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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 320-339
 Header Item Family Support Services
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Education and Training Provision
 Header Item International Protection
 Header Item Crime Prevention
 Header Item Gambling Sector
 Header Item An Garda Síochána
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Crime Prevention
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item International Protection
 Header Item International Protection
 Header Item Family Reunification
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item An Garda Síochána
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item Drug Dealing

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1008 No. 3
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 91 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 320-339

Family Support Services

 320. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the status of the ABC and the PPFS programmes; and the breakdown on spend on these programmes in each of the years 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form. [30392/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Tusla's Prevention, Partnership and Family Support Programme (PPFS) is intended to support children, young people, parents and families in accessing preventative and support services while enabling their participation in decisions which affect their lives. It aims to prevent risks to children and young people arising or escalating through building sustainable services within Tusla and partner organisations to perform preventative and early intervention work. The programme addresses Tusla’s statutory requirement under the Child and Family Agency Act to provide ‘preventative family support services aimed at promoting the welfare of children’.

  As part of this mandate, Tusla delivers the Area-Based Childhood (ABC) Programme in 12 areas of disadvantage in Ireland. The aim of the ABC Programme is to address the impacts of child poverty by enhancing protective factors and mitigating risk factors for children, young people and their families experiencing poverty. Since 2019, a budget of €9.5m has been allocated for the delivery of the Tusla's PPFS Programme, with €8.2m allocated to the ABC Programme and a further €1.3m allocated for the wider operation of the PPFS Programme. However, spending on this programme may vary according to need identified across ABC areas.

  In the table below, my Department’s actual spending on the PPFS Programme, including the Tusla ABC Programme, has been given, based on drawdowns made by Tusla. Since 2021, PPFS (including the Tusla ABC Programme) has been paid as part of a general allocation for Tusla. Due to the current ICT service interruption, it is not currently possible to break down this allocation. Instead, the total budget allocation for 2021 for PPFS, including the Tusla ABC Programme, has been given.

Year Spend
2019 €8,897,000
2020 €9,278,512
2021 €9.5m (total allocation for 2021)

Apprenticeship Programmes

 321. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the status of the roll-out of the Action Plan for Apprenticeships 2021-2025 which is a specific focus on apprenticeships that would help address skill shortages in the housing sector. [29525/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 was launched on 19th April and sets out a five year plan which sets out new ways of structuring, funding, and promoting apprenticeships to make apprenticeship accessible to employers and learners. The actions set out in the plan seek to deliver on a target of 10,000 apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025 across all sectors of the economy including construction. Measures to support employer engagement in apprenticeship, particularly within the SME sector, will be integral to the delivery of that target.

As a demand driven programme, the number of apprentice placements is determined by employers within the construction sector. In recent years, annual intake in construction related apprenticeships has steadily been increasing, from a low of 650 in 2010 to 3,499 in 2019. The impact of Covid-19 and the closure of the construction sector in March 2020 impacted heavily on apprentice registrations in the first half of 2020. Registrations recovered in the second half of the year with the support of the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, which provides an employer grant of €3,000 payable over two years to support employers who take on and retain apprentices, reaching a total of 3,104 registrations on construction related apprenticeships by year end.

Work has begun on the implementation of the Action Plan.  Proposed amendments to the Industrial Training Act, 1967 seek to expand the definition of an "activity of industry" to widen the potential scope of new apprenticeship programmes (Action 5.2) has been included under the General Scheme of Higher Education Authority Bill which was published on the 6th May 2021. The Bill also provides for the recognition of a shared office between SOLAS and HEA to facilitate collaboration on the national-level development, monitoring, review and management of the apprenticeship system (Action 12.6)

Progress towards baseline actions will be reviewed on an annual basis and a report delivered to Government, outlining progress and learnings and setting out detailed areas for action in the next phase of delivery.

Education and training relevant to skills needs in the construction sector is delivered through ongoing apprenticeship and non-apprenticeship further and higher education and training as well as through specific activation programmes such as Springboard, the Human Capital Initiative and Skillnet Ireland.

