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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 249-264
 Header Item Harbours and Piers
 Header Item Freedom of Information
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Maternity Leave
 Header Item Maternity Leave
 Header Item Direct Provision System
 Header Item Citizenship Applications
 Header Item Crime Prevention
 Header Item Visa Applications
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 101 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 249-264

Harbours and Piers

 249. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary the funding provided in the July stimulus package for the development of the middle pier in Howth, Dublin; the details of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19493/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Dara Calleary): Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Howth Fishery Harbour Centre (FHC) is one of six FHCs owned, operated and maintained by my Department under statute.  The other five are located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Killybegs and Ros An Mhíl.

The FHCs are strategically important infrastructure which underpin the Government's Strategy to further develop a modern offshore Irish fishing fleet, attract the large offshore fishing vessels of other Member States to increasingly land into our Fishery Harbour Centres and drive the development of a modern on shore processing industry.  To provide for the necessary safety, maintenance and ongoing development of the six Fishery Harbour Centres, the Department carries out capital works, the main objective being to safeguard the future viability of the fishing industry and to bring the FHCs up to international best practice.

The Howth Middle pier redevelopment project is fully permitted and a tender competition to procure a works contractor has been completed. This project will provide an additional berthing space of 134m on the Middle Pier in Howth.  1,600m2 of working space for fishermen will also be provided to the rear of the new pier for net repair and servicing of fishing vessels.

The project is aligned with the overall Department strategy to separate heavy fishing activity and industrial type work from leisure activity insofar as possible and ensure the health and safety of all users of the Fishery Harbour Centre.

The additional capital injection under the July stimulus package is crucial to provide much needed investment for the future of the seafood sector.

The €6m development project on the Middle Pier in Howth will take 12–14 months to complete.  While it is anticipated that over 50 construction workers will be directly employed on the project, the knock-on benefit to the local supply chain will be greater. Once complete, the better berthing facilities will encourage increased fishing activity and as the heavier industrial type work will now be concentrated on the Middle Pier, leisure activity on the West Pier will be further facilitated generating additional  employment opportunities.

Freedom of Information

 250. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of freedom of information requests being processed by his Department; the number that have had the deadline for reply extended; the number at least one week, two weeks, one month and over one month overdue, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19345/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department is currently processing thirteen Freedom of Information requests. Section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014, allows for an extension of up to four weeks of the deadline for a decision to issue, under certain circumstances. An extension has been applied to two of the requests referred to under Section 14 (1) (a) of the Act.  This is on the basis that the requests relate to such number of records that the issuing of a decision within a four week period from receipt of the requests, is not reasonably possible.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 251. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will continue with an investigation or commission a further inquiry into the Tuam babies scandal; if so, if he has considered the use of DNA technology in such an investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19388/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman There is an ongoing investigatory process in relation to a number of institutions in the form of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters. The Commission is independent in its work and is due to make its final report to me on 30th October this year.

Separate to the Commission process, I am committed to addressing the Tuam site itself and to affording every dignity to the children who were buried there. To that end, my officials are continuing to progress work on the Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill. This legislation is required to intervene at Tuam as existing laws do not allow for the kind of action that will be required. The General Scheme of this Bill was published in December 2019 and is available on my Department's website.

When enacted, this legislation will provide the lawful authority required for the State to organise respectful excavation of the Tuam site and exhumation of the children buried there, and to make arrangements for their dignified reburial. The Bill will make provision for attempts to identify the remains, including provision for the use of DNA technologies. However, it is important to note that the site is unprecedented in this jurisdiction and is extremely technically and scientifically challenging. We do not yet know to what extent identification will be scientifically possible, particularly whether it will be possible to extract viable DNA samples from the remains.

Childcare Services

 252. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if consideration has been given to providing assistance in the form of additional funding for resources and training to childcare providers to encourage them to continue taking on children under 12 months of age (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19394/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Officials in my Department have been monitoring closely developments in relation to early learning and care (ELC) and school age childcare (SAC) sectoral capacity, including the supply of, and demand for, places as COVID-19 restrictions ease. Supporting services as they reopen, and ensuring that capacity is sufficient to meet demand, is a key priority of my Department. The following points are critical:

- The Annual Early Years Sector Profile 2019 demonstrated that, prior to the disruption caused by COVID-19, the sector was running at near capacity, with some capacity issues emerging in certain areas and for certain groups, including children under 3.

