Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

An Garda Síochána

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

120. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí in the Ballymun Garda district as of 1 November 2021 or the latest date available; the number in the 12 months previously; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57943/21]

Earlier this year, Dublin City Council published a report, titled Ballymun - A Brighter Future, which outlined the impact of the drugs industry on that community. Core to that report were actions which we believe many agencies, including An Garda Síochána, need to take. The resources An Garda Síochána has are crucial to the successful implementation of that report. Will the Minister of State outline the number of community gardaí available to the community of Ballymun at this time?

I thank Deputy McAuliffe for raising the important issue of the number of gardaí in the Ballymun Garda district. The Deputy has been very strong on this matter, both in this Chamber and behind the scenes.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible, under section 33 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, for the deployment of An Garda Síochána throughout the State. However, I am assured that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends to ensure their optimum use. I further understand that it is a matter for the divisional chief superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of each area within the division and its specific needs.

To date, the official categorisation of community garda has simply referred to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society, including through giving talks to schools, community groups and others. However, it is important to note that community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and that all gardaí have a role to play in community policing in the course of carrying out their duties. This is fundamental to the new Garda operating model recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and currently being rolled out under A Policing Service for Our Future, the Government's implementation plan for the commission's recommendations.

The recommendations of the report, Ballymun - A Brighter Future, are reflected in the objectives of the youth justice strategy which the Minister, Deputy McEntee, and I published in April 2021. These include the principle of diverting young people from antisocial and criminal behaviour, developing supports centred on the needs of children and young persons that take account of issues such as trauma, supporting young people in education and considering alternative approaches, where appropriate, and employing innovative approaches to help break cycles of offending, including multisystemic therapy and a specialised approach to combat coercive control of young people by criminal groups. In the most recent budget, we got an additional €6.7 million in the budget for our youth justice strategy, an increase of almost 40%.

I welcome the Minister of State's commitment to this issue along with that of his ministerial colleague. Deployment is a matter for the Garda Commissioner but, on his appointment, he said that crime is not like rain in that it does not fall evenly everywhere. It was therefore very surprising when we discovered, through the report, Ballymun - A Brighter Future, that the Dublin northern division has the eighth lowest number of gardaí among the 28 districts. If we remove the 50 gardaí who are based in Dublin Airport and are not available to the community, the division has the fourth lowest number of gardaí in the country. I appreciate it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner but it is a crucial matter in dealing with this report. Issues relating to open drug dealing undermine the confidence of the community in the entire system of the State. If people can see drugs being dealt openly on corners in their area and do not see An Garda Síochána acting on it, they will ask why the State is not responding. The matter is therefore crucial to the community's confidence in An Garda Síochána.

I again thank Deputy McAuliffe for raising the issue of the number of gardaí. As stated, the distribution and designation of members of An Garda Síochána is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and the local chief superintendent. However, everybody deserves to feel safe and be safe in their communities. We are absolutely committed to making our communities stronger, safer and more just. That is why we have significantly increased the resources available to An Garda Síochána to help tackle issues of crime in every community in the country. I am advised by Garda authorities that on 31 October 2021, the latest date for which figures are available, there was a total of seven community gardaí attached to the Garda station in Ballymun.

This is an increase of one on the same date in 2020. The Deputy may wish to further note that the total number of gardaí attached to the Ballymun district, as at 31 October 2021, is 257, which represents a 13% increase on the numbers allocated to the district in 2015.

I agree with the Deputy, though, that the level of open drug dealing visible in our communities must be tackled.

I appreciate the update from the Minister of State. It will help to continue to inform the implementation of the report. It does not, however, significantly increase the resources available to the community. I welcome, however, the Government's commitment to implementing this report on Ballymun. It is crucial that communities see reports like this being implemented rather than just being published.

I also record the commitment that the Taoiseach gave, when he met me, to engage with agencies in Ballymun regarding this report, to visit the constituency, as he did when he was a Minister and in opposition, and to meet the joint policing committee, including the elected and community representatives. We can solve the problems in Ballymun, Finglas and in many other communities, but we must do that with the resources of An Garda Síochána and the different State agencies. That includes Tusla, because if we make an impact during the first years of someone's life, then we can change an entire community.

The Deputy touched on an important point. Tackling the situation with drugs is not simply a matter for the Garda. A whole-of-community approach is required, including from all the State agencies. This broader, health-led response is key to the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm and Supporting Recovery, which is being led by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan. Gardaí in the area are working closely with the local authority, the HSE, NGOs, community groups, and other State agencies and through the implementation of the plan for a safer Ballymun and the Ballymun - A Brighter Future report.

In addition, the funding provided in the budget will mean that we will see an estimated 800 extra members of the Garda. By the end of 2022, therefore, there will be an estimated 14,600 fully-attested members of An Garda Síochána, with another 600 in training. The provision of additional civilian staff will equally help to release gardaí from administrative duties to front-line work. Therefore, we are going to see a significant increase in the numbers of gardaí, and it will be up to the Commissioner to ensure that those members of the Garda are distributed to those areas needing them the most.

An Garda Síochána

Ciaran Cannon

Question:

121. Deputy Ciarán Cannon asked the Minister for Justice her views in relation to the level and the trend in the detection rate for sexual offences in Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57747/21]

I am asking this question on behalf of Deputy Cannon to request the Minister for Justice to give her views on the level and trend in the detection rate for sexual offences in Ireland.

The Government and I, as the Minister for Justice, are committed to tackling sexual violence and sexual crime in all its forms. I wish to ensure, most importantly, that victims feel empowered to come forward to report sexual crimes and that when they do, they are fully supported in every step of the process and that their interaction with our justice system is as supportive as possible. I urge all victims of sexual crime, regardless of how it happened, to come forward and I reassure them that they will be treated respectfully and professionally. Sometimes, unfortunately, especially in a domestic setting, people feel that they cannot come forward. Separate to detection rates in general, then, the coming forward is the really difficult part for victims. Therefore, I urge everyone finding themselves in that situation to come forward.

