Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Cyberbullying Issues

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

6. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions he has taken to protect against cyberbullying on social media platforms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42193/18]

The cyberbully knows no boundaries. They can reach from the classroom to the schoolyard right up to following a person back into their bedroom. Parents are very concerned for the safety of their children but when a situation is identified and brought to the attention of gardaí, the gardaí feel they do not have the powers to pursue it and that there is no specific offence. This was identified by the Oireachtas committee and recommendations were made. What actions have been taken to address the concerns of people around cyberbullying?

The Government recognises the importance of integrated action across Government to address online safety, including cyberbullying, and on 11 July 2018 the Taoiseach launched the National Action Plan for Online Safety 2018-2019. The action plan reflects a whole-of-Government approach and contains 25 actions under five main goals. The actions are assigned to six different Government Departments for implementation: my Department of Justice and Equality, as well as the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Health and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

My Department will continue to have responsibility for legislative changes to criminal law, liaison with An Garda Síochána on enforcement issues and disbursement of EU funds, as well as oversight of hotline.ie, which is the vehicle for reporting suspected illegal content encountered online. Many of the actions assigned specifically to my Department under the plan are included under goal three, stronger protections, and include legislating for new criminal offences as recommended by the Law Reform Commission. In line with these responsibilities, the Office for Internet Safety has been incorporated into the crime directorate of my Department dealing with the criminal elements of online safety.

It is important to note that the criminal law targets behaviour that is illegal whether online or offline. Under the existing legislation relating to harassment and prohibition to hatred, bullying, including cyberbullying, may constitute an offence depending on the circumstances in which it has taken place. Where harmful behaviour online does not involve criminality, the appropriate response is through education and awareness raising, as well as effective action on the part of Internet companies. Such work is being taken forward by other Departments and agencies as part of the action plan.

I acknowledge the action plan from earlier in the summer, which set out a range of actions. However, the Minister did not have to wait for it because, as far back as 2016, the Law Reform Commission had identified a gap in which gardaí felt powerless to act when an issue was brought to their attention. There were recommendations to update the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 with the offence of stalking, and legislation was proposed earlier this year on it. I understand consideration is being given to bringing forward legislation at some point, possibly next year, but time is slipping. Has it been identified as priority legislation? When does the Minister expect there to be action on this matter? The Minister of State at the Department of Health felt that the Government was not taking the issue seriously enough and was failing people as a result. Does the Minister agree? The gap is still there after a number of years.

I agree with the Deputy that this is a matter of great importance and one which requires a whole-of-Government response. As I said, it involves the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Health and my own Department. I see a school in the Visitors Gallery and I acknowledge what is being done in schools, under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills, on cyberbullying and promoting awareness of it. New resources are being developed by Webwise including Up2Us, MySelfie, the Wider World and Lockers. I congratulate the schools on their work in this area and I encourage them to do more.

The Law Reform Commission made a number of key recommendations on criminal law matters, such as extending existing offences and making stalking a new offence. It recommended the new offence to address the taking and distribution of intimate images without consent, whether or not there is intent to cause harm or distress or a likelihood that it will do so. Officials in my Department are working on this and I acknowledge the contribution of Deputies, including those opposite and Deputy Howlin. I intend to bring forward legislation to ensure we can reflect the needs of society in this regard.

The action plan set out a range of issues but did not address the question of a digital safety commissioner. This commissioner would be a watchdog and would work with social media platforms to ensure they lived up to their expectations under the plan. Will the Minister proceed with the appointment of a digital safety commissioner as recommended by the Oireachtas committee?

Is the legislation the Minister is bringing forward identified as priority legislation? When does he expect to introduce it? The gap has been there for several years and there was proposed legislation earlier this year to deal with it.

Cyberbullies know no bounds. They are able to pursue people right from the school yard into the bedroom. It is concerning both for those who are bullied but also for their families and parents. Urgent action needs to be taken on this. While we recognise different plans are laid out, we need to see them followed through with direct action.

I agree with the Deputy. I thank him for raising the matter with me because it is important.

The proposed legislation regarding the appointment of the digital safety commissioner, recommended by the Law Reform Commission in its report on harmful communications and digital safety, is being dealt with by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. I have not had an opportunity to discuss this matter with my colleague, the new Minister, Deputy Bruton. I will do so at an early date.

With regard to legislation from my Department, officials have been working closely with Deputy Howlin with the intention of identifying and bringing forward amendments to his Private Members’ Bill which was accepted earlier in the year on Second Stage. We need to ensure that this Bill will be as robust and as effective as possible. It is hoped that Bill can be set into law and enacted by the end of this year. While that is a short timeframe, I assure the Deputy of my interest in ensuring it is passed.

Question No. 7 replied to with Written Answers.

