Priority Questions.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

1 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether it is necessary to introduce new legislation to facilitate prosecutions in view of the Garda investigation into the cover up of clerical child sexual abuse in 2002, referenced in the Murphy Commission Report, and the failure of investigators to refer a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions. [46445/09]

It is important to recognise that the report of the commission describes the Garda investigation in 2002 as probably the most comprehensive Garda investigation into clerical sexual abuse ever undertaken in the State and as effective, co-ordinated and comprehensive. It resulted in a number of files being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions and, following his directions, people have appeared before the courts charged with serious offences. Some of these cases are ongoing.

I presume the Deputy's question refers specifically to that part of the report which is entitled "Misprision of Felony Investigation". The commission notes the difficulties, particularly of a legal kind, which surrounded that part of the Garda investigation. Following publication of the report, the Garda Commissioner asked an assistant commissioner, John O'Mahony, to examine the report's findings relating to the handling of complaints and investigations by church and State. After the Garda Commissioner has received the report of the assistant commissioner's examination, he will consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to what issues arise in the context of criminal liability.

It would be a disservice to the victims of abuse not to acknowledge the difficulties surrounding any such examination but I am satisfied that everything possible will be done to pursue this matter robustly and comprehensively. I am open to any suggestions the Deputy might have for new legislation to facilitate prosecutions but I am sure he appreciates that we cannot change our law to create criminal offences retrospectively. It is the case that developments in the law which took place after the events referred to in the report, particularly the offence of reckless endangerment in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, have considerably strengthened the law in this area.

I welcome the comments made by the Minister in the immediate aftermath of the report's publication when he stated that nobody was above the law and appropriate investigations would take place with a view to criminal proceedings not only being issued but convictions being attained. In that context will the Minister outline to the House the difference between the current Garda investigation and the Garda investigation which took place following the broadcast of the televisions programme in 2002 entitled "Cardinal Sins"? The then Garda Commissioner appointed a 20-strong force to investigate matters at that time.

I put it to the Minister that perhaps the most important difference between the Murphy report and the previous Ryan and Ferns reports is that the fundamental basis of the Murphy report was not so much the sexual abuse but rather the cover-up and the manner in which the hierarchy was, in effect, given immunity by the Garda. What is the difference between this Garda investigation and the 2002 Garda investigation which really had no effect? The report indicates that the investigation in 2002 did not lead to any appreciable number of prosecutions.

Many prosecutions of abusers have been taken and hardly a day goes by when cases are not brought up. That is not just for the Dublin area but across the country. The unit dealing with domestic violence and sexual crime that the Garda has set up has been very successful in that respect.

On the most recent announcement by the Garda Commissioner, my understanding having spoken to him on the matter is that this investigation will hone in on the issues relating to whether the State and church authorities in some way facilitated people in evading justice. As I commented at the launch of the report, we must be realistic about this. The law has changed, with a significant issue being the abolition of the offence of misprision of felony a number of years ago. Any change now made can only be prospective and not retrospective. There are difficulties in that respect.

The law has correctly moved on, particularly with the 2006 Act, where a reckless endangerment offence has been brought in as a result of a recommendation from the previous Ferns Report.

Before he leaves the Visitors Gallery, I acknowledge Fr. Mal Sinnott, a sometime constituent of mine. We are delighted to see him not only in Leinster House but back in this country. I know the House would like to join me in those sentiments.

I join the Leas-Cheann Comhairle in his remarks. Among the pieces of legislation available to the prosecuting authorities is section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1997, which deals specifically with impeding the prosecution of someone guilty of an offence. How many such prosecutions have been brought under that legislation since 1997?

One of the few other options is the common law charge of perverting or obstructing the course of justice. How many prosecutions have been brought through this which deal with the concealing of information on the matter of sexual abuse?

