Family Reunification

Questions (710)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

710. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the average waiting time for applications to be considered for permission to enter and reside for a member of a family of a qualified person under section 56 of the International Protection Act 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38017/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Applicants for family reunification under Section 56 of the International Protection Act 2015, have 12 months from the date of receiving their International Protection declaration to make an application for Family Reunification for their eligible family members, as set out in the 2015 Act.

Every effort is made to facilitate applicants if an extension of time is requested to obtain original documentation, to make contact with family members, or where delays are experienced through no fault of the applicant.

As a general rule, my department endeavours to issue decisions on these applications, once all requested documentation has been received, within 12 months. However, given the complexity involved, some cases can take considerably longer to decide.

Regrettably, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a reduction in the processing capacity of the Family Reunification Unit of the Immigration Service of my Department. However, the Unit remains operational and continues to process applications and issue decisions, working in line with public health advice and the Government’s Framework for Living with COVID-19.

Deportation Orders

Questions (711, 718)

Emer Higgins

Question:

711. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Justice if deportation orders have been served on healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic; if so, if her Department will review these orders given the current healthcare staff shortages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38022/20]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

718. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice if she will detail her policy on the possible deportation of applicants during the current Covid-19 crisis in respect of a number of asylum seeker applications; if she will consider a halt to all deportation orders during this period in view of the health risks involved; if she will clarify regarding persons (details supplied) revoking the orders already made in recognition of their contribution to healthcare and the wider arts community during this crisis. [38089/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 711 and 718 together.

I fully acknowledge the important contribution that migrants have made to health and social care and other essential services in Ireland during the pandemic and beyond.

Humanitarian factors, employment records and other elements are considered as part of the permission to remain process. Each case is examined in detail on its individual merits, taking all factors into account.

My objective is to have decisions on international protection applications and permission to remain considerations made as soon as is possible. This ensures that those who are found to be in need of protection can receive it quickly and begin rebuilding their lives here with a sense of safety and security.

For those found not to be in need of international protection, a detailed consideration of all aspects of their case will have been carried out before a decision is made to grant permission to remain in the State or to make a Deportation Order. This includes a full consideration of their private and family rights in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights as well as consideration of their work situation, among other issues. If a Deportation Order is subsequently made, Section 3 (11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) allows an Order to be amended or revoked by making a request to me as Minister for Justice.

When a person receives a letter informing them of their negative international protection decision and informing them that they no longer have permission to remain in the State, they are required to confirm within 5 days if they will accept the option of voluntary return, for which the Department will provide assistance. To be clear, the person is not required to remove themselves from the State within 5 days – they are required to indicate an intent to do so. The time taken for relevant voluntary return arrangements to be made will take into account all factors, including Covid-19 restrictions and limitations to travel this has created. I have asked my officials to consider the process of issuing the letters for the duration of Level 5 restrictions and no negative decisions have been issued in the period since.

I encourage people to be as detailed as possible in their representations to me and my Department so that we can make fully informed decisions at the appropriate time.

While the execution of a Deportation Order is a matter for An Garda Síochána, I can assure the Deputy that my Department takes a pragmatic approach to such matters in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (712)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

712. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination of an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied); when a decision is likely to issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38025/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy, continues to be processed. If the person has a query in respect of their application, they should contact the Citizenship Division of the Immigration Service of my Department at: citizenshipinfo@justice.ie.

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. While most straightforward cases are now processed within twelve months, 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 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.

Visa Applications

Questions (713)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

713. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice when visas will issue in the case of persons (details supplied); if the applications will be concluded in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38029/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The applicants referred to by the Deputy created on-line applications for Long Stay Join Family (Irish National sponsor) visas on 28 May 2020. Upon creating on-line visa applications, the summary sheet must be printed and signed by the applicant and then submitted to the relevant Visa Office, along with supporting documentation and the relevant fee. Only upon receipt of the necessary documentation and fee, can the visa application be processed further.

The supporting documentation and payments for the application referred to were received in the relevant Visa Office on 18 September 2020 and the application is awaiting comprehensive examination at this time. The Visa Office has advised there will be no avoidable delay in having the processing of this application brought to finality and the applicants will be notified as soon as a decision has been reached by a Visa Officer.

In accordance with the provisions under Point 21.1 of the Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification, processing of family reunification visa applications for family members of Irish Nationals may take 6-12 months (approximately) to determine from the date they are received in the relevant visa office. This time-frame acts as a guideline only. All applications are processed in chronological order, based on date order of receipt. While every effort is made to process applications as soon as possible, processing times will vary having regard to the volume and complexity of applications, the possible need for the Immigration Service to investigate, inquire into, or seek further information, and the resources available.

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.

