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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 331-345

Court Judgments

Questions (331)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

331. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of drivers listed in court for the offence of driving while holding a mobile phone by District Court in 2018, 2019 and 2020 which resulted in the case being struck out due to summons not served; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53721/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be appreciate that the Courts are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions, subject only to the Constitution and the law, and the conduct of any court case is a matter entirely for the presiding judge.

I have made enquiries and I am advised by the Courts Service that their system does not record the reason a case was struck out unless the Judge includes the reason in their order, and for this reason, the Courts Service cannot provide the information sought by the Deputy.

As such, the Courts Service does not hold complete statistical information on the reasons for any case being struck out and the statistics as requested by the Deputy cannot be provided.

Court Judgments

Questions (332)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

332. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of drivers that were not convicted in court in each of the years 2018 to 2020 and to date in 2021, by District Court due to the fact that they claimed in court the non-receipt of a fixed charge notice for the offence of driving while holding a mobile phone; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53722/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be appreciate that the Courts are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions, subject only to the Constitution and the law. and the conduct of any court case is a matter entirely for the presiding judge.

I have made enquiries with the Court Service who have advised that their system does not capture information on the reasons for a non-conviction of a person unless the reason is specified by the judge in their order.

As such, the Court Service system does not hold complete statistical information on the number of persons who were not convicted for the offence of driving while holding a mobile phone by claiming that they did not receive a Fixed Charge Notice for that offence.

Consequently, the statistics as requested by the Deputy cannot be provided.

Departmental Surveys

Questions (333)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

333. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice when the first national sexual violence survey will be completed and its findings published; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this survey was committed to in November 2017, that a memorandum of understanding was not finalised between her Department and the Central Statistics Office until 2019 and noting that the previous Government agreed in principal to the provision of necessary resources in succeeding years in annual budget allocations; and her Department’s budgetary allocations for the survey for 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. [53740/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

This Government is committed to preventing and addressing sexual violence in Ireland. It is extremely important to Government, but more importantly to victims of this violence, that policy is effective and driven by accurate, up to date, reliable data. Knowledge and information are essential to making effective policies to prevent and combat sexual violence.

As the Deputy will know, in January 2018 the agreed terms of reference for the expert Scoping Group to consider the availability of data and make recommendations on a study to identify the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland and the emerging trends were made available on my Department's website. The Group first met on 5th January 2018 and the terms of reference provided that the group report to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy within three months of that first meeting.

This is a large and complex survey and the expert Scoping Group draft report made clear that delivering a survey that met the highest standards would be a significant undertaking and a multi-annual project. Following the completion of the draft report, a requisite further piece of technical, legal and ethical work was then undertaken before proposals were brought to Cabinet.

On 20th November 2018, the Government approved a national survey on the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland. On 10th January 2019 the Department and the Central Statistics Office signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the undertaking of the survey.

The CSO then began the preparatory work on the large scale survey, called the Sexual Violence Survey (SVS). This survey, which looks in detail at the experience of sexual violence and abuse for both women and men in Ireland, is being undertaken between 2019 and 2023, with repeat surveys every decade.

As regards funding of the SVS project, my Department has provided €150,000 in 2019; €682,000 in 2020; and €59,000 for 2021. Funding arrangements for work in 2022 are currently being finalised. At project initiation an overall project cost of €5 million was estimated.

While COVID-19 has presented some challenges, this important project is on target to be completed and the report published in 2023.

An Garda Síochána

Questions (334)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

334. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the funding she has provided to An Garda Síochána to upgrade and modernise its dispatch systems centrally and in each Garda station in 2018, 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021. [53780/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible under the law for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. The Commissioner is also the Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote. As Minister, I have no direct role in these independent functions.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the project to develop an upgraded Garda Computer Aided Dispatch system (CAD II) began in late 2020, with the signing of a 5 year contract with a total value of €15.4m. It is expected that a phased rollout will commence by early 2023. The following table provides the overall expenditure on the project by year and to date in 2021. It should be noted that the expenditure in 2019 was for professional services to support the tender process. The annual figures set out below reflect actual expenditure in each year.