The detection of and response to any criminal activity is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. I have been informed, however, that it is a function of the sexual crime management unit, SCMU, which is part of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, GNPSB, to examine incidents to identify factors leading to the withdrawal of complaints of rape by victims of such crimes.

In addressing the issue of chronically low detection rates, and they are very low, unfortunately, An Garda Síochána has implemented several initiatives to ensure that this cohort of extremely vulnerable victims receives the best possible service when they make contact. This includes: the completion of the roll-out of the national divisional protective services units, DPSUs, which are units that provide specialist, expert and sensitive assistance from members of An Garda Síochána; the establishment of the child sexual abuse report line, CSAR, 1800 555 222, which is overseen by the sexual crime management unit; and an increase in the number of members of the force at the ranks of garda and sergeant who are trained in the use of enhanced cognitive interviewing, which has been found to be less traumatic than the traditional method and more effective at capturing evidence. That work is under way within An Garda Síochána.

From my perspective, the Supporting a Victim’s Journey policy is crucial if we are going to encourage more victims to come forward. If people know that the criminal justice system will listen to and support them, treat them with respect throughout the process and that at the end of the process, those responsible will be punished, that will make people more likely to come forward.

I thank the Minister for her reply. What she said about the child sexual abuse report line is important. I ask her to restate the telephone number when she has the opportunity. I ask that because I am thinking in particular of a couple who were in touch with me, and with the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, when she held this portfolio for a time. Their complaint was that they had realised that a child had suffered sexual abuse, but that they did not know where to turn. They said as well that the system was well placed to support the alleged perpetrator but, as parents, they did not know what hospital to go to or where to go for help. Therefore, it is important to have a dedicated telephone report line that can be called, and that is easily accessible, easily found on Google and functions as a single port of call to provide all these elements of advice.

The detection rates in this area are concerning. The Minister will be aware that they hover between 10% and 20% each year. The point made by the Minister about the withdrawal of complaints is important, because that has a big effect on the Garda being able to issue a caution, a summons or anything else, or to progress a case. This is about supporting victims right through the process and at every stage of it.

While initial detection rates, as the Deputy rightly said, hover between 10% and 12%, they then potentially increase to 20% because the criminal justice process is lengthy and it often takes time for those statistics to adjust. Even if the rate reaches 20%, however, that is still far too low and not enough. What is particularly worrying, and I visited several divisional protective service units recently, is that the DPSUs have found that there has been a significant increase in historical cases coming forward. People feel now, perhaps, that they have somewhere to go, whereas before they did not because they might not have felt comfortable going to Garda stations.

There has also been a significant increase in the prevalence of images of child abuse images and of child abuse in general, and that is why this specific child sexual abuse report line has been established. The telephone number, again, is 1800 555 222. All these options are there and available to enable people to come forward to make their complaints and to ensure that they will see justice provided for what they have gone through. The Supporting a Victim’s Journey policy recognises that the first port of call and the first point of contact is often the most important. Therefore, we have updated our website and the victims' charter to ensure that when people log in, no matter where they are in the country, they will have a clear line of sight of who to go to and where and of what supports are available. That is key.

I return to the child sexual abuse report line, because the disparity in power is so great between the parents of a young child and an alleged perpetrator. I refer to the example of a well-documented case, that has concluded and that was in the papers over time. The initial hours in this regard are crucial. I refer to being sent to the right hospital, the child being interviewed in the correct way at an early stage and receiving the right supports. That is what will make the difference, potentially, in some cases, in a generalised way, between a conviction being possible and not. The collection of evidence, in a generalised way, in all cases is so important. I urge the Minister, if she has not already had the opportunity, although I am sure she has, to ensure that this child sexual abuse report line leads to this type of one-stop-shop for imagining being a parent in that situation. The supports required by a parent in such an exceptionally difficult situation must be linked together, from Tusla through to the health system and to An Garda Síochána, to make life as easy as possible.

What has become increasingly clear to me following the publication of the O'Malley report last year and my engagement with victims and with the criminal justice system is that it is not child friendly and is not an encouraging, welcoming or warm place for a family or for children to come forward to. Therefore, everything required must be done to change that situation, including, for example, ensuring that specialist interview suites are available as close as possible to where people live, so that they do not have to travel for hours with a child to a different and new environment. It is also important to ensure that when people are going through the criminal justice system that they are supported. Particularly important in that regard is the development of intermediaries and specifically-trained experts who can support children and other vulnerable people as they go through the criminal justice system. That is a key priority in the Supporting A Victim's Journey policy. A specialist educational programme is being developed in the University of Limerick, UL, which will train such intermediaries, because we have a massive deficit in that overall number. In addition, it is important to ensure that our Judiciary, legal teams and members of the Garda are trained in the best way possible to support and to work with young children as they go through what is such a traumatic time. There is much work to do, but we are making a great deal of progress.

Antisocial Behaviour

Seán Haughey

Question:

122. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice the initiatives that are being taken to tackle antisocial behaviour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57947/21]

The problem of antisocial behaviour is an ongoing one. I am particularly interested in and concerned about antisocial behaviour on public transport. I would be interested to know what initiatives are being taken to tackle antisocial behaviour generally, particularly since the Government came into office last year.

I thank Deputy Haughey for raising this important matter. I can assure the Deputy that the Government is determined to tackle antisocial behaviour. Our communities deserve to feel safe and to be safe and our three local community safety partnerships being piloted in Dublin north inner city, Waterford and Longford are designed to identify the issues causing communities to feel unsafe and to address them through a collaborative approach. I am very conscious of the negative effect that antisocial behaviour can have on the quality of life for individuals and for local communities.

In line with a commitment in the programme for Government, I established an expert forum on antisocial behaviour last year. This forum is considering the effectiveness of existing legislation and looking at proposals for new ways forward, including whether new powers for gardaí and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders are needed. A subgroup of the forum has recently been established to examine the issue of knife crime. This follows a previous subgroup which examined the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes. Everything we are doing in respect of antisocial behaviour is designed to identify whether greater legislation or Garda powers are needed but also the kind of supports we can put into the community to divert people away from carrying out antisocial behaviour.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is responsible under the law for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, which includes the planning and deployment of Garda resources in response to crime trends. I as Minister of State have no direct role in those decisions. I am assured however that An Garda Síochána continues to implement high visibility policing plans to address public disorder related issues and antisocial behaviour, with particular overt and targeted policing of public places at times when public order incidents and antisocial behaviour typically increase, such as bank holiday weekends.

