Departmental Legal Costs

Ceisteanna (418)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

418. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will set out in tabular form, by reference to each named firm, the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by his Department to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to it; if he will provide in a similar format the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by State bodies, including commercial or non-commercial and regulatory bodies established by or under his Department, to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11875/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that in the majority of cases legal advice is provided for my Department by the Office of the Attorney General and/or the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and as such the costs incurred are borne by those Offices. However, on a few occasions my Department has incurred expenditure in respect of legal fees to law firms in respect of services received. Details of such costs incurred during 2013 are set out below.

The Deputy should note that I am not responsible to the Dáil for operational matters concerning independent statutory bodies under the remit of my Department and, consequently, the information in my reply does not relate to them.

Name of Law Firm

Amount - €

Sheehan & Partners

461

Dixon Quinlan

461

Cormac O'Callaghan & Co.

Patrick J. Connellan & Co.

Karen M. Clabby

*354

*The Deputy may wish to note that the amount of €354 was incurred by the Irish Prison Service in relation to affidavits. I am advised that it is not possible to provide a breakdown of the amounts paid to each of the three law firms. To extract such information, as requested, would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort to compile and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (419)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

419. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is any waiver or reduction in the fee for citizenship where the applicant is in the country for more than 14 years and is in receipt of an invalidity pension. [11945/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Regulations 2011 set out the prescribed fees to be paid by an applicant for a certificate of naturalisation. An application fee of €175 is payable on application for a certificate of naturalisation and a fee is payable by applicants on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation. The standard certification fee is €950, while a reduced fee of €200 applies in the case of an application made on behalf of a minor or in certain cases where the application is made by a widow, widower or surviving civil partner of an Irish citizen. In the case of refugees and stateless persons the certification fee is nil. There is no legal provision to waive or reduce the applicable statutory fees in any circumstance.

The standard fees payable by an applicant are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing applications for a certificate of naturalisation. Every application must be assessed to establish if the statutory requirements are met. 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. I might also add that following the grant of citizenship it is no longer necessary for the person concerned to register their presence in the State with the Garda National Immigration Bureau which requires the payment of a fee of €300 per registration.

As the Deputy will be aware I have introduced formal citizenship ceremonies at no extra cost to applicants. These have been universally well received by participants as the ceremonies provide a sense of dignity and occasion that serves to underscore the importance to both the State and the applicant of the granting of Irish citizenship.

Magdalen Laundries

Ceisteanna (420)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

420. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, in correspondence received by him, the four religious congregations reconsidered their position regarding the provision of a financial contribution to the Magdalen laundries redress scheme following the statement made by the Holy See to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11960/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Following a statement made by the Holy See to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in relation to the Magdalen Laundries, I wrote to the four religious congregations concerned and asked if, based on the statement made by the Holy See, they had reconsidered their position with regard to making a financial contribution to the Scheme. I have received responses from two of the congregations advising that their position is unchanged and I am awaiting a response from the other two congregations. I have also written to the Holy See to request clarification with regard to their statement to the UNCRC Committee and its recommendations.

Garda Communications

Ceisteanna (421)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

421. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current extent of deployment of the automated vehicle and personnel locations system which is operated by An Garda Síochána; his views on whether there is a strong case to expand the system to the Kildare and Meath divisions in view of the fact that they are the worst served districts in terms of gardaí per capita and the system has been demonstrated to improve response times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11973/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Automated Vehicle and Personnel Locations System (AVPLS) was introduced into An Garda Síochána during 2012 and piloted in the Waterford and DMR North Central Divisions. On the basis of this successful pilot, implementation of a rollout of the system into other areas is currently under consideration by Garda management and is linked to a number of factors, including the ongoing nationwide rollout of the Garda Computer Aided Dispatch System with which the introduction of AVPLS is associated.

I understand from the Garda authorities that the Kildare and Meath Divisions will be considered for inclusion as part of the relevant processes.

Personal Insolvency Act

Ceisteanna (422)

Ann Phelan

Ceist:

422. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the justification for not having an independent arbitrator in the insolvency process to act on behalf of debtors, when one party to the process, that is, the financial institution, is allowed a clear veto; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11984/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 already provides for the debtor to appoint an independent person to act as their personal insolvency practitioner (PIP) or approved intermediary (AI), and to negotiate a debt resolution arrangement with creditors on their behalf (a Debt Relief Notice, Debt Settlement Arrangement, or Personal Insolvency Arrangement.) The Act also sets out the duties of PIPs and AIs to debtors, creditors and the Courts. PIPs and AIs are authorised and regulated under the Act by the Insolvency Service of Ireland. All debt resolution arrangements under the Act first have to be agreed by the debtor.

