Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 145-164
 Header Item Online Safety
 Header Item Further Education and Training Colleges
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme
 Header Item Third Level Admissions
 Header Item Third Level Institutions
 Header Item Third Level Admissions
 Header Item Third Level Education
 Header Item Ministerial Briefing
 Header Item Road Traffic Accidents
 Header Item Garda Strength
 Header Item Coroners Service
 Header Item Family Reunification
 Header Item Child Protection
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item Family Reunification
 Header Item Garda Strength
 Header Item Family Reunification
 Header Item International Protection
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 145-164

Online Safety

 145. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman his views on the annual report by an organisation (details supplied) highlighting the vulnerability of children and young persons online [24668/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I welcome the recent publication of Cyber Safe Ireland’s fifth annual report, which provides up to date and informative data on online trends and usage among children. The report acknowledges the opportunities provided by digital technology but also highlights some of the risks and vulnerabilities faced by children and young people. It suggests that risks can be minimised by equipping children with the skills and knowledge they need to safely and smartly navigate the online world and by service providers putting proper safeguards in place to protect users. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I am very aware of the risks and opportunities that the online world brings, and I am committed to working with my colleagues in a co-ordinated Government response to address issues arising.

The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, commits to the enactment of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill and the establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner.  The general scheme of the OSMR Bill 2019, which has the aim of regulating harmful content and creating a safer environment online, was published by the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment in January 2020. The Bill sets a clear expectation for online platforms to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service, including children.

The Bill provides for the appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner as part of a wider Media Commission to oversee the new regulatory framework for online safety. Online safety codes will deal with a wide range of issues, including measures to be taken by online services to tackle the availability of harmful online content, for example cyberbullying material and material promoting eating disorders, on their services. The Online Safety Commissioner will also have a role in promoting positive digital citizenship among children and young people, in conjunction with Webwise and other educational partners, schools, as well as the Ombudsman for Children. The Commissioner will also develop a research programme led by internationally recognised experts to review the existing and developing literature in relation to the consequences, benefits and potential harms to society and especially children, of digital activity.

The Action Plan for Online Safety 2018-19, which was launched by the then Taoiseach in July 2018, recognises that online safety is not the responsibility of any one Department and sets out the rage of actions and activities underway across six key Government Departments (Departments of Communications, Climate Action and Environment; Education and Skills; Justice and Equality; Children and Youth Affairs; Health and Business, Enterprise and Innovation) to keep children and adults safe online.

Children First operates on the premise that it is the responsibility of everyone in society to keep children and young people safe from harm. This responsibility includes keeping children safe from harm online. As part of the Action Plan, in January 2019 my Department published an addendum to the Children First Guidance to include a specific reference to the need to consider online safety in the preparation of risk assessments and Child Safeguarding Statements. In addition, Tusla has revised its template for the completion of Child Safeguarding Statements to refer to the need to consider online risks to children if a service provides access to the internet.

As part of the government response to Covid-19, in April, my Department launched a range of supports for parents and children to support them during this challenging time. This included a new online gov.ie resource for parents, entitled ‘Parents Centre’, which brings together high quality information and online resources for parents into one portal. Parents Centre provides links to a wide variety of material including around learning, parenting and supports that are available. It includes a link to the Webwise, an initiative of the Department of Education and Skills, which is the key internet safety online access point for parents in Ireland.  As a response to Covid-19, the Webwise Parents Hub has been updated with online safety advice for parents, including around screen time as well as with the publication of ‘A Parent’s Guide for a Better Internet’, covering topics including managing technology use at home, social networking tips and dealing with cyberbullying.

My Department also provides funding to three national youth organisations which provide online safety resources for the youth sector. The National Youth Council of Ireland provides the Web Safety in Youth Work Resource, SpunOut has developed an Online Safety Hub which provides guidelines for young people on online safety and Youth Work Ireland, in conjunction with McAfee Security, has developed a digital safety programme which highlights the risks associated with online activity.

