Priority Questions

Garda Inspectorate Reports

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

39. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the implementation of the recommendations of the 2015 Garda Inspectorate report Changing Policing In Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24668/17]

Before I put my question to the Tánaiste, I wish to express my revulsion, and that of all Members of Fianna Fáil, at the attack in Manchester. Deputy Micheál Martin mentioned this matter earlier today. It was a terrible and cowardly attack on young people who were out enjoying themselves yesterday evening. As justice spokesperson for the largest Opposition party, it is important that I express my revulsion in respect of this attack.

My question concerns the status of the implementation of the 2015 Garda Inspectorate report Changing Policing in Ireland and whether the Tánaiste is satisfied about the manner in which the report and, in particular, its recommendations are being implemented.

Before the questions on justice matters are dealt with, I wish to add to what was said earlier regarding yesterday evening's dreadful events in Manchester. Twenty-two people were killed and many others injured. It is shocking that they became victims simply because they were going about their lives in Manchester on a Monday evening. None of us can understand the mind of a person who would target an event at which so many young people were in attendance and enjoying their leisure. That type and level of hatred surpasses understanding. I pay tribute to the police and other emergency services in Manchester for the great work they are doing in dealing with such an appalling event. We must remember that the Garda Síochána, supported by the Defence Forces, is our first line of defence in counteracting evil of this kind. While the threat level here has not been changed in the aftermath of last night's events, I assure the House that the Garda will continue to work closely with its national and international partners to play its full part in keeping us safe from such atrocities. I have no doubt that all Members of the House support the Garda in its vital work.

As Deputy O'Callaghan is aware, there is an extensive programme of reform under way which contemplates all aspects of the administration and operation of the Garda Síochána. This follows the Government's approval of the five year reform and high level workforce plan for the Garda Síochána which combines the Government’s response to the Garda Inspectorate report Changing Policing in Ireland and the commitments in A Programme for a Partnership Government aimed at increasing the visibility, effectiveness and responsiveness of the Garda Síochána. In support of this plan, I secured funding in budget 2017 to increase the number of gardaí. Deputy O'Callaghan is familiar with the figures in this regard so I will not repeat them.

Robust independent oversight is essential to ensuring that the reform programme is relentlessly pursued over the next five years. I have referred the 240 agreed recommendations to the Policing Authority to monitor and assess their implementation by the Garda Síochána and to report to me on progress in that regard. Deputy O'Callaghan has seen the first progress report. I have recently received the second progress report and am considering its contents and what action is required on foot of it. I will publish it shortly and each future progress report in due course.

A number of reform initiatives have already been completed under the modernisation and renewal programme. This is to be welcomed. The initiatives include: the establishment of the drugs and organised crime bureau; upgrades to PULSE to improve victim services; the establishment of victim support offices; risk management structures at national and divisional level, including the establishment of a risk management governance committee; the protective services strategy has been developed and a national protected services bureau established; improvements to property exhibit management have been implemented; and electronic vetting and freedom of information obligations have been implemented.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Across the Garda organisation, there are initiatives planned, or in train, aimed at implementing the remaining recommendations.

Priority areas include further civilianisation. It is crucial that we ensure that gardaí are engaged in policing, which is the work they are trained for, and are not carrying out administrative and technical roles that can be done by civilian professionals. The Government has set a medium term target of 20% civilians to be achieved by 2021 to facilitate the redeployment of gardaí to front-line policing duties and also to address critical capacity and skills gaps in the An Garda Síochána in regard to human resources, HR, finance, information and communications technology, ICT, and corporate supports generally. As noted by the Policing Authority in its first progress report, this work will require sustained persistence by Garda management and all stakeholders to ensure that this target is achieved.

Other priority areas include initiatives aimed at the more effective deployment of resources, more effective supervision of front-line personnel and cultural change, including the roll-out of the divisional model of policing to support the more flexible and effective deployment of resources - four pilot schemes in this regard are in train and will be evaluated later this year. These involve: the roll-out of divisional protected services bureaus on a phased basis starting in three divisions with effect from the end of this month; the commencement of the performance appraisal framework in the third quarter with training under way at present; the cultural audit to provide a baseline against which cultural change in the Garda Síochána can be measured in the future will get under way shortly; and the Garda Síochána has selected a company to carry out this work after a tender process. The results of the audit will be published.

