Organised Crime

Questions (25, 36)

Brendan Smith

Question:

25. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if additional measures will be implemented on a cross-Border basis to tackle criminality following the 17th Annual Cross Border Conference on Organised Crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47760/19]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

36. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the additional measures that will be implemented on a cross-Border basis following the 17th Annual Cross Border Conference on Organised Crime in terms of crime investigation and prevention which is of critical importance in the Border region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47759/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 36 together.

Tackling cross-border crime is a high priority for this Government, the Gardaí and our other law enforcement authorities.

Policing in the border region has always presented particular challenges that necessitate a collaborative approach to policing between law enforcement agencies north and south of the border. There is close ongoing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI and other law enforcement agencies who all work closely together on a broad range of policing responsibilities.

As I have outlined in the Houses previously, the existing multi-agency cooperative arrangements in place to tackle cross-border crime are already quite structured and successful.

The Deputy will be aware that in November 2015 the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a series of measures in the Fresh Start agreement, as part of a concerted and enhanced effort to tackle organised and cross jurisdictional crime. These measures included the creation of the Joint Agency Task Force which is led by senior officers from An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners and UK Revenue and Customs. A number of other relevant bodies, including the National Crime Agency and the Criminal Assets Bureau are also closely involved.

The objective of the Task Force is to build on existing law enforcement frameworks and to increase the collective effectiveness of operational actions. In this format, the senior management level of the two police services provide strong strategic direction and oversight to front-line operational activities.

The Task Force has had some notable success in tackling cross-border criminal activity across a range of crime areas. These include not just traditional smuggling activities, but also rural and farm crimes, organised burglary and drug crime.

The regrettable absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland means that the work of the Task Force is less visible than it might have been. It was designed to report to Justice Ministers north and south and it is my hope that the restoration of power sharing in Northern Ireland will allow the Task Force to reach its full potential.

The multi-agency nature of the Task Force is critical to its success. It is a strong example of the extensive North-South cooperation between the police, customs services and other law enforcement agencies involved in tackling crime and enhancing the safety of all communities on both sides of the border. The Task Force complements both the ongoing formal and informal co-operation between AGS and PSNI.

The Deputy may also be interested to note that the collaboration between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI was recently extended with establishment of the first ever AGS-PSNI Joint Investigation Team involving Eurojust. This is a very significant and positive development will further strengthen the already close and positive cooperation between police services on the island of Ireland.

Finally, I would assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in its ongoing work in addressing cross-border criminality and we are providing record resources to enable it to perform this critical role. The Northern region continues to benefit from the accelerated recruitment to An Garda Síochána as part of the Government’s plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, supported by the unprecedented level of Government funding to the organisation.

Garda strength in the Northern Region has increased to approximately 1,500, an increase of 150 Gardaí since the end of 2017. These Gardaí are supported by approximately 160 Garda staff in the region, which represents an increase of almost 35% over the past 3 years, with the result that additional Gardaí can be redeployed from administrative to operational policing duties where their training and policing expertise can be used to best effect.

Legislative Programme

Questions (26)

Robert Troy

Question:

26. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019. [47778/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Addressing the gender pay gap is an important element in the Programme for a Partnership Government and is included as a key commitment in the Government's National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020. 

The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019 was published on 8 April  2019 and the Bill completed Dáil Committee Stage in June. Report Stage is currently awaited.

The aim of the Bill is to provide transparency on the gender pay gap.  The Bill provides for the making of regulations requiring employers to publish gender pay gap information. The regulations will initially apply to firms with 250 or more employees but, over the next few years, this would be reduced to 50 employees. Information on differences in bonus pay will be among the data, which must be published. The regulations will apply to the public sector as well as the private sector, subject to the employment thresholds.

It is intended that mandatory reporting will incentivise employers to take measures to address the issue insofar as they can.

Measures such as those included in the Bill have been taken in a number of other countries and, indeed, EU member states were encouraged to take such measures in an EU Commission Recommendation of 2014.     