Among the 60 apprenticeships currently available at levels 5-10 on the National Framework of qualifications, the 25 traditional craft apprenticeships at level 6 of the National Framework of Qualifications have been supplemented by new apprenticeships in geo-drilling (Level 6), with programmes in scaffolding (level 5), roofing and cladding (level 5) and advanced quantity surveying (Level 9) due to launch in 2021.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 322. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the steps he is taking to address exploitative employment practices of apprentice workers by employers. [29526/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Ireland has a comprehensive body of employment legislation, in respect of which the Workplace Relations Commission is mandated to secure compliance. Employment rights legislation protects all employees, including apprentices who are legally employed on a contract of service basis.

Where an individual believes they are being deprived of employment rights applicable to employees they may refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where the matter can be dealt with by way of mediation or adjudication leading to a decision that is enforceable through the District Court. WRC inspectors can also be asked to investigate certain breaches. Complaints can be made on a single online complaint form available at the WRC’s website www.workplacerelations.ie.

The Workplace Relations Customer Service Section can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 or via its website www.workplacerelations.ie. 

Generally, apprentices who are employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship are entitled to the same employment rights protection as all other employees employed under a contract of service. However, there are a few exceptions in relation to apprentices:

- In the case of statutory apprentices, the Unfair Dismissals Acts do not apply if the dismissal takes place within six months after the commencement of the apprenticeship or within one month after the completion of the apprenticeship. (Section 4 of the UD Act)

- An employer of an apprentice is not obliged to pay a redundancy lump sum under the Redundancy Payments Acts if the dismissal takes place within one month after the completion of the apprenticeship. (Section 7(4) of the RP Act)

- Apprenticeships are excluded from the remit of the National Minimum Wage.

Notwithstanding this it is important to note that it is a central principle of the apprenticeship system in Ireland that both apprentices and their employers are assured of a high-quality apprenticeship experience leading to recognised awards. There are a number of processes in place to support this, underpinned by statute under the Industrial Training Act 1967 and the Quality Assurance and Qualifications Act 2012, including:

- ‘The Apprenticeship Code of Practice’, published by SOLAS, covers the key obligations of employers and apprentices participating in apprenticeship. Employers are required to sign up to this code prior to engaging apprentices. Companies seeking to recruit apprentices are also required to undertake the SOLAS ‘Suitability to Train Assessment’ prior to being admitted onto the register of approved employers.

- The network of Authorised Officers (AOs) of the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), working on behalf of SOLAS, continually engage with employers and individual apprentices throughout their apprenticeship programme, ensuring adherence to the Code of Practice as well as providing ongoing supports.

- All SOLAS approved training organisations and tutors are subject to independent scheduled process monitoring and/or unscheduled assessment event monitoring to ensure adherence with both Quality Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accreditation and SOLAS requirements.

- A comprehensive quality assurance process for apprenticeships covers the quality of delivery on and off the job training and is overseen by QQI through co-ordinating providers.

- The employer is the provider of ‘on-the-job’ elements of the Apprenticeship Programme and is responsible for apprentice direction, observation, supervision, and, if applicable, assessment. Employers are required to:

- Ensure that the apprentice is released to attend the mandatory apprenticeship induction presentation.

- Release the apprentice for the off-the-job training elements of the Apprenticeship Programme on the dates and to the location as notified.

- Regularly communicate with the apprentice and his/her workplace mentor and/or assessor/verifier to monitor how the apprentice is progressing.

- Be proactive in reviewing the apprentice's progress and provide support, advice and encouragement to the apprentice throughout the apprenticeship.

- The trade union movement are an integral part of the delivery of the apprenticeship system in Ireland. This is achieved through membership of the National Apprenticeship Advisory Committee (NAAC), a subcommittee of SOLAS, as well as the Apprenticeship Council which has overseen the expansion of apprenticeship over the last five year period to reach a total of 60 programmes across all sectors of the economy. 

Education and Training Provision

 323. 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 the reason for the removal of the vocational training opportunities scheme and back to education initiative courses from a college (details supplied). [30403/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Officials in my Department have engaged with City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) regarding the matter.  

CDETB acknowledge that BTEI and VTOS have been a very positive dimension of Cabra Community College for the past thirty years. Cabra Community College is a second level site that

accommodated further education and training provision when the site had capacity. However, Cabra Community College is growing rapidly, and is also planning to open two special education classes to respond to the increasing demand for special educational needs provision in the area. In order to meet this demand, further education and training provision will need to be relocated.

