Other Questions.

Communications Masts.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

6 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the agreement made in 1997 between the Garda Síochána and Esat Digifone on the erection of masts on Garda stations and the role played by him in making the agreement; the value of the contract since 1997; the number of mobile telephones that have been provided to the Garda Síochána since 1997; the number of gardaí who have mobile phones supplied by O2 at present; if these mobile phones are the only secure communication system available to the gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29754/05]

The agreement was made in June 1997 between Esat Digifone, now O2, and the Commissioners of Public Works, the Minister for Finance, the Garda authorities and the Minister for Justice. I was not party to that agreement, as the question implies.

It was the Government, not the Minister.

I wanted the Deputy to know in case he is wondering about the wisdom of the agreement.

I would not expect the Minister to have been there at the time.

The Deputy might like to know who was there at the time. It was a Government consisting of the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Democratic Left which pushed through this agreement on its last day in office. It was not this Government that signed that agreement.

The Minister should name those Ministers responsible.

The Deputy may appreciate that Deputy O'Donoghue was appointed as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 26 June 1997 but the agreement was authorised to be signed by Cabinet on 25 June 1997.

Does the Minister have a problem with the agreement?

This deal and all its provisions were done by the rainbow Government. What is interesting is not merely did that Government sign it on the last day in office, but it provided that Esat could extend it for five years, which it did. The agreement will only expire in 2007.

Will the Minister answer the question?

It is not possible to provide a definitive figure of its value as some of the services provided under the terms of the agreement, such as calls within the 086 network and replacement masts, are provided free of charge to the Garda Síochána. Amounts relating to mobile usage for which charges apply are deducted from the gross fees paid to the Office of Public Works in accordance with the terms of the agreement, a netting agreement. I am advised by the Office of Public Works that from June 1997 to 31 March 2005, an amount of €5.75 million has been offset against gross licence fees of €13.8 million resulting in net receipts of €8.05 million.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that 998 mobile phones have been made available under the agreement and on official issue within the Garda Síochána. I am advised by the Garda authorities that they employ a variety of secure communications technologies to meet different operational demands and that while mobile phones provide some level of security they are not in the same category as the other secure communications technologies employed by them.

The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of what happened in this matter since 1997, when this Government came into office, makes stark reading, particularly the number of Garda stations on which masts were erected. Peanuts were paid to the Government subsequently when an independent assessor was established. The Government had to wait six years before it received arrears of €3.6 million, without interest.

Why did the Minister and his predecessor rely on the mobile telephones and the communications network established by a private company as a substitute for a secure Garda communications system? It is the only secure system in the Garda because of the approximate 1,000 mobile telephones given to the Garda from the rank of inspector up. Why has the Minister not put in place a secure communications system for the Garda?

I suggest the Deputy stops digging. The terms of this agreement were agreed by the Fine Gael-Labour-Democratic Left Government. It was in such a rush to agree it, a provision was included that the rents payable under the agreement would be provisional and the ultimate rent would be established by a system of arbitration. The arbitration went on and on. However, the providence of the erstwhile Government, which had signed the agreement, did not even provide for interest on the arbitrated sum. The taxpayer had to wait a long time for the actual rent, as opposed to the provisional rent, to come in. This agreement was put in place on the last day of office of the Fine Gael-Labour-Democratic Left Government.

Why is there no substitute secure communications system?

The terms provided for an extension up to ten years. I agree the terms are open to a degree of criticism. However, any infelicity in concluding the terms falls into the hands of those who negotiated it. The arbitration process was delayed, at a cost to the taxpayer, because no provision was made for the company to pay any interest on the arbitrated award. This was an extraordinary omission by people who were so keen to have it agreed on their last day on office.

Child Care Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

7 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the committees and working groups in his Department, or on which his Department is represented, which deal with the issue of child care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29646/05]

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has lead responsibility for the equal opportunities childcare programme, EOCP, 2000 to 2006. The programme was established to deliver the Government's commitment, identified in the national development plan to develop quality child care services in Ireland through a major investment programme. This commitment was given in direct response to the recommendations of the expert working group on child care established under Partnership 2000, and chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to develop a strategy for the development and delivery of child care.

