Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Brexit Issues

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


6. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ensure that the threats posed by Brexit to the rights and equality of persons resident in Northern Ireland with Irish citizenship, particularly such as they relate to nationality, are addressed; and his plans to bring forward legislation to address this matter. [11875/19]

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an mhéid a bhí le rá ag an Aire, an Teachta Flanagan, agus é ag freagairt na ceiste deireanaí. Nuair a bhí an Bille um Tharraingt Siar na Ríochta Aontaithe as an Aontas Eorpach (Forálacha Iarmhartacha), 2019 á phlé sa Teach seo, bhí díospóireacht fhada againn ar impleachtaí an Bhreatimeachta ar chearta saoránaigh an Tuaiscirt. Is léir go bhfuil folús agus faillí ann ó thaobh náisiúntachta agus saoránachta de, agus go bhfuil gá le reachtaíocht. Céard atá i gceist ag an Aire a dhéanamh faoin cheist seo?

Under any scenario for the UK's exit from the European Union, the obligations and commitments of the Irish and UK Governments under the Good Friday Agreement remain. The Government will continue to work with the UK Government as co-guarantor to secure the full implementation of the agreement.

Eligibility for Irish citizenship is based on the nationality of either of a person's parents.  Alternatively, a request for naturalisation is based on fulfilling certain residence requirements along with other criteria.  The granting of citizenship carries with it, for both the applicant and the State, a number of obligations, and the criteria for the granting of Irish citizenship are set down in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK will leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. Under EU law, Irish citizens resident in Northern Ireland will remain EU citizens.  As Union citizens, they will continue to enjoy the right to move and reside freely throughout the EU, benefiting from the important right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality while doing so. It is important to re-emphasise that both the Irish and British Governments have committed to the maintenance of the common travel area in all circumstances, which means that Irish and British nationals will continue to enjoy the rights currently in operation under this arrangement, including a right of residence and associated rights and privileges.

The provisions within the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, take account of the Good Friday Agreement and, therefore, recognise the birth right of "all of the people of Northern Ireland" to identify themselves and be recognised as Irish or British, or both, as a matter of individual choice. This will continue to be the case after 29 March, or post Brexit, irrespective of whether the withdrawal agreement is ratified. Both this Government and our British counterparts have repeatedly and unequivocally committed to upholding the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and to the continued existence of the common travel area.

Mar atá ráite agam cheana, d'fhéadfadh dha fhadhb a bheith ann - na hathruithe ar cearta a tharlódh i gcás Breatimeacht gan beart a aistriú, agus an easpa cearta atá ann faoi láthair. There are already some deficits, even in the context of pre-Brexit or pre-hard-Brexit scenarios, and even as things stand. I have quoted on a number of occasions the hearings of the justice committee in January on rights and equality in the context of Brexit. We heard from the Committee on the Administration of Justice, which I have quoted previously, and also from Professor Colin Harvey. Professor Harvey stated:

[T]here is a rights and equality deficit in the North. I would put it as strongly as saying that there is a crisis in the North relating to rights and equality.

That is obviously of significant concern. It speaks to the lack of action by both Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, in holding up the commitments that relate to this specific area.

Dr. Maurice Manning, in his capacity as president of the Irish Human Rights Commission, stated the following a number of years ago:

We have advised that a Charter would not need to create any new protections. It could restate the fundamental human rights that already exist in both jurisdictions, thereby helping to underpin the peace process and providing a basis from which political parties could demonstrate their continued commitment to human rights.

This lays the onus on both Governments to establish a charter of rights.

I ask the Minister once again what plans he has to legislate for this area.

Irrespective of the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union on 29 March or at some time thereafter, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. We all acknowledge the importance of the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts. However, some of those parts need to be strengthened and that will involve legislation, in particular legislation in the United Kingdom. I refer specifically to the need for a bill of rights. This is an issue that has been continuously raised in the context of our relationship with the United Kingdom, and one that I know features prominently in the context of the Northern Ireland talks, which are not now taking place.

