Garda Recruitment

Questions (183)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

183. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to waive the age limit of 35 years old for recruitment to An Garda Síochána for reserve members of An Garda Síochána who entered the reserve before the age of 35. [45013/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The maximum recruitment age at which candidates may apply to join the Garda Síochána as a full time member is set by regulation at not more than 35 years and the question of appealing that upper age limit does not arise. The current maximum age applies without discrimination to everyone, including members of the Garda Reserve.

This upper age limit of 35 was set having regard to equality legislation and also took into account the following criteria:

- The cost of training.

- The need for recruits to serve for a sufficient period of time as full members of the service to recoup this cost.

- The operational requirements of the service in terms of having an age profile appropriate to the physical demands placed on full time members in the course of their duty.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Questions (184)

Shane Ross

Question:

184. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify the requirements for Garda vetting for Irish citizens who have travelled and worked overseas for a number of years; if it is true that if they wish to apply for job for which vetting is a requirement, if they have been abroad for more than two years then they must be back in permanent residence in Ireland for five years before they can even be considered to apply for vetting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45081/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides Garda Vetting Disclosures to organisations registered with it for that purpose. There are currently in the region of 20,000 such organisations. While it is part of current vetting procedures that any applicant must have an address in Ireland, the GCVU does not place any other restriction on the making of applications by registered organisations and accordingly, time limits of the kind referred to in the Deputy's question do not apply to such applications.

Visa Applications

Questions (185)

John Lyons

Question:

185. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of the potential for growth for tourist visits from the Chinese market, the current processing times of tourist visas for Chinese visitors; the cost of such a typical tourist visa; if he will provide a cost comparison with a similar visa for Chinese visitors to the UK or the Schengen area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45171/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Visa applications for Chinese nationals living in China are handled by the dedicated Irish Visa Office in Beijing, which is a sub-office of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department. This office handles all aspects of visa applications, including appeals, locally.

Over 50% of visit visas worldwide, which includes tourist visas and applications lodged in China, are processed within 4 days. The remainder are for the most part processed within one week with a small amount of more complex cases taking up to 15 days. This time frame is of course dependent on all the required documentation being provided with no queries remaining outstanding. The approval rate for applications for Irish visas lodged in China is in excess of 93% which compares very favourably internationally.

The current application fee for a single entry visa application lodged in the Visa Office in Beijing is €60. The fee for the equivalent visa for the UK is £80 or about €95. A Schengen single-entry visa also costs €60.

The Deputy may wish to note that China is one of the seventeen countries covered by the Visa Waiver Programme which allows most categories of visitor to the UK, including tourists, to travel on to Ireland without the additional need for an Irish visa. This Programme, which was introduced on 1 July 2011, has proved a significant success with the number of Chinese visitors increasing from 2010 (the last full year before the introduction of the Programme) to 2012 by 38% according to figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The Government has also taken other steps to make the visa process easier, including, with effect from 1 August, 2012, a more liberal multi-entry visa regime for Chinese business travellers and regular family visitors. This regime compares favourably with the approach taken by our nearest competitors. For example, it allows for a multi-entry visa for 3 years for €100 for qualifying travellers which compares with the $180 charged by the USA for the same duration. In addition, agreed programmes aimed at short stays for the purpose of learning English in Irish colleges, with accelerated processing of applications and reduced formalities, have been introduced.

Whilst I am satisfied that Ireland compares favourably with international competitors regarding processing times and approval rates for visas from China, my Department continually examines ways in which the visa process can further facilitate the promotion of tourism and business links to the People's Republic of China, in conformity with the needs of an effective immigration regime. The success of the Visa Waiver Programme and the other initiatives is very welcome and this Government is not resting on its laurels and work is continuing, through regular meetings between the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the UK Home Office, on the development of reciprocal short-stay Common Travel Area visa arrangements which would allow tourists and business visitors, including those from China, to travel to the CTA and to travel freely between Ireland and the UK on a single visa. A timetable has been agreed which foresees rollout of such arrangements next year.

This exciting initiative reflects the long history of cooperation between Ireland and the United Kingdom in the protection of the Common Travel Area and now, its promotion as a tourist destination for emerging markets, including China.

Garda Deployment

Questions (186, 187)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

186. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 64 of 20 September 2011, the way the minimum establishment required for each Garda district is taken into account in the distribution of Garda personnel and resources as he explained when, in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 459 of 8 October 2013, it was explained that there is no minimum establishment required for each district; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45298/13]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

187. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to the Parliamentary Question No.99 of 8 May 2012, the way response times are taken into account in the distribution of Garda personnel when, in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 460 of 8 October 2013, statistics in relation to response times are not available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45299/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 187 together.

As I have previously informed the Deputy, the distribution model for the deployment of Garda personnel takes all the relevant factors into account, including of course the capacity within each Garda Division and District to respond to demand, and there is no minimum establishment for a given Garda area.

As the Deputy will appreciate these are very much operational matters and I am assured by the Garda authorities that the specific policing arrangements for all areas are kept under on-going review. The objective at all times is to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Charities Regulation

Questions (188)

Finian McGrath

Question:

188. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a charity (details supplied) based in Dublin 3 is a registered charity; if he will provide an update on the regulation of charity shops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45305/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Charities Act 2009 provides for an integrated system of mandatory registration and proportionate regulation and supervision of charitable organisations operating in Ireland. An independent Charities Regulatory Authority is to be established under the Act. One of the functions of this Authority will be to establish and maintain a public Register of Charities. When this Register is in place, interested parties will be able to consult it to establish whether any given organisation is a registered charity.

The Deputy will appreciate that the full implementation of the Charities Act, including the establishment of the Authority and Register of Charities, has resource implications that had to be examined in the context of the urgent need to reduce government expenditure. I delayed bringing this legislation into force in order to consider how best to achieve the objectives of the Act in this context. It remains an objective of the Government to strengthen the regulation of the charitable sector in effective and proportionate ways. To advance this, a public and stakeholder consultation on the implementation of the Charities Act 2009, and the establishment of a Register of Charities, was carried out by my Department earlier this year and published in July. At that time the Government also approved my plans to proceed with the establishment of an independent Charities Regulatory Authority under the terms of the 2009 Charities Act. It is envisaged that the new Authority will come into operation in 2014.

In the meantime, the Deputy may be interested to know that many Irish charities, approximately 8,000, have been deemed eligible by the Revenue Commissioners for charitable tax exemptions under the Taxes Consolidation Act(s). Information on this Scheme and a list of those charities that have been deemed eligible are available on the Revenue website: www.revenue.ie.

Visa Applications

Questions (189)

Willie Penrose

Question:

189. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will expedite an application for a joint spouse visa in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45327/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the visa application referred to by the Deputy was lodged at the Irish Embassy in Ankara on 02 September 2013 and was forwarded to the INIS Visa Office in Dublin for processing. A decision on the application can be expected within 10-15 working days.

Queries in relation to general immigration matters 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.