Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal Applications

Questions (548)

John McGuinness

Question:

548. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of a criminal injuries application by a person (details supplied). [13696/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted. Under the Terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications for compensation.

However, to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made with the Tribunal and I understand that on 16 March 2016 the Tribunal wrote to the applicant's legal representative requesting clarification on a number of issues. No reply was received. On 20 March 2019 a reminder letter was forwarded to the legal representative. No reply has been received to date.

If the applicant contacts the Tribunal directly they can discuss the information which needs to be clarified in order to progress this application.

Garda Vetting Applications

Questions (549)

James Lawless

Question:

549. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of a Garda vetting application for a person (details supplied). [13707/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will understand, given the nature of the functions of the Irish Prison Service, it is necessary for checks, secondary and in addition to vetting, to be carried out on persons considered for employment.

These checks can take time to complete for a variety of reasons, depending on the individual case. However, I can assure the Deputy that every effort is made to expedite this process to the greatest extent possible and to ensure that there is no undue delay arising.

I am advised that the vetting process in respect of the individual referred to by the Deputy was completed and returned to the Irish Prison Service. The person concerned is accordingly advised to liaise directly with the Irish Prison Service to ascertain the current position.

Court Accommodation Provision

Questions (550, 560)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

550. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the post-project reviews for projects (details supplied); when the reviews were completed; and if they have not been completed, the completion and publication date for same. [13739/19]

View answer

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

560. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the post-project reviews of PPPs (details supplied); when the reviews were completed; and if they have not been completed, when completion and publication is expected for same. [13869/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 550 and 560 together.

As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has advised that the first post project review referenced by the Deputy was completed in October 2012 and is published on the Courts Service website:

Post-project reviews

The Courts Service has further advised that the second post project review referenced by the Deputy will commence later this year with completion and publication date yet to be determined.

Family Mediation Service

Questions (551)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

551. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons waiting on mediation through the free legal aid system; the length of time they are waiting; the waiting times for same by county, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13744/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Mediation is a process for resolving disputes where those in dispute meet with a third party who helps them to negotiate an agreed resolution. The Family Mediation Service is provided by the Legal Aid Board.

The waiting times for family mediation services as of 28 February 2019 are set out on an office by office basis, in the table below, the details of which have been provided to me by the Legal Aid Board. These details are maintained by the Legal Aid Board in terms of numbers waiting and the waiting times involved on an office by office basis rather than by county.

I am also informed by the Legal Aid Board that short notice appointments will be provided to those who can take a cancelled appointment at the last minute. Those clients who have a pending court date are accommodated, if possible, with priority appointments.

The Legal Aid Board has advised me that the number waiting for mediation may include some clients who have already been offered appointments and have not been able to accept them for one reason or another.

Number Waiting at end February

Approx Waiting times (weeks)

County

Town

Cork

Cork

58

24

Donegal

Letterkenny

19

12

Dublin

Jervis Street

56

16

Tallaght

36

16

Blanchardstown

54

20

Galway

Galway

23

12

Kerry

Tralee

9

10

Kilkenny

Kilkenny

7

8

Laois

Portlaoise

30

16

Limerick

Limerick

17

10

Louth

Dundalk

47

48

Mayo

Castlebar

7

8

Sligo

Sligo

9

8

Waterford

Waterford

11

6

Westmeath

Athlone

23

16

Wexford

Wexford

27

16

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

Questions (552)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

552. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the completion of refurbishment works for courthouses contained within the National Development Plan 2018-2027; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13750/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The National Development Plan 2018-2027 contains a commitment for new or refurbished courthouses in regional cities and county towns where facilities remain substandard (including Galway City, Wicklow Town, Portlaoise, Tralee and Roscommon) and further provincial locations such as Dungloe and Tuam.

As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that it has commenced the process of identifying/acquiring suitable sites for the projects to be completed over the ten year period on the plan. The Courts Service has also informed me that the precise allocation and timing of additional funding for these projects remains to be fully determined and is dependent on the outcome of further detailed planning and analysis of costs which will determine prioritisation of projects from a timing and budgetary perspective.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (553)

Martin Ferris

Question:

553. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of fully completed standard applications for citizenship received in each of the past five years; and the average time from date of receipt to date of decision by year. [13760/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

By standard application I am given to understand an application for citizenship based on naturalisation by an adult resident in Ireland.

