Deportation Orders

Questions (404)

Robert Troy

Question:

404. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a deportation order issued against persons (details supplied) will be lifted. [5088/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Immigration Service of my Department that the persons concerned are the subject of a Deportation Order signed on 19 February 2020. This Order requires that the persons concerned are to remove themselves from the State and remain outside the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Orders is a matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

Representations have since been received on behalf of the persons concerned requesting that the Deportation Orders be revoked, pursuant to the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). This request will be considered as soon as possible. It is not possible to provide a definitive time-frame within which a particular application will be decided, however, the persons concerned can be assured that there will be no avoidable delay in having their case brought to finality.

A decision will then be made to either "affirm" or "revoke" the existing Deportation Orders. This decision will be communicated in writing. In the meantime, the Deportation Orders remain valid and in place. However, I am informed that appointments to 'present' to GNIB have been postponed by the Garda National Immigration Bureau to a future date.

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.

Probate Applications

Questions (405)

Seán Fleming

Question:

405. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when probate will be finalised for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5091/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Probate Office is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998. Probate functions are also carried out by County Registrars at District Probate Registries in 14 provincial court offices.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that this matter is being dealt with by the Dublin Probate Office and I understand that matters have been resolved.

Family Reunification Applications

Questions (406)

Robert Troy

Question:

406. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if an application for family reunification will be expedited for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5094/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that the application referred to was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 6 November 2019. Visa applications are dealt with in chronological order by date of receipt within the particular category.

A visa application to join with a family member, where the sponsor is a Non-EEA national, can normally be expected to be processed within 6/12 months of receipt of the required documentation, as set out in the Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification. This is a business target which reflects the detailed assessment that is required to be carried out in relation to applications for family reunification. It does not constitute a legal obligation and such applications may take longer due to the individual circumstances or complexity of the application.

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.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (407)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

407. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if emergency social welfare payments paid due to Covid-19 will affect future citizenship applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5096/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that an application for a certificate of naturalisation will not be adversely affected if an applicant, who loses their employment as a result of COVID 19 pandemic, is in receipt of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the Immigration Service of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Certificates

Questions (408)

Robert Troy

Question:

408. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a person (details supplied) will be included in the naturalisation ceremony. [5097/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned continues to be processed and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

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

Therefore, it is not possible at this time to advise if the person concerned will be included in the next citizenship ceremony.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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.

Direct Provision System

Questions (409)

Michael McGrath

Question:

409. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the arrangements that have been put in place to protect persons staying in direct provision centres in the context of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5115/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that intensive work has been underway in the Department since the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that, to the best of our ability, we protect the health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees availing of our accommodation services.

In all measures we are taking, we are guided by the HSE and the National Public Health Emergency Team. We are working in particular with the HSE National Social Inclusion team and following all its advice. Our centre managers are working closely with the Department, the HSE and residents to ensure that centres are safe and that guidelines on social distancing are observed.

The direction from the HSE National Social Inclusion Office is that, during the COVID crisis, non-family members sharing a room in Direct Provision centres are considered to be a household. As such, they should implement social distancing measures from other households, i.e. residents in other rooms, and self-isolate if displaying symptoms or if directed by the HSE. In such instances, we provide facilities for self-isolation both on and off-site.

We are carefully following the guidelines for our centres that have been published by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre. These are publicly available at: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/vulnerablegroupsguidance/COVID-19-Guidance-for-vulnerable-groups-settings.pdf.

That guidance exists precisely because it is recognised that congregated settings such as Direct Provision centres present specific challenges in this pandemic.

We are doing everything that we can to protect the health and welfare of our residents and centre staff, as well as that of the wider community. We are working closely with the HSE in doing so, and while the HSE advice has evolved over time, we have been assured by both it and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer that our approach is appropriate.

Shared bedrooms and communal living space are provided in numerous settings. Similar arrangements apply in homeless and disability services and, indeed, in private rented accommodation.

The established procedure across all centres where a person is suspected of having the virus or is confirmed as having the virus, is that, where advised by Public Health, they are moved to a dedicated offsite self-isolation facility. Supports are available for the duration of their period of isolation until such time as the HSE considers that they can safely return to their centre. We have opened four dedicated self-isolation facilities (with capacity for 299 people) in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Dundalk. Residents in these facilities have their own bedroom and their own bathroom.

