needed to make sure hate offences can be prosecuted effectively.

  10. Not every hate incident is serious enough to be a crime, many incidents can and should be dealt with by other means than criminal prosecution

  The new legislation will provide the necessary means to prosecute perpetrators who deliberately or recklessly incite hatred against others on the basis of a protected characteristic and will ensure that incidences of hate crime in our communities can be managed effectively by law. The new legislation will provide for specific, hate-aggravated versions of existing criminal offences.

  It is my intention to bring the General Scheme of this Bill to Government before Easter, and once it is approved, to refer the Bill to the Oireachtas Justice Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Family Reunification

 703. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if all those who apply for family reunification receive acknowledgement of their applications from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45166/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee All applications for family reunification are acknowledged or receive a response once the application is initially examined. However, there may currently be some delay in doing so due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on my Department’s Immigration Service Delivery (ISD). In line with Government and public health advice, ISD has implemented a suite of measures for the safety of our staff and customers to help in reducing the spread of the virus, which have impacted on the processing capacity of some units in ISD.

While there have been some delays, ISD has continued to accept and process applications for family reunification throughout the pandemic.

Family Reunification

 704. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the family reunification rights of Irish refugee protection programme humanitarian admissions programme, IHAP, refugees; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [45167/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee My Department implements a policy whereby programme refugees, which includes IHAP beneficiaries, can apply for family reunification under the eligibility requirements and criteria as set out in the International Protection Act 2015. They can also apply for family reunification under my Department’s Policy Document on non-EEA Family Reunification.

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP), announced in May 2018, is part of the Government's plan to realise the full commitment of 4,000 people agreed under the first phase of the IRPP in September 2015. The programme allows holders of an international protection status in Ireland, (i.e. refugees with Convention or Programme Refugee status), holders of Subsidiary Protection grants, and Irish citizens, to make a proposal to me to bring to the State their family members who are nationals of one of the top ten major source countries of refugees as identified by the UNHCR Annual Global Trends Report.

IHAP received proposals for inclusion in the programme within defined periods or ‘windows for submissions’. The first window for accepting proposals ran from 14 May 2018 to 30 June 2018. Processing of the proposals from this first window was completed in 2018. A second window for the submission of proposals ran from 20 December 2018 until 8 February 2019.

The first IHAP round granted permission to 165 beneficiaries. To date, the second round of the IHAP has granted permission to 591 beneficiaries.

Human Rights

 705. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the status of action 21.3 of the National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy 2019-2021 to implement a fully functioning online system for reporting hate crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45172/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána intend to launch a new non-emergency Hate Crime Online Reporting system in the coming weeks. The reporting system is fully developed and user acceptance testing has been carried out.

  Following a public launch, with an accompanying explanatory video, the system will be available through the Garda website, www.garda.ie. This new system will allow Hate Crime to be reported to An Garda Síochána in a safe and secure way, and will allow Gardaí to offer the response and support that is needed.

  All reports will be examined by dedicated members of the Garda National Diversity and Integration Unit, who will ensure appropriate action is taken to record and respond to reports.

  The Deputy may further wish to note that my Department published the report of an extensive public consultation into reform of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, on 17 December 2020.

  I intend to draw on the conclusions of this report to draft the General Scheme of a new Hate Crime Bill, which will deal with both incitement to hatred and hate crime. I intend to bring the General Scheme to Government before Easter. The new legislation will provide the necessary means to prosecute perpetrators who deliberately or recklessly incite hatred against others on the basis of a protected characteristic.

