Public Expenditure Policy

Questions (95)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

95. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he continues to meet targets in public expenditure and reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26024/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

My Department has recently published its Annual Report for 2018 on the Gov.ie website ( https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/da1589-dper-annual-reports-2013-16/ ). This report provides a comprehensive overview of the work of the Department in 2018 across a broad range of areas of public expenditure management and reform of the Civil and Public Service, as it continues to implement its Statement of Strategy 2016-2019.

The report includes sections on managing public expenditure better; proactively addressing issues that arose as a consequence of Brexit; continuing to oversee the management of the 2014-2020 EU Structural Fund Programmes; working to maintain a stable industrial relations climate across the Public Service; driving Civil Service Renewal and wider Public Service Reform; leading the implementation of the Public Service ICT Strategy; and implementation of the Public Procurement Reform Programme.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (96)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

96. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which the various potential outcomes in respect of Brexit continue to include the role of his Department as a means of ensuring the best possible performance in any situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26025/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Within my Department and across the public service, preparations for Brexit have been underway since before the UK referendum in 2016. The Government’s Contingency Action Plan, published at the end of last year and updated at the end of January, sets out the comprehensive, cross-Government preparations for Brexit. All Departments have sector-specific plans in place identifying key challenges associated with Brexit and associated mitigation approaches.

Central to the Government’s preparation for Brexit is the prudent management of the public finances so as to ensure the economy remains competitive in the face of future economic headwinds. Dedicated measures to prepare for Brexit have been announced in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019, to ensure that Ireland is in the best possible position to respond to the challenges that Brexit will bring.

Most recently, Budget 2019 ensures that the economy is prepared for the challenges of Brexit through continued prudent management of the public finances: by balancing the books; reducing the debt burden; improving the competitiveness of our personal taxation system; and continuing to invest in infrastructure.

The impact of Brexit upon the economy and the public finances continues to remain uncertain given that the timing and nature of the UK’s exit remains unclear. With uncertainty remaining, the Government must continue to plan for the contingency of a disorderly exit. In this context spending plans will be kept under review to identify the potential resources required to deal with the impact of such a scenario this year. This uncertainty will also have implications for Budget 2020.

Public Expenditure Policy

Questions (97, 98)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

97. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree to which he continues to monitor expenditure throughout all Departments or the agencies under their remit with a view to ensuring adherence to budgetary strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26026/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

98. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if indicators are providing an estimation of the need to curtail expenditure of specific areas to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26027/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 98 together.

Managing the delivery of public services within allocations is a key responsibility of each Minister and Department. Important measures are in place to ensure that our expenditure targets are being achieved. Officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are in regular contact with all other Departments and offices to ensure that expenditure is being managed within the overall fiscal parameters and there is regular reporting to Government on expenditure levels. Expenditure profiles are published for each month and the drawdown of funds from the Exchequer is monitored throughout the year and reported on against profile on a monthly basis in the Exchequer Statement.

As set out in the most recent Fiscal Monitor, published by the Department of Finance, total gross voted expenditure at end-May 2019 was €26,066 million. This is €145 million, or 0.6% below profile and €1,967 million, or 8.2 % up in year-on-year terms. Gross voted current expenditure of €24,184 million, is €65 million, or 0.3% below profile and €1,513 million, or 6.7% up in year-on-year terms. Of the 17 Ministerial Vote groups, 12 are on or below profile on current expenditure for end-May. Gross voted capital expenditure of €1,833 million, is €81 million, or 4.1% below profile and up €454 million, or 31.8% on the same period last year.

A key driver of the year-on-year increase in current expenditure to end-May is day-to-day spending on Health. While gross current expenditure of €6.9 billion by Health is below profile for May, in year-on-year terms it is an increase of €559 million or 8.9% compared to the same period in 2018. Given that the budgeted increase for the full year is 5.8%, this demonstrates the need for careful management in the remainder of the year and the requirement for staffing and savings measures to be proactively managed by the Department of Health.

Public Sector Staff Expenses

Questions (99)

Barry Cowen

Question:

99. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the procedures in place to regulate and monitor general expenses for employees in Departments, State companies and semi-State companies; the accountability structures that exist; the role the Comptroller and Auditor General has with general expenses for employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26046/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

All Government Departments and public bodies in receipt of public funding must comply, as appropriate, with the relevant requirements of Public Financial Procedures, the Public Spending Code, Government Procurement Rules and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform relevant Circulars.