Since the start of the year over 1,550 permanent and temporary Direct Provision bed spaces have been procured, including the dedicated new centres opened in Rosslare Harbour, Cahersiveen and Tullamore.

We have relocated over 600 residents to support social and physical distancing in centres and cocooning measures for the most vulnerable. By doing this, we have ensured that no more than three single people are sharing a room in any centre. We intend to continue this policy when the crisis is over.

The vast majority of the rooms in the new accommodation being used to support social and physical distancing are twin rooms accommodating two people. If any person is being accommodated in these locations based on an identified vulnerability (age or medical condition), they have their own bedroom and their own bathroom to facilitate their cocooning.

We have cocooned all residents over the age of 65 and anyone advised to the Department as having a serious medical illness.

During this time, centre managers have also been advised to increase the standard and frequency of cleaning throughout the centres, paying particular attention to communal areas. A regular supply of hand sanitiser for all centres is in place and this is distributed to centres as needed.

In partnership with the HSE and Safetynet, we have also put in place a national clinical telephone service to provide public health advice to support centre staff. This service will also be used to advise, support and work with those locations where vulnerable groups are present in respect of the implementation of COVID-19 guidelines and measures.

We are communicating directly with centre managers and residents via regular newsletters, which can also be found on our website www.accommodationcentres.ie. The newsletters have provided practical information on implementing social and physical distancing at this time and promoted shared learning and best practice across our network of centres. Residents have also been made aware of the need for good hand hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette. Information and posters have been distributed to all centres and translations of public health information have also been provided. With Ramadan underway, we have also prepared and circulated information for centre managers and residents with practical supports on observing Ramadan during the current COVID restrictions.

The website also includes information for healthcare workers on the HSE's National Guidance Document on Temporary Accommodation for Healthcare Workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Healthcare workers living in Direct Provision are eligible to apply for accommodation under the scheme via a referral form to the HSE. We are encouraging all healthcare workers living in our centres to apply for this temporary accommodation for their protection and that of other centre residents and staff. We have also asked the NGO community to support this initiative and to help to bring it to the attention of residents through their support networks.

My Department, the HSE and centre managers will continue to work closely together during this time to protect the health and safety of all residents and staff as a priority.

Legal Services Regulation

Questions (410)

James Lawless

Question:

410. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to delays in the establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority advisory committee on patents of precedence; if his attention has been further drawn to the impact this delay might have on the planned admission of senior counsel to the inner Bar later in 2020 and the attendant delays in the efficient administration of justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5126/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority has been making detailed preparations for the establishment and coming into operation of the Advisory Committee on the Grant of Patents of Precedence under the relevant terms of part 12 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, which I commenced on 7 October 2019.

I have nominated Dr. Don Thornhill as the first lay member of the Authority to serve on the Advisory Committee under the relevant terms of section 172 of the Act. It is therefore anticipated that the Advisory Committee, which is to be chaired by the Chief Justice, will be in a position to commence its work at the earliest opportunity. However this will, understandably, be subject to those measures currently being implemented in response to the COVID-19 health emergency.

These latest reforms under the 2015 act will modernise and give greater transparency to the procedures for the granting of patents of precedence under the title of "Senior Counsel". The Advisory Committee will establish the criteria to be met by a legal practitioner, whether a solicitor or barrister, in order for a recommendation to be made to the Government that a patent of precedence be granted. These criteria are to be based on the objectives of ensuring that a legal practitioner seeking to have a patent granted has displayed a degree of competence and a degree of probity appropriate to, and consistent with, being granted a patent and has displayed professional independence. Candidates will also need to have displayed a professional capacity for excellence in the practice of advocacy, for excellence in the practice of specialist litigation, or, specialist knowledge of an area of law, in the manner specified under the act.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (411, 412, 413)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

411. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners that have been tested for Covid-19 by prison in tabular form. [5133/20]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

412. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners that have tested positive for Covid-19 in prisons here. [5134/20]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

413. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners that are currently in isolation due to displaying symptoms of Covid-19 by prison in tabular form. [5135/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 411 to 413, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will appreciate, an outbreak of Covid-19 in a prison setting would present significant challenges for prison management in terms of controlling the spread of the virus amongst staff and prisoners, the provision of appropriate medical treatment to affected persons and the maintenance of staffing levels.