The other gender pay gap measures in the National Strategy for Women and Girls include initiating dialogue between union and employer stakeholders on the matter, increasing understanding of the gender pay gap and its causes and developing practical tools to assist employers to calculate the pay gap within their organisations. 

Tackling this issue is good for equality and it also makes good business sense, as firms that can report a low or non-existent gender pay gap will have an advantage in recruiting future employees. Initiatives to address the gender pay gap can also be expected to have a positive impact on disparities in income for women across and after their working lives.  

Bail Law

Questions (27)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

27. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which further consideration has been given to further reform the bail laws with particular reference to the need to tackle organised crime, deal with recidivism and protect the general public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47782/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Criminal Justice Act 2017 made a number of changes to the bail laws. Under the Act, the court has the power to refuse bail where there are reasonable grounds to believe the person is likely to commit a serious offence.  In assessing this likelihood, the court must take into account the nature and seriousness of the offence, the accused person’s previous offending and may also take into account the danger he or she poses to the public if bail is granted. 

The new law also strengthened Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail providing a power of arrest without warrant in certain circumstances, and made provisions to increase the use of curfews and to facilitate the introduction of electronic tagging for those on bail in certain circumstances.  

While I am open to revisiting the law if the changes introduced in 2017 are shown to be insufficient, I think the Deputy will agree that it would be premature to do so at present.  It is important to await the evidence of the impact of this legislation and take the time to evaluate the effect of these new provisions before further changes in the law can be considered. 

Sexual Offences Data

Questions (28, 39)

Denis Naughten

Question:

28. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to reform the monitoring of sex offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47457/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

39. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to tag sex offenders following their release from prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47458/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 39 together.

I understand the concern which communities can have in relation to the issue of rehabilitation of sex offenders and in relation to measures to protect public safety. 

First it is important to note that there are already provisions in existing law in relation to the management of sex offenders after they have been released from prison.  

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 provides that a Court can impose conditions on a convicted sex offender as part of their post-release supervision. Further, where An Garda Síochána believe that a convicted offender poses a serious risk to the public, it can apply to the courts for a Sex Offender Order under s.16 of the 2001 Act.  A Sex Offender Order can prohibit the offender from doing anything the Court considers necessary, in order to ensure that the public is protected from serious harm.

In terms of legislative reform, I can confirm that the General Scheme of the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill was developed by my Department following a comprehensive review of current law and administrative practice. The General Scheme was approved by Government in June 2018 and it is available on my Department’s website.

The Bill is currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. My officials and that Office are working together to finalise the draft with a view to publication of the Bill as soon as possible. 

The purpose of the Bill is to enhance current systems for assessment and management of convicted sex offenders and to put those systems on a statutory footing.  While the drafting process is not yet complete, the main provisions are expected to include:

- Stricter notification requirements including requiring offenders to notify Gardaí of their address upon release from custody, or any subsequent change of address, within 3 days as opposed to the existing 7 days.

- Provision to allow for fingerprinting and photographing the offender, where necessary to confirm their identity.

- Enhanced supervision of high-risk offenders, including, in limited circumstances, the electronic monitoring of offenders subject to post-release supervision orders.

- The placing on a legislative footing of assessment teams to assess and manage the risk posed by sex offenders.

- Provisions whereby a court can prohibit a sex offender from working with children.

- Provision for a statutory basis for the necessary disclosure of information relating to a high-risk offender on the ‘sex offenders register’. The information in relation to an offender which may be disclosed include the name, address and threat posed by the offender. It is intended that the disclosure would only be made to the minimum number of people necessary to avert a serious risk to safety.

Courts Service Data

Questions (29)

John Curran

Question:

29. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons convicted for possession of drugs in 2018 with a value in excess of €13,000; the number that received sentences of less than one, one to three, three to five, five to ten and more than ten years respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47676/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions, which includes the provision of information on the courts system.  The judiciary are of course independent in the exercise of their function. 