Gambling Legislation

Martin Heydon

Question:

8. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the work within his Department to regulate and control the gambling sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42512/18]

Will the Minister provide an update on the progress made with the gambling control Bill? I know the Minister has worked hard in this area, establishing a working group on it this year. Will he provide an update on some of the issues that this group has worked through?

Gambling is pervasive across society. If one has a gambling problem, there is no getting away from it as it is present in every facet of society. It is a significant cause of concern for parents of young men who are particularly vulnerable to problem gambling. It is an issue on which much work is needed.

I am happy to update the Deputy on developments to reform our legislation in the gambling sector as far as the Department of Justice and Equality is concerned.

First, the Government has prepared amendments to update the current Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. These changes will ensure the better promotion and regulation of the various gaming and lottery type activities which take place, primarily at local level. These activities are important for charitable, sporting and philanthropic fundraising purposes. The gaming and lotteries (amendment) Bill is being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I hope to receive a text for publication by the end of this session.

Second, the Government, on 10 January 2018, approved several proposals to update the 2013 general scheme of the gambling control Bill. Critically, the Government approved a proposal to establish an independent regulatory authority for the gambling industry. The 2013 proposal had been to have the regulatory function essentially contained within the Department. This decision reflected our consideration that an independent body would be best placed to conduct the complex range of licensing, regulating, monitoring, inspection and enforcement tasks of the gambling industry in all of its manifestations.

To advance the review of the 2013 general scheme, I chaired an interdepartmental working group on gambling comprising all stakeholder Departments and the Office of the Attorney General. The group met on five occasions between February and June of this year. It reviewed all of the provisions of the 2013 scheme, as well as other relevant developments since. The group is preparing its report, which I hope to bring to the Government for consideration as soon as possible.

I thank the Minister of State for his response and acknowledge the work that he and his officials are doing. The problem is that the technology is changing so quickly that it is almost impossible for the legislation to keep up. We are always lagging behind. That is where the role of an independent regulator is important. I welcome the decision made by the Government earlier this year to establish an independent regulatory office in this regard.

One man in my constituency who had problems with gambling said he books his holidays during Cheltenham week every year because the talk of betting and the price for horses is pervasive in every radio and television programme. He said if one is watching a soccer match, at half-time it will come up with the price for Messi to score next in the game. There is no getting away from gambling.

Advertising that has a real impact needs to be challenged. We need to change the culture in this regard. On the first day of an election campaign, politicians have a photo taken of them putting a bet on themselves to win. This needs to be stopped, just like where we stopped taking visiting dignitaries straight to the pub for a pint. That kind of culture change is important and an independent office will bring that about.

The primary objective of the modernisation of gambling legislation must be to ensure the proper licensing and regulation of the many varied forms of gambling now available in the State. A modern and effectively regulated gambling environment will ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that gambling will be an entertaining activity for the majority of those who take part in it.

We will ensure there will be enhanced consumer protection for players, effective protection for younger persons under 18 years of age and that we will, as far as we can, limit the harmful effects on those who may be susceptible to addictive behaviour. Such people will require health-based interventions by suitable treatments. The safeguarding proposals in the 2013 scheme will require development and continual monitoring thereafter.

A key element of the proposed new regulation is that it would permit the establishment and operation of a social fund supported by industry levies. Such a fund will support those professional expert organisations involved in addiction treatment.

Potential restrictions on gambling advertising and sponsorship must be carefully considered, targeted and effective. The 2013 scheme contained provisions with regard to this. In particular, activities aimed at persons under 18 years of age and vulnerable persons are to be prevented. These developments need to be revisited in the light of developments, technological and otherwise, since 2013. Gambling advertising and promotions are increasingly individually targeted using new technology.

Online gaming is another area which we have to address. I am conscious of the game Fortnite and all of the concerns around it. Elements of these games have loot boxes. This is another example of where people get that little high and the same excitement as they get with a lottery scratch card. Young children of ten, 11 and 12 years of age are playing these games. These are pervasive and are having an impact on them at an early stage. These are the types of activities we need to control.

I accept the Minister of State’s point that gambling addiction requires health-based solutions. There are steps we can take from a regulatory perspective, however, to protect people from gambling. I have come across instances where young male apprentices on apprenticeship wages of several hundred euro a week have managed to max out up to four credit cards and run up debts of €20,000 before their parents found out. The young men suffered much stress because they felt they could not talk to anybody. The gambling control Bill should prevent gambling with a credit card. It should be money a person has at the very least and he or she should not be able to run up that level of debt. These are the steps we can take, along with the health measures, to help those with gambling problems. We must protect as best we can those who suffer from these challenges.

I agree with the Deputy that this is a very complex area, especially with modern technology. We are pleased, however, to support the recent voluntary declaration by the Gaming Regulators European Forum which reflected concern among national authorities that video games should be appropriately licensed if they offer gambling possibilities within such games. While the declaration does not have legal effect, it is intended to have a nudge effect. It clearly signals the regulatory authorities’ concerns and alerts parents as to potential problems, as well as to take responsibility, especially where the player may be under 18 years of age.