As regards creditor consent, the Act provides for 3 types of arrangement. The first, a Debt Relief Notice, does not require creditor approval (other than for adding an "excludable debt"). This type of insolvency resolution arrangement is suitable for an insolvent debtor with very limited disposable income and assets, whose qualifying debts do not exceed 20,000 euro. The second type, a Debt Settlement Arrangement, has to be approved by creditors representing at least 65% of the debts. The third type, a Personal Insolvency Arrangement, has to be approved by creditors representing at least 65% of the overall debts, at least 50% of secured debt and at least 50% of unsecured debt.

Similar creditor approval requirements apply in comparable jurisdictions. For example, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, an individual voluntary insolvency arrangement has to be approved by creditors representing at least 75% of the overall debts. I believe that the creditor voting rules provided in the Personal Insolvency Act follow a common-sense approach, which strikes a fair balance between debtor and creditors, while taking account of constitutional constraints.

The Personal Insolvency legislation also gives the debtor an alternative option, as he or she may seek bankruptcy if creditors do not agree to a responsible proposal for an insolvency arrangement proposed on behalf of the debtor. We have just reduced the term of automatic discharge from bankruptcy from 12 years to 3 years. This greatly strengthens a debtor's hand in their dealings with the banks. If creditors refuse to engage fully and fairly with a debtor's proposals, the debtor has the option of filing for bankruptcy. If the bankruptcy petition succeeds, any property of the debtor is transferred to the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy, and the net proceeds are paid to the creditors: when the bankruptcy is discharged (normally after 3 years) all remaining debt is written off. This legislation will lead financial institutions to take a more realistic view of how to address issues of unsustainable debt, where substantial sums are owed and individuals are simply unable to pay them.

Insolvency Service of Ireland

Question No. 424 answered with Question No. 405.

Ceisteanna (423)

Ann Phelan

Ceist:

423. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether lenders forcing debtors into the minimal standards of living set out by the insolvency service are sustainable solutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11985/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Guidelines as to what constitutes a reasonable standard of living and reasonable living expenses were prepared by the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) in accordance with Section 23 of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012. They were first issued in April 2013 and reissued in June 2013 to include changes in the Consumer Price Index. The ISI chose a model which is a modified version of the consensual budgeting standards model originally developed in Ireland by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice backed up by over 12 years of research.

The guidelines are intended to give a debtor protection in that they establish a minimum standard below which a debtor cannot be obliged to live. They are based on the expenses a person necessarily incurs in achieving a reasonable standard of living defined as one which meets a person's physical, psychological and social needs. This does not mean that a person should live at a luxury level but neither does it mean that a person should only live at subsistence level. The guidelines were broadly welcomed by consumer and advocacy groups upon their publication. They were seen as essential to the process of moving towards long-term restructuring measures in that they enable the debt-servicing capacity of a distressed debtor to be calculated in a fair and consistent manner so that the sustainability of repayments can be established over the course of the arrangement, be it three years or six years.

Where an arrangement is proposed, the decision on the reasonableness or otherwise of living expenses will be a matter for debtor and creditors to determine on a case-by-case basis with the personal insolvency practitioner acting to facilitate an arrangement acceptable to both. The guidelines on a reasonable standard of living and reasonable living expenses strike a balance between the interests of the debtor and those of his or her creditors and so enable arrangements to be put in place which are capable of lasting the specified duration. It is worth noting that each arrangement is subject to an annual review at which time variations to the arrangement are possible.

I should also like to advise the Deputy that a mechanism exists for sending comments or observations on the reasonable standard of living and reasonable living expenses guidelines directly to the ISI by emailing: rle@isi.gov.ie.

Question No. 424 answered with Question No. 405.

Garda Strength

Ceisteanna (425)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

425. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the numbers of Garda personnel serving in every county across the State for the years 2007 to 2013, inclusive, and to date in 2014. [12000/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of all personnel among the Garda Regions, Divisions, and Districts. Garda management keep this distribution under continuing review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of these resources.