I highlight these projects to give a flavour of the important reforms that are in train within the Garda Síochána. There are also a number of important initiatives under way under the auspices of the Garda Inspectorate and my Department. In line with the recommendations of Changing Policing in Ireland, I have requested that the Garda Inspectorate examine possibilities for opening up entry routes into all levels of the Garda Síochána and report back to me later this year. This could include fast-track entry for policing professionals from other jurisdictions at the lower ranks and the targeted intake of experienced, skilled police officers and other experienced managers at the senior ranks. In addition, the Changing Policing in Ireland report recommended that the forensic functions of the Garda technical bureau be divested to Forensic Science Ireland. A working group chaired by my Department has been established to move this task forward and manage the transition to a merged body. The intention is for the group to prepare a plan for the merger by the end of 2017 and to oversee its implementation in 2018 to 2019.

All of these initiatives, if implemented in full, will address many of the problems within the Garda Síochána. While we all wish that reform could be delivered immediately, it must be recognised that real reform requires behavioural change on the part of every individual at all levels in the organisation and will take time and perseverance by Garda management. Independent oversight is essential to monitor and assess implementation and to identify any blockages in order that solutions can be found. With the establishment of the Policing Authority, we now have a body that has the capacity to ensure that a focus is created and maintained on this work. The Government is committed to supporting the Authority in its work.

A week ago, the Government announced the full membership of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland chaired by Ms Kathleen O'Toole. We welcome the individuals who have been nominated to serve on that commission. The commission is a sensible idea and will benefit policing in Ireland. For once, we will have an opportunity to look at policing without having to do so through the microcosm of a crisis or particular past event. It is very important that we do not lose sight of the excellent work which has been done in the past. There is sometimes a tendency in Ireland to call upon a body to conduct a review in order to give the appearance that we are doing something. A huge amount of excellent work was done by the Garda Inspectorate and is detailed in its 2015 report, Changing Policing in Ireland. The most important aspect of any report is not its drafting but the way in which it is followed-up to ensure that its recommendations are implemented. The Tánaiste mentioned a number of recommendations contained in the report. We need to be satisfied that they will be implemented. Many of the recommendations are the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner. We must ensure that there is another entity within the Garda or Government that will ensure that these recommendations are being implemented. Unless we have that, there is no point in having many reports.

I thank the Deputy for his support for the commission. I agree that having the opportunity outside of a crisis situation to consider the wide range of issues in regard to the Garda Síochána is very important. As Deputy O'Callaghan said, an important consideration in establishing the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland was that it would not impede any reforms already in train or planned.

I agree with the Deputy on monitoring. A very important point is that I have no doubt that the Policing Authority will robustly monitor the implementation of recommendations. I will be publishing the second report shortly. That largely concerns monitoring the implementation of the recommendations.

It must be remembered that the modernisation programme involves a five-year plan. The Garda is not going to be in a position to implement all of these recommendations overnight. It is important that it is evident that recommendations are being taken seriously, implemented and moved forward, including key recommendations such as civilianisation, the Garda Reserve, and the continuation of the recruitment process.

I look forward to reviewing the second progress report when the Minister has an opportunity to publish it. I do not suggest it should be possible to implement recommendations overnight but it is important to keep a constant and vigilant eye upon the recommendations contained within the reports. If we do not, we will get into a cycle of producing one report after another. Valid criticism can be made of the non-implementation of the recommendations contained within Changing Policing in Ireland and yet we are off again on another commission to look at policing into the future. I support it because it is important to have a prospective view of what is best for policing in Ireland into the future but we cannot ignore or forget that there are many excellent recommendations in the Changing Policing in Ireland report. My concern is that many of them will not be directly implemented because unless somebody is charged with actual responsibility for implementing these recommendations, they sometimes can be lost or forgotten about and we move on to the next report and the good recommendations in this one can be omitted.

I do not believe we should keep saying that the recommendations have not been implemented. While there clearly are many recommendations in the report - 242 in total - we must recognise, as the Deputy suggests, the recommendations that have been implemented and be clear about those and equally be vigilant about those which have not and we should query any possible slowness of response in recommending and implementing the key proposals. I assure the Deputy that I expect the Policing Authority will be robust and vigorous in highlighting the recommendations that are moving ahead, as well as identifying areas where further urgency is needed.

There are some general issues around recruitment in the public service at present. There are difficulties in recruitment across the public service. That will have an impact on civilians and we also must be cognisant of that.