To offer gambling products in Ireland - gaming as defined in the 1956 Act is covered by that - a licence is required under the Betting Acts 1931 to 2015 or the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. While the Minister for Justice and Equality has certain responsibilities under both Acts, it is the Revenue Commissioners who are the responsible licensing authority.

In the context of video games, if a game sought to offer an activity or items for purchase that would fall within the current Irish legal definition of gambling, then a relevant licence would be required by the manufacturer of the game. To the best of our knowledge, no manufacturer to date has sought such licensing by gambling regulators in Ireland or in other EU member states. If a game offers in-game purchases advertised to increase the chances of success in the game and does not fall within the current Irish legal definition of gambling, such purchases are essentially an e-commerce activity. This would fall within the recourse of normal consumer law where there is dissatisfaction on the part of the consumer with the purchase.

Regardless of one's view on in-game purchases and the marketing thereof, one must be clear that they fall within the legal definition of a gambling activity and thus engage the regulatory attention of my Department or other Departments responsible for such regulation. That is also the position in many other EU member states.

Garda Strength

Eugene Murphy

Question:

9. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí and reservists in each Garda station in counties Roscommon and Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42431/18]

I ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí and reservists in each Garda station in counties Roscommon and Galway. All Members acknowledge that the area was very badly hit during the recession. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to increase the number of gardaí to 15,000. I ask for an update on those figures.

As the Deputy is aware, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of Garda personnel among the various divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of the resources. I do not politically interfere in policing matters or direct the Commissioner where to deploy resources. Notwithstanding the Commissioner’s responsibility, I have provided the Deputy with the detailed information he requested in tabular form.

I am informed by the Commissioner that the strength of the Roscommon-Longford and Galway divisions on 31 August 2018, the latest date for which information is readily available, was 312 and 587, respectively. There are six Garda reservists and 33 Garda civilian staff attached to the Roscommon-Longford division and 29 Garda reservists and 67 Garda civilian staff attached to the Galway division. When necessary, the work of local gardaí is supported by Garda national units such as the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support unit, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

I take the opportunity to again confirm the Government’s firm commitment to supporting An Garda Síochána and ensuring it is appropriately resourced. Garda recruitment ceased from 2010 to 2014. The new recruits attested as members of An Garda Síochána have been assigned to mainstream duties, with 18 assigned to the Roscommon-Longford division and 31 to the Galway division. I am pleased that the strength of An Garda Síochána will reach over 14,000 members by the end of 2018 for the first time in many years. I strongly welcome the funding provided in budget 2019 for the recruitment of up to 800 Garda recruits next year, along with necessary civilian Garda staff.