The key objective of the programme was to increase the supply of centre-based child care places by 55%, or some 31,500 places, by its end. At the end of June 2005, some 26,000 new places had been created and 23,000 existing places were being supported. The programme is, therefore, ahead of its projected targets and is expected to result in some 39,000 new places through funding already committed. In addition, the EOCP has provided support and assistance to the many childminders who are providing child care services, the county child care committees and the like.

Since its inception in 2000, the funding committed to the programme has increased from €318 million to €499.3 million, or by 57%, the most recent increase being €50 million in the 2005 budget. In addition, the multi-annual capital envelopes announced on budget day included increases that will result in a further €50 million in capital in 2006 and a further €40 million in capital funding between 2007 and 2009.

The Deputy will appreciate this has been a substantial programme and is one of the successes of the last several years.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

It is against this background, that the following committees and working groups were established, and are dealing with child care issues relevant to my Department. The equal opportunities childcare programme appraisal committee, chaired by the child care directorate in my Department, considers grant applications and makes recommendations regarding capital and staffing grant assistance, and other issues for consideration by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The national childcare co-ordinating committee, also chaired by my Department, oversees the development of an integrated child care infrastructure throughout the country. Membership comprises representatives of the statutory and non-statutory sectors including the social partners, the national voluntary childcare organisations and the city and county childcare committees which have been established. To assist it in its work, the NCCC has established a number of sub-groups. These include a certifying bodies sub-group, an advisory group to the NCCC, a working group on school age child care, and a child minding sub-group.

The working group on school age child care published its report, School Age Childcare in Ireland, in June 2005. This report made a number of recommendations for, as well as providing guidelines on, the development of appropriate school age child care services, including the use of school premises where appropriate.

The certifying bodies sub-group was established to address qualification, certification and accreditation issues in the area of child care from the perspective of the child care sector. In 2002, this group published a model framework for education, training and professional development in the early childhood care and education sector. The model framework addressed issues relating to accreditation from the perspective of the child care sector and developed a set of occupational profiles for early childhood care and education sector. The child minding sub-group was formed to compile a set of national guidelines for the voluntary notification of child minders who are not required to notify their services to the Health Servies Executive under the 1996 Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations. A draft set of guidelines has been presented to the HSE.

A total of 33 city and county child care committees were established in 2001 charged with preparing and delivering a five year child care development strategy plan to address the specific child care needs of each of the 33 local areas. To implement its strategy, each CCC is required to prepare an annual action plan, which receives funding under the quality measure of the EOCP. The chair of the CCC is a member of the local authority county development board.

The IBEC/ICTU sub-committee was established in the context of Sustaining Progress to examine the child care needs of employers and employees. The sub-committee is expected to report shortly with a view to setting out areas of commonality between the partners and identifying issues for discussion in partnership talks.

As this very successful investment programme draws to its final stage, the full range of child care issues and how we should best address them are being critically examined in a wide number of fora. The following is an extensive list of the committees and working groups considering child care issues, in which my Department is actively represented: the high level working group on early childhood care and education, chaired by the National Children's Office; the monitoring committees of the respective regional operational programmes of the national development plan, through which EU structural funding for the programme is channelled and in respect of which my Department gives a progress report on a biannual basis; the NESF project team on early childhood care and education; the national women's strategy; the senior officials group on social inclusion and children, which is chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach; the Department of Social and Family Affairs commission on the family; the national anti-poverty strategy; the FÁS competency development programme; the National Council for Curriculum Assessment consultative committee for early years; the Centre for Early Childhood Care and Education consultative forum; cross-departmental committees under Sustaining Progress; the review group on capital tax allowances; the review group on the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations.

