Education and Training Boards

Questions (130)

Seán Haughey

Question:

130. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has spoken recently with the CEO and-or chairperson of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22864/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I have not had any formal engagement with the CEO or Chairperson of City of Dublin Education and Training Board recently. I would however meet CEs and Chairpersons of Education and Training Boards (ETBs) on a regular basis in the course of my work as Minister.

Engagement on issues which impact ETBs is by the Executive of the ETB with officials in my Department and there is planned and regular interaction on all issues affecting ETBs.

Departmental Agencies Data

Questions (131)

Dara Calleary

Question:

131. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 120 of 18 April 2019, if the information requested regarding staffing levels has been collated. [22896/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The information requested by the Deputy concerning details of staffing levels in State agencies under the remit of my Department was collated and forwarded to the Deputy in a letter dated 21st May 2019.

A copy of the letter is in the following link.

Letter to Dara Calleary

Parental Leave

Questions (132)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

132. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will address a matter regarding parental leave (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22301/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Parental Leave Act 1998, generally, does not provide for the transfer of parental leave between parents.

Section 6(6) of the Act provides that where two or parents are entitled to parental leave, neither of the parents shall be entitled to (a) the parental leave of any other parent, or (b) to transfer any part of the period of their parental leave to any other parent in respect of their child.

However, there is one very specific exception to this provision. Section 6(7) of the Act provides that where both parents are employed by the same employer, one parent may transfer up to 14 weeks of parental leave to the other, only if their employer consents.

These provisions will remain unchanged by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017, once enacted and commenced.

In all other cases, parental leave remains non-transferable, and I can confirm that the Government has no plans to change this position.

Public Sector Staff Data

Questions (133)

Alan Kelly

Question:

133. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the percentage of employees employed by each State agency and local authority who meet the requirements of section 47(1) of the Disability Act 2005, in tabular form (details supplied). [22382/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, Part 5 (section 47) of the Disability Act 2005 requires public sector bodies to ensure, unless there is good reason to the contrary, that 3% of the persons employed by that body are persons with disabilities. Implementation of Part 5 of the Act is monitored on an ongoing basis by the National Disability Authority. The Authority reports each year on progress made towards the statutory 3% target for employment in the public sector. The Authority's most recent report on compliance shows that at the end of 2017, 3.5% of staff employed in public sector bodies were people identifying with disabilities, this was the seventh successive year of exceeding the statutory 3% target.

The Report, which includes a detailed breakdown and analysis of the number of people with disabilities employed across all public sector bodies, including local authorities, is available from the Authority’s website at the following link: http://www.nda.ie .

The Deputy will also be aware of the Government's Comprehensive Employment Strategy (CES) for Persons with Disabilities 2015 - 2024. This strategy sets out a ten-year cross-Government approach to ensuring that people with disabilities who are able to, and want to, work are supported and enabled to do so, with different Departments and State agencies acting in a concerted effort to address the barriers and challenges that impact on employment of people with disabilities. One of the key priorities of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy is to increase the statutory target of persons with disabilities employed in our public services from 3% to 6% on a phased basis by January 2024. To give effect to this commitment, legislative proposals are currently being progressed through the Oireachtas as part of the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems Provision

Questions (134)

Willie Penrose

Question:

134. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to support local authorities with the roll-out of community CCTV schemes to deter rural crime, particularly in relation to their assumed responsibility as a data controller under GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22809/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

CCTV systems installed for the purposes of crime prevention and as aids to policing in areas to which the general public routinely have access fall into two distinct but complementary categories, namely Garda CCTV systems and community-based CCTV systems.

Community CCTV is governed by section 38(3)(c) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006 (SI No 289 of 2006). This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must:

- be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee,

- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner, and

- have the prior support of the relevant local authority, which must also undertake to act as data controller.

This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes and these key legal requirements have not changed since 2006.

