Commencement Matters

Harbours and Piers

I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to the Seanad. I know that he is no stranger to Dún Laoghaire Harbour. He was there recently when the Irish Olympian Annalise Murphy returned to Dún Laoghaire, which was a great and joyous celebration for the town and the nation.

I am concerned about the future corporate governance of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council because it has been debated for a hell of a long time and there seems to be very little progress and there may be a very good reason why that is the case but I want to hear why from the Minister. There is 250 acres of water in Dún Laoghaire Harbour making it an amazing international maritime resource. It is a massive piece of real estate operated and run on behalf of the State by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, of which I was a director for two terms, or ten years. There was a suggestion as a result of the national ports policy that Dún Laoghaire among other ports that have regional significance would be transferred to the local authority, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. There is huge uncertainty about the future of Dún Laoghaire Harbour, its direction, long-term plans and governance. That is why it is important to hear from the Minister what are the plan and vision. A due diligence report was commissioned and co-funded by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. I do not know where that is today. Who owns that due diligence report? When will it be published? When will it be put into the public domain? When will it be given to the county council, the elected representatives of the people in Dún Laoghaire?

I cannot comment on the uncertainties although I understand this week An Bord Pleanála is due to decide on a cruise terminal, a very controversial piece of infrastructure before the board. We must await the outcome of that. That is another important facet in the complexity of Dún Laoghaire Harbour's future. There has been an acting harbour master for several years. The legislation clearly sets down the requirements of a harbour master. That needs to be considered. There are huge issues regarding the pensions fund, which I will not go into except to say that the Minister needs to be aware of them. I am sure he already is. There are also human resource, legal and real estate issues. There are several vacancies on the board for which the Minister is responsible and has the power to fill. Does he intend to do this in advance of or after the transfer? Would the Minister consider advertising and seeking expressions of interest from stakeholders and the public to be considered? It is important to have people of calibre but also with skills in maritime, leisure, finance and legal matters to bring an extra layer of support to the harbour company, whatever its governance and whatever plans the Minister has for it.

On another occasion, I would like to meet the Minister, who comes from a business background, to discuss the dividend. Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, like all State companies, was supposed to issue a dividend. It is my understanding that this company has never issued a dividend to the State. Is that acceptable for a company that is supposed to be successful, commercial and viable? What is the situation and status of that dividend? I would like to see a copy of any dividends issued by this company. All is not plain sailing at Dún Laoghaire Harbour and I think the Minister knows that. We need answers. It would be great to get clarification from the Minister about how he plans to transfer the corporate governance of this harbour company from his Department to the council, or not and if there remains an impasse and a dispute as to the views of the harbour company versus the views of the local authority, how will he address that and how will he make that decision?

I thank the Senator for the opportunity to address the House on this matter. The national ports policy, published in March 2013, provides that the five designated ports of regional significance - Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow - will be transferred to more appropriate local authority-led governance structures. These five ports of regional significance retain important roles as facilitators of their regional economies and, in some instances, as centres of marine-related amenity and tourism activities. However, the scale and nature of these activities were not adjudged such as to warrant continued central Government involvement. Dún Laoghaire Harbour, as a port of regional significance, is designated under the national ports policy for transfer to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. As Senators will be aware, it was necessary to enact primary legislation, namely the Harbours Act 2015, to provide the necessary primary legislative framework to allow for the transfer of the ports of regional significance, including Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, to local authority control. The relevant legislation was enacted in December 2015. The Act is not prescriptive in respect of the model for transfer for each port. That is deliberately done to facilitate each port because this involves more than Dún Laoghaire. Rather, the Act is designed to provide maximum legislative flexibility by providing for two possible models of transfer: one, retention of the existing company structure and transfer of the ministerial shareholding in the company to the local authority and two, dissolution of the existing company structure and transfer of all assets, liabilities and employees into local authority structures.

The intention was that, in the case of each port, the local authority and the port will agree the more appropriate model of transfer in respect of that port. The best model of transfer will be the one which finds broad consensus and agreement between the parties. This answers one of Senator Boyhan's questions. If there is disagreement between the port company and the local authority in relation to the model of transfer, then the final decision will be taken by the Minister. The Minister will not become involved in the day-to-day negotiations about this but if there is a disagreement, I - if I am in office - or someone else will make a decision on the matter.

