Cash for Gold Trade

Questions (539)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

539. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if any development, legislative or otherwise, has been made regarding the cash for gold business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5510/14]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I published a report in June, 2012 on the criminal justice aspects of the cash for gold trade. The Report prepared by my Department is available on www.justice.ie. I requested the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence to consider the content of the report, to ensure that it obtains the views of all relevant interested parties and that it makes such report and recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas and to Government as it deems proportionate and appropriate in the public interest. The current position is that I have received the Committee's response and, having considered it, I have asked my Department to develop proposals in relation to the matter.

Mortgage Arrears Proposals

Questions (540, 541, 542, 543)

Ann Phelan

Question:

540. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding mortgage arrears and the process of repossession being pursued by the banks here in view of the perception that the repossession of the family home is a resolution under the current process of personal insolvency whereas the reality is that this is merely a resolution for the creditor; and if he will indicate the way these resolutions are being presented by his Department. [5519/14]

View answer

Ann Phelan

Question:

541. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding mortgage arrears and the process of repossession being pursued by the banks here; the protection the Constitution affords the family home and-or dwelling. [5520/14]

View answer

Ann Phelan

Question:

542. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding mortgage arrears and the process of repossession being pursued by the banks here; the reason third level education fess for children are not included in reasonable living expenses, as this is a source of concern for families. [5521/14]

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Ann Phelan

Question:

543. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding mortgage arrears and the process of repossession being pursued by the banks here for those people who find themselves in a position where they can only resolve their debts through bankruptcy; and the reason they cannot avail of free legal aid. [5522/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 540 to 543, inclusive, together.

I can advise the Deputy that the current position regarding mortgage arrears and repossession procedures is outlined in the Report of the Expert Group on Repossession which was published on my Department’s website on 14 January. This Government has consistently taken the line that repossession of a home should only be considered as a last resort when all other sustainable options have been fully considered but are not considered viable having regard to all circumstances of the case. To that end, the Government has introduced a comprehensive framework to tackle the mortgage arrears problem.

Lending institutions are working with borrowers in arrears to meet targets set by the Central Bank which will see the majority of them being offered sustainable solutions by the end of this year. The Central Bank’s Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) contains a structured framework which lenders must follow when dealing with mortgage arrears.

The reform of the personal insolvency legislation, which I piloted through the Oireachtas will see a range of alternative solutions being availed of by borrowers where their debt situation is not sustainable. The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 has modernised the State’s insolvency laws and has put in place new mechanisms to resolve personal debt problems. It has also established the Insolvency Service of Ireland.

The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 provides that applications for the repossession of private residences, irrespective of whether the mortgage was created before or after 1 December 2009, may be adjourned to allow the parties to explore the possibility of applying for a Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) under the 2012 Act as an alternative to repossession.

The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 required the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) to prepare and publish guidelines as to what constitutes a reasonable standard of living and reasonable living expenses. Initial guidelines were published as part of the launch of the ISI’s information campaign in April 2013 and in June 2013 the ISI published an updated guide to reflect adjustments for inflation and so ensure that practitioners would be using the most up-to-date information available.

Under the model developed by the ISI, reasonable living expenses are the expenses a person necessarily incurs in achieving a reasonable standard of living, this being one which meets a person’s physical, psychological and social needs. Reasonable living expenses vary depending on a number of factors such as the particular composition of a household and the need for a car. Beyond that, when determining reasonable living expenses, provision is made for reasonable housing costs in terms of rent or mortgage payments as well as for reasonable payments in respect of childcare where this expense arises.

In addition, the guidelines make allowance for a debtor to specify reasonable costs which arise as a consequence of ill-health or disability or other special circumstances. (In this regard, third level education fees for children are not specifically excluded when determining reasonable living expenses). Page 13 of the June 2013 ISI guidelines makes explicit that this category of special circumstances may also be used where a debtor has persons other than his or her minor children financially dependent on him or her such as where the debtor is contributing financially to the care of an adult dependent such as, for example, a college-going child. Those guidelines are available to view on the ISI’s website www.isi.gov.ie.

On the matter of legal aid, the Legal Aid Board provides advice and representation in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. Persons who have mortgage problems are entitled to apply at any of the Board's law centres to get legal advice. In relation to the provision of representation before the Court, the Board applies the "merits" criteria that are set out in the legislation to any application for representation. If the Board takes the view that there is no legal defence to the lending institution's application for repossession it must refuse the application for representation. The Board may however grant representation if it considers that there is a defence to the lending institution's claim.

Finally, I should emphasise that co-operating borrowers have nothing to fear from engaging with the lending institutions to find solutions to their difficulties, with some 79,000 mortgage holders having had their mortgages restructured as of November 2013. Advice on dealing with mortgage arrears is available independently of the lending institutions, through the Citizens Information Board help line and website (www.keepingyourhome.ie).

