I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Parliamentary Question No. 211 of 2 February 2000.
As previously stated the waiting times for an appointment in the law centre in Newbridge, County Kildare, have reduced in the last few months from a figure of 22.5 months in May 1999 to a figure of 15 months on 31 December 1999. However, it is still considered that this period is excessive and the matter is being kept under continual review.
The Deputy will be aware that, in order to combat the problems being experienced in relation to waiting times, I made additional resources available to the Legal Aid Board in 2000 when I increased the allocation of grant-in-aid to £12.899 million, an increase of 9% on the 1999 allocation.
The Deputy will also be aware that the Legal Aid Board has operated a private practitioners scheme in the Dublin area on a pilot basis for some years. I understand that the board is proceeding with the setting up of a nationwide private practitioners panel to provide legal services in domestic violence, maintenance and custody-access issues in the District Court. Advertisements were placed in the papers recently inviting private practitioners to put their names on a panel for this purpose and it is anticipated that the panel will be established in the coming months.