In particular, An Garda Síochána commenced Operation Citizen on 22 October. This operation is focused on reassuring the public, residents, visitors, businesses and workers that Dublin city centre is a positive and safe environment. Particular focus is being placed on antisocial behaviour, public order and quality of life issues, assaults and high-volume crimes.

I thank the Minister of State. I am aware that my parliamentary question is a broad one. I would like to narrow it down to antisocial behaviour in the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, north and specifically on public transport, especially the DART. Gangs on the DART can be very intimidating and threatening to our transport workers but also to female passengers travelling on their own, especially at night time. What is being done to address this problem? The Garda needs to liaise more with the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann on the matter. More gardaí need to be allocated to a dedicated policing unit within An Garda Síochána to deal with this unacceptable behaviour. I am aware that ballots are taking place for strike action by some staff who feel very threatened by this behaviour. It is an ongoing problem. In recent months, incidents are becoming increasingly intimidating, threatening and aggressive. I would be interested to hear the Minister of State's thoughts on this.

I understand the Deputy's concerns. The distribution of An Garda Síochána and the role it is going to play is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and the chief superintendent within each particular area. I can advise that as of 31 October, the latest date for which we have figures, there were 781 Garda members assigned to the DMR north division. This represents an increase of over 15% since December 2016 when there were 660 members. I am also informed that there is ongoing communication between An Garda Síochána and the respective control centres and access to good-quality CCTV, which can assist the Garda when investigating serious incidents. In that regard, Irish Rail plans to install more CCTV cameras and to increase security patrols on DART carriages. A text alert system has also been introduced by Irish Rail to facilitate customers to discreetly report any incidents as they develop on rail services. Further to this, since the start of 2021 the Garda national public order unit has been deployed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at times when antisocial behaviour and reports of public disorder are at their peak. This unit provides invaluable support and assistance to front-line gardaí in tackling antisocial behaviour and criminality on board public transport.

We are aware there is a problem in Dublin city centre but there is also a problem in the suburbs, particularly in high amenity areas, especially on public transport, during the summer but also at Hallowe'en and on bank holiday weekends, as the Minister of State has said. Operation Citizen was launched in Dublin city centre recently. Would the Minister of State agree that we need more high-visibility patrols, foot patrols and mountain bike patrols in areas where public order offences are occurring, as well as an increased role for community policing to tackle this problem? I welcome the Minister of State's remark that he has established a special expert forum on antisocial behaviour and I will continue to monitor that and await developments. I am also aware that the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland has something to say about this matter. What progress is being made in respect of the proposed new policing, security and community safety Bill? I think it was mentioned somewhere along the line. It should be brought forward as soon as possible.

I assure the Deputy in respect of proposed legislation that we are advancing all legislation as quickly as possible. The Department of Justice, the Minister, Deputy McEntee, and I have moved a significant volume of legislation through the Houses already. I am advised by An Garda Síochána that the focus of Operation Twintrack is pro-engagement with a high level of visibility at train stations and on rail networks. I am further advised that An Garda Síochána in collaboration with Irish Rail and Transdev Ireland have planned four national community engagement and rail safety partnership days of operation beginning on 8 December 2021. Due to an increase in Covid-19 cases, this event has been postponed, unfortunately. As this phase of the operation has not taken place, it is not possible to provide any measurable outcomes to the Deputy in respect of the operation.. I can tell the Deputy that every step is being taken, whether through antisocial behaviour measures, youth justice, legislation or increased resources. For example, funding has been provided for an additional 100 mountain bikes in the most recent budget, as well as an additional 800 members of the Garda Síochána. We are approaching this from every possible angle to address the antisocial behaviour that has been happening in Dublin.

An Garda Síochána

Joe Flaherty

Question:

123. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí in the Roscommon-Longford division; the number of community gardaí in the Westmeath division; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57983/21]

Following on from a theme raised by Deputy Haughey, I ask the Minister of State to give details of the number of community gardaí in the Roscommon-Longford and Westmeath divisions and, if possible, to make a statement on same.

I thank Deputy Flaherty for bringing up this very important matter. I know it is something the Deputy has raised on a number of occasions. As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including the deployment of gardaí. As Minister of State, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured however that Garda management keeps the distribution of Garda members under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure An Garda Síochána is optimally positioned to keep our communities safe.

To date, the official categorisation as a community garda has simply referred to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society, including giving talks to schools, community groups and others. As I have previously stated, it is important to note however that community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and that all members of the Garda have a role to play in community policing in the course of carrying out their duties. Indeed, this is at the heart of the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which are being implemented under the plan, A Policing Service for our Future, and the policing, security and community safety Bill will enshrine this in legislation.

I can inform the Deputy that as at 31 October 2021, there were 11 Garda members, comprising three sergeants and eight gardaí, categorised as community gardaí in the Roscommon-Longford Garda division. I can further inform the Deputy that as at the same date, there were seven Garda members, comprising two sergeants and five gardaí, categorised as community gardaí in the Westmeath Garda division. The Deputy may wish to further note that there are currently 300 gardaí assigned to the Roscommon-Longford division as a whole and 262 gardaí assigned to the Westmeath division. As I have stated, community policing is at the heart of everything all of these members of the Garda do in the course of their duties.

As the Deputy will be aware, budget 2022 will see over €2 billion allocated to An Garda Síochána next year. This funding will include provision for the recruitment of 800 new Garda recruits and additional Garda staff, subject to the public health situation. This increase in the number of Garda members and staff will deliver significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide and improved services to the public generally.

I thank the Minister of State for the response. We all agree community policing is very much at the front line and has proven itself to be extremely effective over the past decade in tackling antisocial and street crime.

