Court Orders

Questions (433)

Peter Burke

Question:

433. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if guidance will be provided on the operation of a court order during the Covid-19 outbreak (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5576/20]

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. 

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.

I believe it is important to point out 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. 

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 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

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.

In the current exceptional circumstances, while court offices are still open, they are only open for essential business, and by appointment only.  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.

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.

Citizenship Ceremonies

Questions (434)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

434. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider holding postponed citizenship ceremonies online in view of the restrictions due to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5616/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the next scheduled citizenship ceremonies for Friday 3 July 2020, at the INEC in Killarney have had to be postponed.

As the Deputy will be aware, citizenship ceremonies were first introduced in 2011 in order to mark such a significant and important event in a solemn, dignified and appropriate manner. Since then, 151 ceremonies have taken place at various venues throughout the country at which 100,000 applicants have received their certificates of naturalisation.

My officials are currently exploring alternative options to ensure these events are delivered in the dignified and solemn manner appropriate to such an important milestone. It is also essential that any arrangements put in place satisfy the relevant statutory requirements while ensuring the event is a meaningful experience for participants.  Apart from satisfying the relevant criteria under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, each applicant must also take an oath of fidelity to the State at the ceremony, administered by a Presiding Officer, normally a retired member of the Judiciary.

All options being considered to facilitate the delivery of citizenship ceremonies will be in a manner that protects public health, complies with current restrictions and guidelines including social distancing protocols and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of participants: applicants, their guests, my officials, the judge and venue staff.   

Further updates will be provided by way of a ministerial statement and on the Immigration Service website when available, and I would encourage the Deputy to view our updates on the Immigration Service website at: http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/COVID-19-updates-and-announcements

Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Questions (435)

Paul Murphy

Question:

435. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when INIS registration appointments which have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis will be rescheduled. [5633/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Due to COVID-19, on 20 March 2020, I announced that immigration permissions, due to expire between that date and 20 May 2020, were automatically extended for two months on the same basis as the existing permission and with the same conditions attached.  If the current permission allowed a person to work, then they could continue to do so on foot of the two month renewal, without the need to register this renewal.

As a result of the continued uncertainties caused by the pandemic, last week (13 May), I announced a further two month extension for anyone whose permission was due to expire between 20 May 2020 and 20 July 2020. Again, this is on the same basis as the existing permission and with the same conditions attached. In the case of student permissions for international English language students, the person will be required to re-enrol in an on-line course of study to adhere to the conditions of their permission. My officials have engaged with MEI (Marketing English in Ireland), the representative body for the majority of language schools in Ireland. They have confirmed that most colleges are now offering on-line courses, and students should contact their college directly to make any necessary arrangements.

The requirement to register an immigration permission,  in person, will not arise until the Registration Office Burgh Quay (and other registration offices) re-opens or alternative arrangements are put in place.  They will only reopen when it is safe to do so, in line with Government’s Roadmap. As the Deputy will appreciate, high-demand public offices make applying social and physical distancing more difficult. 

When the Registration Office reopens, priority will be given to those seeking to register for the first time.  Those for first time registration who had appointments cancelled will have their appointments rescheduled automatically.  Other appointments will be made available exclusively for other first time applicants.

Additionally, my Department is considering alternative arrangements for renewal of registrations and priority will be given initially to those whose Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card has expired.

Further updates will be provided on the Immigration Service website when available, and I would encourage the Deputy to view our updates on the Immigration Service website at:

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

 A detailed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document is available on this website on the impact of COVID-19 on immigration and international protection. This document is regularly updated.

Peace Commissioners

Questions (436)

Martin Browne

Question:

436. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of peace commissioners appointed in County Tipperary in the past five years; the way in which this compares to the national average; the criteria in place for the appointment of peace commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5774/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Peace commissioners are appointed (and may be removed from that appointment) by the Minister for Justice and Equality under section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. The office of peace commissioner is an honorary appointment and peace commissioners receive no remuneration or compensation by way of fees or expenses for their services.