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided the following breakdown of sentences imposed in 2018 in relation to prosecutions under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act:

Prison Sentence 

 Number of people convicted

Less than 1 year

 1

Between 1 year and 3 years

 37

More than 3 years up to 5 years

 61

More than 5 years up to 10 years

 42

More than 10 years

 1

It should be noted that this data refers to the main sentence imposed and does not take account of the parts of the sentences which may have been suspended by the Court. 

Direct Provision System

Questions (30)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

30. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the role of security forces in combating right-wing extremism here in view of recent incidences of violence and anti-immigrant sentiment in relation to the issue of direct provision here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45773/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

It is long recognised that violent extremism, whatever the motivation, is a threat to democracy.  Ireland, along with its European partners, is working to ensure that the developing threat of right-wing extremism remains under continuous review at European level.  Most recently I, along with my EU colleagues, met in the Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Council formation to have a policy discussion on right-wing violent extremism and terrorism. In particular, we discussed the rise in radical propaganda messages which have contributed to a rise of the risks associated with right-wing extremism. 

While it is not the practice to comment in detail on security matters, I can inform the Deputy that the security services here in Ireland are vigilant in this regard.  The threat level, including any emerging threats, is kept under constant review by An Garda Síochána in consultation with the Defence Forces, utilising all of the expertise available and working continually with their EU and international counterparts to identify and manage threats.    

As the Deputy will also be aware, last month the Garda Commissioner and Minister of State David Stanton launched the new Garda Síochána Diversity and Integration Strategy, 2019 – 2021. The three year programme has a significant focus on enhancing the identification, reporting, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.  This Strategy recognises the existing and emerging diverse composition of our communities, and aims to protect all minorities and diverse groups in society and sets out a working definition of hate crime in line with best international practice and the McPherson "perception based test”.  My Department is currently engaged in a wide-ranging public consultation on the incitement to hatred legislation with a view to bringing forward amendments in the context of hate crime legislation early next year. 

A new Anti-Racism Committee will also shortly be established, with a mandate to examine what needs to be done by public sector bodies as well as the wider community to challenge racism.

In relation to direct provision, the reception system for international protection applicants operates under a whole-of-Government approach with a view to ensuring the best outcomes for residents as well as for local communities. It is not just a question of providing accommodation for vulnerable people. It is a suite of services provided by a number of Government Departments including Health; Education and Skills; and Employment Affairs and Social Protection. There has been much commentary in recent weeks about the system.  There has been debate too, about the location of centres, which I welcome.  However, I would appeal for it to be thoughtful, respectful and factual.  As I mentioned in my statement to this House last Wednesday night, far-right anti-immigrant activists are paying close attention, seeking out opportunities to incite fear and hatred – as far-right groups have done throughout history.  It is incumbent on all those of us in public life to demonstrate real support for asylum seekers and refugees and for the local communities who welcome them.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Questions (31)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

31. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the commitment to admit 4,000 persons under the relocation and resettlement programmes will be met; the number of persons admitted to date; the number being accommodated in emergency accommodation and in emergency reception and orientation centres by length of stay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47761/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established by Government Decision of September 2015 as a key part of Ireland’s response to the global humanitarian migration crisis. It committed Ireland to accept 4,000 persons under various strands, including the EU Relocation Mechanism and UNHCR Resettlement Programme.

As of 19 November 2019, progress across the various strands of the IRPP was as follows:

- Under the EU Relocation strand, 1,022 people were relocated to Ireland

- Under UNHCR-led Refugee Resettlement strand, a commitment was made to resettle 1,985 people, of which 1,625 resettlements have been completed

- Under the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme 2018/19 (IHAP), a commitment was made to admit 740 family members of refugees, of which 159 people have arrived in Ireland; and;

- Under other mechanisms (including Search and Rescue Missions, Unaccompanied Minors from Greece, Calais Special Project), a commitment was made to admit 253 people, of which 102 have arrived.

