Garda Transport Data

Questions (478)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

478. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda vehicles by type and category in the Limerick Division serving in the Bruff and Newcastle West (amalgamated with Askeaton) Districts of An Garda Síochána that were available for policing duties in 2011 and 2012 and the mileage that is currently on the vehicles in these districts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9569/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

In the time available it has not been possible for the Garda authorities to supply the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Prison Committals

Questions (479)

Joe McHugh

Question:

479. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of males and the number of females who have been committed in the past 12 months for the non-payment of fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9574/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that the number of males committed to prison in the past 12 months for failure to pay a Court ordered fine was 6,197. The corresponding figure for females was 1,682.

However, I can advise the Deputy that the number of such persons held in custody at any one time is a minute fraction of the overall prisoner population. To illustrate this point 22 (0.5%) of the prison population of 4261 on 25 February 2013 fell into this category. I expect the number of committals for non-payment of fines to fall substantially once the Fines Bill 2009 has been enacted and brought into force.

Crime Prevention

Questions (480)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

480. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider extending the pilot community text alert scheme to all rural areas where a Garda station has closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9625/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that text alert systems may be used by Gardaí, via Community Alert or other such groups, to alert the community in relation to suspicious activity or vehicles in their area, appeal for information, inform the community about road closures or to provide crime prevention advice. The content of the messages sent are vetted locally by An Garda Síochána.

I am advised that An Garda Síochána is currently examining text alert systems to determine whether it is feasible to roll out such systems nationally.

Family Law Cases

Questions (481)

John Lyons

Question:

481. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 151 of 7 November 2012, if he will provide an update on his efforts to reform the family court system; and if he will provide an up to date timescale for the introduction of a Bill to promote mediation as a viable and cost effective alternative to court proceedings in family law cases to the benefit of all parties. [9633/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Programme for Government commits the Government to significant reform of the courts, including the establishment of a separate family law court structure that is streamlined, more efficient, and less costly. The Government has approved, in principle my proposals for reforms to our courts structures which will, in due course, require the holding of a Constitutional referendum.

I have initiated a consultation process with interested parties in relation to the establishment of family law courts and am hosting a seminar on 6 July next to discuss how such courts might operate. I have invited an eminent judge from the Australian Family Court to share her experiences of their system. The outcome of the seminar will feed into the process of designing the most appropriate model of family law courts for Ireland.

I intend to bring forward, in the coming months, a Bill to promote mediation as a viable and cost effective alternative to court proceedings. The main objective of the Bill is the reduction of legal costs, the speeding up of dispute resolution and the lessening of the stress involved in court proceedings. These provisions are designed to ensure that the legal framework supports the parties in reaching an agreed and enduring resolution to their disputes where possible.

This measure will further enhance a successful initiative between the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and the Family Mediation Service which has been operating in the Dublin District Family Law Courts in Dolphin House since March 2011. The objective is to offer a robust alternative to a court determined outcome and a more appropriate means of resolving certain family disputes through mediation. This project has resulted in a total of 570 agreements finalised without recourse to the courts up to end December 2012. The project was extended further to Naas from September 2012 and to Cork with effect from January 2013.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Questions (482)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

482. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm the average time it takes for the Garda Síochána to process vetting applications; the measures he has taken to reduce the amount of time persons are waiting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9643/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that the average processing time for vetting procedures at the Garda Central Vetting Unit is currently 8 to 10 weeks. However, seasonal fluctuations and the necessity to seek additional information on particular applications can result in this processing time being exceeded on occasion.

The Garda Central Vetting Unit currently provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organisations in Ireland which employ personnel to work in a full time part time, voluntary or student capacity with children and or vulnerable adults and who are registered with the Unit for this purpose. All organisations are aware of the processing time frames for the receipt of vetting and have been advised to factor this into their recruitment and selection processes. T he Unit processed approximately 328,000 vetting applications on behalf of these organisations in 2012. To ensure equity and fairness all applications are dealt with in chronological order from date of receipt.

It is my objective that processing times should be kept to a minimum, while maintaining the overall integrity of the vetting system. In that regard, following discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, I am pleased to announce that sanction was recently granted for an additional 25 staff to be re-deployed from the Department of Agriculture to the Unit in the near future.