The rules governing travel and subsistence, both domestic and foreign, in the civil and public service are set out in Circulars which are issued, from time to time, to Departments and Offices and to agencies under the aegis of each Department. Policy in respect of air travel is contained in the Foreign Travel Guidelines 2009. It is a matter for each accounting officer or accountable person in the case of non-vote expenditure to ensure the rules in respect of travel and subsistence are followed so as to ensure value for money.

With regard to State bodies, as set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, 2016 the Board has a key role in setting the ethical tone of a State body, not only by its own actions but also in overseeing senior management and staff. The board should ensure a culture of claiming expenses only as appropriate to business needs and in accordance with good practice in the public sector generally and introduce controls to prevent fraud including adequate controls to ensure compliance with prescribed procedures in relation to claiming of expenses for business travel.

The accounting officer or accountable person has a key role in the system of accountability for public moneys. It is, of course, a matter for each individual Department and public body concerned to ensure that there are appropriate oversight arrangements and governance structures in place to ensure that where any misspending takes place, there are internal controls and internal audit systems in place to ensure, in as far as possible, that these are detected and are addressed.

The core duties of the C&AG, in conducting a financial audit are to ensure the financial statements properly present the transactions and balances, and that transactions have been “regular”. The latter essentially means establishing that the State’s money was properly used or handled in accordance with lawful authority. In addition, his audits have regard to the standards of propriety set out in the relevant codes of practice. He reports publicly where he identifies material matters relating to the manner in which public business has been conducted, including material instances of excess spending, or spending without a clear business purpose.

The C&AG’s remit covers central Government Departments and Offices and non-commercial State bodies. He does not have a role in respect of commercial State bodies.

School Curriculum

Questions (100)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

100. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered the appropriateness of junior certificate mathematics classes being provided five days per week instead of four; if he has received concerns about the number of students availing of grinds in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25858/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Framework for Junior Cycle, the new specification in Mathematics sets a minimum time allocation for the subject of 240 hours over the three years of Junior Cycle. Schools who provide 4 periods a week for each of the three years will meet the minimum requirement of the specification.

The earlier Junior Certificate mathematics syllabus (2016) which the new specification replaced was also designed as a 240 hour course of study.

The decision as to whether to provide mathematics over 5 days or 4 days is a school decision but my Department's position is that the course can be completed in a 4 period per week timeframe.

The Junior Cycle programme is designed to be delivered over a full three years with a considerable degree of flexibility available to schools in how and when the full range of specification material is covered. Where loss of class time occurs for any exceptional reason, schools and teachers will seek to ensure that their students are supported in covering all of the necessary course material in to order prepare adequately for examinations. The commitment of our teachers and schools to their students is acknowledged and appreciated in this respect.

While I respect the right of parents to make choices for their children's education, I do not believe that it should be necessary that students undertake grinds. I recognise that in certain circumstances, such as a prolonged illness, additional tuition may be useful for a child. I also recognise that revision courses, whether organised within schools or outside, can help children with their study, if they build upon previous work.

The institutions which give grinds are private commercial enterprises and they do not come under the jurisdiction of my Department. In addition, the right of parents to make choices for their children in relation to their education must be respected.

Universities Legislation

Questions (101, 102, 103)

David Cullinane

Question:

101. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of borrowing, underwriting and guaranteeing activities notified to him under the borrowing framework provided for in section 38 of the Universities Act 1997 for each university since the institution of the framework in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25876/19]

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David Cullinane

Question:

102. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the aggregate of funding borrowed by the university and education and training board sectors in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25877/19]

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David Cullinane

Question:

103. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the working of the borrowing framework outlined in section 38 of the Universities Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25878/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 to 103, inclusive, together.

Universities are independent and autonomous bodies under the statutory framework set out in the Universities Act, 1997 and on that basis are responsible for the conduct of their day-to-day affairs, including in relation to borrowing activities. The performance of this role is subject to appropriate governance, oversight and accountability requirements. In this context, section 38 of the Universities Act, 1997 contains specific provision for a university to borrow within a framework agreed with the Higher Education Authority (HEA). This framework, which was agreed with my Department and the now Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, has been in operation for some time.