I do not have those figures but perhaps the Deputy could put down a separate question to get them. The Criminal Law Act 1997, which passed in March that year, abolished the distinction between felonies and misdemeanours. The commission reported that the vast majority of complaints regarding alleged offences were misdemeanours rather than felonies. To a certain extent the goalposts have changed because the law has moved on. Any prosecutions that might relate to before 1997 are fraught with the difficulty arising because the misprision of felonies offence has, in effect, been abolished. We must be realistic as time has moved on. Any chance for prosecution flowing from the O'Mahony report will be taken if possible.

That detracts from the Minister's statement following the publication of the report and, in effect, renders it almost meaningless.

I reject that because there were——

The Minister is ignoring the 1997 offence and he deliberately failed to refer to it then.

Prosecutions are still being taken against many people.

Not one file was sent to the DPP following the investigation in 2002.

And the report clearly outlines the difficulties in that respect.

The new offence in the 1997 Act could have been used.

Deputy Shatter may not intervene on Priority Questions.

The Minister is deliberately avoiding answering the question.

I most certainly am not.

I do not believe any prosecutions have been brought under that section.

Departmental Expenditure.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

2 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recommendations of the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes relating to his Department; the recommendations in this regard which will be implemented during 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46387/09]

The recommendations in the special group report, the McCarthy report, have been taken into account in the budget negotiations for 2010 for the justice sector. The proposed savings in the report in respect of the sector were €136.4 million. In monetary terms, a significant proportion of the recommendations — €84 million — related to reductions in payroll costs on items such as allowances payable to members of the Garda and the Prison Service.

In common with all Departments, there will be reductions in payroll-related provision in 2010 to take account of the reductions in payroll rates. Final figures in this respect for the justice sector will be published in the REV early next year. In addition to these payroll reductions, the budgets in a number of programme subheads have also been cut to deliver the savings required by Government. A number of these cuts are also in line with the recommendations of the McCarthy report. These amount to reductions of €6.92 million across a range of subheads, which include gender mainstreaming, graffiti removal operations, equality monitoring consultative committees, the European refugee fund and refugee integration. The McCarthy report recommended a total reduction of €5 million in respect of these items.

As the Deputy will be aware, further recommendations were made by the McCarthy report on structural reform and rationalisation across the justice and equality sector. Decisions in respect of many of these recommendations will be a matter for decision by Government in due course and expenditure reductions that may arise will be included in the budget for the sector in future years. In addition, for the sake of completeness, arising from administrative savings efficiencies, including a sector-wide approach to procurement, across the Vote group, savings of €10 million will be realised this year, including €3 million saved on foot of an 8% reduction in the cost of fees, goods and services in the sector. These will be incorporated into baseline budgetary figures for administrative subheads in subsequent years. I also indicated in my budget statement that I will introduce a new system of means testing for applications for criminal legal aid. This proposal is also in line with the McCarthy report recommendations.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I have been trying to get his reaction to the McCarthy report for some time and his position up to now has been that its recommendations were in the mix in the budgetary discussions. The budget has come and gone. The McCarthy report contains a huge wodge of proposals relating to his Department and I am not clear from his reply which of them he is taking on board and which he is not. It is manifest that the bulk of the savings in the Garda Vote are pay-related. Will the Minister put into effect any of the reforms suggested in the report? Other than the reference he made to programmes dealing with the abolition of graffiti and so on, none of the areas covered by the report was mentioned in the Minister's reply.

The McCarthy report involved other people, unlike the claim on radio earlier. I never considered it to be gospel that we had to implement every suggestion made. If that was the case, we might as well have let Dr. McCarthy and whoever else was in the group deal with the Department. Ultimately, I am the person responsible to the Oireachtas regarding policy decisions and I will make such decisions. The Accounting Officer is responsible for spending. I will not implement a number of the recommendations in the McCarthy report, as I will find the money elsewhere. Even the Opposition spokespersons would not agree with them.

I did not imply the Minister is not the person responsible or that Dr. McCarthy is taking over from him. I did not comment on the merit of the proposals, as I am merely trying to elicit information from him regarding which recommendations he will implement and which ones he will not. I have not obtained that.