Recognising these challenges, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service at an early stage established an Emergency Response Planning Team (“ERPT”) consisting of senior staff with skills and experience in areas including operational; healthcare; and infection control. The Emergency Response Planning Team was tasked with identifying and issuing instruction for any necessary actions with the aim of:

- Blocking the spread of Covid-19 into a prison setting;

- Early detection of any possible case of Covid-19 in a prisoner or staff member; and

- Prevention of the spread of Covid-19, should a case be confirmed.

A significant amount of work has been carried out by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to address this challenge, informed and guided by the advice received from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and consistent with the prison specific guidance for the management of Covid-19 issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 15 March 2020 and guidance of the Council of Europe.

A range of measures have been introduced across the prison estate in order to monitor, manage and mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Irish prisons. Many of these measures are based on the public health principles of early detection of cases and physical distancing to reduce the risk of Covid-19. Measures introduced have included:

- The introduction of a basic health check, including taking of temperatures for all persons, including staff, entering prisons from 29 March;

- Suspension of physical family visits, replaced by the introduction of video visits;

- Quarantining for 14 days of all newly committed prisoners, in order to reduce the risk that a new committal who might be incubating the virus could spread Covid-19 to the general prison population;

- Isolation of suspected case or prisoner with symptoms to prevent the risk of transmission of infection;

- “cocooning” of vulnerable prisoners including all prisoners aged 70 years or more or those that are deemed medically vulnerable;

- comprehensive training for IPS staff and the provision of appropriate PPE across the prison estate;

- strong communication with staff and prisoners, including two prison newsletters published weekly and regular Covid-19 information leaflets for prisoners and newsletters for staff regarding actions taken; and

- establishment of a robust contract tracing model which has been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as best practice.

Due to the extensive contingency measures introduced, the ongoing dedicated work of Irish Prison Service staff as well as the cooperation and understanding of the prisoners themselves, I understand that as of yesterday, 12 May 2020, there has no confirmed prisoner case of Covid-19 within the Irish prison system.

The number of prisoners that have been tested for Covid-19 as of 12 May, broken down by prison, is set in the following table which was conveyed to me by the Irish Prison Service.

Prison

Number of Prisoners Tested as of 12 May

Cloverhill

33

Wheatfield

5

Midlands

16

Mountjoy

6

Dóchas Centre

12

Limerick

1

Cork

17

Portlaoise

6

Shelton Abbey

0

Loughan House

0

Castlerea

2

Arbour Hill

1

The number of prisoners currently in isolation, as of 12 May, due to displaying of symptoms of Covid-19, broken down by prison, is set in the following table which was conveyed to me by the Irish Prison Service.

Prison

Prisoners in isolation as of 12 May

Cloverhill

12

Wheatfield

5

Midlands

0

Mountjoy

4

Dochas Centre

0

Limerick

2

Cork

2

Portlaoise

3

Shelton Abbey

0

Loughan House

0

Castlerea

0

Arbour Hill

0

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (414)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

414. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on a matter (details supplied) as a result of the Covid-19 crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5155/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I appreciate the concerns that the public health emergency is causing for many families in relation to court orders for matters such as access, maintenance and guardianship and I issued a statement on these issues on 4 April 2020. I believe it is important to point out first and foremost however that court orders in relation to access remain in place. Everyone should understand that the restrictions brought in to tackle Covid-19 do not stop them being implemented, and should not be used as an excuse by either party. In particular, the Regulations made by the Minister for Health, which came into effect on Wednesday 8 April, recognise the right of a parent, guardian, or person having a right of access to a child to leave their home in order to give effect to arrangements for access by that person or for another parent, guardian or person having such right of access.

Clearly, however, during this time there may be instances where it is impossible for couples to adhere strictly to the terms of an Order, and the President of the District Court recently clarified that parents could come to mutually agreed arrangements for alternative contact, which could involve phone calls, or skype etc., such agreement being noted by email or text message.