Through a parliamentary question earlier this year, I asked for the number of gardaí in County Longford. The response was that there had been 139 gardaí in the county as of 30 September. I am concerned that this figure includes those who were injured on duty and those on long-term sick leave, officers who are incapacitated and not yet pensioned off, officers working in offices owing to chief medical officer certification because of incapacitation, and gardaí still assigned to County Longford but who are operating in other roles. Although I am aware that deployment is an operational matter for the Garda, it is important that we get a definite figure for the number of gardaí operating across the country to reassure the public.

I thank the Deputy for consistently raising the importance of Garda deployment in his area and for supporting the organisation there. The distribution of members of the Garda throughout the country is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, and the designation of members of the Garda within the divisions is a matter for the chief superintendent. We have seen a significant increase in funding for the Garda this year through the budget. There is funding to support an additional 800 members, in addition to another 400 civilian staff. The latter will help to release members of An Garda Síochána from administrative duty to do front-line work. All the increases will help the Commissioner in distributing additional gardaí right across the country, including, I have no doubt, the Deputy’s constituency. I do not have the specific numbers the Deputy is seeking on those gardaí who may be out sick or otherwise not on duty.

I thank the Minister of State. It is important that we place on record our gratitude to An Garda Síochána, particularly throughout the Covid period. It has been a very difficult period for it. Many officers have been affected by Covid, and their families have been affected as a consequence.

With regard to the 139 gardaí assigned to County Longford as of 30 September, that figure is in the round very good, suggesting there is a garda for every 208 people in the county; however, I revert to the point I made about officers who are currently incapacitated, restricted to office duty and assigned to other roles. For the integrity of the entire Garda operation, and to reassure the public, it is important that we get from the Garda Commissioner a clear and concise figure pertaining to the number of gardaí operating in the various districts across the region at any given time.

The distribution of gardaí is a matter for Garda senior management. I hope the 800 additional members of the Garda funded through this year’s budget will mean additional resources right across the country. In fact, I have no doubt about this. There will be an estimated 14,600 fully attested members of An Garda Síochána and 600 in training, putting us on course to meet our target of 15,000 sworn members of An Garda Síochána throughout this country. That will be important. I cannot provide the detail the Deputy is seeking on individual cases and on whether particular gardaí are out sick or deskbound. Perhaps there are general data protection regulation, GDPR, difficulties associated with gaining access to that type of information. I have no doubt, however, that the Garda Commissioner will keep all areas under consideration in respect of the support they need. I have no doubt that the Garda Commissioner accounts for every set of circumstances, particularly availability for operational duties, when considering the distribution of gardaí right across the country.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems

Joe Flaherty

Question:

124. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Justice the plans in place for the expansion of Garda CCTV; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57984/21]

This follows on from a similar theme, that of community policing. What plans has the Minister of State in place for the expansion of Garda CCTV? Could he make a statement on the matter if possible?

I thank Deputy Flaherty for raising the important matter of the expansion of Garda CCTV. We are aware of how important CCTV has become in detecting crime. As the Deputy may be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling generally the administration, budget and business of An Garda Síochána, which includes responsibility for Garda CCTV. As Minister of State, I have no direct role in this matter.

The Commissioner authorises CCTV for the purpose of securing public order and safety in public places by facilitating the deterrence, prevention, detection and prosecution of offences under section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Section 38(3)(a) provides for Garda CCTV schemes operated by An Garda Síochána. I am informed by the Garda authorities that a total of 43 Garda schemes, covering over 700 locations, have received authorisation for operation around the country. I am further informed that while there are no plans at this time to expand the current Garda CCTV schemes, the schemes are being reviewed by the Garda National Community Engagement Bureau, GNCEB.

In addition to providing for schemes operated by the Garda, section 38(3)(c) provides for community CCTV schemes in collaboration with local authorities, community groups and An Garda Síochána. As the Deputy may be aware, my Department also provides grant aid for the establishment of such schemes, and there are currently 34 community CCTV schemes in place nationally.

Grant funding can be considered only for community CCTV systems that meet the legal obligations and requirements. In other words, CCTV systems that have been approved by the relevant joint policing committee and local authority – also acting as data controller – and which have received the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

If the Deputy is aware of groups that wish to avail of the grant aid scheme, further details are available to download from my Department's website. Support and guidance are also available through a dedicated email address to help interested groups.

As the Deputy will be aware, the general scheme of the Garda Síochána (digital recording) Bill was published on 27 April. When enacted, this legislation will replace section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. This Bill will also cover CCTV authorised in local communities by the Garda Commissioner. I intend to conduct a further review of the terms and conditions of the current community CCTV scheme to bring it into line with the proposals for this new legislation and in keeping with the commitment in the programme for Government.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit. I thank the Minister of State for his response. We all agree that the three planks of crime prevention and investigation are Garda numbers, technology, and surveillance and information. It is important that we keep abreast of technology. The more money we can invest and the more CCTV schemes we can put in place, the better. The schemes comprise one of the most important deterrents, particularly regarding low-level street crime and antisocial behaviour. I am concerned that there are no plans to invest further in the Garda-specific schemes. I hope that can be reviewed. CCTV gives the community at large great reassurance and lets it know there is an additional arm in place, but it does not replace boots on the streets and what we spoke about earlier, namely strong and effective community policing.

CCTV schemes have an important role to play in deterrence, prevention, detection and the prosecution of offences. My Department is currently funding a community CCTV scheme for a group in Longford town and will provide a once-off maintenance grant to it. My Department has received no applications for community CCTV funding in counties Roscommon and Westmeath, but any applications will be given due consideration. The new Garda Síochána (digital recording) Bill, the general scheme of which has been published, will be advanced as quickly as possible in this respect. It will be a matter for the Garda Commissioner to determine where future Garda CCTV schemes are necessary and appropriate for the deterrence, prevention, detection and prosecution of offences.

I thank the Minister of State. We are very much aware of the investment in the CCTV system for the Garda in Longford town. Work is ongoing on the expansion of the Garda station there. As part of that development, there will be a CCTV control room, which will be a state-of-the-art operation for local gardaí. This has reassured the Longford public at large. We are very fortunate in Longford that we have a very effective community policing team and this, in tandem with the CCTV programme, will be a genuine step forward.