- The expert guidance on the safe reopening of ELC and SAC services during the COVID-19 pandemic was published by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on 29 May. The Department believes that most services should be able to comply with the public health advice with no or little reduction in capacity.

- Recent IPSOS/MRBI surveys of parents commissioned by my Department indicate a drop in the number of families likely to seek to access ELC and SAC in the initial weeks of reopening.

- Previously, to address emerging capacity issues for younger children, my Department targeted its capital funding towards maintaining and extending the supply of publicly subsidised places. In 2019, for example, 1,321 new places for children under 3 were created at a cost of €4 million.

- Further, in recognition of the higher cost of delivering ELC to young children due to ratio requirements and to remove any disincentives for providers to offer places for babies and toddlers, the National Childcare Scheme provides a progressive system of subsidies starting with the highest subsidy rates for children under 1 with graded rates for those aged from one year and upwards.

- Childminders form a key part of service provision for young children. To support the registration of more childminders with Tusla, so as to allow them access subsidies under the NCS, my Department has recruited a National Childminding Coordinator along with a team of Development Officers around the country.

It is clear, however, that further capacity is required and that is why I am continuing my intensive efforts in this area.

In the context of services reopening and operating in a COVID-19 environment, the funding package I announced on 25 July will enable providers to continue to operate with lower capacity and extra operating costs. This funding package for the Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) sector from 24 August to end 2020 includes:

- Continuation of all DCYA ELC and SAC subsidy schemes (NCS, CCSP, TEC) and resumption of the ECCE Programme at existing capitation and subsidy rates, including ECCE Higher Capitation;

- Access to the Revenue-operated EWSS. This will cover an average of 38% of the costs of individual services.

- A sustainability fund will be accessible to providers (not-for-profit and for-profit) who can demonstrate that the other measures are not sufficient by themselves to enable viable operation of their business.

The suite of resources provided to support reopening, which includes training supports, is continually updated. Indeed, the HPSC will host a webinar on Infection Control Guidance for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Settings this coming Friday.

In the more medium term, preparations are underway to develop a strategic capital investment plan to ensure effective allocation of €250 million that has been earmarked for ELC and SAC in Project 2040. My Department is also finalising an Action Plan for Childminding that will set out all the steps we will take to improve access to high quality and subsidised childminding services in the coming years for all children.

I am committed to continuing to advance a range of measures to improve access to childcare places, particularly for younger children.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 253. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some crèches and childcare facilities are not taking children under the age of one due to Covid-19, which has resulted in parents being required to take unpaid leave from work to take care of their children; if support will be given to parents in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19397/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Expert guidance on the safe reopening of Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) services during the COVID-19 pandemic was published by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on Friday, 29 May.  The guidance recommends use of a “play pod” model which restricts interactions between closed groups of children and adults as an alternative to social distancing, on the basis that social distancing is not possible between young children. Based on advice provided by the HPSC, the Regulations in relation to the adult-child ratios and the floor-space requirements for ELC or SAC services have not been amended as such changes are unnecessary where "play pods" are in use. Therefore, additional staff are not required to meet adult-child ratios for any age group.

While some settings may reduce capacity depending on their layout, there are no required capacity reductions, and most services should be able to comply with the public health advice with no or little reduction in numbers of places. In addition, the use of play-pods and the fact that the Regulations in relation to the adult-child ratios and floor-space requirements have not changed mean that the costs of compliance with public health requirements have been kept to a minimum.

My Department has put a major funding package in place to facilitate the reopening of ELC and SAC services. The investment recognises the important role that the ELC and SAC sector plays in the societal and economic infrastructure of the country.

The funding package was tailored to allow providers to operate with less parental income where demand is low in the early stages of reopening and to assist in meeting the costs associated with complying with public health requirements.

Childcare Services

 254. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if crèches are obliged to refund fees paid by parents for the two weeks during which there was no service since 17 March 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19439/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department has introduced a range of supports for Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) facilities, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These supports have aimed to maintain the sustainability of the sector and to maintain the affordability of services for parents.

Following the closure of ELC and SAC services on 12 March 2020, my Department continued to make ELC and SAC programme payments on an ex-gratia basis. This temporary arrangement was an immediate response to the closures for the purpose of the sustainability of the sector while more appropriate policy responses were being considered. No special conditions were attached to these payments, and arrangements for the payment of parental fees are a matter between parents and providers. There is therefore no obligation for services to refund parental fees for the two weeks following 17 March. However, subsequent schemes to support the ELC and SAC sector during this period did introduce certain fee controls to maintain affordability for parents.