Inquiries into Garda Activities

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

40. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of inquiries and tribunals into An Garda Síochána that have concluded or are still ongoing from 2012; if she will provide a summary of their interim findings and conclusions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24776/17]

The Deputy will recall that counsel for the independent review mechanism examined 320 cases of allegations of wrongdoing or failure in An Garda Síochána. There were many different recommendations. The recommendation of counsel in five of those cases was that I should establish inquiries to inquire into certain aspects of the handling of the cases, some of which are very well known.

On Monday 15 May 2017, I established, by order, under section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the five statutory inquiries. I can go into further detail on that if required.

On 16 February 2017, I appointed a tribunal of inquiry. Mr. Justice Peter Charleton is getting on with that work and the first interim report was published on the website of the Charleton inquiry recently.

The Deputy will be familiar with the MacLochlainn commission of investigation, which was established in August 2014. It was an investigation into the fatal shooting of Mr. Ronan MacLochlainn by members of the Garda Síochána in the course of an attempted armed robbery in Wicklow in May 1998. It has not yet reported because there is an application in the High Court relating to it.

The O'Higgins commission of investigation was established in February 2015 to investigate and report on certain matters relative to the Cavan-Monaghan division of the Garda Síochána. I can go into detail on that if required.

The Fennelly report was also carried out, as was an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the taking into care of the children of two Roma families that led to the establishment of a special inquiry under section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act by the then Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan. That report was published in July 2014. A number of recommendations came out of that report. It found that there was some justification for the decision in one case, given the information initially provided by the Coombe hospital, but it was critical of other aspects of the decision.

Even in the Minister's response, we only got as far as 2014 in terms of the number of inquiries and tribunals. We have had recent scandals and internal investigations into Garda mismanagement and internal activities, including on breath tests, fixed charge notice penalties and Templemore. The commission has been established and Sinn Féin also welcomes it. It is proper that the commission takes a look at policing and security within this State and makes recommendations. However, we have had a litany of recommendations over the years through Garda Inspectorate reports, as Deputy O'Callaghan has mentioned. When we discussed this issue with the Minister, she gave a commitment that the work that the commission is going to undertake over the next 18 months would not impact on any reforms which need to take place. That should also include any proposals in terms of legislation being brought forward not only by the Minister's office but also by Opposition Deputies. It is important that we do not use the commission as an excuse or as a reason not to bring forward radical reforms within An Garda Síochána. Deputies O'Callaghan and Wallace and I have a number of legislative measures which we believe, were all-party cooperation in place, would leave us in a far better place than we are in today.

I am certainly very open to working with the Opposition on any Bills that might be put forward. On the Policing Authority, I built into the legislation that there would be a review by the end of this year. I look forward to that review, and in the meantime, if Bills come forward from the Opposition I will certainly examine those. We are working on the Parole Bill brought forward by Deputy O'Callaghan tomorrow, and this morning I brought a memo to Cabinet concerning the issue of maternal inquests in order that we can move ahead with Deputy Clare Daly's suggestions in that regard. I am certainly open to working with the Opposition on the ongoing reform programme because I agree that we have to move ahead. The Policing Authority will do that and the modernisation programme and monitoring will ensure that those recommendations are taken forward. We can discuss them here and in the Committee on Justice and Equality. A second report from the Policing Authority will provide food for thought on the progress, and we can certainly make sure that such monitoring continues. It is a five-year programme and will not happen overnight.

One advantage of the commission is that we do not have to wait 18 months for recommendations. While not wishing to interfere with the work of the commission, it is quite obvious that a number of immediate concerns need to be addressed by the commission and I hope they will be addressed in a timely fashion. If we are to restore public confidence in our policing services, then it is imperative that we do not wait 18 months for a report to be produced. There should be some sort of initial report conducted by the commission that could identify some clear areas where we could see immediate improvement. That would help in a small way to improve public confidence in our policing service.

I was determined, in establishing the commission, that there would be the possibility on an ongoing basis for immediate proposals and rolling recommendations for implementation, and depending on how the work is organised, I have no doubt that this will be possible. I am meeting Ms Kathleen O'Toole, who has agreed to chair the commission, this evening. She is in Dublin to begin the work and I will certainly convey the views of the House to her on that point. It came up in my discussions with the spokespersons for justice from the Opposition that if, having examined the overall situation, it was possible to have immediate recommendations - perhaps within a short period in some cases - we certainly would be open to taking those on board and implementing them as quickly as possible.

Garda Misconduct Allegations

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

41. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the recent television programme on the murder of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24669/17]

On 20 April last, RTE broadcast a programme about the circumstances and events leading up to the murder of Garda Tony Golden and the serious maiming of Siobhán Phillips, which took place in October 2015. The programme raised many issues of significant concern, and I wonder if the Tánaiste could make a statement on the matter and how she proposes the issues can be dealt with.

