Student Grant Scheme

Questions (597)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

597. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to support students enrolled in graduate medical programmes during the pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7114/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

To satisfy the terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course, having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

Students pursuing GEM programmes do so as second degree courses and consequently are not eligible for free fees funding or for student grants. However, in order to widen access to GEM programmes, and give assistance towards the financial burden on each student pursuing these programmes, the fees of participating EU students are partly subsidised by the State via the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Institutions participating in the graduate medical programme have been requested to provide accompanying services and supports to facilitate the participation of disadvantaged students in the programme. Details of these services and supports are available from the relevant institution.

Students on graduate entry medicine courses may be eligible to apply to the Student Assistance Fund for financial support. The SAF guidelines provide that students with a previous higher education qualification at the same NFQ level, or who, in the past, attended higher education without ultimately obtaining a qualification, may be considered for support on a case-by-case basis and subject to available funding.

In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may also be available in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

Student Grant Scheme

Questions (598)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

598. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he will consider approving institutions (details supplied) for the purposes of SUSI or the back to education schemes for mature students who would otherwise be eligible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7115/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Under the Department's student grant scheme, eligible applicants may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at an approved institution as defined in the scheme. The definition of an approved institution is set out in Section 7 of the Student Support Act 2011 and Regulation 3 of the Student Support Regulations 2020.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced a review of the SUSI grant scheme. It is anticipated that this review will commence shortly and will report back to me in late 2021. It is intended that the future direction of the SUSI scheme will be guided by the outcome of the review.

It remains open to higher education institutions that operate on a 'for profit' basis to use their own resources to provide financial supports to any of their students that they consider to be in particular need.

Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is administered by the Department of Social Protection (DSP). Further enquiries in respect of the BTEA should be referred to DSP.

There are other supports available to prospective mature students. For example, Springboard+ is a specific initiative that strategically targets funding of free part-time higher education courses to enable unemployed people to upskill or reskill in areas where there are identified labour market skills shortages or employment opportunities. It provides free or 90% funded upskilling and reskilling higher education opportunities in areas of identified skills needs. The courses, which are at Level 6 (Higher Certificate) to Level 9 (Master's Degree) on the National Framework of Qualifications, are being delivered in public and private higher education institutions around the country. Further information may be obtained from the website https://springboardcourses.ie/.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website www.revenue.ie

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (599)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

599. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 287 of 21 January 2021, if third-level students from Ireland studying in Northern Ireland and not in receipt of a SUSI grant cannot access the once-off payment of €250 for students. [7174/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

In Budget 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, funding was provided in recognition of the exceptional situation students have experienced. Financial assistance will be provided to all SUSI eligible students and to EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state.

EU full-time students outside of the SUSI system must be registered in a publicly funded higher education provider in the State to avail of this allocation.

In terms of other Irish nationals studying abroad, the provision of supports to Irish citizens based on nationality alone with the exclusion of other EU nationals would be contrary to EU law. It is therefore not possible to provide supports based on Irish citizenship alone. Instead the measure applies to all of those qualifying for SUSI grants, wherever they are studying and those of EU nationality at publicly funded higher education institutions in the State. Additionally a key administrative feature of the fund is that it is being implemented with the assistance of publicly funded institutions in the State under the remit of my Department.

The main support available to assist students with the cost of higher education is the Student Grant Scheme. Students attending approved undergraduate courses in Northern Ireland can apply for a maintenance grant provided they meet the terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme. There is also a special derogation contained within the Student Support Act 2011 which provides supports for postgraduate students attending courses in Northern Ireland. Such students may be eligible for assistance towards their postgraduate fees up to the maximum fees limit of €6,270 or a Postgraduate Fee Contribution of €2,000 subject to satisfying the terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme 2020. There is no other provision under the student grant scheme for the payment of fees to students studying outside of the State.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners on www.revenue.ie.

Students may also wish to contact the relevant college in Northern Ireland for advice on the type and range of supports that are available in that particular institution.