The function of the framework is:

- That a university can engage in borrowing, underwriting and guaranteeing activities provided that they impose no threat to, and do not create any contingent liabilities for the public purse.

- To ensure that the capacity of a university to function effectively is not endangered.

- That advanced approval by the HEA, or the Ministers for Education and Skills and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, of individual instances of borrowing, underwriting or guaranteeing by a university is not required.

Accordingly, a university is not required to notify my Department of borrowings or obtain prior consent from my Department, or the HEA, to engage in borrowing, underwriting or guaranteeing activities. In addition there is no recourse, implied or otherwise, to the Exchequer for any liabilities matured or maturing by these institutions.

The aggregate amount of monies borrowed by the universities in the 2016/17 accounting year was €637 million.

With regard to the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), section 49 of the Education and Training Boards Act 2013 states that ETBs may, with the consent of the Minister, accept a proposal, and borrow by means specified in the proposal, for the purposes of carrying out the functions of the board.

I can confirm that there are currently no moneys borrowed by any of the 16 ETBs. Some ETBs have sanction in place for an overdraft facility. The ETBs with that sanction have confirmed to officials in my Department last month that no overdraft facility is currently being utilised.

Third Level Data

Questions (104, 105)

David Cullinane

Question:

104. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date of construction, the university, the building or project name, the area and the cost of each university building programme costing in excess of €5 million in the past fifteen years in tabular form. [25879/19]

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David Cullinane

Question:

105. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date of construction, the institute, the building or project name, the area and the cost of each institute of technology building programme costing in excess of €5 million in the past fifteen years in tabular form. [25880/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 105 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department has had a process underway with the higher education sector to compile information on projects delivered for the period since 2008.

This process has recently concluded on foot of consultation with the universities and Institutes of Technology.

In the context of the above, I am now attaching the requested updated information for projects completed during the period since 2008 which was previously forwarded to the Deputy on 15 May last. The Deputy will note one minor change (highlighted in red) in respect of the final project cost for one completed building following recent clarifications received from the Institution in question.

As you will be aware, a significant number of projects, particularly in the university sector, were delivered without funding from my Department. In all cases, the higher education institutions are the responsible bodies for project delivery and ongoing management.

Graduate Medical School Details

Third Level Data

Questions (106)

David Cullinane

Question:

106. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the area of land owned or in the possession of each university and institute of technology in each year in the past fifteen years in tabular form. [25881/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, Universities, Technological Universities and Institutes of Technology are autonomous bodies as set out in the Universities Act 1997, the Institutes of Technology Act 2006 and the Technological Universities Act 2018.

In that regard, the bodies in question are responsible for their day to day operations, including the procurement of goods and services; provision of services for students; and allocation of all of their income (both public and private). Records in these matters are not held by my Department.

Similarly, the records requested by the Deputy in relation to the area of land owned or in the possession of each institution over each of the past fifteen years are not held by my Department.

Third Level Funding

Questions (107)

Catherine Martin

Question:

107. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the results of the economic analysis of the Cassells report on third-level funding referred to the European Commission will be made available; the provisions for institutions which reach a funding crisis point in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25890/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Following a request from the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills for an economic examination of the three policy options proposed by the report on future funding of higher education (Cassells report), my Department engaged with the European Commission Structural Support Service throughout 2018 to ascertain the scope for the economic evaluation to be carried out with support from the European Commission Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP). The SRSP provides tailor-made support to all EU countries for their institutional, administrative and growth-enhancing reforms to carry out the analysis of the three policy options identified by the Expert Group.

A formal application for support under the SRSP was submitted in October 2018 and subsequently approved by the Commission. Officials of my Department are currently working with officials from the European Commission to assist in finalising the detailed terms of reference for the review which will commence thereafter. It is currently expected that it will be completed in Q2 2020.

Having this evaluation undertaken through the Commission’s SRSP will provide access to the type of independent international expertise and analysis that will be very beneficial to a major evaluation of this nature.

The Higher Education Authority closely monitors the financial position of higher education institutions and in particular works closely with any institution that experiences financial difficulties in order to ensure appropriate mechanisms are put in place to eliminate any deficit as quickly as possible.

