Motor Tax Collection

Questions (526)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

526. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the proposals he has to ensure that motor tax renewals will be made available throughout the post office network here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32050/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under existing arrangements, motor tax is payable in person or by post via motor tax offices in twenty nine local authorities. It is also payable online at any time, with some 50% of all vehicle owners now availing of this option.

My Department has asked the local government sector’s Programme Management Office, which is developing shared services initiatives in the sector in the context of public service reform, to include an assessment of the implications of a similar approach in the provision of motor tax services. This includes examining options for delivery via commercial outlets, of which there are a number of possible providers. The added value of providing an additional payment path for motor tax will be assessed in the context of maximising the efficiency of the provision of a high quality service to the public.

Leader Programmes Applications

Questions (527, 528, 529)

Paudie Coffey

Question:

527. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of LEADER project applications, listed on a country basis, that exceed €150,000 in cost and that are currently awaiting approval from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32092/13]

View answer

Paudie Coffey

Question:

528. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number and percentage of LEADER projects, on a county basis, that were submitted to his Department in the past six months for approval that have been deemed incomplete and sent back to local LEADER groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32093/13]

View answer

Paudie Coffey

Question:

529. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the timeframe in which full approval can be expected for completed Leader project applications that were submitted to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32094/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 527 to 529, inclusive, together.

In the context of processing of Axis 3 and 4 (LEADER) applications under the Rural Development Programme (RDP), and in line with the community led nature of the LEADER elements of the programme, my Department only becomes involved in a project once the Board of the Local Development Company (LDC) has approved it and the Board minutes are submitted to my Department for a review of eligibility.

However, for projects that request funding of €150,000 or more, LDCs are required to seek final approval from my Department after Board approval. There has been a significant increase in the number of these types of projects over the last 12 to 18 months and there are currently 42 projects in the Department at various stages of assessment. The assessment of these higher value projects usually involves detailed consultations between my Department and the relevant LDC. Many of these projects have been submitted with insufficient documentation or with documentation that requires some level of clarification.

Projects submitted with incomplete documentation are now immediately returned to the LDC for completion and are categorised as rejected until full documentation is submitted. Prior to this change, my Department worked closely but informally with LDCs to assist them in ensuring that projects submitted were ready for assessment. As many of the consultations with regard to required documentation were informal and primarily within the context of providing assistance to the LDC, a precise percentage of the number of projects over €150 ,000 that would have been considered incomplete is not available.

It is estimated, however, that up to 80% of the projects that have been submitted to my Department for final approval to date have required some level of consultation with the LDC regarding the provision of additional information in order to facilitate a full assessment.

It is difficult to give a specific timeframe for completion of the approvals process as it varies on a case by case basis , but generally , once full documentation has been received and all queries on an individual project have been addressed, the assessment process proceeds quickly. My Department is committed to ensuring that the assessment process for these high value projects is as efficient , effective and timely as possible.

The table details the projects awaiting approvals from my Department.

Local Development Company

Date Received

Grant Aid Requested

Stage

Clare Local Development Company Ltd.

18-Jan-13

200,000

Under Assessment

Cavan-Monaghan LEADER

05-Jun-13

177,518

Awaiting Assessment

Comhar na nOileán

30-May-13

182,599

Under Assessment

Comhar na nOileán

07-Jun-13

200,000

Under Assessment

Donegal Local Development Company

18-Apr-13

200,000

Under Assessment

FORUM Connemara Ltd

23-Aug-12

431,888

Under Assessment

FORUM Connemara Ltd.