It is important that we acknowledge the continued existence of the common travel area. In its current format it has served Ireland well now for almost 100 years, and that will continue. As co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, we need to continue to engage to ensure that citizenship and identity provisions, as outlined in the agreement, are fully respected and upheld in all the appropriate and relevant policy areas.

We have debated this matter back and forth and, as of yet, I do not believe the Minister has given any firm commitment to legislative change in this jurisdiction, even though it has been clearly outlined that that is needed. Perhaps he could clarify that. One case relates to Derry-born Emma DeSouza. Based on her Irish citizenship, her US husband has residency rights in the European Union but Ms DeSouza has been told that she must first renounce her British citizenship, which was automatically acquired at birth but never desired, sought or claimed. It is a default citizenship that appears to trump her second class Irish citizenship. There are numerous other cases of citizens who have not been able to obtain a visa through the Irish system because they are resident in the North, despite being Irish citizens. Issues also arise in relation to naturalisation. I have met in Belfast some of the numerous people who, despite having children who are full Irish citizens, cannot claim a right to naturalisation in this State because their child is not resident in this jurisdiction and they themselves are not Irish citizens. In several respects there is a clearly a legislative deficit that the Government has not as yet addressed. Does the Minister intend to deal with it and legislate to provide for such issues, Brexit or no Brexit?

A number of points have been raised by Deputy Ó Laoghaire. In response to his point about children, in the first instance it is important to draw a distinction between the rights of the child and the rights and expectations of the parents with regard to citizenship. Birth on the island of Ireland may result in Irish citizenship when the child was born without entitlement to citizenship of another country; the child was born to an Irish citizen or a UK citizen; the child was born to a person with unrestricted Irish residence; the child was born to a person with unrestricted residence in Northern Ireland; or the child was born to a parent with lawful residence. These issues are technical and complex but I accept that what we need is clarity in relation to persons who are born on the island of Ireland and in respect of persons who may be non-EEA parents resident in Ireland having to apply for Irish citizenship through our naturalisation process.

I acknowledge the importance of the issue and refer to editorial comment in today's edition of The Irish Times, which makes specific reference to the issues surrounding what Deputy Ó Laoghaire has said. There is an onus on the UK Government in this regard to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to recall commitments made in respect of these issues, with particular reference to the citizenship entitlement of people who are currently in residence in Northern Ireland, born in Northern Ireland but, in effect, Irish citizens. There are a number of issues that still require clarification but I assure the House of the efforts of the Government in this regard.

Direct Provision System

Jim O'Callaghan


7. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied with the level of security provided at current and future direct provision centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11964/19]

This question relates to the recent fires at the Shannon Key West Hotel and the potential for events which could come to pass. Both these events were serious and represent a real and pressing danger for both the people working in the hotel and those in the wider community. If the hotel had been in use at the time, we would be dealing with a different set of circumstances and potentially a major tragedy. What security is in place at that and other direct provision centres around the country?

The accommodation and ancillary needs of persons seeking international protection, who request such services, are currently provided through 39 accommodation centres located throughout the State. Since the introduction of this system, all of the centres have been operated by commercial bodies regardless of whether the sites are in State ownership or private ownership. The commercial operators are responsible for the provision of security at these sites.

Contractors must work to achieve balance between addressing any possible security concerns, while also recognising that these accommodation centres provide a home to protection applicants. All centres operate a common visitor policy where all visitors must sign in upon arrival and are not permitted to go into private living quarters of residents. For safety and security reasons, most centres operate CCTV systems in accordance with general data protection regulations.

In general, the Reception and Integration Agency advises that where there is CCTV in operation, it should cover the following areas of an accommodation centre: the entrance gate and car park, if any, the main door and reception area, and all public areas. In respect of  future accommodation centres, contractors offering the premises are obliged to ensure that appropriate security is in place before it becomes operable as a centre accommodating persons seeking international protection. The recent fires at Rooskey and Moville were distressing and potentially tragic events. In both cases, security was present at the time of the fire. Following the recent fires, officials from the Reception and Integration Agency have been liaising with all current centre managers asking them to review their security arrangements. It is important to note that where accommodation centres operate, there are quite good relations with local communities and local community groups and, historically, the security risk to these centres is minimal. This only serves to reinforce that scaremongering about such centres is baseless. However, the RIA is also liaising directly with An Garda Síochána at a national level to discuss potential security risks to accommodation centres and how these risks should be addressed.