Courts Service

Questions (714)

Paul Murphy

Question:

714. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the percentage of rape cases commenced and concluded in each of the years 2017 to 2019 which resulted in convictions. [38030/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. This includes the provision of information on the courts system.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have made enquiries and the Courts Service has informed me that statistics in relation to rape cases are set out in the Courts Service Annual Reports, as available at the website of the Courts Service.

To be of further assistance, I have included links to the relevant Annual Reports as follows:

2019 Annual Report - https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/9bd89c8a-3187-44c3-a2e9-ff0855e69cb5/CourtsServiceAnnualReport2019.pdf/pdf#view=fitH

2018 Annual Report - https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/d3167a7a-2b47-4fc2-b654-6e657df2a01d/Courts%20Service%20Annual%20Report%202018.pdf/pdf#view=fitH

2017 Annual Report - https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/4ef7111f-52fe-4ee5-a2c4-adc7e1d7db7a/Courts%20Service%20Annual%20Report%202017.pdf/pdf#view=fitH

Tribunals of Inquiry

Questions (715)

John McGuinness

Question:

715. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice the number of tribunals, inquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by her Department; the number that are in the process of being set up; the number in which the terms of reference are not complete or not agreed; the cost of all to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38045/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The following table provides the information requested by the Deputy with regard to the tribunals, enquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by my Department, and the cost of each to-date.

As the Deputy will appreciate, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on work ongoing by my Department in respect of a matter where a tribunal, enquiry or investigation has not been formally commenced.

Name of tribunal, public investigation, commission of Investigation in process

Cost to-date (includes legal fees and costs, and administrative overheads)

Disclosures Tribunal (Tribunal of Inquiry into protected disclosures made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and certain other matters following Resolutionspassed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann on 16 February 2017).

€8,281,730.99

An inquiry under Section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended) into the conduct and adequacy of the investigations conducted by the Garda Síochána into the death of Mr. Shane Tuohey in February 2002 in Clara, County Offaly.

€392,900.13

An inquiry under section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended) into Garda Síochána investigations into the accusations of financial irregularity made in 1999 against Mr. Frank Mulcahy, formerly of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME).

€288,813.95

Scoping exercise in relation to the investigation of the death of Shane O'Farrell.

€171,804.85

Shared General Administration Costs in connection with S. 42 Inquiries (includes 3 Inquiries which are complete and 2 ongoing) and O’Farrell Scoping Exercise

€110,057.00

Commission of Inquiry Bill Kenneally Allegations. This is an ongoing Commission with agreed terms of reference.

€955,971.52

Section 42 Inquiry Patrick Nugent (an inquiry under Section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 was carried out by former Judge Patrick Clyne into the Garda Síochána investigation following the death of Mr Patrick Nugent in 1984)

€165,235.64

Note: Judge Clyne completed his inquiry on 31st October 2020. My Department received Judge Clyne’s report on 3rd November 2020 and it has recently been brought to my attention for consideration.

Firearms Licences

Questions (716)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

716. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice if the firearm licence of a person is automatically revoked by the courts when a protection, safety or barring order is granted against the person. [38056/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, there are currently stringent controls under Irish legislation on the issue of firearm certificates by An Garda Síochána and the conditions under which firearms can be held.

Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended, provides for the reasons a firearm certificate may be revoked. An issuing person may at any time revoke a firearm certificate if satisfied that the holder of the certificate:

(a) has not a good reason for having the firearm,

(b) is a person who cannot, without danger to the public safety or security or the peace, be permitted to possess a firearm,

(c) is a person declared by the Act to be disentitled to hold a firearm certificate,

(d) is using the firearm for purposes not authorised by the certificate,

(e) has not complied with a condition attached to the grant of the certificate,

(f) has permitted the holder of a training certificate to carry the firearm while not under the certificate holders’ supervision.

Under the Firearms legislation, an issuing person shall consider each decision to grant or revoke a firearm certificate on its own individual merits. Although it would certainly be a very important consideration for an issuing person, a firearm certificate is not automatically revoked by the courts when a protection, safety or barring order is granted against a firearm licence holder.

Residency Permits

Question No. 718 answered with Question No. 711.

Questions (717)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

717. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38057/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The person concerned was granted permission to enter and reside in the state as a beneficiary under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) Humanitarian Admissions Programme (known as IHAP). The person arrived in Ireland on 7 May 2020 and is required to register their immigration permission with their local Immigration Office. On production of the required documents, they will be granted a stamp 4 permission for 3 years duration, which is renewable.

The Registration Office in Burgh Quay closed to the public on 22 October 2020 following the introduction of Level 5 restrictions under the Government’s Framework for Living with Covid-19. The decision was taken in line with public health guidelines, for the safety of our customers and staff. First-time registrations require the taking of fingerprints and therefore cannot be done online. The Office will reopen as soon as Level 5 restrictions are lifted and appointments will be available to people living in the Dublin area who are required to register for the first time.