The information regarding figures from 2007 to 2012, inclusive, is available at the link:

Garda Personnel

The personnel strength of each Garda Division on 31 December 2013 and on 31 January 2014, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the following table.

Station

2013

2014

D.M.R.S.C.

686

683

D.M.R.N.C

624

621

D.M.R.N.

714

713

D.M.R.E.

407

406

D.M.R.S.

569

568

D.M.R.W.

717

715

Waterford

274

274

Wexford

252

253

Kilkenny/Carlow

289

288

Tipperary

371

369

Cork City

683

686

Cork North

300

298

Cork West

275

275

Kerry

296

298

Limerick

589

589

Donegal

409

407

Cavan/Monaghan

331

332

Sligo/Leitrim

305

305

Louth

286

286

Clare

291

289

Mayo

307

306

Galway

574

576

Roscommon/Longford

285

286

Westmeath

245

248

Meath

287

287

Kildare

315

312

Laois/Offaly

284

282

Wicklow

328

327

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (426)

Derek Nolan

Ceist:

426. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if any direct provision centres are owned by companies registered offshore; if so, if he will provide the details of the companies involved and the direct provision centres they run; if he will indicate the amount these companies are being paid by the State on a yearly basis; the reasons for giving a contract of this nature to a company not based in this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12041/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Currently, there are over 4,300 residents in 34 centres across the State under contract to RIA. Details of all of these centres and the companies or persons RIA has contracted to provide accommodation services are published in RIA's Annual Reports. The 2013 Annual Report will be published at the end of this month. Only one centre closed in 2013 - Cliffview in Donegal - so the contract details shown in the 2012 Annual Report remain otherwise unchanged.

In fulfilling its general accommodation responsibilities, RIA does not own, lease or rent premises from commercial contractors. Rather, it contracts in a comprehensive range of services and facilities, including accommodation, housekeeping and so on, for a fixed sum over the period of a contract. It is a condition of contract with the RIA that the contractor has good title to the centre, but this does not specify either owning, renting or leasing the building concerned. There is no contractual requirement for companies providing services to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department that they be registered in Ireland, although RIA understands that all contracting companies are so registered. In certain cases, it may well be that the company concerned is unlimited or that the beneficial owners or part-owners include companies registered in off-shore jurisdictions but those are business decisions for the contractors concerned. It is a condition of the contract that a valid Tax Clearance Certificate from the Revenue Commissioners is provided every year. From RIA's perspective, the critical criterion is that the contractors can fulfil the terms of their contracts with RIA.

The registration status of a company is no prohibition to the release of information concerning payments under the relevant contract, with the proviso that details of current contract rates are not provided. It is not possible to provide values for current contracts entered into by RIA. Negotiations take place with a number of commercial entities on an ongoing basis and RIA endeavours to achieve the best value for money in respect of each contract. It is not in the interests of the taxpayer that details of current individual contracts are known to the public or to other parties who are, or may be in the future, engaged in negotiations with RIA.

RIA's policy on the release of contract information is that it updates the table of contracts at the end of January each year in respect of all financial information up to the end of December two years previously. For example, at the end of January, 2014 the records were updated to end of December 2011. This policy has been upheld by the Office of the Information Commissioner. RIA currently makes available on request contract details for all contracts to the end of 2011, the tables for which provide a context for the moneys paid for each contract, such as the length of the contract and the number of persons for which services are contracted.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (427)

Derek Nolan

Ceist:

427. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the improvements, policy changes or increased inspection regimes he has introduced in direct provision centres since the Government came to office; the date of introduction and details of any such schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12042/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Direct Provision system, which system is managed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department, is constantly evolving to take account the number of asylum seekers entering or leaving the system and, generally, to meet the aim of improving and maintaining standards. This Government came to office on 9 March, 2011. From then to today, the number of asylum seekers residing in direct provision asylum accommodation centres has declined from 5,975 to 4,299 i.e. a reduction of 28%. Further, the yearly cost of the system has declined from E79.073 million in 2010 to E55.29 million in 2013- a reduction of 30%.