  The findings of the public consultation can be found the following web links -

  http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR20000315

  http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Legislating_for_Hate_Speech_and_Hate_Crime_in_Ireland_Web.pdf/Files/Legislating_for_Hate_Speech_and_Hate_Crime_in_Ireland_Web.pdf

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

 706. Deputy Charles Flanagan Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if an agreement has been reached between her Department and An Garda Síochána for the sharing of documents, papers and files in the matter of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings with the team of Operation Kenova; if Ireland will fully cooperate with Operation Kenova; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45175/20]

 708. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if An Garda Síochána has agreed to hand over files that are relevant to the inquiries being conducted by Operation Kenova; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45182/20]

 709. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if restrictions or redactions have been imposed on any files that have been handed over by An Garda Síochána to Operation Kenova; if so, the basis for such restrictions or redactions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45183/20]

 715. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if files have been handed over to the UK authorities in relation to investigations (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1165/21]

 716. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she will seek an explanation from the Garda Commissioner for the reason all relevant Garda files into the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the Glenanne gang have not been handed over to Operation Kenova; and if the necessary arrangements will be made for all relevant unredacted files to be handed to same without further delay. [1166/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 706, 708, 709, 715 and 716 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher heads up a series of ongoing independent UK police investigations or reviews into Northern Ireland legacy cases that are collectively described as the Kenova cases.

‘Operation Kenova’ was the first such investigation and is investigating a range of criminal activities including incidents of murder which are allegedly connected with a British Army Agent known as “Stakeknife”. More recently, ‘Operation Denton’, or the Barnard Review, was established under Kenova. It is an independent Analytical UK Police Review into matters pursuant to the ‘Barnard Judgment’ [Northern Ireland Court of Appeal dated 5th of July, 2019]. This analytical review concerns collusion in what has become known as the Glenanne Gang Series.

The Deputies will appreciate that the manner in which these police investigations and reviews are pursued is entirely a matter for Operation Kenova.

The issue of co-operation by An Garda Síochána with Operation Kenova and Operation Denton is an operational matter and one in which I do not have a role. I can however inform the Deputies that there are arrangements are in place which support the mutual co-operation, assistance and exchange of information between An Garda Síochána and the Operation Kenova Investigation Team and that engagement is ongoing at this time. The Historical Investigation Coordination Unit within An Garda Síochána will continue to support this partnership.

I can advise the Deputies of my continuing commitment to supporting An Garda Síochána in pursuing this work and in providing assistance to the greatest extent possible.

More generally, the Deputies will appreciate that dealing with the legacy of the troubles on this island is a difficult and complex task. The Stormont House Agreement sets out a series of useful measures in this regard to establish effective ways to address the legacy of the troubles. The Government remains fully committed to the implementation of those measures and working in the interests of victims and their families.

  Question No. 707 answered with Question No. 701.

  Questions Nos. 708 and 709 answered with Question No. 706.

Naturalisation Applications

 710. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she will waive a fee (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45198/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The fees to be paid by an applicant for a certificate of naturalisation are governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 569 of 2011). The application fee, stipulated at €175, is payable on application for a certificate of naturalisation and a certification fee is payable on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation.

The standard certification fee is set at €950, while a reduced fee of €200 applies in the case of an application made on behalf of a minor or in certain cases where the application is made by a widow, widower or surviving civil partner of an Irish citizen. In the case of recognised refugees and stateless persons, there is no certification fee.

There is no provision in the Regulations for the discretionary waiver or reduction of fees, or for differing fees to apply to different nationalities or classes of applicant. All of the fees payable under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended are kept under ongoing review by my Department. However, there are no current plans to amend the fees.

Naturalisation Applications

 711. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she has considered fast-tracking citizenship applications of those applicants who worked on the front lines during the Covid-19 crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [1024/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I recognise and acknowledge the crucial role frontline workers are continuing to play in responding to the threat of COVID-19. They work in a challenging environment and deal with vulnerable people on a daily basis. Their exceptional commitment has been particularly clear throughout the pandemic, during which they have been playing a key role in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Due to the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic, I have provided six extensions of immigration permission to 20 April 2021 to ensure that those requiring an immigration permission to work in the state could continue to do so including those providing frontline services.

I am conscious that a significant backlog has built up regarding the granting of citizenships due to the inability to hold in person ceremonies during Covid-19. Unfortunately, the pandemic has prevented the holding of such ceremonies, which are usually attended by hundreds of people and which have become a welcome addition to our public and civic life.

I will this month re-start the process of granting citizenship, without the need to hold in person ceremonies, and I will outline the details of this shortly. It is anticipated that, as the backlog is cleared, frontline workers who are awaiting naturalisation will be among those granted citizenship under the new approach.


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