The nearest site with similar course and capacity to accommodate the provision is Colaiste Íde. Students will benefit from a larger campus with more student activities, more learners, increased supports available, better adult facilities such as a canteen/ coffee shop. They will also be in an adult only setting which is preferable from a child safeguarding position. 

CDETB have indicated to my colleagues that they are committed to providing education provision across the city and will continue to look for suitable sites in the Cabra area to benefit all of their learners.

International Protection

 324. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the progress on shortening delays in the international protection procedure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28732/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne My Department is committed to implementing the key recommendations in the Advisory Group Report and the White Paper to reduce international protection processing times of both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months respectively.

This commitment applies to everyone in the international protection process, whether they are residing in Direct Provision accommodation or living independently in the community.

A Programme Board has been established in my Department to oversee the implementation of the relevant recommendations and is supported by an Implementation Working Group. My Department will also be represented on a Programme Board to be established and chaired by Minister O'Gorman, which will set performance indicators for the new model and monitor progress against those indicators. 

The White Paper proposes that the new system should be phased in and operational by 2023 and that the intervening period should provide an opportunity to progress improvements in the overall processing times for international protection.

Work is under way in my Department towards identifying mechanisms which will assist with this. For example, additional ICT resources have been secured for this year, and detailed work including an end-to-end review of processes to guide enhanced processing times is under way. When this first phase of work has been carried out it will enable a more detailed set of milestones to be put in place.

My Department is also committed to ensuring that additional resources designated for the International Protection Office are deployed in the most efficient and effective way possible to increase the output of quality decisions and to the introduction, where appropriate, of new initiatives to further enhance processing times.

A number of initiatives have already been introduced, including the relocation of the Ministerial Decisions Unit to the IPO premises to improve work processes; the designation of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal as a body authorised to hold remote hearings; and the holding of virtual interviews with some applicants living outside of Dublin by the IPO, which I am glad to say resumed on 10 May.

The IPO has also put in place a range of measures to improve efficiencies across a number of work streams, such as accelerated procedures, implementation of non-cooperation measures, and initiatives to speed up the return of completed questionnaires from applicants.

The Advisory Group's recommendation in relation to applicants who will have been two years or more in the system being granted leave to remain, will be considered in the context of the ongoing analysis of progress towards achieving the objectives outlined in the White Paper.

In relation to the current backlog of international protection cases, my Department intends, in the first instance, to prioritise processing of all cases using improved processes and the planned ICT investment in the system.

My Department will, by October 2022 at the latest, commence a review of progress made in reducing and improving processing times and based on the outcome of that review, decide by the end of 2022, whether additional measures are required in order to ensure that the new system can come into operation without the overhang of any significant number of legacy cases.

Crime Prevention

 325. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she will report on the work of her Department to support an organisation (details supplied) in expanding the community text alert scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27650/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Justice provides funding to Muintir na Tíre to cover costs incurred by communities in administering the Text Alert Scheme. The scheme is administered on a refund basis, whereby communities submit their annual costs to Muintir na Tíre and a maximum refund of up to €350 is provided to the community.

For the last two years, my Department has committed to funding of up to €150,000 toward the costs of the scheme and, based on the number of applications received, it has had an average cost of €120,000 per annum.

In January this year, Minister McEntee approved an increase in the individual cap of €350 paid to communities to €450 for the 2020 Scheme only. Furthermore, on Monday 17 May, Minister of State Browne approved the total budget of the Text Alert Scheme to increase from €150,000 to a maximum of €200,000 for the 2020 Scheme only.

Previously, the rebate scheme ran from September to the following August. The scheme is now moving to a calendar year basis, running from January to December. In order to make this adjustment, for this payment cycle, the scheme will cover costs from September 2019 to December 2020.

To reflect this, Muintir na Tíre sought an increase of the maximum rebate per scheme from €350 to €450 to reflect the additional 4 months from September to December and this request has been granted.

I am informed that Muintir na Tíre are reviewing the operation of the Scheme with An Garda Síochána to consider more cost effective options – such as using apps – for future versions of the Scheme.

Gambling Sector

 326. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the proposals in place to improve gambling regulation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29971/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne The Programme for Government gives a clear commitment to establish a gambling regulator focused on public safety and well-being, covering gambling online and in person, and the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps. The Justice Plan 2021 identifies the enactment of legislation to licence and regulate the gambling industry as a key objective.

