227. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for capital building works by a school (details supplied). [51813/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 227-246
227. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for capital building works by a school (details supplied). [51813/19]View answer
The school referred to by the Deputy was approved a project under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme 2019 for 2 Mainstream Classrooms with en-suites and an assisted user WC.
The project has been devolved for delivery to the school authority. It is a matter for the school authority to progress the project in that context.
228. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration has been given to amending the regulations governing tuition grants to Irish citizens returning here from outside the EU to take up third level education having not lived here for three of the past five years in view of the recent trend towards outward migration of persons under 30 years of age and the presumed desire to attract such young persons home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51821/19]View answer
Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.
With regard to the residency criterion, in order to be eligible for a grant, a "student", as defined in Section 14 of the Student Support Act 2011, must demonstrate that he/she has been resident in the State for at least three years out of the five year period ending on the day before the start of his/her approved course of study. Similar and in some cases more restrictive residency criteria apply in other member States e.g. in the UK a student has to be resident for the three years immediately preceding his/her commencement in college.
The three out of five year rule takes cognisance of students who wish to take time out to travel or work abroad. Such students can still meet the residency requirement if they have not been outside the State for more than two of the previous five years.
It is also possible for students, who did not meet the residency requirement at the commencement of their studies, to have their eligibility reviewed if they meet the residency requirement during the course of their studies.
229. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding special needs assistant posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51846/19]View answer
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.
The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.
In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.
SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.
SNA allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.
Budget 2020 has provided for 1,064 additional SNAs posts, for allocation in 2020, which will bring the total number of SNA posts in schools to over 17,000 in 2020, an increase of over 60% since 2011.
As this question relates to a particular child, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.
230. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has considered broadening the terms of the Magdalen restorative justice ex gratia scheme for those who were resident in one of the 14 adjoining institutions to include men who were young boys at the time and lived and worked with their sisters in the Magdalen institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51516/19]View answer
231. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if cost estimates have been made regarding the potential cost of expanding the terms of the Magdalen restorative justice ex gratia scheme for those who worked in Magdalen institutions and were resident in one of the 14 adjoining institutions to include men who were young boys at the time and lived and worked with their sisters in the institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51517/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 231 together.
The Magdalen Restorative Justice Ex-Gratia Scheme was established in 2013 on foot of the recommendations contained in the Magdalen Commission Report (Quirke Report). That Report was a response to an Interdepartmental Government Committee report (McAleese Report) that was set up to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen institutions.
The ex-gratia scheme was established for the benefit of women who were admitted to and worked in the ten Magdalen Institutions as well as St Mary’s Domestic Training Centre Stanhope Street and the House of Mercy Domestic Training School Summerhill, Wexford. For the purposes of the ex-gratia scheme, these twelve institutions are collectively called the ‘Magdalen institutions’.
Arising from a recommendation made by the Ombudsman in his report on the operation of the ex-gratia scheme, the Government decided in May 2018 to apply the scheme to women who worked in the laundries of the 12 ‘Magdalen institutions' but who were resident in one of 14 adjoining institutions. In order to apply this decision and, in consultation with the Office of the Ombudsman, an Addendum to the terms of the 2013 ex-gratia scheme was published.
To date, almost €31 million has been paid to 787 applicants under the Magdalen restorative justice ex-gratia scheme by way of lump sum payments varying from €11,500 to €100,000, depending on the length of stay in a relevant institution. Successful applicants under the scheme are also entitled to welfare and medical benefits.
115 applications have been made under the Addendum. These applications comprise 52 cases refused under the original scheme which may now be eligible, and 63 new applications. Decisions have been made in all but five of the Addendum applications.
As outlined the scheme was devised to address the needs of women and young girls who were admitted to these institutions. Any extension of the scheme as the Deputy suggests would incur additional costs, but as I do not propose to extend the scheme beyond its current remit, no estimates of such costs have been calculated.
232. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the recent UN special rapporteur official commentary on the way in which Ireland has been dealing with hate crime and anti-immigrant rhetoric through legislation. [51609/19]View answer
Ireland is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and review of the State’s performance before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took place last week in Geneva. The State was represented at the Committee by a cross-Departmental group led by Minister of State Stanton. Ireland’s national statement to the Committee was delivered by Minister Stanton at the outset of the review and, in the course of the Committee hearing, further detail on Ireland’s actions in this important area were set out in exchanges with the Committee. I take it the Deputy is referring to the exchanges as part of that review.
I can confirm that my Department is working to update Ireland’s criminal law on both hate speech and hate crime as a priority.
It is important to note that our law already includes provision for prosecution of relevant crimes. Under current law, hate crimes are prosecuted under general criminal law, rather than through a specific 'hate crime' offence. Where a perpetrator has been found guilty of a crime, such as for example assault or criminal damage, a sentencing judge may consider a hate motive to be an aggravating factor that would increase the sentence.
With a view to ensuring that any new legislation in this field is as robust and effective as possible, my Department is currently finalising research on the effectiveness of different legislative approaches to tackling hate crime in other countries. This research will allow us to learn from experience elsewhere and to identify the approach that will work best in Ireland.
When this work has concluded, which I expect to happen within the coming weeks, I plan to incorporate the learning from the research and then bring forward proposals for new hate crime legislation in the new year. These proposals will be published for discussion and an opportunity will be given to experts, communities and the public to share their views.
As the Deputy may be aware, my Department has also been running a public consultation on the separate but related issue of incitement to hatred since October, to gather the views of all stakeholders on how our laws should deal with those who actively seek to promote and encourage hatred and prejudice against vulnerable groups. The consultation remains open until 13 December and I encourage all those who wish to contribute to go to the Department’s website at http://www.justice.ie for further information.
The Deputy will appreciate that it is important that complex legislative measures are well researched and evidence-based. Development of new criminal law in this area is a priority for me as Minister but it is important to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is protected; that any new law is necessary and proportionate; and importantly that any law adopted is effective in practice in dealing with the very real harms caused by hate speech and hate crime.
The Deputy may also wish to be aware that my Department is leading on a number of cross-Government initiatives to tackle racism in Ireland.
The Migrant Integration Strategy published in 2017 sets out the Government's commitment to the promotion of migrant integration and provides a framework for a wide range of actions to support migrants to participate fully in Irish life. It includes actions to promote intercultural awareness and to combat racism and xenophobia - including review of legislation concerning racially motivated crime and hate speech. The Progress Report for the mid-term review of the Migrant Integration Strategy was published earlier this year by my Department and work continues across Government as a whole to achieve its goals.
In relation to the justice sector and in addition to the steps outlined above, my colleague Minister of State David Stanton is in the process of establishing a new Anti-Racism Committee which will include representatives of the public, private and voluntary sectors. This Committee will have a mandate to examine what needs to be done by public sector bodies as well as the wider community to challenge racism.
An Garda Síochána have also taken a number of important steps recently, consistent with the Migrant Integration Strategy. A Diversity and Integrity Strategy has been adopted, including a working definition of hate crime to assist Gardaí in delivering a victim-centred service and ensure that Gardaí respond consistently and robustly to reports of hate crime.
I am confident that the approach being taken - including research and providing the opportunity for experts and members of the public to provide their views through consultation - will help to ensure that the legislation we develop will deliver a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland for everyone.
233. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if Ireland will pay financial penalties for not complying with an EU directive regarding the implementation of a wills registry; if so, the amount of penalties; the amount paid in fines over the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51792/19]View answer
234. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason a wills registry has not been implemented as per an EU directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51793/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.
It is my understanding that the Deputy is referring to EU Regulation (650/2012) of July 2012 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions, acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of successions and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. I can inform the Deputy that Ireland did not take part in the adoption of this Regulation in accordance with protocol number 21 on the position of Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Ireland took the decision not to opt-in to this Regulation on the grounds that, despite intensive negotiations, the final text of the Regulation would have interfered to an unacceptable extent with the manner in which estates are administered in this jurisdiction. Accordingly, there is no question of fines being imposed on Ireland.
The views of the Law Society on the desirability of establishing a registration of wills system were sought in 2005. The Society's Probate, Administration and Trusts Committee subsequently informed the Department that it did not favour the establishment of a Register of Wills for a number of reasons.