We have had great success in dealing with low-level street crime and antisocial behaviour on estates, and much of that has been boosted and assisted through community-led CCTV projects. I emphasise, as I said earlier, that we cannot invest enough in this. I appreciate all that has been done so far. Over the coming months, when we open the new extension to the station, I know the Minister, Deputy McEntee, will be down and will see for herself the huge work that has been done on the ground and the enthusiasm of the local force and its determination to move forward towards a safer Longford.

As I stated, there are no community CCTV schemes in Westmeath or Roscommon, but if the Deputy is aware of groups that wish to avail of the grant aid scheme, further details, as I said, are available on the website.

With CCTV schemes come data protection challenges. The schemes have to be done very carefully and legally. The Garda Síochána (digital recording) Bill, the general scheme of which was published in April, will enable my Department to address the important data controller concerns that have been raised by the Data Protection Commissioner. That Bill is at pre-legislative scrutiny stage with the justice committee, and I have no doubt but that the committee will advance the scheme as quickly as possible. When we move the scheme forward, it will bring new changes, including a requirement that the Garda Commissioner develop a code of practice for CCTV, which will set out the procedures and standards to be followed and the new rules relating to confidentiality, security, storage, access and retention of data and data subject rights.

We are very much of the view that CCTV schemes form an important part of detection and protection of our communities, but they must be done in a manner that is appropriate and legal.

International Protection

Seán Canney

Question:

125. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide an update on the Afghan admission programme; the number of applications that have been received; the timeline for dealing with such applications; if her attention has been drawn to the urgency of many of the cases; if applications are being streamlined according to urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57812/21]

I seek an update on the Afghan admission programme, the number of applications that have been received, the timeline for dealing with such applications and whether the Minister's attention has been drawn to the fact that many of these cases are urgent. It is important that we remember what happened in Afghanistan and that we do everything we can to facilitate people who want to come to this country.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I too share his concerns for the Afghan people and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. I think we all share those concerns.

In response, Ireland has acted swiftly and compassionately to demonstrate our support. While we can all be concerned, we need to show actual support and solidarity with the Afghan people. My Department continues to work closely with colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to ensure that a co-ordinated national response ensues.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has approved my Department's proposal for an additional initiative, that is, a specific Afghan admission programme, which will provide places for up to 500 Afghan family members to travel to Ireland. Each applicant will have an opportunity to nominate up to four family members who are currently residing in Afghanistan or who have fled to neighbouring territories and whose freedom or safety the applicant considers to be especially at risk. The programme, including the detailed eligibility criteria and the application process, is not open yet. My Department is finalising that process with a view to opening it for applications in the coming weeks. I appreciate the urgency with which we need to do this. Our objective is to ensure that the options considered are as inclusive as possible and that the programme is available to those who require our help the most. The clearer the application process is made at the outset, the quicker my Department will be able to process applications, which will be in the best interests of everyone concerned.

The creation of this programme, I stress, is unique to date in the EU and was welcomed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, as a very welcome commitment on the part of Ireland that will bring much-needed solace to Afghans here who are worried about their relatives abroad. I know that many are extremely worried.

In the meantime, I assure the Deputy that all current immigration avenues remain open to new applications. These include visa and family reunification applications. More than 750 Afghan nationals have been granted permission to reside in the State so far this year alone. There are, therefore, other avenues available, but I appreciate the urgency with which this scheme is required. We will set out the terms as quickly as possible and open it up to people as soon as possible.

I commend the Minister and her Department on setting up the scheme. It is not only humanitarian but also reflects our own history and the fact that when we were in trouble we found it hard to go to other countries. It is important we take that on board. I understand that the scheme is unique and has to be done properly in order that, when it is put in place, it actually works and does not just become a bureaucratic nightmare for the applicants trying to get there. I also acknowledge the input of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in all this. It is important we do this right. That may be why it is taking time, but I urge that the scheme be put in place as quickly as possible. The fact that 750 Afghans have been successful in their applications through other channels this year is also welcome news.

The Deputy is right that, as a nation, we have travelled to every corner of the world and understand how important it is to be welcomed when we go to another country. We are trying to make sure that this process is as easy and as straightforward as possible, that those who need it the most can apply and that their family members can apply on their behalf. We do not want families to be split up so we will make sure that that does not happen. The Deputy asked how we can prioritise those who are most at risk. We know there are certain groups of people, in particular women and children, who are more at risk. That said, if a family comprises a father, mother and children, obviously they will not be separated. We need to balance a speedy application process with the need to make sure that we have robust measures in place and that we can establish the beneficiaries and their relationship with the sponsoring family here in Ireland. That is very clear. We have to balance the need for this to be done quickly and as easily and as openly as possible for people with, obviously, the regulations that need to be put in place. I assure the Deputy that the timeline we are aiming for is mid-December, which is not too far away. I will provide the Deputy with details of the programme as soon as I can.

I thank the Minister for her response. I welcome the fact that she hopes to have the scheme in place before the Dáil recess. It is also important we understand there are Afghan people living in this country - especially, as the Minister said, women and children - who have family members in the homeland and who are seriously concerned and stressed out about what will happen to them. I therefore welcome the fact that this is being finalised now and hope that when it does open, it will run efficiently, taking into account all the constraints that have to be dealt with and the security issues surrounding all this. It is great that this is being done. As the Minister said, it is unique and sets a standard for other countries to do the same thing. I again compliment the Minister on that. I look forward to seeing the detail of the scheme when it is published in the coming weeks.

I thank the Deputy for his comments. I hope we will see something similar replicated across other member states. Other countries are doing their bit as well and trying to ensure that Afghan nationals, in particular those at risk, are protected. The scheme will essentially provide lawful residence on a temporary basis for up to two years, but it is important to add that it may be possible to renew the permission after that period or to apply for different immigration permission. The time people have spent in Ireland will be considered as reckonable residence for the purpose of making a citizenship application. Not only are we trying to take people out of danger; if people come here and make a new life, as so often is the case, and contribute to our society, we are trying to ensure there is a clear path for them to be able to settle down and become citizens of this country. It is really important that they see this not just as a stopgap but that it has the potential to lead to something really secure and safe for them and their families into the future.