Given the main savings he has made relate to pay and, for example, Garda members are up in arms about their treatment in that regard and have threatened industrial action, does the Minister intend to intervene in the dispute? Does he intend to allow the ballot to go ahead? If so, how does he intend to respond to that?

The McCarthy report made a number of suggestions regarding payroll costs not only in regard to the Garda but across the justice sector, as it did in other areas. The Government must bear those in mind but, ultimately, it has to make decisions, as I have to in regard to my own budget.

I have made my position clear on the Garda issue. The Government — and the Oireachtas — will agree that we cannot countenance gardaí going on strike. That would be an affront to democracy and that view is held by the wider public. I have been in touch with the Garda Commissioner regularly regarding the recent announcement by the Garda Representative Association, GRA, and I am aware of the discussions he has had with the GRA. I suggest strongly, as I did over the past few days, that the GRA should again reflect on its position in that its members are not being asked to take more pain than any other sector in society.

Crime Levels.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

3 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken in recent months to decrease the likelihood of further tiger kidnappings. [46446/09]

These so-called "tiger" kidnappings are among the most frightening and vicious crimes which could be committed against any individual. I am sure all Members will join me in condemning them outright. The investigation of crime is the operational responsibility of An Garda Síochána, and the Government continues to offer its fullest support to our Garda Commissioner and his officers in this regard. Regular meetings between An Garda Síochána and financial institutions are held to discuss bank security issues and, in particular, kidnapping prevention and response protocols. The confidential response procedures in place for dealing with such incidents are detailed and comprehensive. They typically include advice on personal security for staff members, advice on systems and processes for the conveyance, storage and dispersal of cash and, crucially, procedures to be followed where an employee is a target of criminal elements intent on exerting pressure to hand over cash.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner and I had a useful meeting with the chief executives of various financial institutions last month to discuss the threat of "tiger" kidnappings and to outline our concerns in this regard. However, it is crucial that the protocols in place are followed, and both the Garda Commissioner and I emphasised this to the banks at our meeting. I also met representatives of employees of financial institutions to hear their views and discuss what more can be done to ensure their safety. I assured them, as I assure the House, that An Garda Síochána's absolute priority when responding to an incident of this kind is to ensure that no harm comes to the victims. I again stress that I do not underestimate the pressure under which people who are the victims of "tiger" kidnappings are placed.

The crucial message to understand is that it is in the interests of everyone, and in particular the staff in the financial institutions, that the agreed security protocols are observed. These are in place, first and foremost, to protect employees. It is important to recognise that only by rendering such kidnapping attempts unsuccessful will we stop them happening and, thereby, protect innocent employees and their loved ones from being caught up in them in the future.

On the wider question of the large amount of cash in circulation in our society, I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Finance and he is establishing a new Government task force, on which my Department and An Garda Síochána will be represented, charged with devising a strategy to reduce the levels of cash in everyday use.

Members and the wider public will be aware of the emergence of a clear pattern. "Tiger" kidnappings are occurring on a more frequent basis and are becoming progressively more violent. A pattern is emerging whereby in the immediate aftermath of such an horrendous occurrence, the Minister has a meeting with either the Garda Commissioner or the chief executives of the financial institutions, or both. Besides having a couple of hastily convened and highly publicised meetings, what is happening to avert tiger kidnappings and cash in transit and ATM theft? What counter-surveillance personnel training have bank staff received to ensure a certain awareness on their part of how to deal with such a situation? The protocols and codes of practice that the Minister mentioned, not only with regard to tiger kidnapping but also to cash in transit, have not seen real improvement. It is reported that in cases these protocols have been agreed but are not implemented.

We need an entire change of emphasis. We do not use appropriate smart technology. We do not use smart boxes for cash in transit. What we use in this jurisdiction for the conveyance of cash has been abandoned as obsolete and outmoded in other jurisdictions. However, here the Minister speaks about protocols, none of which are in place.