Firstly, since the registration would be voluntary, there might be very limited usage of such a service. Secondly, even where a will was registered, such registration would not guarantee the validity of the will if the statutory requirements in relation to signature, witnesses etc. had not been complied with. Moreover, there could be no guarantee that a registered will was in fact the final will of the testator concerned. I should add that the Law Society reiterated these concerns in a letter to my Department earlier this year.
235. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the practice of private third party operators selling pre-booked appointments for the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, at Burgh Quay, Dublin 2; his views on the appropriateness of such practices; his plans to prevent such practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51098/19]View answer
247. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to websites (details supplied) that offer pre-booked appointments at the INIS registration office at Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, for fees ranging from €20 to €50; his views on such practices; the steps being taken to stamp out these practices and to improve the in-house appointments procedure at Burgh Quay; if a Garda investigation is under way including for the possible commission of the offence of trading in influence under section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51250/19]View answer
278. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to address the severe and ongoing shortage of available appointments for persons seeking to renew their visas with the INIS. [51667/19]View answer
279. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing issue of INIS appointments being sold by third parties online to visa applicants; the measures being taken to prevent the activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51668/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 235, 247, 278 and 279 together.
My Department became aware in September 2018 of customers experiencing difficulties booking registration appointments. Some of these difficulties had arisen because third party agents had been able to secure multiple appointments through the use of automatic software.
A set of software fixes was introduced in mid-September 2018 to prevent this abuse of the system. As far as can be determined, this software update has been successful in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents. The system is being regularly monitored in this regard.
However, I am aware that some third party agents continue to book individual appointments with information supplied to them by customers. My Department strongly advises our customers not to provide sensitive personal data to these unregulated agents. Matters pertaining to Garda investigations are a matter for the Garda Commissioner.
My Department will shortly be tendering for a replacement online appointments system, which is being designed to prevent the block-booking of appointments. This new system will also assist in streamlining and improving the current online booking process. As part of the Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020 for Immigration Service Delivery, a number of other options are also being considered with a view to improving customer service and efficiency as well as meeting the growing demand for registration in Ireland.
In the past year, there has been an increased demand for appointments. The Registration Office in Burgh Quay is currently registering more than 500 people every day and is opening every weekend in an effort to meet that demand.
236. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of new gardaí assigned to County Mayo directly from the Garda College, Templemore, in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51138/19]View answer
237. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí that retired from An Garda Síochána in County Mayo in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the number that indicated they will retire in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51139/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 and 237 together.
It is important to be clear that under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources. This includes responsibility for personnel matters and the distribution of personnel across the various Garda Divisions. As Minister I have no direct role in these 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.
The information requested by the Deputy in respect of the number probationer Gardaí allocated to the Mayo Division in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 is available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Probationer_Garda%C3%AD
This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. We now have approximately 14,300 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.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in 2014, approximately 3,000 probationers have attested and been assigned to frontline policing duties nationwide, including the 197 new probationers that attested on 29 November. Of these probationers, 18 have been assigned to the Mayo Division.
I have reviewed the details of the Mayo Division workforce and I would point out that the number of Garda members and staff in the Mayo Division has increased over recent years. I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 31 October 2019 there were 338 Gardaí assigned to the Mayo Division. This represents a significant increase of 35 Gardaí in the Division since the end of 2015. These Gardaí are supported by 50 Garda staff, which again represents a significant increase of 17 Garda staff since the end of 2015. This increase in Garda staff supports the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative to operational policing duties, where their training and expertise can be used to best effect. Taking account of retirements and departures, there are now 35 additional Gardaí across the Mayo Division since the end of 2015, representing an overall 12% increase in Garda members across the Mayo Division since the end of 2015.
Taken together, the increase in Garda and civilian staff numbers means a significant increase in operational policing hours in Mayo in recent years.
With regard to retirements, I am advised by the Commissioner that projected departures are kept under continuous review and that the level of recruitment is adjusted as necessary in order to maintain the desired strength.