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme (TWSCS) was introduced on 6 April. This supplemented the Revenue-operated Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme by providing a top up for staff wages and a contribution to ongoing overhead costs. One of the conditions of payment under the TWSCS is that services would not charge parents fees for the period of the TWSCS. That period was from 6 April to 28 June.

From 29 June, as services began to reopen, my Department provided a major funding package to facilitate the reopening of ELC and SAC services. This funding package provided a Reopening Support Payment (RSP) to allow providers to operate with potentially less parental income and to assist in meeting the possible costs associated with complying with public health requirements. It is a condition of the Reopening Support Payment that participating services must apply the Registered Fees List that was in place on 12 March 2020, without amendments, for the duration of the scheme, until 23 August. Where possible, services are also requested to avoid charging fees, deposits or other measures to hold places.

On 25 July I announced a package of measures to support the ELC and SAC sector as remaining services reopen in late August and early September. This is a substantial investment of just under €300 million in the period from 24 August to the end of the year. It recognises the importance of the sector for children’s positive development and in terms of supporting the economy to return to normal.

This package will help services already open to stay open, and it will help all those other ELC and SAC services that are due to open at the end of August / early September to do so. The €300m package to the end of the year should also prevent parents from having to pay higher fees to cover extra COVID-related costs.

Childcare Services

 255. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman when the Crowe report will be published and made available; the reason for the delay in publication to date despite the fact that it has been cited as a document that will inform decisions made regarding the childcare sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19443/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Crowe was commissioned by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to undertake an independent review on the cost of providing quality childcare in Ireland. Preparation was underway to launch the report in April 2020. However, owing to other pressing demands caused by COVID-19, its launch was postponed and is now planned for September / October.

   The brief for the Review included:

  - analysing the current costs of providing childcare and the factors that impact on these costs;

  - the development and delivery of a model of the unit costs of providing childcare that allows analysis of policy changes and variation in cost-drivers, including the potential impact of professionalisation; and

  - providing an objective, high-level market analysis of the childcare sector in Ireland, including analysis of fee levels charged to parents.

  An approach and methodology were decided upon in partnership with the DCYA and a number of key activities have been undertaken to date. These include:

  - engagement with key stakeholders from the sector, including the Early Years Forum, provider representative organisations, the City and County Childcare Committees, statutory bodies, childcare professional training bodies, and academics;

  - the administration of a survey to all centre-based childcare providers nationally, to provide the data on which the modelling tool would be based;

  - the development of a cost modelling tool (and guidance document) to present the baseline cost data and enable the testing of the impact of a range of scenarios, namely changes to cost drivers on the unit costs of delivering childcare services; and

  - a final report detailing the elements of the review, and the key findings.

  The project was intended to provide a robust evidence base for the further development of high quality ELC and SAC in Ireland. The outputs, including the costs calculator developed through this project are also intended to form a key input into the setting of capitation and subvention rates for future funding schemes and will be considered by the Expert Group recently convened to develop a new funding model for ELC and SAC.

  The draft final report, cost modelling tool and guidance were subject to peer review. Arising from the external peer review, an additional piece of work was undertaken. Final outputs were received in January 2020 and components have been used to inform the development of various schemes to support the sustainability of the sector since childcare services were closed on March 12.

Childcare Services

 256. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if a costings process has been carried out on the provision of State-funded insurance for the childcare sector; if his Department has carried out a risk analysis; if so, the findings of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19444/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Early learning and care and school age childcare services are required to have valid insurance in accordance with the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016.

  These services are provided by private operators, and they source insurance from commercial insurers.

  My Department has not carried out research into the cost of the provision of State funded insurance for the childcare sector. I should add that the provision of State-funded insurance is a matter for the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.

Maternity Leave

 257. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he has responded to a request to meet a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19541/20]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I have no record of correspondence from the group mentioned by the Deputy; however, the Deputy may be interested to know that I have received a request to meet from a similarly named group. My officials have acknowledged the request, and I will consider the matter as soon as possible.