The Government’s commitment to higher education is clearly demonstrated by the increase in current spending on higher education of almost €350m since 2015. This amounts to an increase approaching 25% over the period. In addition, the Government has already committed to a five year programme of increased investment amounting to €300m, commencing next year, under the Human Capital Initiative. It represents a significant response to projected demographic pressures impacting on the sector over the next five years, as highlighted in the report on future funding.

School Admissions

Questions (108)

Willie Penrose

Question:

108. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills the procedures available to a family who are seeking secondary school facilities for their son for first year tuition and who have been unable to secure a place due to the local schools indicating that they have no room available to accommodate the child; the steps available to the family to secure a place for their son; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25909/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that in relation to schools admission parents can choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available, the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. The Deputy will note however that the selection process procedures and enrolment policy are the responsibility of the individual school authorities.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parent’s choice are respected.

Under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 where a board of management make a decision to refuse enrolment, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Where the appeal involves an Education and Training Board (ETB) school, the appeal must be made to the local ETB in the first instance. Further information on the Section 29 Appeals process is available on my Departments website at the following link:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/

In addition, the Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the legal body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. The EWS can be contacted at 01-7718815.

State Examinations

Questions (109)

Noel Rock

Question:

109. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provisions to assist leaving certificate students who suffer bereavement of a close relative during exam period will be extended to those who become ill, including those who have gone under general anaesthetic during or just before the exam period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25941/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As Minister for Education and Skills, I was delighted to announce the extension by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) of the provisions of the Scheme of Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE Scheme), under which the SEC introduced a limited provision for supporting Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied candidates who experience the death of a close relative during the period of the written examinations. The SEC has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations

Under this new arrangement, if a close relative of a Leaving Certificate or Leaving Certificate Applied candidate dies, the candidate will be allowed to defer up to three days of their examinations and to take the examinations that they defer at an alternative sitting of the examinations in July.

This arrangement has been brought in on an interim, pilot basis and will be subject to review. As part of that review, the SEC will conduct extensive consultation regarding the existing RACE scheme provisions for Leaving Certificate candidates experiencing other forms of trauma and adversity at examination time. Any extension to the current arrangement needs to take account of, not only the difficult life circumstances in which individual candidates find themselves, but also the need to be fair to the body of candidates taking examinations generally and to maintain the integrity of the examinations process.

Insurance Industry Regulation

Questions (110, 111, 128, 129, 130)

Michael McGrath

Question:

110. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 61 of 13 June 2019, the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which the Legal Services Regulatory Authority found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26037/19]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

111. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 61 of 13 June 2019, the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which an organisation (details supplied) found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26038/19]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

128. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which the Legal Services Regulatory Authority found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26034/19]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

129. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which an organisation (details supplied) found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26035/19]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

130. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons in each year since 2011who have been prosecuted for advertising personal injury claims in contravention of the legislative and regulatory prohibitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26036/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 111 and 128 to 130, inclusive, together.

Further to the relevant Written Replies made by myself and the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe TD, on 13 July 2019, I have sought additional information on those regulatory breaches involving insurance 'claims harvesters' as sought under today's Questions by Deputy McGrath. In response the Law Society has provided statistics to my Department in respect of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date for 2019 as set out in the table below.

In 2014 responsibility for the regulation of solicitors' advertising transferred from the Complaints and Client Relations Committee of the Law Society to its Regulation of Practice Committee. At that time, the Society also employed a dedicated advertising regulations executive to pro-actively enforce the regulation of this area. Accordingly, the Law Society has been able to provide statistics relating to its enforcement, of primary legislation and the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002, from 2014. As can be seen from the figures provided, in all, some 28 websites owned by solicitors or other operators have now been removed or have become inoperable. This, I understand, includes some removed since the end of last year and two websites that are dormant following liquidation of the company concerned. It should also be noted, as set out in the table, that a further 15 solicitor-owned websites have been brought into regulatory compliance by the Law Society in this regard.