SOLAS Training and Education Programmes

Questions (600)

Neale Richmond

Question:

600. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science when he expects SOLAS to make its classes, including those for the Safe Pass card, available for remote learning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7303/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013, craft and general construction workers, persons undertaking on-site security work and persons or classes of persons as may be prescribed by the Minister are required to hold a safety awareness registration card (Safe Pass card). In March 2020 the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation amended these regulations to extend the expiry dates of valid Safe Pass cards due to expire after 1 March 2020 for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency period.

The delivery of Safe Pass courses is currently suspended in accordance with public health measures and SOLAS is actively examining alternative delivery methods. It is necessary to ensure that any alternative delivery model is equitable with existing Safe Pass, CSCS and QSCS course delivery, in being accessible to all eligible workers, providing real time course participant supports and ensuring assessment integrity.

Student Grant Scheme

Questions (601)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

601. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if student grant income thresholds will be increased for the 2021-2022 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7342/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Student Grant Scheme contains a number of qualifying thresholds for various grant values. These gradations allow students just over a threshold margin, to remain in receipt of a grant, albeit at a reduced rate that reflects their relative income vis-à-vis other applicants.

The scheme provides for different levels of income thresholds where families have (i) less than 4 dependent children (ii) between 4 and 7 dependent children and (iii) 8 or more dependent children. In recognition of the additional cost to families where more than one person is attending college, income thresholds may also be increased by up to €4,830 for each additional family member attending college at the same time. In this way, the Student Grant Scheme is responsive to the individual circumstances of particular families.

Budget 2021 provided for enhanced postgraduate supports from next year including the fee grant amount rising from €2,000 to €3,500 and the income threshold for eligibility for these grants to increase from €31,500, now €54,240. This is an initial step in meeting part of the Government’s commitments regarding SUSI grant support.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced a review of the SUSI grant scheme. It is anticipated that this review will commence shortly and will report back to me in late 2021. This review will consider issues such as income thresholds and grant rates. It is intended that the future direction of the SUSI scheme will be guided by the outcome of the review.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (602)

Holly Cairns

Question:

602. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if estate agents can operate during level 5 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7451/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Minister for Health is primarily responsible for our overall national Covid-19 strategy. The Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) is the independent statutory body established under the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011, with responsibility to licence and regulate property services providers (auctioneers, estate agents, letting agents and property management agents).

To be of assistance I have contacted the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) who have supplied the following information about the current guidance developed by them in this regard.

On 19 May 2020, the PSRA in association with the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV) and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) issued the Joint Sector Protocol for Property Services Providers (PSPs). The Protocol is intended to ensure strict precautions are taken to provide the highest standards of safety in the sales, lettings, valuations and managements of properties in the best interest of clients, consumers, employees, employers and those who are categorised as being at risk or at high risk of Covid-19.

This document gives detailed guidelines for consideration prior to arranging a viewing of a property, what happens during a viewing, post viewing tasks and what to do when a rental agreement is reached including:

- Confirm whether respective client is cocooning or in an at risk category and if so, identify any additional precautionary measures that may be required.

- Agree with the owner/occupier that they will not be in the property at the time of viewing.

- Agree with owner/occupier and note all touch points in the dwelling for the property service provider (PSP) to sanitise after viewing (e.g. door handles, light switches etc.).

- Agree with owner/occupier the use of official Covid-19 signage at locations throughout the property to act as a useful reminder to viewers to follow the HSE rules.

- Pre-booked private appointment viewings only.

- Contact viewer(s) in advance to confirm booking and advise of controls in place and that HSE Covid-19 official instructions must be adhered to during viewings.

- PSPs should ask viewers to remain a reasonable distance from the property (e.g. remain in car) until given permission by the PSP to enter the property.

Following on from the Governments publication of the Plan for Living with Covid-19, the PSRA in association with IPAV and SCSI published the Property Services Providers Guidance to implementing the Plan for Living with Covid-19 which set out additional measures to be undertaken at the different levels outlined within the Plan. An updated version of this Guidance issued in January 2021, to take into account the enhanced restrictions currently in place.

Both the Protocol and the Guidance are subject to the Government, HSE and Department of Health guidelines on these matters. The full documents are available to view on the Property Services Regulatory Authority website at: www.psr.ie.