An application for appointment may be submitted by a person who is interested in obtaining an appointment or a third party may submit a nomination in respect of a person considered suitable for appointment. Nominations are generally received from public representatives.  A local Garda Superintendent sometimes requests an appointment in a particular area in the public interest.

There is no qualifying examination involved but appointees are required to be of good character and they are usually well established in the local community. Persons convicted of serious offences are considered unsuitable for appointment. To this end, a background check on nominees is carried out by An Garda Síochána.

Persons who are members of professions or employed in occupations which engage in legal work or related activities and members of the clergy are, as a matter of practice, not appointed because of their occupation. Civil servants are usually only appointed where the performance of their official duties requires an appointment (I.e. ex-officio).

Statistical information pertaining to the appointment of Peace Commissioners nationally and in Co. Tipperary for the period May 2015 to April 2020 is set out as follows.

Total number of peace commissioners   appointed nationally in the last 5 years

Total number of peace commissioners   appointed in Tipperary in the last 5 years

Average number of appointments per   county, including Dublin, in the last 5 years

Average number of appointments per   county, excluding Dublin, in the last 5 years

519

33

20

16

Prisoner Releases

Questions (437)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

437. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners released from prison to emergency homeless accommodation or no pre-arranged accommodation over the past 12 months by prison and month in tabular form. [5796/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, measures to address homelessness and provision of accommodation to persons vulnerable to homelessness are the responsibility of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. However, the Irish Prison Service maintains regular contact with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government regarding the release of prisoners who have identified themselves to prison services as homeless or a risk of homelessness.

The objective of the Irish Prison Service is that all releases from Irish prisons and places of detention are planned releases, in order to support offenders in making informed and effective transitions from prison to the community in compliance with statutory, legal and sentencing provisions. 

I am advised that, if a sentenced prisoner informs prison authorities that they were homeless prior to coming into custody, or that they are at risk of homelessness on release, they are referred to the prison-based resettlement service. The resettlement service works with the prisoner and the relevant local authority to identify possible accommodation solutions in preparation for their release and reintegration to the community.

I also understand that the Irish Prison Service provides funding to enable the Irish Association for Social Integration Opportunities to provide Resettlement Coordinators in each of our closed prisons and that the number of Resettlement Coordinators across the prison estate has increased from 3 to 12 in recent years. I am informed that as part of additional measures to assist prisoners prepare for release during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish Prison Service has assigned a further 6 staff to assist with the resettlement effort.

The Deputy requested specific information on the number of prisoners released from prison to emergency homeless accommodation or no pre-arranged accommodation over the last 12 months by prison and by month. I am advised that the Irish Prison Service that it does not record statistics in the specific format requested. However, I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that in 2019, the Resettlement Service assisted 363 sentenced prisoners who had declared a risk of homelessness to submit their social housing application in advance of their release. I am further informed that, in 2020 to date, the Resettlement Service has engaged with 457 sentenced prisoners in custody and has submitted 119 applications for social housing support on behalf of prisoners this year.

There is ongoing communication between the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government regarding the release of prisoners who have identified themselves to prison services as at risk of homelessness. I understand that this contact has further increased in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Deputy may also be interested to know that the Irish Prison Service, working in partnership with the Irish Red Cross, has developed a release information pack for prisoners who leaving custody during the current pandemic. The information pack includes information on changes to social norms since the introduction of restrictions including social distancing, new hygiene practices, details of reduced opening hours for public services and details of support and advocacy services available, including housing supports.  

Direct Provision System

Questions (438)

Bríd Smith

Question:

438. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number and causes of deaths in direct provision and emergency accommodation centres in 2019 and to date in 2020, in line with the recommendations of the 2020 report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. [5896/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that sadly three deaths have been notified to the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department since the introduction of its Critical Incident Policy on 29 November 2019.