It is also important to note that if parties cannot agree on an alternative arrangement, mediation services are still available and should be used. The Family Mediation Service of the Legal Aid Board is offering free telephone mediation and conflict coaching. More details about this service can be found at www.legalaidboard.ie, while other free parent support services which provide help and advice are available from www.onefamily.ie and www.treoir.ie

With regard to maintenance and prior to the President of the District Court’s statement 8 May, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection agreed to revise social welfare payments upwards for a 12 week period for recipients who were no longer receiving maintenance from the other parent for their child because they have lost their job due to Covid-19.

The Deputy will appreciate that setting the terms of court orders and related proceedings are matters proper to the judiciary. Neither I nor my Department are involved in such matters.

In the current exceptional circumstances, while court offices are still open, they are only open for essential business, and by appointment only. The Judiciary and the Courts Service have advised that the District Court will continue to hear urgent matters in all District Court Districts throughout the country as before, and will resume hearings of certain other urgent matters. Urgent matters are now extended to include additional areas in Criminal, Family, and Child Care Law. In the area of Family Law the President of the District Court announced 8 May changes for matters which can be dealt with. These include the following:

- Applications and hearings for breach of maintenance or access that have occurred during the emergency period or applications and hearings for temporary guardianship orders.

- Remote call-overs and hearings may be conducted in some courts.

- Consent orders that do not require the hearing of evidence may be applied for by email by the applicant’s solicitor exhibiting consent in writing from the respondent’s solicitor. Following consideration by an assigned Judge orders will issue from the Court Office as appropriate without the need for the parties or their legal representatives to attend court.

According to the Practice Direction of the President of the District Court, a case which does not come into the defined urgent category can be treated as urgent if a good case can be made, and this will be decided, by the Court, on a case by case basis. The full details of the statement from the President of the District Court can be found on the website of the Courts Service at: https://beta.courts.ie/news/president-district-court-family-law-statement.

I hope this information is of some help to families and I would like to emphasise that I am appealing to everyone to remember at all times that the welfare of the child is paramount.

Public Sector Pensions

Questions (415)

Seán Fleming

Question:

415. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a person (details supplied) who left An Garda Síochána in 2008 can be granted pension rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5161/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

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.

I understand that the pension entitlements of each member of An Garda Síochána are calculated individually based on the particular service details of the individual.

Estimates of pension entitlements for members of An Garda Síochána are available from my Department on request through the Garda Pensions Administration Section, Financial Shared Services, Department of Justice and Equality, Deerpark Road, Killarney, Co. Kerry.

I understand that the person concerned is entitled to preserved pension benefits and will be due reduced pension entitlements on application at the age of 60. I understand that this pension will be based on his actual service in the Garda force and that there is no basis to pay this preserved pension prior to this date under the Pensions Regulations.

Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service Remit

Questions (416, 417)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

416. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has investigated or is investigating third party appropriation of residency renewal appointments in view of reports of zero appointments being available online over prolonged periods; if his attention has been drawn to the distress and uncertainty caused by delays to secure appointments online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5189/20]

View answer

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

417. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to cease third party appropriation of immigration appointments with the Burgh Quay registration office; if his attention has been drawn to the charging by third parties for such appointments of €15 and upwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5190/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 416 and 417 together.

My Department is aware of the issues around the securing of appointments for Registration and having identified the problem, introduced a set of software fixes in mid-September 2018 designed to prevent such abuses of the system.

I can advise that the new measures have been successful to date in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents. However, I am aware that there are a number of third party agents providing appointment-booking services in return for payment on the basis that the person provides them with their personal details in advance. My Department has consistently advised people against providing their personal and sensitive data to unregulated and unknown third parties.

Our Registration Office in Burgh Quay has also introduced measures to enable re-registrations of online applications and by post for third level students and intends to expand this service to other groups.

A tendering process is also underway to develop and introduce a new appointment system for the Registration Office, which is being designed to prevent the block-booking of appointments.