As the Deputy may be aware, the retirement of members of An Garda Síochána is governed by law, which sets the mandatory retirement age for all members at 60 years of age. Members of An Garda Síochána who joined prior to 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension at 50 years of age once they have served at least 30 years and those who joined on or after 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension at 55 years of age with 30 years service. Gardaí have the option of continuing to serve until they reach 60, subject to the Garda Commissioner being satisfied that they are fully competent and available to undertake their duties.
I am informed that there have been a total of 15 retirements in the Mayo Division during each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of members who retired on a Voluntary, Compulsory or a Cost Neutral Early Retirement basis in the Mayo Division in the years requested was 5 in 2016, 4 in 2017, 5 in 2018 and 1 as of 4 December 2019.
238. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the new legislation necessary further to the recent Court of Appeal decision regarding residency criteria for citizenship applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51148/19]View answer
I welcome the recent judgment which issued from the Court of Appeal and the certainty it brings to the Citizenship application process. My Department is currently undertaking an in-depth analysis of the judgement and is assessing the next steps.
Yesterday, my Department hosted a citizenship ceremony in Killarney where approximately 2,000 persons received their certificates of naturalisation. Further ceremonies will take place in early 2020 to ensure everyone who has made a successful application for citizenship has an opportunity to attend a ceremony at the earliest time possible.
239. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider ring-fencing assets and funds seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau for use by groups working with victims of addiction. [51157/19]View answer
As the Deputy will be aware, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996. The Bureau’s remit is to target a person's assets, wherever situated, which derive, or are suspected to derive, directly or indirectly, from criminal conduct. Since its inception, the Bureau has been at the forefront of fighting organised crime in this jurisdiction and disrupting the activities of criminal gangs by depriving them of ill-gotten assets.
The Bureau is widely regarded as a best practice model in the context of combating organised crime. It works closely with law enforcement bodies at national and international levels and continues to relentlessly pursue the illicit proceeds of organised crime activity. The actions of the Bureau send a strong message to criminals and to local communities that profiting from crime will not be tolerated.
In accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016, all funds collected by the Bureau are forwarded, either directly or through the Revenue Commissioners/Department of Social Protection, to the Central Exchequer Fund. It is this Central Fund from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment including the provision of drug services.
The Constitution requires, and Government accounting principles provide, that public moneys be spent only as voted or approved by Dáil Éireann, unless otherwise provided by statute.
While there have been calls from some quarters for monies confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be ring fenced, a policy of ring-fencing monies obtained by the Exchequer and the reallocation of same for a specific purpose, runs contrary to the normal Estimates process. While allowing for a small number of very specific targeted exceptions, it is believed that earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would, in general, constrain the Government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy.
There are also practical difficulties owing to the variable and uncertain nature of the value of the assets seized by the Bureau in any given year. In addition, the potential delays caused by legal challenges to court disposal orders would also be problematic in terms of continuity of provision of funding to specific programmes or projects, whether drug related or otherwise.
Therefore because of the variable value and nature of assets seized by the Bureau in any given year, such a revenue source would not be reliable for facilitating the proper planning of drug treatment provision and programmes by organisations involved in the delivery of such services.
Finally, the Deputy may be interested to know that Section 21 of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996 requires the Bureau, through the Garda Commissioner, to provide a report of its activities each year to the Minister for Justice and Equality who is then required to lay copies of the report before each House of the Oireachtas.
The Annual Reports (including the most recent, the Annual Report 2018, which was published in June this year) are available in the Oireachtas library and on the website of An Garda Síochána and my own Department. The published reports provide full details of all assets seized and disposed of by the Bureau. Further information can be found at the following address: http://www.cab.ie/en/cab/pages/annualreports.
240. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that transitioned from direct provision to permanent homes in the community after being granted refugee status or subsidiary protection in 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51170/19]View answer
As the Deputy will be aware, residents who have been granted an international protection status (refugee status or subsidiary protection status) or a permission to remain have the same access to housing supports and services as Irish and EEA nationals. Currently, there are approximately 819 residents in accommodation centres with status or permission to remain in the State.
My Department has a specific team who work in collaboration with Depaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Peter McVerry Trust, officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the City and County Managers Association to collectively support residents with status or permission to remain to access housing options.
