School Curriculum

Questions (84, 85)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

84. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the request for the NCCA to initiate a review of the sex education curriculum. [48755/18]

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Thomas Byrne

Question:

85. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the NCCA has provided a timeline for a response with regard to his predecessor's request for a review of the sex education curriculum. [48756/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 85 together.

In April 2018, my predecessor announced a review of Relationships and Sexual Education (RSE) in schools. This review is currently underway and covers both the content of RSE curriculum and support materials, as well as the delivery of the curriculum to students.

Included in the areas for particular consideration during the review are:

- Consent, what it means and its importance

- Developments in contraception

- Healthy, positive sexual expression and relationships

- Safe use of the internet

- Social media and its effects on relationships and self-esteem

- LGBTQ+ matters.

Given the scope of the request, the review will comprise of three inter-related dimensions:

1. Desk-top review of recently published research/studies in this area.

2. Consultations with key individuals and organisations who have responsibility for or who are working in this area.

3. Working directly with schools to examine the experience of RSE in schools and in classrooms.

A review of research was commissioned in June 2018 and a report was published this week. Studies have emerged over the last months that will also support the development of discussions and key questions in the review.

A number of consultative events are being planned. The first will be held on 27 November at Collins Barracks, Dublin and will involve approximately 60 groups and organisation who have expressed an interest in or who are known to have an interest in contributing to the review.

Approximately 20 primary and post primary schools, representing a range of school types and experiences will be directly involved. The outcome from this strand of the review will inform recommendations in relation to curriculum gaps, implementation barriers and enablers, and support needs. Furthermore, there will be an opportunity for any school to be involved, should they wish, to facilitate workshops locally.

The timelines for the three dimensions of the review are likely to intersect somewhat but will also contribute and add to the progression of the review. I expect to receive a report from the NCCA in Q2 2019.

Student Assistance Fund

Questions (86)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

86. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is appropriate for a college to arrange for a student from a low income family on a SUSI grant to go to another county on a non-paid work placement for over three months and expect them to both source and pay for accommodation in a housing crisis while also paying for accommodation at the college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48759/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student.  It is not intended to cover the full costs of attending college.  The student grant scheme does however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means.  

Universities and Institutes of Technology have statutory autonomy under the Universities Act 1997 and the Institutes of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006. The management of their academic affairs, including the content and delivery of courses, are matters for individual institutions.

I understand that several third level courses, including the Early Childhood and Education Course in IT Sligo, contain modules involving work placement. Students will be aware of the requirement to undertake placements prior to commencing the course.

If particular issues arise for students during the course of their studies, they should contact the relevant Academic Department or the institution's Access Office. In this regard, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This fund assists students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. The fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (87)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

87. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the recently proposed legislative change will be enacted which will compel schools to open specialised ASD special educational needs classes in circumstances in which it is needed; the way in which this legislative change will be enforced once formalised in view of the fact that there has been resistance from schools in the past to open and provide these ASD classes, particularly in the Dublin 6, 6W and 12 areas, which are poorly served in relation to the provision of specialised ASD classes at primary level when compared to other areas with similar enrolment numbers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48777/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes by over 150% from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now.  The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.

While most schools fully embrace an open and inclusive policy, some students with Special Educational Needs continue to experience difficulties in securing enrolment. My Department has acknowledged that in recent years the establishment of special class provision in some schools and communities has been challenging.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 when fully commenced will assist in addressing these issues. 

The Deputy will be aware that, on the 3rd October 2018, my predecessor Minister Bruton, commenced a number of sections of the Act. On that date the Minister also announced the commencement of Section 8 of the Act, from Monday 3rd December 2018, which will provide the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the board of management and the patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs.

This power will come into effect on Monday 3rd December 2018. The NCSE is engaging with the education partners and finalise procedures in advance of this date. This new power will build on the work which has been done in recent years to facilitate schools to open special classes.

Section 67 of the Act will provide certain powers to the NCSE to designate a school placement for a child in circumstances where a child is experiencing difficulties in securing enrolment.

A number of the remaining sections of the Act which have not yet been commenced including Section 67, require regulations and procedures to be drafted, and will require consultation with the Education Partners prior to commencement.

I intend to have the other remaining sections of the Act commenced in time for admissions to the 2020/21 school year.

School Transport

Questions (88)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

88. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding school bus routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48788/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. 

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

Bus Éireann has advised that the detailed information requested is not readily available and will involve a significant amount of administrative time to compile.

In this regard, Bus Éireann has been requested to respond directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Funding

Questions (89)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

89. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding allocation to the regional skills fora in 2018 and 2019. [48795/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The funding allocated to the Regional Skills Fora for 2018 was €1m . This includes salary costs and direct and indirect costs for each of the 9 Regional Skills Forum Managers.