Prior to the temporary closure of the Registration Office in Dublin arising from the Covid-19 related emergency actions taken by the Immigration Service to maintain the safety and health of our customers and staff, my Department was aware that some customers were currently experiencing difficulties in making registration appointments. Staff were working intensively to resolve this by maximising opening times including Saturdays and Sundays. However, as part of the Department’s emergency response to COVID-19, Burgh Quay and all local registration offices are currently closed until 20 May 2020. The requirement to register an immigration permission will not arise until Burgh Quay (and other registration offices) re-opens or alternative arrangements are put in place.

My Department is publishing regular updates on the impact of COVID-19 on immigration and international protection on the website of the Immigration Service Delivery, as follows:

http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/COVID-19-updates-and-announcements

A Frequently Asked Questions document is also published here and is also regularly updated.

Legislative Measures

Questions (418)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

418. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce hate crime and hate speech legislation; the steps he is taking to protect the LGBTI+ community from hate crime and hate speech acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5202/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 prohibits threatening, abusive or insulting conduct that is intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of persons on account of their sexual orientation, race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, or membership of the travelling community. In addition, a hate motive may be considered by sentencing judges as an aggravating factor increasing the sentence imposed, where a person has been found guilty of a crime such as assault.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department is working to update Ireland’s criminal law on both hate speech and hate crime as a priority.

A comprehensive public consultation has been carried out to assist in this process, including a public survey and an opportunity for stakeholders to make formal submissions. This consultation has been carried out to ensure that the Department fully understands the lived experience of those impacted by hate speech and hate crime as well as the views of professionals and other stakeholders in the field, so that the laws developed are robust, clearly understood and effective in dealing with unacceptable incidents.

There has been strong engagement by the public with this topic. The Department has received in the region of 3,800 written responses to the consultation, including approximately 175 detailed written submissions.

In parallel, my Department has carried out comparative research on international best practice on hate crime legislation. This research is currently being finalised and is expected to be published shortly.

My officials are analysing all of these materials, as well as other relevant legal and policy information, to ensure that any legislative proposals which are made are evidence-based, proportionate and effective, while respecting freedom of expression.

There will be a further opportunity for stakeholders to share their views when the legislative proposals on this important issue are published for discussion.

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, now as well as into the future.

Finally, the Deputy may also be interested to note that my Department has also been responsible for bringing forward a number of inclusion strategies which are designed to promote equality and inclusion and to tackle discrimination and prejudice, including the National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy which was launched in November 2019. The Strategy includes a number of actions relating to incidents of hate speech and hate crime and supports for victims under the fourth thematic pillar of the Strategy, which is aimed at ensuring that LGBTI+ people feel safe and supported.

Prison Staff

Questions (419)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

419. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has given consideration to introducing some flexibility on the retirement age of prison officers for individuals in exceptional circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5220/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that it is the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, rather than my Department, which has overall responsibility for public service pension matters.

With regard to the particular question posed, I can inform the Deputy that the retiring age of 60 years for prison officers to whom the Superannuation (Prison Officers) Act, 1919 applies is set out at section 8(1)(a) of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956 (as amended).

The Deputy may wish to note that a review of the compulsory retirement age was carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2017. I do not have any immediate plans to change this but the matter is kept under review in consultation with the D/PER.

Protected Disclosures

Questions (420)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

420. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of protected disclosures his Department has received since the legislation was introduced; the number of protected disclosures examined to conclusion by year in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5309/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 came into operation on 15 July 2014 and my Department has since put a Protected Disclosure Policy in place. The Policy was reviewed during 2019 and a revised Policy is due to be published in 2020.

The Irish Prison Service, Legal Aid Board, National Disability Authority, the Courts Service, An Garda Síochána and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission have their own Protected Disclosures Policies in place and report separately on disclosures received in line with the requirements of the Act.

The information requested is set out in the table below.

Year

Number received

Assessed as not a PD or transferred to IPS

Closed following investigation

Ongoing

2015

6

4

2

2016

17

15

2*

2017

14

12

2

2018

13

5

3

5

2019

15

9

0

6

Total

65

45

9

11

* One investigation arising in connection with a 2016 case is ongoing.