Question No. 718 answered with Question No. 711.

Child Abuse

Questions (719)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

719. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice the policies and training Tusla or other State agencies have in identifying, intervening and supporting children who are being coercively controlled and unjustly alienated from another parent and their extended families; her views on whether this is physiological and manipulation abuse of a child; her views on whether urgent updated domestic abuse laws are required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38093/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

At the outset it is important to note that the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, is under the aegis of my colleague Roderic O’Gorman TD Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and who may be better placed to deal with the specific policies and training queried.

Having said that and as the Deputy may be aware, there is no specific legislative provision regarding parental alienation in Irish family law. Section 246 of the Children Act 2001 provides for an offence of frightening, bullying or threatening a child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child's physical, mental or emotional health or wellbeing. There are also legislative provisions in place to deal with child welfare particularly regarding the relationship between a child and his/her parents or guardians, providing the framework for a legal response to a wide spectrum of child welfare issues.

However, I am very much aware that parental alienation is a complex issue and that further analysis may be desirable. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality published a report last year on Reform of the Family Law System which includes parental alienation among a broad range of issues in the area of family law.

The issue of parental alienation, particularly in the context of relationship breakdown, is a complex one which requires careful review. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to enact a Family Court Bill. In the preparation of the General Scheme of that Bill, account has been taken of the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on the Reform of the Family Law System. My department has recently established the Family Justice Oversight Group which will agree a high-level vision and key medium and longer-term objectives for the development of a national family justice system in parallel with the establishment of a dedicated Family Court structure as envisaged by the forthcoming Family Court Bill. As part of its work, the oversight group will consider the various recommendations, including the recommendation on parent alienation, contained in the Report of the Joint Committee.

Social Media Regulation

Questions Nos. 721 to 723, inclusive, answered with Question No. 691.

Questions (720)

Holly Cairns

Question:

720. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice further to Parliamentary Question No. 171 of 10 September 2020, the number of officials engaged in social media listening as part of their communications duties; the grade of each; the way in which she has reacted effectively to issues as they arose relating to services being provided across the justice sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38112/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, and as outlined in my response to Question no. 171, part of my Department’s initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic involved social media listening to ensure that the Department could react effectively to issues as they arose in relation to services being provided across the Justice Sector. This involved two officials at Executive Officer and Clerical Officer level who followed “hashtags” and keywords that related to the Justice Sector as part of their wider day to day responsibilities.

This work meant my Department was in a position to respond earlier to issues that were arising online, when most of its workforce was working remotely. It also enabled my Department to respond to, or investigate issues, that were being raised on social media that were not being raised directly with the Department, its service providers, or through the various helplines or supports put in place for various agencies. Understanding the conversations that were happening online also assisted my Department in responding to queries raised by national and regional journalists on behalf of the public.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department ceased this social media listening exercise earlier this year in July.

Questions Nos. 721 to 723, inclusive, answered with Question No. 691.

Court Orders

Questions (724)

Pa Daly

Question:

724. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice the number of cases in the courts in which an order under section 60 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 was issued to date in 2020; her views on the application of this provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38140/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service inform me that that applications under section 60 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 are rare.

The Courts Service ICT system records Section 60 applications under the general category of "Guardianship - other". This means that a manual review of each of the relevant applications would be required to provide the information requested by the Deputy. The Courts Service has informed me that regrettably it is not in a position to do so at this time, given the scale of resources that would be required.

The record €3 billion allocation for 2021 for the Justice Sector includes €42 million to modernise the sector through increased digital and ICT investment. This includes €8 million for the Courts Modernisation Programme, almost €4 million of which is for ICT investment.

Direct Provision System

Questions (725)

Matt Carthy

Question:

725. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Justice the planned timeline for delivering the ability to apply for driver licences and bank accounts for persons resident in direct provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38410/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support, including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process, reported in October. The Group made a number of recommendations, including in relation to driving licences and bank accounts.

The granting of access to the driving licensing system to international protection applicants is currently being examined by the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority, in consultation with my Department. I understand that there are a number of complex legal, administrative and technical issues to consider and resolve.

Insofar as the opening of bank accounts is concerned, my officials are currently examining the issue and are engaging with relevant stakeholders, including the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), with a view to achieving an early resolution of the issues.

I can assure the Deputy that in both cases, I am anxious to see the Advisory Group's recommendations implemented without any undue delay.