Websites

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019 (to date)

Current Total

Solicitor owned and removed

3

2

3

3

1

0

12

Non-solicitor owned and removed

0

3

4

4

3

2

16

Solicitor owned and brought into compliance

1

2

0

3

5

4

15

As I have set out in my Written Reply to Question No. 114 of 13 June 2019, the current regulatory approach to advertising by solicitors will be replaced under section 218 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. Under that section, such advertising will no longer be regulated by the legal professional bodies as happens at present but by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. This new regime, which will apply to both solicitors and barristers, will come into effect early next year including in terms of the provision of any relevant statistical data. The Authority will be carrying out its required public consultations later this year in preparation for the introduction of the new legal services advertising regulations in Q1 of 2020 supported, of course, by my commencement of the relevant provisions of the 2015 Act.

It is important to note that both the Law Society and the Legal Services Regulatory Authority are responsible, under the respective legislative provisions concerned, solely for the regulation of legal practitioners including the advertising of their services. As I have conveyed in my Written Reply of 13 June 2019 and as has been discussed by the Cost of insurance Working Group, the specific regulation of 'claims harvesters', who use notoriously evasive tactics while operating on-line both nationally and internationally, is a complex challenge which remains for possible resolution as part of the wider regulation of the insurance sector.

Insurance Fraud

Questions (112)

Seán Fleming

Question:

112. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on establishing a central Garda resource specifically tasked with investigating fraudulent cases involving insurance claims; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25873/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that it is the Garda Commissioner who is solely responsible for organisational matters, such as the establishment of individual Garda units, the remits of any such units, and the resourcing of units.

The Commissioner is of the view that a Divisional focus on insurance fraud is preferable to the establishment of a centralised investigation unit. This approach is aligned with the Divisional-focussed Garda model. It is the intention of the Commissioner that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) will guide Divisions and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud.

The Deputy will be aware that the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) specifically called for An Garda Síochána to explore the potential for further cooperation between it and the insurance sector in relation to insurance fraud investigation. An industry-funded Garda insurance fraud unit was one option considered in this regard. While the Commissioner has indicated that he does not support industry funding of Garda units, he is open to considering other industry-funded proposals to combat insurance fraud, for example, IT projects and/or the appointment of analysts.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (113)

James Lawless

Question:

113. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of an application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25875/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the processing of the application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy has entered the final stage of processing and the applicant will be informed of my decision shortly.

As the Deputy will appreciate, 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 level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. While most straightforward cases are now processed within six months, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

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.

Immigrant Investor Programme Applications

Questions (114)

Seán Fleming

Question:

114. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding a submission by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25891/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person in question made an application under the Immigrant Investor Application in October 2018.

INIS introduced a number of enhanced control mechanisms which has led to a temporary increase in processing times, as the new processes are bedded in. All applications from 2018 have been subject to detailed examination and a final decision on this application is expected shortly.

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.

Execution of Wills

Questions (115)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

115. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Law Reform Commission has made recommendations to protect persons making wills in order to deter unscrupulous parties from posing as friends of the person and, thereafter, exerting undue influence from which they benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25893/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The position is that Part VII of the Succession Act 1965 sets out the legal requirements for the making of a valid will and provides robust safeguards in relation to the validity of wills.

It is, of course, possible for a person to commence legal proceedings challenging a will on the grounds of either the diminished capacity of the testator to make a valid will, or the testator's ability freely to make decisions in disposing of their property by will.

When determining whether or not a testator had the capacity to make a will, courts will generally consider whether he or she understood the nature of the act of making the will and its effect, and whether the testator understood the extent of the property of which he or she was disposing.

Where undue influence is alleged, the law places the burden of proving such undue influence on the person alleging it. In order to succeed, the court must be satisfied that:

(a) the person alleged to exert the influence had the power or opportunity to do so;

(b) undue influence was in fact exerted; and

(c) the will was the product of that influence.

The Law Reform Commission has not made recommendations for changes in this aspect of succession legislation. I consider that current legislation and associated case law provides strong safeguards in this area of succession law and, consequently, I have no current plans to amend existing legislation.

