Consultancy Contracts Data

Questions (349)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

349. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of contracts of €25,000 or more that have been awarded by his Department or bodies under his aegis that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45068/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Public procurement is governed by both EU and national rules and my Department ensures that appropriate procedures are followed for procurement activity. Individual Accounting Officers are responsible for ensuring that public procurement is discharged in line with the standard accounting and procurement rules and procedures and that contract prices are fair and reasonable and represent best value for money. Procurement activity is subject to both internal audit within the Department and review by the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General.

The aim of procurement rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money.

In general, competitive tendering is used unless exceptional circumstances exist which justify an alternative approach. Situations where competitive tendering may not be appropriate, feasible or cost-effective include where due to the proprietary nature of goods or services there is a sole supplier of these goods or services, where annual licensing renewals arise, where specific specialist knowledge is required, where urgency is a factor, or where it has been necessary to extend a pre-existing contract for a period of time pending a tender competition being completed.

The Department must also balance situations where the process of establishing a procurement framework by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) is ongoing. As the Deputy will be aware, Government policy is to make use of such central arrangements where possible. Where the establishment of a framework is pending, the Department may roll over existing arrangements without a competitive tender process to avoid entering a long-term contract with relatively disadvantageous terms.

Department of Finance Circular 40/02 requires Government Departments and Offices to submit an annual report to the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General for contracts above €25,000 (exclusive of VAT) awarded without a competitive process by 31 March of the following year.

It is important to note that procurement reported under Circular 40/02 is not inherently non-compliant. Rather, it is the subset of procurement activity for which competitive tendering is not considered appropriate under the circumstances.

Details of contracts awarded by my Department without the use of a competitive process are outlined in the Department’s Appropriation Accounts for 2017 and 2018. Work is continuing on compiling similar information for 2019 and this will be published in the 2019 Appropriation Account.

In 2018 a determination was made by the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General that the procurement with respect to eighteen contracts reported under Circular 40/02 was non-compliant. As set out in the Appropriation Accounts in 2018, these contracts were extended without a competitive process primarily while revised long-term arrangements or OGP frameworks were put in place.

The Department has reviewed these contracts and is satisfied that while delays in establishing long-term arrangements were regrettable, the consequent decisions to roll over existing contracts were necessary and justified due to the continuing need to maintain the supply of goods or services to clients.

I have requested that relevant agencies under the remit of my Department, and operating under a separate Vote structure (An Garda Síochána, Irish Prison Service and Courts Service) respond directly to the Deputy.

Commencement of Legislation

Question No. 351 answered with Question No. 292.

Questions (350)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

350. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the sections and subsections of the Disability Act 2005 that remain uncommenced; and the reason in each case they have not been commenced to date. [45084/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Disability Act 2005 has been fully commenced with the exception of Part 2 in so far as it relates to persons aged over 5. There were 2 commencement orders made for the remainder of the Act (SI No 234/2005 and SI No 474/2005), and sections 25 to 29 had commencement dates in the sections.

I have been informed by my colleague the Minister for Health that Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was partly commenced in 2007 in respect of children up to the age of five. In 2008, the Government at the time decided to defer further commencement. Arising from a High Court ruling in 2009, all children born on or after 1st June 2002 have been deemed as being eligible to apply for an assessment of need under the Act.

Although the Department of Justice and Equality has overall responsibility for the Disability Act 2005, the commencement of Part 2 of the Act, which deals with the provision of Assessment of Need, is a matter for the Minister for Health.

Question No. 351 answered with Question No. 292.

Personal Insolvency Act

Questions (352)

Michael McGrath

Question:

352. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to change the date of 1 January 2015 in section 115A(18)(b)(i) of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, as inserted by the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Act 2015, in view of the fact that many borrowers have since come off long-term interest-only solutions and only entered into arrears since; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45092/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, section 115A(18)(b)(i) of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 as inserted by the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Act 2015, refers to the scope of the provision for a debtor to seek review by a Court, if his or her debts include mortgage arrears on their home (‘principal private residence’) and their creditors have refused the debtor’s proposal for a Personal Insolvency Arrangement which includes those home mortgage arrears.