We know that the individuals who live in the centres face serious difficulties in their day-to-day lives in terms of access to education and work. Security provided to those people is the responsibility of the State. There is no alternative provider, nor do those within the direct provision system have recourse to addressing those security concerns through other measures so the responsibility falls on the State. Is the Minister putting any additional security in place at the centres to prevent further attacks? What is the required level of visible security at those locations to dissuade people who might be minded to attack the centres?

The message must go out that by attacking the centres one will not defer them opening as a reception centre for people who are seeking asylum or refugee status in this country. One cannot allow the people who are attacking the centres to win and get their way. I think we would all agree on that point.

I thank Deputy Niall Collins for tabling this important question. I condemn the attacks on the direct provision centres in Rooskey and Moville, which happened on multiple occasions in the case of the centre in Rooskey. There seems to be a clear intent to ensure the centres do not open. That is very likely motivated by a racist intent. I do not believe it is in any way reflective of the local community. It is very likely that those involved are from outside those communities. Is the Minister concerned about the possibility that those involved could in any way be linked to extremist or far-right activists of any kind, and that they might have any responsibility for the attacks?

Such attacks on potential centres for direct provision are abhorrent and condemned by all right-thinking members of society. I do not have the specific information requested by the Deputy. However, these issues are the subject of Garda investigations and it is following certain lines of inquiry.

The provision of security in these areas is, in the main, the responsibility of the owners or the contractors. It is important in this regard that the contractors work to achieve a balance between ensuring security concerns are adequately met but also recognising the fact that these accommodation centres are homes for applicants seeking protection and will remain so as their applications are processed.

As well as the private security arrangements, the obligations in terms of the protection of communities and people on the part of the Garda Síochána in Moville and Rooskey should be noted. There is a Garda station located 1 km from the Caiseal Mara hotel in Moville. There are two Garda stations in the vicinity of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey, one in Rooskey, County Roscommon, and one in Mohill, County Leitrim. I am sure the Garda in terms of protection and prevention is actively engaged in accordance with local needs.

The Minister stated these centres are run by contractors and operators. They are commercial bodies contracted to the State to carry out a service. He also stated they have to achieve a balance because the centres act as a home for the people who live in them.

The Minister will recall the case just before Christmas in the Knockalisheen accommodation centre on the outskirts of Limerick city when a lady, Donnah Vuma, was denied a slice of bread and a glass of milk for a sick child in the middle of the night. The operator-contractor ultimately apologised for how she was treated. Several days before the incident, the lady in question was asked to share a platform with the President, Michael D. Higgins, at an event to promote good relations with the immigrant community and integration. There is the dichotomy of her sharing a platform with the President on one particular day and then, at the reception centre, being denied a slice of bread and a glass of milk for a sick child because it was late at night. As well as having to provide security for people living in reception centres, is the Minister satisfied these contractors are treating people humanely and decently? This case highlighted a real fall in standards. Is the Minister happy it was just an isolated case or were there other cases of which we have not heard? We heard of this particular case because the lady in question communicated it to the public at large through Facebook and the media picked it up. Are there other cases like this that we need to be concerned about?

Every effort is made to ensure proper and adequate standards are in place in the centres. In this regard, I acknowledge the work in particular of retired judge, Bryan McMahon, and a small group of people who regularly engage in ensuring adequate and proper standards are met on all occasions at these centres and, similarly, in respect of the Reception and Integration Agency.

I understand in the particular case in question due contact was made. In all circumstances, every effort must be made to ensure standards do not lapse in these centres.

I acknowledge the challenge of direct provision and the combination for those seeking international protection and asylum seekers. The Department is again seeking expressions of interest to ensure we have appropriate centres at which standards are fully complied with.

Garda Deployment

Brendan Smith


8. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 261 and 262 of 22 January 2019, if consideration will be given to the provision of additional staffing and financial resources to the Border region in 2019 in view of concerns about Brexit and ongoing cross-Border criminality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11996/19]

I am taking this question on behalf of my colleague, Deputy Brendan Smith, who is unable to attend the Chamber.