Policy for child care provision in Ireland is at an important watershed and it is crucial that a long-term outlook is adopted on a critical issue for parents and children, as well as an important strategic issue for the country as a whole. My Department has been at the forefront of these developments through the EOCP and through the range of working groups in which it participates, and I hope to continue this role and its valuable contribution to future Government policy on child care.

This programme was one of the few successes.

I did not get an answer to my question on the committees and review groups of child care on which the Department is represented. While I know how great the equal opportunities childcare programme is from other replies from the Department, it was not what I sought in this question. I acknowledge the great work it has done.

An official from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform stated to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights that responsibility for child care and early childhood education should reside in one Department instead of being divided between various ones. Does the Minister agree with this? Without detracting from the work done by people in the Department, child care seems to go between pillar to post. Does the Minister agree there should be a Minister for Children and all matters surrounding child care should come under one Department?

I agree with the Deputy that it is strange that child care policy is located in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The reasons were explained to the Deputy by my officials who attended the committee meeting. I agree with the Deputy that in a reorganisation of Government, it might well be appropriate to put it into a single social affairs or child-orientated Department. That is not to say the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform should not have a focus on young people as well, but Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, has special responsibility for children and this activity could be located in a different Department if the machinery of Government were reorganised. That is not to detract from the huge amount of work that has been done by the people in the Department, in somewhat unlikely circumstances, to bring about one of the great successes of recent years. I am not territorial about this and if there is a better place to locate this activity and thereby achieve synergy with other State agencies, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will not be selfish but co-operate.

It seems incongruous for child care to be dealt with by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform but the assistant secretary in the Department ably outlined the background to it and the fact that the justice umbrella meant EU funding was available. I understand that will end in the next year or so.

I gather there is no great queue of applicants to take over the child care brief. The Minister might find it helpful if he recommended either the Department of Health and Children or the Department of Education and Science. Perhaps the first few years could be dealt under the health portfolio and pre-school years under education. It will have to be decided soon because the justice input to the portfolio will decrease.

As long as it is our responsibility to discharge it, we will continue to do so as well as we have done to date. The Deputy asked whether there was a queue of Departments which thought it would fit neatly into their own administrative structures or areas of responsibility. I do not think there is but I believe any prospective Minister would find it attractive to have the brief in his or her portfolio because when one is weighed down with the burden of crime, prisons, courts and policing it is wonderful to get involved in one of the more constructive areas of political activity and see the changes that can be made to the lives of people who need State intervention.

Garda Operations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

8 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the period of time in which Operation Anvil has been in existence; the cost to date; the number of overtime hours worked by gardaí; if he proposes to extend the programme and if so, for what period and on what terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29760/05]

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin metropolitan region on 17 May 2005. The primary focus of this intelligence-driven operation is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their activities through additional overt patrolling and static checkpoints and by uniform mobile and foot patrols supported by armed plain clothes gardaí. The Garda authorities inform me that the cost of Operation Anvil up to 30 September 2005 was €4,029,344, and the number of overtime hours paid to that date was 111,235.

As with all Garda initiatives introduced in response to circumstances at a particular time, the Commissioner keeps the project under constant review in the context of the purpose for which it was introduced. Operation Anvil is ongoing and the necessary resources continue to be made available to ensure that the Garda can succeed in this initiative.

While the provisional quarterly headline crime statistics, which I released last week, show that the number of offences for the year ending in September decreased by 0.2%, I have already expressed my concern and disappointment at the increase of 0.4% in the figures for the first three quarters of the year and of 5.5% in the figures for the third quarter. The figures for firearms offences in particular show the continuing need for Operation Anvil. I am encouraged by the fact that the number of detections of possession of firearms has shown a marked increase since the second quarter, during which Operation Anvil was introduced. While Operation Anvil is proving very successful, is just one part of a multifaceted strategy to deal with the problems it seeks to address.

I take great satisfaction in the Government's decision last October to approve my proposal for the recruitment of 2,000 additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force to 14,000.

