I propose to take Questions Nos. 179, 180 and 182 together.
Question No. 159 referred to by the Deputy enquired in relation to the status of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) investigation into the employment of the four fishers referred to. This investigation was requested by my Department in order to inform consideration of a request by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF) for the initiation of civil proceedings against the alleged employers.
In this instance the WRC decided not to pursue a civil prosecution. Indeed, there is no record of civil proceedings ever having been initiated under section 2B of the Employment Permits Act 2003.
I understand that the Deputy’s current query is referring to a criminal prosecution, which arose from a separate investigation undertaken by the WRC. This case was taken in the name of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in relation to alleged offences under the Employment Permits Act 2003, namely the employment of non-EEA nationals without an employment permit or valid permission to work.
This case was before District Court on 17th June 2021. As the Deputy will appreciate, the State does not comment on ongoing criminal proceedings. Given that the proceedings were imminent at the time of my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 159 on 15 June, it would have been inappropriate, and could have been considered prejudicial, to refer to those proceedings in my reply.
The Deputy will be aware that the criminal proceedings were dismissed on the day of the hearing by the presiding Judge, exercising his judicial authority in the matter. The WRC advised the ITWF of the outcome.
Finally, the Deputy enquires as to the reasons the four fishers referred to and the ITWF were not called as witnesses in the criminal proceedings. I am advised that the WRC met with, and took statements from, the four fishers and met with and engaged in detailed correspondence with the ITWF as part of its investigation of the facts which had been requested by my Department.