The funding allocations for 2019 have not yet been published in the Revised Estimates Volume, but it is expected that similar funding will be available in 2019.

Schools Establishment

Questions (90, 91)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

90. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the shortage of second level places in the Dunshaughlin school planning area; and his plans to address the matter. [48799/18]

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Thomas Byrne

Question:

91. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that large parts of the Dunshaughlin school planning area are not within the catchment area of a college (details supplied). [48800/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 91 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, in order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas. My Department uses a Geographical Information System (GIS) to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and my Department's own databases. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises at primary and post-primary level to determine where additional school accommodation is needed.

Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools

- Provision of a new school or schools.

In April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). In addition to the new schools announced, there will be a need for further school accommodation in other areas in the future. Approximately 40% of extra school places are delivered by extending existing schools.

While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school for the Dunshaughlin school planning area, the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard for the increased rollout of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. The enrolment policy must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in the area. Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of an Educational Training Board (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school. Further information on the Section 29 appeals process is available on the Department's website www.education.ie. The Education Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, which was signed into law by the President on the 18th July 2018, is an important piece of legislation which will introduce a more parent-friendly, equitable and consistent approach to how school admissions policy operates for the almost 4,000 primary and post-primary schools in this country and a fair and balanced school admission process for all pupils.

School Staff

Questions (92)

Niall Collins

Question:

92. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of the principals who served in a school (details supplied); the periods they served since the school was established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48807/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The principal teachers of the school referred to by the Deputy were recruited and employed by the managerial authority of the school. They have been paid on payrolls operated by my Department on behalf of the managerial authority.  The information required for their payment is provided by the managerial authority on standardised forms submitted to my Department.

The main purpose for which my Department requires the personal data provided is the correct payment of the salary. It is also required for the correct payment of pension at retirement.

Under the terms of the General Data Protection Regulation , the information as requested by the Deputy cannot be provided by my Department.

Irish Prison Service

Questions (93)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

93. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his Departmental officials and-or his predecessor retain a file (details supplied); if his officials or his predecessor made a recommendation that a person be reinstated to their role within the Irish Prison Service through his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48663/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised that the Irish Prison Service retains a personnel file in respect of the Officer referred to by the Deputy.  

I am further advised that the Director General of the Service reviewed the file relating to the person named and that he is satisfied that proper procedures were followed in relation to his dismissal.  There has been no recommendation that he should be reinstated.

Commencement of Legislation

Questions (94)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

94. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 will be commenced. [48665/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provides for a number of amendments to the Civil Registration Act 2004, all of which have yet to be commenced.

Sections 92, 93, 95 and 99 of the 2015 Act provide for the registration and re-registration of the birth of a donor-conceived child. These sections cannot be commenced until Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act are brought into operation by the Minister for Health. The Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018 was enacted on 24 July 2018. This Act was introduced to correct typographical and technical errors in the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which will facilitate the subsequent commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act. It is the Minister for Health's intention that Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act will be commenced as soon as possible.

Officials from my Department, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and the Department of Health are working to coordinate the scheduling of the commencement of sections 92, 93, 95 and 99 of the 2015 Act once Parts 2 and 3 of the Act have been commenced and the appropriate regulatory and operational mechanisms are in place to allow for birth registration of donor-conceived children.

The commencement of the other sections of Part 9 of the 2015 Act (unrelated to birth registration of donor-conceived children) is dependent on provisions of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 being commenced by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These sections may be commenced separately and do not affect the bringing into force of the provisions on birth registration of donor-conceived children.

Legal Proceedings

Questions (95)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

95. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the State Claims Agency has been engaged and-or consulted regarding civil actions initiated against him, the Attorney General and the Garda Commissioner relating to matters which arose during the tenure of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48751/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy refers to a number of civil actions initiated by the last-named person against the Minister for Justice and Equality, Ireland, the Attorney General and the Garda Commissioner.

Given the nature and background of these cases, they are being handled by the Chief State Solicitor's Office on behalf of the State. My priority and that of the Government is for the cases to be settled without undue delay, in the interests of the last-named person and his family.

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have asked the Attorney General to advise on settlement of these cases.

Departmental Data

Questions (96)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

96. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of injury warrants issued historically by his Department and-or the Irish Prison Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48662/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department does not issue Injury Warrants. I understand that matters relating to Injury Warrants come within the responsibility of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Commencement of Legislation

Questions (97)

Noel Grealish

Question:

97. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will be commenced by ministerial order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48684/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015.

New administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health), must be put in place before the substantive provisions of the Act can be commenced.

A high-level Steering Group comprised of senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission (MHC) and the Courts Service, together with the Director of the Decision Support Service, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the Decision Support Service (DSS) and this work is ongoing. The Steering Group meets approximately once a month to monitor progress.