Will consideration be given to the provision of additional staffing and financial resources to the Border region in 2019 in view of concerns about Brexit and ongoing cross-Border criminality?

In common with all Departments and State agencies, An Garda Síochána has been preparing for Brexit. There is ongoing engagement between senior Garda management and my Department in this regard. Preparation has had a wide-ranging focus on operational requirements, including personnel, infrastructure and technology. The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, is committed to ensuring the organisation can deal with any policing challenges arising from Brexit. Clearly, however, the circumstances which may arise are dependent on the ultimate political settlement.

The Government's policy is that there will be no hard border on the island and there are no plans for such. However, policing in the Border region has always presented particular challenges. This can be expected to increase in the context of the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. It is also the case that violent dissident republican groups continue to seek to frustrate counter-terrorism efforts while organised criminals seek to exploit the two jurisdictions to try to evade detection.

The 2018 cross-Border threat assessment, prepared jointly by An Garda Síochána and the PSNI, estimated 43% of organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland have a cross-Border dimension. Likewise, mobile organised crime groups, responsible for multiple instances of domestic burglary, operate on an all-island basis. There are increasing instances of borderless crimes such as cyberfraud and international terrorism.

The success of cross-Border policing actions is grounded in the recognition that the best means of combating the threat to our communities is to maintain and enhance the excellent levels of co-operation between law enforcement agencies north and south of the Border. The Garda and the PSNI, along with other agencies, have worked together closely for many years and enjoy an excellent working relationship and co-operation at all levels. The Fresh Start agreement recognised this and led to the establishment of joint agency investigation teams which have had considerable success in combating this type of crime. This is also the context for the Garda Commissioner’s operational decision to establish an additional armed support unit in Cavan.

It is interesting the Minister discussed the efforts by the Government to put in place resources to militate against cross-Border crime. Has the Minister considered allowing the PSNI or the Garda to follow criminals across the Border? There are European Union member states which allow national police forces to cross borders when they are in pursuit of individuals. Does the Minister think it is logical that a criminal can whizz across the Border with ease, yet the law enforcement agencies in Ireland have to stop on an imaginary line? Would it be logical to progress to some level of co-operation at that depth to ensure we can challenge the existence of criminality on the Border?

While I acknowledge the close level of co-operation between the Garda in the South and the PSNI in the North, the establishment of the joint agency investigation teams is important. However, it does not allow for the type of hot pursuit that Deputy Tóibín envisages.

Garda armed support units provide a rapid armed response capacity and capability on a regional basis. Members of the armed support units in Border areas are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high-visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout their respective regions. In the northern region armed support units are currently based in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, and Dundalk, County Louth, both of which are in close proximity to the Border, as well as the recently announced unit in Cavan.

The processes and tools being used by the Government seem, to an extent, to be frozen in time. While everyone in this Chamber supports the Good Friday Agreement, evolution in cross-Border integration and co-operation is necessary.

On cross-Border hot pursuits, which different jurisdictions in Europe already allow for, would the Government not at least consider this and enter negotiations with its counterpart in London to see if it is possible to achieve?

I acknowledge the importance of ensuring that this jurisdiction fully monitors international best practice and developments. We should note exchanges and the open recruitment policy of An Garda Síochána in order to facilitate persons who may have experience in other police services applying to An Garda Síochána. I once again record the importance of the appointment of Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, having regard to his extensive experience and expertise in a neighbouring police service.

An Garda Síochána continues to work closely with the Revenue Commissioners and the joint agencies, North and South, on excise fraud, including illicit trade in fuel, tobacco and alcohol, which is an area of serious concern, as well as gangland and organised crime along the Border areas. These are not peculiar to Northern Ireland or the Irish Border but are a feature of all international borders.

On the operational duty issues, to which Deputy Tóibín referred, these are largely a matter for the Commissioner. I assure the House that the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, is engaged at the highest level in ensuring that the best possible measures are taken in order to protect communities and prevent crime.