CAD II Expenditure

2018

€Nil

2019

€114,166.14

2020

€1,897,226.65

2021

€1,903,539.85 (to date)

Total

€3,914,932.64

Visa Applications

Questions (335)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

335. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice if she will grant a visitor’s visa in respect of a person (details supplied) to visit with their ill child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53794/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was refused by the Visa Office in New Delhi on 13 October 2021. The reasons for this decision were set out in the refusal letter sent to the applicants at that time.

To date, no appeal of this decision has been received by the Visa Office. An appeal must be submitted within 2 months of the date on the letter of refusal.

All visa applicants are advised that the onus is on them to provide as much information in support of their application as they feel is necessary. Guidelines in this regard are posted on the Irish Immigration website (www.irishimmigration.ie). When making an appeal, the applicant should take into account the reasons for refusal listed in the refusal letter. The appeal should include any further information or additional documentation they wish to have considered. Full consideration will be given to any appeal received on behalf of the applicant, however the onus is on applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer that a visa should be granted.

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.

Cross-Border Co-operation

Question No. 337 answered with Question No. 336.

Questions (336, 337)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

336. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice the details of the cross-Border Project Ireland 2040 infrastructure projects and the funding allocated for 2021, 2022 and 2023, in tabular form. [53849/21]

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Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

337. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice the details of her Department’s current cross-Border initiatives, goods and or services committed to and the funding allocated to each for 2021, 2022 and 2023, in tabular form. [53867/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 336 and 337 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department does not receive direct funding for cross-border Project Ireland 2040 infrastructure projects such as those provided for in the Shared Island Fund.

Question No. 337 answered with Question No. 336.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (338)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

338. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the position regarding an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53888/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 1 July 2020. This application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

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

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

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility at: 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 Question process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in the cases where the response is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (339)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

339. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the procedure to be followed in order to obtain Irish citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53889/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in line with the eligibility criteria set out under the Act. A determination on whether an applicant satisfies the statutory criteria attendant to naturalisation, can only be made after an application is received.

There are no provisions to apply different criteria depending on the nationality of the applicant. All applicants are required to meet minimum periods of reckonable residence and standard checks are carried out as part of the overall process to maintain its integrity.

The Act requires that, any person, prior to making an application for naturalisation, has five years reckonable residence in the State, except for spouses of Irish nationals where the requirement is three years. In both cases, the final 12 months must be continuous residence in the State with up to six weeks absence currently allowed to facilitate foreign travel for business, family or holiday purposes.

In June, when announcing the publication of the General Scheme of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021, I confirmed that the continuous residence requirement will be amended to allow for total absences of up to 70 days from the State in the year preceding the citizenship application being made and up to a further 30 days absence may also be allowed where necessitated by exceptional circumstances.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory conditions as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

Departmental Consultations

Questions (340)

Brendan Smith

Question:

340. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice the proposals there are to have consultations with other Departments and statutory agencies to deal with the increasing level of bullying, both online and in person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53932/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Bullying can come in many forms, but in public discourse it is usually about young people bullying each other. I think it’s important to point out that this generally requires a response within community and institutional - including schools - contexts, rather than an automatic resort to criminal sanction. The Government recognises that this is wider than simply a justice issue – it’s about various Departments and statutory agencies working together to combat this issue.

That said, this Government is acutely aware of the impact any kind of harassment can have on a victim and that harassment can take different forms and have different levels of severity.

That is why Coco's Law, otherwise known as the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, not only introduced new offences but also broadened existing harassment offences and introduced stricter penalties for them.

Coco's Law provides for a new offence of sending, distributing or publishing a threatening or grossly offensive message by any means of communication with intent to cause harm to the victim, which means our legislation now covers once-off communications as well as harassment.