ROSCOMMON / LONGFORD DIVISION 31 AUGUST 2018

DIVISION

DISTRICT

STATION

TOTAL

ROSCOMMON / LONGFORD

CASTLEREA

BALLAGHADERREEN

10

BALLINLOUGH

1

BOYLE

26

CASTLEREA

40

ELPHIN

2

FRENCHPARK

2

KEADUE

1

ROOSKY

3

STROKESTOWN

5

TULSK

2

CASTLEREA

TOTAL

92

GRANARD

DRUMLISH

2

EDGEWORTHSTOWN

12

GRANARD

33

SMEAR

1

GRANARD

TOTAL

48

LONGFORD

BALLYMAHON

10

KENAGH

1

LANESBORO

6

LONGFORD

71

LONGFORD

TOTAL

88

ROSCOMMON

ATHLEAGUE

1

CLONARK

6

ROSCOMMON

77

ROSCOMMON

TOTAL

84

ROSCOMMON / LONGFORD TOTAL

312

Roscommon/Longford Garda Reserves by Station 31 August 2018

Station

Total

Longford

1

Granard

1

Roscommon

2

Boyle

1

Castlerea

1

Total

6

GALWAY DIVISION 31 AUGUST 2018

DIVISION

DISTRICT

STATION

TOTAL

GALWAY

BALLINASLOE

AHASCRAGH

1

BALLINASLOE

46

BALLYGAR

1

CREGGS

1

MOUNT BELLEW

6

MOYLOUGH

1

BALLINASLOE

TOTAL

56

CLIFDEN

AN MÁM

2

CARNA

1

CLIFDEN

31

CLOCH NA RÓN

1

CLIFDEN

TOTAL

35

GALWAY

ATHENRY

4

GAILLIMH

224

LOUGH GEORGE

2

MONIVEA

1

ÓRÁN MÓR

41

GALWAY

TOTAL

272

LOUGHREA

CRAUGHWELL

4

EYRECOURT

1

GORT

27

KILLIMOR

1

KILRICKLE

1

KINVARA

2

LOUGHREA

35

PORTUMNA

7

WOODFORD

1

LOUGHREA

TOTAL

79

SALTHILL

AN CHEATHRÚ RUA

7

AN SPIDÉAL

2

CILL RÓNÁIN

3

INDREABHÁN

1

LEITIR MÓIR

1

MAIGH CUILINN

1

ROS MUC

1

SALTHILL

60

UACHTARARD

4

SALTHILL

TOTAL

80

TUAM

BARNADERG

1

DUNMORE

5

GLENAMADDY

1

HEADFORD

2

TUAM

55

WILLIAMSTOWN

1

TUAM

TOTAL

65

GALWAY TOTAL

587

Galway Division Garda Reserves by Station 31 August 2018

Station

Total

Galway

17

Salthill

2

Loughrea

3

Ballinasloe

3

Tuam

4

Gort

0

Total

29

I thank the Minister for his reply and welcome that the figures are improving. That said, I am very concerned by the low number of Garda reservists. Does the Minister have any explanation for that?

We must realise that the role of the Garda Síochána has changed significantly in recent years. As well as serious crime and public order offences, gardaí must deal with immigrant issues, child abuse, Garda vetting, mental health issues and domestic disputes. There is great Garda involvement in communities through helping out at events. Of course, drugs crime is a serious issue. I acknowledge the role successfully played by the Garda Síochána in society, as will the Minister.

It is important that we continue to increase the number of gardaí. I welcome that more recruits will be attested in the coming year and the strength of the force will continue to increase. In light of the closure of several Garda stations, it is of particular importance that we have more gardaí on the beat.

The table I made available to Deputy Murphy details the current state of play in Roscommon and Galway. I thank him for raising this issue. I agree with him on the reduction in the Garda Reserve. I very much regret the substantial reduction in the strength of the reserve in recent years from a peak of 1,164 in 2013 to 542 on 31 August 2018. The fall-off arises from a range of factors, not least of which was the lifting in 2014 of the moratorium on the recruitment of trainee gardaí which has affected the number of reserves in a couple of ways. Several serving reserves successfully applied to become members of An Garda Síochána and the Public Appointments Service has focused on delivering an accelerated programme of recruitment of full-time members. However, I am very keen to ensure the importance of the Garda Reserve and also want to see an acceleration of the pace of civilians undertaking administrative and technical duties within An Garda Síochána I am very keen that by the end of 2021 we will have 4,000 civilian members in An Garda Síochána because I wish to release gardaí, many of whom are currently doing desk duties, onto the beat.

I very much welcome the attempt by the Minister to get gardaí out from behind a desk. They are responsible for an enormous number of duties, as I pointed out to the Minister, in addition to office work.

On the demise of the traffic corps, there has been a 27% decrease in its strength in Galway with a fall from 51 officers in 2010 to 37 in 2017. I do not have the figures for 2018. In the Roscommon-Longford Garda division there has been a 32% drop in numbers in the Garda traffic corps since 2011, decreasing from 25 officers to 17 in 2017. A similar situation pertains in Sligo-Leitrim and other parts of the country. In 2011, there were 940 officers in the traffic corps, which is dedicated to road policing, but that declined to 669 in 2016 and 643 in 2017. I am sure the Minister will agree that the Garda traffic corps is crucial to crime prevention and the implementation of traffic law. What are the plans in regard to the traffic corps? Does the Minister intend to increase its strength?

I am very keen to see a greater level of emphasis on road traffic policing. I have discussed the issue with the Garda Commissioner and am very pleased to report an increase in funding in the Garda budget for next year which will allow for a greater emphasis on the Garda fleet and new vehicles. Some 200 new Garda vehicles have been purchased this years, several of which I expect are operating in the Galway-Roscommon area. I hope that will continue progressively into next year.

I also recognise the need to change the model of community policing. Garda management is working on developing a new model of community policing to take account of changes within our communities and the need for a more responsive police service.

I am very keen that progress will soon be reported on the civilianisation programme which I mentioned, a review of the current Garda Reserve about which I am very anxious to speak to Garda management and the changing nature of road and community policing.

Direct Provision System

Bríd Smith

Question:

10. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he plans to take to end the direct provision system; and his views on recent reports regarding the number of children in the direct provision system. [42443/18]

What plans does the Minister have to end the direct provision system? It is more than three years since the McMahon report was published, which has been discussed at length in the House. Judgment was passed in the court case on the right to work, which is extremely restricted and very difficult for people in direct provision to access. I ask the Minister to comment on the latest figures on the number of children in direct provision and how that affects them.

As the Deputy may be aware, direct provision involves a range of State services, including accommodation, food, health and education directly provided to international protection applicants through the relevant Departments and agencies. It is a whole-of-Government support system for those seeking international protection in Ireland. However, I will assume that the Deputy is referring primarily to the accommodation centres provided by the Reception and Integration Agency of my Department.