In terms of the role of data the Deputy may wish to be aware that on 29 November 2018, the Data Protection Commission issued a note (available on its website www.dataprotection.ie ) confirming that there is a legal basis for community-based CCTV and that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not introduce new barriers in that regard. In particular, the Office in its note confirmed that:

“Data protection legislation does not stand in the way of the roll-out of Community-based CCTV schemes that have been authorised by the Garda Commissioner. Once the local authority in the administrative area concerned is willing to take on and deliver on its responsibilities as a data controller for the schemes concerned, there is no legal impediment under data protection legislation to the scheme commencing.”

The Data Protection Commission has this month also circulated broad guidance for data controllers on CCTV, which I am confident will be of interest and assistance to all stakeholders and in particular to local authorities.

The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems. In furtherance of this commitment, a grant-aid scheme to assist groups in the establishment of community-based CCTV systems in their local areas is being administered by my Department. Eligible groups, including community groups and local authorities, can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000.

20 applications have been approved under the scheme to date, for grant aid totalling more than €500,000.

In establishing the grant-aid scheme, the Department consulted broadly, including with the Office of the Data Protection Commission, An Garda Síochána, the Office of the Attorney General and the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA). My Department continues to actively engage with all relevant parties, including the LGMA, reflecting the reality that all stakeholders have the same objective – safer and more secure communities.

I am keen to ensure that all interested groups, in both rural and urban areas, have the opportunity to take advantage of the availability of the grant aid scheme. Further details are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie and support and guidance is available to help interested groups through a dedicated email address communitycctv@justice.ie

Passport Services

Questions (135)

Jack Chambers

Question:

135. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will address correspondence he received regarding a passport issue (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22302/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will wish to be aware that I have corresponded directly with the person referred to regarding this matter.

Enquiries on behalf of the person with the relevant Irish authorities are ongoing.

My office will be in further contact with the person concerned when these enquiries have been completed.

Visa Applications

Questions (136)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

136. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in the determination of a visa application by a person (details supplied); when approval is likely to issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22306/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the visa application referred to was refused by the Visa Office in Dublin on 7 May 2019. This decision was communicated to the applicant who was advised that an appeal could be submitted up to two months following the visa refusal. No appeal has been submitted as yet. If an appeal is made, the applicant should bear in mind the original refusal reasons communicated to them and be in a position to address them.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been 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 INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

In addition, applicants may themselves e-mail queries directly to INIS (visamail@justice.ie).

Garda Equipment

Questions (137)

Seán Fleming

Question:

137. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount An Garda Síochána spent on the replacement of Garda batons for the public order units in 2017, 2018 and to date in the 2019, in tabular form; the length of the batons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22313/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, decisions in relation to the provision and allocation of Garda resources are for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands.

I have asked the Garda Commissioner for information in relation to the matter raised and when it is received I will write directly to the Deputy.

Garda Expenditure

Questions (138)

Seán Fleming

Question:

138. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the estimated cost of providing five extra double horse boxes for the Garda mounted unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22318/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána as well as for decisions in relation to the allocation and management of Garda equipment and resources. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Mounted Unit is based at Áras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8. The unit has a national remit under the direction and control of the Assistant Commissioner, Roads Policing and Major Event Management and the operational control of the Superintendent, Operational Support Services.

I understand from the Garda authorities that the estimated cost of providing five extra double horses boxes would be approximately €35,000 in total i.e. approximately €7,000 per additional double horsebox.

Garda Equipment

Questions (139)

Seán Fleming

Question:

139. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of additional marked motorbikes allocated to the roads policing unit in 2018 and to date in 2019; the number that were removed from the roads policing unit during the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22319/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána. Further, decisions in relation to the provision and allocation of Garda equipment and resources, including vehicles, are for the Commissioner in light of identified operational demands.

I have requested the relevant information from the Commissioner and I will write to the Deputy directly when I receive it.

Garda Station Refurbishment

Questions (140)

Seán Fleming

Question:

140. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the estimated cost if the budget of An Garda Síochána for small capital works to Garda stations increased by 50%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22320/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion. Significant capital investment is also being made, including €342 million being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021; and €46 million in the Garda Fleet over the same period.

