Local Authorities Management

Questions (153)

Clare Daly

Question:

153. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the criteria used by the assistant secretary of his Department in selecting a person (details supplied) to fill the post of Sligo county manger in a temporary capacity from 4 November 2013 until a permanent appointment is made; if recommendations were received or references sought regarding this person's ability to carry out their duties as temporary county manager; if other candidates were considered for the temporary position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51101/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under Section 145 (4) of the Local Government Act 2001 where a position of manager becomes vacant it is necessary to make a temporary appointment until a permanent appointment is made. In relation to Sligo County Council the manager retired in November 2013 and a temporary appointment was made under Section 145 on foot of a recommendation from the outgoing manager. The recruitment of managers is carried out by the Public Appointments Service. Following an open competition a new Sligo County Manager has been selected and will take up duty in January 2014.

Firearms Licences

Questions (154)

Niall Collins

Question:

154. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of restricted handguns currently licensed to sports persons here; the total number of non-restricted handguns currently licensed to sports persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50882/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As of 20 November 2013, the number of non restricted firearm certificates for handguns is 949 and the number of restricted firearm certificates for handguns is 549. Since 1 August 2009, applicants seeking to license handguns in the State must first satisfy the issuing person of his/her membership of an authorised rifle or pistol club. I am keeping firearms legislation under review, with the issue of public safety as paramount.

Prison Accommodation Provision

Questions (155)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

155. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he will take to address the problem of overcrowding in women's prisons following reports that prisons are being forced to release prisoners to relieve overcrowding as a consequence of having to accept prisoners from the courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50883/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the primary role of the Irish Prison Service is to provide safe and secure custody for prisoners. The Deputy will also be aware that the Prison Service must accept all persons committed by the courts into custody and does not have the option of refusing committals.

On Monday, 22 November 2013, there were 30 women in custody in Limerick Female Prison, which has a bed capacity of 28. On the same day, there were 121 women in custody in the Dóchas Centre, which has a bed capacity for 105. In April 2012, I published the Irish Prison Service 3 year Strategic Plan. This strategy sets out the overall high level objectives and key strategic actions the Irish Prison Service intends to take during the period 2012 to 2015. One of the commitments given in the Strategy is that the Irish Prison Service will work in partnership with the Probation Service and other stakeholders in the statutory, community and voluntary sectors in order to develop a strategy for dealing with women offenders.

In this regard, I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service published a joint Strategic Plan for 2013-2015. Both agencies are working together to develop a strategy which ensures a more targeted response to women offenders including:

- identifying and diverting women at risk of a custodial sentence through greater use of community sanctions, supports and inter-agency co-operation;

- strengthening early intervention measures in the community through adopting a co-ordinated multi-agency approach;

- improving outcomes for women currently in custody;

- exploring the potentials of women centric alternatives to custody;

- development of a suitable step down facility for women offenders;

- enhanced co-operation with the community and voluntary sector.

In September 2012, I announced the establishment of a Working Group to conduct a Strategic Review of Penal Policy. In line with a recommendation of the Thornton Hall Review Group which reported in 2012, the Working Group has been asked to carry out an all encompassing strategic review of penal policy incorporating an examination and analysis of all aspects of penal policy including the issue of female prisoners. This Review is ongoing and the Working Group is expected to report early next year.

Domestic Violence Policy

Questions (156)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

156. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce a 24-7 on-call system for emergency barring orders in order that victims of domestic abuse can be protected by the courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50884/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Government is committed to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation, in a way that provides protection to victims. My Department has received a range of proposals in relation to this commitment, including a proposal to allow for a barring order application to be made outside normal court hours in emergency situations. It is my intention to examine a package of workable and effective proposals for the reform of the domestic violence legislation as soon as possible. In this regard I also intend to consider the recommendations from the examination of domestic and sexual violence by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality when it reports.