The Deputy will be aware that the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union as well as international level. It is therefore important that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the integrity of the regime for granting Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is held in high regard both at home and internationally.

In general, it takes 6 months for a fully completed standard application to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process.

The INIS Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020 commits the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department to significant investment in technological developments including the roll-out of online forms and payments for citizenship applications. Such developments are expected to deliver significant improvements to customer experiences and processing timescales.

Processing timescales can be impacted due to incomplete applications having to be returned, further documentation being required from the applicant, or where payment of the required certificate fee is awaited, or the applicant has not been engaging with INIS. In certain instances delays can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which requires to be considered. In other instances the applicant themselves may request that a hold be put on their application.

The final stage requires the applicant to attend at a citizenship ceremony. Citizenship ceremony days take place periodically throughout the year, at which up to 3,000 candidates for citizenship make their declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State, give an undertaking to uphold the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values and receive their certificate of naturalisation. The date a decision is made on an application in relation to when the next available ceremony is due to take place can also impact on the length of time between the submission of the application and the applicant becoming an Irish citizen.

The aim of INIS in processing applications is to assist the applicant to provide the necessary documentation to complete their application. This can involve on-going correspondence with the applicant and INIS does not record how long this process takes. However, the number of standard adult applications received during the years requested by the Deputy is as follows: (2018 figures are provisional).

Applications Received

Standard Adult - Total

2014

8,254

2015

7,542

2016

8,100

2017

7,408

2018

8,009

INIS devotes a considerable resources to the processing of these cases. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants interested in the progress of their application, details of which are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (554)

Martin Ferris

Question:

554. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship received in each of the past five years; and the average time from date of receipt to date of decision by year. [13761/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union as well as international level. It is therefore important that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the integrity of the regime for granting Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is held in high regard both at home and internationally.

In general, it takes 6 months for a fully completed standard application to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process.

The INIS Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020 commits the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department to significant investment in technological developments including the roll-out of online forms and payments for citizenship applications. Such developments are expected to deliver significant improvements to customer experiences and processing timescales.

Processing timescales can be impacted due to incomplete applications having to be returned, further documentation being required from the applicant, or where payment of the required certificate fee is awaited, or the applicant has not been engaging with INIS. In certain instances delays can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which requires to be considered. In other instances the applicant themselves may request that a hold be put on their application.

The final stage requires the applicant to attend at a citizenship ceremony. Citizenship ceremony days take place periodically throughout the year, at which up to 3,000 candidates for citizenship make their declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State, give an undertaking to uphold the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values and receive their certificate of naturalisation. The date the next available ceremony is due to take place can also impact on the length of time between the submission of the application and the applicant becoming an Irish citizen.

The total number of applications received are as follows: (2018 figures are provisional).

Year

Applications Received

2014

15,417

2015

12,654

2016

13,018

2017

11,776

2018

12,724

INIS devotes considerable resources to the processing of these applications. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants interested in the progress of their application, details of which are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.

Fire Safety

Questions (555)

John McGuinness

Question:

555. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints regarding safety issues that were reported to the management of the Midlands Prison by staff in 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of major defects attended to arising from the reports; his views on whether the written reports, if acted upon, could have avoided the recent fire; the process used by the Midlands Prison relative to dealing with written reports of requests for urgent maintenance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13763/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy has requested information on safety issues at Midlands Prison and whether the recent fire in that prison could have been avoided. At the outset, I want to assure the Deputy that the safety of both staff and prisoners is of paramount concern to me as Minister and to management of the Irish Prison Service.

I have been advised by the Irish Prison Service that the cause of the fire at Midlands prison has not been fully determined as the investigation by the Prison Service Fire Safety Officer is on-going. That investigation includes liaison with the local fire service who responded to the incident. The fire was contained to a particular room at the prison and resulted in the transfer of a number of prisoners from Midlands Prison to Portlaoise Prison as a contingency measure, rather than their evacuation from the prison. I have been advised that all fire safety systems operated correctly during the incident.

More generally, in relation to fire safety, over the past three years 42 maintenance requests relating to the fire safety system have been lodged by staff, all of which have been acted upon.