Oireachtas Joint Committee Reports

Questions (544, 548, 549)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

544. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update regarding the examination of the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on hearings and submissions on the review of legislation on prostitution that was published on 27 June 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5529/14]

View answer

Brendan Ryan

Question:

548. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 812 of 5 November 2013, if he has received the clarification and advice sought from the chairman of the joint committee, Attorney General and the Minister for Health; and if not when he expects to receive same. [5666/14]

View answer

Brendan Ryan

Question:

549. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on the current review of prostitution legislation, the timetable for his response to the report's recommendations; if, in view of the political consensus on this issue at committee, he intends to make provision for the report's recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5667/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 544, 548 and 549 together.

I requested the advices of the Attorney General and the views of the Minister for Health on the report in question on 25 September. On 6 November, the Chairman of the committee replied to my request for clarification and elaboration of recommendations made in the report. This detailed response has also been referred to the Attorney General for legal advices and to the Minister for Health for his views. Responses from the Attorney General and the Minister for Health are awaited. Policy decisions by the Government must await their examination of the legal and health implications of the committee's recommendations and each must have the opportunity to prepare considered views and advices.

Visa Applications

Questions (545)

Jack Wall

Question:

545. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding a visa application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5541/14]

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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 person mentioned by the Deputy made an application for permission to remain in the State based on her de facto relationship with an Irish national. The application was submitted on 25 November 2013. All applications are dealt with in chronological order and this application will be receiving attention shortly.

The Deputy may wish to note that 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 established specifically 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.

Prisoner Data

Questions (546)

Clare Daly

Question:

546. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown of female prisoners currently incarcerated in the State in the 70-80 age group. [5598/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that on 3 February 2014 there was 1 female prisoner, in the 70-80 age group.

Garda Recruitment

Questions Nos. 548 and 549 answered with Question No. 544.

Questions (547)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

547. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that registered for the aptitude test to join An Garda Síochána; the number who have completed the test within the allocated time; when those who completed the test within the allotted time will be informed of their success; the number of those candidates who registered for the aptitude test who had successfully completed all stages leading up to Garda training as part of previous recruitment drives; if those candidates who had successfully completed those stages will be considered differently from first-time applicants wishing to join the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5654/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities. I will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Questions Nos. 548 and 549 answered with Question No. 544.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (550, 551)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

550. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence if he will itemise in tabular form the occasions on which his Department has engaged the services of external professional advice such as a company (details supplied) on the appointment of persons to State boards; if he will list the fees paid in respect of such services; the persons who were ultimately appointed on foot of advice received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4984/14]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

551. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence if he will identify any instances where a person appointed to a State board after recruitment advice was received from professional external consultants was subsequently deemed to be unqualified for the duties and responsibilities attached to the role; the costs incurred in obtaining advice in respect of each such instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5000/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 550 and 551 together.

My Department has not engaged the services of external professional consultants or sought external professional advice concerning appointments to State Boards.

Information and Communications Technology

Questions (552)

John Deasy

Question:

552. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Defence the apps his Department or attached agencies have been involved in developing for smartphones and other multimedia devices in the past three years; the cost and the software developer employed in each case. [5456/14]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Defence Forces Public Relations Branch developed two Apps as part of the re-development of the website, www.military.ie, in 2011. The total cost to-date for these is €7,296. The Apps were developed by Roomthree Design. The Defence Forces won the award in 2011 and 2013 for Best Use of Social Media by a State Body in the Bord Gáis Energy Social Media Awards. The awards aim to recognise best practice in online interaction and innovation in social media.

Freedom of Information Requests

Questions (553)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

553. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Defence if military records in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford may be released to that person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5696/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I have been advised by the military authorities that the Defence Forces as a matter of routine provide access to individuals seeking their personal military records (personnel files) in the case of both serving and retired members. This access is best achieved through an application from the individual under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 & 2003. This application should be made in writing to the Defence Forces Freedom of Information Officer, Defence Forces Headquarters, Station Road, Newbridge, Co. Kildare. The individual needs only to cite the Freedom of Information Acts and indicate the information required. The Freedom of Information Office in the Defence Forces are more than happy to assist or advise this person and are available at 045 492577/2578. Further information can also be obtained from the Defence Forces website at www.military.ie under the link Freedom of Information.

State Properties

Questions (554)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

554. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will assign responsibility for old Land Commission banks to his Department, the Office of Public Works or the local authorities, as currently such embankments are in legal limbo and have suffered from a lack of attention over the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5286/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

By virtue of the provisions of Section 10 of the Land Act, 1965 my Department, as successor to the former Irish Land Commission, does not retain responsibility for the construction, cleansing, maintenance, repair or restoration of embankments, or other works in relation to lands purchased under the Land Purchase Acts. Responsibility for these works normally rests with the property owner. Arising from the acquisition of a small number of estates, the former Irish Land Commission retained a portion of the purchase money for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of embankments and sluices but only on these particular estates. These retained funds were entrusted to the Public Trustee, who is now an officer of my Department. The Public Trustee has responsibility for the investment of these funds and the income earned may be applied for the specific purposes described in the trust deed for the estates in question. These funds may not be applied for any other purposes.