Maternity Leave

 258. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she has responded to a request to meet a group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19540/20]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As the law now stands, a mother is entitled to paid maternity leave of up to 26 weeks, and up to a further 16 weeks of unpaid leave.  Any amendment to the legislation governing the provision of maternity leave, which falls under my responsibility, would require primary legislation.  The provision of maternity benefit  is under the remit of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

In recognition of the particular challenges that mothers and parents have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government is considering a proposal to advance the extension of Parent’s Leave and Benefit to five weeks for all parents of children born after 1 November 2019, to enable every eligible parent of young children to spend additional time with their child.  The period in which Parent’s Leave can be taken will also be extended from one year to two years.  This, and related costs, will be considered as part of the Budget 2021 process.  The support is paid at a rate of €245 per week.

Parental leave is also available which entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. Parents can take up to 22 weeks of parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday.

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was introduced under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020, to attempt to minimise the negative impact on the labour market through an exceptional period beginning on 26 March and scheduled to run for an initial period of 12 weeks. On 3 June, the Government announced the TWSS would accommodate the salaries of parents returning from maternity or adoptive leave. This will be provided for by way of amendment in the Finance Bill 2020 process, and that in the meantime Revenue will implement the provision from 26 March, where applicable.

A number of requests for a meeting around this issue have been received in my office. These requests are currently being considered and an official from my Department will contact the individuals directly in due course.

Direct Provision System

 259. Deputy Martin Kenny Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the date upon which each direct provision centre or emergency accommodation centre contract expires. [20324/20]

 262. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the date on which each direct provision centre or emergency centre contract expires. [19264/20]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 262 together.

  The International Protection Procurement Services (IPPS) unit of the Immigration Service Delivery function of my Department is responsible for the procurement, contract management, inspection and payments functions associated with the accommodation provided to persons seeking international protection.

  The two tables below list the contract dates of both the Commercial and State-owned accommodation centres.

 Commercial Centres Contract Start and End dates

Centre  Address  County  From  To 
Ashbourne House  Glounthane  Cork  11/12/2019  28/04/2020 
Atlantic House  Railway Square, Tramore  Waterford  30/06/2020  29/06/2022 
Atlantic Lodge  Dromneavane, Kenmare  Kerry  12/02/2020  11/02/2022 
Balseskin  St. Margaret's Road, Finglas, Dublin 11  Dublin  15/07/2019  01/07/2023 
Birchwood House  Ballytruckle Road  Waterford  08/11/2019  07/11/2021 
Bridgewater House  Main Street, Carrick On Suir  Tipperary  05/12/2019  04/12/2021 
Carrig (Rock Centre)  Ballinamore, Co.Leitrim  Leitrim  04/11/2019  01/11/2020 
Carroll Village  Clonbrassil Street, Dundalk  Louth  11/01/2020  08/01/2021 
Clare Lodge  Summer Hill, Ennis  Clare  05/12/2019  04/12/2021 
Clonakilty Lodge  Dunmore Road, Clonakilty  Cork  12/02/2020  11/02/2022 
Dublin Central Inn  95-98 Talbot Street, Dublin 1  Dublin  06/04/2020  04/04/2021 
Eglinton, Salthill  The Promenade, Salthill  Galway  23/05/2019  30/12/2020 
Eyre Powell  Main Street, Newbridge  Kildare  02/04/2019  01/04/2021 
Glenvera Hotel  Wellington Road  Cork  05/03/2019  02/03/2020 
Globe House  Chapel Hill, Sligo Town  Sligo  02/04/2019  01/04/2021 
Grand Hotel  Abbey Street, Co.Wicklow  Wicklow  03/12/2019  30/11/2020 
Great Western  Frenchville Lane, Eyre Square  Galway  15/07/2020  29/12/2020 
Griffin House  Lower Gerald Griffin Street  Limerick  23/03/2020  21/03/2021 
Hanratty's Hotel  Glentworth Street  Limerick  25/05/2020  03/01/2021 
The Hazel Hotel  Skirteen, Monasterevin  Kildare  25/07/2019  24/07/2021 
Hibernian Hotel  Main Street, Abbeyleix  Laois  05/02/2020  04/02/2022 
King Thomond Hotel  Bog Road, Lisdoonvarna  Clare  09/03/2020  06/03/2022 
Linden House  New Road, Killarney  Kerry  12/02/2020  11/01/2022 
Marian Hostel  High Street, Tullamore  Offaly  17/02/2020  16/02/2022 
Millstreet & Davis Lane  Millstreet  Cork  12/02/2020  11/02/2022 
Montague  Emo, Portlaoise  Laois  09/05/2019  08/05/2021 
Mosney  Mosney  Meath  09/12/2018  07/12/2022 
Ocean View  The Esplande, Tramore  Waterford  13/11/2018  11/11/2020 
Richmond Court  Richmond Street  Longford  20/12/2019  19/12/2021 
Riverside Apts  Shannon Street, Borrisokane  Tipperary  01/10/2019  28/09/2020 
Rosslare Port Lodge  Ballygillane Big, Rosslare Habour  Wexford  28/02/2020  25/02/2021 
Skellig Accom Centre  O'Connell Street, Cahirciveen  Kerry  18/03/2020  16/03/2021 
St. Patricks  Drumgoask, Monaghan  Monaghan  20/06/2019  17/06/2020 
Temple  Horseleap, Moate  Westmeath  24/10/2019  23/10/2021 
The Old Convent  Abbey Street, Ballyhaunis  Mayo  09/01/2019  25/06/2019 
Towers Hotel  Ninth Lock Road, Clondalkin, Dublin 22  Dublin  16/07/2019  07/09/2020 
Viking House  Coffee House Lane  Waterford  17/03/2019  18/09/2019 