Road Traffic Offences

Questions (603)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

603. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice the number of breaches detected via the HGV permit tracker application that were referred to An Garda Síochána for fine and penalty point issuing; the number of fine payments that were paid or are outstanding for 2020, respectively; the individual quantum of fine and the total value for 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6353/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities and I will contact the Deputy directly once the information is to hand.

Northern Ireland

Questions (604)

Charles Flanagan

Question:

604. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice if consideration will be given to the set up a State-backed pension scheme in respect of victims living in this jurisdiction including injured victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and survivors and victims of other terrorist attacks within the State in the context of victims and survivors in troubles-related legacy cases. [6354/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, this Government is deeply conscious of the enduring suffering and hardship that survivors of Troubles-related attacks bear. The Government has always sought to acknowledge and address the legitimate needs and expectations of victims’ families and survivors of Troubles-related attacks in this jurisdiction.

A substantive measure in this regard was the establishment of the Remembrance Commission in 2003, to administer a Scheme of acknowledgment, assistance and remembrance for victims of the Northern Ireland conflict, and their families, in this jurisdiction. The Commission continued in this work until 2008 and administered Acknowledgement payments, Economic Hardship payments, Displacement payments and Medical payments for victims’ families and those who were seriously injured in Troubles-related incidents in this jurisdiction. The Remembrance Commission also funded memorials.

On the conclusion of the Commission's term of appointment, special arrangements were put in place to ensure that victims resident in the jurisdiction who require ongoing medical treatment for injuries sustained in bombings and other incidents arising from the Troubles may have these costs reimbursed through the Victims of Crime Office of my Department. This scheme continues to this day.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal makes awards to people who have suffered an injury sustained within the State on or after 1st October, 1972. The tribunal considers applications from people who suffer a personal injury or death as a result of a crime of violence. Ex gratia compensation may be awarded on the basis of any vouched out of pocket expenses, including loss of earnings experienced by the victim or, if the victim has died as a result of the incident, by the dependents of the victim.

The Government is committed to addressing the legacy of the past, which, as the Deputy will be aware, is a difficult and complex challenge. The Stormont House Agreement provides for a number of initiatives that will establish an overarching framework to address the past and the Government is fully committed to playing its part in implementing those measures for the benefit of victims and their families.

Court Accommodation

Questions (605)

Seán Canney

Question:

605. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Justice the status of plans to refurbish the old courthouse in Tuam, County Galway, which has lain idle and is derelict for ten years (details supplied); and the timeline for the new facility to be built. [6379/21]

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 its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided the following update on this matter.

The National Development Plan 2018-2027 includes a number of Courthouse development projects including Tuam. The Government has recently announced a review of the NDP to 2030 and I am informed that the Courts Service envisages that Tuam will be delivered within the latter half of this revised and extended timeframe.

The courthouse building in Tuam, which is a protected structure, has been vacant for some time and is in very poor condition. The Courts Service envisages providing a new courthouse on the site of the old courthouse and an adjoining site which it has acquired for this purpose. Assistance has been sought from the OPW to determine if all or part of the existing structure can be included in a new development and to provide modern courts facilities on the site. In the meantime, court sittings in Tuam are taking place in a leased facility at Weir Road, Tuam.

Garda Vetting

Questions (606)

Patrick Costello

Question:

606. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice if a legal lacuna (details supplied) will be addressed which is causing serious issues for early years providers; if she will instruct her officials to engage with the relevant officials in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in order to address the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6388/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda National Vetting Bureau processes vetting for relevant organisations registered with the Vetting office whose employees (paid or otherwise) are conducting “Relevant Work or Activities” as defined in Schedule 1, Part 1 and Part 2 of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016.

I am aware of the issue to which the Deputy refers and my officials will be engaging with their counterparts in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth with a view to resolving this matter as soon as is practicable.

Crime Data

Questions (607)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

607. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice when the Drogheda scoping report will be published; and if she will provide other relevant details in relation to the matter. [6432/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, the former Director of the Probation Service, Mr Vivian Geiran, recently completed the scoping exercise in question and prepared a report on his findings. I have received the report and I am currently considering the findings therein. My officials are drafting an action plan and will consult on it with other relevant Departments and agencies.