The maintenance of the prison fire safety system is covered under a service contract and all systems are serviced in line with applicable contracts. The latest servicing of the prison fire safety system commenced on the 4th February 2019 and was completed on the 20th February 2019. I can also confirm the fire suppression system was serviced on the 19th February 2019.

As distinct from the 42 maintenance requests in a 3 year period, I have also been advised by the IPS that there have been no complaints related to fire safety reported to the management of Midlands Prison in 2018 nor to date in 2019.

In that same period (2018 and to date in 2019) there have been 553 general health and safety concerns reported to management at the Prison, none of which were deemed to be major defects. They ranged from traffic management to issues concerning prison cell doors.

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that all issues were reported to the Building Services Division of the Irish Prison Service for action. Notwithstanding the ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire, the IPS has confirmed that none of these defects, if rectified, would have in any way avoided the recent fire.

I am further informed that where urgent maintenance is required Midlands Prison can request the services of the Building Services Division of the Irish Prison Service, with requests prioritised for action through the support contractors in place across the Irish Prison Service Estate.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (556)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

556. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints submitted to his Department in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of appeals made with respect to the outcome of such complaints; the number referred to the Office of the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13785/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department is committed to delivering high quality customer service and aims to provide all customers with a complaints procedure that is accessible, efficient, effective, standardised and fair. The Customer Service Charter and Customer Service Action Plan 2016 – 2018 set out the commitments and standards of service that customers can expect in their dealing with my Department. A new Customer Service Charter and Customer Service Action Plan for 2019 – 2021 is currently being finalised.

If a customer is not happy with the standard of service received, they are advised to contact the Division of the Department that they were dealing with to have the matter resolved in the first instance. If this does not resolve the issue, customers may contact the Department’s Customer Service Officer directly who will investigate the complaint.

Complaints received by the Department's Customer Service Officer

2017

2018

2019

4

2

0

If the complaint is concerning the standard of service provided by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), customers are advised to contact the Quality Customer Service Officer for that area.

Complaints received by email to INIS Customer Service Officer

2017

2018

2019

170

298

61

In keeping with the role of the Office of the Ombudsman it is not part of my Department's complaints process to refer matters to it for consideration. However, any individual can of course contact that Office directly.

Family Law Cases

Questions (557)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

557. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if concerns will be addressed that the operational model of the family law courts is not fit for purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13796/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

It is my intention to publish proposals in 2019 for a new approach to handling family law cases in Ireland at District, Circuit and High Court levels. This will be done by legislation to create a new dedicated Family Court within the existing court structures. These courts will have new procedures aimed at less adversarial resolution of disputes and will have appropriate facilities and case management arrangements.

My Department is currently working on the General Scheme of a Family Court Bill, which will aim to streamline family law court processes, clarify jurisdictional issues and provide for a set of guiding principles to help to ensure that the family court will operate in a user-friendly and efficient manner. Once the General Scheme has been approved by Government, it will be referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and to the relevant Oireachtas Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.

A working group was established in 2017, comprising officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Courts Service and the Legal Aid Board, to examine the operational aspects relating to the family court and develop an overall architecture for the new family court structure. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla also participated in the working group. Key issues that arose in consultations included family court venues and facilities, resources and capital investment in family courts and integration of relevant family and child services to provide the best possible family law outcomes.

In 2018, a three-person task force comprising senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Legal Aid Board and the Courts Service was formed to seek agreement on core questions of policy and costs. The work of this group is at an advanced stage. Issues being examined include court areas and locations, use of courthouses, provision of facilities and services, arrangements for management of resources, and oversight arrangements.

Garda Data

Questions (558)

Noel Grealish

Question:

558. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the services being provided in the new Garda divisional headquarters in County Galway; the number of staff stationed at the facility by members of the force and civilian staff; the number of hours per day staff are working at the facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13826/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the manner in which the resources of the Garda Síochána are deployed is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no direct role in this regard.

Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

I am advised by the Commissioner that the Garda strength of the Galway Division on 31 January 2019 the latest date for which figures are readily available was 606, of whom 113 are assigned to the Western Region HQ. There are also 28 Garda Reserves and 77 Garda civilian staff attached to the Galway Division. When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,600 Garda recruits have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of whom 41 members have been assigned to the Galway Division.

The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019, which includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí this year. The Commissioner has informed me that he plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and 600 Garda Civilian Staff. This Garda Staff recruitment will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline policing in 2019.