Garda Divisional Headquarters

Tony McLoughlin


9. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the development of the new regional Garda headquarters in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11984/19]

I have raised the matter of the new regional Garda headquarters in Caltragh in Sligo with the Minister several times. There may have been some difficulties, not with the Department of Justice and Equality, but perhaps the Office of Public Works in acquiring three of the sites as public private partnerships are being used in the cases of Clonmel, Macroom and Sligo. An announcement was made in relation to Macroom and Sligo. Has there been a hold up in Clonmel? The local Garda Representative Association has expressed concern about the delay since the announcement.

The Garda building and refurbishment programme 2016-2021 is an ambitious five-year programme based on agreed Garda priorities, which continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and Office of Public Works Votes.  In addition to that programme, other major works to the Garda estate which are ongoing include the pilot Garda station reopening project, the development of a new facility at Military Road and the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street station, both in Dublin.

I emphasise that the clear goal of this investment is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff, as well as the public interacting with them.  There has been some good progress in relation to the Garda estate in recent times, including in particular the completion and entry into operational use in 2018 of three new divisional and regional headquarters in Wexford, Galway and Kevin Street, Dublin, which collectively required funding of over €100 million.

The public private partnership arrangement included in the building and refurbishment programme is intended to deliver new stations in Sligo, Macroom and Clonmel, as well as a new custody suite at the Garda station located on Anglesea Street in Cork city.

Site acquisition for this public private partnership bundle has been complex and has taken longer than originally envisaged.  I have been informed by the Office of Public Works and the Garda authorities that the Office of Public Works acquired sites for the development of the new stations in Macroom and Sligo in 2015 and 2018, respectively. I am informed by the Office of Public Works that all difficulties in relation to completion of the acquisition of the site in Clonmel were recently resolved and that that transfer is now also agreed.  It was necessary to secure all three sites before the public private partnership could proceed to the next stage.

The development of public private partnership projects is progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency. My Department and the Garda authorities are working to progress this matter, with the input and assistance of the National Development Finance Agency.  My Department is also engaging with the Office of Public Works in relation to the assistance that it may be able to provide to the process, including direct engagement on the matter between the Secretary General of my Department and the Chair of the Office of Public Works. 

I thank the Minister for his update. I was concerned, as were many others in Sligo and in the Garda Representative Association, at the delay at the Clonmel site which may have caused other difficulties. Recently, the Minister visited the Sligo station at my request, where he met with the powers that be. He saw first-hand the need for the regional Garda headquarters. The site in Sligo is very fine and acceptable to all in the area. Now that the Office of Public Works has acquired the three sites which it will proceed with using public private partnership, I hope we will see progress in the not too distant future.

I acknowledge the interest of Deputy McLoughlin in the acquisition of the site for the Garda station in Sligo and in ensuring that the legal, technical and design issues can be dealt with as expeditiously as possible in order to ensure that the Garda in Sligo have every modern resource available to them in the course of their duties. That includes a modern and fit-for-purpose Garda station.

I am sure Deputy McLoughlin will acknowledge that public private partnership projects are complex. The details are technical. It is vital to get the details of the projects right at planning and design stage. I assure Deputy McLoughlin that the delivery of the new Garda station in Sligo, along with those in Clonmel and Macroom, which are being done through the public private partnership arrangement, is being pursued as a priority and that I will keep him fully informed of developments.

I welcome the Minister's comments. I must record that he has been very supportive to me and to Sligo in relation to the new regional Garda headquarters. We are making progress. It is only a matter of time. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will see progress with the start of the three projects, which constitute a unit under the public private partnership bundle. I welcome this, as do the people of Sligo and the surrounding areas. I acknowledge the wonderful work being done everyday by An Garda Síochána in my area, which the Minister acknowledged when he visited the station and met with the chief superintendent as well as others based in Garda units in Sligo and its surrounding areas, including Leitrim. I welcome the Minister's comments that the project will continue and that he will keep me informed about its progress.