I look forward to publishing the report in the coming weeks so that work with the local community and elected representatives on bringing forward the recommendations of Mr Geiran to improve the quality of life of the residents of Drogheda and the surrounding areas can commence.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (608)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

608. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice the steps being taken to ensure that Covid-19 certificates produced on entry to the country are authentic and not fraudulent. [6439/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

From midnight on 15 January 2021, all passengers arriving into Ireland by air or ferry are required to produce evidence of a negative/not detected RT-PCR Covid-19 test, taken up to 72 hours prior to arrival.

Regulations under the Health Act 1947 underpin these new requirements. Under these Regulations, passengers are legally required to produce evidence of a negative/not detected result from an RT-PCR Covid-19 test when boarding a ferry or aircraft and will be denied boarding by the carrier if they cannot produce such evidence unless they fall into the very limited exemption categories.

Checks of evidence of a negative/not detected RT- PCR Covid-19 test on all arriving passengers into the State are carried out by Immigration Officials of the Border Management Unit of my Department and An Garda Síochána at ports of entry to the State. All cases where a test result is not available, or where the authenticity of the test result documentation is queried, are referred for further investigation to An Garda Síochána who have a presence at all approved ports of entry to the State.

Since the introduction of these Regulations on 16 January 2021, and up to and including 7 February 2021, there have been 47,706 arrivals at Dublin Airport, with 170 cases (0.35%) referred to An Garda Síochána for further investigation. Two cases of suspected fraudulent test results were referred to An Garda Síochána for further investigation at Dublin Airport.

Passengers who arrive in an Irish port or airport without evidence of a negative/not detected test result or with a confirmed fraudulent test result will commit an offence and may be subject to prosecution, punishable by a fine not exceeding €2,500 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both. In such cases, An Garda Síochána will prepare a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Work Permits

Questions (609)

Bríd Smith

Question:

609. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice if a person (details supplied) will be given permission to work; if the application for a work permit will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6441/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

For reasons of confidentiality I am unable to comment on any individual immigration or international protection case. The health and well-being of all people who apply for international protection is of the highest priority to me and my Department and to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth who are responsible for providing accommodation and related supports to people in the protection process.

More generally, there are a number of reasons why the State may not be responsible for examining a person’s application for international protection, and consequentially, the granting of a labour market permission. For example, such reasons may include that an applicant has previously made an asylum application in another EU Member State or that another Member State has already granted a person an international protection status.

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 (inisoireachtasmail@justice.ie) 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.

Criminal Assets Bureau

Questions (610)

Thomas Gould

Question:

610. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Justice further to Parliamentary Question No. 507 of 8 December 2020, the reason for the discrepancy between the amount seized and amount sent to the Exchequer in each year. [6457/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the identification, tracing, freezing, and ultimate confiscation of criminal assets does not rest with a single body in Ireland and is spread across a number of different agencies and statutory bodies, not all of which are within the responsibility of the Department of Justice. The relevant bodies include An Garda Síochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Revenue Commissioners, the Chief State Solicitors Office, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts. It should be noted that in some cases, funds seized represent overdue or unpaid personal taxation.

I understand that, in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016, the Criminal Justice Act 1994, as amended, and SI No. 418/2011, all confiscations relating to the proceeds of crime are transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to be paid into the Exchequer. It is from this central fund that the Government draws expenditure on all necessary public services and investment including for communities affected by crime.

I am informed that the disparity between what is seized in a given year and that which is returned to the Exchequer can be explained by reference to three primary considerations:

1. Firstly, section 4 of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016, under which the Criminal Assets Bureau vests seized assets in the Exchequer, cannot be invoked until the expiration of a seven year period from the date of seizure. Thus, if property is seized by CAB in 2020, under ordinary circumstances, that property cannot vest in the Exchequer until 2027. This seven year time period is set out in the section 4 of the PoCA, and can only be dispensed with on the consent of the Respondent.

2. Secondly, for a variety of reasons e.g. depreciation, notoriety associated with asset, condition etc. the values attributed to assets at seizure may not be the value realised by the sale of those assets.

3. Thirdly, receivership costs including the cost of securing, managing, storing, valuing and selling an asset will need to be deducted from the gross sales value to ascertain the amount returned to the Exchequer.