Notwithstanding the criticisms levelled at the system, particularly in terms of length of stay, it has proven effective in ensuring that those who come to our country seeking international protection receive food and shelter and have immediate access to these and other State services and supports. More than 60,000 people, including many children, have been provided with shelter since its inception. It is not possible to predict how many people seeking international protection will arrive in any given year. It can vary substantially from year to year. However, the system generally, with some recent small exceptions, ensures that all applicants, including children, are offered immediate shelter, full-board accommodation and a range of services such as health and education while their applications are being processed.

I can assure the Deputy that I will give serious consideration to any alternative system that can provide immediate shelter and access to State services in the instance of the spontaneous arrival of families and children with unestablished needs who unexpectedly turn up in Ireland seeking protection. To date, no alternative has been put forward, but I will continue to keep an open mind on the matter.

The Deputy has asked about the number of children in care who are being looked after or living in direct provision accommodation. At the end of August, there was a total of 1,591 children – 822 males and 769 females - in direct provision accommodation, all of whom reside with their parents or guardians. Unaccompanied minors are the responsibility of Tusla.

As the Deputy is aware, on 30 June this year, the Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, signed the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations to transpose the directive into national law. The directive includes important provisions in regard to rights to gain access to health and education services, as well as in regard to children's rights and material reception conditions for applicants which include housing, food, clothing and a daily expense allowance which, as we know, has gone up. This represents a major change in managing the reception conditions for those seeking international protection in Ireland. I am pleased that the standards that must be reached in how we treat those seeking international protection are now underpinned by law. Any replacement proposed for direct provision would have to meet all of these standards. Significant improvements to the living conditions of applicants have been made in recent years. I can go through them on a later date or pass them on to the Deputy.

The McMahon tribunal recommendations are being implemented, virtually in full.

It is interesting that the Minister of State wants to hear views on alternative systems. I can think of one. Offering immediately shelter, food and safety to children and their parents who come here is a challenge, but leaving them in direct provision accommodation for up to seven years is absolutely obscene. There is an alternative to the system, namely, not having the meeting of the needs of the homeless compete with the meeting of the needs of those who come here seeking asylum. The only reason they compete is the housing crisis, which involves a separate but not unrelated discussion. The problem is that the parents of the children, many of whom have been in direct provision accommodation for up to seven years, are not given access to work. We have seen the meat industry open its doors to allow new workers to come into the country. There is an appeal from the care industry and the hospitality sector to do likewise. Despite this, someone cannot apply for work if he or she has been here for less than nine months. If someone's case is being appealed, he or she cannot apply. This relates to a significant cohort of parents.

Let me return to the circumstances of the children. Let us recall how touched the entire country was by the story of the young woman who went on "Morning Ireland" having lived in a hotel for two years. Imagine how touched the entire country would be if we were to examine how children fared in direct provision accommodation for up to seven years and the conditions in which they lived. The Minister of State's description sounds nice, but the Refugee Council of Ireland has a different type of report, of which I am sure he is aware.

Again, the Deputy has not brought forward any suggestion on what we could do to replace the direct provision system.

The right to work.

She has not done that; rather, she has skittered around it. She uses emotion very cleverly. We are very careful in looking after people who come here. They receive help and support on the night. They are given a bed, board, food, heat and so forth. Education is also provided. No applicant is obliged to accept the offer of accommodation and related services and many do not. If a person has sufficient means, including if he or she has been working for a reasonable amount of time, he or she is free to source and provide his or her own accommodation if he or she has the resources to do so, but not everybody is in the position described by the Deputy. People can leave any time they wish. However, there is the offer. If someone arrives in Dublin Airport this evening and wants asylum, he or she will have a bed, food, heat and safety tonight. He or she will also have access to education for his or her children. We try to move people through the system as quickly as possible. As the Deputy well knows, we have changed the law since 2015 to speed up the decision-making process. The length of stay has changed. A total of 2,150 people have been in the system for less than one year. We are moving as hard as we can to make decisions as quickly as possible to help people to get on with their lives. That is what we all want to see happen.

I repeat what I said before: for every hungry belly, there is a pair of hands and a brain, which is quite obvious. The limiting of the right to work by the State for people in the direct provision system is quite shocking. Most of the parents want to work to be able to independently provide their children with accommodation that does not include a communal bathroom shared with grown men and women. It means entire families would not have to share rooms with other families and that different genders would not have to share the same room. Children are often exposed to violence and sexual behaviour. The long stay in direct provision accommodation and the confined space have led to an increase in mental health problems and depression among the children. Therefore, there are two concerns. The first relates to how the adults are deprived of the right to rear their families with dignity and the ability and freedom to work and rent their own homes. The deprivation of the adults is leading to a litany of problems. I do not have time to go through all of them, but the recent report by the Refugee Council of Ireland is shocking. Unless the Minister of State does not believe it, he has to take the report seriously.

