277. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if full-time special needs assistant hours will be put in place for a person (details supplied). [22019/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 277-297
277. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if full-time special needs assistant hours will be put in place for a person (details supplied). [22019/19]View answer
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.
The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.
In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.
SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.
As this question relates to a particular child, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.
278. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total fee contributions, that is, annual student contribution, of apprentices in both higher education and consortia-led contexts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22032/19]View answer
An Annual Student Contribution (ASC) is levied on all students attending Institutes of Technology (IoTs). Previously this ASC was paid by FÁS/SOLAS with apprentices themselves paying the part of the contribution relating to examination fees. As part of Budget 2014, SOLAS ceased making payments to IoTs and apprentices pay the full pro rata ASC.
The amount charged to apprentices undertaking both craft and new consortia led apprenticeships is calculated on a pro rata basis of the time which they spend in Institutes of Technology (IoTs) during the academic year. These arrangements mean that apprentices are treated the same, on a pro rata basis for the proportion of a full academic year they spend in IoTs, as full time students in terms of the ASC. For craft apprenticeships, the cost would typically be one third of the €3,000 ASC paid by students attending for the full academic year and so amounts to approximately €1,000 per apprentice per period spent in the IoT. In the case of the new consortia led apprenticeships the contribution varies for each programme as their off-the-job training has a more flexible structure. In cases where training is delivered in an Education and Training Board there is no contribution made by the apprentice. Further detail on these charges is available on the website apprenticeship.ie.
It should be noted that, unlike full time students, apprentices in the craft trades are paid a training allowance by SOLAS for phases of their training spent in IoTs. Apprentices in the new consortia led apprenticeships are paid by their employer for phases of their training spent in IoTs.
279. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 10 April 2019, if the project brief has been finalised; if so, the details of same; when a design team will be appointed for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22048/19]View answer
As the Deputy is aware, a building project for the school to which he refers is included in my Department's school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan. In the context of progressing the building project, my Department undertook a technical site visit to the school.
My Department has advised the school authority that it is currently working on the accommodation brief. My Department will be in further contact with the school authority when this has been finalised.
280. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of remedial works and the completion of external precautionary measures identified as required for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22072/19]View answer
The Deputy will be aware that last October and November my Department carried out initial structural assessments into 42 schools constructed by a particular contractor. In 22 of these schools precautionary measures were implemented to enable continued safe occupation and part of the school to which the Deputy refers was closed following the identification of significant structural issues.
Following on from the initial assessments, which were based on sample opening up works, my Department initiated a second phase of detailed investigations for the schools on the 18th of January last. This next phase of the programme is focusing initially on the 22 schools that have precautionary measures in place and also at the school to which the Deputy refers, which remains partly closed.
The purpose of these investigations is to determine the type and extent of structural issues in each individual school and, from the technical information gathered by the appointed structural engineers, to design permanent remediation solutions for delivery where these are needed.
In line with the update published by my Department in January, detailed structural investigations have now been completed in all of the 22 schools with precautionary measures in place and at the school in question.
The school referred to is different from the schools with precautionary measures in place in that the nature and extent of the issues there are such that the building under investigation was required to close. The school remains operational in another building on site.
Detailed investigations have concluded in the closed building and engineers are working to design solutions. When these are known, a programme of works to remediate the building will be put in place for implementation. This is an Education and Training Board school. Pending the delivery of the remediation work, my Department will ensure, in continued consultation with the ETB, that any interim accommodations needs at the school are met. In this regard, 2 additional temporary classrooms, a woodwork room and prep area together with a disabled access toilet have been approved for September 2019.
281. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in considering a protected disclosure (details supplied); when it is likely that the consideration of this matter will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22080/19]View answer
The matters raised by the protected disclosure are still under consideration by my Department.
This process has not yet fully concluded.
My Department will write to the Discloser when its consideration of the protected disclosure has been completed.
282. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the long delays within the Probate Office; if assistance can be provided to speed up the process of probate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21879/19]View answer
The Probate Office is an office of the High Court. As the Deputy will be aware, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made with the Courts Service. I have been advised that current waiting times for grants of probate from the Dublin Probate Office are as follows:
- Applications by solicitors - 4 weeks (representing 90% of applications)
- Applications by personal applicants - 12 to 14 weeks.