In addition to the above, on some occasions assets which the Criminal Assets Bureau have seized and obtained an order over, following an application to the High Court, can be returned to a third party, i.e. an injured party. A case in point is the Abacha case where the Bureau returned funds in 2020 to the Nigerian Government and not the Exchequer.

The activities of the Bureau are reported on each year in its Annual Report and can be found at www.cab.ie. The Deputy may wish to note that the 2020 Annual Report is currently being drafted and will be published later in the year.

Prisoner Releases

Questions (611, 612)

Thomas Gould

Question:

611. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Justice the funding given to the TRAIL programme run under PACE annually. [6472/21]

View answer

Thomas Gould

Question:

612. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons temporarily housed through TRAIL in 2019 and 2020, respectively. [6473/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 611 and 612 together.

TRAIL is part of the Peter McVerry Trust (PMVT) organisation and was established in 2004. It provides transitional high quality accommodation to offenders released from prison, who would otherwise be homeless. The project aims to reduce client’s risk of re-offending by alleviating the stresses which homelessness creates.

Programmes and services provided by the TRAIL include six months accommodation placement for both male and females released from custody. TRAIL supports reintegration into the community, including sourcing accommodation for independent living, sourcing employment and training opportunities, and the provision of counselling and therapy services.

My Department through the Probation Service provide a contribution annually of €72,000 towards this service for clients from within the Criminal Justice system.

TRAIL have advised that for both 2019 and 2020 the organisation supported 50 and 52 clients respectively, with transitional residential accommodation in PMVT Housing Service of which approximately 60% in each year were Probation Service clients.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (613)

Colm Burke

Question:

613. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons fined for breaches of the Covid-19 five-kilometre movement restrictions in Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6558/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for policing the current Public Health regulations rests with the Garda Commissioner. Further, responsibility for the legislation underpinning the Public Health response lies with my colleague, the Minister for Health.

I am advised by the Garda authorities the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS) reports on the number of fines which have been recorded. However, it is not possible to report on the number of persons fined as FCPS does not have a unique person identifier. Further, the 5km limit applies to exercise, and so the relevant offence for the FCPS in this case is leaving home without a reasonable excuse (aka movement of persons).

I am advised by the Garda authorities that, as of 3 February, a total of 264 fines for movement of persons (leaving home without a reasonable excuse) have been issued across the three Cork Divisions.

The Deputy may wish to note that An Garda Síochána continue to use the 'Four E's' approach in line with their strong tradition of community policing and policing by consent. This sees Garda members Engage with, Encourage and Educate members of the public on public health advice and regulations, with Enforcement used only as a last resort.

Both the Policing Authority and the Gardaí provide regular reports and updates of An Garda Síochána's efforts during this difficult time and I am pleased to note that both the Authority and the Commissioner have noted high levels of compliance by the public and positive interaction between Gardaí and communities.

Visa Applications

Questions (614)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

614. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice the status of a visa application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6564/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The applicants referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for a residence card to the Immigration Service of my Department on 20 October 2020. Processing of these applications is ongoing. As each application is examined on its own merits, the Immigration Service is unable to give an exact timeframe for their completion. However, I am advised that a decision will issue in the coming weeks.

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 (INISOireachtasMail@justice.ie), 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.

Family Support Services

Questions (615)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

615. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice if she will address the issue of parent alienation; her plans to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6599/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am aware that increasing attention is being drawn to the area of certain family relationships termed parental alienation. Indeed, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality Report on Reform of the Family Law System includes a recommendation that consideration be given as to whether laws should be amended to take into account situations where one parent is wrongfully influencing their child or children against the other parent, thereby creating unfair and unwarranted alienation that can be destructive and life lasting.

This is a very complex area and I am planning for research to be carried out on parental alienation by my Department this year.

The Deputy will be aware that Government is committed to modernising the operation of the Family Justice system, to ensure we have more efficient and user-friendly family court system that puts the family at the centre of its work. In parallel with the establishment of a dedicated Family Court structure as envisaged by the forthcoming Family Court Bill, my Department has also established 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. The development of sensible, comprehensive and sensitive family law procedures, particularly for vulnerable families, will be central to the new system.