Four cases relating to the Irish Prison Service (IPS) were transferred to the IPS since the introduction of the IPS Protected Disclosures Policy in July 2018.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal

Questions (421)

Seán Fleming

Question:

421. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 91 of 13 December 2018 and 466 and 549 of 8 May 2019, when the assessment in respect of the workload of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal will be finalised as indicated; when an update will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5317/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

On foot of a request from my Department, the Law Reform Commission is to carry out a comprehensive review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme; this work had been due to begin this year. This project is very welcome as it will provide for a thorough and independent examination of all aspects of this long-established Scheme. This review will help ensure that the State’s arrangements for the compensation of victims of violent crime are in keeping with international practice and meet the needs of the public into the future.

In the meantime, pending that overall review, a report is to be furnished to my office by July in relation to a range of issues that need to be addressed, including in relation to the potential backlog.

However, I can assure the Deputy that applications made under the Scheme continue to be actively processed by the Tribunal. I am advised that, to date in 2020 and despite the difficulties presented by the current Covid-19 pandemic, a total of 102 decisions have been made by Tribunal members on applications received under the General Scheme.

Work Permits

Questions (422)

Robert Troy

Question:

422. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if stamp 3 for the families of non-EU immigrant workers will be abolished; and if the stamp thatgives such persons the right to work after shorter periods of time (details supplied) will be granted in view of the fact that persons living here for more than five years should have the right to work and make contributions. [5324/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that there are no plans to introduce such a new scheme at this time.

In March 2019, together with my colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I announced revised immigration arrangements for spouses and de facto partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders and Non EEA Researchers on a hosting agreement. Under those new arrangements, spouses and de facto partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders and Non EEA Researchers on a hosting agreement, were no longer required to apply for a Dependent Partner/Spouse Employment Permit (DPSEP) to access the labour market. Instead, upon arrival in the State, and on registration, eligible spouses and de facto partners will be granted a Stamp 1 immigration permission, and the right to work. Those already in the State were advised to attend at their local registration office to have their permission updated.

This change of policy reflects a whole-of-government approach and is the result of continuing collaboration between my Department and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I am informed by my Immigration Service, that non-EEA nationals who, for a variety of reasons, have a lawful permission to be in the State may be granted on application a permission to remain on Stamp 4 conditions. For example:

- Non-EEA holder of 5 consecutive employment permits over a 5 year period.

- Non-EEA national granted Long Term Residency.

- Non-EEA Critical Skills employment permit holders and Researchers after 2 years.

- Non-EEA spouse/civil partner/de facto partner/dependents of an Irish citizen.

- Refugee/International Protection Status/ Programme Refugee.

- Non-EEA parent of Irish Citizen Child where parent was granted permission to remain in the State.

- Non-EEA national granted permission under the Immigrant Investor Programme.

- Non-EEA national granted permission under the Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme.

Other persons may, on application and following a determination of their individual circumstances, if granted leave to remain, be granted a "Stamp 4" residency status. It should be noted that each application is decided on a case by case basis and on its individual merits.

Departmental Reports

Questions (423)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

423. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which the sexual violence reform recommendations that a person (details supplied) was due to report on in December 2018 and then December 2019 will be published before the implementation of a new programme for Government; the reason for the delay in the publication of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5331/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy refers to the review examining the adequacy of measures available to protect vulnerable witnesses during the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, to help ensure the best quality evidence is available to the jury in making their decision, while respecting the dignity of the victim and their right not to be re-victimised by the investigation or trial process itself. It is examining the entire legal process around sexual offences, from the initial reporting of an offence through to the end of any court proceedings. The review is particularly concerned with the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses throughout this process.

The recommendations of the review when complete will be given very careful consideration alongside the recent work of the Law Reform Commission on Consent in Rape Law.

I appreciate the Deputy's concern in relation to the time this process has taken. However it is important that these complex and sensitive issues are considered carefully. I am grateful to the members of the group particularly the chair Mr Tom O’ Malley, Senior Lecturer in Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and member of the Law Reform Commission who is widely acknowledged as the leading expert in this area. The working group includes representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Probation Service, the Courts Service and my own Department.

While it was unfortunately not possible for the working group to complete its work the before the end of 2019, I can say that the process is now at the very final stages and I expect to be in a position to publish it very shortly.