As outlined in the Justice Plan 2021, I expect to be in a position to publish the Scheme of the Bill in Q3 2021, and will seek Government approval for the drafting of the bill on that basis. My Department is targeting some key milestones in the year ahead. In addition to the publication of the general scheme, it is intended to finalise the appointment of a CEO designate by the end of the year. This is the clear path towards the regulator being fully operational in early 2023.  

While a General Scheme of a Gambling Control Bill was published in 2013, a considerable amount of further work has been done in the meantime. The Inter-Departmental Working Group on Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling reported in 2019 and a European Commission funded report on the structure of a gambling regulator was produced in late 2019. The task now is to bring all three elements together, and having regard to the on-going evolution of the gambling industry, into one coherent scheme of a Bill that will deliver on the Programme for Government commitment.

Furthermore, given the size, complexity and technological development of the modern gambling industry and having regard to the current outdated and complex arrangements, it will be important that the regulator will be established on a sound footing and be adequately resourced to carry out this important task.

An Garda Síochána

 327. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of gardaí in the Cavan-Monaghan division at the end of April 2021; the way this compares to the end of April 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29979/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the general management and administration of the Garda organisation under the Garda Síochána Act 2005. This includes the deployment of members of An Garda Síochána throughout the State and, as Minister, I have no role in these independent functions.

As at 30 April 2021 there were 388 Gardaí assigned to the Cavan/Monaghan Division, which represents an increase of 18% since 2015. These Garda members are supported by 57 Garda staff, which represents an increase of over 50% since 2015.

As the Deputy will appreciate, Garda numbers can be affected by a number of factors, including retirements, medical discharges and resignations.  The impact of policing measures and other steps to support the public health restrictions has also, exceptionally, had an impact over the past year. As such, there has been a decrease in the number of Gardaí assigned to Cavan/Monaghan Division from 398 Gardaí in April 2020 to 388 in April 2021. 

The Deputy may wish to note, however, that recruitment, which had been paused, has now recommenced in 2021 with 150 Garda trainees entering the Garda College on 24 May, the first of four intakes and a revised planned total of 450 for the year.  This forms an important component in the unprecedented and sustained level of investment being made in Garda resources in recent years, and is equipping the organisation to meet community needs throughout the country.

Proposed Legislation

 328. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if further legislative proposals are proposed to combat the activities of criminal gangs; if the amended bail laws have adequately curtailed the extent to which offences take place while the offenders are on bail; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7024/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Government is committed to ensuring Ireland is a safe and secure place for all.

  An Garda Síochána has made important progress in suppressing the threat of organised crime and there has been significant successes achieved in this area through intelligence-led operations. I can assure the Deputy that there will be no let-up in the pressure being brought to bear on those involved in organised crime.

  The Government has supported An Garda Síochána in addressing the threat from organised crime gangs through the introduction of legislative measures such as:

  The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2016 which provides additional Garda powers for the immediate seizure of assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime to prevent them being disposed of.   

  The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014 providing for the establishment and operation of the DNA database providing Gardaí with links between people and unsolved crimes.

  The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, introduced to protect the justice system from being subverted by criminal groups, including potential intimidation of juries. 

  The Deputy will be aware that the decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the presiding Judge, who is independent in the exercise of his or her judicial functions. There is also a constitutional presumption in favour of the grant of bail as, under Irish Law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

  I am advised by the Garda authorities that the amended bail laws have proven to be effective and I can inform the Deputy there are no immediate plans to introduce further bail legislation. 

  The government have also approved the drafting of new legislation, including:

  - To provide for an increase in the penalty for conspiracy to murder from 10 years to life imprisonment, which would give judges much more leeway to impose severe sentences against gangland criminals.

 - To criminalise coercion of children to sell and supply drugs and the grooming of children to commit crimes.   

Crime Prevention

 329. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the plan An Garda Síochána has in place to tackle bike thefts in Dublin city; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30294/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government commits to significant investment in cycling infrastructure over the lifetime of the Government. This improved infrastructure, in addition to the continued success of the Cycle to Work scheme and other initiatives, have led to a significant increase in the number of cyclists and bikes on our roads in recent years.