  State Centres Management Contract Start and End Dates
Centre  Address  County  From  To 
Athlone  Lissywoolen, Ballymahon Road, Athlone  Westmeath  25/11/2019  24/11/2020 
Atlas Kilarney  Deerpark Road, Killarney  Kerry  10/11/2019  09/11/2020 
Atlas Tralee  McCowan's Lane, Tralee  Kerry  10/11/2019  09/11/2020 
Johnston Marina  Dingle Road, Tralee  Kerry  10/11/2019  09/11/2020 
Kinsale Road  Kinsale Road, Co. Cork  Cork  25/11/2019  24/11/2020 
Knockalisheen  Limerick Road, Meelick  Clare  25/11/2019  24/11/2020 
Park Lodge  Park Road, Killarney  Kerry  10/11/2019  09/11/2020 


  Where a contract for a centre is shown as having passed its expiry date, it is awaiting verification under an ongoing procurement process, and has been rolled over in the interim.

  In relation to Emergency Accommodation, my Department is using hotels and guesthouses to meet current demand for accommodation services for protection applicants as there is insufficient capacity within our accommodation portfolio presently. These premises are contracted on short term contracts (3 months) which are evaluated and renewed if required on expiry. The last renewal date for emergency contracts was on 19 July 2020 and they will be reassessed before the 3 month expiry of those rollover contracts on 10 October 2020. Due to commercial sensitivities and to protect the right to anonymity of our residents, the Department does not divulge which hotels and guesthouses it is utilising for emergency purposes.

Citizenship Applications

 260. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied) will be progressed to decision stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19238/20]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy continues to be processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

As the Deputy will appreciate, 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 recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of 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.

Crime Prevention

 261. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if her attention has been drawn to a newspaper article (details supplied); when the audit by her Department referred to in the article was carried out; the findings of same; if the report will be published; whether public funds were used to pay the award of €43,470 as outlined in the article; the steps she will take to carry out a further audit to clarify the issue in view of the fact that the audit was carried out before the payments were made; if she will continue funding the organisation to manage the community alert and text alert rebate programmes; if not, if she will consider opening the programmes to a competitive tender process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19251/20]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am aware of the newspaper article referred to by the Deputy. I can inform the Deputy that the audit referenced in the article was commenced by my Department in 2019 and is currently being finalised.

The funding provided by my Department to the organisation referenced in the article is used to support rural communities in the fight against crime and to develop community safety programmes. My Department will continue to provide funding to support rural crime prevention initiatives, including those of this organisation, subject to the work being in line with my Department's strategies and business plans, and that the issues identified in audits or through other sources are addressed.

  Question No. 262 answered with Question No. 259.

Visa Applications

 263. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee when tourist visa applications from the Philippines will be considered by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19274/20]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee In March, the Immigration Service Delivery function of my Department temporarily suspended the processing of all non-priority visas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included processing in our seven Visa Offices stationed abroad and in Irish consular missions.

  A limited resumption of visa services commenced from 22 June 2020. During this initial resumption phase, the Visa Office has only been accepting Long Stay - D type - visa applications and those Short-stay - C type - visa applications identified under current criteria as Emergency/Priority visas.

  My Department intends to resume accepting all applications as soon as safety concerns abate.