I am, of course, aware of the recent television programme referred to; indeed, it was discussed in the House previously. The events at Omeath in October 2015, which resulted in the death of Garda Tony Golden, were a tragedy. While it is self-evidently important that any issues of concern related to these tragic events are fully investigated, it is essential to remember that the various allegations being made are just that – allegations. Whatever the nature of allegations that may be made, we must have the utmost sensitivity for those who have suffered so much as a result of these tragic events. I think, particularly, of Garda Tony Golden’s family, whom I have met, and of Siobhán Phillips who suffered terrible injuries. Nor should we forget the grief of Adrian Mackin’s family. We need to be sensitive as to how we deal with and the language we use in discussing cases of personal tragedy such as this. We must remember the context and the effect on all involved. The truth or otherwise of those allegations has not been established and there are ongoing processes, set out in law, to do that. It would be prudent, therefore, not to pre-judge those processes, as I am sure the Deputy would agree.

Many of the concerns set out in respect of this case were raised previously with me and I did take action on every occasion. I brought them quickly to the attention of and pursued them with the Garda authorities in the context of their ongoing investigation into and review of these events and related matters. I expect to receive a final report from the Garda authorities addressing these matters when the investigation and review are complete. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission recently announced its decision to initiate a public interest investigation. It has indicated that this public interest investigation will take place alongside an ongoing GSOC investigation of complaints relating to these events that were made previously. I welcome the actions being taken by GSOC in accordance with its independent powers under the law. These investigations must be allowed to take their course so the truth or otherwise of certain allegations made can be established independently. Without seeking to prejudge the issues involved, it would obviously be of great importance to learn anything that can be learned from these tragic events and to take action in that light. The GSOC investigation should be of considerable assistance in this regard.

While there has been public comment on decisions made in respect of charges brought against Mr. Mackin, as Deputy O'Callaghan will appreciate decisions in respect of the prosecution of offences are matters for the Director of Public Prosecutions who by law is fully independent in discharging these functions. That independence is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system; it has served the State well and it should be respected fully. In these circumstances it would evidently not be appropriate to comment on the details.

I recognise and commend the courage of Garda Tony Golden, who gave his life in service of the community. In October 2015 he was fulfilling his duties in accompanying Siobhán Phillips to the house to assist her in regaining her possessions. He paid the ultimate price that a member of An Garda Síochána can pay and deserves to be commended for his bravery. However, it is also important that we seek answers in respect of what actually occurred that day. It is the most serious crime for a member of An Garda Síochána to be murdered in this brutal way. It is also an exceptionally serious crime from the point of view of Siobhán Phillips and her family.

It is worrying that the detail of the programme seemed to suggest that the Garda was well aware of the nature of serious offences with which Crevan Mackin had been charged. When he was released back into the community in Omeath, the local police force was not informed of his presence or the threat that he posed. That is the crucial issue. Why was Garda Golden not given information that the force had in respect of an individual who was back in his community and was a threat to individuals concerned?

I acknowledge the Tánaiste's point that these are matters for investigation by GSOC while prosecutions are matters for the DPP. However, when a member of An Garda Síochána dies, we have a responsibility to ensure that the truth comes out. We need to be able to pursue avenues to make sure that this type of situation cannot arise again.

The Deputy has recalled the details of the case and the tragic circumstances that led to the death of Garda Tony Golden. As he says, gardaí take their lives in their hands every day of the week protecting the safety and security of individual citizens in our community. I acknowledge that what the Deputy said is so correct. When things go wrong in this tragic way, we do need to get to the truth. That is why I made the point that we cannot act on allegations. We need to hear the results of the GSOC investigation. There is a lot of information in the public arena. The Deputy has mentioned some of it. I cannot vouch for the truth of the details he has given on the floor of the House. It is for the investigation by the Garda and GSOC to determine that truth, looking at all of the circumstances to see what the lessons are and whether any further action should be taken.

I welcome the fact that a public interest investigation is being commenced by GSOC. However, I have a concern that it may drift on and we may not get an ultimate report for a number of years. It is important that measures are now put in place within An Garda Síochána to ensure full communication between different branches and stations. If a very dangerous individual has been given bail and goes back into a local community, and if An Garda Síochána is aware of prima facie evidence against that individual, for example that he has access to weapons, that information needs to be brought to the attention of the local gardaí. It is too late for Tony Golden but similar situations may arise in the future. Information needs to be passed on to local gardaí so that no garda in the future is put in the situation into which Garda Golden was put.