That is the 25th time it has been announced. The Minister should set it to music.

I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing such as Operation Anvil. The Commissioner is committed to that policy.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The Garda Síochána is now better resourced than at any time in its history. The Garda budget is now at an historical high of more than €1.1 billion, representing an increase of 85% in the provision since 1997 when the provision stood at just €600 million.

In addition to operational initiatives such as these, I am proposing a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is on Second Stage in the House. These measures will enhance the powers of gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. The Bill contains an essential updating of our law to ensure that criminal offences can be investigated and prosecuted in a way which is efficient and fair and which meets the needs of modern society. It will also address such matters as the preservation of crime scenes, increased periods of detention in the case of arrestable offences, search warrant powers for the Garda Síochána, amendments to the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act 1990, provision for fixed penalty procedures in respect of certain public order offences and the admissibility of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or who retract their original statements.

The Bill also provides for the creation of criminal offences relating to organised crime, the strengthening of provisions on the imposition of the ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking, new offences of supplying drugs to prisoners, the creation of a drug offenders register, provisions to deal with anti-social behaviour and amendment of the Explosives Act 1875 to update fines and penalties and provisions relating to fireworks.

I am finalising proposals for the inclusion in the Bill of provisions which will introduce a significant strengthening of the law with respect to firearms. These will be amendments to the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2000 which will include, among other things, increased fines and penalties relating to offences generally under the Firearms Acts and the creation of mandatory minimum sentences of between five and ten years for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of a firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest.

In addition to Operation Anvil there was Operation Crossover which cost in the region of €4 million. With €6.5 million for Operation Anvil, that is an extra €10 million on top of the existing €80 million overtime in the budget for the Garda Síochána. Does the Minister not agree that running the Garda and formulating a strategy to deal with crime should not rely on overtime? He spent three years in an industrial dispute where he closed down a number of prisons to reduce overtime for the Prison Service. Now he is expanding overtime for the Garda.

Can I ask the Minister why he has not recruited the 2,000 gardaí that were promised three years ago? Why does he rely on overtime to do his policing when the Garda Commissioner cannot plan properly from one year to the next for how he will allocate his resources to ensure he can combat crime throughout the country at all times? Will he dispense with this sporadic,ad hoc response to crises as they arise?

I disagree with the Deputy on his fundamental premise that the use of overtime in policing is suspect and that it should all be done on basic pay. That is not the experience of any police force anywhere in the world. If we operated on the basis that police worked their own shift and no more without overtime-driven programmes, it would not produce the desired results. No police force of any significance operates on that basis. It is not wrong for resources to be made available to specific operations or particular areas.

I thank the Deputy for his kind reference to the fact that I have saved the taxpayer between €15 million and €25 million per annum on prison officers' overtime. That is an entirely different system and there is no reason a decent prison service should operate dependent on overtime.

The public cannot understand why if Operation Anvil was successful at a cost of €4 million, which is a tiny fraction of the Garda budget of approximately €1 billion——

It is €1.1 billion.

If a miserable €4 million can produce such a result, why is there not a contingency fund of €10 million or €15 million each year for the Commissioner to carry out three or four operations similar to Operation Anvil and to work such operations into his plans? We will not get into the mythical 2,000 gardaí that were promised three years ago and have not been produced. Until they are produced, why is money not made available to the Commissioner to enable him to have a number of operations similar to Operation Anvil?

The Deputy will appreciate that every year provision is made for Garda overtime. The exact amount needed for overtime depends on circumstances. I do not set aside money specifically for overtime. When one runs a Department and a police force——

Is it just a public relations exercise by the Minister?

——with a budget of €1.1 billion, it is necessary to pay for individual operations from time to time and there is nothing unusual about that. Police forces all over the world do it and it would be very strange if they did not.

There are phantom gardaí.

The Deputy referred again to the phantom 2,000 gardaí. I will invite Deputy Costello down to Templemore to see the phantoms marching in front of him. Who will look like a ghost then? The Deputy will be ghostly white when he sees the reality.