Opting in to the directive and allowing people who have been here for nine months to work have been widely welcomed across the spectrum. The arrangements are not restrictive. There are only a few areas in which people cannot work, including the Garda and the Army.

If their cases are being appealed, they cannot work.

There are people who are delighted to have this opportunity. They are being supported to go out to work after the period laid down. We will examine the matter again and might change the arrangement which was welcomed widely at the time by everybody concerned, although the Deputy might not have done so. The Office of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children have had their remits extended to cover accommodation and related services provided for those in the international protection process who are living in accommodation centres for which we are developing standards and which will be inspected independently. Therefore, we are doing a huge amount of work. It would be nice now and again if the Deputy actually recognised the great efforts being made to help people who are vulnerable and come here to seek help and protection which we give them.

The greatest effort of all is made by voluntary organisations.

We have a very strong record internationally, but it does not suit the Deputy to hear it as whe wants to work on misery and exaggerate it. We want to help people. We want to support and help them to make their homes in Ireland if granted the required status.

I want things to change. It is three years since publication of the McMahon report.

Question No. 11 replied to with Written Answers.

Garda Strength

Bobby Aylward

Question:

12. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí and reservists in each Garda station in counties Carlow and Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42401/18]

Will the Minister state the number of gardaí and reservists in each Garda station in counties Carlow and Kilkenny and make a statement on the matter? As the Minister knows, I have asked this question regularly since the recession. What are the current statistics?

I acknowledge the Deputy's consistent interest in this matter on behalf of his constituents in Carlow–Kilkenny. I am very pleased to engage with him at all times. He will appreciate that it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner who is fully responsible for the distribution of Garda personnel among the various divisions. As Minister, I have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends in the area and policing priorities to ensure the optimum use is made of resources. I do not interfere politically in policing matters, nor do I direct the Commissioner where to deploy resources.

Notwithstanding the Commissioner's responsibility, I have provided, in tabular form, the detailed information requested by the Deputy. I am informed by the Commissioner that the strength of the Kilkenny–Carlow division on 31 August, the latest date for which information is readily available, was 333. There are also 26 Garda reserves and 41 Garda civilian staff attached to the Kilkenny–Carlow division. When necessary, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. I confirm the Government's commitment to supporting An Garda Síochána and ensuring the organisation is appropriately resourced.

Garda recruitment was effectively discontinued from 2010 until 2014. I am very pleased that 2,200 recruits have since been attested as members, of whom 57 have been assigned to the Kilkenny–Carlow division. I am pleased that by the end of the year in a few weeks' time the strength of An Garda Síochána will have reached over 14,000. It will have reached this number for the first time in many years.

Kilkenny/Carlow Division 31 August 2018

Kilkenny/Carlow

Carlow

Ballon

1

Borris

1

Carlow

89

Hacketstown

1

Muinebheag

10

Myshall

1

Rathvilly

1

Tullow

16

Carlow Total

120

Kilkenny

Callan

5

Castlecomer

10

Freshford

1

Kilkenny

132

Urlingford

2

Kilkenny Total

150

Thomastown

Ballyhale

1

Bennetsbridge

1

Glenmore

1

Goresbridge

2

Graiguenamanagh

4

Kilmacow

1

Kilmoganny

1

Mooncoin

9

Mullinavat

3

Piltown

2

Stonyford

1

Thomastown

37

Thomastown Total

63

Kilkenny/Carlow Total

333

Garda Reserves Kilkenny/Carlow Division by Station 31 August 2018

Kilkenny/Carlow

Kilkenny

12

Muinebeag

1

Thomastown

4

Carlow

9

Tullow

0

Total

26

I am glad to hear that there has been an increase in the numbers. I will not give the numbers I have because I believe they are outdated. They date from last April. While I am glad that there has been an increase in the numbers, I contest that the Government sometimes underestimates the value of community gardaí and their effectiveness in fighting crime, rural crime in particular. The community garda is a confidant and trusted liaison between the man on the street and the man on the beat. Members of the public are far more comfortable in relaying potentially sensitive and confidential information on a crime to a garda they know and trust.

It is important to have a garda operating in this capacity who knows the community and the people of the community. The community garda can collect and convey vital crime-solving information to his or her colleagues. The single greatest deterrent to crime is a well informed garda on the beat. It is my firm belief that we should aim to have a community garda in every Garda station in the State. That is the level of importance that I place on this crucial policing position. Every parish in any part of Ireland, and in rural Ireland in particular, should have a community garda in place to fight the crime that we all know is there.