The EU Relocation strand is now complete. On the 19 November 2019, there were a further 178 arrivals under the UNHCR-led Refugee Resettlement Strand which is due to be complete by end 2019. There will be some delay in the completion of the IHAP strand, however, as those granted permission to travel to Ireland make their own arrangements for travel, the exact timing of which is not known to this Department.

Refugee and asylum seekers arriving in Ireland under the resettlement and relocation strands of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) are initially accommodated in Emergency Reception and Accommodation Centres (EROCs).

Two EROCs are currently in operation:

- The Abbeyfield Hotel, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

- The Clonea Strand Hotel, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford

In addition, there are dedicated EROC places within the Mosney Accommodation Centre, due to its particular suitability for families. The table below sets out the current numbers and the average length of stay for each of the centres as of 14 November 2019:

 EROC

Current Occupancy 

 Avg. Length of Stay

 Abbeyfield Hotel EROC Ballaghadereen, Co. Roscommon

 185

 134 days

 Clonea Strand Hotel EROC Dungarvan, Co. Waterford

 95

 185 days

 Mosney EROC Julianstown, Co. Meath

 50

 332 days

 TOTAL

330 

185 days 

Of the 2,647 people who have arrived to date under the resettlement and relocation strands of the IRPP, more than 80% have been resettled in communities across Ireland.

Garda Operations

Questions (32)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

32. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the new operational model of An Garda Síochána; the breakdown of the divisional strength nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47529/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I warmly welcome the introduction of the new Operating Model of An Garda Síochána. This model has long been recommended by independent policing specialists, including the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and in the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI).  Rollout of this model meets a key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future, the four-year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. 

I understand from the Commissioner that the aim of the Model is to reduce bureaucracy and increase the numbers of frontline Gardaí, and in this way improve policing services provided to communities nationwide.  The new model is also expected to increase community engagement and expand access to a wider range of specialist services across the country.

I am informed by the Commissioner a number of considerations were taken into account in developing the new model and the restructuring of Divisions, including population, geography, projected growth, crime trends and workload across a range of work streams. 

While new to Ireland, this model is the norm in other countries.  It will reduce bureaucracy and shift real decision-making power from Garda Headquarters to the Chief Superintendents, closer to the communities they serve.   

I am informed that Divisions will be typically made up of approximately 600 to 800 personnel. This will ensure each Division has the resources and skills to deliver a wider range of community policing and specialist services based on the demand in their area.  I understand that under this model, each Division will consist of the following hubs:

- Community Engagement

- Crime

- Performance Assurance

- Business Services.

I understand that the new model will be implemented on a phased basis throughout 2020.  The first five Divisions where the new Model will be implemented, are Galway, Cork City, Dublin South Central, Meath/Westmeath and Limerick.  

In terms of Garda resources nationwide, I would point out that An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation – there are now approximately 14,200 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 2,900 Garda staff and 470 Garda Reserves.

I am confident that this ongoing investment in Garda resources together with the ongoing reform process will result in an improved policing service for all communities, urban and rural, now and into the future. 

Detailed information on the Garda workforce is available on my Department's website at http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Workforce

For more general information on Garda facts and figures, the Deputy may also wish to see the information on the link below: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures.

Prison Accommodation

Questions (33)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

33. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to end overcrowding in prisons here. [47530/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, prison governors are required by law to accept all prisoners into their custody who have been committed to prison by the Courts. Therefore, the Irish Prison Service has no control over the numbers committed to custody at any given time.

The number of spaces available on a given day can be less than the capacity figure as cells may be unavailable for different reasons such as repairs and maintenance.  Furthermore, where local management assess a prisoner as being unsuited to share a cell for reasons of vulnerability or propensity to violence, a cell designated as being operationally suitable for two prisoners may, temporarily, house only one prisoner.

Where the number of prisoners exceeds the maximum capacity in any prison, the Irish Prison Service makes every effort to deal with this through a combination of inter-prison transfers to manage the available space and structured Temporary Release. Decisions in relation to temporary release are considered on a case by case basis and the safety of the public is paramount when those decisions are made.