I believe that the injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities. This and on-going recruitment will clearly provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities across all Garda Divisions including the Galway Division.

The Western Region Garda Headquarters, Galway, was officially opened on 20 July 2018, and is open 24 hours a day.

The headquarters includes a number of important facilities for delivery of policing services to the community of Galway and the Western Region including:

- Garda Analysis Service,

- Regional Tasking Unit and Regional Detective Superintendent,

- Regional Health and Safety Advisor,

- Assistant Commissioner and Staff,

- Chief Superintendent and Staff,

- Crime Superintendent, Detective Inspector and Staff,

- Assistant Principal and Divisional Administration, Finance and HR Staff,

- Northern and Western Bi Regional Communications; - 999 Centre and CAD Mobile Dispatch (Command and Control),

- Continuous Professional Development / In-service,

- Superintendent i/c Governance, Performance and Standards,

- Divisional Protective Service Unit,

- Crime Prevention Officer,

- Juvenile Liaison Officers,

- Divisional Roads Policing Unit,

- Scenes of Crime Unit,

- Divisional Drugs Unit,

- Immigration Unit,

- Custody Suite,

- Public Office,

- Towing Office,

- PSV Applications Office,

- PEMS Store,

- Radio / Telecommunications Office,

- Dog Kennels and Associated Offices,

- PSV Garage.

The Garda strength of the Galway Division from 2009 to 31 January 2019 as provided by the Garda Commissioner is available on my Department’s website through the link below.

Garda strength 2009 to 2019

The Garda staff strength attached to the Galway Division from 2009 to 31 January 2019 as provided by the Garda Commissioner is available on my Department’s website through the link below.

Civilian Staff 2010 to 2019

For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the link below:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures.

Garda Reserve

Question No. 560 answered with Question No. 550.

Questions (559)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

559. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to expand and promote the use of the Garda Reserve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13853/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the allocation of resources including the recruitment and training of Garda members and members of the Garda Reserve is entirely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and I, as Minister, have no responsibility in this matter.

I am informed by An Garda Síochána that a class of approximately 100 Garda reserve recruits commenced training on 23/24 March 2019 at the Garda College, Templemore. This is a positive development and delivers on the target set out under 'A Policing Service for the Future', the implementation plan for the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

An Garda Síochána is currently conducting a strategic review of the Garda Reserve to inform future decisions around the use of the Reserve. This approach is also in line with the recommendation in the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The Strategy is scheduled to be concluded during quarter two this year and will inform the development of a Reserve recruitment drive by the end of 2019.

Question No. 560 answered with Question No. 550.

Firearms Licences

Questions (561)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

561. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to review firearms licensing regulations in view of the recent tragedy in New Zealand, particularly in relation to regulations that allow for children over 14 years of age to possess firearms. [13905/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are stringent controls under Irish legislation on the issue of firearm certificates by An Garda Síochána and the conditions under which firearms can be held. There are severe penalties in place for firearm offences under the Firearms Acts.

Every application for a firearm certificate is considered on its individual merits and an application cannot be granted by a Garda Superintendent unless certain conditions, set out in law, are met. These include, amongst others, that the person can be permitted to possess a firearm without danger to the public safety and that the person has a good reason for requiring the firearm.

New conditions regarding an application were introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2006. These conditions include the requirement of applicants to provide two referees to attest to their character, and also a requirement on each applicant to provide written consent for an issuing officer to make any enquiries in relation to the applicant’s medical history from a health professional.

Certain firearms are “restricted” under Irish legislation (e.g. such as large calibre handguns) and these attract additional conditions to be met over and above the standard requirements. These conditions include that the applicant has demonstrated that the firearm is the only type of firearm that is appropriate for the purpose for which it is required. Decisions on restricted firearms are made by a Garda Chief Superintendent.

In accordance with Section 2A of the Firearms Act, 1925, as amended, a person over 14 years of age can apply for a firearms training certificate. Such a certificate authorises the person to possess a firearm only while carrying and using the firearm for hunting or target shooting and under the supervision of a specified person over 18 years of age who holds a firearms certificate in respect of the firearm concerned. The Garda Síochána deciding officer in any individual case may impose other conditions in the interests of public safety and security. An application for a training certificate, where the applicant is under 16 years of age, shall be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant's parent or guardian. Furthermore, Paragraph 8 of Statutory Instrument 493 of 2010: EC (Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition) (Amendment) Regulations, provides that it shall not be lawful for any person to sell a firearm to which EU Firearms Directives apply to a person under 18 years of age.