Inevitably this has also attracted thieves and unfortunately many cyclists have experienced the theft of very valuable bicycles. It is vital that steps are taken to stop this kind of theft and that cyclists know they can trust that their bike is safe.

The Deputy may be aware that there are a number of initiatives being taken by An Garda Síochána to tackle bike theft, including the ‘Lock it or Lose it’ initiative which was announced on 13 May, which focuses on reminding the public to take extra precautions to keep their bikes safe by locking them in the most secure way possible.

The Blue Bike scheme has also been designed to highlight bike theft hotspots by placing an end of life bike, painted blue, in such areas with a large sign warning members of the public to lock their bikes and be aware of bike theft. This scheme has three goals:

To warn the public that bike thieves are operating in the area;

To deter crime by informing offenders that An Garda Síochána are monitoring the area; and

To thereby create a safer place for members of the public to lock and secure their bikes.

I am informed that, in addition to the ‘Lock it or Lose it’ and Blue Bike initiatives, Gardaí will be resuming property marking schemes and the use of so-called ‘bait bicycles’ in areas which have been identified as bike theft hotspots as we emerge from COVID-19. Other responses that will be pursued by Gardaí include surveillance of known offenders, the monitoring of any offenders’ current bail conditions and where necessary the appropriate action of any breach of their bail with the relevant courts, and proactive policing, both overt and covert, of hotspot areas. 

The Deputy may wish to note that theft is an offence under section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. Anyone convicted of theft is liable to a penalty of a fine or up to 10 years imprisonment. Under section 14 of the Act, someone found guilty of robbery (theft using coercion or force) is potentially liable on conviction on indictment to life imprisonment. As the Deputy will appreciate, the sentence in any individual case is a matter for the relevant Judge.

In instances where children may be involved in this type of theft, work will also continue under the recently published Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027 to prevent offending behaviour from occurring and diverting children and young adults who commit a crime away from further offending and involvement with the criminal justice system. The immediate priority within the new Strategy will be to enhance engagement with children and young people who are most at risk of involvement in criminal activity, principally by strengthening the services available through the existing network of 105 Garda Youth Diversion Projects across the State.  

Crime Data

 330. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of bike thefts reported in Dublin city from 2015 to 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30295/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As the Deputy will be aware, theft is an offence under section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. Anyone convicted of a theft offence is liable to a penalty of a fine or up to 10 years imprisonment. Under section 14 of the Act, a person found guilty of robbery (theft using coercion or force) is potentially liable on conviction on indictment to life imprisonment. As the Deputy will appreciate, the sentence in any individual case is a matter for the presiding Judge.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that a search of the PULSE database was conducted on 1 June 2021 to identify any incident of theft/unauthorised taking of a pedal cycle reported in either DMR North Central or DMR South Central between 1   January 2015 and 31 December 2020.

  The table below sets out the number of bike thefts reported in Dublin City from 2015 to 2020

Division 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
DMR North Central 742 836 837 687 674 596
DMR South Central 1163 1106 1128 893 1119 938
Total  1905 1942 1965 1580 1793 1534


  *These figures are operational and may be liable to change. Crime counting rules are applied.

  The Deputy may be aware that there are a number of initiatives being taken by An Garda Síochána to tackle bike theft, including the ‘Lock it or Lose it’ initiative which was announced on 13 May, which focuses on reminding the public to take extra precautions to keep their bikes safe by locking them in the most secure way possible.

  The Blue Bike scheme has also been designed to highlight bike theft hotspots by placing an end of life bike, painted blue, in such areas with a large sign warning members of the public to lock their bikes and be aware of bike theft. This scheme has three goals:

1 To warn the public that bike thieves are operating in the area;

2 To deter crime by informing offenders that An Garda Síochána are monitoring the area; and

3 To thereby create a safer place for members of the public to lock and secure their bikes.

  I am informed that, in addition to the ‘Lock it or Lose it’ and Blue Bike initiatives, Gardaí will be resuming property marking schemes and the use of so-called ‘bait bicycles’ in areas which have been identified as bike theft hotspots as we emerge from COVID-19. Other responses that will be pursued by Gardaí include surveillance of known offenders, the monitoring of any offenders’ current bail conditions and where necessary the appropriate action of any breach of their bail with the relevant courts, and proactive policing, both overt and covert, of hotspot areas.    