The definition of harassment includes harassing another person by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with or about them. The changes made by Coco’s Law to this offence have also ensured that communicating with or about a person by any means is covered – including through the use of social media or technology.

It also increases the maximum penalty for harassment from 7 years’ to 10 years’ to reflect the harm caused by the most serious forms of harassment.

If charges are to be brought under this act against a person 17 or younger, then the consent of the DPP is required. As noted earlier, this is a safeguard that was put in in recognition of the need to use other means to tackling bullying and harassment in younger people, while still leaving the door open for charges to be brought in more extreme cases.

When I commenced this legislation in February of this year I announced funding for the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at DCU to establish a ‘Research Observatory on Cyberbullying’. This ‘Observatory’ will provide up-to-date research and advice as well as monitor the impact of anti-cyberbullying laws and regulations. It also aims to explore the impact of laws and regulations on those who engage in, or are targeted by, cyberbullying, cyberhate, and online harassment.

I also provided funding for the Webwise ‘Lockers’ programme to update their secondary school resources which promotes the autonomous, effective and safe use of the internet by young people. The funding has enabled Webwise to update the materials used in schools to include information about Coco’s Law.

The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act provides for offences that cause harm to another person and also for the offence of making someone believe they are going to be harmed. If the perpetrator of an offence under this Act is a young person, they can be considered for admission to the Garda Diversion Programme, which operates under Part 4 of the Children Act 2001.

The Diversion measures specified in the Act include the administration of Garda cautions (in the presence of parents/guardians) and supervision by a Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer. In addition, a young person can be referred to a Youth Diversion Project funded by the Department which provide programmes and supports to enable young people to make positive behavioural changes.

It may be of interest to the Deputy to know that there are also new legislative proposals that will impact on this area.

The General Scheme of the Hate Crime Bill has been published and it will introduce aggravated forms of these offences where they are motivated by prejudice against protected characteristics. The protected characteristics under the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2021 are,

- Religion

- Race

- Colour

- Nationality

- Ethnic or national origin

- Sexual orientation

- Gender

- Disability

This legislation is currently being drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

In addition to the legislation referenced above, separate legislation to include provision for an online safety commissioner has been proposed by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, and the General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill was published earlier this year.

It contains provisions empowering the proposed Media Commission to make online safety codes; assess the compliance of online services with those safety codes; direct online services to make changes to their systems; processes and policies and design and seek to apply financial sanctions to services who fail to comply.

The online safety codes will set out how social media companies will have to deal with harmful content, such as cyberbullying.

Finally, the Deputy may be aware that the Minister for Education attended the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science recently to provide an update on a number of issues including the measures that are being taken to prevent and tackle bullying in schools. During the Minister’s appearance at the Joint Committee, she announced that the Department of Education will commence a review of the Department’s 2013 Action Plan on Bullying and the 2013 Anti-bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-primary Schools. The Minister also announced that during this school year, that the Department’s Inspectorate is prioritising monitoring and gathering information about the implementation of anti-bullying measures in schools across all its inspection types.

Health Services

Questions (341)

Malcolm Noonan

Question:

341. Deputy Malcolm Noonan asked the Minister for Health the number and names of residential service providers that have established family forums; the steps taken by his Department and the HSE to support residential support providers establish family forums; his views on the effect of the family forums on the quality of life of day service users, residents and their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53731/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (342)

Richard Bruton

Question:

342. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health if Ireland has made provision for the recognition of Covid digital certificates issued by countries outside the EU for the purpose of entering hospitality or alternatively, if an EU Digital COVID Certificate can be issued to prospective visitors to Ireland. [53800/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Following the successful rollout of over four million EU Digital COVID Certificates issued in Ireland, the Government has decided to expand the service to Irish Passport holders vaccinated in third countries, as is permitted by the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulations.

An Irish passport holder vaccinated in Northern Ireland or Great Britain can currently apply for an EU Digital COVID Certificate from Ireland. The service is also continuing to be developed and is due to be expanded in November to allow for applications from Irish passport holders vaccinated in third countries outside of the UK.