The process of transferring governance of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company to the council is ongoing and, as I said, the future governance and operational structures of the port are primarily matters for agreement between the council and the port company. In the case of each port transferred to a local authority, the decision on the model of transfer is informed by a due diligence exercise carried out by the local authority, with funding support from my Department. I think that is €30,000. Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has procured consultants to conduct the due diligence of the port company. While the procurement and management of the due diligence process is a matter for the council, I understand that the completion is imminent. I also understand that Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have established two transitional teams which are working on the practical issues associated with the transfer. Officials from my Department have also met with Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council on a number of occasions to assist in the process. I have also met with many local groups. Deputy Boyd Barrett brought in a group from the local community to meet me a couple of weeks ago which was extremely useful and gave me an insight I had not had before into what many of the people on the ground and the users of the harbour felt.

As Senator Boylan will be aware, Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company faces a challenging financial and operating environment as it moves from commercial shipping activities towards a different operating model which is more focussed on marine leisure and marine-related tourism. The departure of the Stena Line from Dún Laoghaire Harbour adds to the future challenges for the company. The financial impact on the port is significant and it is very clear that the company faces a very different operating environment than it faced in the past. The company has been restructuring its business in order to remain on a sustainable financial footing and to enable the harbour to develop and operate on a commercial basis into the future.

The company has been pursuing a twin strategy of developing alternative income streams from marine leisure and tourism-related business while also reducing its high cost base.

Finally, I can inform the Seanad that the transfer of the other ports of regional significance, including Drogheda, Galway and New Ross, to local authority control is progressing. I can also confirm that Wicklow Port Company transferred to Wicklow County Council on 30 August 2016 by a ministerial order made under the Harbours Act 2015.

Does the Senator wish to put a brief supplementary question?

I want to put on the record that my name is spelt "Boyhan". The Minister might bring that to the attention of his secretarial assistant. It is not spelt "Boylan".

I am none the wiser. Last week, I took the trouble to look at several responses from the current Minister and previous Ministers, including Deputies Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar. It is always the same old response. The line is that it is about to happen and that due diligence is about to be completed. The fact is we are none the wiser. None of this is new.

Currently, the company is under the responsibility of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. There has been no transfer. A range of issues arise. I am aware of the Minister's meeting with Deputy Boyd Barrett and a number of my colleagues in Dún Laoghaire. I am aware of various items of correspondence as well.

I shared some information on the matter in the House previously and I will repeat what I have said. There are legal issues, human resources issues and pension issues in respect of this company. I furnished some information to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport last week and I received a letter from the Department in reply. Indeed, the Minister's signature may be on the letter, although I am not 100% certain - I will check it when I go downstairs. In any event, I furnished information in respect of two High Court proceedings in respect of this company and this was acknowledged by the Department. All is not well in this company. All is not sailing well out there.

I appeal to the Minister to look at all the current issues in respect of the governance of the company that are under his watch. I will write to the Minister in this regard. We are none the wiser. I would appreciate if the Minister would keep the House informed. I have spoken to a number of my colleagues and, if necessary, I will arrange for a number of parliamentary questions to be put to the Minister in the Dáil next week.

We are well into injury time.

I am sorry about the Senator's sensitivities over the spelling of his name. I know that is important to him. It was a misprint, which can happen from time to time. The name is spelt correctly at the top of the document before me. Elsewhere in the document there are references to the Senator as "Boylan", but it is not an insult or a matter of great importance.

I am well aware of the difficulties attached to this. Some of the questions raised by Senator Boyhan are already well catered for in the public arena. On the question of board vacancies, it was made absolutely clear by my predecessor that he had no intention of appointing any new members to the board while this transfer was ongoing. Senator Boyhan would know that if he had done the slightest bit of research. I have no intention of appointing any new members to the board while that is going on either. There has to be a quorum. That is important and I may have to make appointments to fulfil that requirement, but otherwise I am not going to appoint members to the board while it is a state of transition. This is the same position as my predecessor.

The Senator referred to the cruise terminal. I am not going to interfere in any way with the planning process.

I am not asking the Minister to interfere.

Senator Boyhan brought it up.

I did not ask the Minister to interfere with it.

Senator Boyhan can be absolutely certain that this is under constant review in my Department. It is a difficult problem. Senator Boyhan may not be aware of it, but this problem has caused extraordinary difficulties in the local area. This is something which I have to listen to as well and it is something of which am acutely conscious. That is why I agreed to meet representatives of the local area in a situation which is controversial. I will continue to do so. I will continue to be aware of those sensitivities as well as those of officialdom.