The Minister should put that to music. I have been looking for them for the past three years.

There are phantoms around Finglas and elsewhere.

The only phantom is Deputy Costello himself. The gardaí are very real, and they are flesh and blood.

There are phantom gardaí everywhere.

Crime Levels.

Joe Costello

Question:

9 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether violent crime connected with gangland activities has got out of hand (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29743/05]

While all forms of gangland crime are unacceptable, I reject the assertion that violent crime connected with gangland activities is "out of hand". Unprecedented levels of resources are being made available through my Department to the Garda to combat this form of criminality on a focused and coherent basis.

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the Garda specialist unit tasked with the role of tackling organised crime. It carries out this role by conducting intelligence-driven operations in close co-operation with other specialist units, specifically, the National Criminal Intelligence Unit, the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. A number of organised crime groups have been targeted resulting in the recovery of firearms, drugs seizures and the prosecution and conviction of a number of persons before the courts. The Criminal Assets Bureau is actively utilised to identify and target funds accumulated by criminals.

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is also closely involved in Operation Anvil, which operates as we have heard in the Dublin metropolitan region. Our legislative package for tackling serious and organised crime is already widely viewed as being one of the toughest in Europe. However, there are legislative proposals to enhance our legal framework in this area in the form of the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 and amendments spoken about for Committee Stage.

The Deputy will be aware of the ongoing recruitment campaign to bring the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000, which is well in hand. The rate of recruitment is 1,075 recruits per annum. The rate of recruitment for this year will continue for the next two years. By the end of 2006, the number of gardaí in uniform or in a detective role will be more than 14,000. The Garda budget is at €1.1 billion, which represents an increase of 83% on the 1997 provision from the second to last Government. The Garda Commissioner is satisfied that the necessary resources, both operational and financial, are being directed towards the containment and detection of serious crime. I assure the House that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuing review.

I have no doubt the Minister is in contact, but he is not doing anything specific or effective about the problem. We are still waiting for the 2,000 phantom gardaí. What is the Minister's response to the fact that in recent annual reports from the Garda and most recent quarterly reports, there are substantial increases in figures for shootings, manslaughter, murder, drug usage and gangland activity? All of these are increasing. These are crimes of violence against the person and the community. They have increased substantially in every quarter for a considerable period.

We cannot be complacent, and no amount of articulation of how good things are in certain areas will do. Even theft of bicycles has increased by 60%, which indicates that levels of so-called low grade crime are very serious. When the Minister entered office in 2002, there was no crack cocaine in the country, but now there is about to be an epidemic. During the term of office of the Minister's predecessor, there was very little cocaine use at all. In 2000, for instance, there was no cocaine in the country, but it has now become the most serious drug problem in the country.

I remind the Deputy that other Deputies wish to speak.

Clearly the efforts being made currently are not adequate. Will the Minister say specifically what he will do?

I am concerned about legislation on the criminalisation of gang membership. The Minister indicated early in September that he would introduce amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 to deal with the issue. What is the Minister's position on that amendment and other amendments discussed at the time? Is he able to bring the process a stage further as we will probably shortly complete Second Stage.

Does the Minister agree that his comments on a decrease in crime are not a reality for many citizens? I attended a packed meeting in my constituency last night where we learned of major anti-social behaviour problems, widespread sale of drugs and intimidation of local residents. The gardaí in the area were at the meeting and responded to the questions. This is the reality for many communities, particularly on the north side of Dublin.

On the question of administrative duties for gardaí, I urge the Minister to have more front-line gardaí on the beat. I ask the Minister to restructure the management within the Garda to be more effective on releasing gardaí, particularly young gardaí, into communities. Is the Minister aware of the major problem of unreported crime throughout the State? There is widespread intimidation in communities and people feel excluded from the justice system? Can the Minister act on this issue?