Horse Slaughtering Data

Questions (555)

John O'Mahony

Question:

555. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of horses that have been put down in each local authority area in 2013 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4868/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department provides funding under the Control of Horses Act, 1996 to assist local authorities with expenses incurred by them in implementing the provisions of the Act. The Act empowers local authorities to deal with stray or wandering horses. The table below, which is based on the most up to date information provided to me by local authorities sets out details of the number of horses humanely disposed by each local authority in 2013 under the Control of Horses Act. These figures are not definitive as the closing date for receipt of final data from local authorities is 10 February 2014.

City/County Co's

No. of Horses humanely disposed of in 2013

Carlow Co. Council

65

Cavan Co. Council

0

Clare Co. Council

37

Cork Co. Council

99

Cork City Council

85

Donegal Co. Council

29

Dublin City Council

223

Sth Dublin Co. Council

213

Dunlaoghaire/Rathdown Co Council

31

Fingal Co. Council

62

Galway City Council

0

Galway Co. Council

241

Kerry Co. Council

20

Kildare Co. Council

235

Kilkenny Co. Council

60

Laois Co. Council

133

Leitrim Co. Council

20

Limerick Co. Council

87

Limerick City Council

144

Longford Co. Council

4

Louth Co. Council

79

Mayo Co. Council

101

Meath Co. Council

161

Monaghan Co. Council

71

Offaly Co. Council

34

Roscommon Co. Council

197

Sligo Co. Council

70

Tipperary (North Riding) Co. Council

83

Tipperary (South Riding) Co. Council

103

Waterford City Council

30

Waterford Co. Council

16

Westmeath Co. Council

69

Wexford Co. Council

127

Wicklow Co. Council

172

Totals

3101

Animal Welfare

Questions (556)

John Lyons

Question:

556. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of enforcement actions taken by his Department under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 in urban and rural areas; and the number of subsequent prosecutions under the new powers of this Act. [4886/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 has not yet been commenced. The Act is due to be commenced and to enter effect from the end of February 2014. In the interim, offences will continue to be prosecuted under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, the Diseases of Animals Act, 1966, the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act, 1984 or other legislation, as appropriate.

Fish Quotas

Questions (557)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

557. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider changes to the herring quota in area 6A to allow inshore fishermen to carry their tonnage quota into the next month if weather conditions prevent them from fishing on a given month. [4887/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I consider that the industry itself is best placed to advise me on the management of fishing opportunities, given the wide range of factors which contribute to the optimum usage of available quotas. In relation to the monthly allocation of fishing opportunities, my Department officials and the representative producer organisations in the industry, both fishermen and onshore processors, meet each month and industry representatives make recommendations to me in relation to the quota to be allocated in the coming month for whitefish and some pelagic fisheries, including the small vessel herring fishery in Area Vla. Fisheries Management Notice No 4 of 2014 which is currently in force has set a catch limit of 10 tonnes for under 20 meter vessels in this fishery for the combined two month period of January and February. This was recommended by Industry on 16 December 2013.

I will ask my Department to raise the Deputy’s proposal with the Industry at the monthly meeting when considering their recommendation on the catch limit to apply in the Under 20m vessel herring fishery in Area VIa for March and I will then consider all the issues raised when making my decision on the matter.

Turbary Rights

Questions (558)

Dara Calleary

Question:

558. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Sligo who has held turbary over a plot of bog since 1938; the options available to the person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4897/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The ownership of the fee simple for the plot in question is held by me as successor to the former Irish Land Commission and is not presently for sale.

Rural Development Programme Projects

Questions (559)

Tom Fleming

Question:

559. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a building (details supplied) will qualify for the new farm buildings grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4956/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The new EU policy framework setting out the broad principles in relation to rural development for the 2014-2020 period has now been finalised. My Department has prepared a consultation paper in relation to the proposed measures for inclusion in Ireland’s Rural Development Programme and the consultation process with relevant stakeholders is currently underway. Following completion of the consultation process, the draft Programme will be submitted to the EU Commission.

The dates of introduction of any new investment schemes will be dependent on a number of factors, including the requirement to obtain EU Commission approval for the Programme concerned. It is not possible at this stage to confirm if specific types of farm buildings will be eligible for grant-aid under the new Programme.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (560, 561)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

560. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will itemise in tabular form the occasions on which his Department has engaged the services of external professional advice such as a company (details supplied) on the appointment of persons to State boards; if he will list the fees paid in respect of such services; the persons who were ultimately appointed on foot of advice received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4980/14]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

561. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will identify any instance where a person appointed to a State board after recruitment advice was received from professional external consultants was subsequently deemed to be unqualified for the duties and responsibilities attached to the role; the costs incurred in obtaining advice in respect of each such instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4996/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 560 and 561 together.

My Department has not used the company named or professional external recruitment consultants to assist with the appointment of directors to State Boards under the aegis of my Department.