It would be wrong and improper of me to go into detail on the type of surveillance and counter-surveillance training made available to the employees of banks and other financial institutions.

The banks and the Garda use best international practice in training, protocols and the smart technology. I have seen some caustic remarks in this respect but in my meetings with the banks what has come across very strongly is that the amount of cash in our society is way higher than in any other state in proportion to our population and it is something we must cure by taking it out of the system. I do not accept what Deputy Flanagan stated on the use of boxes. It is available to the banks and they have invested in this respect. However, on occasion, because of certain circumstances on any given day there may be a large amount of cash in a bank. With regard to an increase in this type of crime, the figures show that there were three attempts in 2005, nine attempts in 2006, four attempts in 2007 and 2008, and there have been five attempts this year. They have become more vicious and more targeted at lower level bank officials and I have stated this publically.

I refute what the Minister stated about the use of modern smart technology. Recently, the private security industry purchased high-level security vans from Denmark. One sees them around town with left-hand drives. The reason they are coming here is because they are outdated and outmoded. There is no need for high-level security vans if the appropriate technology and computer chip is present to ensure the money is destroyed after the expiry of a certain time limit.

The type of training the Minister spoke about to the House does not appear to exist. The level of training that bank staff have in counter-surveillance is nil. Will he ensure at the next meeting with bank executives and the Garda Commissioner that he will seek an audit of the type of training available to banks, who gets it, where it is given and how it is given to ensure the risks are identified and bank personnel are trained. A problem exists because this is not happening and the Minister suggests that it is.

My information is that it is. However, all of the training in the world will not cure a position where someone's family is put at risk. In fairness to the people in this area, no matter how well they would be trained it would depend on the person involved. Where the protocols on tiger kidnappings are adhered to there have been very significant successes. Where they have not been followed, and I do not state that as any criticism of the people involved, the incidents were completed to the benefit of the criminals. That is why we state that while the protocols exist to prevent it from happening again, their primary focus is the protection of staff.

Deportation Orders.

Alan Shatter

Question:

4 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the removal of a child (details supplied) from his mother at Dublin Airport on 15 August 2009 and of the deportation to Nigeria of the child’s mother on 1 September 2009; his views on whether it is appropriate that a four year old child never previously apart from his mother be taken from her in such circumstances at Dublin Airport and remain totally alone in this State under the care of the Health Service Executive; if consideration was given to the distress caused to the child and both the immediate and long-term damage to the child’s welfare that may result; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the child is an Irish citizen born here on 21 August 2005 and that since the events at Dublin Airport, the child has had numerous social workers involved in considering his circumstances, has been cared for in a variety of placements at taxpayers’ expense and subject to events that can only be harmful to the child; and if he will take immediate action to facilitate family reunification between the child and his mother by permitting her return here. [46388/09]

The lady in question arrived in the State on 19 August 2005 and though her child was born in the State two days after her arrival, he is not an Irish citizen as he was born subsequent to the coming into force of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004 in that neither of his parents was an Irish citizen nor had either parent been lawfully resident in the State for three of the four years before the child's birth. Two days later she applied for asylum and her son was included in this application meaning that any decision taken on her applied equally to her son.

The asylum application was refused both at first instance and on appeal. Arising from the refusal of the asylum application, the lady in question was notified, by letter dated 25 October 2005, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of her and her son. Representations were submitted on behalf of the lady in question at that juncture.

Following consideration of those representations, deportation orders were signed in respect of mother and son on 23 November 2005 and notified to them by registered letter dated 29 November 2005. They failed to present to the GNIB as required on 5 November 2005 and were therefore classified as persons evading deportation.

On 16 August 2009, the mother and son were apprehended by officers of the GNIB at Dublin Airport. Following questioning by the immigration officer and checks on the relevant Garda database, they were identified as persons evading deportation.