Deputy Charles Flanagan

I assure the Deputy of a desire on the part of Government to proceed with these projects as quickly as possible. Deputy McLoughlin may wish to know that as well as advancing the Garda station in Sligo, I am informed that a total of 52 vehicles will be allocated to the Sligo-Leitrim division as of March 2019. This includes a total of 28 vehicles allocated to Sligo district, eight in Ballymote and 16 in the Leitrim area.

I assure Deputy McLoughlin that as far as the Garda Commissioner and his team is concerned, Sligo and the north west are very much a priority. Indeed, from a Government perspective, both myself and the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, the Department of Justice and Equality, other Departments and the National Development Finance Agency are anxious to ensure that the technical details surrounding the further advancing of the PPP bundle can be progressed at the earliest possible date.

Garda Training

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


10. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the recent comments by a union (details supplied) in addition to other bodies in relation to the new domestic violence legislation and the lack of training provided to members of An Garda Síochána to carry out the duties required of them by this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11876/19]

Mar is eol don Aire, bhí eagraíocht na sáirsintí de chuid An Gharda ag léiriú a cuid imní faoi thraenáil agus oiliúint na ngardaí chun déileáil leis an reachtaíocht a cuireadh sa dlí ag tosach na bliana maidir leis an domestic violence Act agus an gá go mbeidh níos mó oiliúna agus traenála acu chun a gcuid dualgas a chomhlíonadh.

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 is landmark legislation which significantly enhanced the legal protections available to victims of this appalling form of violence. I was pleased to commence all the provisions of the Act, including the provision which created a new offence of coercive control, on 1 January last. This offence recognises the psychological abuse aspect of domestic violence.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for carrying on, managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including arranging for the training of its members and Garda staff and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. There can be no doubt, however, about the Commissioner's commitment to tackling this deplorable crime.

It is clearly very important that gardaí understand the legislation in order to intervene effectively and training is crucial in this regard. I am advised by Garda management that a number of training initiative measures have already been taken and further measures are planned to ensure that members of An Garda Síochána have a solid understanding of the new legislation, including the new offence of coercive control.

I am informed that the measures taken to date include the following. Training has been provided at Templemore Garda College to members of the divisional protective services unit and inspectors nationwide with the domestic abuse portfolio by an international expert from the UK, in relation to domestic homicides and their link to coercive control. The UK was one of the first countries to introduce the offence of coercive control. This was part of a three day domestic abuse modular training programme that took place in the Garda College in February of this year. Train-the-trainer training for members of An Garda Síochána in the area of coercive control, developed in conjunction with the Garda National Protected Services Bureau, will aid in the creation and delivery of organisation-wide training. Domestic abuse response, including the Domestic Violence Act 2018, is included in the continuous professional development training programmes for this year in An Garda Síochána. There are training lectures for probationer gardaí at the Garda College in Templemore.

Tá an-chosúlacht idir an méid atá ráite ag an Aire anseo agus an méid atá ráite aige cheana.

The response the Minister gave is similar to the one given to me in writing on 30 January informing me that the Garda Commissioner had undertaken a number of measures and that further measures are under way to ensure front-line gardaí have a solid understanding of the new legislation. This, however, was not the contention of the AGSI in the first place. No one questions their ability to understand or comprehend the legislation which was passed by these Houses. The question related to their ability and training to use this legislation to the best of their ability given the lack of training.

Guidance documents that are not complemented by training are not training in and of themselves. In its press release on 9 January, the AGSI stated:

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 came into force on 2nd January. AGSI who represent over 2,000 middle-ranking Gardaí, say that none of their members have received formal training on this new legislation.

Victims of domestic violence deserve the best protection and support possible. We are calling on the [Garda] Commissioner [Drew Harris] to prioritise training in this area as a matter of urgency.

The Minister has stated that there is, in fact, some training taking place. How many gardaí have undergone this training and when will all gardaí, or at a minimum all gardaí in the protective services units, be fully trained in the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act?

As I outlined in my reply, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for ensuring that members of An Garda Síochána are trained. As Minister, I do not have a direct role in that regard.