Since the beginning of the year, a total of 732 people with status or permission to remain have transitioned out of accommodation centres. Approximately 500 of these people moved with the assistance of the services and supports outlined above. These figures were not collected before this year, so comparable figures are not available for 2018 or earlier.
241. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51180/19]View answer
As the Deputy will appreciate, due to a large volume of applicants for naturalisation the Citizenship Ceremony which took place on 9 December, reached its full capacity in a short timeframe. However, the person referred to by the Deputy will be invited to the next available ceremony. While a date for this has yet to be confirmed it will be published on my Department's website (www.irishimmigration.ie/citizenship) as soon as a date is announced.
I can also inform the Deputy that my Department has offered to return the certificate of registration (GNIB card) to the person in order to enable her to travel if required before the next ceremony.
Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.
242. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which he plans to address undocumented children here; his plans to introduce pathways to residency for children and young persons growing up undocumented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51192/19]View answer
248. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which he plans to address undocumented children here; his plans to introduce pathways to residency for children and young persons growing up here undocumented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51257/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 248 together.
Entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The Act distinguishes between the entitlement to citizenship by birth and descent and to the acquisition of citizenship through the naturalisation process. Following a referendum of the Irish people, the 27th amendment to the Constitution changed the situation in relation to entitlement to Irish Citizenship. As a result, Section 6 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 was amended by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004. The changes came into effect on 1st January 2005. As of that date a person born in the island of Ireland is not entitled to be an Irish citizen, unless that person's parents have been resident in the island of Ireland for a total of three years during the four years preceding that person's birth. Periods of unlawful residence, periods of residence which were for the sole purpose of having an application for refugee status determined or periods of residence where permission was granted for the purposes of study are excluded from the determination of periods of reckonable residence.
Where a child born in the State did not, at birth, have an entitlement to Irish citizenship, the parent or guardian or person who is in loco parentis to the child may lodge an application for naturalisation on behalf of the child if and when the conditions for naturalisation are satisfied, including a requirement to have a total of 5 years residence in the State. This ensures that, even where a child born in the State did not have an entitlement to Irish citizenship, there is a path to obtaining Irish citizenship through naturalisation.
I recognise that there are some cases of young people who have grown up here but who, as a result of their parents' illegal status, find themselves in a difficult situation. However, it is important to emphasise once again, that when it comes to people living here illegally, the only option for regularisation is on a case by case basis. Inevitably, granting permission to children and young people who reside in Ireland in an undocumented capacity will require that other family members must also be allowed to remain in order to care for and support the children. However, where people who have had an application for residence refused or who simply overstay their permission to reside in this country and do not apply for an extension to their permission, the State must be allowed to exercise its legal right to remove them from the State. It would be unwise to permit people to simply ignore our immigration laws and allow them and their families to remain here merely on the basis of the length of time that they have resided here without permission.
I would clarify for the Deputy, however, that my Department is currently exploring the various policy options available for addressing the issue of undocumented children having regard to international best practice.
I met with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) in June to discuss the situation and my Department is engaging with MRCI and other NGOs on this matter. Another meeting is planned at official level shortly.
In all cases, people must engage with the authorities if they wish to be permitted to remain here legally. I would encourage any person who is resident in the State without permission to contact my Department or their local immigration office and to take all appropriate steps to regularise their family's status.
243. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí stationed in Portarlington Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51203/19]View answer
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is statutorily responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources. As Minister, I have no responsibility for these matters. I am assured that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of resources.
A record €1.76 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019 and this is increasing further to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for 2020. Significant capital investment is also being made, amounting to a total of €92 million this year and rising further to over €116 million in 2020.
This level of funding is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff and as a result, An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation. We now have over 14,300 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 2,900 Garda staff.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Gardaí stationed in Portarlington Garda Station as of 31 October was 16.
The Deputy may wish to know that details in relation to Garda numbers are available on my Department’s website. This information is updated every month with the latest data provided by An Garda Síochána. This information is available at the following link:
Information on Garda staff, the Garda Workforce and other facts and figures are available from the following link:
244. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 323 of 5 November 2019, the number of vehicles in operation in the Garda divisional fleet in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51206/19]View answer
286. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda vehicles attached to each Garda district in the Kildare Garda division as of 3 December 2019, in tabular form. [51696/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 286 together.