Further Education and Training Colleges

 146. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the funding available to further education colleges to support students with disabilities; the mechanism by which the funding is accessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24485/20]

 147. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if he is satisfied that funding for students with disabilities is adequate to support the needs of students attending further education colleges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24486/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.

The Further Education and Training (FET) sector aims to ensure that systemic and structural barriers within FET to learner participation and success are proactively addressed so that each learner, including learners with a disability, can access the available learning opportunities and be enabled to fulfil his/her potential within FET.

The FET sector supports the inclusion of learners with disabilities in the following ways:

- FET programmes are available to all learners, including those with a disability who meet the eligibility criteria and the guidelines provided for each FET programme.

- Specific FET programmes are provided for persons with a disability who require more intensive support through Specialist Training Providers (STPs).

- Community Education, which assists learners with a disability to participate in FET provision by adapting course content, resources and teaching methodologies to suit their abilities.

Funding is provided to support the inclusion of learners with disabilities through an annual planning process that supports the funding allocation process.  Each Education and Training Board (ETB) submits to SOLAS details of its planned provision and funding requirements to support the delivery of its FET services including for learner supports. Over €3m is currently available for this support. 

In addition to the above grants, ETBs have access to the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) aimed specifically at Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) learners with disabilities. Supports from this fund are distributed to PLC colleges based on the number of learners with disabilities and their individual needs. The supports provided by this Fund in the FET sector has risen by 16% over the last five years to €2.7m.

The FET sector, through the implementation of the new FET strategy, is committed to increasing levels of inclusion through the provision of high quality, more accessible and flexible education and training programmes and supports suited to the identified needs of individuals, with the aim of enabling every citizen to participate fully in society.

Student Grant Scheme

 148. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the funding supports available for students undertaking graduate entry medicine; if the SUSI grant or other grants are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24526/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

  To satisfy the terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course, having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

  In general, under the progression/previous academic attainment criteria of the Student Grant Scheme, students cannot qualify for grant assistance or free tuition fees for a second period of study at the same level or for a different course at the same level, irrespective of whether or not a grant or tuition fees were paid previously.

  The main objective of this policy is to assist as many students as possible to obtain one qualification at each level of study. The Scheme operates in the context of competing educational priorities and limited public funding.

  To avail of the graduate entry route for medicine, a primary degree in another discipline is necessary. Accordingly such students are ineligible for grant assistance on the basis that they already hold an undergraduate degree.

  However, institutions participating in the graduate medical programme have been requested to provide accompanying services and supports to facilitate the participation of disadvantaged students in the programme. Details of these services and supports are available from the relevant institution.

  In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may also be available in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

Third Level Admissions

 149. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans to provide further extra places on third-level first year courses in 2020 in view of the higher points achieved by students in the leaving certificate 2020 compared to previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24542/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris In order to help mitigate the impact of the changes to the grading system, I announced the creation of an additional 2,225 places on high-demand courses in Higher Education Institutions. These places have resulted in the highest ever number of applicants receiving a CAO offers, with 53,815 CAO applicants receiving round one offers on Friday.

  It is not envisaged that any places further to these 2,225 will be provided. 

  A summary of the additional places provided, by subject area, is available in the table below: 

Subject Area Additional Places
Architecture 23
Arts & Humanities 476
Business 430
Creative Arts 41
Dentistry 18
Education 170
Engineering 313
Law 142
Music 9
Science 220
Information Technology 31
Nursing 134
Medicine, Health & Physical 218
Total 2225

Third Level Institutions

 150. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment reported in each of the past five years to date in third-level institutions; the extent to which such allegations were investigated; the action taken arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24572/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Statistics of this nature have not historically been collected on a systematic basis from the higher education sector. However, in 2019 information was collected which highlighted the following data in respect of 19 institutions, where information was available.  The specific actions adjudged necessary and taken as a result of any such incident are matters for each higher education institution (HEI).