I can only agree that the exchange of vital information in respect of persons in communities does need to take place routinely within the Garda. If information is available in a divisional office and if a person is living in an area in which there is a local Garda station, of course the local gardaí should have that information.

This will be facilitated further the more we get to use IT solutions for passing on information. It is a question of making sure there is access, whether it be to PULSE or the investigations. Since last year, I think, we have an improved situation whereby we do not just have criminal incidents on PULSE, but also the actual progress of an investigation. This means that every garda should be able to make a call to find out the status of a particular case in terms of an investigation. Indeed, it is very helpful to members of the public for the Garda to give them the information as well. Obviously, it is about the proper communication systems between gardaí but it is also about making sure they have the resources to exchange information in a meaningful, fast and effective way and that they have access to those resources. That is why there has been investment of over €200 million into the IT systems. The Garda had been way behind and is still struggling to have the kind of modern communication technology that it needs and that is commonplace in every other police force.

Public Inquiries

Bríd Smith

Question:

42. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will commission a public inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24681/17]

The Ceann Comhairle has given permission to Deputy Gino Kenny to put this question.

The question is to ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will commission a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell, and if she will make a statement on the matter.

I think I have given the details of this very tragic and sad case to the House before.

The recommendation made under the independent review mechanism, IRM, which was completely independent of myself and my Department, was that I should take no further action. Counsel for the IRM pointed out that the appropriate forum for raising matters related to alleged Garda failings was the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, which was already investigating certain matters arising from the tragic death in this case. I should mention that my predecessor as Minister for Justice and Equality had referred aspects of this particular case to GSOC, which is an independent body. I stated in reply to a recent parliamentary question that the investigation had concluded and was being reviewed before it would be issued. We must now await GSOC's final determination. I should also mention that a civil action has been initiated against the State in respect of issues raised in the complaint.

We are all familiar with the detail of this appalling tragedy. When the Taoiseach and I met with the family of the young man the Taoiseach assured them that when the GSOC investigation is complete and the final report is to hand, the question of whether and, if so, what further action can be taken will be considered. That remains the position. It would appear that the report is now concluded but under some review, which would be the normal process in GSOC. After the review is complete I imagine the commissioners will examine any final detail, although I stress that it is an independent body. That is my understanding of where it is at present. The Taoiseach has said that we certainly can look at what further action might be taken. I think it is appropriate to wait for the final report.

I will cut straight to the chase. I do not understand it. This August will bring the sixth anniversary of Shane O'Farrell's untimely and, in my opinion, preventable, death. That is the opinion of many others as well. The O'Farrell family have been seeking justice and solace. Not only have the police, the prosecutor and the Director of Public Prosecutions failed the family but the Minister has failed them badly as well.

Incredibly, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission investigation has been going on since January 2012, that is to say, for five and a half years. It is appalling. The family and many other people, including people in this House, are calling for a public inquiry. No investigation takes five and a half years. The level of delay is appalling. This brings in the wider narrative of the crisis of confidence in the police service of this country. Many people have lost confidence in the force.

I put this to the Tánaiste last December. I cannot make it any clearer. I am calling on the Tánaiste to call for a public inquiry into this man's death.

I have to make it very clear to Deputy Kenny that there are a number of considerations. One of the considerations is the finalisation of the GSOC report.

It has been five and a half years.

There are often such situations. I do not like discussing individual cases on the floor of the Dáil. Nevertheless, there are various reasons a case might take extra time. For example, it might arise if new information is put before GSOC that adds to the information it has or it changes the inquiry somewhat. It may mean GSOC has to make further investigations and inquiries. The question of other cases arises. Deputy Kenny has quoted a particular timeframe. We have to look at when court cases have concluded. GSOC has to take that into account as well. There are reasons.

Everyone has the utmost sympathy for the family in this situation. There is absolutely no question about the appalling torment they have been through in respect of the circumstances of the death. The Taoiseach and I met the family. We listened to them and heard what they had to say. Once we have the report from GSOC, we can then consider what action, if any, will be taken at that point. It appears as if we are close to getting that report now. GSOC is independent but my understanding is that it is now reviewing the final part of the report.

I have lost all confidence in this process. I understand there must be due process but I have lost confidence, not only in the process but in the ability of the Tánaiste to investigate this.