The legislation also provides for the revocation of a firearms certificate, if the conditions which applied to the grant of the firearm in the first instance are no longer met.

A substantial review of firearms licensing, including consultation with the public, stakeholders and the relevant Oireachtas Committee, was undertaken in recent years. A number of measures identified as a result of this review are being progressed by my Department. These include a ban on new licences for semi automatic centre fire rifles and the establishment of a Firearms Assessment and Appeals Authority. The primary function of the Authority will be to determine, on the basis of an objective assessment of all the issues, with safety of the public being paramount, whether particular forms of firearms may be licensed in the State, whether there should be any limit on the number of such firearms and what safety conditions might properly be applied to their licensing.

In accordance with Section 3E of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended, the Garda Commissioner conducts an annual review of the operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009. This report is laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

The legislation regarding the regulation of firearm licensing continues to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Firearms Licences

Questions (562)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

562. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to review the regulations on the number of firearms a person can own. [13906/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are stringent controls under Irish legislation on the issue of firearm certificates by An Garda Síochána and the conditions under which firearms can be held. There are also severe penalties in place for firearms offences under the Firearms Acts.

While there is nothing in law that specifically limits the number of firearms a person can own, a person must apply to An Garda Síochána for a firearm certificate in respect of each individual firearm they wish to possess. Each application is assessed on its merits in accordance with law.

The conditions that an applicant for a firearm certificate must satisfy include:

- The individual has a good reason for requiring the firearm;

- The individual can be permitted to possess, use and carry the firearm without danger to the public safety or security or the peace;

- The individual is not a person declared under law to be disentitled to hold a firearm certificate (this includes a person sentenced to imprisonment for certain offences, a person of unsound mind, a person not ordinarily resident in the State for a period of six months before applying, amongst others);

- Where the firearm is a rifle or pistol to be used for target shooting, the individual is a member of an authorised rifle or pistol club;

- The individual has provided secure accommodation for the firearm.

S.I. No. 307/2009 - Firearms (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 2009 establishes the minimum secure accommodation required for firearm storage. A progressively higher minimum standard of security is required under the regulations where there are differing numbers of firearms stored at the same location.

The Garda Commissioner issues Guidelines as to the practical application and operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009. These Guidelines were last updated in September 2018.

In accordance with Section 3E of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended, the Garda Commissioner conducts an annual review of the operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009. This report is provided to the Minister and is laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

The legislation regarding the regulation of firearm licensing is reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Firearms Licences

Questions (563)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

563. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to examine the gun ownership regulations that allow applicants to obtain firearms without providing medical reports or undertaking psychiatric evaluation as part of the application process. [13907/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that there are stringent controls under Irish legislation on the issue of firearm certificates by An Garda Síochána and the conditions under which firearms can be held.

An Garda Síochána advise that each application for a firearms certificate is considered on its merits by the issuing officer in accordance with the relevant legislation.

The Barr Tribunal investigated the circumstances regarding a fatal shooting in Abbeylara, Co. Longford in April 2000. In his Report, Mr. Justice Barr agreed with the view of the Irish College of Psychiatrists that psychiatric assessments in relation to firearms certificate applications as a statutory requirement were not appropriate.

Regarding the provision of medical reports, Mr Justice Barr’s Report stated:

“The submissions and evidence on this issue from a wide range of experts to which I have already referred, when considered in conjunction with Lord Cullen’s opinion in his Dunblane Report (with which there appears to be general agreement) establishes that there should not be any statutory requirement for the mandatory provision of medical certificates by applicants for gun licences or renewals thereof. In the light of the evidence presented on this topic, it is evident that there are major practical difficulties in implementing such a statutory requirement. These include the fact that in many instances a gun licence applicant’s general medical practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge of his or her patient, or specialist expertise to make an appropriate assessment and the time factor (and expense) involved in making a realistic psychiatric specialist assessment of the applicant. In my opinion it is not a workable proposition.”