My Department is working closely with the Irish Prison Service to ensure a safe working environment for staff and the safety and security of prisoners in our custody, and a number of short and medium term steps to address the issue of increasing prison numbers.

I am advised that plans are advanced for the re-opening of accommodation not currently being used within the system, including the re-opening of the Training Unit which will provide approximately an additional 96 spaces.

In addition, an audit of existing accommodation is underway, in order to identify where additional spaces can be brought on stream with the potential to provide in excess of an additional 100 spaces. A major project is also underway in Limerick for the construction of a female prison, as well as a new wing to Limerick male prison. Together, this will provide 158 new spaces.

I can further advise the Deputy that there has also been progress in providing alternatives to custody, including the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011, which requires a sentencing judge to consider the imposition of community service where a custodial sentence of 12 months or less is being considered. The Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 also provides a number of alternative sanctions for the courts to reduce the need to commit anyone to prison for the non-payment of fines. 

Garda Stations

Questions (34)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

34. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the plans of the OPW for new builds for Garda Stations in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47801/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As a result, all works to the Garda estate involve close cooperation between the OPW and the Garda authorities.

Major investment is being made in the Garda estate, to provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff, as well as the public interacting with them.  This is a significant undertaking, as there are over 560 stations nationwide. The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.76 billion for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year.  These resources are being provided in support of the Government's commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is based on agreed Garda priorities. It continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country and is underpinned by significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and OPW Votes.  In addition, other major ongoing works to the Garda estate include the development of a new facility at Military Road and the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street station as well as the Pilot Garda station reopening project.

As the Deputy will be aware, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement is included in the Building and Refurbishment Programme is intended to deliver new stations in Clonmel, Sligo and Macroom. The OPW has agreed to provide its expert services in the design of the three stations in question. Macroom is the only new build currently planned for County Cork.

PPP projects are progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).  An Garda Síochána, the OPW, the NDFA and my own Department are working closely together to progress this project.

It is not possible to say at this stage when the stations will be completed.  The establishment of PPP projects can be complex and it is vital to get the projects right at the planning and design stage. Pending delivery of the new stations, I am informed that Garda management and the OPW have been working to improve conditions and facilities at the existing stations in Macroom, Sligo and Clonmel.

Insurance Fraud

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 25.

Questions (35)

Brian Stanley

Question:

35. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to establish a Garda insurance fraud unit to tackle insurance fraud. [46266/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands.  This includes responsibility for the allocation of resources and deployment of personnel, as well as organisational matters, including the nature and number of Garda units and their remit.

I am informed that 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-focused Garda model.

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. 

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. Over a number of years, the GNECB and the Garda Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) have delivered training courses to Garda members engaged in economic crime-related investigations, across all Garda divisions.

Since 2015, in conjunction with the Garda Síochána Training College and University College Dublin (UCD), GNECB and GNCCB have offered an accredited course to over 40 members a year, drawn from all Garda Divisions, as well as from specialist units engaged in the investigation of economic crime.  Representatives from the private sector, including the insurance industry are invited to contribute to the course, thereby providing specialist insight into relevant insurance sector-related topics.  On completion of training,  successful candidates are awarded a Post Graduate Certificate in Fraud and E-Crime Investigation from UCD.

More recently, each Garda Síochána Division has been requested to provide information regarding the extent of insurance-related fraud. This information is being examined at the GNECB and will be utilised to determine investigative activity, which will be undertaken under Operation Coatee.

Operation Coatee was launched in April 2019, its focus being the prevention of insurance-related fraud and associated crimes on a coordinated basis throughout Ireland. In circumstances where insurance fraud has already occurred, Operation Coatee is designed to maximise the prospect of identifying suspected culprits, and, where possible and appropriate, to initiate criminal proceedings.