Departmental Reports

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

126. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice the status of the implementation of recommendations contained in a report (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57834/21]

I hope Members were as lucky as me in getting tickets to Garth Brooks this morning.

To move on to something far more serious, my question is about the implementation of the recommendations of the report referred to in the question. We had the scoping exercise, the Guerin report, the implementation report and the difficulties in forming the implementation board. We all know the damage, the terror and the tragedy caused by the drug gangs in Drogheda. The question is about delivering on the recommendations of those reports.

I thought the Deputy was going to tell me he had convinced Garth Brooks to come to Drogheda, but I do not think that is case.

Or Dundalk.

As the Deputy will be aware, the publication and implementation of the recommendations of the Drogheda scoping report are key actions in my Department's justice plan for 2021. They are certainly a priority for me, as I know they are for the Deputy and others. I am grateful to the former director of the Probation Service, Mr. Vivian Geiran, who made over 70 recommendations in his scoping report on short- and long-term responses to challenges the community faces in Drogheda. We know, and we have seen, the challenges that the community faces there, but also the huge amount of community spirit that exists. The reason we are going to make significant progress is because of the work that we will do with the community. It includes measures around crime prevention, youth services, drug addiction, education, infrastructure and community development. The recommendations highlight the need for improved inter-agency co-operation in the administration and delivery of State services in Drogheda and the surrounding areas, as well as the need to provide additional resources, money and services in certain areas where they do not exist or where they need to be expanded or supported more.

In July, the acting Minister of Justice, Deputy Humphreys, obtained Government approval for an implementation plan for the report. The Government also committed to a special focus on Drogheda, including Departments and State agencies prioritising necessary funding applications for projects related to the Drogheda implementation plan. I am aware it is extremely important for the groups, that where there is a request or an ask, Departments prioritise it. The Government has signed off and agreed to that.

The implementation plan identifies the relevant stakeholders for each recommendation and outlines the next steps for engagement and delivery. The plan will be a living, breathing document and will be reviewed by my Department each quarter, with progress reports produced twice yearly. This will facilitate ongoing engagement and consultation. My Department has completed the first internal quarterly review and the first progress report will be produced within the first six months of the implementation plan in quarter 1 of 2022.

There have already been some very positive steps in the plan. The Department of Education has provided supports to the three schools identified in the report, and my Department has provided further funding to the Red Door Project to ensure the continued provision of other important services. Funding has also been committed to the Moneymore Consortium to support its planning work, and to the Moneymore Childcare Centre to ensure the continuation of services. Additional funding is also being allocated. Perhaps I will touch on the structure in my next response.

We have all had multiple conversations on the necessity for multi-agency cross-departmental pieces of work that must be done to deal with the issue we have, which is caused by drug gangs and organised crime and the issues they cause in communities, particularly in working class communities. Obviously, the issue blew up in Drogheda, in particular. In fairness, a significant amount has been done and a significant number of promises have been made at this stage. We all accept that there must be early interventions at a community level and particularly at a family level, which is lacking across the board. I accept that some work is being done on increasing funding in relation to diversion projects. However, I am going to bring up again the issue of the family addiction support network, which deals directly with drug debt intimidation and provides supports for families who find themselves in such situations and who are dealing with addiction. There are difficulties at this point in time in relation to funding. We are aware of the moves made by the HSE and others towards groups operating at a State level. They talk about governance, but we really need to look at the ground-up operation.

The only way this will work is by providing additional funding and supports through our national and Government bodies and agencies, but also by supporting the community groups which have been doing a fantastic job over the last number of years. There is a space for them to work in parallel and in tandem with the State agencies. We have spoken about the agency that the Deputy specifically mentioned before. My Department is engaging directly with the HSE on it. We will ensure that the support it needs, whether it is through funding from my Department or from the HSE, is provided to it in the same way that support is being provided to other organisations, not just from my Department of Justice, which often specifically focuses on victims of crime, but from other sources of funding.

On the structure, the first meeting of the implementation board has happened. I subsequently met with the board, Deputies Ó Murchú, O'Dowd and Nash, former Senator Imelda Henry and others. I have since met with the community groups, which clearly stated that they wanted to ensure that there was a community representative on the implementation board. Following the appointment of the co-ordinator, which is happening this week, she will meet with the community groups, which can identify representatives to sit on the board. Of course, as we know, the subgroups are already being rolled out. Therefore, there are many layers to the plan. The community is involved at every stage, supported by my Department, all Government agencies and local representatives.

It is really good news that the co-ordinator is being appointed, because that was a missing piece of work. We must ensure that the Drogheda implementation board is able to deliver upon the promises that are contained within the plan. Obviously, it goes without saying that community representation is required. There must be buy-in from the ground up. We know there is a difficulty, and every group the Minister talks to across the State will say that is has become more difficult to deal with State agencies.

The Red Door Project, whatever the difficulties, has spoken well of the engagement with the Minister's Department. I am really glad that the Minister is taking a lead and is going to engage with the HSE and others. We need to deliver on the necessary funding for the likes of the family addiction support network, which is used by the Garda. I will chase that up with the Minister later. I ask the Minister to provide a roadmap, or battle plan, setting out how we go forward in relation to the vital pillars that we need to deliver on, and to deliver what should be a template for how we work in other major towns and cities across the State in dealing with the drugs pandemic.

I will not set out what the group is going to do or tell it what it needs to do. However, I think the actions are very clear. The subgroups have been created on the basis of those actions, the needs and requirements. I must say, following the publication of the report, any engagement that my Department has had with the other Departments has been very positive and forthcoming. Indeed, the members of the localised implementation group, which includes members of the local council, Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan, representatives of the education board, Tusla and other agencies, have been very forthcoming and willing and really want to ensure that this works. Obviously, as Minister, I want to ensure it works. We will support the group however we can to ensure that it can work on the issues it has identified.