Arising from concerns expressed at the Barr Tribunal, new conditions for applications were introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2006. These conditions include the requirement of applicants to provide two referees to attest to their character, and also a requirement on each applicant to provide written consent for an issuing officer to make any enquiries in relation to the applicant’s medical history from a health professional.

The Garda Commissioner’s Guidelines, as to the practical application and operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009, point out that this is a very sensitive issue and it is not possible to advise on every potential scenario which may arise in a decision making process.

The Guidelines state that:

- Issuing persons should be alert to cases in which a general practitioner's report reveals that an applicant has exhibited, or is exhibiting, signs of depression, suicidal tendencies, longstanding or intermittent periods of either emotional instability or unpredictable behaviour.

- Issuing persons should also be alert to any of these signs exhibited by existing certificate holders.

- It should be remembered that because a person has received treatment in the past for certain illnesses or conditions, such as depression or stress, it does not automatically follow they are unfit to possess a firearm. It is simply one of the factors to be considered with all other evidence relating to the applicant's character and history. In such cases, account should be taken of the latest medical opinion.

In accordance with Section 3E of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended, the Garda Commissioner conducts an annual review of the operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009. This report is provided to the Minister and is laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

The legislation regarding the regulation of firearm licensing continues to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Firearms Certificates

Question No. 565 answered with Question No. 546.

Questions (564)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

564. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of firearms training certificates held by 14 to 17 year olds; the increase or otherwise in the number of firearms certificates issued in 2018; the level of private legally held firearms per head of population; and the way in which these figures compare with figures from ten years ago in tabular form. [13908/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that, in 2009, major changes were introduced in the way firearms were licensed in the State. Key changes saw the introduction of a new three-year firearm certificate. The legislation also saw the introduction of a Firearms Training Certificate.

In accordance with Section 2A of the Firearms Act, 1925, as amended, a person over 14 years of age can apply for a firearms training certificate. Such a certificate authorises the person to possess a firearm only while carrying and using the firearm for hunting or target shooting and under the supervision of a specified person over 18 years of age who holds a firearms certificate in respect of the firearm concerned. An application for a training certificate, where the applicant is under 16 years of age, shall be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant's parent or guardian.

An Garda Síochána advise that figures of firearm certificates relating to 10 years ago are not comparable with figures for the current numbers of firearm certificates, as the numbers, classes and types of firearm certificates previously issued under legislation prior to 2009 differ to the three-year certificates issued since then. An Garda Síochána have advised that the number of firearms currently licensed in the State in 2019 has reduced significantly, by in the region of circa 30,000 firearms, from the number licensed in 2008/2009.

The following table sets out the number of Firearm Training Certificates currently on issue in the State to individuals over 14 years of age included in the overall number of 187,445 certificates. fully processed and issued as of 1 January, 2019.

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Firearm Certificates as of 1st January, 2019

Training Certificates

156

Total Firearm Certificates

187,445

Question No. 565 answered with Question No. 546.

Domestic Homicide

Questions (566)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

566. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the findings of the review of domestic homicides by An Garda Síochána will be published. [13939/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have sought a report from the Garda Commissioner and will correspond to the Deputy when I receive a response.

Domestic Homicide

Questions (567)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

567. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a domestic homicide review multi-agency working group was established by An Garda Síochána in 2018. [13940/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have been advised previously by the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána that An Garda Síochána are looking at policies and procedures to inform domestic homicide reviews. It is envisaged that these reviews will examine the sufficiency of Garda policies in this area, their interactions with other external agencies and with the individuals and family concerned. In relation to the establishment of a multi-agency working group, I have sought a report from the Garda Commissioner and will respond to the Deputy when I receive a response.

The Deputy may be aware that I recently confirmed that I am commissioning a study of familicide cases to guide how best to support families in the most caring and effective way in the aftermath of such tragedies. This study will be carried out with a particular remit to establish if there is a need for any special protocols, legislative or other necessary changes for cases of this nature. It is also the intention to consider the experience of domestic homicide reviews in other jurisdictions in the study with a view to making recommendations in relation to their application in this jurisdiction.

Domestic Homicide

Questions (568)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

568. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the fact that the domestic homicide review project performance indicator remains as critical in the February 2019 monthly report by An Garda Síochána to the Policing Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13941/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have sought a report from the Garda Commissioner on the status and will respond to the Deputy when I receive a response.