  Certain Priority/Emergency cases will continue to be processed and these include the following:

  - Emergency visa (e.g. Healthcare professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals);

  - Immediate family members of Irish citizens (who are returning to their ordinary place of residence in Ireland);

  - Persons legally resident in the State;

  - Persons entitled to avail of the provision of the EU Free Movement Directive;

  - Transport personnel engaged in haulage of goods and other transport staff to the extent necessary;

  - Diplomats, staff of international organisations, military personnel and humanitarian aid workers in the exercise of their functions.

  If an application falls into one of these categories, a visa can be applied for on-line in the usual manner.

  The situation is being continuously monitored and the extent of the resumption of visa services will continue to be decided in accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) and Health Service Executive (HSE) guidelines both in Ireland and globally.  Local Covid-19 pandemic travel and isolation restrictions may prevent local offices from being able to accept applications or from persons being allowed to travel.

  Therefore, there is no definitive timeframe on when tourist visa processing will resume.

  Any updates in relation to this matter will be posted on the INIS webpage, www.inis.gov.ie. Furthermore, potential applicants can also check their local Irish Embassy/Mission websites for updated information specific to their location.

  Ireland does not maintain an Embassy in the Philippines. However, the Irish Embassy in Singapore and an Honorary Consular General provide consular services including visa services.  The contact addresses for the Embassy and the Consular General may be found at:

  https://www.dfa.ie/embassies/irish-embassies-abroad/asia-and-oceania/philippines/

Covid-19 Pandemic

 264. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the responsibility of her Department for recording and monitoring passengers entering Ireland; the role her Department plays in the passenger locator form and follow-up calls to passengers; the number and grade of staff allocated for this specific purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19277/20]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Border Management Unit (BMU) of my Department has responsibility for securing Ireland’s border at Dublin Airport in accordance with the provisions of the Immigration Acts and Orders as they relate to entry and refusal of entry to the State. The Unit has also been collecting and checking Public Health Passenger Locator Forms at Dublin Airport, and undertaking follow-up phone calls on arrivals into Dublin Airport and all other ports of entry nationwide on behalf of the health authorities, since 28 April 2020.

The mandatory regime, as set out in the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form) Regulations 2020, for completion of Public Health Passenger Locator Forms by all arriving passengers into the State (excluding the exempt categories) came into effect on Thursday 28 May 2020. Any passenger refusing to complete the mandatory form at Dublin Airport is referred to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). To date, only 3 passengers at Dublin Airport have been referred to GNIB for refusing to complete a form.

From 28 April 2020 to 30 June 2020, almost 100% of passenger arrivals into both Dublin Airport and all other ports of entry nationwide who required telephone follow-up were contacted by BMU staff. However, since 1 July 2020, due to a rise in passenger numbers and the requirement to prioritise core immigration work at Dublin Airport, the BMU is not operationally positioned to continue follow-up calls at the rate conducted previously and now make a sample of follow-up calls for all ports of entry nationwide.

The BMU has new working arrangements in place in line with Public Health advice on managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the introduction of the Passenger Locator Form, every member of the Unit has been involved in their collection and checking for completeness.

The follow-up calls are made between the hours of 10am and 7pm. Up to 30 June 2020, dedicated teams were in place to undertake this work. A dedicated team of 8 staff has capacity to progress 960 calls in total covering Dublin Airport and other ports nationwide during the hours outlined.

Since 1 July 2020, given the increase in passenger numbers, it is no longer operationally feasible for the BMU to assign dedicated teams to the follow-up work. Therefore, all staff working between the hours of 10am and 7pm undertake the Passenger Locator Form follow-up work in addition to their operational immigration duties. This system involves a sample of forms being taken over a 24-hour period. The sample is then divided between available staff in the immigration booths who, in addition to immigrating passengers, review each form individually and segregate any exempt categories who do not require follow-up. Such exempt categories include passengers who are:

- Transiting to NI

- In the State for less than 2 days

- Completing forms unnecessarily

Two additional staff members are tasked with the collection, collation, sampling and storage of the forms during each shift, with a third staff member assigned to manage the Passenger Locator Form e-mail address.  Staff members are generally Clerical Officer and Executive Officer grades.

It is expected that this Passenger Locator Form follow-up work will be transferred from the BMU on 10 August 2020.  In the meantime, the Unit will continue to undertake this work and will support the roll-out of the Passenger Locator e-Form initiative.


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