Section 115A addresses, in particular, the so-called ‘bank veto’, where the mortgage lender does not engage with a debtor who is trying to restructure their debts in a way which is fair and reasonable to all parties concerned, in accordance with the carefully-balanced requirements of the Personal Insolvency Acts. In such a situation, the debtor’s Personal Insolvency Practitioner can apply to Court under section 115A. The Court will carefully scrutinise the proposal, and the refusal by creditors, in the light of the statutory criteria set out in section 115A. If the Court is satisfied that those criteria are met, it has power to impose the rejected proposal on creditors, allowing the debtor to return to solvency and, wherever possible, to remain in their home.

Abhaile, the national Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service, provides expert financial and legal advice and help to a borrower in this situation, including legal aid for an application made under section 115A. Over the past 3 years, the Courts have built up an important body of case law on the application of section 115A. This has greatly clarified the rights and responsibilities of debtors and creditors regarding the resolution of home mortgage arrears - both in section 115A proceedings, and more broadly for those borrowers seeking to negotiate restructure arrangements directly with their lenders with the help of MABS and other agencies.

Subsection section 115A(18)(b) effectively provides that to avail of section 115A, the borrower must have been in arrears on their home mortgage before 1 January 2015, or have entered into an alternative repayment arrangement with their mortgage lender (or other secured creditor) before that date. Thus, the section is not limited to persons actually in arrears on 1 January 2015, and also covers a borrower who prior to that date had entered into a long-term interest only alternative repayment arrangement to resolve their arrears.

However, I can assure the Deputy that this is among the provisions of the Personal Insolvency Acts which are under review by my Department: that review is near completion, taking careful account of the submissions made during the public consultation held earlier and of the changing profile of home mortgage arrears since the enactment of the 2015 Act. I expect to receive the report early in the New Year and to bring proposals for further legislative reform to Government in early course.

Direct Provision Expenditure

Questions (353)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

353. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the contract and refurbishment costs incurred to date on providing direct provision accommodation at a location (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the estimated future costs to maintain the services there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45113/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The International Protection Procurement Services (IPPS) unit of my Department is responsible for the procurement of accommodation and ancillary services for persons in the protection process.

All accommodation centres for people seeking international protection, whether State-owned or privately owned, are operated by commercial companies. There are currently 39 accommodation centres being operated under the direct provision system.

IPPS contracts for an all-inclusive service, which includes catering services, as well as cleaning, security, maintenance and laundry services. Extensive and detailed information on the amount paid by my Department to each company contracted to provide direct provision accommodation every year up to and including 2015 can be found on the IPAS website www.ria.gov.ie under the 'Contract Values' section of the website. This is in accordance with the IPAS' policy on the disclosure of financial information, which was agreed with the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The Deputy will appreciate that it is not appropriate to provide the current contract value entered into by my Department at the location supplied. Negotiations take place with a number of commercial entities on an ongoing basis with a clear focus on achieving the best value for money in respect of each contract. It is not in the interests of yielding best value for the taxpayer that details of current individual contracts are made available to other commercial bodies who are, or may be in the future, engaged in these negotiations.

On 15 August 2019, the Spending Review on Direct Provision 2019 was published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Review was prepared by the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) unit of my Department with key input from the IPAS . For the Deputy's further information, I attach a link to the published Review.

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Spending_Review.pdf/Files/Spending_Review.pdf.

As set out in the Review, it is estimated that the current average daily cost is €44.15 per person for independent centres. The details supplied refer to a centre which comes under the ‘independent living model’ but as already stated the specific contract value is subject to commercial sensitivity. The refurbishment costs incurred are the responsibility of the contractor.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

Questions (354)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

354. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount of compensation awarded to families and relatives of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; the process by which awards can be appealed in instances in which the beneficiary deems the amount paid out to be inadequate and-or unsatisfactory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45139/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

It is not appropriate for me to comment on individual cases, however the Deputy will be aware that a Remembrance Commission was established by the Government in 2003 and operated a Scheme of Acknowledgement, Remembrance and Assistance for Victims of the Troubles in this jurisdiction. The Commission's term of appointment formally came to an end on 31 October 2008 and the Commission disbursed over €6.5m to victims and their families in this time. On the conclusion of the Commission's term of appointment, special arrangements were made to ensure that victims resident in the jurisdiction who require on-going medical treatment for injuries sustained in bombings and other incidents arising from the Troubles may have certain costs reimbursed through the Department of Justice and Equality.

The payments made by the Remembrance Commission to victims were as follows -

1. An acknowledgement payment of €15,000 to the surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, to the surviving child or children of a victim who was either fatally injured in this jurisdiction or was normally resident in this jurisdiction.