Significant investment is also being made in the Garda estate. The Garda Síochána Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is an ambitious 5-year programme, based on agreed Garda priorities, which continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and OPW Votes. In addition to that programme, other major works to the Garda estate which are ongoing include the pilot Garda station reopening project, the development of a new facility at Military Road and the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street station. The goal of this investment is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff, as well as the public interacting with them.

The Deputy will appreciate that the Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. Works in relation to Garda accommodation are progressed by the OPW working in close cooperation with the Garda authorities. As Minister, I have no direct role in this matter.

The amount allocated to the Garda Vote for maintenance and small capital works in 2019 is €642,000. Accordingly, I am informed by the Garda authorities that if the funding provided in the Garda vote for small capital works increased by 50%, the increase would amount to €321,000, and the total cost would be €963,000.

It should be noted, however, that funding for capital and maintenance work is provided in both the Garda and OPW votes and as has been the case in previous years, funding is also being provided in the OPW vote in 2019 for maintenance of the Garda estate.

Legal Aid Service Reform

Questions (141)

Brian Stanley

Question:

141. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his Department will be carrying out a review of the threshold for eligibility for legal aid services (details supplied); and his plans to raise this threshold. [22349/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Ensuring that all eligible persons have access to civil legal aid and advice is a priority for the Government and the Legal Aid Board. The Government has prioritised and maintained the Legal Aid Board budget in recent years, ensuring that its budget allocation increased from nearly €30.37m in 2011 to €40.796m for 2019. This represents an increase of over 34%.

As the Deputy will be aware, the statutory position is that the Legal Aid Board provides civil legal aid and advice pursuant to the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2016.

The Legal Aid Board periodically reviews the operation of the civil legal aid scheme. The Board has submitted a number of proposals to my Department including in relation to eligibility. My Department is working with the Legal Aid Board in evaluating these proposals with the aim of optimising the ability of the Board to provide civil legal aid to persons of insufficient means. I have already progressed the Board’s proposal for the removal of contributions sought from victims of domestic violence. Statutory Instrument 626 of 2017 gave effect to this from 1 January 2018.

Direct Provision System

Questions (142)

Mick Wallace

Question:

142. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the measures in place to ensure the welfare and fair treatment of residents in direct provision centres; the complaints procedures in place for residents; the appeals processes that exist if a resident is not satisfied with a decision in relation to a complaint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22392/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Direct Provision system is a whole of Government approach to the provision of supports and services to persons seeking international protection. These supports and services are delivered directly to persons in the protection process in the same manner as to other residents in Ireland by the relevant Government Department or Agency. For example education services are delivered through the Department of Education and Skills, and health services are delivered by the Health Service Executive.

My Department, through the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), is responsible for the provision of accommodation and related services to protection applicants while they await a decision on their claim for international protection.

On 30 June 2018, the Minister for Justice and Equality signed the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018. These Regulations transpose the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive into national law. The Directive lays down the standards for the reception of international protection applicants while their application is being examined.

Further, a Standards Advisory Group was set up in 2017. The work of this group is to build on the recommendations of the McMahon Report and to develop a set of standards for accommodation provided for those people seeking the protection of the State. The Standards will meet those set out in the Recast Reception Conditions Directive and in EASO Guidance on Reception Conditions. Operational standards and indicators will take due cognisance of the responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by policies and plans as defined by the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty.

The Department of Justice and Equality working together with other Departments and agencies have already introduced far-reaching and important reforms to the overall system and this process will continue as we strive to make further improvements in the future. One of the most significant improvements is the introduction of independent living, which allows applicants to obtain food and other products in a specially-constructed food hall in the centre and to cook the food at either communal or individual cooking stations.

As of early April 2019, over 2,200 applicants across eight centres were availing of the independent living model. In addition, almost 1,400 other applicants have access to other self-catering facilities with food provided by the contractor or the applicant themselves. The Department of Justice and Equality anticipates that all of the centres under contract to it will have moved to the independent living model by mid-2020.

In addition, there have been significant improvements to recreation opportunities, such as the provision of outdoor sports pitches, including ‘all-weather’ facilities, teenagers' rooms and family living rooms in centres to provide social areas for particular age groups. Friends of the Centre groups have also been established in each centre. This initiative aims to bring residents, community and voluntary groups together with a view to increasing integration opportunities and providing for the development of greater community linkages with the residents and the centre.