As I already outlined, I have been advised by the Garda authorities that a number of training measures continue to be taken to ensure that gardaí have a solid understanding of this new legislation. Of course, I acknowledge the importance of training and that a sufficient level of resources are applied for the training, including bi-monthly training of all serving members in the area of domestic violence and training directed at those Garda inspectors nationwide who hold domestic violence portfolios. I was recently in Cork acknowledging the progress made there on what will be a new Garda national protective services unit. In fact, by the end of this year, every Garda division will have its unit.

It is important that we proceed at the earliest opportunity to ensure there are sufficient resources, training, expertise and experience available to An Garda Síochána in our new legislation. I assure the Deputy there will be training available for all serving members of An Garda Síochána in the area of domestic violence.

I accept what the Minister said in terms of who is responsible but I would think the Department is entitled to and should have information. I ask the Minister, if he does not have it to hand, to provide me with information on how many gardaí have undergone this training and when all gardaí, at least those in protective services units, will have undergone training. If the Minister does not have that to hand, I would ask him to provide it subsequently.

On a related issue, I welcome that the Government finally ratified the Istanbul Convention on Friday last. It is something for which Sinn Féin and many Deputies in this House have been calling for some time. However, it appears that the Government will already be in breach of one of its central requirements, namely, the need to have one refuge place for every 10,000 persons. Tusla claims that it is, in fact, in line with the convention but that seems a willful misinterpretation of what is required. The State currently has 21 women's shelters with 141 beds. This means that the State is 300 beds short of where it needs to be under the convention. Tusla states it will continue with its own measurements regarding the requirements of the convention despite not having any data require of it published since 2015. Does the Minister intend to work with the Minister, Deputy Zappone, to ensure that Ireland is in compliance with the Istanbul Convention by providing the required one refuge place for every 10,000 persons?

I assure the Deputy, having regard to the importance of Ireland's ratification of the Istanbul Convention from 8 March last, that every effort will be made to ensure that there is full compliance. In that regard, the House might note that the State will be subject to ongoing international monitoring by the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, GREVIO, an independent expert body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. I would be happy to engage actively and positively with the Minister, Deputy Zappone, on this issue and ensure that all of the agencies are fully aware of their obligations and operations under the convention. I would be happy to engage with all appropriate Ministers and Departments.

Inquiry into the Death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell

Bríd Smith


11. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there will be an independent inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied). [12009/19]

Last June, the Dáil voted by a majority of two to one that a commission of investigation be set up to investigate the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell. The Minister chose instead, however, to have a scoping inquiry and that was to be conducted by the District Court judge, Judge Gerard Haughton. I believe Judge Haughton should provide an interim report soon. Will the Minister allow for an independent inquiry into the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell?

As Deputy Smith will be aware, this matter has been addressed on a number of occasions in the recent weeks and months by me in the Dáil and Seanad and in public statements, as well as in other fora.  However, I welcome the opportunity to update the House on matters relating to the circumstances of the tragic death of the late Mr. Shane O'Farrell.

Following the Dáil motion last summer, I considered how best to give effect to that motion while at the same time respecting the fact that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, was still investigating certain matters arising from the same incident. I sought the advice of the Attorney General on how best to proceed in the circumstances. At the end of January this year, I was notified by GSOC that its investigation had concluded and the report and recommendations had been sent to the Garda Commissioner.  The family received a similar notification.

Following this notification and having informed the Government of the approach I had decided to take, I appointed recently retired District Court Judge Gerard Haughton to conduct a scoping exercise and to advise me on the case. I met members of the family to inform them of the decision.  I subsequently provided the O'Farrell family with a copy of the terms of reference for Judge Haughton's scoping exercise and invited them to give their views on those terms of reference directly to Judge Haughton.  The terms of reference, which I have published on my Department's website, require Judge Haughton to provide me with an interim report within eight weeks of the commencement of the scoping exercise. Judge Haughton has met the O'Farrell family to discuss the terms of reference and to seek their input into any amendments that might be required.  I am now awaiting a report from Judge Haughton following his engagement with the family and when I receive that, I will be in a position to finalise the terms of reference for the scoping exercise.

As it stands, Judge Haughton is free to make any recommendation he deems fit, including the freedom to recommend the establishment of any of the various forms of statutory and non-statutory inquiry.  If he recommends an inquiry, of whatever type, I have asked him to provide me with draft terms of reference.  I look forward to receiving Judge Haughton's report in due course.