2. An economic hardship payment of up to €15,000 to: a) the surviving spouse and dependent children of a victim fatally injured in this jurisdiction or whose normal residence at the time the fatal injury was sustained was in this jurisdiction; b) to any victim rendered permanently incapable of working as a result of an injury or injuries sustained in this jurisdiction; c) to a victim or surviving family member who had to move from Northern Ireland to this jurisdiction as a direct consequence of the conflict and who now wishes to return to Northern Ireland; and d) of up to €7,500 to a victim or surviving family member who had to move from this jurisdiction as a direct consequence of the conflict and who now wishes to return.

3. Medical Payments to cover the vouched continuing medical expenses of any victim who was injured in this jurisdiction. The Commission also had the discretion to make exceptional payments of up to €25,000 in cases where the applicant may have accumulated considerable debts for medical treatment prior to the establishment of the Scheme of Remembrance.

As stated, the Remembrance Commission completed its work in 2008 and its term of appointment came to an end so appeals are no longer possible.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted. This scheme was originally established in 1974 following the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Under the terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications for compensation under the Scheme. The terms of the Scheme are available on my Department’s website at www.justice.ie. An individual dissatisfied with a decision of first instance made by a single Tribunal Member may have his claim heard before a panel of three Tribunal Members. No appeal against or review of a final decision of the Tribunal is permitted. The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment on individual cases. If the Deputy or an applicant contact Tribunal staff directly with further details, they will be able to provide any information required.

Legislative Measures

Questions (355)

Joe Carey

Question:

355. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that there is sufficient legislation to deal with the use of drones to observe properties for the purposes of carrying out criminal activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45143/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, officials in my Department are currently working on the Garda Síochána (Recording of Images) Bill. However I would point out that this will relate to recording of images by An Garda Síochána and does not relate to the use of drones or other devices by members of the public.

Rather, the regulation of drones is under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross T.D.

In that regard, I understand that the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is the competent Authority for aviation safety regulation in Ireland, including drones. The safe operation of drones in Ireland is currently regulated by the Irish Aviation Authority (Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets) Order, 2015 (S.I. No. 563 of 2015). I understand that since the introduction of the order in December 2015, the IAA has registered over 12,500 drones and model aircraft. Guidance concerning the current regulatory framework by the IAA is provided on the IAA website.

The Deputy may also wish to note that EU Aviation Safety Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 sets out common rules for the regulation of drones and drone operators, including licensing and registration. This Regulation lays down detailed standards for all aspects of the design and operation of drones. Earlier this year, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 in relation to drones, were also published.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (356)

Seán Fleming

Question:

356. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of naturalisation applications on hand; the number of applications by the country of each applicant; the number of applications received in respect of each country from the oldest application to 2018 and to date in 2019, by country; the length of time applications have remained in the system without a resolution; his plans to follow-up on old applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45160/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Decisions on the grant or otherwise of certificates of naturalisation are made at my discretion as Minister for Justice and Equality strictly in accordance with the legislative provisions and criteria contained in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

While every effort is made to process applications in a timely manner, it is the case that some applications can take considerably longer to process than others. This is due to a number of reasons, primarily the necessity for security checks to establish the good character of the applicant, time taken for appropriate checks to ensure applicants satisfy the relevant legislative criteria and deficiencies in supporting documentation supplied by applicants at the time of application.

It is recognised that an application for a certificate of naturalisation is a complex process requiring a considerable amount of supporting documentation. This is necessitated by the need to protect the integrity of the immigration system and also to ensure that I as Minister have all available information available to me to facilitate making a fully informed decision.

There are just over 20,000 applications for certificates of naturalisation on hand in respect of both adults and minors. These applications are at various stages of processing. The range encompassed by the naturalisation process includes applications recently received by Citizenship Division and those which have been fully concluded and await an invitation to a citizenship ceremony. It should be noted that once a decision has been communicated to an applicant, there may be a delay of some months before the applicant is issued an invite to the next available citizenship ceremony, which every adult applicant must attend and where the oath of fealty to the State is taken.

While the information is not currently available in the format requested by the Deputy I can inform him that applications have been received from 190 nationalities. The top 20 nationalities, which are listed in the table below, make up almost three quarters of all applications.

The greatest number of applications have been received by UK and Polish nationals (over 10% of all applications each) followed by Pakistan and Romania.