The Deputy may wish to note that Garda Central Vetting Unit will become the National Vetting Bureau under the provisions of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and will have a substantially expanded role under that legislation. I am currently engaged with An Garda Síochána and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in addressing the staffing issues relevant to the coming into force of the 2012 Act.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (483)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

483. Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9738/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in October, 2009.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. While good progress continues to be made in reducing the large volume of cases on hands, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that for a broad range of reasons some cases will take longer than others to process. It is a statutory requirement that, inter alia, applicants for naturalisation be of good character. In some instances that can be established relatively quickly and in other cases completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time. I can, however, inform the Deputy that enormous progress has been made in dealing with the backlog and steps are being taken to process all outstanding applications as quickly as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Legislative Programme

Questions (484)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

484. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline any obstacles preventing him from announcing a commencement order and establishment day in respect of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9763/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I intend to announce a commencement order and establishment day in respect of the Insolvency Service of Ireland under Section 7 of the Personal Insolvency Act, 2012, in the near future.

Personal Insolvency Act

Questions (485)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

485. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the discussions he has had with the programme finance troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission since 26 December 2012 in respect of the implementation of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012. [9764/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The EU/ECB/IMF Troika team was in Dublin in January 2013 as part of their normal quarterly review of the Programme of Financial Support for Ireland and met with officials from my Department as part of that review process.

The team noted the enactment of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 which represented significant progress since their last visit. The measures being taken by my Department, the Insolvency Service and other relevant parties to bring about the full operation of the new debt resolution processes were discussed.

Personal Debt

Questions (486, 487)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

486. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the discussions he has had with the British authorities regarding so-called bankruptcy tourism and the practice of citizens of the State relocating to Britain in order to take advantage of more lenient bankruptcy legislation. [9766/13]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

487. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the discussions he has had with European authorities regarding the so-called bankruptcy tourism and the practice of citizens of the State relocating to other member states in order to take advantage of more lenient bankruptcy legislation. [9767/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 486 and 487 together.

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the provisions of the EU Regulation on insolvency proceedings of 2000, which came into effect in 2002. That Regulation is a mutual recognition instrument and does not seek to harmonise EU insolvency laws. In determining an application for the opening of an insolvency proceeding, for which it would have exclusive power as the primary proceedings, of a company or of a natural person, the Regulation requires that a court should determine the centre of main interest (COMI) of the applicant in the context of assuming jurisdiction.

It is a matter for the court to satisfy itself that the provisions in its national law in this regard have been observed. For example, the UK Courts can and have refused or revoked insolvency proceedings where an abuse has been detected. Indeed, this has occurred with certain individuals, who were subsequently subject to insolvency proceedings in this jurisdiction.

A company or natural person is entitled to change a COMI and could do so for the purposes, inter-alia of taking advantage of more favourable insolvency legislation. This entitlement arises under the broad rubric of freedom of movement in the Internal Market and such freedom has been enforced by decisions of the European Court of Justice. The country in which the debts are incurred is not necessarily material, but the relocation must not be artificial. The question of COMI is determined at the date the application for the insolvency proceeding is made and not at the time the debts were incurred. Orders made in insolvency proceedings in another EU jurisdiction, including an order discharging a person from bankruptcy, are enforceable against creditors elsewhere in the EU.

In response to the economic downturn across Europe, the EU has published a proposal to modernise cross-border insolvency law which seeks to make cross-border insolvency proceedings more efficient, benefiting both debtors and creditors throughout the EU. One of the primary aims of the new Regulation will be to give potentially viable companies and entrepreneurs a second chance before being declared insolvent. The proposal also addresses a range of other insolvency issues.

I arranged that the initial discussion on the proposed Regulation took place at the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting of EU Justice Ministers held in Dublin Castle on the 17 and 18 of January last. The Ministers, including my British colleague, engaged in a very detailed and constructive discussion on the proposals contained in the Regulation. I emphasised the importance of a more uniform approach across the EU in regard to the establishment of the centre of main interest so as to combat potential abuses in this regard which have given rise to allegations of "bankruptcy tourism".

Detailed consideration of the provisions contained in the new draft Regulation has now commenced in a Working Group chaired by the Irish Presidency.

Tribunals of Inquiry Reports

Questions (488)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

488. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 153 of 12 December 2012, the progress made on the recommendations of the Moriarty Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9768/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As stated in my reply on 12 December 2012, insofar as the report of the Moriarty Tribunal made recommendations concerning the future operation of tribunals of inquiry, many of these recommendations are anticipated by the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 which awaits Report Stage debate in the Dáil. Other recommendations are the subject of consultation with the Attorney General and other relevant Departments.

With regard to the examination of the report of the Moriarty Tribunal by An Garda Síochána, I am advised by the Garda authorities that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been sought on the findings of that examination, with a view to determining whether or not a full Garda investigation should now be commenced.