The Courts Service further advise that these times represent an improvement in waiting times since 2017 as a result of measures taken with the provision of additional resources and streamlining work processes.
I have also been informed that applications for probate are assessed on the basis of the date on when they are lodged, an approach which provides fairness and equity to all applicants. However, priority can be given to applications where there is a particular urgency or extenuating circumstances. In such cases, it is open to the applicant to bring the matter to the attention of the Probate Office.
As the Deputy will appreciate, all applications for Grants in deceased persons' estates are made on foot of a number of mandatory legal documents which must be furnished by applicants. These require detailed checking by the Probate Office to ensure the estate of the deceased person is administered correctly and in accordance with the law. Where a person opts to apply for a Grant personally without the assistance of a solicitor, the process requires significant extra support from the Probate Office.
The Courts Service has informed me that a review of Probate Services was carried out in 2018 and implementation of its recommendations is now under way. One such recommendation is a proposal to introduce on-line services within the Dublin Probate Office. Work on the e-Probate project has commenced and initial discussions have taken place with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners on how the Revenue Commissioners aspect (linked to the collection of Capital Acquisitions Tax) of the probate process can be incorporated into this wider e-Probate project.
283. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions he will take following Ireland's endorsement of the Christchurch call to action; and his plans to meet companies to discuss same. [21774/19]View answer
The issue of terrorist content online was highlighted by the organised dissemination of live footage of the horrific attacks carried out on the Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March this year and I very much welcome last week's Christchurch Call, in which the Taoiseach participated on behalf of Ireland and which has given new momentum to the efforts of Governments and online service providers to tackle this very serious issue.
There have been a number of welcome voluntary commitments, including transparent, specific measures by online service providers to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content, preventing its dissemination on social media and similar content-sharing services; and working together with civil society to promote community-led efforts to counter violent extremism in all its forms.
My own Department is preparing for the implementation of the proposed EU Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content. The main provisions of the Regulation include the establishment of a Competent Authority to issue removal and referral orders and oversee compliance with these orders, to monitor proactive measures which are being undertaken by industry and to search for and identify terrorist content online. Clearly, this important proposal will create significant obligations for both Member States and service providers.
Following on from the Government’s strong support for the Christchurch Call, last week I hosted a meeting with representatives of the technology industry in Ireland to discuss tackling illegal content online and how the commitments contained in the Christchurch Call might be put into practical action. This discussion also focused on the implementation of the proposed EU Regulation, as well as on the existing structures and processes to report and remove illegal content, how they can be improved, how Government and industry can work closer together to address illegal content and a future framework for tackling this type of material.
As the Deputy will be aware, action is also taking place on a national level to tackle illegal content online through the Action Plan for Online Safety 2018-2019 which contains twenty-five actions under five main goals. This is very much a whole of Government approach and actions are assigned to six Government Departments for implementation, including my own.
284. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if accommodation at a centre (details supplied) includes three bunk beds in one room for six applicants; the amount paid for this accommodation; and his views on whether this is humane and adequate accommodation for the persons there. [21352/19]View answer
Currently, all accommodation sourced by my Department for persons seeking international protection must meet the requirements of Section 63 of the 1966 Housing Act, which sets out the minimum space requirements per person in bedrooms. New National Standards for accommodation provided to persons in the protection process will further improve the quality of life for applicants by providing a framework for the development of person-centred, high quality, safe and effective services and supports for residents of accommodation centres. The National Standards will require that all accommodation provided to persons seeking international protection is clean, safe, properly furnished and complies with all statutory requirements. These standards, which will be adopted shortly, have been prepared by officials from my Department, in conjunction with officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, representatives of NGOs and current residents.
The development of National Standards was one of the main recommendations of the Report of the Working Group into Improvements in the Protection Process, which was chaired by Judge Bryan McMahon.
The implementation of the National Standards in the future, combined with ongoing improvements such as the roll-out of cooking facilities and independent living through the current procurement process, demonstrate the continual improvements being made to the accommodation provided to persons seeking international protection in Ireland.
Having regard to the information supplied by the Deputy, I have asked officials from my Department to visit the centre within the next ten working days and carry out an examination of the premises to ensure that accommodation is in compliance with the requirements of the Housing Act.
285. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the remaining formal decision letters regarding applications to the immigrant investment programme will issue to applicants who applied in 2018; and if all outstanding investor applications from 2018 have been reviewed by the INIS evaluation team. [21360/19]View answer
The Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) was introduced in April 2012 to encourage inward investment and create business and employment opportunities in the State. The programme provides investors with the opportunity to invest in Ireland. Key to the programme is that the investments are beneficial for Ireland, generate or sustain employment and are generally in the public interest.
Successful applicants under the Immigrant Investment Programme and their nominated family members may be granted a residence permission in Ireland under Stamp 4 conditions. Stamp 4 conditions permit non-EEA nationals to work, study or start their own businesses in Ireland. Therefore, given the significant immigration benefits accruing and to ensure the highest degree of transparency and accountability for the programme, it is essential that all applications are subject to enhanced levels of due diligence processes in respect of both personal and financial checks to protect the State's interests.
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department has introduced a number of enhanced control mechanisms which has led to temporary increase in processing times, as the new processes are bedded in. All applications from 2018 have been subject to detailed examination and final decisions on a significant number of those applications have been made with decision letters issued or about to issued on these applications. The remainder of 2018 applications are scheduled to be processed in the coming period.
286. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the delays in processing citizenship applications, which are taking in some instances in which all paper work is submitted and in order, longer than the three years which is allowed for processing; his plans to take action to reduce the waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21463/19]View answer
298. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the long delays with regard to citizenship applications; if there is a lack of staff to deal with the number of applications; the action he will take to reduce the waiting times on applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21881/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 286 and 298 together.
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. A determination on whether an applicant satisfies the statutory criteria attendant to naturalisation can only be made after an application is received. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks may take a considerable period of time. Where a decision is made, the certificate cannot be issued until the applicant attends a citizenship ceremony arranged for the purpose of swearing the oath of allegiance before a judge.
Processing timescales can often be impacted due to further documentation being required from the applicant, or payment of the required certificate fee being awaited, or the applicant not engaging with the office. In some instances, the applicant themselves may request that a hold be put on their application, for example, where they may have returned to their country of origin for a prolonged period, to facilitate them in making arrangements to return to reside in the State, or where they have difficulty in obtaining satisfactory evidence of their identity or nationality. In other instances issues can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which requires to be considered before a final decision is taken.
Accordingly, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process and thus an average wait time for applications is not a meaningful measure. However, I can say that in general, it takes around 6 months for a standard application to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made. These processing timescales are being maintained notwithstanding an increase in application numbers over the past year.
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.
It is recognised that the naturalisation application process is a complex one which requires a considerable amount of supporting documentation but this is necessarily the case given the honour of being granted Irish citizenship and the significant benefits attendant to securing an Irish passport, particularly in the context of visa free travel to other jurisdictions.
The Deputy will be aware of the wide ranging Transformation Programme currently under way in my Department. The INIS Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020 dovetails with this programme and 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 as well as streamlining of processes and procedures. Such developments are expected to deliver significant improvements to customer experiences.
INIS devotes a considerable amount of its overall resources to the processing of these cases. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants to enable queries to be dealt with, including the progress of their application. Details are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie
287. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of the backlog of cases on the courts asylum list; the number of such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21501/19]View answer
As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions. Furthermore, the scheduling of court cases and the allocation of court business are matters for the Presidents of the Courts and the presiding judges who are, under the Constitution, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has advised that the President of the High Court keeps waiting times under ongoing review. The Courts Service works with the President and the judiciary to improve waiting times and where specific issues are identified, resources are targeted at areas of greatest need.
The Courts Service has further advised that asylum cases require a two stage process which include applications for leave to take a judicial review, and then the hearing of the substantive Judicial Review.
I understand there are no waiting times for applications for leave to take a judicial review as the Asylum Judicial Review List saw a number of initiatives implemented in 2018 which led to the elimination of waiting times for those applications. Moreover, the number of active cases in the substantive Asylum List reduced from 772 to 122 through case management and other measures. Waiting times for judicial review hearings are currently one Legal Term, indicating a case ready for hearing will be heard in the next legal term.
It should be noted however that there are over 400 other cases awaiting decisions of the appellate courts or, in respect of the largest portion of that number, the Court of Justice of the European Union, before they can be progressed through the High Court.
288. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the Public Appointments Service process for Garda recruitment does not accept a dyslexic exemption for languages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21509/19]View answer
As the Deputy will be aware competitions for recruitment to An Garda Síochána are governed by An Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations 2013.