The policy provides that once notified of a death, IPAS will record the incident. The Critical Incident Policy also sets out the guidelines for centre managers on what to do should a death occur in their premises.

However, it should be noted that it is the Office of the Coroner who makes the official record of deaths. The IPAS record is only of deaths notified and it is not an official record because this function is held by the General Register Office, which is the central civil repository for records relating to Births, Marriages and Deaths in Ireland.

Animal Welfare

Questions (439)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

439. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are plans to establish a dedicated Garda unit to exclusively deal with animal abuse. [5953/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

In accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. He is also responsible for the allocation of Garda resources and deployment of personnel, in light of identified operational demands.  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. 

Matters relating to animal welfare are not under my remit as Minister for Justice and Equality.  I understand that the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which is within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, provides a modern and robust framework for dealing with issues relating to animal welfare. 

I am advised by the Garda authorities that there are no plans to establish a dedicated Garda Unit to exclusively deal with animal abuse.  However, I understand that An Garda Síochána liaises and works closely with both local authorities and the local offices of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

I understand that all complaints of cruelty to animals made to An Garda Síochána are subject to investigation.  The Deputy will appreciate that in any case, it is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide if a prosecution should take place, and for what offence.

Direct Provision System

Questions (440)

Bríd Smith

Question:

440. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of positive Covid-19 cases and clusters in direct provision centres; and the number of these occurring in new centres opened specifically as a response to the Covid-19 crisis. [5971/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, the response to which is being led by HSE Public Health, as is appropriate. My Department and management across our network of accommodation centres (both permanent and temporary) are working closely with the HSE to implement their public health advice.

With regard to medical information such as testing, test results and the release of data relating to same, the Deputy will appreciate that these are matters for the HSE in a public health context. Both the HSE and my Department are committed to protecting the medical confidentiality of our residents.

I can confirm that, in line with our agreed policy with the HSE, any centre resident 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.

My Department and I will continue to work hard with local management, health agencies, and NGOs to provide every support possible to our residents at this difficult time.

Direct Provision System

Questions (441)

Bríd Smith

Question:

441. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the safeguards and oversights in place to protect direct provision residents who are forced to self-isolate; and if dietary and other needs at a centre (details supplied) have been deemed as suitable for residents self-isolating. [5972/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I want to assure the Deputy that my Department is doing everything it can to protect the health and welfare of residents and staff in our accommodation centres, as well as that of the wider community. My Department is 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.

All centres, including St. Patrick's Accommodation Centre in Monaghan, are following the guidelines for our centres that have been published by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre. These are publicly available at its website www.hpsc.ie. That guidance exists precisely because it is recognised that congregated settings such as Direct Provision centres present specific challenges in this pandemic.

The established procedure across all our 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 off-site self-isolation facility where they are cared for until such time as the HSE decides that they can safely return to their centre. My Department has opened four dedicated self-isolation facilities (in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Dundalk) with capacity for 299 people. Residents in these facilities have their own bedroom and their own bathroom.

Since the start of the year, over 1,550 permanent and temporary new Direct Provision beds have been procured including the new dedicated centres in Rosslare Harbour, Caherciveen 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 after the crisis. All residents over the age of 65 and those advised to the Department as having a serious medical illness have been cocooned. 

Specifically in relation to St. Patrick's Accommodation Centre, I can confirm that there are no residents currently self-isolating on-site. Centre management has introduced the following arrangements to support social and physical distancing and good hygiene practices in the centre at this time:

- Disposable items are used at mealtimes and staff are making tea and coffee to prevent cross contamination in the tea station area.  Food, including bread, is wrapped in portions in cellophane, again to prevent contamination. 

- All meat supplied to the centre is Halal and their suppliers have continued to deliver without disruption.  In relation to the preparation of meals, unfortunately, the main kitchen was closed for renovation in early March so it is not currently available to residents. In addition, the HSE have advised management to close the smaller kitchens, as it was not possible to adhere to the social and physical distancing measures required at this time.  The centre staff are currently preparing all meals for the residents in the centre. 