Special Educational Needs Staff

I welcome the Minister and I thank him for taking the time out from his busy schedule to deal with this query. St. Paul's School in Montenotte, Cork, has 95 students. Some have moderate learning disabilities and some have severe and profound learning disabilities. As I understand it, there are 15 class teachers and 35 special needs assistants.

There is a problem in the school. I spent two hours there recently. I put it to any public representative that it is well worth visiting these facilities from time to time to see the dedication and commitment of the staff. They do a fantastic job and provide a fantastic service. They provide learning opportunities for people with disabilities.

I met the principal and many of the staff for a period of two hours. A number of issues arise. One child in the school at the moment requires two people to be with him at all times. This is putting extraordinary strain on the staff. They have a choice to make in the coming week or two weeks and may have to suspend the child from coming to the school unless they can get more resources. They are seeking an administrative deputy. The school had one previously, but unfortunately that is no longer the position. They have a teaching deputy and another post. However, the view of the staff there is that if they had an administrative deputy, it would ease many of the difficulties they are facing.

The staff provide a fantastic service. The facility is close to the Cope Foundation, which provides care for over 1,200 people in residential settings and over 1,500 people on a day-care basis. The school is doing a very good job. It needs more support and that is why I have tabled the commencement matter today. I call on the Minister to provide a favourable response.

I thank Senator Colm Burke for raising this issue. It needs consideration. Senator Burke has set out his case. The school has 95 pupils, 16 classroom teachers and 35 special needs assistants. The staff numbers come to over 50.

Under the current arrangements for the appointment of administrative deputy principals, the criteria is based on the number of pupils. It is uniform across the school system. The relevant number is 637 pupils, which is the equivalent of a principal and 24 classroom teachers. I gather the point Senator Burke is making is that a large number of staff are involved, including 35 special needs assistants, and, as a result, there is a considerable management workload, even though the pupil numbers are nowhere near the 637 figure.

At the moment there are no plans to deviate from the current arrangements, which requires greater pupil numbers for the appointment of an administrative deputy principal. A request has been received from the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education, NABMSE, in respect of a number of larger special schools. As recently as Monday, my Department received updated submissions on the matter.

Accordingly, my Department is currently considering the matters relating to the administrative burden on administrative principals in these schools and is considering the case made in respect of the appointment of administrative deputy principals. My Department will further engage with relevant management bodies and unions in this regard and will submit proposals for my consideration when the consultation has concluded. The Senator has raised a valid concern and we will give it more careful scrutiny in consultation with the key bodies involved.

I very much appreciate the reply. I will send on the letter I received from the principal. One of the major issues is that because of the severe or profound learning disabilities of some of the students, extraordinary pressure is coming on staff. For example, when I was there one pupil required two staff members at all times. The school has a serious challenge in this regard.

This pupil travels approximately 30 miles every day. There must be a care assistant with the child at all times and that is where the pressure lies. The school needs an administrative principal that would allow it to better deal with this particular pupil and with others who have profound learning disabilities.

I will pass on the correspondence I have received from the principal to the Minister to assist him in his consideration of this issue. On the next occasion the Minister is in Cork he should visit the facility. The dedication and commitment of the staff there is tremendous and that must be given some recognition.

I fully acknowledge that extraordinary work is being done by special schools who are supporting children with particular needs. However, my response must be one that takes into account all special schools, rather than one individual school or one individual set of needs. That is why my Department is dealing with the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education so that we can get a broad perspective on the range of challenges and consider whether there is a case for the appointment of administrative principals on the basis of different criteria to those which currently apply. The current criteria apply on the same basis across all primary schools. While I welcome the submission from the individual school, my Department will have to consider this in the context of the broader issue.

Mental Health Services

I thank the Minister of State for taking this Commencement matter.

I am extremely angry with the HSE because it has not been truthful and honest with the people of Roscommon. I say that because information was given to me and to other public representatives, both verbally and in writing, regarding the potential closure of mental health day centres and hostels in County Roscommon. The people who use mental health services within the county deserve to have facts and honesty but we do not have either at the moment.

I have listened to a wide range of individuals over the past number of weeks who are involved in mental health services in County Roscommon. All of these people are very clear and definite in their view that the HSE is publicly stating a message that is very different to what is being implemented on the ground. The statements are not matching up and I am very concerned. It is very important that we get facts and honesty.