A number of provisions of the Act were commenced in October 2016 in order to progress the setting up of the Decision Support Service. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 515 of 2016), brought Part 1 (Preliminary and General) and Part 9 (Director of the Decision Support Service) of the Act, other than sections 3, 4 and 7 in Part 1 and sections 96 and 102 and Chapter 3 in Part 9, into operation on 17 October 2016. These provisions were brought into operation in order to enable the process of recruitment of the Director of the Decision Support Service (DSS) to begin. Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the Decision Support Service on 2 October 2017.

The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health.  The Minister for Health, under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) (No. 2) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 517 of 2016), brought some provisions of Part 8 of the Act into operation on 17 October 2016 . The provisions commenced in Part 8 were the definition of “Minister” in section 82; the definitions of “code of practice” and “working group” in section 91(1); and section 91(2).  The commenced provisions provide for the establishment by the Minister for Health of a multi-disciplinary group to advise in relation to codes of practice on advance healthcare directives.  The multi-disciplinary group has been set up and work is ongoing on the code of practice on advance healthcare directives.

The key preparations are being put in place under the oversight of the Steering Group to allow for further commencement orders for the provisions of the 2015 Act to be made when the DSS is ready to roll out the new decision-making support options. The Director of the DSS is working in a very determined way to get the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations in place in order that the DSS can be up and running as quickly as possible. There are many complex strands to this work, including involvement of multiple organisations.

Every effort is underway to ensure that the DSS has all necessary capacity to open for business as soon as possible.  While the DSS has been working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in early 2020, the situation will be kept under review as the preparatory work on implementation moves forward. 

In April 2018, the MHC engaged the consultancy firm BearingPoint to support the development of a detailed, costed plan to establish a fully operational Decision Support Service. The contract also includes ongoing project management support for the design and establishment of the organisation, business processes, IT systems and risk management framework.

The MHC has in recent weeks received sanction for the recruitment of a number of staff for the DSS and also a number of staff to provide shared services for the MHC and DSS. The MHC proposes to recruit these staff on a phased basis between now and 1 January 2020.

The National Disability Authority is currently finalising its work on the suite of draft codes of practice in relation to non-healthcare matters which are required to be prepared under section 103 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015.

In June 2018, my Department recruited an external legal expert to assist in the preparation of draft regulations in relation to decision-making assistance agreements, co-decision-making agreements, certain matters relating to decision-making representatives, and enduring powers of attorney.  These regulation-making powers are provided for in sections 10(4), 31, 45(3), 45(4), 46(3) and 79 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. Work on the draft regulations is ongoing.

The 2019 Budget provides for an allocation of €3 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service. 

The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides for a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health.

Magdalen Laundries Data

Questions (98, 99, 100, 101)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

98. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the addendum to the terms of Magdalen restorative justice ex gratia scheme presumes that no child under 12 years of age worked in a Magdalen laundry in view of the fact that the McAleese report confirms that some children under 12 years of age did; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48693/18]

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Catherine Connolly

Question:

99. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if testamentary evidence will be accepted as evidence for the purposes of the addendum to the terms of the Magdalen restorative justice ex gratia scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48694/18]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

100. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of all records returned by religious orders to him; the age of the children and hours worked and so on pursuant to the Conditions of Employment (Records) Regulations 1947, sections 122 and 124 of the Factories Act 1955, and the Factories (General Register) Regulations 1956; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48695/18]

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Catherine Connolly

Question:

101. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when all State records relating to the Magdalen laundries from the McAleese archive will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48696/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 to 101, inclusive, together.

The Government is committed to complying with all of the recommendations of the Ombudsman in relation to the operation of Magdalen Restorative Justice Ex Gratia Scheme. In relation to the Ombudsman's principal recommendation that the Scheme should be applied to women who worked in the laundry of one of the 12 'Magdalen' Institutions and who were resident in one of 14 adjoining institutions, the Addendum to the terms of the scheme giving effect to this recommendation has been finalised and published on the Department's website - www.justice.ie.

Letters have issued to all persons known to date to my Department who may be eligible for an award under the terms of the Addendum. These letters do not seek any information which the Department already has and any additional information sought is necessary to process the applications in as timely a fashion as possible. Further, the letters to the women concerned make it clear that any further relevant information sought relates to work in the laundry in as much detail as they can remember.

The Addendum provides that the first phase of processing a completed application is the making of a provisional assessment as to whether the applicant comes within the scope of the scheme. This assessment will be made based on the records of the institutions concerned (where available) and any other relevant records or statements, which may include the applicant's testimony and in some cases testimony from other persons. Each application will be assessed individually on its merits. On this basis, a decision will be made as to whether on the balance of probabilities the applicant comes within the scope of the scheme. In addition, for those cases where there is insufficient documentary evidence available to make an assessment on their case, an interview process is in place so as to facilitate a fairer assessment of a woman's application.