Percentage of total applications by Country

United Kingdom

11%

Poland

11%

Pakistan

8%

Romania

8%

Nigeria

7%

India

6%

Brazil

3%

Latvia

2%

Philippines

2%

China (Including Hong Kong)

2%

United States Of America

2%

South Africa

2%

Syrian Arab Republic

2%

Somalia

1%

Ukraine

1%

Bangladesh

1%

The Democratic Republic Of The Congo,

1%

Hungary

1%

Lithuania

1%

Afghanistan

1%

With regard to the number of applications received in respect of each country from the oldest application to 2018 and to date in 2019, by country, I must inform the Deputy that my Department does not maintain the information in that format.

Of the applications on hand, 31% were received in the last 6 months, 31% are on hand for between 6 and 12 months, 25% are on hand for between 12 and 24 months , while 12% are more than 2 years old. 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. The average processing time from the date an application was received to the date a decision was made was 6.7 months in 2016, 7.2 months in 2017 and 6.5 months in 2018. However, I can assure the Deputy that all applications are followed through to a decision.

For applications decided in 2019, the average time from application to decision has been 10 months. It is important to state that the average 6 months processing timeline, as it pertains to applications processed during 2019 has been negatively impacted as a result of the recent High Court Judgment, of which we await an outcome from the Court of Appeal. The exact impact cannot be quantified at this remove, pending a successful resolution of same.

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. These procedures are continually evolving such as reflecting the need to respond to changing international circumstances and also to ongoing service improvements due to the introduction of new technology and work practices.

Each citizenship application is unique and is assessed on its merits according to the administrative and legislative conditions in place at the time of application. The Immigration Service of my Department devotes considerable resources to the processing of these applications. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants interested in the progress of their application, details of which are available on the Immigration Service website at www.inis.gov.ie.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (357)

James Browne

Question:

357. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the stage of legislation promised by his predecessor regulating the sale for cash of scrap and precious metals; the steps he will take to deal with the growth in the theft of catalytic converters from cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45188/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 provides for offences of theft (which would, based on the broad nature of the offence, include ‘scrap metal’ and ‘catalytic converter’ theft), handling of stolen property and possession of stolen property. Maximum sentences of 10 years are provided for in the case of offences of theft and handling of stolen property; while maximum sentences of 5 years are provided for the offence of possession of stolen property.

Irish law relating to the sale and purchase of scrap metal is a matter for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and arises under the Waste Management Act 1996. The Waste Management (Facility Permit and Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI No 320 of 2014) apply to the sale and purchase of scrap metals and were designed to improve the traceability of such scrap metal sales. The regulations impose an obligation on businesses to apply due diligence measures to ensure the traceability of any waste purchased.

My Department is currently drafting a Bill in relation to the purchase of precious metals by registered outlets from the public. The Bill will create a licensing system for any dealers in ‘cash for gold’ or other precious metals and will require verification of the identity and so on of those selling precious metals second hand. Breaches of the requirements under the Bill will be a criminal offence. It is also intended that the Bill will also provide additional powers to An Garda Síochána in respect of premises where ‘cash for gold’ transactions take place.

Officials from my Department are also actively involved in the Metal Theft Forum, which is a collaborative working group between State stakeholders and industry representatives to improve information sharing around the issue of metal theft. The Forum is chaired by An Garda Síochána and includes representatives from my Department, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the EPA, An Post and a wide range of non-State representatives including telecoms companies, the ESB and others.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects

Questions (358)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

358. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the level of funding provided to each county for youth diversion programmes in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45211/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The statutory framework relating to young offenders and the Garda Diversion Programme is set out in the Children Act 2001. The nationwide network of Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) is supported by my Department.

GYDPs are community based, multi-agency, crime prevention initiatives which primarily seek to divert young people who have become involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour. They aim to support young people to develop and mature through positive interventions and interactions with a local project. GYDPs provide a range of education and training programmes e.g. academic support, IT, employment preparation and specific job training.

Since 2015, GYDPs have been co-funded under the Programme for Employability Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) of the European Social Fund (ESF) 2014-2020.

My Department is pursuing an ambitious programme for the future development of GYDP services, working closely with community organisations and with expert support from the Research Evidence into Policy Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project in the University of Limerick.