11-Feb-13

324,766

Under Assessment

Kildare LEADER Partnership

01-Mar-13

200,000

Under Assessment

Kildare LEADER Partnership

03-May-13

356,450

Awaiting information from LDC

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

04-Dec-12

300,000

Awaiting information from LDC

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

05-Nov-12

428,869

Under Assessment

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

16-Jan-13

268,125

Awaiting information from LDC

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

16-Jan-13

497,213

Awaiting information from LDC

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

03-Apr-13

205,867

Under Assessment

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

16-Jan-13

225,000

Awaiting information from LDC

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

16-Jan-13

255,384

Under Assessment

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

26-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

26-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership

03-May-13

169,238

Under Assessment

Louth LEADER Partnership

26-Jun-13

188,055

Awaiting Assessment

Louth LEADER Partnership

26-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

Louth LEADER Partnership

26-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

Louth LEADER Partnership

26-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

Louth LEADER Partnership

26-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

Mayo North East LEADER Partnership

03-Oct-12

194,726

Under Assessment

Mayo North East LEADER Partnership

15-Jul-11

196,387

Under Assessment

North Tipperary LEADER Partnership

16-Jul-12

407,675

Awaiting information from LDC

North Tipperary LEADER Partnership

18-Jan-13

199,994

Under Assessment

Roscommon Integrated Development

27-Feb-13

196,925

Under Assessment

Roscommon Integrated Development

13-May-13

172,093

Under Assessment

Roscommon Integrated Development

28-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

South and East Cork Area Dev Ltd.

13-Mar-13

330,000

Under Assessment

South and East Cork Area Dev Ltd.

28-Nov-12

500,000

Under Assessment

South Kerry Development Ltd.

25-Jan-13

168,393

Awaiting information from LDC

South West Mayo Development

21-Dec-12

200,000

Under Assessment

South West Mayo Development

19-Jun-13

195,115

Under Assessment

South West Mayo Development

26-Jun-13

200,000

Awaiting Assessment

Waterford LEADER Partnership Ltd.

12-Mar-13

198,624

Under Assessment

Waterford LEADER Partnership Ltd.

10-Apr-13

200,000

Awaiting information from LDC

West Cork Development Partnership

11-Mar-13

194,400

Under Assessment

West Limerick Resources Ltd

26-Feb-13

200,000

Under Assessment

Wexford Local Development

31-May-13

193,384

Under Assessment

Leader Programmes Administration

Questions (530)

Paudie Coffey

Question:

530. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide on a county basis, the administrative costs of existing Leader Groups for 2013-14 in terms of a percentage of the overall cost of Leader programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32095/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

It is not possible to provide precise administration costs in relation to the Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013 (RDP) for 2013/2014 at this time as this will be based on the actual expenditure of the Local Development Companies (LDCs) during the 2013/2014 period.

The Regulations under which the LEADER elements of the RDP operate allow for up to 20% of the total RDP expenditure per LDC to be spent on administration. This is the maximum allowable and all LDCs have been notified that in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness they should aim to come well below this.

The table details the revised allocation per LDC and the maximum administration allowable under the Programme for its operational years i.e. 2009-2014. If the revised allocations change in the future the maximum administration allocation allowable under the Programme will also be amended.

LAG

Revised RDP Allocation

Max 20% Admin

based on revised

allocation

Avondhu/ Blackwater Partnership Limited

€7,251,112

€1,450,222

Ballyhoura Development Limited

€18,502,053

€3,700,411

Carlow County Development Partnership Limited

€7,444,015

€1,488,803

Cavan Partnership Ltd. & County Monaghan Area Partnership

€9,923,866

€1,984,773

Clare Local Development Company Limited

€16,175,841

€3,235,168

Comhar na nOileán Teoranta

€6,825,171

€1,365,034

Donegal Local Development Company Limited

€12,775,727

€2,555,145

Fingal LEADER Partnership

€6,217,667

€1,243,533

FORUM Connemara

€7,734,929

€1,546,986

Galway Rural Development Company Limited

€12,211,887

€2,442,377

Inishowen Development Partnership

€7,410,663

€1,482,133

I.R.D. Duhallow

€12,839,050

€2,567,810

Kildare (Cill Dara ar Aghaidh Teoranta)