Deputy Aylward makes an important point. In recognising the need to change the model of community policing I am advised that Garda management is working on developing a new model of community policing to take account of the changes taking place within our rural and urban communities, and the need for a really responsive police service. I ask Deputies to accept the fact that the ongoing recruitment process will support An Garda Síochána in its activities with enhanced Garda visibility in our community. Deputy Aylward is a rural Deputy like myself and I share his view of the devastating effect that theft from farms can have on the livelihood of farmers and their sense of security in rural areas. I am informed that An Garda Síochána is actively working with local communities and farming organisations in order to do more to prevent farm theft. I acknowledge the work of farm organisations, of community groups and the CommunityAlert text alert scheme. I have some funding available from my Department to assist rural communities in this regard. I also acknowledge the importance of the Theft Stop database, designed to deter criminals from taking and selling farm equipment and other machinery by ensuring it is clearly marked with a unique ID. I thank Deputy Aylward for raising the important matter of rural and farm crime.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I also want to ask the Minister about the Garda traffic corps. There was a big reduction in the Garda traffic corps during the recessionary times. The traffic corps plays a vital role in policing in country areas also. We need the Garda traffic corps numbers to be brought up to the proper strength. I am aware that there is recruitment happening currently.

With regard to CCTV on motorways and coming off motorways, there are two coming off from Kilkenny from the midlands and from the north of Kilkenny. It is important because CCTV helps to catch criminals. It helps gardaí to identify people even as they are leaving bigger cities such as Dublin or Limerick, who come down to rob places and get away onto the motorway in 20 minutes and then they are gone. We should look seriously at the provision of CCTV. It was in the programme for Government I believe.

I agree with Deputy Aylward that every effort should be made at local community level, particularly in rural communities, in the fight against crime and for crime prevention. There are two CCTV schemes, one which is run by communities and one by An Garda Síochána. I understand that the two CCTV schemes in Kilkenny in close proximity to the motorways are important for local communities.

My Department has made €1 million available for the provision of CCTV at the behest of local communities, and working with local communities. Obviously there are a number of conditions but I encourage local communities to become involved. They will need to engage with the local community crime prevention officer, with the data protection controller who is in the local authority, and with the local joint policing committee, and again I acknowledge the importance of the various joint policing committees in the State. I will be happy to speak directly with Deputy Aylward after this session to ensure that information and knowledge is fully available to communities in rural Kilkenny and Carlow so they can benefit from these schemes.

In the absence of Deputy Farrell we will take Deputy Broughan's question.

Question No. 13 replied to with Written Answers.

Drugs Crime

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

14. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of mandatory intoxicant tests per county in 2017 and to date in 2018; the number of positive tests per county in 2017 and to date in 2018; the types of drugs detected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42195/18]

The Minister is aware that since the revelations of the breath testing scandal at the start of 2017, An Garda Síochána is still not publishing full statistics on the website around mandatory intoxicant testing checkpoints, MITS. The respective number of checkpoints and breath tests are not displayed. Since April 2017 I have been asking the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, about this matter and about the level of training among An Garda Síochána in the use of the Dräger 5000 device. I have asked about the total number of tests carried out in each county along with the number of positive tests. Previous responses to parliamentary questions told me that "only data in respect of the number of positive preliminary drug tests performed at mandatory intoxicant testing checkpoints can be provided." We need, however, to see the full picture. Although it is down by six deaths, this year we still have had a significant number of road fatalities.

As the Deputy will be aware, the recently published Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland report recommends that policing must be information led and that data should be seen as a strategic asset and a key factor in determining policing decisions. My Department is currently analysing the report and my officials are currently engaging in consultations with An Garda Síochána, the policing oversight bodies and the relevant Departments in order to inform my substantive response and the high-level implementation plan and project structure that I intend to bring to Government by December.

With respect to the Deputy's question, section 10 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 provides for mandatory intoxicant testing, MIT, checkpoints. The powers of An Garda Síochána under the 2010 Act were extended under the Road Traffic Act 2016 to allow preliminary oral fluid-testing for drugs to be undertaken at these checkpoints, in additional to the current preliminary breath testing for alcohol. These provisions came into force on 13 April 2017.

I am informed by An Garda Síochána that it has conducted a total of 101,965 MIT checkpoints nationally since then. I have provided the Deputy with a table - provided by the Garda authorities - that details the number of MIT checkpoints conducted by Garda division, the number of breath tests and oral fluid tests conducted, the number of persons who have tested positive for alcohol or drugs at these checkpoints and the number who failed or refused to provide a specimen.

I am further informed by An Garda Síochána that information on all the types of drugs detected at these MIT checkpoints is not available as such an exercise would necessitate a manual trawl of all relevant incidents recorded on PULSE to collate same, which would require a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources. The Deputy will be aware, however, that the drug testing devices employed by An Garda Síochána involve testing a sample of a driver’s oral fluid for the presence of cannabis, cocaine, opiates, heroin, morphine and benzodiazepines such as valium.