  Sexual assault or harassment disclosed / reported by students 

Year 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Number 13 15 15 10 36 31


  Sexual assault / harassment cases involving students investigated by HEIs
Year 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Number 3 7 10 2 12 15


  In August 2020, I wrote to the Presidents of all publicly funded HEIs in relation to strengthening the implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions, which was launched in April 2019.  

  I have requested that all HEIs develop and publish, by February 2021, specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment. These actions plans will involve the implementation of systems that record the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment reported in each institution.

  The Higher Education Authority has oversight of the Framework for Consent, and institutions will be required to report annually to the HEA once the institutional action plans are in place.

Third Level Admissions

 151. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if there was a difference between the number of CAO first preference offers in 2020 between candidates using 2020 predictive leaving certificate grades and those that completed their leaving certificate in other years in tabular form. [24575/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The CAO is a company established by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to process applications for undergraduate, and some postgraduate, courses on their behalf.  Decisions on admissions are made by the HEIs who then instruct the CAO to make offers to successful candidates. Therefore application and offer data is held by the CAO, not by my Department, and the figures requested by the Deputy cannot be provided.

  The CAO publishes data on first preference offers each year. As can be seen in the table below, the proportion of applicants receiving a first preference offer is in line with previous years, and due to the additional places provided the number of applicants receiving a first preference offer for a Level 8 course is 6% higher than last year, and the number receiving a first preference offer for a Level 7/6 course is 5% higher than last year.

Offers 2020 2019 2018
Total R1 Offers - Level 8 47,162 43,851 42,301
Total R1 First Preference Offers - Level 8 24,458 23,129 22,095
% of R1 Level 8 Offers that are First Preferences 52% 53% 52%
Total R1 Offers - Level 7/6 31,788 30,806 31,351
Total R1 First Preference Offers - Level 7/6 28,677 27,274 27,619
% of R1 Level 7/6 Offers that are First Preferences 90% 89% 88%

Third Level Education

 152. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if his attention has been drawn to a document (details supplied); his views on its budgetary requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24647/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I would like to thank USI for it's submission and outlining student priorities. The recommendations outlined in the submission along with other relevant submissions received in advance of budget 2021 are being considered as part of the overall budgetary discussions on higher education provision for 2021.

To date significant progress has been made in increasing investment in Higher Education and putting in place a sustainable funding model for Higher Education.  We currently invest €1.87 billion, before the Covid response funding, in our third level sector.  Following the announcements in Budget 2020 Higher Education spending has increased in the order of €450 million compared to 2015.

I am focused on mitigating against the impacts of COVID 19 on vulnerable students. Covid-19 has disrupted many aspects of our lives. For students in third level, it has resulted in a changed college experience.   The resumption of the academic year is our most pressing challenge and ensuring our students and staff are safe is my number one priority.

A substantial funding package of €168m was announced on 22 July for publically funded further and higher education providers under the remit of my Department and for students to mitigate against the impacts of Covid. 

As part of the package of Covid supports for the higher and further education sector I have allocated €15 million of capital funding for a once-off Covid 19 Grant to support disadvantaged students in accessing ICT devices.  This grant is being made available to further and higher education institutions.  The institutions are using the grant funding to purchase devices to support disadvantaged students who are encountering challenges in accessing devices for online and blended learning.  The distribution of the devices, and the associated terms and conditions, will be a matter for each individual further or higher education provider. 

The package of Covid 19 supports also includes a further €10m in access supports for students. Most of this money will be used to top up the Student Assistance Fund, with remaining funding used to support students via the access services in the higher education institutions.

The provision of additional financial support will assist the safe commencement of the 2020/21 academic year and in order that the sector can contribute fully to economic recovery and to meeting priority skill needs and provide assurance and confidence to students and their families as well as to staff and other key stakeholder regarding the capacity and capability of the sector in meeting critical teaching and learning and research objectives.