Crime Data

 331. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of public order offences that were distributed in Dublin city from 2015 to 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30296/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I am informed by the Garda authorities that Gardaí deploy a wide range of operational measures aimed at tackling public-order offences and anti-social behaviour in all contexts. The legal framework which assists the Gardaí in tackling this type of crime includes provisions under the Criminal Damage Act 1991; the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994; the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003; and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.

  As the Deputy is aware, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of all crime statistics.  The CSO produces these statistics using data recorded on An Garda Síochána’s PULSE system and makes regular releases under reservation in relation to various crime statistics, including recorded and detected crime, and listing them by Garda Division.  The CSO also continues to work with An Garda Síochána to address quality issues in the underlying data sources used to compile the statistics. 

For the Deputy's information, the number of public order offences recorded in Dublin city from 2015 up to 2020 are available at data.cso.ie/product/RC.

International Protection

 332. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of substantive protection interviews under section 35 of the International Protection Act 2015 that have taken place to date in 2021; the number of international protection applicants that are currently on the IPO's interview schedule; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30333/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne I am very conscious of the difficulties and trauma encountered by people who seek international protection and I am glad to say that, throughout the pandemic, my Department's International Protection Office (IPO) has remained open to allow people the opportunity to do so in line with our international obligations.

  The provision of the facility to allow people claim international protection is considered an essential service at all times, including during COVID-19. Staff have worked both on-site and remotely since the pandemic began to ensure the protection process continues to operate and I am grateful to them for their dedication.

  Physical attendance in the office has been strictly limited in line with public health guidance. Ensuring the safety of applicants, legal representatives and staff has resulted in additional logistical challenges that have limited the processing of applications and efforts to improve processing times, including the target set to make first instance decisions in the vast majority of cases within 9 months.

  Despite these challenges, 2,276 applications for international protection were processed to completion last year – just under 67% of the total achieved in 2019.

  My Department's main focus now is to get its processing system functioning as effectively and efficiently as possible, while adhering to all measures in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.  

  We continue to explore new ways of working.  In-person contact and support is an indispensable part of the process, but also presents the greatest challenges at this time. We are working to ensure that those who had their interviews postponed are rescheduled as soon as possible.

  The interview schedule has been severely disrupted by Covid-19 restrictions. Due to the Level 5 restrictions in place at that time, no interviews could be conducted from the beginning of this year until the first week in May. The IPO has, however, continued to maintain an interview schedule, to enable as rapid a resumption as possible once public health measures allowed this to happen. Currently, there are in the region of 450 applicants on that draft schedule 

  From 10 May, interviews in Dublin by video link were commenced. The applicant is in one room linked by video conference to an interviewer in another room of the same building. This is in full compliance with health and safety guidance. 

  Interviews by video link from Cork have also resumed and plans are also in place to hold interviews in suitable accommodation centres, starting with those in Letterkenny and Galway. A total of 53 video interviews took place in Dublin and Cork between 10 and 28 May 2021. We are working to expand our video conferencing programme with a view to making interviews by video conference a significant element of international protection operations.

  According to IPO records, just under 2,700 section 35 interviews were scheduled during 2020 of which just over 1,100 proceeded.  Just over 1,000 interviews were postponed due to Covid-19.  This figure includes applicants who, unfortunately, had interviews postponed more than once as the situation evolved over the course of the year.  The comparable figure for 2019 is approximately 4,500 interviews scheduled of which 3,200 proceeded.

In general, the scheduling of interviews by the IPO is done in accordance with the prioritisation policy agreed with the UNHCR and published on the IPO website www.ipo.gov.ie. This prioritisation, provided for under section 73 of the International Protection Act 2015, is subject to the need for fairness and efficiency in dealing with applications for international protection. Scheduling of cases will primarily be done on the basis of the date of application (oldest cases first). 

International Protection

 333. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the commitment in the White Paper to End Direct Provision to reduce processing times of both first instance decisions and appeals to six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [30334/21]

 334. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys further to Parliamentary Question No. 1492 of 21 April 2021, the status of the end-to-end review of processes to guide enhanced processing times of first instance international protection decisions and appeals to six months; when the review will be completed and published; the person or body undertaking the review; the terms of reference of the review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30335/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 333 and 334 together.

   My Department is committed to implementing the key recommendations in the Advisory Group Report and the White Paper to reduce international protection processing times of both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months respectively.

