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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 503-519

An Garda Síochána

Questions (503)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

503. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if there are plans to have high powered unmarked vehicles attached to Garda armed support unit fleet. [61283/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under Section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended) the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of Garda business. This includes the allocation of resources to the various Garda divisions/specialised units. As Minister I play no role in this independent function. Further, under the Act, the Garda Commissioner is the Accounting Officer for An Garda Síochána and is responsible for the appropriations accounts of the Garda Síochána.

I have contacted the Garda authorities and have been advised of the following information in order to answer the Deputy's query.Currently there are no plans to purchase unmarked vehicles for the Garda armed support unit. No high-powered unmarked vehicles have been allocated to the Garda armed support unit in 2021.

The purchase and allocation of vehicles is made on the basis of identified operational demands, the availability of resources and is reviewed on a continual basis.

Road Traffic Offences

Questions (504)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

504. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of drink driving offences recorded in the Kildare division in 2020 and to date in 2021; and the number of drug driving offences excluding alcohol offences over the same period. [61284/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible by law for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including the enforcement of road traffic legislation. As Minister for Justice, I have no direct role in these matters.

The following table, furnished to me by the Garda authorities, provides a yearly breakdown of the number of incidents of drink and drug driving offences that occurred in the Kildare Division in 2020 and to date in 2021.

2020

2021*

Drink-Driving

180

207

Drug-Driving

180

238

* Figures for 2021 up to 30 November 2021

I am advised that the 2021 figures are based on incidents which occurred from 1 January 2021 to 30 November 2021, inclusive. I am further advised that these figures are based upon operational data from the Garda PULSE system as was available on 1 December 2021, and is liable to change.

An Garda Síochána

Questions (505)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

505. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí within DMR north Garda division that successfully completed the competency-based driving levels 3 and 4 course in 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form. [61285/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including Garda training matters. I, as Minister, have no role in such matters.

Please find as follows the table provided by Garda authorities that provides the information requested by the Deputy.

Year

CBD3

CBD4

2020

Nil

Nil

2021 to date

2

3

Citizenship Applications

Questions (506)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

506. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Justice if consideration has been given to granting citizenship for all front-line essential workers, particularly for those currently living in direct provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61435/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I recognise and acknowledge the crucial role frontline workers are continuing to play in responding to the threat of COVID-19. They work in a challenging environment and deal with vulnerable people on a daily basis. Their exceptional commitment has been particularly clear throughout the pandemic, during which they have been playing a key role in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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 in line with the eligibility criteria as set out under the Irish Naturalisation and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. Each application is assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of 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 category of employment 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.

However, my Department is taking a number of steps to speed up the processing of applications.

In January, my Department opened a temporary system to enable these applicants to complete their naturalisation process by signing a statutory declaration of loyalty. Since the introduction of the temporary system, 8,196 citizenship applicants have been contacted and over 7,400 new Irish citizens have received their certificates of naturalisation. My Department has prioritised the oldest applications on hand and a significant number of these applicants have received their certificates since the start of the year.

A number of digitisation measures have been introduced to increase efficiency in the process, including eTax clearance, eVetting and online payments. The end result of the digitisation process will be to free up more staff to focus on processing applications in a timely and efficient manner, to improve service to our customers and reduce waiting times.

This year, we are on track to deliver approximately 11,000 decisions, significantly exceeding the levels achieved in the last two years. Additional staff have also been assigned to the citizenship team. Based on these measures, my Department's objective is to achieve an improved timeframe of 6-9 months for decisions on a majority of applications during 2022.

An Garda Síochána

Questions (507)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

507. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice when Garda clearance will issue to a person (details supplied); the average time being taken to issue Garda clearance; the steps being taken to expedite this process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61512/21]

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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, which includes operational matters such as Garda vetting. As Minister, I have no direct role in the matter.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is necessary for enhanced vetting and background checks and security vetting to be conducted for persons seeking to join the Army Cadet Corps in the Irish Defence Forces. I am further advised that these checks are conducted by the Garda National Security Vetting Unit, Security and Intelligence Unit in Garda Headquarters, in addition to standard vetting conducted by the Garda National Vetting Bureau. These enquiries are conducted for a multiplicity of reasons.

The Deputy will appreciate that enhanced background checks and security vetting, as a practice, does not lend itself to a duration of an average timeframe for conclusion or closure, but is determined on the basis of information and or intelligence gathered and assessed by An Garda Síochána.

Immigration Policy

Question No. 509 answered with Question No. 508.

Question No. 510 answered with Question No. 508.

Question No. 511 answered with Question No. 508.

Question No. 512 answered with Question No. 508.