The future funding needs of the sector are currently under further review through the Departments engagement with the European Commission/DG Reform. The review is a comprehensive economic evaluation of the various funding options presented in the Cassells Expert Group Report and is being undertaken by an expert independent international consortium of consultants including Indecon and LE Europe.

Since taking up office in this Department and through the ongoing budgetary process, I am engaging closely and considering proposals from a wide range of stakeholders including USI.  I will continue to work towards increased investment in Higher Education and supports for students for 2021 and beyond.

Ministerial Briefing

 153. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the briefing for Ministers he received on commencing his role will be made publicly available. [24649/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris My Department provided a briefing document to me on my appointment as Minister.  In line with established practise, the document will be published on the Department's website shortly.

Road Traffic Accidents

 154. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of learner drivers involved in fatal road traffic collisions in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020; the number of those that were driving unaccompanied at the time of the fatal crash in each year; the number of persons that died in each crash in each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24630/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I can inform the Deputy that road safety remains a high priority for An Garda Síochána and for my Department, working closely in cooperation with the Department of Transport.  Any fatality or serious injury is of great concern.

An Garda Síochána is responsible for collating information regarding road traffic collisions.  I am informed that the following details the number of learner drivers involved in fatal road traffic collisions in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020:

In 2017, 15 fatal collisions, resulting in 17 fatalities, involved at least one learner driver or motorcyclist.  In 14 of those collisions, the driver or motorcyclist was unaccompanied. 

In 2018, 8 fatal collisions, resulting in 8 fatalities, involved at least one learner driver or motorcyclist. In 5 of those collisions, the driver or motorcyclist was unaccompanied

In 2019, 10 fatal collisions, resulting in 10 fatalities, involved at least one learner driver or motorcyclist.  In 7 of those collisions, the driver or motorcyclist was unaccompanied.

As at 16 September 2020, 7 fatal collisions, resulting in 7 fatalities, in 2020 have involved at least one learner driver or motorcyclist. In each of those collisions, the driver or motorcyclist was unaccompanied.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner has established the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau (GNRPB) to ensure a consistent approach to road safety and enforcement of road traffic legislation across the country.  This is achieved through coordination of enforcement and development of policy based on research and analysis of statistics and by engaging in campaigns in partnership with other State Agencies.

Garda Strength

 155. Deputy Mark Ward Information on Mark Ward Zoom on Mark Ward asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of community Gardaí in each division over each of the past ten years, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24456/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I can inform the Deputy that detailed information in relation to Community Garda numbers is available on my Department’s website, including a breakdown by Division.  This information is updated every month with the latest data provided by An Garda Síochána, and is available at the following link:

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

  As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána.  Further, the allocation of Garda resources is made in light of identified operational demand. This includes deployment of personnel among the various Garda Divisions.  As Minister, I have no direct role in the matter.

  I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure their optimum use.  I understand that it is a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of each area within the Division and its specific needs.

  To date, the official categorisation as a Community Garda has simply referred to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others.  However, it is important to note that community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and that all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in carrying out their duties.

  As the Deputy will be aware, the new Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, prioritises the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland through the four year implementation plan A Policing Service for the Future.  In its report, published in September 2018, the Commission outlined a vision and roadmap for strengthening An Garda Síochána and the broader national framework for policing, security and community safety.  The report followed extensive consultations with communities and a wide range of stakeholders over fifteen months.

  A key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future is the rollout of An Garda Síochána’s new Operating Model.  The Garda Operating Model reorganises resources around the delivery of frontline policing, placing an increased emphasis on engaging with communities and supporting victims of crime.  I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that in each Division, there will be a dedicated Superintendent leading a community engagement team. I am confident that this reorganisation will further strengthen community policing and engagement, and provide a more localised, responsive policing service for each Division nationwide.