The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached record levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion and this is due to increase further to an unprecedented €1.88 billion for 2020. The capital budget for An Garda Síochána has also been significantly increased - a total of €92 million was provided this year, representing a 50% increase on capital investment in 2018. And capital investment will increase further to €116.5 million in 2020.
With regard to the fleet specifically,a further €9 million will be provided next year as part of an overall investment of €46 million in the Garda fleet between 2016 and 2021. €10 million was made available for the Garda fleet this year.
It is important to be clear that under Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána. He is responsible for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources, in light of operational demands. This includes responsibility for allocation of Garda vehicles. As Minister I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured that the allocation of Garda vehicles is made on the basis of identified operational demands and that the allocation of Garda vehicles is monitored and reviewed on a continual basis.
The Deputy will appreciate that the size of the Garda fleet can fluctuate somewhat, as vehicles are added to and removed from the fleet. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the overall strength of the Garda fleet as of 31 October 2019 was 2,788.
I am further informed that the strength of the Kildare Divisional Fleet as of 4 December 2019 was 55, as set out in the below table, which was provided to me by the Garda authorities.
4 x 4
Total KILDARE DIVISION
*The category 'others' refers to MPV, SUV, Minibus or Prisoner Conveyance Vehicles
Overall, I understand that this year's funding is being used for the purchase and fit-out of over 300 vehicles, of which 289 vehicles have been allocated to date. I understand that orders have been placed for a further 59 vehicles which will be allocated before the end of this year or in Quarter 1 2020. As a result, the Garda authorities consider that it is likely that the overall Garda fleet will be slightly larger at the end of the year compared to the total number of vehicles at the beginning of the year.
Further, I have recently confirmed that a further €1 million funding for the fleet will be included in additional funding to be provided to the Garda Vote before the end of the year.
Finally, the Deputy may be interested to know that the Garda authorities are developing a Fleet Strategy, which I expect to set out detail on matters including, for example, the optimum size and composition of the fleet. I expect that the new Governance function in my Department will engage with An Garda Síochána, in that regard, as the process continues.
245. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of requests for an earlier appointment with INIS for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51213/19]View answer
I can inform the Deputy that the Registration Office of the Immigration Service in my Department operates an online appointment system which aims to provide certainty to those who come for registration so that they are dealt with within the hour of their appointment. The onus rests with the applicant to ensure that they apply in good time prior to the expiry of their residence permission. Cancelled appointments are automatically released back into the system and time slots for appointments are made available twice per day.
There has been an increased demand for appointments in the past year. The Registration Office in Burgh Quay is currently registering more than 500 people every day and is opening every weekend in an effort to meet demand.
If an urgent appointment is required, the person referred to may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org outlining the reason and she may be facilitated with an earlier appointment depending on the circumstances of the emergency.
246. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the outcome of the consultation process on the regulation of the cash for gold trade from 2015 (details supplied); his plans to undertake another round of consultation; the number of submissions received in respect of the 2015 consultation; the number of cash for gold shops here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51225/19]View answer
A consultation took place on the regulation of the ‘Cash for Gold’ trade in 2015. A total of six submissions were received following this public consultation, many of which had common proposals for introducing safeguards to prevent stolen items of jewellery being sold to businesses trading in precious metals and stones. This public consultation was a valuable contribution to the work within my Department regarding the ‘Cash for Gold’ trade.
In addition to that public consultation, officials from my Department also met with relevant parties, including An Garda Síochána and other Government Departments and stakeholders, during 2018 to allow them to input their views on the issue.I can confirm to the Deputy that 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. It is intended that breaches of the requirements set out in the Bill will be a criminal offence. The Bill will also provide additional powers to An Garda Síochána in respect of premises where ‘Cash for Gold’ transactions take place.
While no further formal consultation has yet been planned, the Department will be publishing the general scheme of the Bill on its website, following approval of the Government. As with any Bill, interested parties will be able to submit views once the general scheme has been made publicly available.
My Department does not maintain a record of the number of cash for gold shops in Ireland.