In that regard, the creation of a new fund of €2 million, which is specifically going to support groups that identify ways in which they can make their communities safer, is an extra layer. If a group identifies something that does not exist but that it feels would work for the community, it can apply for that funding. There is a lot of work going on. I look forward to looking with the Deputy and other colleagues as that work continues.

Fishing Industry

Mick Barry

Question:

127. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice if she will consider permitting the regularisation of fishers in the atypical scheme for non-EEA workers on stamp 4 equivalent status given the fact that those who are undocumented in the sector may be able to avail of a stamp 4 status through a scheme to regularise undocumented status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57952/21]

Will the Minister for Justice consider permitting the regularisation of fishers in the atypical scheme for non-EEA workers on stamp 4 equivalent status, given the fact that those who are undocumented in the sector may be able to avail of a stamp 4 status through a scheme to regularise undocumented status will she make a statement on the matter?

As the Deputy is aware, the atypical working scheme was established as a cross-departmental response to address the matter of non-EEA workers on certain categories of vessels in the Irish fishing fleet who are not currently eligible for permission under the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment employment permit system.

The scheme provided, for the first time, a framework for the employment of non-EEA workers within defined segments of the Irish fishing fleet and was welcomed as a solution to the risk of exploitation, and importantly, to guarantee employment rights and protections to non-EEA fishers availing of the scheme. The Minister of State, Deputy Browne, discussed the atypical working scheme for non-EEA fishers with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue and the Minister of State, Deputy English, and it was agreed that a review of the scheme would be carried out. Officials from our three Departments have held initial discussions on the review and will be engaging further to take this work forward as a priority.

In the interim, there are a number of other immigration avenues available to deal with any issues of concern. Those who wish to change employer within the sector of the fishing industry covered by the scheme can apply to my Department to do so. There is also ministerial discretion to grant a change of immigration status on a case-by-case basis, where this is requested by an applicant.

Regarding the regularisation scheme for long-term undocumented people mentioned specifically by the Deputy, my Department is still finalising the details of the scheme. This includes the eligibility considerations and qualifying criteria. The intention is to bring a proposal to Government in the coming weeks and to publish the details of the scheme before the year is out. The Deputy will appreciate that the details of the scheme are still being worked out. We are trying to make it as expansive and inclusive as possible, also taking into account that there are a significant number of other avenues for individuals to take in trying to regularise their status or to continue regularising a status that they currently obtain or hold. We are trying to ensure that as many people are supported as possible in this industry in general.

There are thousands of undocumented workers who have been on the edge of their seats all year since the scheme was flagged, hoping there was a path that might improve their situation. The fact that the Department did not announce the details as promised in September, and has still not announced the details, has only added to the anxiety.

My question focuses on a likely unfair anomaly in the proposed scheme that will impact on non-EEA fishers but it may well have similar impact in other sectors. It has been worked out so that there is a chance to correct it before the problem emerges. Like many other workers who have never been documented and have been here for four years or more, it is likely that a number of fishers will be able to avail of the documentation scheme on the basis of the information we have. Potential anomaly number one is that it is not clear if those fishers who are currently undocumented but who may have been enrolled in the atypical scheme within the last four-year timeframe are to be excluded. I am aware that the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland co-ordinated a letter to the Minister's office signed by a host of NGOs, unions and even some employer groups citing this concern as it exists across the board among undocumented workers in all sectors. Will the Minister comment on that?

I will comment on the timeline. We gave a commitment in the programme for Government to implement a new scheme within 18 months. While we are slightly shy of that, the scheme will open in the new year. I give that commitment. I am aware that people are anxious and nervous and want to know that it will open when we say it will. It will open in the new year. There may have been slight delays in that we wanted to engage as much as possible and I wanted to make the scheme as inclusive as possible to make sure that when it opens the systems and structures are in place so that people will not be waiting years for their status to be regularised.

I do not want to get into the details of the scheme because we have not published it yet. I do not want to speculate on what may or may not be in it. It is an undocumented scheme but we have also tried to take into account the fact that there are many different scenarios and different situations that people find themselves in. It is not as straightforward as one might think or that a person is here for a length of time and is undocumented and that is it. We are trying to take all of these things into account. Obviously, by working with the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland, and all of the organisations, we have been doing that. I hope to publish the details of the scheme in the coming weeks.

I stress again that there are still other avenues for people to avail of. Unfortunately, the fact is that no matter what scheme one opens there will always be somebody on the wrong side of the line. We have to draw a line somewhere. I am trying to make it as inclusive as possible.

Given that the publication of the scheme is a bit down the road yet, let us make sure that the anomalies are dealt with. Anomaly number two is the patent unfairness of a situation whereby an undocumented fisher potentially has a clear path to avail of the scheme and obtain the visa stamp 4 that comes with it, freeing that person to work for any employer in any sector, a crew mate who is currently enrolled in the atypical scheme and who may well have been enrolled in the scheme for four years or more, will be denied access to the scheme and is condemned to remain on a comparatively disadvantageous visa stamp one, which must be renewed annually and ties the person to one employer, which often does not result in good treatment. Can the Minister see the potential unfairness and divisiveness that could be contained in this scheme, and that she still has time to avert this while the details are finalised?

I received a letter from the Taoiseach last week, clearly drafted by somebody from the Minister's Department, where they rolled back on what the Taoiseach said to me in the Dáil, and specifically said that fishers in the atypical scheme will be excluded. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that this is not the case, and to give the fishers in the atypical work permit scheme equal access to a visa stamp 4.

I must stress that this is an undocumented scheme. We gave a commitment to introduce the scheme within the first 18 months. I have committed with the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, and others, to make it as inclusive as possible. There are other avenues for people to avail of to try to regularise their status. While we are trying to make it as inclusive as possible, if we were to take on board the fact that there will be different scenarios where some people can avail of it and some people cannot, we would never introduce the scheme because no matter what scheme we have seen in the past, including, for example, student visa schemes and various others, there will always be somebody who is not included in it for whatever reason. If we were not to carry out scheme for that reason it would be a shame for the many thousands of people who will be able to avail of it. We are trying to make it as broad as possible to make sure as many people are included in it, but we must have set criteria. Unfortunately, it will be the case that not everybody will fall under that criteria. Where they do not fall under the criteria, every effort will be made to make sure that their current status be regularised, or otherwise, and that they are supported in making sure that they can maintain that, and progress on to further status if that is required.