At this point, the mother was arrested and detained and she was conveyed to the women's prison, Dochas Centre. As this prison did not have facilities for her son, and in accordance with well-established procedures, the lady in question was given the option of putting her son voluntarily into the care of the Health Service Executive, HSE. She refused to voluntarily place her son in the care of the HSE and as a result the arresting garda was left with no option but to execute his powers under section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 to secure appropriate care for the child.

In accordance with HSE procedures, that body sought and was granted an emergency care order on 17 August 2009, at which point the child was placed in the care of the HSE. An interim care order was subsequently granted on 24 August, valid until 21 September 2009.

Given that the lady in question and her son were the subject of extant deportation orders, arrangements were made to have them both repatriated to their country of origin by chartered flight on 1 September 2009. On this date an application was made by the HSE to have the interim care order lifted to allow the child to accompany his mother to their country of origin. This application was refused by the District Court and the child remained in the care of the HSE. As a result the lady in question was repatriated without her son.

Since her deportation on 1 September 2009, representatives of the GNIB have made sustained efforts to communicate with the lady in question, in order to facilitate the return of her son to her in the family's country of origin.

An application has now been received from the court appointed guardianad litem of the child in question requesting that the deportation order in respect of his mother be revoked to allow her to re-enter the State to be reunited with him. This application, made under section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 as amended, is under consideration at present and a decision will issue shortly.

Will the Minister tell the House what consideration of any nature was given by the Department or those operating under its aegis to the welfare of the child in the period between when the child was removed from the mother in Dublin Airport and the mother being deported on 1 September? When was it learned that the District Court had determined in the interests of the welfare of the child that he should not be deported? What consideration, if any, did the Minister give to the interests of the welfare of this child that the deportation of the mother be at least postponed?

In the context of the very solemn and magisterial speech the Minister delivered this day two weeks ago on the steps of Government Buildings on the launch of the Murphy commission report, when he stated that no agency or institution is above the law, did he give any consideration to the various obligations under the Child Care Act to ensure that any intervention in respect of a child is based on that child's welfare? Is he aware that, at great cost to the State, the child in question has been traumatised for four months by virtue of having four different sets of foster parents and three sets of social workers and has been the subject of five unplanned moves under the aegis of the HSE? Is he aware that the child is currently in the care of temporary foster parents?

Does the Minister accept that children of four do not make decisions to defy deportation orders? Does he also accept that it is utterly contrary to the interests or welfare of a child that he should be taken from his mother at Dublin Airport and that she be kept from him and then deported at a time when the Irish courts determined that it was contrary to the child's welfare that he should be deported? Does the Minister agree that there is a need for joined-up thinking and a coherent policy with regard to children in such circumstances?

I accept that this is a difficult case and that, obviously, a child would not make a conscious decision to evade deportation. However, this child's mother evaded deportation for four years.

The Minister is punishing the child.

The Department and the immigration service are often criticised by people in the Deputy's party. For example, on 3 December Deputy Naughten issued a press statement in which he criticised the Government on its performance in respect of completing cases relating to people making unfounded applications. The Deputy indicated that he wanted such cases completed quickly. In this instance, the decision was made quickly — within a number of months. Once the decision had been made, however, the mother evaded deportation. Since she was returned to her country of origin, several attempts have been made by officers of the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, to communicate with her. These officers provided the woman with their telephone numbers in order that she might contact them.

On 17 October, a member of the GNIB spoke by telephone with a woman who identified herself as the lady in question. She indicated that she did not want the child to be returned to her in her country of origin and refused to disclose her whereabouts. The member of the GNIB provided her with his personal telephone and e-mail address to assist her in making contact. No such contact has been made. Recent attempts to contact the woman by telephone have not been successful.

The Minister should outline the position in respect of the child.

In the child's best interests, the HSE and the garda in question made the necessary arrangements to have the child taken into care. The Deputy's question indicates that this child is an Irish citizen but that is not the case.

I accept that. However, the Minister should tell us about the child's welfare.

Deputy Shatter should cease interrupting. I will call him again.

The Minister is evading the issue. He should talk about the child, not the mother.

The Deputy should not interrupt.