I understand that a ‘day of action’ was undertaken at the commencement of Operation Coatee on 24 April 2019.  The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) engaged in operational activity associated with an investigation relating to over 20 insurance claims which have been made and which, in some cases, have already involved payment being made to claimants. Arising from the ‘day of action’, 6 high-value cars and jewellery with a value in excess of €300,000 were seized, along with a substantial amount of documentation and financial records.  The evidence seized continues to be analysed. I am informed that on 15 October, Gardaí arrested 5 individuals by way of follow-up to searches conducted on 24 April and that investigations are ongoing.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 25.

Garda Deployment

Questions (37)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

37. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to reports that only two gardaí were on patrol in Cork city in March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47835/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for managing An Garda Síochána and for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. This includes responsibility for the manner in which Gardaí are deployed.  As Minister I have no direct role in that matters.  I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use. 

As the Deputy will be aware, a record €1.76 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. I am 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.

This investment is supporting the sustained growth of the organisation.   We currently have approximately 14,200 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 2,900 Garda staff. 

And as part of the Government’s plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, there is ongoing and increased recruitment both of new Gardaí as well as Garda staff, allowing for redeployment of Gardaí to operational duties at the front-line.

Since the reopening of the Garda Training College in 2014, approximately 2,800 new Garda members have attested and been assigned to frontline policing duties in communities throughout the country. Another 200 probationer Gardaí are due to attest next week.

I am aware of the media reports referred to by the Deputy, to the effect that on a particular date in March, only 2 Gardaí were available to patrol. I can understand the concern that these reports may have caused to the Deputy, and to the people of the area.  I am pleased to confirm to the Deputy that I have raised this matter with the Garda authorities and I am informed that the media reports are incorrect. I have been assured that on the night in question, significantly more than 2 Gardaí were on duty and available to patrol the city.

In relation to Garda resources in Cork City Division more generally, I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of the end of October 2019, there are 700 Gardaí are assigned to the Cork City Division, supported by 95 Garda staff. Additionally, they are currently supported by 33 Garda Reserve.

The additional 49 Gardaí assigned to the Cork City Division since the end of 2015, represents an increase of 7.5%.   The increase in Garda staff numbers from 59 to 95 (equivalent to an increase of 61%) over the same period means that as well as new Gardaí assigned to the Division, additional Gardaí can be redeployed from administrative to operational policing duties, where their training and policing expertise can be used to best effect. 

Taken together, it can be expected that the increase in both Garda members and staff numbers represents a real increase in operational policing hours within the Cork City Division. Nationally, over 500 Garda Members have been redeployed to frontline visible policing.

In addition, the next intake of probationer Gardaí will be attested on 29th November, 2019 and transfer to their training stations on 2nd December, 2019. I have been informed that it is the intention of the Commissioner to allocate eight probationer Gardaí to training stations within the Cork City Division on a permanent basis.

The Deputy may be interested to note that for December 2019, the Commissioner has directed the allocation of an additional 24 probationers from this class to be allocated to the Cork City Division on a temporary basis to work on Operation Open City, which involves high visibility road policing duties over the busy Christmas period. These 24 probationers will then be re-allocated after the period concerned to their permanent training stations in Divisions outside the Cork City Division from 2nd January, 2020.  

These intended allocation of resources are contingent on the operational demands of An Garda Síochána and as such may be subject to change.

Driver Licences

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 28.

Questions (38)

Robert Troy

Question:

38. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the consultation and engagement that has taken place to date with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in relation to extending eligibility for a driver licence to asylum seekers. [47779/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The issuing of driving licences is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the relevant agencies under his remit.

I understand that the issue is currently being examined by his Department.  My Department sought background information from the European Migration Network as to the interpretation and implementation of the relevant EU law,  Article 12 of Directive 2006/126/EC on driving licences (recast), in other member states. This information has been provided to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and we would expect that this will assist in bringing the matter to a conclusion in the near future.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 28.