Civil Service

Questions (424)

Seán Fleming

Question:

424. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason annual leave is reduced for a category of employees (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5332/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The annual leave entitlement for Immigration Control Officers of the Border Management Unit in Dublin Airport is calculated in accordance with the Clerical Officer grade on the basis of the equivalent number of hours worked and to take account of requirements for shift workers mandated in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

The recruitment and contract documentation for Immigration Control Officers (ICOs) states that they will retain the annual leave appropriate to the Clerical Officer grade in terms of the equivalent number of hours involved. A new entrant administrative Clerical Officer would have 22 days annual leave. An ICO works fewer days (although with a longer working day) than an administrative Clerical Officer, being rostered for seven 12-hour shifts over a 14 day period (which will include a weekend) and availing of 7 non-work days in each two week period. Generally, ICOs work no more than 3 days in a row, with at least 2 days free until their next shift. Therefore, to maintain the equivalent value of annual leave it is necessary to re-state the annual leave allowance of an ICO.

The annual leave allowance of a Clerical Officer assigned as an ICO on the shift roster is 15.49 shifts per leave year. An administrative Clerical Officer with 22 days of annual leave, on the basis of the standard gross 7 hr 24 minute working day, avails of a total of 162 hours, 48 minutes of annual leave. An ICO, availing of 15.49 shifts per leave year, with each shift being 12 hours gross in duration, avails of 185 hours and 53 minutes of annual leave. The annual leave for ICOs is not reduced: due to their shift pattern, the amount of hours leave granted exceeds that of an administrative Clerical Officer by 23 hours and 5 minutes. This difference is necessary in order to comply with the requirements for shift workers mandated in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The Annual Leave allowance for ICOs, which is subject to the usual conditions regarding the granting of annual leave, is on the basis of 7 days worked in any 2 week period and is exclusive of the usual public holidays.

Garda Recruitment

Questions (425)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

425. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when An Garda Síochána will be recruiting again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5334/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Recruitment to An Garda Síochána is governed by the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations 2013. The Public Appointments Service (PAS), on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, manages the initial recruitment stages for selection of Garda Trainees with the final stages of the recruitment process in which candidates are vetted, complete a physical competency test and a medical examination, are managed by the Commissioner and I, as Minister, have no direct involvement in the matter.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that as at 30 April 2020, there are 14,714 Garda Members, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff. This figure includes the Garda trainees from two separate intake classes who attested earlier than scheduled on Friday, 20 March, which was an operational decision taken by the Garda Commissioner in order to augment An Garda Síochána's response to Covid-19.

In 2020 it is anticipated, that in total 700 new recruits will commence training. However, as the Deputy will appreciate, these figures may be subject to change in light of An Garda Síochána’s response to the evolving Covid-19 situation.

I am informed by An Garda Síochána that it is intended that a Garda Recruitment Campaign will commence in 2020. The Garda authorities advise that they are currently in consultation with the Public Appointments Service about the timing of the launch of this campaign.

Direct Provision System

Questions (426)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

426. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will address a matter regarding a direct provision centre (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5465/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, this is a public health situation, the response to which is being led by HSE Public Health, as is appropriate. My Department and centre management are working closely with the HSE to implement their public health advice.

Testing of residents and staff has been completed in Cahersiveen by HSE Public Health.

In line with our agreed policy with the HSE, anyone with a positive COVID-19 result has been transferred to an offsite self-isolation facility where they are cared for until such time as the HSE considers that they can safely return to their centre. The offsite facilities are supported by a non-profit (Section 39) organisation and healthcare staff.

The HSE has confirmed to us that there should be no movement into or out of the centre at this time, unless directed by public health. Residents have been asked by the HSE to remain in the centre while they continue to monitor the situation.

We know that the current restrictions are difficult for residents but the purpose of this HSE guidance is to protect the health of residents, staff and the wider community. We are working closely with the HSE and centre management to provide additional supports for residents during this time. There is a HSE Community Development Worker onsite at the centre seven days a week to monitor the health of residents. This person is supported by a wider healthcare team. Additional outdoor space has been opened up with some seating provided and, this week, exercise equipment is being set up in the outdoor area for residents’ use. Arrangements have also been made to ensure that any items residents require can be ordered from local shops and delivered to the centre.