The Minister presented himself in heroic guise two weeks ago. The child is being traumatised by the State as a result of the conduct of its mother.

I ask Deputy Shatter not to ignore the Chair. The normal procedure is that a Member is called and then stands to address the Parliament.

The Deputy's question indicates that the child is an Irish citizen, born here on 21 August 2005. We passed a referendum in 2004, the result of which was the enactment of legislation which changed the position in respect of children born on the island of Ireland.

So that is the reason a child is being traumatised.

The State will endeavour to cater for the best interests of the child to the greatest degree possible. However, I respectfully suggest that it would be in the child's best interests that he be returned to his mother in their country of origin.

Is the Minister aware that it is the view of the HSE and the courts that the welfare of the child is not consistent with the child being returned to Nigeria? Is he also aware that the reason the child remains in this jurisdiction is that the District Court is required to regard the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration and to make orders in the best interests of the child? Is the Minister suggesting that because this child is not an Irish citizen, he is someone of lesser needs and lesser rights who deserves to be traumatised on foot of the misconduct of his mother?

As matters stand in respect of this tragic case, this child, who had never been separate from his mother during the first four years of his life, is being required by the courts to remain in this country. Will the Minister, for humanitarian reasons, allow family reunification and, in these circumstances and for the child's safety, allow the mother to return here?

There is no conflict between the HSE and the GNIB in respect of this matter. The fact is that——

Did the Minister receive a recommendation from the HSE to the effect that child should be sent to Nigeria? That answer is that he did not.

——it is in the best interests of the child that he be repatriated with his mother in their country of origin.

Did the HSE make a recommendation in that regard? The Minister is aware that the HSE made no such recommendation.

The logical extension of what the Deputy suggests is that, in effect, we should drive a coach and four through the decision of the Irish people in the referendum of 2004.

I suggest that the Minister should not persecute a four year old child.

Conditions were set out in legislation enacted subsequent to that referendum to the effect that children born on the island of Ireland do not necessarily have citizenship status.

The Minister is aware that the HSE does not want the child to be sent to Nigeria. He is providing his usual smug and evasive response.

This is the man who two weeks ago pretended to be concerned about the welfare of children——

Deputy Shatter is trying to have it both ways.

Deputy Shatter should not shout down other Members and should certainly not——

——in a disgraceful presentation delivered outside Government Buildings.

Deputy Shatter——

The Minister should resume his seat. Deputy Shatter will not abuse the House or shout down other Members. We are conducting parliamentary business and I hope we might do so in an orderly way.

On a point of order, the Minister finds it impossible not to have a smug grin on his face permanently.

As the Deputy knows full well, that is not a point of order.

This matter relates to the welfare of a four year old child who has been left in limbo by the incompetent manner in which the Minister and his Department dealt with his tragic family situation.

I never accused the Minister in the way Deputy Shatter is doing.

Deputy Shatter should have some regard for other Members.

International Agreements.

Joe McHugh

Question:

5 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the principles enshrined in the Schengen Agreement should apply here; his further views on whether the 32 county common travel area arrangement is not as comprehensive an instrument for free movement as the Schengen Agreement; if he will engage with the British Home Secretary and the Stormont Executive regarding this subject; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46447/09]

The Schengen Convention is an agreement among European states which allows for the abolition of systematic border controls between participating states. It also includes provisions for the development of enhanced co-operation in respect of law enforcement matters and judicial co-operation. There are currently 25 fully participating states comprising all EU member states, with the exception of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria, and three non-EU states, namely, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Romania and Bulgaria aim to implement the agreement in 2011. Border posts have been removed between Schengen area states and a common Schengen visa allows tourist or visitor access to the area.

The Schengen Agreement was incorporated into the framework of the European Union under the Treaty of Amsterdam. The relevant protocol recognised that Ireland and the United Kingdom are not parties to the Schengen Agreement and made provision to allow those member states to accept some or all of its provisions at any time.