€10,642,073

€2,128,415

County Kilkenny LEADER Partnership Limited

€13,319,465

€2,663,893

Laois Community & Enterprise Development Company

€9,465,731

€1,893,146

Leitrim Integrated Development Company

€10,257,659

€2,051,532

Longford Community Resources Limited

€7,026,574

€1,405,315

Louth LEADER Partnership

€7,075,178

€1,415,036

Mayo North East LEADER Partnership Company Teoranta

€9,535,062

€1,907,012

Meath Partnership

€15,051,583

€3,010,317

North & East Kerry LEADER Partnership Teoranta

€8,937,452

€1,787,490

North Tipperary LEADER Partnership Company

€12,917,884

€2,583,577

Offaly Integrated Local Development Company

€10,828,856

€2,165,771

Roscommon Integrated Development Company

€11,230,957

€2,246,191

County Sligo LEADER Partnership Company

€9,788,645

€1,957,729

South East Cork Area Development Limited

€10,532,187

€2,106,437

South Kerry Development Partnership Limited

€9,998,740

€1,999,748

South Tipperary Local Development Company Limited

€12,405,282

€2,481,056

South West Mayo Development Company Limited

€10,361,827

€2,072,365

Waterford LEADER Partnership Limited

€11,177,988

€2,235,598

West Cork Development Partnership

€12,465,076

€2,493,015

West Limerick Resources

€9,007,256

€1,801,451

Westmeath Community Development

€8,798,346

€1,759,669

Wexford Local Development

€11,583,749

€2,316,750

Wicklow Partnership

€8,908,698

€1,781,740

Proposed Legislation

Questions (531)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

531. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the key measures contained within the Electoral, Local Government and Planning and Development Bill 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32167/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Electoral, Local Government and Planning and Development Bill 2013, which was published on 27 June 2013, provides for –

- the transposition of Council Directive 2013/1/EU which amends the nomination requirements in Directive 93/109/EC for EU citizens standing for election to the European Parliament in a member State of which they are not nationals,

- the amendment of the Electoral Act 1992 to provide for the preparation and publication of one register of electors for the 2014/2015 period in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford, in which areas members of single new local authorities will be elected at the local elections in 2014,

- the amendment of the Electoral Act 1992 to provide for an improvement in the time allowed for the receipt of applications for inclusion in the supplement to the postal and specials voters’ lists on the electoral register in advance of presidential, European and local elections and referendums,

- the repeal of the requirement, in the Referendum Act 1994, for An Post to make copies of Referendum Bills available for inspection and purchase by members of the public, at post offices, in the run up to referendums,

- the amendment of the Electoral Act 1997 to provide for the establishment of a committee to report on European Parliament constituencies in the context of a change in the number of MEP’s to be elected in Ireland where a Constituency Commission has presented its report and another is not due to present a report before the date of the next European election,

- the amendment of the Electoral Act 1997 to address an omission in the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 to provide for the application to political parties of the same information requirements in respect of the disclosure of donations that apply to elected representatives and election candidates,

- the amendment of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to provide, for those planning authorities that are proposed to be amalgamated or abolished under the local government reform programme, discretionary powers to extend the lifetime of the existing development plan and to cease any development plan reviews already commenced. It also provides for those planning authorities that are proposed to be amalgamated, a mandatory obligation to commence a development plan review within 1 year of the making of regional planning guidelines which affect the area of the development plan, and

- the amendment of the Local Government Act 2001 to provide for the appointment of a dual manager in Waterford County and Waterford City in the context of the decision to amalgamate the local authorities there with effect from the 2014 local elections, matching arrangements already provided for in Limerick and Tipperary.

Further details of these provisions are set out in the Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum that was published with the Bill and which are available on the Oireachtas website www.oireachtas.ie.

Electoral Reform

Question No. 533 answered with Question No. 507.

Questions (532)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

532. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 199 of 15 May 2013 and No. 465 of 28 May 2013, the flexibility and restrictions that will be included for postal voters; if the measures will be contained in the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2013 that will amend the Electoral Act 1992 or the recently initiated Electoral, Local Government and Planning and Development Bill 2013; if postal and supplementary voter lists extension date will include Dáil, European, presidential and local elections, as well as referenda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32179/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government legislation programme included the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2013 which was published on 27 June 2013 with the amended short title of Electoral, Local Government and Planning and Development Bill 2013. The Bill provides for the amendment of the Electoral Act 1992 to allow more time for the receipt of applications for inclusion in the supplement to the postal and specials voters’ lists on the electoral register in advance of presidential, European and local elections and referendums.