To put this in context, I have spoken at length with the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Helen McEntee, and the chief health officer of community services covering County Roscommon. I was advised that the HSE has no active plans to close the various day centres and hostels referenced, namely, those at Ballaghaderreen, Boyle, Strokestown, Castlerea and Athleague. I was also informed that the HSE has no plans to close the community nursing unit in Aras Naomh Chaolain or to relocate residents to private nursing homes. I was advised that the HSE is currently consulting with residents, families and staff on the transfer of a small number of residents from Knockroe House in Castlerea to more appropriate settings.

This information was provided by the HSE to me and to other public representatives in writing. However, the minutes of recent HSE meetings suggest something very different. They suggest that Strokestown, Ballaghaderreen and Boyle day care centres could close over the next 12 to 18 months and be amalgamated with other centres. These minutes indicate that as part of its proposals, the HSE is to reduce the number of day centres from five to one or two, to be located in north and mid-Roscommon. The minutes also indicate that the HSE has established a group of senior staff to oversee the transition plan for day and training centres in the county.

The HSE confirmed on Monday morning last that it is currently exploring the reconfiguration of existing day centres. It added that if it is identified that day centres are no longer required, staff will be redeployed to strengthen other day centres. I emphasise again that I have been in contact with the chief health officer of community services, including mental health services, in County Roscommon several times over the past number of weeks and never once during those conversations was I told that plans were in train regarding potential closures and the amalgamation of mental health services. Quite frankly, it is absolutely appalling that the HSE would mislead us so blatantly. I am not willing to accept this type of conduct from this organisation, or any other organisation for that matter. People using mental health services and their families deserve the truth and the facts.

Finally, we know that an external review of mental health services in County Roscommon is currently under way. That review was commissioned last year and is really important that it is made available as quickly as possible. The review should assist in terms of identifying the challenges throughout the county. It should also serve to assist us in making improvements. Any improvements, however, must be made in consultation with the people using the mental health services and their families. I ask that the truth and the facts are given to us.

I thank Senator Hopkins for raising this matter, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Helen McEntee, who sends her apologies as she is unable to be here today. The Senator has asked when the external review of mental health services in Roscommon will be completed and made available.

The development of all aspects of mental health services remains a priority for the Government and the HSE. The latter, as the Senator knows, is responsible for the delivery of health services in this country and it secured a budget of €14.6 billion for 2017.

This applies particularly in terms of promoting quality and safety and enhancing a recovery focus via local services for individuals and their families. This approach reflects the continued need to implement the key principles and objectives of A Vision for Change by modernising our mental health services and maximising resources to best meet various increasing demands.

In the context of concerns raised some time ago regarding mental health services in Roscommon, I have been advised that the HSE's national director of mental health commissioned an external independent review of the quality, safety and governance of these local services. The review commenced on 28 August 2015 and is being conducted by a team external to the executive. The terms of reference of the review, which is being undertaken in a manner that is respectful of the rights of all to privacy, confidentiality and procedural due process, includes assessing the systems and processes in place to ensure the quality, safety and appropriateness of care for mental health service users in Roscommon; reviewing governance arrangements for high-quality, safe and reliable services, covering issues such as multidisciplinary working, staffing levels and management; compliance with relevant national and HSE regulations, standards or protocols; and examining risk management processes and protocols within the Roscommon service and adherence to them in practice, including arrangements to ensure that incidents are appropriately reported and acted upon.

I understand also that, if it becomes apparent that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there are serious risks to the health or welfare of any person receiving services or that further investigation is necessary, the HSE may, in the interests of obtaining a complete report, extend the review's scope or recommend that a separate investigation be commenced as appropriate.

The HSE has told me that the report will be published in a format deemed appropriate to promote the safety and quality of mental health services in Roscommon for the ultimate benefit of the health and welfare of the public. It was initially envisaged that the review would be completed by March 2016. However, given its scale, the complexities involved and the need for the review team to meet as many people as possible, the team sought extensions to the timeframe. A public consultation exercise was also undertaken as part of the review process. At this juncture, the review is still ongoing and is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

The HSE will not have sight of the final report until it has been signed off by the review team and submitted to the HSE's national director for mental health in accordance with agreed and due processes. All of the review team's recommendations will be examined in detail by the executive and considered in the context of any potential to improve high-quality and safe care within the resources available to the Roscommon mental health service. The Minister and all of the Ministers of State in the Department of Health will continue to monitor developments on this important service issue closely.