Alcohol Sales Legislation

Questions (157)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

157. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the increasingly common problem of off-licences delivering alcohol to homes and public places, and accepting cash on delivery; if he will confirm that this is an offence; if he will provide details of the number of prosecutions that have taken place in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50897/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Provisions relating to the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor are set out in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011. Under section 17(3) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 it is an offence for a licensee, with intent to evade the conditions of the licence, to take intoxicating liquor from the licensed premises for the purposes of its being sold on the account or for the benefit or profit of the licensee, or to permit any other person to do so.

The Government Alcohol Advisory Group considered specific issues relating to distance sales of alcohol in its 2008 Report. The Group drew attention to the requirement that payment must be made as part of the telephone or on-line transaction in such cases and not later on delivery of the product. It considered that the sales of alcohol products involving payment by the consumer on delivery do not comply with the existing statutory provisions and are, therefore, illegal.

Any complaints relating to the sale or delivery of alcohol received by An Garda Síochána are the subject of investigation and offenders dealt with in accordance with the law. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Garda Remuneration

Questions (158)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

158. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will ensure that gardaí are paid all outstanding allowances in December for hours worked in November this year, rather than in January, as has been the case in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50905/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that overtime and unsocial hours payments are paid to members of An Garda Síochána up to and including the rank of Inspector. Members are paid these allowances on a 28 day roster basis, in arrears, with the payment process commencing at the beginning of each pay roster period in respect of work carried out during the previous period. There are 13 such periods in each year and there are 13 payments made each year to members of An Garda Síochána based on individual claims submitted by members. There are no plans at present to change this arrangement.

The majority of members receive this payment on the third Thursday after the end of a particular roster period. In the case of the period which ends on 8 December, this would be due to be paid on 26 December. However, the year-end payrolls are brought forward due to such matters as extra bank holidays which occur during the Christmas and New Year periods, the testing of new computer software to cater for any budgetary changes, inputting of payroll reference data changes for 2014 and the high volume of payroll administration required at the Financial Year End. This in turn means that the payroll date of 26 December has to be brought forward to 19 December. The payroll data for that pay date must be submitted by 6 December 2013.

The practice outlined above has always been the case and is not a new development. Garda members always have received and will continue to receive 13 payments each year for 13 four week periods. It must also be remembered that with regard to normal salary payments, Gardaí are paid on a weekly basis and will receive their pay up to and including the pay day of 26 December before the end of the year. In fact, they will receive their salary payment for the paydays of 19 and 26 December in advance of Christmas on 17 and 19 December respectively.

Garda Vetting Applications

Questions (159)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

159. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding Garda clearance in respect of a person (details supplied); the length of time it will take for the backlog of applications to be assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50909/13]

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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 4 November, 2013. The application is currently being processed and once completed will be returned to the registered organisation concerned.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the current average processing time for applications is now approximately 7 weeks from date of receipt. However, seasonal fluctuations and the necessity to seek additional information on particular applications can result in this processing time being exceeded on occasion. Nonetheless, this is a significant improvement on the processing time of 14 weeks which existed in July this year. This improvement reflects the fact that I have given this matter particular priority as it is essential that the GCVU has the resources required to perform this most critical of roles effectively and efficiently.

In that context, I have been actively engaged on this issue with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. As a result of that engagement, I am pleased to say that the Garda Commissioner has confirmed to me that there are now 136 whole time equivalent staff assigned to the GCVU, some 41 of whom have been redeployed from elsewhere in the public service since the end of March 2013. Some of these redeployed staff have only recently completed their training in the vetting process, and the full impact of their work will be seen in the coming weeks. Furthermore, I have also received sanction for the redeployment of 40 additional staff to the GCVU. This brings the total number of staff in that service to over 170, more than double that of the average allocation of 78 staff at the Unit over the past two and a half years.

The Deputy may also wish to note that the development of an e-Vetting solution is underway. This will facilitate the processing of all applications in an e-format, thus removing the time-consuming current process of manually managing all applications received. When this is achieved, this system will streamline the overall vetting process in this jurisdiction, and further contribute to reductions in processing times for all vetting applications.