The changes proposed, which are set out in Part 4 of the Bill, will mean that applications for inclusion in the supplement to the postal and special voters lists that are made in advance of the twenty-first day (disregarding any excluded day) before polling day at a presidential, European, or local election, or a referendum will be considered by registration authorities for inclusion in the supplement to the postal and special voters lists for those elections or referendums. No change is proposed to existing provisions for general elections or Dáil bye-elections.

Question No. 533 answered with Question No. 507.

Local and Community Development Programme Expenditure

Questions (534)

Seán Kyne

Question:

534. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the contents of the value for money report carried out independently on behalf of the Irish Local Development Network which shows a net financial gain to the State arising from the activities of local development companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32197/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department has been in contact with the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) and understands that the report referred to in the Question is still in draft format and has yet to be approved by its Executive Committee.  ILDN envisage that this process should be completed shortly and the report will then be submitted to my Department’s Alignment Working Group for consideration.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (535)

Seán Fleming

Question:

535. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to annul or withdraw the Local Government (Boundaries) (Town Elections) Regulations 1994 (S.I. No. 114/1994); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32202/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Provision will be made in the Local Government Bill 2013, which is currently being drafted, to revoke the Local Government (Boundaries) (Town Elections) Regulations 1994.

Community Development Initiatives

Questions (536)

Seán Kyne

Question:

536. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if local authorities are obliged to adopt voluntary sector plans which would facilitate the creation of the best environment for community, voluntary and non-Governmental organisations in each city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32228/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Community and Voluntary Fora exist in each city and county. The 34 Fora were established in association (in the majority of cases) with the establishment of the County/City Development Boards (CDBs) in 2000. One of their key roles is to facilitate the community in making an input to the CDB and local authorities in particular. My Department provides funding to support the Fora in organising meetings, communicating information and providing capacity building/training for Forum members, particularly those representing the socially excluded. The future of the Fora will now be taken forward in the context of alignment of Local Government and Local Development as part of the Local Government Reform Programme Putting People First . Local Authorities are not obliged to adopt voluntary sector plans by the Fora or any other group within the sector.

Commercial Rates Impact

Questions (537)

Seán Kyne

Question:

537. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made in addressing the difficulties which small to medium sized businesses located in town and village centres are experiencing in meeting the cost of commercial rates; and if central Government can provide incentives to local authorities to adopt a more flexible job friendly rate mechanism. [32285/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

The annual rate on valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation for each property determined by the Valuation Office to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function.

However, I am acutely aware of the pressures on small and medium sized businesses at the present time. Local authorities have been asked by my Department to exercise restraint or, where possible, to reduce commercial rates and local charges for 2013 and have responded well to such requests in recent years. In 2013, 87 out of the 88 rating authorities either reduced their ARV or kept it the same as in 2012.

Local authorities have a leading role in creating a pro-enterprise supportive environment to generate new jobs and sustain existing ones. They are committed to local economic development, and are best placed to meet many of the needs of businesses, in terms of infrastructure, local promotion and other key enabling measures. Under the Action Plan for Jobs, the local government sector has developed a sectoral strategy, Supporting Economic Recovery and Jobs – Locally, to promote employment and support local enterprise, including measures in the area of business charges, local enterprise and business support arrangements, procurement support, local development and community-based initiatives, the Green Economy and participation in employment support schemes.

The implementation of the Action Programme for Effective Local Government - Putting People First provides an opportunity to achieve a more coherent approach to rates and charges on a county-wide basis, having regard to funding requirements and the need to support employment and business competitiveness.

I will continue to keep the approach to rates by local authorities under active review, and am determined that every avenue will be pursued to optimise efficiency and contain costs in the local government sector.