The Senator raised specific queries regarding local issues and the manner in which they had been handled. As I do not speak for the HSE and am merely conveying information, I am not in a position to give the Senator information on the local issues. However, I will undertake to ensure that the HSE provides an explanation as to what has happened with communication. Communication is crucial if we are to have a good, healthy and functional service. Our local representatives are always the touchstone when things go wrong and they need to be given proper and accurate information so that they are in a position to disseminate it to those who may contact them. I would have thought this to be a key priority for the people involved in the HSE.

The Minister of State is right, in that the HSE needs to provide us with accurate and honest information, which we are not getting at the moment. It is difficult to have confidence and trust in County Roscommon's mental health services when there is a complete disconnect between what we are hearing on the ground and what we are being told publicly by higher levels within the HSE. It is not acceptable. I have spoken at length with the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, in recent weeks. I understand that it is an operational matter for the HSE, but we are discussing people and their families having confidence, trust, certainty and support within the county's mental health services. We do not have those currently. As a public representative in County Roscommon, I do not have confidence or trust in the HSE.

It is important that the external review, which was anticipated to conclude earlier than it will, is done properly and forms the basis for improvements. Mental health services continue to evolve and need to be improved. Changes may be necessary, but they need to be made in light of the review and in consultation with service users and their families.

The Senator's question on the review was comprehensively answered. As to the specific issues raised, I will ensure that they are conveyed and that someone from the HSE informs her of what is happening with communications on these issues, which are of such concern to people who avail of them, their families and us as public representatives.

Female Genital Mutilation

I welcome the Minister of State and am delighted that she is responding to this issue. I raised it with her at the UNFPA launch last Friday. In light of recent media reports that an act of female genital mutilation, FGM, was reported to the HSE and the Garda in September, will the Minister of State say how many cases of FGM have been reported to the Garda since the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012? What supports are provided to agencies such as AkiDwA that are working to prevent the incidence of FGM in the community and will the Government sign up to the second national action plan on FGM?

I will give a brief background. As the Minister of State is aware, FGM is the horrific practice of the cutting or removing of female genitalia, usually carried out on very young girls aged between four and ten years. It leads to appalling health consequences for those girls, and in some cases death. It is widespread in some countries and communities worldwide. It is estimated that 200 million women and girls across 30 countries have been subjected to this appalling mutilation. Girls in communities from those countries living in other countries are also at risk. The school holidays are a time when girls are at particular risk. It is sometimes known as the cutting season, when girls are taken abroad from developed countries to their countries of origin, including Somalia, Nigeria, Malaysia, Kenya and Egypt.

In Ireland, this matter was brought to my attention by AkiDwA, an NGO of women working with women from other communities, particularly African communities, in Ireland. It estimates that between 3,000 and 5,000 girls and women in Ireland have been subjected to FGM and that more are at risk. In April 2010, and at its insistence, I introduced the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill, which was subsequently accepted by the Government and became law in September 2012. It carries significant criminal penalties not only for the act of FGM in Ireland, but for taking girls abroad for FGM. We were always conscious of the importance of the Act being used as an advocacy tool, one that would enable and support organisations like AkiDwA to work with communities to raise awareness about the horrific nature of the practice and to prevent its incidence. AkiDwA and ActionAid are working on an interesting project in Cork to raise awareness among particular communities.

We were all concerned to hear in September of an awful case that was reported in the media apparently involving a baby girl of only 21 months on whom FGM had been carried out in Dublin. A man has been arrested and I understand from information in the public domain that the file is with the DPP. I also understand that the HSE is involved.

In light of this awful revelation, AkiDwA and ActionAid have asked me to ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality how many cases have been reported to the Garda and what supports will be provided to organisations like AkiDwA, which is working hard to ensure that this does not happen. AkiDwA is concerned that there is little awareness among particular communities of the existence of the offence, the nature of the legislation and the powers of the Garda and HSE under same. It is positive that a case was reported to the Garda, but it is awful and distressing to learn that this practice is still being carried out in 2016 on girls living in Ireland. It is appalling for babies. As a mother, and just as anyone else would, I find it an horrific matter of deep concern. What can we do about this in practical terms?