- In relation to meals available during Ramadan, the normal practice was that a selected group of residents prepared the specialist meals in the main kitchen for all residents who are observing Ramadan in St. Patrick’s Accommodation Centre. However, this year when management approached the residents who usually cook for the people observing Ramadan they indicated that they preferred not to be involved on this occasion. Instead, the centre chefs are preparing the specialist meals for residents to the best of their ability and using Halal meats. Special dates and drinks, herbs and spices, which are traditional during Ramadan, are also provided on a weekly basis to residents.  

- All medical prescriptions are being delivered to the centre by local Community Gardaí. 

- The playground is currently closed in order to adhere to social and physical distancing requirements.  

More generally, residents in all centres have been made aware of the need to practice social and physical distancing and good hand hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette. Translations of public health advice have been provided to centres. During this time, centres have been asked to increase the standard and frequency of cleaning throughout the centres, paying particular attention to communal areas. A regular supply of hand sanitiser is in place for all centres and this is distributed as needed. Other PPE is also distributed as needed and in line with HPSC guidelines on its appropriate use in residential settings.

Departmental Funding

Questions (442)

Peter Burke

Question:

442. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a reply will issue to an organisation (details supplied) regarding the refusal of a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6064/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

All applications for funding under the 2019 European Social Fund (“ESF”) Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (“PEIL”) Gender Equality Call for Proposals are subject to a rigorous assessment and moderation process by the Department of Justice and Equality. This also includes the involvement of subject matter experts on the Project Appraisal Committee. 

Applications made under the Scheme were screened to ensure they passed an initial completeness check, that is, that they were submitted on time, complete, and met the criteria. Applications passing this check were then subject to assessment regarding the ‘Capacity of Applicant’. Only applications that were ‘selected’ under this criterion were then appraised under the assessment criteria as set out in the ‘Information and Guidance for Applicants’ document published at the launch of the Call.

In 2019 the Department received 39 applications for funding under this scheme, seeking €20.6m of grant funding in total. The available funding was €5.5m, which inevitably meant that some good proposals were not awarded grant funding, while others did not receive the full amount sought.

Organisations that applied for funding under this project received a feedback sheet summarising the assessment of their application by the Department of Justice and Equality. I am informed that the organisation referred to in the Deputy’s question received feedback on its application for funding from the Department on 2 October 2019, and that the Department has not been made aware of any outstanding requests for additional feedback or unanswered queries in the interim.

Departmental Inquiries

Questions (443)

Matt Carthy

Question:

443. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the scoping inquiry relating to the death of a person (details supplied); when the process will be concluded; his plans to establish a public inquiry into the circumstances of the incidents leading to the person's death and the subsequent response of all statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6099/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, a retired judge of the District Court, Judge Gerard Haughton, is conducting a scoping exercise into the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell, whose case has been discussed in Dáil Éireann on a number of occasions.  The judge furnished an interim report to me on 13 November last.  Following consultation with the family concerned, Judge Haughton and the Attorney General, I published the report on 17 December 2019.

The Terms of Reference for the scoping exercise were drafted with the benefit of legal advice from the Attorney General and with due consideration to the jurisprudence of the Courts, in particular the decision of the Supreme Court in Shatter v Guerin.

In his interim report, Judge Haughton states that he will not restrict or limit the family in their submissions to him or the nature and extent of the documentation they wish to furnish to him in his scoping exercise.

I have welcomed the fact that the family are working with Judge Haughton.  My Department is in regular contact with the judge and has assured him of any assistance he requires to complete his final report. 

Judge Haughton has recently informed my Department and the family concerned of the reasons why he does not believe that he can finalise matters within the timescale referred to in his Interim Report.  He has indicated that he believes it will be the end of September before he will be in a position to conclude the scoping exercise.