Garda Division

Number of MIT Checkpoints conducted 2017- year to date 2018

Roadside Breath Tested Conducted

No. of positive Roadside Breath Tests

Roadside Oral Fluid Tested Conducted

No. of positive Oral Fluid Tests

Fail/Refusal breath Test

Fail/Refusal Oral Fluid Test

Cavan/Monaghan

3202

12510

105

56

13

3

0

Clare

5897

25162

88

177

22

2

0

Cork City

8855

23959

119

4

1

0

0

Cork North

9681

21023

95

55

8

1

1

Cork West

8647

21118

118

124

13

0

0

D.M.R. Eastern

891

12522

83

152

9

4

0

D.M.R. North Central

714

8693

39

71

15

2

0

D.M.R. Northern

712

11056

67

91

6

1

0

D.M.R. South Central

704

17176

53

97

6

0

0

D.M.R. Southern

779

13866

61

95

14

0

0

D.M.R. Western

1463

13228

98

154

13

0

0

Donegal

3044

14640

73

11

0

1

0

Galway

7047

28434

191

22

5

0

0

Kerry

4651

14717

82

43

11

0

1

Kildare

3985

44364

272

268

32

2

0

Kilkenny/Carlow

1936

9561

108

44

5

0

0

Laois/Offaly

3332

29355

111

120

16

0

0

Limerick

7217

21256

136

42

7

1

0

Louth

2470

9758

53

3

2

0

0

Mayo

3329

13764

87

12

3

2

0

Meath

1946

9559

87

17

4

2

0

Roscommon/Longford

3065

16203

87

42

10

0

0

Sligo/Leitrim

2231

8196

31

59

9

0

0

Tipperary

6742

17822

103

21

5

2

0

Waterford

2400

14544

79

31

5

1

0

Westmeath

1938

9692

82

14

5

1

0

Wexford

2988

17445

136

105

19

1

0

Wicklow

2099

12542

55

9

1

1

0

* The statistics provided are provisional, operational and liable to change and are valid for the period 13 April 2017- 12 October 2018.

The Minister has not been able to give me a breakdown by county. I asked the Minister in 2017. That was in the Dublin metropolitan region, but the Minister did not give me any indication of the numbers of drug tests that had taken place outside that area. The point made by the Minister from the Garda report is very valid, that policing must be information and statistics led.

The other major issue that arose in relation to this, and which I also raised with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, was the error in section 11 of the Road Traffic Act 2016 with regard to the powers of gardaí to conduct impairment tests and making it an offence if a person refused to comply. I believe the section was revised in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018, but it has been noted since that similar changes will be necessary with regard to references in section 12 of the earlier Act around the obligation to provide blood, breath or urine specimens following an arrest, and with regard to section 16. Does this mean there is a lacuna or infirmity once again in road traffic law? I put it to the Minister that we constantly find these lacunae and gaps in road traffic law. Is it the case once again that the Minister should be doing a consolidation, as I have also asked the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Ross, many times-----

The Deputy's time is up. We will hear a concluding remark from the Minister.

-----if we are to have clear road traffic law?

I acknowledge Deputy Broughan's longstanding commitment to road safety. It is regrettable that it has not always been possible to provide as quickly as might be desired the information on road traffic enforcement issues as sought by the Deputy.

I know that a number of outstanding parliamentary questions for written reply have not been dealt with in the manner the Deputy might expect. I am informed by An Garda Síochána that owing to the very specific and statistical nature of the data requested in many of the questions on road traffic enforcement, the compilation of such data is often particularly intensive in terms of the time required. I also understand that in certain locations it is not possible to collate or break down statistical information in the manner specifically requested by the Deputy. I have raised the issue and I am concerned to ensure at all times that replies to parliamentary questions can be effective and also promptly delivered. I hope the Deputy can appreciate that, even when delays occur in the provision of road traffic enforcement statistics, officials in An Garda Síochána and my Department endeavour to provide a comprehensive and informative response as quickly as possible. I will be happy to speak to the Deputy on a bilateral basis about the issue.

I wish to return to the point that was ably raised by Deputy Bobby Aylward about Garda resources. We recently had a joint policing committee meeting in the Dublin north-central area, at which meetings issues frequently arise about Garda resources. The Minister always tells me that it is a matter for the Commissioner, Mr. Harris, but if we are to return to a level of mandatory impairment testing, MIT, checkpoints and roadside testing, An Garda Síochána, including our chief superintendent and the chief superintendent in Kilkenny and everywhere else, must have the necessary resources, but there still seem to be huge gaps in that regard. The important point has been made that roadside checks are not just for alcohol and drugs but often lead to the detection of other serious crimes. That is one reason we need to resource An Garda Síochána. It is okay to talk about what will happen in 2021, but we need resources now in late 2018.

I will make a very brief response to the Deputy. I was particularly pleased last week in the context of the budget and the Financial Statement of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, that he had acknowledged the need for further resources and indicated that the Garda Vote for next year would be of the order of €1.7 billion, an increase on this year's allocation of €110 million. That will allow for some of the resource-based improvements sought by the Deputy.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.