Under the 2013 Regulations, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for recruitment to An Garda Síochána, and I, as Minister have no direct role in the matter. These Regulations provide that all applicants must have a proven proficiency in two languages; one of which must be Irish or English. This requirement applies without discrimination to all candidates. Such competency may be proven by achieving the relevant grades in an Irish Leaving Certificate or for English or Irish through such assessments as set out by the Public Appointments Service. While two languages are required, applicants who do not possess proficiency in Irish but have a second language will be deemed eligible under the Regulations.
The Public Appointments Service (PAS), on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, manages the initial recruitment stages for selection of Garda Trainees and I, as Minister, have no direct involvement in the matter. I have, however, been informed that PAS, which conducts tests as part of the competitive selection process, carefully considers all requests for reasonable accommodations. In considering such requests, PAS is conscious of the rights of people with disabilities and of the obligations on it to observe those rights and to act in accordance with the provisions of the relevant equality legislation.
As a public body established under the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act, 2004, PAS is also obliged under section 34(1)(b) of that Act to ensure that “standards of probity, merit, equity and fairness” apply to all of its recruitment and selection work. These binding standards are set out in the Code of Practice for Appointment to Positions where the Garda Commissioner has Statutory Responsibility, as published by the Commission for Public Service Appointments.
I am further advised that in considering requests for reasonable accommodations, PAS has a fundamental duty to ensure it is being fair to all candidates who have entered a particular competition and that the key principle of appointment on merit is being observed. To assist PAS in considering a request for accommodations in a fair and balanced way, its policy is to ask candidates to indicate on their application if they require special accommodations and to submit evidence in support of their request. PAS will consider letters or reports from relevant professionals which clearly indicate the nature of the disability and the type of accommodation(s) that may be relevant to the person. PAS has given additional time to people with dyslexia where they have supporting evidence. However, having made reasonable accommodations, candidates must reach the required standard in order to be considered for further progression in a competition.
In December 2018 the Government endorsed the key recommendations contained within the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and published ‘A Policing Service for the Future’ – the implementation plan for the Commission’s report, this includes the recommendations in relation to the reform of recruitment into An Garda Síochána in order to increase the diversity of the organisation.
The Deputy will agree that it is vital that the Commissioner continues to recruit candidates with the appropriate qualifications to An Garda Síochána, and that best practice continues to be followed with regard to any such recruitment. I welcome and support the Commissioner’s commitment to increasing the diversity of the members and staff of An Garda Síochána to reflect the twenty first century Ireland it serves. This will ensure that An Garda Síochána maintains its strong bond with the diverse communities it serves. The recommendations of the Commission will take time to implement, and any proposal to amend the Recruitment and Admission regulations, including the language requirement will require consideration and consultation with a number of interested parties.
289. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount of rent that is being paid to a hotel (details supplied) by An Garda Síochána since January 2017; the reason parts of the hotel have been rented by An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21516/19]View answer
The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána, including proposals for the opening and closing of Garda stations.
Further, the Office of Public Works has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As such, the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW). As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.
Significant investment is being made in the Garda estate. As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016 – 2021 is an ambitious 5 year building Programme reflecting the agreed priorities of An Garda Síochána. I am informed by Garda authorities that the programme includes the provision of a Property and Exhibit Store (PEMS) at Tallaght Garda Station and that the development of this property storage facility is ongoing in conjunction with the OPW.
I am further informed by the Garda authorities that one floor of the premises referred to by the Deputy has been rented by the OPW on behalf of An Garda Síochána to provide additional office space for the Tallaght District.
The OPW has advised An Garda Síochána that the rent paid in 2017 and 2018 amounted to €122,720.84 in each of those years. The rent paid to date in 2019 is €30,680.21.
290. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21525/19]View answer
The Deputy will appreciate that the primary purpose of the employment vetting carried out by the National Vetting Bureau is to seek to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. It is carried out by An Garda Síochána primarily in accordance with the provisions of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012-2016 and is, as I am sure you will agree, a very important task which must be done thoroughly and correctly. My Department has no role in the processing of individual vetting applications.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that Garda vetting applications regarding the person referred to by the Deputy were received on 22 May and 10 December 2018 by the National Vetting Bureau.