I agree with most points Deputy Finian McGrath makes. People in many communities are experiencing the intimidation the Deputy mentioned. I am glad the Deputy stated that gardaí attended the meeting to which he referred. I am sure the Garda will take on board what they heard and respond to it. With some difficulty, I have piloted through legislation regarding local policing committees. I am engaged in a major transformation of the Garda Síochána, the ombudsman commission, the inspectorate and the professional standards unit. All of these things have to click in to bring about modernisation of the Garda Síochána.

What is the Minister doing about crime? He should answer the question.

I cannot remember Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's question.

I am interested in the criminalisation of gangs and amendments proposed to relevant legislation.

Yesterday I finalised some of those matters with the Attorney General. Some points caused difficulty and I hope to bring a raft of amendments to Government in the near future and to give them to the members of the committee as soon as possible thereafter.

The Minister is avoiding the question as usual. He should answer the question.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

10 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress he has made towards decentralisation; the sections of his Department which have been decentralised; the sections which remain to be decentralised; the cost of decentralisation to date; the cost of decentralisation when complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29749/05]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme close to 1,000 posts from nine agencies under the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will transfer to seven different locations around the country. The details and timescales for these moves are published in the decentralisation implementation group's progress report to the Minister for Finance dated 30 June 2005 and are set out in the following table.

The indicative dates for the completion of the programme range from early 2007 to mid 2009 and the detailed implementation plans for each of these agencies are published on my Department's website. The Deputy will also be aware that I announced earlier this week that the new regulatory authority for the auctioneering sector will be established in Navan and the private security authority is already up and running in Tipperary town.

All the agencies are on track with regard to the timetables set out in their implementation plans. In particular, the Irish Prison Service has been classified by the implementation group as an "early mover". The Office of Public Works has acquired a suitable site in Longford and it is anticipated that the building will be ready for occupation by the Irish Prison Service in early 2007. In addition, the central vetting unit will move from Garda headquarters to Thurles in November, when around 40 posts will be transferred.

As regards costs, the property element is primarily a matter for the Office of Public Works. To date, I understand that costs amount to just over €500,000. Non-property costs at this stage relate mainly to administration and management functions which are estimated to be around €300,000 for the entire Department, where roughly 22,000 public servants work. The Deputy must also appreciate that property will be freed up in Dublin, which will yield significant savings as a result of decentralisation.

In the late 1980s, the Department's then accounts branch decentralised to Killarney, involving the transfer of around 160 posts. The Land Registry went to the Waterford area and the Legal Aid Board decentralised to Cahirciveen, involving around 170 posts. The private security authority has been functioning effectively in Tipperary town for almost a year. There has been no case of a diminution in the quantity or quality of service. The decentralisation process in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been quite successful.

Additional information not provided on the floor of the House.

Moreover, the decentralisation process has been a success both for the towns involved as well as for the staff of the agencies in question.

Location

Organisation

Posts

Indicative Construction Start

Indicative Construction Completion

Longford

Irish Prison Service HQ

159

End 2005

Early 2007

Portarlington

Data Protection Commissioner

22

Mid 2006

End 2007

Portarlington

Equality Tribunal

29

Mid 2006

End 2007

Roscommon

Land Registry

230

Mid 2007

Mid 2009

Roscrea

Equality Authority

54

End 2007

End 2008

Roscrea

Garda Complaints Board

24

Mid 2007

Mid 2008

Thurles*

Garda Headquarters

114

End 2006

Early 2008

Tipperary**

Sections of Asylum & Immigration

186

Early 2007

End 2008

Navan

Probation & Welfare Service

103

End 2007

Early 2009

*Garda central vetting unit to decentralise in November 2005 with close to 40 posts.

**Private security authority in place in Tipperary since 2004 with a current staff complement of 13.

How many civil servants are left in the Minister's Department on St. Stephen's Green? Can he confirm that he has already sold that building for €53 million and that the Department is now renting accommodation elsewhere on St. Stephen's Green? Does he intend to leave the situation as it stands? Is he thinking of decentralising himself somewhere else?