  In a broader sense, the Deputy might also wish to note that implementation of A Policing Service for the Future will see the Garda Síochána Act 2005 repealed and replaced by a Policing and Community Safety Act.  My Department is progressing work on the preparation of a Policing and Community Safety Bill as a matter of priority.

  In addition to setting out a new governance and oversight framework for policing, it will redefine the functions of An Garda Síochána to include prevention of harm to those who are vulnerable, place an obligation on relevant state agencies to cooperate with An Garda Síochána in relation to the broader issue of community safety and refine local structures supporting local accountability for policing.  In that context, my Department is currently in the process of finalising the most appropriate model to achieve this. All existing structures and approaches to community safety have been considered as part of this work and in line with the recommendation of the Commission on the Future of Policing that community policing and community engagement should be at the heart of new structures and policing arrangements.

Coroners Service

 156. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of applications made under section 60 of the Coroners Act 1962 since the provision was inserted by the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 (details supplied); the supports or guidelines available to family members wishing to apply under this provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24471/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee Section 30(3)(a) of  the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 (“the Act”) provides that the Legal Aid Board (“the Board”) may establish and maintain a panel of solicitors who are willing to provide legal aid and advice to persons who are in receipt of legal services with the consent of the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.  Following receipt of such consent, in 2015 the Board established and now maintains a panel of solicitors who are willing to provide services to persons who have been granted a legal aid certificate by the Board for the purpose of advice and representation in relation to the following categories of cases set out in Section 60(5) of the Coroners Act 1962 (inserted by Section 24(b) of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013):

  (a)  the deceased was, at the time of his or her death or immediately before his or her death, in the custody of the Garda Síochána,

  (b)  the deceased was, at the time of his or her death or immediately before his or her death, in custody in a prison within the meaning of section 2 of the Prisons Act 2007,

  (c)  the deceased was, at the time of his or her death or immediately before his or her death, in service custody within the meaning of section 2 of the Defence Act 1954,

  (d)  the deceased was, at the time of his or her death or immediately before his or her death, involuntarily detained under Part 2 of the Mental Health Act 2001 in an approved centre within the meaning of section 2 of that Act,

   (e)  the deceased was, at the time of his or her death or immediately before his or her death, detained in a designated centre within the meaning of section 3 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 or was a person to whom section 20 of that Act refers,

   (f)   the deceased was, at the time of his or her death or immediately before his or her death, in custody in a remand centre within the meaning of section 3 of the Children Act 2001 or detained in a children detention school within the meaning of that section,

  (g)  the deceased was, at the time of his or her death or immediately before his or her death, a child in care, or

  (h) the coroner is of the opinion that the death of the deceased occurred in circumstances the continuance or possible recurrence of which would be prejudicial to the health or safety of the public or any section of the public such that there is a significant public interest in the family member of the deceased person being granted legal aid or legal advice, or both, for the purposes of the inquest concerned.

  Persons seeking legal services in respect of a coroner’s inquest as provided under section 60(1) of the Coroners Act 1962 must make their applications for legal representation to a coroner. It is the coroner who makes the application for legal aid having decided that there is a "public interest" involved.  If a request for legal services under section 60(4) of the Coroners Act 1962 is subsequently made by a coroner to the Board that a named person be provided with legal services under the Act the named person must additionally  satisfy the requirements in respect of  financial eligibility specified in section 29 of the Act and in Regulations made under section 37 of the Act and pay to the Board a contribution towards the cost of providing the legal services determined in accordance with regulations under section 37. The Board has not refused any applications to date.   