British-Irish Council

Questions (40)

Micheál Martin

Question:

40. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the British-Irish Council; when it last met; and the issues that were discussed. [47906/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I was delighted to welcome the Administration Heads from Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and the British Government to Dublin for the 33rd British Irish Council on the 15th November.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the British-Irish Council and it was agreed that the Council remains a valued strand of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Summit provided an opportunity for Ministers to update the Council on their actions regarding Brexit and discuss the latest domestic political developments across their jurisdictions along with topics of mutual interest such as the economy, trade and ongoing relations with the EU.

The Council also discussed the political situation in Northern Ireland, and regretted that Northern Ireland will not be represented politically at this important forum until the Executive is restored.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris and Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne held a discussion on substance misuse with their counterparts from the other administrations.

The Ministers explored the links between health and social initiatives and community policing, and their long-term social and economic benefits to communities.

In advance of the Summit meeting (on Thursday evening), Health Ministers from the travelling delegations visited the North-East Inner-City Inclusion Health Hub, a project which focuses on the transformation of the delivery of health services for drug users in the city.

During the course of the Summit, I held bilaterals with the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales. I also took the opportunity to speak with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Cabinet Committees

Questions (41)

Micheál Martin

Question:

41. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee at which public sector broadcasting is discussed. [47907/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

There is no Cabinet committee with responsibility specifically for public sector broadcasting. Primary responsibility lies with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the topic would be discussed at Government as appropriate.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (42)

Shane Cassells

Question:

42. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Taoiseach the amount spent on purchasing mobile telephones for staff within his Department for work-related business in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by grade; if his Department has a contract with a mobile telephone company (details supplied) to supply mobile telephones if needed; if so, the name of the company; the date on which the contract for the supply of mobile telephones to his Department is next due to expire; and the robust steps taken to ensure that the costs incurred on work related telephones are the best value for the taxpayer. [47928/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Department of the Taoiseach has a contract for the supply of mobile phones and associated services. The current contract was established between the Department and Three Ireland in September 2019 following a public procurement exercise conducted in conjunction with the Office of Government Procurement.

It was awarded on the basis of the Most Economically Advantageous Tender when costs of mobile phones, costs associated with ongoing usage, international roaming, data usage and customer support capabilities were considered. The contract is for 24 months and is due to expire in September 2021. It can be extended for a further 24 months.

Prior to 2019 the Department of the Taoiseach had a similar contract in place with a different service provider which was again established in conjunction with public procurement frameworks provided by the Office of Government Procurement.

Mobile phone services are currently provided to 114 staff assigned to the Department of the Taoiseach, commensurate with their role and to facilitate staff in discharging their duties. This includes staff who provide on-call services or staff who are regularly away from their desks.

The usage of mobile phones is outlined in the Department’s ICT Security and Usage Policy which provides that ‘Every officer has a duty to take proper and reasonable care of public funds and Department property and not to use them or permit their use for unauthorised purposes.

Where available, staff who are travelling in the course of their duties are placed on appropriate tariffs with the mobile phone service provider to reduce costs associated with international roaming. All staff are required to reimburse the Department for any additional expenses incurred which are not related to their role.

Mobile phones are replaced when they are ‘end-of-life’. The Department of the Taoiseach’s current contract provides a mechanism to either purchase the mobile phone outright or to spread the cost of the mobile phone over the term of the contract and avail of further reduced rates by doing so. Availing of the discounted rate is the preferred option and applies to all current phones.

Costs associated with purchasing mobile phones for staff for 2016, 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, by grade and excluding VAT, are:

Grade

2016

2017

2018

2019

Assistant Principal Officer

€1,610

€5,580

€3,982

€2,005

Clerical Officer and Service Officer

€230

€310

€0

€207

Defence Forces, Engineer, Scientific Grades and Garda Staff

€460

€310

€592

€552

Executive Officer

€690

€1,240

€565

€760

Higher Executive Officer and Administrative Officer

€1,610

€3,410

€565

€1,520

Principal Officer

€690

€4,030

€565

€968

Political Staff - offices of the Taoiseach, Minister of State, Chief Whip and Independent Ministers