It is clear that Shane O'Farrell would have been here today with his family were it not for the incompetence of the police service of this country. That goes without a doubt. What his family is seeking is simple. Shane cannot come back, unfortunately, but they are seeking justice. It is a simple thing the Tánaiste can propel. The old saying is that justice delayed is justice denied. Justice is being denied not only to Shane and his family but to the Members of this Parliament. It is disgraceful that five and a half years after the beginning of the GSOC investigation it is still in logjam.

The Tánaiste should give the family a public inquiry and allow the country to seek justice. It is up to the Tánaiste to say today clearly that she will give this family a public inquiry.

I do not accept what Deputy Kenny says in respect of the action I have taken. I referred this to the independent review panel. That was an independent body and it has examined the matter. That body independently made a recommendation to the effect that GSOC was the relevant body and that it should take up the complaints made and investigate them. GSOC is already doing this.

We call continually in this House for independent bodies to deal with issues. Deputy Kenny cannot have it both ways. We set up an independent body. We should allow it to do its work. Sometimes there are reasons for the amount of time an investigation can take. GSOC is chaired by Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring. No one would raise any doubts about her capacity to run GSOC or to deal with things in a timely way.

The family say it was stuck in GSOC.

Please, there cannot be interruptions.

Let us be clear. If we set up independent bodies, then let us allow them to do their work.

That is a fantasy and a joke.

Prisoner Transfers

Thomas Pringle

Question:

43. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality to outline the position regarding the progress being made in the drafting of the transfer of sentenced persons Bill; when she envisages its introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24733/17]

This relates to the draft transfer of sentenced persons Bill, although that is not the Long Title. I understand the heads have been approved since 2013 but the Bill has yet to be published. What are the Minister's plans for the Bill?

The Deputy will be aware that the current law on the transfer of prisoners is set out in the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts 1995 and 1997 and in the Transfer of Execution of Sentences Act 2005. These give effect to the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons made in Strasbourg on 21 March 1983 and its additional protocol.

Subsequent to these enactments an EU framework decision addressing prisoner transfers within the European Union has been adopted. A Bill to enable the transposition of this instrument into Irish law is being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government. One of the main effects of the framework decision is that it removes, in some well-defined circumstances, the requirement that a person must consent to the transfer.

When drafting of the Bill has been completed and subject to Government approval, the Bill will be published. This work is ongoing and I expect it will be later this year when we get to the point where we are in a position to publish the Bill.

Is it the position now that the transfer of prisoners cannot take place while we are waiting for this legislation to come through? I know there are several people who are waiting to transfer to complete their sentences in this jurisdiction. The Bill is vital for those prisoners. Legislative delays are not acceptable given that by the end of this year the transfer of this EU decision into Irish law will have been four years in gestation. That is an exceptionally long time. I do not think it is fair to prisoners who are waiting for transfers to have this situation going on for so long. As I understand it, no transfers are taking place now because of this. Will the Tánaiste clarify whether that is the situation?

I imagine the Deputy will be familiar with the O'Farrell, Rafferty and McDonald case. In July 2016, the Supreme Court made a determination in the case and dismissed the State's appeal. I will not go into the details because I do not have time. However, to answer Deputy Pringle's question, in September 2014, the High Court ordered the men to be released after finding that it could not retrospectively adapt, so as to achieve compatibility with Irish law, the warrants detaining the men here following their transfer from English prisons in 2006. My Department is considering the implications, legal and administrative, of the judgment of the Supreme Court. Pending the conclusion of these considerations, which may well indicate a need for legislative change, applications from prisoners abroad are currently on hold.

That simply highlights the fact that applications are on hold. This is affecting people and their families. They may be prisoners who have committed offences and have to go through their custodial sentences, but they should be able to do that within a reasonable distance of their families. The prisons should be reasonably accessible for the families. Being in prison in England or somewhere else is the same thing as being in prison in Ireland. It still amounts to the denial of freedom. They should be in a position to complete those sentences here.

The review needs to happen quickly. While the judgment was only last year, surely the solution could be considered and devised in respect of the impacts and surely a remedy could be secured reasonably quickly. I do not think this should run on for years.

I take the point that Deputy Pringle has made. I will try to ensure we are able to move ahead this year in respect of the legislation.

To give the Deputy some other information, in 2016 one prisoner transferred in and ten prisoners transferred out of the State. The most recent published figures on such transfers, which are up to the end of 2016, show that a total of 154 prisoners have transferred here from other countries since the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Act came into operation on 1 November 1995 and 180 prisoners have been transferred to other jurisdictions under the Act.