  2013

District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Cork 3 1,747.83  
    3,495.66  
    18,066.24 23,309.73
Donegal 1 No invoice presented  
Wicklow West 1 905.28 905.28
Total 5   €24,215.01


  2014
District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Donegal 1 No invoice presented  
Dublin 8 49,060.40  
    1,146.60  
    905.28  
    6,907.38  
    3,675.66  
    1,747.83 63,443.15
Clare 1 No invoice presented  
Galway West 2 1,357.92 1,357.92
Kildare 1 Did not qualify for Legal Aid  
Louth 2 7,242.25 7,242.25
Offaly 1 5,243.49 5,243.49
Total 16   €77,286.81


  2015
District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Donegal 2 905.28 905.28
Cork 1    
Dublin 5 2,367.75  
    2,367.75  
    905.28  
    4,400.01  
    5,857.66 15,898.45
Laois 1 No invoice presented  
Limerick 2 4,526.40  
    922.50 5,448.90
Total 11   €22,252.63


  2016
District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Dublin 4 2,715.84  
    6,629.70  
    905.28  
    947.10 11,197.92
Limerick 2 2,715.84 2,715.84
Meath 1 2,073.78 2,073.78
Total 7   €15,987.54


  2017
District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Dublin 1 Granted – Not taken up  
Cork 1 3,938.35 3,938.35
Laois 1 Granted – Not taken up  
Louth 1 No invoice presented  
Limerick 2 3,168.48 3,168.48
Roscommon 1 905.28 905.28
Tipperary South 1 1,263.82 1,263.82
Total 8   €6,425.93


  2018
District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Dublin 4 6,650.06 6,650.06
Cork 3 8,400.91 8,400.91
Laois 1 No invoice presented  
Limerick 1 No invoice presented  
Total 9   €15,050.97


  2019
District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Dublin 10 12,349.20 12,349.20
Donegal 3 1,810.56 1,810.56
Kildare 1 No invoice presented  
Limerick 1 No invoice presented  
Louth 1 No invoice presented  
Total 16   €14,159.76


  2020
District Number of Applications Legal fees presented for payment. Total
Dublin 3 No invoices presented  
Cork 1 No invoice presented  
Total 4    


  It should be noted that although the Board, through its Legal Services Unit, processes applications and fee claims, all claims approved for payment are forwarded to the Coroner Service Implementation Team (CSIT) for payment.  CSIT is part of the Department of Justice and based in Navan, Co. Meath.  Ultimately, any solicitor/counsel fees in this matter will fall to the CSIT for payment.   The current solicitor fee is €736.  The Board may also sanction the use of counsel in such cases.  The daily rate for Junior Counsel and Senior Counsel is €685 and €1,027 respectively.

Family Reunification

 157. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if she will address a matter regarding the case of persons (details supplied). [24484/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee From the information provided, the person referred to cannot be identified by the Immigration Service of my Department with any immigration related application or process. However, some general information is provided below, which may be of assistance.

  If the parent concerned has received either a declaration of refugee status under the Geneva Convention; programme refugee status; or is a beneficiary of subsidiary protection status in Ireland they may be eligible to apply for their child to join them here by making a Family Reunification application under the provisions of the International Protection Act 2015. Applications must be made within 12 months of receiving one of the above declarations in writing to:

  Family Reunification Section

  Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service,

  13-14 Burgh Quay,

  Dublin 2.

  If the parent concerned is not eligible for Family Reunification under the International Protection Act 2015, they can apply for a “Join Family” long stay visa if the child wishes to remain in the State for more than 90 days. Comprehensive guidelines for all types of visa applications are published on the website of the Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie).  The guidance for a visa for the purpose of joining family members residing in Ireland refers applicants to the Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification.  The criteria set out in that policy is used in assessing both visa applicants for this type of visa and any subsequent residence application should the person's visa application be successful. 

  Section 18.7 of the Policy Document outlines the rationale for the approach adopted and the reasons why persons coming on a visitor visa are not permitted, once here, to overstay or turn a short stay into more permanent residency. Applications for long-stay visas for the purpose of joining with family require more detailed consideration than those of short stay visits as there is a requirement for the applicant to show that they can be supported without undue reliance on the State.  For this reason, such applications made after the person has arrived in the State having obtained a visa for a different purpose, i.e., a short visit, is not permitted.  