I thank Senator Bacik for raising this issue and giving me an opportunity to speak on it.

It is only through speaking in public about these matters that we can shine a spotlight on an appalling act that, as the Senator has said, is carried out in this country.

Female genital mutilation, FGM, is universally recognised as a form of gender-based violence and a fundamental violation of the human rights of women and girls. As the Senator is aware and has referred to in her statement, the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012 provides for the creation of an offence of female genital mutilation and other offences relating to female genital mutilation. The Act explicitly prohibits FGM along with related offences, some of which apply to certain extra-territorial jurisdictions. The Act also makes it an offence to remove a girl from the State for the purpose of FGM. The legislation takes a human rights perspective and stipulates that the right to practise one's cultural traditions and beliefs cannot be used to justify FGM. A defence of custom or ritual in proceedings is not permitted nor is a defence that the girl or woman or her parent or guardian consented to FGM.

The Central Statistics Office records crime statistics. The Irish crime classification system is based on the Garda PULSE incident types. Statistics on the offence of FGM are not identifiable in the Central Statistics Office data as the offence specified may be classified as one of several serious incident types, such as assault causing harm or sexual offences.

The HSE's national social inclusion office provides annual funding of approximately €70,000 to the non-governmental organisation, AkiDwA, towards the provision of information and awareness activities on FGM. AkiDwA works closely with at risk communities. It also has a role in identifying and alerting the relevant authorities when suspected persons may possibly be seeking FGM procedures.

Additional input and funding has been provided to AkiDwA by the HSE in respect of the development and printing of the first and second editions of a resource for health professionals and relevant staff in maternity and associated settings. This pack, entitled Female Genital Mutilation: Information for Health Professionals working in Ireland, has proved to be a very useful resource. It has been circulated across a range of settings. The HSE also funds a specialist clinic operated by the Irish Family Planning Association for girls and women who have undergone FGM.

Although there is no specific training related to dealing with FGM, there is a widening knowledge base on the issue, and health professionals are responding. Victims of FGM will receive medical attention once a situation comes to the attention of the authorities. I can also inform the Senator that the HSE is committed to the development of a second national intercultural health strategy. Addressing FGM will be clearly referenced in the strategy.

While reported incidents of FGM in Ireland are rare, even one such incident is a matter of grave concern. The Department of Health and the HSE will continue to work with other relevant Government agencies and AkiDwA to improve health outcomes for vulnerable groups and to respond to this form of gender-based violence which we never thought we would have to deal with in our society.

I thank the Minister of State for her reply, in particular for acknowledging the work of AkiDwA and the Irish Family Planning Association. I was at the launch of the specialist clinic, which was very important.

I wish to make three brief points in response. First, I am aware of the difficulty with crime statistics, and AkiDwA has raised the matter with me. We need to change the way crime statistics are reported to ensure we can identify how many instances of FGM are reported in any one year. I ask the Minister of State to follow up the matter with the Central Statistics Office and the Garda and I will do so as well. It is unacceptable that we do not know how many cases of FGM there are and that we are reliant on media reports.

Second, the funding the Minister of State pointed out is provided to AkiDwA is a very small amount. Given that, as the Minister of State acknowledged, there is no specific training relating to dealing with FGM, there is a real need for more resources to be provided to organisations like AkiDwA, particularly to enable them to engage not only in community education but also the education and training of health professionals and front-line workers, especially in the HSE and Garda to which reports of FGM will be made. I ask that the Minister of State might consider further resourcing AkiDwA.

Third, I am glad that the HSE will develop a second national intercultural health strategy that will include a reference to FGM. We also need a second national action plan on FGM. That is the sort of focus we need to ensure this practice does not happen again in Ireland.

I thank the Senator. It is recognised that the HSE has a good relationship with AkiDwA because it has the expertise to assist in dealing with this horrific practice.

The way crime statistics are reported is certainly something that will have to be explored. As I outlined earlier, if incidents occur, they are classified under other specific titles. We will have to examine how FGM is recorded. Is it because of legislation from the Department of Justice and Equality? Is it through the way An Garda Síochána report it? Is it the way the Central Statistics Office records the offence? We must establish where change needs to be made. I concur with the Senator about the matter. She can rest assured that I will pursue the matter and see what we can achieve in terms of ensuring this awful and horrendous crime is accurately reported.

Sitting suspended at 11.25 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.