Assisted Human Reproduction Legislation

Questions (116)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

116. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. [25977/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provide for the regulation of donor-assisted human reproduction (“DAHR”) procedures carried out in the State, including the legal parentage of children born as a result of DAHR procedures. Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act specifically relate to DAHR procedures carried out in the State where the intending mother is also the birth mother and the child is born in the State. Parts 2 and 3 contain provisions relating to the consent of parties to DAHR procedures (both donors and intending parents); the parentage of donor-conceived children born after the commencement of Parts 2 and 3; the rights of donor-conceived people to access information about their genetic heritage through the establishment of a National Donor-Conceived Person Register; and the use of non-anonymous gametes and embryos in assisted human reproduction involving donated material. Provision is also made for the granting by a court of a retrospective declaration of parentage in relation to a child born in the State as a result of a DAHR procedure (where the donor is unknown) before commencement of Parts 2 and 3, subject to certain conditions. No provision of Parts 2 and 3 has yet been commenced.

The Minister for Health is responsible for the commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 and associated regulations. He has informed me that his officials are continuing to work, alongside the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, on completing the outstanding elements necessary to enable commencement of Parts 2 and 3.

Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provides for a number of amendments to the Civil Registration Act 2004. Most of these amendments are for the purpose of enabling the registration of the birth of a child born as a result of a DAHR procedure, as defined under Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act. Part 9 amends the 2004 Act to include a definition of “parent” in relation to a child born as a result of a DAHR procedure to which Parts 2 and 3 apply.

The Civil Registration Act 2019, which was signed into law on 23 May 2019, provides for amendments to the Civil Registration Act 2004, including some amendments to address technical issues regarding the wording of some sections of Part 9 of the 2015 Act.

No provision of Part 9 of the 2015 Act has yet been commenced. Section 1(7) of the 2015 Act, as amended by section 12 of the Civil Registration Act 2019, provides that Part 9 shall come into operation 54 months from enactment or on such earlier day or days as the Minister for Justice and Equality may, after consulting with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, appoint by order. Different days may be appointed for the commencement of different provisions of Part 9. The provisions of Part 9 of the 2015 Act relating to the registration of the birth of donor-conceived children are so closely interlinked with and dependent on Parts 2 and 3 that those provisions of Part 9 cannot be operated until Parts 2 and 3 are brought into operation by the Minister for Health.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (117)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

117. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the appropriate procedure to be followed in the case of a person (details supplied); if a sworn affidavit may be of assistance in authenticating a relationship to their late parent; if they can retain their British citizenship or apply for Irish citizenship; if a sworn affidavit may be of assistance in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26003/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

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 level, and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

All persons making an application for a certificate of naturalisation are required to provide satisfactory documentary evidence of their identity and nationality. This is usually in the form of a currently valid passport and may include other original supporting documents, such as a previously held or out of date passport, birth certificate or register of birth and marriage certificate.

Ireland currently allows dual citizenship. However, the acquisition of Irish citizenship may have implications for other citizenship(s) held by the person concerned, including automatic loss of those citizenships. Accordingly, applicants for Irish citizenship are advised to check the position with the relevant authorities of the State(s) concerned.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship is governed by specific legal provisions and an assessment as to whether an application is eligible or not can only be made after an application has been submitted.

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.

Immigration Status

Questions (118)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

118. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when an appointment to facilitate upgrading of stamp 4 will be arranged in the case of a person (details supplied); if the matter will be satisfactorily concluded at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26004/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have been advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person referred to by the Deputy currently has no current permission to be in the State, however, a request for permission to reside is under active consideration. The Deputy will appreciate that cases are dealt with in chronological order and I understand that a decision will issue in the coming weeks. In the event that the person concerned is granted permission to reside, it will be necessary for them to make an appointment with their local immigration office to register that permission.

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.

Residency Permits

Questions (119)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

119. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration will be given to facilitating an application for a work permit or other residency facility in the case of a person (details supplied) in view of the fact that they have an ongoing offer of employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26007/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

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), written representations have been submitted on behalf of the persons concerned.

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.

I am advised that the INIS would be prepared to review the cases of the persons concerned in circumstances where they presented documentary evidence to show that they had a concrete offer of paid employment available to them. The Deputy will appreciate that any such offer of paid employment must be on the prospective employer's headed paper; it must describe the specific position being offered; it must set out the proposed salary or salary scale; it must provide an indication that any such position is available immediately, is whole-time and is not subject to seasonal factors. Upon receipt of documentary evidence of the nature described, the INIS will undertake a review of the case of the person concerned.

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.