Judicial Appointments

Questions (726, 727, 728, 729, 730, 731, 732, 733, 734, 745, 747)

Alan Kelly

Question:

726. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the dates her Department received expressions of interest from judges for the position vacated in the Supreme Court by a person (details supplied). [38417/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

727. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice when she was presented by her Department officials with the names of other judges who applied for the position vacated in the Supreme Court by a person (details supplied). [38418/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

728. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the date she was presented by her Department officials with the decision of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board regarding the position vacated in the Supreme Court by a person (details supplied). [38419/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

729. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the date prior to 15 July 2020 her Department notified the Department of the Taoiseach of her request to put the appointment of a new Supreme Court judge on the Cabinet agenda (details supplied). [38420/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

730. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the date she notified Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications of her intention to appoint a person (details supplied) to the Supreme Court. [38421/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

731. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the date she notified the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment that there were other judges who applied for the position vacated in the Supreme Court by a person (details supplied). [38422/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

732. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the date she notified the Taoiseach of her intention to appoint a person (details supplied) to the Supreme Court. [38423/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

733. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice if she informed any other Minister prior to 15 July 2020 of her intention to appoint a person (details supplied) as a Supreme Court Judge [38424/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

734. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the reason it took her Department so long to make a recommendation to Cabinet regarding filling the position vacated in the Supreme Court by a person (details supplied). [38425/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

745. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice the date she circulated the Cabinet memorandum to her Cabinet colleagues regarding the proposed appointment of a person (detailed supplied) to the Supreme Court. [38719/20]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

747. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice further to her statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice on 17 November 2020, the date or dates on which she spoke to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications and Minister for Transport regarding the appointment of a person (details supplied) to the Supreme Court. [38740/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 726 to 734, inclusive, and Nos. 745 and 747 together.

I acknowledge the Deputy’s concern and wish to take this opportunity to assure him and the House that this appointment was made in full accordance with the Constitution and the law.

Judicial appointments are made in accordance with Articles 13.9 and 35.1 of the Constitution, by the President acting on the advice of the Government. This is a Constitutional function that cannot be transferred or delegated. The Constitutional prerogative on advising the President on judicial appointments lies with the Government alone.

It has been the practice to maintain a vacancy in the Supreme Court due to the reduction achieved in waiting times in that court in recent years. However, this arrangement is kept under review. In this particular case, the Chief Justice wrote to my predecessor on 4 February 2020 requesting that the Supreme Court vacancy arising from the retirement of Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan in June 2019 be filled. He cited emerging pressures including the establishment of the Cervical Check Tribunal.

The then Minister wrote to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) on 17 February 2020. He asked the Board to furnish him with nominations for this vacancy, and the name of each person who had informed the Board of his or her wish to be considered for appointment.

The Minister also wrote separately to the Chief Justice stating that this request of the JAAB did not pre-suppose the filling of the post; it was to facilitate the procedure should a decision be taken to make an appointment at whatever point in the future that vacancy might be progressed. As the Deputy will note, the only judicial nomination made during the period of Government formation was to the post of President of the High Court, as this senior position has broader statutory functions. It should be noted that this appointment on 18 June then resulted in a second vacancy on the Supreme Court.

By letter dated 11 March, 2020, the JAAB advised that they had met on 9 March and decided to recommend one candidate, Mr Séamus Woulfe, SC, who was considered suitable for appointment to the Supreme Court.

Following my appointment at the end of June, I was informed by my officials of the vacancy to be filled on the Supreme Court and that the Chief Justice had written to my predecessor on 7 February seeking that the position be filled as soon as possible.

A draft Memorandum was submitted to my Office on 6 July, 2020. The submission included details of the recommendation that had been made by JAAB; expressions of interest from serving members of the judiciary; and all other judges eligible for the position. The expressions of interest from serving judges were received over a number of years and retained on file for any current or future vacancy that might arise. Whether or not existing judges put forward expressions of interest is a confidential matter for obvious reasons, and it is not the practice to release information that might identify any of those judges. All of these were submitted to me and I actively considered them.

In line with the Cabinet Handbook, between 11 and 14 July I spoke with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, Minister Ryan and the Attorney General, following which I brought a Memorandum for the Government’s consideration on July 15 last, recommending a name to Cabinet for appointment by the President. In this case the recommendation was in line with the recommendation of JAAB, which is chaired by the Chief Justice, and includes the Presidents of the four other Courts, as well as members of the Law Society, the Bar Council, and a number of lay members.

The practice in relation to appointments or nominations to positions made by Government is that only one name is brought to Cabinet by the proposing Minister.

The Deputy will appreciate that discussions at Cabinet and with ministerial colleagues are confidential. Decisions made by Government and are subject to Cabinet confidentiality under Article 28.4.3 of the Constitution. The Government, as set down in law, has sole discretion under the Constitution to nominate persons of its own choosing, providing they are qualified and eligible for appointment as a Judge. This is the Government’s constitutional prerogative and the House can be assured that the government in making this appointment has acted in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

I intend to shortly bring forward proposals to introduce a new Judicial Appointments Commission, which will significantly reform the way in which judges are appointed.

The following was received from the Department under Standing Order 54 on 4 December 2020.

Response