Question No. 513 answered with Question No. 508.

Questions (508, 509, 510, 511, 512, 513, 518, 519, 520, 521, 522)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

508. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if the newly announced regularisation scheme for undocumented migrants is open to undocumented migrants who have Irish children. [61551/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

509. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the length of time the process for approval under the scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants is estimated to take. [61552/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

510. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the evidence applicants will need to provide to prove residency under the scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants. [61553/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

511. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if she has considered a fee waiver scheme for persons and families that are unable to afford the cost of the scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants. [61554/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

512. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if undocumented migrants who are awaiting approval for a stamp 4 may access the regularisation scheme. [61555/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

513. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the documentation that stamp applicants will receive upon approval under the scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants. [61556/21]

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Mick Barry

Question:

518. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice if those who have been placed on temporary visas will be able to use this time as reckonable time in applying for the regularisation scheme for long-term undocumented migrants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61718/21]

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Mick Barry

Question:

519. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice if she will consider a waiving of fees to apply from the regularisation scheme for long-term undocumented migrants for those persons on low incomes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61719/21]

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Mick Barry

Question:

520. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice if she will consider adjusting the regularisation scheme for long-term undocumented migrants to ensure that those who are not successful in their application will not have their cases identified and sent to the repatriation unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61720/21]

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Francis Noel Duffy

Question:

521. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Justice if she has considered extending the deadline of the new regularisation scheme. [61860/21]

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Francis Noel Duffy

Question:

522. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Justice if persons can apply to the regularisation scheme if they have resided in the State for 12 years in total but have left and come back two years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61861/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 508 and 513, inclusive, 518 and 522, inclusive, together.

The Government has approved my proposal for a once-in-a-generation scheme to regularise thousands of undocumented migrants and their families who are living in Ireland.

The scheme will be for long-term undocumented migrants and their eligible dependents where the specific criteria is met. The scheme will only be open to those who do not have a current permission to reside in Ireland.

People who are eligible under the scheme will:

- Have a period of 4 years residence in the State without an immigration permission, or 3 years in the case of those with children, including those born in Ireland, on the date the scheme opens for applications;

- Be granted an immigration permission that allows for unrestricted access to the labour market; and

- Have years of residence with that permission reckonable for the purposes of pursuing citizenship by way of naturalisation.

Any person who previously held an EU Treaty Rights (EUTR) permission and who currently has a temporary permission to remain while their application pursuant to the relevant legislation is under consideration or at review stage would not be considered as undocumented and therefore will not meet the criteria for the recently launched regularisation scheme.

Those whose EUTR applications are currently in a process that will decide their future status within the State, if successful, will be granted permissions under the EU Regulations e.g. 5 years residence or permanent residence. This includes those who currently have applications at EUTR review stage.

Persons with an existing Deportation Order can apply, if they meet the minimum undocumented residence requirement. People with expired student permissions will also be able to apply.

All applicants must meet standards regarding good character and criminal record/behaviour and not pose a threat to the State. Having convictions for minor offences will not, of itself, result in disqualification.

Any applicant that is unsuccessful in their application will be able to appeal. That appeal will be considered by a different officer to the person who determined the original application unsuccessful. If a person does not wish to appeal, or if their appeal is also unsuccessful, they will be referred to the appropriate area in my Department’s Immigration Service for follow up in accordance with the relevant legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The fees payable by an applicant are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing applications for the scheme which, given the benefits involved, is quite a detailed process. A fee of €700 will generally apply to family unit applications and children up to 23 years, living with their parent(s), can be included in a family unit application. A fee of €550 will apply to individuals’ applications. There is no provision for the discretionary waiver or reduction of fees.

The processing time will be determined by the number of applications received, as each application will be independently examined and assessed in relation to the scheme's criteria and the supporting documentation provided. The time-limited scheme will open for online applications in January 2022 and applications will be accepted for six months.

Further details regarding the qualifying criteria and the opening date for the scheme will be published on my Department's Irish Immigration website (www.irishimmigration.ie) in due course.

Question No. 509 answered with Question No. 508.
Question No. 510 answered with Question No. 508.
Question No. 511 answered with Question No. 508.
Question No. 512 answered with Question No. 508.
Question No. 513 answered with Question No. 508.