Ireland successfully applied to take part in certain elements of the Schengen Agreement. The activities in which Ireland applied to participate include police co-operation, mutual assistance in criminal matters, extradition and drugs co-operation. Ireland also applied to participate in related aspects of the Schengen information system, a European search database which assists member states' authorities in carrying out border checks and police and customs checks.

Ireland's application to participate in these specified articles of the agreement was approved by Council decision in 2002. In accordance with this decision, these provisions will come into effect only after a range of technical and legislative measures have been put in place and successfully evaluated by the Council. The measures which will enable Ireland to meet its Schengen requirements are currently being progressed.

Ireland has not, however, applied to participate in the Schengen arrangements to the extent that they deal with the abolition of border checks. This decision has been taken to maintain the common travel area, CTA, with the United Kingdom which remains a priority for Ireland. The operation of the CTA facilitates nationals of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Irish nationals moving around freely within it. Nationals of the European Union, as well as those of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, enjoy extensive free movement rights as a matter of EU law. The operation of the CTA does not interfere with these rights.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The CTA could not continue to operate if Ireland were to remove border checks with Schengen states generally while the United Kingdom did not do so. To do so would result in the Border with Northern Ireland becoming the border between the Schengen area and the United Kingdom.

In an EU context, many of the issues covered by the Schengen Agreement are discussed on an ongoing basis in the relevant Council formats by all EU member states, including Britain and Ireland. In addition, the immigration authorities of my Department maintain close contact with their counterparts in the United Kingdom on an ongoing basis in respect of issues arising in the operation of the CTA. Such issues may include matters relating to the detection of abuses of the CTA or more generally with regard to any new immigration measures pertaining to the visa and border systems that may have implications for the CTA.

I have no plans to raise the matter with the Home Secretary at present. However, I will raise any appropriate matter with the UK authorities, as required.

While I welcome certain aspects of collaboration under the framework of the Schengen Agreement and the common travel area agreed in 1987, things have changed in the past 22 years. I wish to focus on tourism. A tourist from China or India can apply for a multiple visa costing €50 within the 25 countries zone. We are putting ourselves at a considerable disadvantage, particularly in respect of all-island tourism. We aspire to targeting the Chinese and Indian markets but we must facilitate some form of harmonisation. Will the Minister consider some mechanism to facilitate all-island tourism for those from outside the European Union?

Any Government would wish to bring as many tourists as possible to the island. We are not part of the Schengen Agreement, mainly because the UK is not part of it. If Ireland were to be party to the Schengen Agreement without the UK, this would mean border controls in the constituencies of Deputy McHugh and myself. He would not want us to have this because it would do away with free movement North and South as a result of the Single European Act, EU legislation and the reduction in violence on the island.

Regarding those coming from countries outside the countries nominated in the various items of legislation, the Immigration Act 2004 contains an order in respect of visas for 2009, setting out the classes of people required to obtain an entry visa. Those coming in from states outside the EU and the EEA are required to hold visas, as is required for most countries in the world. I do not see how we can change this because we are similar to most other countries. We must be conscious of what is happening across the water with our neighbouring island.

The thrust of my argument is to examine facilitation. I appreciate that we do not seek to interfere with the common travel area but the common travel area should not be the sacrificial lamb to get more movement to attract tourism. A tourist from outside the EU arriving in Belfast for an all-island tourism experience and travelling by train to Dublin via the Minister's constituency must apply for two visas. We should examine this difficulty. I ask the Minister to engage with his neighbours across the water and examine harmonisation for tourism.

I have not been made aware that there are difficulties in this respect. I would hazard a guess that the Deputy should take this matter up with the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. If there is anything we can do to facilitate more tourism, we will do so. We cannot allow our immigration and visa regime to be diluted as a result of changes made with the valid reason of bringing in tourists. We have found that people come to Ireland mar dhea for education and when gardaí visit the educational establishment there is no one there. That has happened in a number of instances. Any easing of the visa regime must be done strictly. It is for the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to take up with my Department.