  A Programme Board has been established in my Department to oversee the implementation of the relevant recommendations and is supported by an Implementation Working Group. My Department will also be represented on a Programme Board to be established and chaired by my colleague, Minister O'Gorman, which will set performance indicators for the new model and monitor progress against those indicators. 

  The White Paper proposes that the new system should be phased in and operational by 2023 and that the intervening period should provide an opportunity to progress improvements in the overall processing times for international protection.

  Work is under way in my Department towards identifying mechanisms which will assist with this. For example, additional ICT resources have been secured for this year, and detailed practical work, including the end-to-end review by a multi-disciplinary team from within my Department of processes to guide enhanced processing times, has now been completed.   A detailed set of actions on foot of the review is being devised for consideration by the Programme Board.  I expect the Programme Board to report to me shortly on progress.    

  Question No. 334 answered with Question No. 333.

Family Reunification

 335. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the procedure to be followed to apply for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30337/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Minister of State Browne 

If a person wishes to come to Ireland to reside for longer than 3 months with a family member who is an Irish citizen or who is lawfully resident in Ireland they can apply for a long stay (join family) visa. The visa application can be made at any time using the Department's on-line visa application facility at: www.visas.inis.gov.ie/avats/OnlineHome2.aspx.

  Upon creating an on-line visa application, the summary sheet must be printed and signed by the applicant and then submitted to the relevant Visa Office, along with supporting documentation and the relevant fee, within 30 days. Only upon receipt of the necessary documentation and fee, can the visa application be processed. The onus, as in all cases, is on the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer that a visa should be granted.

  The Priority/Emergency visa applications that are currently being accepted and processed at this time by my Department are set out below and include visa applications in the (long stay) Join Family category:

  People travelling for business/employment purposes and granted an employment permit by Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to meet an enterprise’s key business;

  Patients travelling for imperative medical reasons;

  Transport workers or transport service providers, including drivers of freight vehicles carrying goods for use in the territory as well as those merely transiting;

  Pupils, students and trainees who travel abroad on a daily basis and Third-country nationals travelling for the purpose of 3rd level study;

  Join Family applications;

  Preclearance applications from De Facto Partner of an Irish National, De Facto Partner of a Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder, or of a non EEA Researcher on a Hosting Agreement and Family members looking to join a UK National in Ireland;

  Persons travelling for imperative family or business reasons;

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

  Diplomats, staff of international organisations and people invited by international organisations whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organisations, military personnel and police officers, and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;

  Passengers in transit;

  Seafarers;

  Journalists, when performing their duties.

  It is important to note that all travellers arriving into Ireland must continue to comply fully with the public health measures required by law, including completing a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form, pre-arrival PCR test and quarantine in a designated facility or at home, as appropriate.   

Crime Data

 336. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if a type of crime (details supplied) has increased during Covid-19; if so, the degree to which; the breakdown of same by Garda district in each of the years 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30373/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I am informed by the Garda authorities that to compile the information requested by the Deputy would require a disproportionate amount of time and expenditure of Garda resources, as there is no specific code on the Garda PULSE system for the theft of food from shops, only for theft from shops generally. As such it is not possible to provide the specific data requested.

An Garda Síochána

 337. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of promotional positions within An Garda Síochána that remain vacant at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [30422/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As the Deputy will be aware, the## Garda Commissioner is responsible by law for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources.  As Minister, I have no responsibility for these matters.

  To be of assistance, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the below table sets out the Ranks, the full strength as agreed under the Employment Control Framework (ECF) and the current strengths at present.

Rank ECF Current Strengths
Commissioner 1 1
Deputy Commissioner 2 2
Assistant Commissioner 9 8
Chief Superintendent 47 48
Superintendent 168 167
Inspector 482 428
Sergeant 2210 1948


  The Deputy may wish to note that the Garda Commissioner keeps under review the need to fill vacancies as operationally required.  I am informed that competitions are held for promotional ranks as required in anticipation of vacancies which naturally arise as a consequence of departures due to promotions or retirements in those ranks.

  The Deputy may be aware that promotion competitions for the ranks of Superintendent, Chief Superintendent and Assistant Commissioner are a matter for the Policing Authority.