Judge Haughton is free in his final report to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry.  I will await the recommendation of Judge Haughton in his final report before making any decision in relation to further inquiries into this matter.

Deportation Orders

Question No. 445 answered with Question No. 408.

Questions (444)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

444. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of persons (details supplied) who have been issued with a deportation order dated 26 June 2020. [6127/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that the persons concerned are the subject of Deportation Orders.  These orders require the persons concerned 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 were received from the persons concerned, pursuant to the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), requesting that the Deportation Orders be revoked, which will be considered in due course. Requests for revocation are non-suspensive and, as such, the persons concerned are still required to 'present' to the GNIB as requested.

While the enforcement of a Deportation Order is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána through the GNIB, I can also inform the Deputy that appointments for people who have a Deportation Order currently in force and were due to present to the GNIB during the current Covid-19 pandemic have been postponed until further notice. The persons concerned will be notified in writing when they are required to present again.

Further updates will be provided on the Immigration Service website when available, and I would encourage the Deputy to view our updates on the Immigration Service website at:

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

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.

Question No. 445 answered with Question No. 408.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (446)

Robert Troy

Question:

446. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to adequately deal with businesses that are closed due to Covid-19 and that are unable to keep the terms of their commercial leases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6131/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Government has introduced a broad range of measures and supports to respond to the needs of businesses that are experiencing difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular I am strongly supportive of the efforts being made by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to assist businesses.

Where commercial rents are concerned, this area of the law is very complex and characterized by a multiplicity of contractual arrangements that reflect the diversity of the landlord and tenant relationship in the commercial sphere. I urge all parties to commercial leases to show forbearance and understanding during this very difficult time.

Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children

Questions (447)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

447. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to grant asylum to unaccompanied minors currently located in migrant camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos; the number of unaccompanied minors granted asylum in 2019; the number of unaccompanied minors he plans to grant asylum to in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6143/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that, subject to the relevant travel clearance being received in the context of the current COVID-19 situation and the availability of flights, 8 unaccompanied minors are expected to be brought to the State in the coming weeks from Greece under the care of Tusla.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care of any unaccompanied minors in the State. Tusla may decide that an application for international protection should be made on behalf of the minor. Where Tusla decides that it is in the best interests of the child that an application for international protection is made on their behalf, specific arrangements will be made by the International Protection Office (IPO) in conjunction with Tusla for the processing of the application. Tusla will support the minor throughout the process, including attending at their interview.

All applications for international protection made on behalf of unaccompanied minors are prioritised by the IPO for processing. I am further advised that the IPO has specially trained caseworkers to process applications received from unaccompanied minors.

It should be noted that all applicants for international protection are carefully interviewed and their cases are individually assessed by experienced caseworkers. The circumstances of each individual case is assessed having regard to both the subjective elements (the applicant’s own account or personal history) and objective elements (up-to-date information on the applicant’s country or place of origin). Supporting documentation submitted by applicants is also taken into account. Country of Origin information is obtained from a variety of legitimate sources such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International and other NGOs, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the US State Department and the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board.

While there were 42 applications from unaccompanied minors on hand at the end of April 2020, the International Protection Office (IPO) cannot predict the number of unaccompanied minors who will receive a recommendation to grant them refugee status in 2020. 

 24 Unaccompanied Minors were granted International Protection in 2019. None of these cases related to unaccompanied minors from Greek camps.  The possibility of other minors, additional to the 8 referred to above, being transferred here from Greece is subject to the necessary accommodation and resources being available to Tusla.  This is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (448)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

448. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will be tabling a motion to extend sections 2 to 4, 6 to 12, 14 and 17 of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998, which are due to expire on the 29 June 2020; if he will be tabling a motion to extend section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, which is due to expire on the 29 June 2020; when he will publish a report detailing the operation of these sections during the past 12 months as required by the Acts; when he expects to lay these reports before each House of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6148/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The sections of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 that the Deputy refers to are significant legislative provisions aimed at combating terrorism and organised crime. As the Deputy is aware, if the relevant provisions are to remain in effect there is a statutory requirement to renew them before the end of June. 

The Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 was enacted in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing.  Section 18 provides that the relevant sections of the Act shall cease to be in operation unless their continuance in force is approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. 

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 provides certain legislative measures to tackle organised crime.  Among those measures was section 8, which provides that certain organised crime offences are to be tried in the Special Criminal Court. Section 8(4) provides that the provision will cease to be in operation unless a resolution is passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.  

Section 18(3) of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 Act and Section 8(6) of the and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 provide that, before a resolution for continuance is passed, the Minister for Justice and Equality shall prepare reports, which shall be laid before both Houses, on the operation of the relevant provisions in the period since the previous report. 

There remains a real and persistent threat from terrorist activity and organised crime as evidenced by the seizures of firearms, explosives and ammunition by An Garda Síochana and the most serious of cases brought before the Special Criminal Court. It is important that these provisions are renewed and it is my intention to seek their renewal and table the required motions before the Oireachtas.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (449)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

449. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of legislative measures that expire in 2020 if a motion to extend them is not passed; the dates such legislation are due to expire in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6149/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

There are two pieces of legislation within the remit of my Department that expire in 2020 if a motion to extend is not passed:

Title

Date of Expiration

Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998

29 June 2020

Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009

29 June 2020

Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998

Section 18 of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 provides that the sections of the Act in question (2 to 4, 6 to 12, 14 and 17) shall cease to be in operation unless a Resolution has been passed by each House of the Oireachtas resolving that those sections should continue in operation. 

Since June 2000, the Houses of the Oireachtas have, by means of Resolution, renewed on an annual basis all the foregoing sections of act for a further period of 12 months on each occasion.  The most recent resolutions in this regard were approved by Dáil and Seanad Éireann in June 2019 and they provided for the continuance in operation of the relevant sections for a period of 12 months from 30 June 2019.

Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009

Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 provides that it shall cease to be in operation unless a Resolution has been passed by each House of the Oireachtas resolving that it should continue in force for a period to be determined by the Oireachtas. 

Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann have passed such Resolutions on previous occasions, most recently to continue the provisions in operation for a period of 12 months from 30 June 2019.

Garda Equipment

Questions (450, 495)

Jack Chambers

Question:

450. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if masks or other personal protective equipment are being made available to gardaí who are on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6214/20]

View answer

Sorca Clarke

Question:

495. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if An Garda Síochána has been provided with gloves, face masks and hand sanitisers. [6898/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 450 and 495 together.

As the Deputy is aware, An Garda Síochána is carrying out extensive operations in support of the public health guidelines and restrictions which are in place to prevent or reduce spread of the Covid-19 virus in the community. In that way, An Garda Síochána is working to protect public health during this pandemic.

The Commissioner is by law responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the distribution of resources and deployment of equipment.  The Commissioner also has responsibility for the safety, health and welfare of Garda members.

I am informed that An Garda Síochána provides all Garda Divisions and Specialist Units with PPE on a weekly basis from central stores.  I understand that PPE supplies are then distributed by each Division to all Garda Stations under their aegis, to ensure that Garda members and staff have adequate supplies available to meet operational requirements.  I understand that a Divisional Inspector is responsible for the distribution of PPE in each Division and stocks are replenished on request.  

I am informed that the following is a list of the types of PPE supplies distributed on a weekly basis:

- Hand Sanitiser

- Disposable Gloves

- Face Masks

- Goggles

- Visors/Face Shields

- Disposable Anti-Bacterial Wipes & Sprays

- White Suits/Shoe Covers

- Gowns

- Plastic Aprons

- Signage

 In terms of volume, I understand that to date, approximately 2 million pairs of disposable gloves, over 200,000 face masks and 50,000 litres of hand sanitiser in refillable plastic bottles have been distributed.