Funding provided to each county for youth diversion programmes in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 is set out in the table below:

COUNTY

2016

2017

2018

2019

TOTAL

CARLOW

€110,000.00

€112,212.50

€121,942.00

€127,388.00

€471,542.50

CAVAN

€114,131.00

€120,037.00

€127,962.00

€183,081.37

€545,211.37

CLARE

€265,946.00

€219,843.24

€269,118.50

€253,853.29

€1,008,761.03

CORK

€1,446,551.00

€1,426,160.72

€1,470,152.67

€1,844,837.74

€6,187,702.13

DONEGAL

€298,091.00

€307,976.00

€314,239.00

€342,916.03

€1,263,222.03

DUBLIN

€4,167,288.38

€4,393,766.78

€4,434,133.21

€4,528,264.39

€17,523,452.76

GALWAY

€436,699.00

€493,206.77

€468,065.50

€484,138.78

€1,882,110.05

KERRY

€683,261.00

€704,045.00

€716,278.00

€752,630.39

€2,856,214.39

KILDARE

€408,278.50

€513,267.91

€508,142.50

€440,477.94

€1,870,166.85

KILKENNY

€128,500.00

€130,699.00

€127,450.00

€137,230.00

€523,879.00

LAOIS

€225,592.00

€199,002.31

€229,605.00

€332,808.00

€987,007.31

LIMERICK

€997,436.00

€1,056,329.00

€1,036,456.00

€1,082,140.47

€4,172,361.47

LONGFORD

€109,500.00

€113,248.00

€112,761.00

€124,884.26

€460,393.26

LOUTH

€429,968.00

€516,531.76

€496,207.00

€571,115.63

€2,013,822.39

MAYO

€227,000.00

€203,798.85

€213,015.38

€222,823.00

€866,637.23

MEATH

€368,624.00

€354,425.00

€383,132.00

€463,085.00

€1,569,266.00

MONAGHAN

€108,901.00

€113,815.00

€126,279.00

€134,809.00

€483,804.00

OFFALY

€354,234.00

€344,777.89

€356,051.00

€364,800.00

€1,419,862.89

ROSCOMMON

€107,500.00

€115,020.00

€118,784.00

€118,483.28

€459,787.28

SLIGO

€116,500.00

€102,891.22

€115,695.00

€154,409.00

€489,495.22

TIPPERARY

€516,142.00

€554,129.38

€556,184.26

€592,887.05

€2,219,342.69

WATERFORD

€450,984.00

€544,387.34

€553,276.67

€536,232.51

€2,084,880.52

WESTMEATH

€226,657.00

€228,639.41

€227,040.00

€209,257.25

€891,593.66

WEXFORD

€319,968.00

€322,176.14

€310,518.00

€333,727.50

€1,286,389.64

WICKLOW

€236,500.00

€249,871.77

€250,238.00

€198,769.09

€935,378.86

TOTAL

€12,854,251.88

€13,440,257.98

€13,642,725.68

€14,535,048.97

€54,472,284.53

Garda Resources

Questions (359)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

359. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí attached to the Garda commercial vehicle unit; and the number of Garda vehicles attached to the unit in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019. [45257/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached record levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion. I am also pleased to have secured an overall increase of €122 million to increase An Garda Síochána's budget for 2020 to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for next year.

Very significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána, including a total of €46 million for investment in the Garda fleet between 2016 and 2021. €10 million capital funding has been made for the purchase and fit-out of Garda vehicles in 2019. I understand from the Garda authorities that this allocation is being used for purchase and fit-out of over 300 new vehicles for operational use this year. A further €9 million capital funding has been allocated for the Garda fleet in Budget 2020.

This continuing investment is intended to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose fleet and that Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community to prevent and tackle crime. As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands. This includes responsibility for the deployment of personnel and the allocation of resources, including Garda vehicles. As Minister, I have no role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure their optimum use.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently six Gardaí assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Unit, which forms part of the DMR Roads Policing Unit. This figure has remained the same over the years 2017-2018.

I am further informed that there are no official vehicles permanently assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Unit. Garda members have access to the entire fleet assigned to the DMR Roads Policing Division, currently consisting of 19 Garda Cars/SUVs and three 4x4 jeeps.

Garda Deployment

Questions (360)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

360. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of additional gardaí attached to DMR north that have been trained as divisional asset profilers during 2018 and to date in 2019. [45258/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996. Its primary objective is to identify the proceeds of criminal activities and deprive people of the benefits of such criminal proceeds. The CAB operates nationally and is supported in its work by a network of over 425 trained asset profilers. These asset profilers work hand-in-hand with local Garda management and communities and I am pleased to say this has proved extremely effective.