In relation to the age at which a girl started work in a Magdalen laundry, the information contained in the McAleese Report relates only to girls and women admitted to the Magdalen Institutions. The McAleese Committee did not conduct any research into the adjoining institutions which are now covered by the Addendum. The statistical analysis carried out by the Committee indicated that the average age on entry into the Magdalen Institutions was 23.8 years of age and the median age was 20 years of age. While the youngest entrant was identified as 9 years of age, this had occurred in the 1930s. The McAleese Committee's analysis also shows that only 4.1% were under 14 years of age at the time of entry. As stated in the Addendum, it is open to an applicant to show that she worked in a Magdalen Laundry before she reached 12 years of age and, where shown, such work would be included in the calculation of the 'work' element of the lump sum.

It is assumed that the details requested by the Deputy in relation to age, hours worked and the records of the religious congregations returned to the Department, relates to records received by the Department in processing applications under the scheme established in 2013 for those women who were admitted to and worked in a Magdalen Institution. The only criteria relevant to calculating the lump sum payable to successful applicants under that scheme is as set out by Judge Quirke in his report on the scheme of compensation for the Magdalen women. Those criteria are (i) that the applicant had been admitted to and worked in the Magdalen Institution and (ii) the length of stay in that institution. Therefore the only information required from records submitted by the relevant religious congregations are the entry and exit date for the applicant. Records as to the age of the applicant while in the Magdalen Institution or their hours of work were not relevant to the calculation of the award. Applicants to the scheme are asked to provide supporting documentation and, where it is necessary and the applicant has consented, the religious congregations provide records to the Department. It should be noted that the religious congregations co-operated fully with the Department in the administration of the scheme and provided records where requested.

In relation to the McAleese inquiry which preceded the Quirke report and the establishment of the ex-gratia scheme, the religious congregations also cooperated and provided access to their archives. When the McAleese report was finalised and published, the records provided by the congregations were returned to them and they are not part of the State archive. Chapters 5 & 12 of the McAleese Report detail the research undertaken on the legislation and regulation of employment, factories and the workplace.

Chapter 6 of the McAleese Report sets out the approach in relation to the archive. The McAleese Committee agreed that the archive be deposited and stored centrally with the Department of the Taoiseach, noting the approach taken in relation to archiving set out in the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004.

The Committee decided that the archive contains only copies of state records, in order to avoid disturbance to or destruction of original or archived files. The originals of all such records identified – many of which were already archived, and some of which are covered by the National Archives Act 1986 - will remain in their original files and locations.

There are no plans at this stage to provide access to the McAleese archive at this time.

Garda Operations

Questions (102)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

102. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of instances in which the PSNI has entered here in the past five years to assist An Garda Síochána with its operations; the number of times An Garda Síochána has requested permission to leave here to assist the PSNI in Northern Ireland with its operations; the level of engagement he and An Garda Síochána have had with their counterparts in Northern Ireland in the context of Brexit in order to ensure that both police services can co-operate in the event of a hard border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48704/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

There is very close and substantial on-going cooperation between an Garda Síochána and the PSNI in respect of all aspects of cross border policing, notably in combating organised crime, road safety and responding to the security threat posed by paramilitary groups. As such, the presence of members of An Garda Síochána and the PSNI in each other's jurisdictions takes place in the context of the on-going co-operation to keep all communities on this island safe. The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána is the only police service empowered by statute to exercise policing and security services in the State and, in accordance with the law, to engage in co-operation with other police services in this regard.

The two police services have for many years operated a joint Cross Border Policing Strategy, the overarching purpose of which is to improve public safety throughout Ireland, to disrupt criminal activity and enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island of Ireland. The Strategy covers the range of policing activities and contains a series of initiatives in which both police services are actively engaged and which will go towards fulfilling its objectives. A good practical example of on-going co-operation is the Annual Cross Border Conference on Organised Crime, the most recent of which was held in County Down on 7 November. The Conference brings officers from An Garda Síochána and the PSNI together to enhance co-operation between all law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border under the shared objective of combatting organised crime.

Close police co-operation on this island across the full range of policing responsibilities will continue regardless of the final shape of Brexit. I would emphasise that it is the Government’s firm intention that the same border arrangements as currently apply on the island of Ireland will continue. In its approach to the Brexit negotiations, the Government has ensured that protecting the gains of the peace process and the avoidance of a hard border are the highest priority for Ireland, our partner Member States and the European Commission. I have discussed this matter with my counterparts in the British Government and I know that protecting the gains of the peace process are a clear and shared objective.

Garda Data

Questions (103)

Robert Troy

Question:

103. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of fixed charge penalty notices paid to date of the 50,833 drivers that have been caught while driving behind the wheel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48718/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department has sought a report from the An Garda Síochána in relation to the information requested by the Deputy.

I will contact the Deputy directly on receipt of a Garda report in relation to this matter.