Questions Nos. 128 and 129 replied to with Written Answers.

Gabhaim buíochas. Tá cúpla nóiméad fágtha agus glaoim ar an Teachta Ó Snodaigh.

An Garda Síochána

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

130. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Dlí agus Cirt cén fáth nach bhfuil freagra aici go fóill dom ar mo cheisteanna faoin ísliú stádais a thug sí don Ghaeilge sa Gharda Síochána, go háirithe Ceisteanna Parlaiminte uimhir 536 agus 537 a cuireadh uirthi an 9 Samhain 2021, in ainneoin go raibh an tAire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán in ann eolas a thabhairt dúinn maidir leis an gceist chéanna ina freagra ar Cheist uimhir 308, a cuireadh uirthi an lá céanna; an bhfreagróidh sí na ceisteanna sin anois; agus cén fáth a bhfuair sí réidh le riachtanas Gaeilge don Gharda Síochána agus do Choimisinéir an Gharda Síochána, tar éis di a admháil go bhfuil gá cur leis an nGaeilge san eagraíocht, tar éis gur sháraigh siad an dlí de réir tuarascála ón gCoimisinéir Teanga a leagadh faoi bhráid Thithe an Oireachtais. [57953/21]

Baineann an cheist seo leis an athrú atá tarlaithe agus atá déanta ag an Aire maidir leis an scrúdú béil Gaeilge sa Gharda Síochána nuair a ardaítear duine ó leibhéal ghnáthgharda go dtí leibhéal sáirsint agus cén fáth gur tharla an t-athrú sin?

I will respond to the Deputy in English if that is okay. I regret that the Deputy has not received the response on time. I signed off on it so the Deputy should have had it at this stage. I apologise for the delay.

I can inform the Deputy that promotions to the ranks of sergeant and inspector in An Garda Síochána are governed by An Garda Síochána regulations of 2021. The new regulations mark a fundamental change by providing promotion competitions to the supervisory ranks of sergeant and inspector, which have previously been managed internally by An Garda Síochána, will for the first time be managed through the independent Public Appointments Service, PAS. An Garda Síochána (Amendment) Act requires that I as the Minister for Justice would consult with the Garda Commissioner and the Policing Authority prior to requesting Government approval to bring regulations concerning the operational matters of An Garda Síochána into effect.

The regulations were finalised following extensive engagement between my Department, the Public Appointments Service and An Garda Síochána, and in consultation with the Policing Authority and the associations. The previous regulations governing promotion to the sergeant rank required candidates to have passed a proficiency test in Irish and in the Irish language. As the Deputy is aware, entrants to An Garda Síochána already undergo extensive training, which includes training for proficiency in Irish. Following consultations between my Department, An Garda Síochána and the Policing Authority and the Public Appointments Service, it was agreed that the achievement of a 50% grade in the oral competency examination was not an essential requirement for candidates to be eligible for promotion to the ranks of sergeant or inspector. This was done in best keeping with other practice for other promotional competitions across the public sector, and also to ensure that we have as diverse a pool of candidates coming forward as possible, particularly for those promotion opportunities.

Development of the regulations was informed by the 2015 An Garda Síochána Inspectorate report Changing Policing in Ireland, which recommended establishing new promotions and selection processes, and by the 2015 audit by the Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments, which found that An Garda Síochána regulations were outdated and needed to be reviewed.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as an freagra sin. Fuair mé an freagra tar éis dom an cheist a chur isteach ach ní dhéileálann an freagra leis an gceist i gceart. Is í an cheist atá curtha ar an Aire ná sula ndearna sí an t-ordú a shíniú, ar labhair sí leis an Aire Stáit le freagracht i leith chúrsaí Ghaeilge agus Gaeltachta nó ar labhair sí leis an gCoimisinéir Teanga mar is ait go raibh Coimisinéir an Gharda Síochána os comhair Chomhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus Phobal Labhartha na Gaeilge agus níor luaigh sé go raibh an t-athrú seo ag tarlú. Is a mhalairt de threo a bhí sé ag caint faoi nuair a bhí sé os ár gcomhair. Níl a fhios agam cén fáth nach bhfuil an lámh ar chlé ag labhairt leis an lámh ar dheis agus nach n-aithníonn an córas Stáit go bhfuil fadhb bhunúsach ann maidir le leibhéal seirbhísí i nGaeilge ón nGarda Síochána.

People are speaking to each other in this regard, and the Commissioner has engaged with my Department, and obviously has taken on board recommendations from An Coimisinéir Teanga and from the Minister with responsibility for this area. On that basis, and acknowledging that there are issues that need to be addressed here, the new Irish language strategy has been developed by An Garda Síochána, and I am advised by the Garda authorities that this is due to be launched in the coming weeks. The overall aim of the strategy is to try to strengthen Irish language services within An Garda Síochána to try to ensure compliance with the statutory language obligations that exist. The first online resource by Gaelchultúr and the new fáinne Gaeilge from An Garda Síochána will also be launched alongside strategy. It is important that we do not prevent anybody from progressing and improving his or her standing within An Garda Síochána because he or she does not have the general proficiency in the Irish language.

We need to ensure we encourage more engagement and have more people who are proficient in the Irish language. That in itself will make a significant difference overall.

Go gasta, beidh sé níos dúshlánaí anois na seirbhísí cuí agus bunreachtúla a thabhairt do phobal na Gaeilge, agus go háirithe do phobal na Gaeltachta, má tá an t-athrú seo ann agus má tá níos lú sáirsintí gan Gaeilge amach anseo.

The implementation of the report will go a long way in addressing many of the issues and concerns raised by the Deputy.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.