  I am advised by Garda authorities that there will be a competition, to be facilitated on behalf of An Garda Síochána by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), during 2021 for promotion to the rank of Sergeant and for promotion to the rank of Inspector to meet the ECF including consequential promotions at the higher ranks and retirements (age-related and other). I am informed that the vacancies above are based on the current vacancies and do not include consequential vacancies from promotion at higher ranks.

  In relation to Garda Staff, An Garda Síochána are continuing to recruit and promote based on sanctioned posts and vacancies created through departures and reassignment of Garda Members to operational frontline policing. These posts are being filled in accordance with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sequencing requirements.  

Crime Data

 338. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the extent to which the level of criminal gang activity has subsided or escalated over the past three years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30424/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I can assure the Deputy that tackling criminal gang activity is a key priority for the Government and an ongoing priority for An Garda Síochána which is reflected in the National Policing Plan.

  The Government has supported An Garda Síochána in addressing the threat from organised crime gangs through the introduction of legislative measures such as:

  The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2016 which provides additional Garda powers for the immediate seizure of assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime to prevent them being disposed of.   

  The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014 providing for the establishment and operation of the DNA database providing Gardaí with links between people and unsolved crimes.

  The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, introduced to protect the justice system from being subverted by criminal groups, including potential intimidation of juries.  

  An Garda Síochána continue to develop and implement strategies to dismantle and disrupt criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methods. Gardaí target serious criminals and organised criminal groups through the use of focused intelligence led operations by specialist units such as the Organised Crime Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. An Garda Síochána regularly liaises and cooperates with their international policing and security partners, such as EUROPOL and INTERPOL, in their mutual objective of combatting transnational organised crime.

  As the Deputy will no doubt be aware, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of all crime statistics. The CSO produces these statistics using data recorded on An Garda Síochána’s PULSE system and makes regular releases under reservation in relation to various crime statistics, including recorded and detected crime, and listing them by Garda Division. The CSO also continues to work with An Garda Síochána to address quality issues in the underlying sources used to compile the statistics.  

The particular breakdown sought by the Deputy is not available, as there is no classification on the CSO database for Criminal Gang Activity. I can however inform the Deputy that the most recent available crime statistics, as published by the Central Statistics Office and including statistics for 2018, 2019 and 2020, are available at: data.cso.ie/product/RC.   

Drug Dealing

 339. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the success of An Garda Síochána over the past three years in combatting drug trafficking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30426/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I can inform the Deputy that An Garda Síochána continue to disrupt the sale and supply of controlled drugs in communities across the State.  Tackling serious crime is a key priority for the Government and I very much welcome the exceptional work which has been undertaken by the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) so far this year. This vital work is having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups.

From its establishment in March 2016 to the end of 2020, GNDOCB has been responsible for the seizure of in excess of 133 firearms, €209 million worth of illicit drugs, 5,500 rounds of ammunition and €21.7 million in cash. In 2020 alone, GNDOCB seized €36.7 million worth of illicit drugs, 23 firearms, 2,131 rounds of ammunition, €8 million in cash and made 228 arrests

The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, together with Divisional Drugs Units, and Revenue and Customs, have had considerable further success in the first quarter of 2021 in seizures of illegal drugs. The total drugs seized by the GNDOCB in the first 4 months of the year is valued at €28.2m. This represents an increase of 392% over the same period last year, when drugs valued at €5.7m were seized. In addition, approximately €3.8m in cash has been seized in the same period, an increase of 183% over the same period in 2020, when €1.3m was seized.

More recently, there have been further significant seizures of note. On 28 May last, as part of ongoing investigations targeting persons suspected to be involved in organised crime, GNDOCB carried out an operation in the Meath area, where a vehicle and one premises were searched. As part of this operation, 67.5kg of suspected cannabis herb valued at €1.35 million was seized and two arrests were made.  

Also on 28 May, Gardaí carried out an operation targeting the sale, supply and distribution of illegal drugs in the Limerick area. A number of premises across Limerick city were searched as part of this operation which resulted in the seizure of suspected cannabis herb worth €900,000 as well as approximately €45,000 in cash. Eight arrests have been made following this operation.

While public health restrictions have contributed to the increased detection rates, much of the recent achievements can be attributed to the professionalism and cooperation of Garda units, the Criminal Assets Bureau and Revenue and Customs. 


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