There are currently 69 residents onsite, which is well below the contracted capacity for 150 residents. The reduced occupancy is helping residents to observe social and physical distancing during this time.

Guidance has been provided by the HSE to centre management on the enhanced cleaning arrangements required at this time including through an onsite visit by a HSE infection control specialist. This applies to bedrooms, corridors, staircases, the dining room, kitchen, laundry room, lift, public toilets and reception and public areas. We are advised that this is being strictly adhered to by centre management and staff.

The centre is currently catered with three meals and snacks being provided to residents daily. In line with overall policy objectives the service provider plans to introduce independent living arrangements with cooking facilities for residents in the coming period. In the meantime, we have asked centre management to work with residents to find out about preferred meals and we have asked staff to source and provide ethnic snacks for residents. Kettles have been provided in rooms so that residents can make refreshments throughout the day rather than using communal facilities and meals are also being delivered to rooms. The centre has a good Wi-Fi service and phone credit has also been provided for residents so that they can keep in touch with family and friends.

By way of background, in the very early stages of the pandemic, a decision was taken to move residents out of Dublin hotels, which were being used on a temporary basis but were not in the exclusive use of the Department and therefore a potential risk to residents from a public health point of view. This relocation process was carried out in full consultation and agreement with the HSE National Social Inclusion Office, which is providing a lead to our International Protection Accommodation Service regarding public health. These residents were transferred to two accommodation centres on 18 and 19 March 2020, some eight weeks ago. I can confirm to the Deputy that no resident was awaiting testing or test results at the time the transfers were made. I can also confirm to the Deputy that the Department was not aware of any other guest at the source hotels being suspected or confirmed with the virus at the time the moves were planned or implemented.

We recognise that this is a difficult time for our residents, centre staff and the wider community. Working closely with the HSE, we are committed to taking all necessary measures to protect their health and safety.

Commencement of Legislation

Questions (427)

Michael McGrath

Question:

427. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he plans to commence all sections of the Parole Act 2019; if the terms of the legislation in relation to the 12-year waiting period before a person can apply for parole will apply to those currently serving life sentences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5472/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Parole Act 2019 provides for the establishment of an independent, statutory Parole Board, which will make decisions in relation to parole for all eligible prisoners.

The Deputy will be aware that under the 2019 Act, prisoners serving a life sentence will be eligible to be considered only after they have served 12 years of that sentence. As soon as the Parole Act is commenced, all parole applications will be considered by new statutory Parole Board. Prisoners who have applied under the old system but have not yet been granted parole will be eligible to be considered, once they meet the criteria set out in the Parole Act, by the new Board, in accordance with the provisions of that Act. It is, however, important to note that, in practice and over the past 10 years, the average sentence served by a life sentence prisoner before being released on parole has been approximately 19 years.

There are a number of practical steps required before it will be possible to commence the Act and establish of the Parole Board, for example selection of Board members, the appointment of a Chief Executive and staff, putting in place the funding for the new Board, and various other matters, including premises for the new enlarged organisation etc. These measures will require the provision of additional funding in Budget 2021.

My Department is committed to seeing the new Parole Board up and running and soon as is practically possible. The legislation to establish the new Board is complex and a significant amount of planning is taking place to allow for its establishment. A Project Board has been established in my Department to carry out the necessary work and ensure that all necessary arrangements are made. Pending establishment of the new Board, the existing expert Parole Board is continuing with its work.

Departmental Offices

Questions (428)

Peter Burke

Question:

428. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are vacancies in the offices of his Department at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5489/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

There are currently no Clerical Officer vacancies in the Department of Justice and Equality at the locations mentioned.

The organisations under the remit of my Department fill roles at this level through the Civil Service Mobility portal and open recruitment competitions.

The Public Appointments Service (PAS), the centralised provider of recruitment and selection services for the civil service generally, manage the open recruitment competitions. Where such work opportunities do arise, they will be advertised by PAS. Further details can be obtained on the website publicjobs.ie.

Where there is a need for staff to attend offices, as is currently the case in a small number of areas, their health and welfare will continue to be our priority. I understand that the office referred to is currently closed and all staff are working remotely.