I am informed that the Criminal Assets Bureau conducts training courses for Asset Profilers twice per year.

For the most part Asset Profilers are members of An Garda Síochána from local divisions and from special units. In addition, a small number have been trained from Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a total of 14 Garda members in the DMR North Division have been trained as Asset Profilers from 1 January 2018 to date. I am further informed that there are currently 22 Asset Profilers in the DMR North Division.

Visa Applications

Question No. 362 answered with Question No. 292.

Questions (361)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

361. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of short stay C visa applications awaiting a decision; and the expected waiting period from submitting an application to the decision date. [45259/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Decisions regarding the granting or refusal of short stay C visas, primarily tourist or visit visas, are made in a number of Visa Offices overseas, in the Immigration Service Visa Office in Dublin, and at Embassies of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which process certain visa applications under delegated sanction from my Department.

The processing times for visa decisions are published on the Visa pages of each Visa Office and Embassy website. As of 25 October 2019, the Dublin Visa Office was processing tourist/visit visa applications received in Dublin on 1 October 2019. Processing times for other Visa Offices overseas and for Embassies will vary but are generally between 3 and 6 weeks at this time, with many applications processed inside those timeframes, depending on travel dates.

I am informed that there has been an increase in the number of visa applications across most categories, in line with increased economic activity generally. Notwithstanding this, processing times are on a par with, and in many cases, are better than the same time last year.

The business target for processing 'short-stay C' visas is within eight weeks (current processing time in Dublin for most categories is within four weeks). However, the processing time at each office and location worldwide is determined by a number of factors such as the volume and complexity of applications, whether investigation is required or not, individual circumstances, peak application periods, seasonal factors, and the resources available. While every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible, processing times inevitably vary as a result.

It has not been possible in the time available to ascertain the number of applications awaiting a decision in every processing centre.

The Deputy can be assured that every effort is made to keep processing times to a minimum, and a number of measures have been put in place to deal with the increased demand for visas to come to Ireland. This has included the assignment of additional staff to deal with applications, and more generally the streamlining of visa processes where possible. The position in this regard is being kept under review.

The central concern in deciding on visa applications, as with all visa services worldwide, is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria. Each visa application is therefore decided on its own merits taking all factors into account.

Question No. 362 answered with Question No. 292.

Garda Information and Communications Technology

Questions (363)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

363. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the Garda stations not connected to the PULSE system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45322/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

There has been an unprecedented level of investment in Garda resources across the State in recent years. An allocation of €1.76 billion was provided to An Garda Síochána for 2019. I am also pleased to have secured a further €122 million to increase An Garda Síochána's budget to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for next year. Very significant capital investment is also being made, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021.

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. Furthermore, decisions in relation to the provision and allocation of Garda equipment and resources, including ICT resources and the networking of Garda stations, are matters for the Commissioner in light of availability of resources and identified operational demands. As Minister, I have no direct role in the matter.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that broadband networks and services are used to connect stations to the Garda network for official purposes. All of the connections to the Garda stations are managed in the telecommunications branch of An Garda Síochána to ensure the speed of the network connection meets the requirements of the particular location.

As at the 24 October 2019 there were 565 Garda stations in the State. I am informed by An Garda Síochána that the number which are networked can vary but that as at 24 October, 519 of these stations are fully networked.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that any member attached to a currently unconnected station can access PULSE at their local district station. Members in non-networked locations can also contact the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC) or an associated networked station if required.

I am further advised by the Garda authorities that options for providing members attached to those remaining stations not yet networked with local access to Garda ICT services are actively being explored. This includes an assessment of the availability or otherwise of local broadband services and/or the provision of mobile technology.

Gambling Legislation

Questions (364)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

364. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress of the gambling control Bill; the stage it is now at; when the Bill will be enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45323/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Government has indicated on a number of occasions that it recognises the need to proceed with comprehensive reform of our outdated gambling licensing and regulation.

On 10 January, 2018, the Government approved the updating of the 2013 General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill. The proposed updating follows on from the review work undertaken in the Department of Justice and Equality and from the consultations held with interested stakeholders. The Government also approved the concept of the establishment of a new gambling regulatory authority as an independent statutory body operating under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality.