At present, 80% of overall vetting applications are being processed by the Vetting Bureau in five working days. However, in a number of instances it is necessary to conduct further enquiries with external agencies. Enquiries with external agencies are conducted for a multiplicity of reasons such as verification of identity, updating of incomplete records and establishing other matters. In such instances processing times are significantly longer than the general average.
I am further informed that on processing the applications of the person referred to by the Deputy, it was established that it was necessary to conduct further enquiries. These enquiries are still ongoing and unfortunately it is not possible to issue a Garda vetting disclosure at this stage.
Any inconvenience arising from a delay is regretted, but I am sure you can fully appreciate, applications cannot be finalised at by the Vetting Bureau until all enquiries are concluded.
291. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount spent in fees to companies (details supplied) by his Department in each of the years 2011 to 2018. [21584/19]View answer
I wish to inform the Deputy, that the amount spent in fees to the specified companies by my Department, in each of the years 2011 to 2018 were as set out in the following table. This expenditure includes ICT contracted developer staff, audit and accounting contract staff.
Ernst & Young
292. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason a person (details supplied) who made an application has been refused. [21618/19]View answer
I understand that the Deputy's question relates to an application for a Small Public Service Vehicle (SPSV) Licence.
As the Deputy may be aware, the SPSV industry in Ireland is regulated by the National Transport Authority in accordance with the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act, 2013, which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross, T.D.
An Garda Síochána is currently deemed the licensing authority under section 6 (2) of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.
As such, the Deputy will appreciate that I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, have no role in the administration of SPSV licences.
293. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 28 March 2019, if the person (details supplied) should apply for a work permit in the meantime in order to ensure their employment prospects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21636/19]View answer
I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that, in response to a notification pursuant to the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned has submitted written representations.
These representations, together with all other information and documentation on file, will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and all other applicable legislation, in advance of a final decision being made. This decision will be made as soon as it is possible to do so.
The Deputy will appreciate that it is not the role of my Department to advise a person as to what immigration based applications they should make. Therefore, it will be a matter for the person concerned to decide if they should make an application for a work permit. It would also be open to the person concerned to seek advice from a solicitor, a trusted friend or advocate with experience and expertise in the Irish immigration area as regards what nature of immigration application might best represent their interests.
Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.
294. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the issues in relation the Garda station in Clonmel, County Tipperary will be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21696/19]View answer
The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.76 billion for 2019. Very significant capital investment is being made in An Garda Síochána, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021; and investment of €46 million in the Garda Fleet over the same period. Considerable investment is also being made in the Garda estate, to address its deficiencies and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff, as well as the public interacting with them. This is a significant undertaking, as there are currently 565 stations nationwide.
The Deputy will be aware that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.
The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 includes the development of new Garda stations in Clonmel, Macroom and Sligo. These stations will be delivered by way of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The OPW has agreed to provide its expert services in the design of the three stations included in this PPP. The development of PPP projects is progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). The Department of Justice and Equality and the Garda authorities are working with the OPW to progress this matter, with the input and assistance of the NDFA.
The establishment of PPP projects can be complex and it is vital to get the projects right at the planning and design stage. I can assure the Deputy that delivery of the new Garda stations in Clonmel, Macroom and Sligo through this PPP arrangement is being pursued as a priority. Pending delivery of the new stations, I am informed that Garda management and the OPW have been working to improve conditions and facilities at the existing stations.
295. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the statutory timeframe for holding an inquest into the death of a person. [21813/19]View answer
296. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of inquests pending in County Louth. [21814/19]View answer
297. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a family is permitted to bring a solicitor to the inquest into the death of a family member. [21876/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 295 to 297, inclusive, together.
The legislation governing coroners is the Corners Act 1962. Under this legislation, coroners are statutory officers exercising quasi-judicial functions in relation to which he or she is independent.
A coroner is responsible for the timeframe for the scheduling and the holding of inquests within the district area for which they retain responsibility. Under the Coroners Act 1962, there is no statutory timeframe within which an inquest must be held. Factors which will influence the date for the holding of an inquest include, among others, the availability of post-mortem results, the results of any other tests deemed necessary for consideration during the inquest and the availability of witnesses.
I have made enquiries with the Louth Coroner and I am informed that, at present, there are 34 inquests pending in County Louth.
During the inquest process, families may be accompanied by a solicitor.