  The Policy Document on Non EEA Family Reunification, is available at: http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Family%20Reunification%20Policy%20Document.pdf/Files/Family%20Reunification%20Policy%20Document.pdf

Child Protection

 158. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the policy of her Department on parental alienation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24530/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The issue of parental alienation is highly complex. While there is no specific legislative provision regarding parental alienation in Irish family law, 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 is also a range of legislative provisions in place for dealing 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.

I am aware that the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on Reform of the Family Law System, which was published late last year, considered the issue of parental alienation among a broad range of issues in the area of family law.  A Family Justice Oversight Group has recently been established within my Department which, in addition to departmental officials, also includes representation from the judiciary, the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.  Consideration of the recommendations contained in the committee’s report will be integrated into the work of that group.

Crime Data

 159. 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 number of death threats made against members of An Garda Síochána in the course of their work; the regions in which they occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24571/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the day-to-day management of an Garda Síochána, which includes the investigation of crime, including death threats made against members of An Garda Síochána in the course of their work.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that, for policy and security reasons, An Garda Síochána does not comment on matters of security. 

However, obligations are placed on An Garda Síochána to take appropriate steps to safeguard life. These obligations are fulfilled by providing procedural protection to persons subject of a threat, whether such a person is a member of An Garda Síochána or otherwise.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that current Garda policy provides that when a threat is identified or received, it is assessed by local Garda Management in conjunction / consultation with the Assistant Commissioner, Garda National Crime & Security Intelligence Service.  This threat is then appropriately assessed and a specific Action Plan is put in place to mitigate the risk to the person under threat. The source of the threat is subject of separate investigation in order to identify those involved for consideration by the Law Officers as to whether or not criminal charges should be preferred against the perpetrators.

Family Reunification

 160. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the waiting time for the join family or category A visas; the cause of the delays in the processing of the visas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24574/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The central concern, as with all visa services worldwide, in deciding on visa applications, is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime, while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria. Each visa application is therefore decided on its own merits taking all relevant factors into account.  

  The Policy Document on Family Reunification published in December 2013 contains a stated business target that visa applications to join Irish citizens should be dealt with within six months of receipt of application and applications to join non-EEA nationals should be dealt with within 12 months of receipt.Target times for the processing of visas are established as a business target, reflecting the detailed and often complex assessment required to be carried out in relation to applications, and do not constitute a legal obligation.

  Decisions regarding the grant or refusal of visas are made in a number of Visa Offices overseas, the Immigration Service Visa Office in Dublin, and at Embassies of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which process certain visa applications under delegated sanction from my Department.   The processing time for visas in each location is determined by a number of factors, such as the volumes and complexity of applications, peak application periods and the resources available. While every effort is made to process such applications as quickly as possible, processing times inevitably vary as a result of these factors. 

  The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the way the Immigration Service Delivery function (ISD) of my Department conducts its business. In line with Government and public health advice, ISD has implemented a suite of measures to help in reducing the spread of the virus. These measures included the closure of our offices in Burgh Quay and the implementation of remote working for Immigration Services staff in order to comply with social and physical distancing measures. Unfortunately, these measures have led to a reduction in processing capacity. While delays are expected including in the processing of family re-unification visa applications, ISD is endeavouring to keep operating to the best of its ability.

  I am advised that the time taken to decide "join family" visa applications, from family members who are in Category A in the Dublin Visa Office, where all necessary information is available to the Visa Officer, is currently around 6 months.  The time taken for "join family" visa applications from family members who are in Category B, is approximately 12 months. The processing times for visa decisions are published on the visa pages of each Visa Office and Embassy website.

Garda Strength

 161. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee when the Garda protective services unit for the Wexford division will be delivered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24576/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am advised by the Garda authorities that Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSUs) will be in operation within every Garda Síochána division shortly. Roll-out of these Units will meet a key commitment in A Policing Service for our Future, the four-year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

Garda authorities have informed me that the Wexford DPSU will be launched on 24 September 2020. To date a total of 21 DPSUs have been established to date across 20 Divisions, including two established in the DMR West Division.