Departmental Bodies

Questions (538, 539)

David Stanton

Question:

538. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the cross-Departmental group on migrant integration was established; if he will provide details of its membership and the number of times it has met to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31983/13]

View answer

David Stanton

Question:

539. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of times the Ministerial Council on Integration has met; the dates of same and future meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31984/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 538 and 539 together.

The Cross-Departmental Group on Migrant Integration was established in June 2008 and met three times. In addition to my own Department, the membership would include representatives of the Departments of the Taoiseach, Public Expenditure and Reform, Education and Skills, the Environment, Community and Local Government, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Health, Children and Youth Affairs, Social Protection, Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Central Statistics Office.

The Ministerial Council on Integration was established during the previous administration in the form of regional forums, each of which met once on the following dates: Connacht/Ulster 7 October 2010; Dublin 14 October 2010; Rest of Leinster 1 November 2010; and Munster 11 November 2010.

In this context I am currently giving consideration to what structures may be needed in order to promote migrant integration going forward.

Visa Applications

Questions (540)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

540. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline the current pilot visa scheme that was awarded to Marketing English in Ireland; if he will detail the circumstances and decisions regarding the awarding of the pilot visa scheme to MEI and if public procurement was followed; the date on which this scheme came into effect, the date on which it will end: if and when the scheme will be reviewed by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32153/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

References to these pilot programmes being "awarded" are not correct. These programmes were not awarded to Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) and in that regard there are no public procurement issues arising.

It is Government policy to develop Ireland's international education services industry, of which the English language tuition sector is an important component. The strategy is overseen by the High Level Group on International Education on which my Department is represented, as indeed is MEI, in its capacity as the largest umbrella body for the language schools. My officials will also regularly meet representative bodies and indeed individual institutions.

At different points MEI highlighted the need to develop the Turkish market for language courses of which Ireland had a negligible share and also to see what might be done in terms of creating a fresh impetus in the very large Chinese market. My Department was supportive of these developments. In 2011 and 2012 pilot programmes in respect of English Language were developed jointly between the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and MEI for the Turkish and Chinese markets respectively.

Extensive reform of student immigration had taken place in recent years aimed at tackling the abuse of this channel as a facilitator for economic migration. A key element of the pilot programmes therefore was the focus not on numbers but on quality. They sought to target high quality, motivated English language students and aimed to develop the markets in a sustainable way. The programmes focus on a particular student profile, i.e. students with a clearly defined study plan to attend university, university graduates and executive level employees in firms where the candidate's position would benefit from strong English language skills. The programmes are designed to significantly contribute to the development of Ireland’s reputation as a premier destination for Chinese and Turkish students to achieve a high standard in English language education. Special administrative arrangements were put in place for the programmes with MEI, including monitoring student progress.

These programmes represent additional student immigration offerings but all of the normal student immigration channels for language and other courses remain open also. My Department is also open to similar pilot programmes from non-MEI schools or consortia who can come forward with credible programmes focussed on the same or equivalent student profile and with a commitment to quality service provision.

The programmes are at an early stage and it is important that they be given sufficient time to grow and develop before a final review is undertaken. However, progress under these programmes is reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Criminal Prosecutions

Questions (541, 572, 578)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

541. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he expects the book of evidence of those who were involved in illegal trading in Irish banks before the State bank guarantee to be finished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32154/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

572. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has received reports from An Garda Síochána or the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement in relation to the investigation into the banking collapse; if he is satisfied with the progress of the investigations; if there are sufficient resources to progress the investigations; if the investigation teams have in their possession tapes of telephone conversations seized from banks other than Anglo and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31987/13]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

578. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the tape recordings of conversations between senior officials of the former Anglo Bank, leaked to journalist Paul Williams emanated from An Garda Síochána; if he intends to conduct an investigation into the circumstances that led to the leak; if this leak could negatively impact on any potential criminal prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32177/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 541, 572 and 578 together.