I thank the Minister for his reply but he has basically said the decision of Judge Haughton supersedes the will of this House. Two thirds of this House voted to have a commission of inquiry into the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell but the Minister has just told me the judge will make up his own mind on what will happen before reporting to the Minister on that decision. I find this totally unsatisfactory and I have no doubt the O'Farrell family will also find it totally unsatisfactory. The Minister could have ordered a commission of investigation into this very tragic case, as this House wished for last year. The Minister in July last year approved a commission of investigation into the crimes of Mr. Bill Kenneally, the former sports coach, with no scoping exercise, and in June 2015 a commission of investigation was approved into the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation with no scoping exercise. In March 2014, there was approval for a commission of investigation into the recording of phone conversations in Garda stations with no scoping exercise beforehand either. Why is Mr. O'Farrell's death being treated so differently despite a two thirds majority in this House clearly indicating a wish for such a commission of investigation? They have appealed to and lobbied the Minister for years now to order a commission of investigation into the very tragic and strange circumstances of this young man's death.

The Deputy should not misrepresent the role of Judge Haughton in this important and sensitive issue, and he is engaging directly with the O'Farrell family. Of course, it is open to Judge Haughton to propose changes to the terms of reference to me and following his review I expect he will advise me on any remaining unanswered questions that should be the subject of further inquiry or investigation and, if so, the most appropriate manner in which that investigation might take place. I will not pre-empt any advice or guidance that Judge Haughton considers appropriate in the circumstances following the scoping exercise but I state in clear terms that the Government is by no means opposed to the possibility of a further inquiry into the case if that is what Judge Haughton recommends. I have not placed any restriction on Judge Haughton, who is independent and will remain independent in the course of his inquiries, investigations, observations, deliberations and submissions. Like my Government colleagues and everyone else in this House, I wish to see questions answered to the satisfaction of the O'Farrell family.

Unfortunately, I am still not satisfied with the Minister's answer and he has just repeated what he said to me the first time. My question is how the instructions to Judge Haughton override the will of this House, which voted with a majority of two to one that there should be a commission of investigation into the events surrounding the death of Shane O'Farrell but the Minister still has not answered me on why he chose that path and if, at the end of the path, there will be consideration of the clear will of this House. Does Judge Haughton's independence go beyond the scope of the Dáil and does it mean he can ignore the will of Deputies?

The events in the lead-up to Shane O'Farrell's death are well known. The culprit was given a level of freedom by various courts, whether in Monaghan, Ardee, Dundalk or Newry. He was allowed scope to carry out reckless driving, probably after having taken drugs and drink, resulting in the death of this young man. That happened without anybody being able to take him into custody or conducting an inquiry. It is a real tragedy and the words of this Dáil should be heard.

I will allow a brief supplementary question from Deputy Ó Laoghaire.

I outlined previously how there are a number of difficulties with the announcement made by the Minister on Judge Haughton's approach. First, with the idea that it was not required in any event, the evidence clearly stacked up in favour of a public inquiry and the Minister could have proceeded directly to it. Second, the terms of reference were such that they steered Judge Haughton in the direction of only examining those matters which had not already been examined, despite the fact there were serious flaws with the investigations that had already taken place. I hope Judge Haughton listens to the family and comes back to the Minister seeking much broader terms of reference. The Minister could have avoided all of this by simply proceeding directly to a public inquiry.

I am intent on ensuring that everything possible is done to ensure the failings identified in any investigation are not repeated. The motion passed by the Dáil last year referred to the need to examine the actions of the Garda, the Director Public Prosecutions and the courts but I remind Deputies of the constitutional independence of the courts and the statutory independence of the Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions and GSOC. These are matters of importance that must be taken into consideration.

I assure the Deputies that the scoping exercise under the auspices and guidance of Judge Haughton will be an important part of ensuring that outstanding questions are answered. It is open to the judge to recommend any course of action following the scoping inquiry but I cannot envisage any circumstances where I would not be guided by the advices and findings of the judge.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.