More broadly, I can assure the Deputy that addressing domestic abuse remains a key priority for An Garda Síochána and the justice sector as a whole at this time. In recognition of the added risk of domestic abuse during the pandemic, my Department has led development of an inter-agency plan to address domestic abuse in the context of the Covid-19 crisis.  This includes the provision of additional funding to frontline services, to ensure that supports and services remain available to victims and other measures to ensure that the civil and criminal justice system can continue to give priority to domestic abuse.  An Garda Síochána continues to give priority to those who are at risk of domestic abuse, through a targeted operation “Operation Faoisimh” and a public awareness campaign has also been launched, in partnership with the community and voluntary sector, to publicise the support which is still available. The campaign website www.stillhere.ie includes up to date information on domestic abuse and sexual violence, as well as information on the services and supports which are available to victims.

Family Reunification

 162. 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) in relation to non-EEA reunification visas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24577/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification provides, inter alia, for circumstances where dependent parents can join their direct descendants who are non-EEA nationals lawfully resident in Ireland. The Policy Document sets out the criteria to be considered where such applications are made. Section 18.3 of the document, which is cited in the Deputy’s question, makes it clear that each case must be considered on its particular merits.

The Policy must be read as a whole. For example, section 18.8 of the Policy says that it is not intended to allow elderly dependent relatives, other than parents, come to the State for family reunification purposes except in very rare circumstances.  Furthermore, section 14.1 of the Policy defines ‘dependency’ by reference to the financial and social support the sponsor is already providing and the degree of dependency involved.  These criteria are carefully examined before a decision is made.

Should a permission be granted, it would initially be a temporary permission lasting for 12 months but allowing for renewal, subject to the criteria outlined in Policy Document continuing to be met.

International Protection

 163. 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 has liaised with the INIS in respect of a person (details supplied); the appeals procedure the person may avail of in their specific case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24591/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The person concerned is the subject of a transfer decision to the United Kingdom by the International Protection Office (IPO) of my Department, under the EU Dublin III Regulation, which determines the State responsible for examining a protection application. The transfer decision was subsequently affirmed on appeal to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal.  

  I understand that the matter is now the subject of judicial review proceedings and it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment at this time.   

  The person concerned remains legally obliged to comply with any reporting requirements placed on them by the Garda National Immigration Bureau, until this process has been concluded.

Road Traffic Offences

 164. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of drivers disqualified in court per year in 2018, 2019 and up to 31 July 2020; the value of the fines imposed by the court; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24632/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions, which include the provision of information on the courts system. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have made enquiries with the Courts Service. 

  The number of disqualification orders and the number of persons who were disqualified for 2018, 2019 and January to July 2020 is detailed in table 1 below.  This table reports for any offence where a disqualification order was imposed.

  TABLE 1

Year No. of Orders No. of Persons
Jan – Dec 2018 14,155 9,499
Jan – Dec 2019 14,769 9,699
Jan – July 2020 5,563 3,811


  In addition,  the number of persons and the number and value of fines imposed by the Court is shown in table 2 below.  It should be noted that a person may have been disqualified but a fine may not have been imposed.

  TABLE 2
Year No. of Persons No. of Fines Value of fines
Jan – Dec 2018 7,928 9,950 €3,619,580.07
Jan – Dec 2019 7,857 9,640 €3,474,267.80
Jan – July 2020 2,988 3,607 €1,295,711.31


  I am informed by the Courts Service that a project is underway to provide for electronic transfer of disqualification orders to the relevant agency once the time period to lodge an appeal has passed, and no appeal has been lodged.  I am further informed that this project is being progressed under the oversight of the Circuit and District Courts Operations Directorate. 

  I understand that this project is being pursued by the Courts Service independently of the work ongoing in An Garda Síochána to progress the mobility project.


Last Updated: 07/04/2021 15:12:37 First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page