The proposals in the General Scheme were reviewed by the Inter-Departmental Working Group on the Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling. The Group's Report was approved and published by the Government on 20 March 2019. The Report contained a number of significant recommendations concerning all aspects of gambling activity. In particular, it recommended that future responsibility for licensing and regulation of all forms of gambling, including online gambling, rest with a proposed new gambling regulatory authority.

I hosted a major seminar on the future licensing and regulation of gambling at Farmleigh House on 15 May 2019, bringing together a large number of interested and concerned stakeholders to discuss the Report of the Working Group and further developments.

Work on revising the revised General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill is underway in my Department. This is a complex area and we must be certain that any reforms will be achievable and effective. At the time of publication of the Working Group Report, An Taoiseach indicated that work on revising legislation, taking account of the Working Group’s recommendations, would likely take a period of about 18 months to bring to completion.

Separately, I have brought forward the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019, an interim reform measure to amend the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act. I hope that Report Stage of the Bill can be scheduled in the House as soon as possible.

Legal Aid Service Data

Questions (365)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

365. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that have received civil legal aid from the Legal Aid Board since 1 October 2018 in order to proceed with claims of discrimination under equality legislation against licensed premises; the number of cases that were successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45341/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The provision of civil legal aid in the State is delivered by the Legal Aid Board pursuant to the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2017.

I have had enquiries made with the Legal Aid Board on behalf of the Deputy. They have informed me that a small number of such applications for legal services were received during the time period in question but were not pursued by the applicants and the files were subsequently closed.

It follows therefore that, from 1 October, 2018 to 4 November, 2019 no persons received civil legal aid from the Legal Aid Board in order to proceed with claims of discrimination under equality legislation against licensed premises.

Drug Treatment Programmes Data

Questions (366)

John Curran

Question:

366. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners on methadone treatment in each prison nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45384/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that it provides a health care service for prisoners with addictions in a structured, safe and professional basis in line with international best practice. The Irish Prison Service continues to be committed to and predominantly involved with the National Drugs Strategy in partnership with community colleagues and organisations.

I am further informed that as of 31 October 2019, the following is a breakdown of prisoners in receipt of methadone across the prison estate.

Prison

31 Oct 2019

% of population

Castlerea

18

6.25%

Limerick

32

13.1%

Cork

41

13.7%

Cloverhill

119

31.5%

Wheatfield

111

22.2%

Midlands

80

9.4%

Portlaoise

9

3.9%

Dochas

69

46.3%

Mountjoy

190

27.6%

Total

669

16.7%

Finally I am informed that whilst prescribing levels for methadone have fluctuated over the past 3 years, the profile of the numbers of prisoners availing of the different treatment options - i.e. detoxification, maintenance or stabilisation - has remained consistent, with 35% availing of detoxification, 64% availing of maintenance and 1% availing of the stabilisation programme.

Garda Vetting

Questions (367, 368)

John Curran

Question:

367. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average waiting time for a person going through the Garda vetting process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45386/19]

View answer

John Curran

Question:

368. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí assigned to the administrative duties of Garda vetting within An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45387/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 367 and 368 together.

My Department has no role in the processing of individual vetting applications. The Garda National Vetting Bureau is led by the Chief Bureau Officer (Superintendent). There are also five Sergeants attached to the Bureau, in addition to its complement of Garda Staff personnel. The Garda authorities have informed me, as of 30 September 2019, there are 145 Garda staff working in the Garda National Vetting Bureau.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the average turnaround time is five working days for 80% of applications received from organisations utilising the eVetting system.

I am further informed that all Garda vetting applications are processed on a first come, first served basis in chronological order from date of receipt. This is with a view to observing equity and fairness in respect of all vetting subjects. I understand that the Vetting Bureau works to ensure that the processing time for vetting applications is kept to the minimum necessary in order to ensure that the statutory obligation to receive a vetting disclosure prior to permitting any person to undertake relevant work or activities on behalf of an organisation can be facilitated without undue delay.

I am informed that in respect of certain applications, it is necessary for the Vetting Bureau to conduct further enquiries; for example to confirm information provided by the applicant with external bodies. The time required to receive such information may be outside of the control of the Vetting Bureau. In such instances, processing times may be significantly longer than the average.

Individual applicants can track the process of their application online using the e-vetting tracking system, details of which are contained in the email received by applicants when completing their application online.