As I have stated previously in this House I share the widespread concern that the criminal investigations into the former Anglo-Irish Bank be resolved as soon as possible. However, what is most important now is that nothing be said which would in any way risk the possibility of prejudicing any criminal proceedings.

The Deputies will be aware that a number of Garda investigation files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions as have several files from the parallel investigation taking place under the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Three persons are currently charged with offences under the Companies Acts and a number of files remain with the DPP awaiting her independent directions.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the investigation into the former Anglo-Irish Bank has been one of the most complex investigations of its kind ever undertaken in the State, and as part of which the Garda have obtained an enormous range of documents and recordings. Immediately upon taking up office I sought and was given assurances that there were sufficient resources available to these investigations and have made it clear to the Commissioner that if at any stage he believed that additional resources were required I would respond immediately. Furthermore, shortly after taking up office I moved to introduce additional powers contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2011, to assist the Garda in obtaining information in complex investigations such as these.

Insofar as the details of the management of the investigations, and of any current or future prosecutions are concerned, including matters relating to the preparation of books of evidence, the Deputies will appreciate that I have no role in this regard, nor would it be appropriate to disclose what evidence the Garda have in their possession in relation to any criminal investigations which they are conducting. I have no function in relation to determining the origin of the tapes referred to and cannot comment on this, other than to say I have no grounds for believing that the material emanated from An Garda Síochána.

Garda Vetting Applications

Questions (542)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

542. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding Garda vetting in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31498/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a vetting application on behalf of the individual referred to by the Deputy was received by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) on 26 February 2013.

The application was processed and returned to the registered organisation concerned on 9 May 2013.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (543)

Derek Keating

Question:

543. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe within which the Criminal Justice (Prevention of Corruption) Bill 2012 will be introduced into Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31506/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill 2012 has been published and is with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. I am informed that this Office has a considerable volume of work on hand, so I am not in a position to give a definitive response as to when drafting of this measure, which is complex and innovative in nature, will be completed.

Asylum Support Services

Questions (544)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

544. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a review of the direct provision system for asylum seekers will take place in order to ensure that international human rights standards are adhered to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31519/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am satisfied that the system of direct provision and dispersal, which was established in 1999, is in compliance with human rights obligations placed on the State by domestic and international law.

The Government policy of Direct Provision for asylum seekers ensures that a suitable standard of accommodation, food, medical and other services is maintained. This is a fair system for meeting the needs of asylum seekers in a cost-effective manner. It is line with asylum seeker reception arrangements in other EU countries and indeed, in some cases, it is of a much higher standard.

Over the years, the direct provision system has been open to scrutiny by many international bodies. Centres have been visited by various UN bodies, including the UNHCR, I appeared before the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva in connection with its scrutiny of Ireland under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process In October, 2011. No recommendation was made in relation to the Direct Provision system in the Committee's subsequent UPR report on Ireland.

All accommodation centres under contract to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department are obliged to ensure that their premises comply with and operate in accordance with all relevant statutory requirements of local authorities in relation to planning, building, bye-laws, bedroom capacity, food, food hygiene, water supply, sewage disposal, fire precautions, and general safety.

More broadly, the rights of residents in RIA centres are, put simply, protected in three ways:

(a) RIA's House Rules and Procedures which set out the type and standard of service that an asylum seeker should expect whilst residing in direct provision accommodation. The Rules set out the entitlements and obligations placed on centre management and on residents and, in the event that these aren't being met, a complaints procedure to be invoked by either party. This complaints system is considered by RIA to be broadly in line with the guidelines set out by the Office of the Ombudsman for ‘internal complaints systems’.

(b) Over and above the House Rules themselves, the interests of asylum seekers are protected through regular 'clinics' in centres where residents can speak directly to RIA headquarters staff without local centre management being present.

(c) Inspections take place in centres, by RIA staff and by QTS, to ensure that centres are adhering to their contractual obligations. It cannot be emphasised enough that all inspections are unannounced. Inspections are not to be confused with ordinary day-to-day visits to centres by RIA staff in connection with operational, health or educational matters where management would know of their arrival in advance.