Immigration Support Services

Questions (514, 516, 517)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

514. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice if she will report on the continued delays in getting appointments using the online booking system for Burgh Quay registration office and the non-answering of emails from persons seeking appointments; and if she has plans to allocate additional resources in order to meet demand. [61583/21]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

516. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice if the approximately 1,000 appointments being made available each week at the immigration services at Burgh Quay are all being made available for persons on the appointment booking system; if not, if some appointments are taken up by institutions that are looking to process multiple applications; if so, the number that are going to multiple applications and the number going to individuals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61649/21]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

517. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice further to Parliamentary Question No. 470 of 23 November 2021, and in view of remarks made by the Taoiseach in Dáil Éireann on 8 December 2021 (details supplied) the international issues that are causing delays at the INIS office, Burgh Quay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61693/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 514, 516 and 517 together.

Currently, due to public health restrictions, for the safety of all our customers and staff, the Registration Office can only operate at 50% of our normal capacity. This means that we can register a maximum of 200 customers per day, resulting in 1,000 customers being registered every week. My officials continue to engage with stakeholders to understand how best their needs can be met.

Staff in the Burgh Quay Registration Office have been working extra hours, including at weekends, to meet the demand for first-time registrations to attend in person and to process the online renewal of permissions.

For customers seeking to register for the first time, the public office in Burgh Quay is now open from 08:00 to 20:30 to provide assistance to customers. Customers should continue to apply directly for appointments as they become available without charge, through the online appointments system: burghquayregistrationoffice.inis.gov.ie.

The online booking system is available to all customers. My Department has always engaged with stakeholders that need to register large numbers of people to agree how best to facilitate this in a way that does not impact individuals’ ability to make an appointment. My Department is currently finalising plans to increase the number of appointments available to customers in the near future.

My Department is also aware that there have been issues in the past around the securing of registration appointments and has continually introduced software fixes designed to improve the system. These new measures have been partly successful in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents.

However, some third party agents continue to provide appointment booking services in return for payment on the basis that the person provides them with their personal details in advance. My Department strongly advises against this practice of providing sensitive and personal data to unregulated and unknown third parties.

A new Immigration Service appointment and scheduling system, which will streamline and further improve the registration process, is currently being developed and is expected to be available to customers shortly.

Parole Boards

Question No. 516 answered with Question No. 514.

Question No. 517 answered with Question No. 514.

Question No. 518 answered with Question No. 508.

Question No. 519 answered with Question No. 508.

Questions (515)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

515. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice the number of prisoners released on parole by the Parole Board since the new independent Parole Board came into office; the number of prisoners who were not interviewed previously by the board who have had their first contact with the parole system since the new independent board was set up; when a permanent chief executive will be appointed to the Parole Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61612/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Parole Board, established under the Parole Act 2019, is an independent statutory body that considers the eligibility for parole of prisoners serving life sentences once the prisoners concerned have served at least 12 years of their sentence.

The statutory Parole Board is an entity entirely separate from its predecessor, the Interim Board and will make its decisions about parole independently from the Minister for Justice.

In order to assist the Deputy I have sought input from the Board on the status of the number of prisoners released on parole by the Board since it came into office. I have also sought information on the number of prisoners who were not interviewed previously by the Interim Parole Board that have had their first contact with the parole system since the new independent board was set up.

It is important to say that the parole process provided for by the Act of 2019 consists of a number of steps that must be complied with before a review of a given case can occur. In that regard, the Irish Prison Service is required to notify the Board of all prisoners eligible for consideration under the Act. Upon such notification, the Board is required to invite these prisoners to apply for parole.

To date the Board has been notified of 228 such prisoners and, following the issuing of invitations, has received 191 applications from this group of prisoners. These applications have been acknowledged and the applicants have been informed that the Board will commence gathering the necessary reports required in order to give consideration to their application.

Information on the process has also been provided to these applicants and is widely available throughout the prisons estate generally. I have been informed that from an inspection of the applications currently on hand, all applicants had previous involvement with the Interim Board. In one case however, although a participant in the previous process, the application was not ready for consideration by the Interim Board prior to its cessation of operations in July 2021.

The Act also provides that victims of relevant offences may also make submissions to the Board.

Under the Act both victims and parole applicants may have access to legal representation. To that end the Board recently advertised for suitably qualified solicitors and barristers to become members of a legal aid panel and a panel of 125 such legal professionals has now been set up to provide legal assistance where the relevant parties express a desire for this.

The Deputy will appreciate that a considerable amount of preparatory work must be undertaken by the Board relating to processes, applications and corporate governance before cases can actually be considered. However, I am advised that the Board will begin making decisions on applications in early 2022.

Finally, I can confirm that the recruitment process for the post of full time Chief Executive should be finalised shortly and the successful candidate announced in due course.

Question No. 516 answered with Question No. 514.
Question No. 517 answered with Question No. 514.
Question No. 518 answered with Question No. 508.
Question No. 519 answered with Question No. 508.
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