The Department will stay in Dublin but a number of other Departments are scheduled to leave Dublin. The main sections of the Department of Education and Science are going to Navan, while the Office of Public Works will also leave Dublin. There will be substantial buildings remaining which will become available to the State for the relocation of the Departments that remain in Dublin. In such circumstances, it made sense to sell off the somewhat decayed building that housed the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I am sure Deputy Quinn does not think it one of the better architectural features of our world.

It is a horrible building.

It made sense to get rid of it. A very large capital sum was obtained for it. We are also vacating an office block on Shelbourne Road, the site value of which would be €50-100 million. We are relocating the St. Stephen's Green office to rented accommodation for the moment but the plan is to put us into buildings vacated by other Departments when they move out.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

11 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Government’s plans with regard to the United Nations Convention against Corruption as to its ratification; the proposals for its implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27213/05]

Thead hoc committee for the negotiation of a UN Convention against Corruption met at regular intervals at the UN in Vienna from January 2002 to October 2003. The convention opened for signature in Mexico on 9 December 2003 and was signed by Ireland on that date.

In April 2005 a transmission was received by from the European Commission which declared regarding the UN Convention against Corruption:

The Commission notes that this convention partially falls under the exclusive competence of the Community. For this reason, the Commission recalls that member states must not ratify the convention before the EC has done so, or has explicitly authorised them to do so, in accordance with the provisions of Article 300 EC.

The Community signed the convention on 15 September 2005 and the convention will enter into force on 14 December 2005. A conference of state parties will take place in November 2006.

In the meantime, officials in my Department have been examining the convention with a view to identifying the necessary legislation which will be required to allow Ireland to ratify it. This examination is being conducted through consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. It is envisaged that this exercise will be completed in the near future and, subject to Government approval, that drafting of the necessary legislation will begin thereafter.

When will the Minister be going to Cabinet with a proposal for ratification? Is he aware that France and Hungary have already ratified the convention and that part of the ratification process is the preparation of domestic legislation? Where is the domestic legislation which is an obligation under the convention? Have the heads of that legislation been approved? When will they be going to Cabinet and when will Ireland be in a position to ratify the convention? Is he not concerned that of the 33 ratifications that have taken place, only two European Union states have done so?

I share the Deputy's concern that we should ratify the convention as soon as possible, but there is a technical difference between Ireland and many of the civil law states. Such states are able to ratify international treaties, which,ipso facto, become part of their domestic law. We have a slightly different situation in Ireland as no international agreement forms part of our law unless it is implemented by domestic legislation. By definition, we are always a little bit behind some of the civil law countries in addressing these issues.

The Deputy correctly points out that only two European countries have ratified the convention at this stage. We are currently looking at this convention and deciding which measures are already provided for in Irish law, which measures must be implemented for the first time in Irish law, as well as the measures which must be re-stated in a manner required by the convention. An international legal framework against corruption is necessary in this day and age. Sometimes, the First World to which we belong operates dual standards. Large economic forces are at play in which corruption is not adequately stamped out or curtailed. The sooner we do this, the better.

We signed the convention in December 2003 and it becomes an instrument, with the completion of the 90 day period following the 30 ratifications required, on 14 December 2005. Is the Minister in a position to state that he will have brought proposals before Cabinet for such adjustments to domestic legislation before that implementation date?

I will not have the legislation out by then. If the analysis stage is complete, I may well be in a position to draft a memorandum for Government. To be honest, it will be sometime in 2006 before the text of the ratifying legislation is made public in Ireland.

I am sure the Minister agrees that the obligation to notify the arrival of stolen or hot money, as well as other obligations in the convention, may be complied with in anticipation of the adjusted legislation.

Many aspects of the convention do not require law as they can be carried out on a voluntary basis. There is very little that we cannot do in the spirit of the convention, in advance of its implementation.