Currently, only a ‘permitted person’ can access indoor hospitality premises.

A permitted person is defined in the Health (Amendment) (No.2) Act 2021 as

(a) a person in possession of a proof of immunity relating to that person,

(b) a person under the age of 18 years, or other such age under the age of 18 years as may be prescribed, (in this paragraph referred to as a ‘relevant minor’) who accesses a relevant indoor premises-

(i) accompanied by his or her parent, guardian or a person acting in loco parentis, or

(ii) on such terms (including terms requiring the relevant minor to be accompanied by one or more other persons other than his or her parent or guardian or person acting in loco parentis) as may be prescribed,

(c) a person in or at a relevant indoor premises in a professional capacity, in the course of their employment, or in fulfilment of a contract for services, other than a class or classes of person, that the Minister may prescribe as being persons to whom this paragraph of this definition does not apply, or

(d) a person that stands, or a member of a class of persons that stand, prescribed by the Minister in regulations made under section 31AB(4).

In terms of regulations, SI 385/2021 (as amended) provides that:

“proof of vaccination” means a record or other evidence in written or electronic form in the Irish language or the English language or, where in a language other than Irish or English language, a translation into the Irish or English language, that contains the following information:

A. Confirmation that the person to whom the record or evidence refers is a vaccinated person;

B. The date or dates on which the person was vaccinated;

C. The body in the state concerned –

(i) Implementing the vaccination programme (howsoever described) on behalf of the state that administered or caused to be administered the vaccination to the person concerned, or

(ii) That has been authorised to issue such record or other evidence to the person concerned,

And includes

(I) an EU Digital Covid Certificate issued under Article 3(1)(a) of the Digital Covid Certificate Regulation, and

(II) a HSE Covid-19 Vaccination Record

Having regard to the above, if a non-EU person can provide the proof of vaccination described above, they are considered a permitted person for the purpose of accessing indoor hospitality.

Departmental Strategies

Question No. 344 answered with Question No. 343.

Questions (343, 344, 355, 365, 376, 377)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

343. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Health his plans to prioritise the publication of the national stroke strategy along with a fully funded implementation plan; the timeline for the same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53723/21]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

344. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite the publication of the national stroke strategy; and if he will provide a fully costed implementation plan. [53724/21]

View answer

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

355. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health if he will address the queries raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding the National Stroke Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53783/21]

View answer

Joe Carey

Question:

365. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health when he will publish the national stroke strategy; if a fully resourced implementation plan will accompany the national stroke strategy in accordance with the agreed framework to address severe long-term service deficits and to future proof services from a massive increase in stroke incidence over the next decade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53821/21]

View answer

Paul Kehoe

Question:

376. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health his plans for the publication of the national stroke strategy with a properly funded implementation plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53927/21]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

377. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the status of the national stroke strategy; the steps he is taking to expedite publication; if he plans to publish a fully funded implementation plan alongside the strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53930/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 343, 344, 355, 365, 376 and 377 together.

The Health Service Executive’s proposed National Stroke Strategy 2021-2026 has been clinically approved by the HSE Chief Clinical Officer Clinical Forum at its meeting in July 2021 and the HSE inform me that it will be reviewed by the HSE Executive Management Team at its meeting of 23rd November, 2021. This will inform the date for publication with regard to organisational strategy, planning and implementation. Funding will also be considered in this context.

Question No. 344 answered with Question No. 343.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (345)

Gerald Nash

Question:

345. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Health the number of general practitioner practices in counties Louth and Meath that provided Covid-19 vaccinations to their patients under the initial vaccination programme roll-out; the number of general practitioner practices that have indicated to date that they will not provide the booster shot service to patients; if the HSE plans to utilise the mass vaccination centres in counties Louth and Meath to provide the booster shots to the relevant cohorts of the population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53730/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

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