I am informed by An Garda Síochána that its guidelines for use by frontline Gardaí of personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and facemasks, are informed by a dynamic risk-based approach and in accordance with HSE/public health guidance. 

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that in line with such advice, from Friday 15 May 2020, members of An Garda Síochána have been directed to wear official-issue face coverings in situations where they are unable to maintain recommended social distancing and may be in close contact with a person or persons for more than 15 minutes.  

While I understand that gloves and face masks are available to Garda members on patrol and checkpoint duties, the Garda authorities have informed me that as a matter of course face coverings will not be worn on outdoor duties including checkpoints where social distancing can be maintained.  

In line with their risk-based approach, a number of designated vehicles are assigned to each Garda Division, to respond to incidents in which suspected or confirmed cases of Covid19 are a factor.  I am informed that members deployed to these vehicles have access to full PPE necessary to ensure an appropriate response to such incidents and that they are deployed by Garda management as required.  

The Commissioner has informed me that An Garda Síochána’s guidelines are kept under review based on public health advice.  

Finally, I understand that An Garda Síochána is working closely with other Government agencies including the Health Service Executive (HSE), Irish Prison Service, Enterprise Ireland, OGP, IDA and community based organisations to ensure the supply chain is maintained and that frontline Garda members are provided with the appropriate equipment to enable them to carry out their duties with confidence in this challenging period.  

Direct Provision System

Questions (451)

Seán Haughey

Question:

451. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of new arrangements put in place to protect those in direct provision during the Covid-19 crisis; if his attention has been drawn to particular concerns raised in respect of a centre (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6263/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am pleased to have this opportunity to provide the Deputy with an update on the full range of measures that we, the HSE and centre management are taking to support residents and staff in Direct Provision accommodation at this time. 

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.

All accommodation centres, including Ciuin House, are carefully following the guidelines for our centres that have been published by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, which can be found on its website www.hpsc.ie. That guidance exists precisely because it is recognised that congregated settings such as Direct Provision centres present specific challenges in this pandemic. 

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 direction from the HSE 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.

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. My Department has opened four dedicated self-isolation facilities for residents in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, and Dundalk, with a total capacity of 299 rooms. 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, Caherciveen 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 of our centres. We intend to continue this policy when the crisis is over. 

All residents aged 65 or older and those advised to the Department as having a serious medical illness have been cocooned due to their particular vulnerability to this virus. 

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.

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 centres is in place and this is distributed to centres as required. Other PPE is distributed, as needed, and in line with the HPSC guidelines for its appropriate use in residential settings.

In partnership with the HSE and Safetynet, my Department has put in place a national clinical telephone service to provide public health advice to support centre staff. It is also being used to advise, support and work with locations where vulnerable groups are present relating to the implementation of COVID-19 guidelines and measures.

Generally, residents of Centres are subject to the same current public health measures as the rest of the population, for example, the right to exercise within a 5km radius, attend medical appointments or to shop for food or other necessities as set out in Government guidelines. However, as with everyone else, where a public health issue arises, Public Health officials may advise that residents stay in their centre and restrict movement for a time while they monitor the situation.

Healthcare workers living in Direct Provision accommodation are eligible to apply for accommodation under the HSE’s Temporary Accommodation Scheme announced on 10 April 2020.  We are actively 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 provided information, forms and guidance. 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.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department takes any complaints from residents very seriously and all residents are made fully aware of their ability to contact the Department at any time in confidence. If a complaint is not resolved to the satisfaction of the resident, they can also avail of the services of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children, as appropriate. If the Deputy wishes to raise any specific concerns regarding this particular centre with me, I would be happy to have my officials follow up.

In the meantime, the Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to work closely with the HSE and centre management during this time to protect the health and safety of all residents and staff as a priority.