RIA has a complaints procedure which is set out in the House Rules & Procedures Booklet for International Protection Applicants. Complaints are made initially to the Centre Manager with a view to informal resolution. If the person concerned is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint, he or she may make a complaint to RIA who will investigate the matter and take action as appropriate.

In the event that a resident is not satisfied with how his or her complaint is dealt with, he or she has full access to the services of the Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children. The office of the Ombudsman received 148 complaints about Direct Provision in 2018, 15 of which were upheld.

Separately, certain decisions by RIA made in line with the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018, relating to material reception conditions and listed in full in Regulation 20, allow for review by a Review Officer, a designated role in RIA. This review may be further appealed to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT).

Direct Provision System

Questions (143)

Mick Wallace

Question:

143. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of unannounced inspections for each direct provision accommodation centre carried out by the Reception and Integration Agency in each of the years 2013 to 2018, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22393/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) oversees a comprehensive and detailed inspections system of accommodation centres for people seeking international protection. Inspections are carried out by an in-house inspectorate within RIA and also by an independent company.

The contract for independent inspections is currently held by QTS Ltd. As far as possible, every effort is made to inspect accommodation centres three times annually - twice by the internal RIA inspection team and once by the independent inspection company QTS. The purpose of an inspection is to assess the physical condition of the centre and to ensure that the services contracted by RIA are being delivered by the contractor. All inspections carried out by RIA staff or the external inspection company are unannounced.

All RIA accommodation centres are also subject to inspection by various other statutory bodies in relation to activities carried out on site, on the same basis as any entity providing accommodation, catering and other services. These may be either announced or unannounced. These include inspections with regard to fire safety, food and environmental safety, child welfare and inspections into on-site pre-schools/creches where applicable.

The statistical data the Deputy requires is attached in tabular form with this reply.

Inspections

Direct Provision System

Questions (144)

Mick Wallace

Question:

144. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to a protest on 25 April 2019 by a large number of residents in a direct provision centre (details supplied); if his attention has been further drawn to video footage posted on a social media platform showing the owner of the centre informing protestors that the protest will impact on them; if he or the Reception and Integration Agency have investigated the events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22394/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Staff members in the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) were made aware of the protest and senior management from RIA attended the centre on the date in question and over the following days. RIA was also made aware of the short video clip circulating on social media.

There was no follow up communication received by centre management or RIA from residents once the protest ended.

Staff in RIA regularly attend this centre and are available to answer queries or requests by residents. Contact can be made through regular clinics held within each centre where RIA staff are available to assist with any queries from residents. A dedicated RIA email address and phone line is also available for residents to contact RIA staff directly.

Immigration Status

Questions (145)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

145. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current and expected status in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22437/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, if an application for asylum or subsidiary protection has been made in the State, for confidentiality reasons it is not the practice to comment on such applications or to provide comment on what stage such applications are at in the administrative process. Under Section 26 of the International Protection Act 2015, it is an offence to identify an international applicant. As a result it would be contrary to national law for me or my Department officials to provide information which pertains to a protection applicant. The Chief International Protection Officer and his team of International Protection Officers are also bound by the confidentiality provisions of Section 26 of the 2015 Act to protect the identity of the applicant. Applicants or their legal representatives should contact the International Protection Office directly either by email to info@ipo.gov.ie, by telephone to the IPO Customer Service Centre at 01 6028008 or in writing to Customer Service Centre, International Protection Office, 79-83 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2.

Following the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015 on 31 December 2016, new arrangements for the investigation and determination of applications for international protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) and cases involving permission to remain in the State have been introduced. Such applications are now processed, as part of a single application procedure, by the International Protection Office (IPO) which has replaced the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) from that date. The staff of that Office (the Chief International Protection Officer and International Protection Officers) are independent in the performance of their protection functions.

For your information, on 27 February 2017, the Chief International Protection Officer, following consultation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), published a statement on the Prioritisation of Applications under the International Protection Act 2015 which is available on the website of the International Protection Office (www.ipo.gov.ie).

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.