€1,150

€4,960

€5,650

€1,314

Secretary General, Second Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General

€230

€1,952

€1,130

€552

TOTAL COST (excl. VAT)

€6,670

€21,792

€13,049

€7,878

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (43)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

43. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his Department by gender and pay grade in tabular form. [47954/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Table 1: Department of the Taoiseach Staff by Grade and Gender - 20 November 2019*

Grade

Total

Male

Female

Secretary General

1

1

0

Second Secretary General

1

1

0

Assistant Secretary

6

4

2

Principal Officer

15

6

9

Assistant Principal Officer

39

13

26

Higher Executive Officer

36

11

25

Administrative Officer

20

6

14

Executive Officer

39

9

30

Clerical Officer

42

19

23

Services Staff (including cleaners)

17

12

5

Total

216

82

134

*excludes politically appointed staff

Ministerial Advisers Data

Questions (44, 46)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

44. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach the political advisers used by Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department since the commencement of this Government; and the commencement and cessation dates in each case. [47971/19]

View answer

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

46. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach the duties and responsibilities of the political staff appointed by him. [48048/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 46 together.

Details of the advisers employed by my Department since I took up office on 14 June 2017 are as follows:

Name

Role

Start Date

End Date

Salary Scale

Brian Murphy 

Chief of Staff

14 June 2017

n/a

Deputy Secretary

John Carroll

Head of Policy and Programme Implementation 

05 July 2017

n/a

Assistant Secretary

Patrick Geoghegan

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach 

14 June 2017

n/a

Assistant Secretary (equivalent)

Angela Flanagan

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach 

14 June 2017

n/a

Principal Officer

Philip O'Callaghan

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach

14 June 2017

n/a

Principal Officer

Clare Mungovan

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach

08 Jan 2018

n/a

Principal Officer

Jim D'Arcy

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach

04 Sept 2017

n/a

Assistant Principal (Higher)

Nick Miller

Spokesman and Communications Adviser to the Taoiseach

14 June 2017

31 Oct 2017

Assistant Secretary

Feargal Purcell

Government Press Secretary

14 June 2017

31 Oct 2017

Assistant Secretary

Nick Miller 

Government Press Secretary

01 Nov 2017

n/a

Assistant Secretary

Sarah Meade 

Assistant Government Press Secretary

31 July 2017

n/a

Principal Officer

Catherine Halloran

Deputy Government Press Secretary

14 June 2017

n/a

Principal Officer

Name

Role

Start Date

End Date

Salary Scale

Mark O'Doherty

Special Adviser to the Government Chief Whip

14 June 2017

16 October 2018

Principal Officer

Greg Harkin

Special Adviser to the Government Chief Whip

14 June 2017

14 Feb 2018

Principal Officer

Ed Carty

Special Adviser to the Government Chief Whip

12 March 2018

16 October 2018

Principal Officer

Peter Feeney

Special Adviser to the Government Chief Whip

16 October 2018

n/a

Principal Officer

Peter Harper

Special Adviser to the Government Chief Whip

16 October 2018

n/a

Principal Officer

Name

Role

Start Date

End Date

Salary Scale

Tony Williams 

Chief Strategist for the Independent Alliance 

14 June 2017

n/a

Principal Officer

Donal Geoghegan

Political Coordinator for Independent Ministers 

14 June 2017

n/a

Principal Officer

The Special Advisers working in my office provide briefings and advice on a wide range of policy matters, as well as performing other functions as I may direct from time to time. They also liaise with other Special Advisers in each Government Department so that I am informed on developments across Government.

The Government Press Secretary acts as a spokesperson for me, as Taoiseach, and the Government and is assisted by the Assistant Government Press Secretary in coordinating the media relations of all Government Departments.

The Deputy Government Press Secretary - who is also based in my Department - coordinates communications for all the Independents in Government.

Special Advisers working with Minister of State Helen McEntee and Minister of State Paul Kehoe are employed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Defence respectively.