In relation to inspection regimes, RIA has always had, and continues to have, three unannounced inspections of its centres every year - two by internal RIA staff and one by an external inspection company. To ensure transparency in the system, the inspection regime changed last year. Inspection forms were re-designed to ensure greater detail to the process, RIA staff were re-trained and all completed reports in respect of inspections which took place from 1 October, 2013, began to be published on RIA's website - www.ria.gov.ie. The website itself was improved and re-launched in 2011.

It is not just the inspections process that ensures the maintenance of standards. RIA engages with service providers to ensure that, from a contractual perspective, standards are improved. For example, a majority of families living in the system have sole access to their own bathroom and toilet facilities. Whilst the nature of Direct Provision is such that en suite facilities are not guaranteed, RIA continues to seek over time to increase the percentage of families having access to non-shared bathroom/toilet facilities. A number of centres are currently engaged in refurbishment work to ensure that families have sole access to such facilities.

Of the 34 centres currently in the RIA portfolio, 7 are State owned i.e. the land and buildings are owned by the State. With the cooperation of RIA, the OPW began in 2013 a major refurbishment process in relation to six of these 7 centres. Work on the two 'system built' centres in Knockalisheen, Co. Clare and Kinsale Road, Cork is continuing on a rolling 'block by block' basis and is expected to be completed this year. In relation to the remaining four centres in Kerry, work in Atlas House Tralee is finished and work is ongoing in Johnson Marina, Tralee. Work on Park Lodge, Killarney and Atlas House Killarney will commence later this year. The seventh State owned centre, the mobile home campus in Athlone, whilst not undergoing the same level of refurbishment as the other six centres, is nonetheless undergoing significant ongoing maintenance work.

In relation to information provision generally, this has improved too. The Asylum & Immigration Strategic Integration Programme (AISIP), the first ever project to address immigration related issues and transactions by taking a "whole of system" approach from the perspective of the client, went live in October 2011. AISIP has allowed RIA provide more a more detailed breakdown in its Annual Reports, beginning in 2012, in relation to family profiles in each of the centres. The Annual Reports now include full details of facilities available to children in each of the centres. RIA also developed a new internal contracts payments database in 2013 to make payment processing and reporting easier. RIA has also been engaged in a revision of its comprehensive Child Protection Policy the aim of which is to make it more user friendly. The final draft document is with the Child and Family Agency for observations and once these are received the policy will be published on the RIA website and a training process will begin.

Finally, in the next few weeks it is expected that a Sexual harassment and Domestic Violence policy will be agreed between RIA and NGO's such as AkidWa and Ruhama and the UNHCR. This policy will be implemented early in 2014. A training programme for staff and residents will follow from agreement on this policy. Already, in advance of this, the working group has approved an information poster which has already been distributed to all RIA centres. These posters - available in five languages including English - provide information on accessing professional help if residents have suffered or are suffering from domestic, sexual or gender based violence or harassment.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (428)

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

428. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if organisations in receipt of funding from his Department and bound by a service level agreement are subject to a clause prohibiting the use of funding to change law or Government policies, or prohibiting the use of funding to persuade persons to adopt a view on law or public policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12055/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are no organisations funded by my Department that are bound by a service level agreement which are subject to a clause prohibiting the use of funding to change law or Government policies, or prohibiting the use of funding to persuade persons to adopt a view on law or public policy.

Garda Investigations

Ceisteanna (429)

John Halligan

Ceist:

429. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe in which An Garda Síochána is currently forensically examining computer equipment following removal; the length of time it is taking for the risk assessments relating to child pornography cases to be processed; if he or his Department have looked into the possibility of allocating additional staff to speed up the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12060/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Computer Crime Investigation Unit (CCIU), which is part of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, is the national central reference point for high-tech crime and computer forensics. The role of the CCIU is to investigate or assist with the investigation of complex or serious criminal misuse of information and communications technology, including the forensic retrieval and examination of digital evidence which may be relevant to investigations in relation to the possession, distribution and production of child pornography.

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the allocation of Garda resources and that the detailed management of all aspects of criminal investigations, including the timelines with respect to gathering relevant evidence, is a matter for the Garda authorities. I am, however, informed that the CCIU prioritise all investigations where child welfare issues are identified.

Money Laundering

Ceisteanna (430)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

430. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm that his Department has authorised a person (details supplied) to carry out trust services in the past year; if he will explain the various steps engaged to guarantee that the person's services are not used by parties associated with individuals in Ukraine; if he will lay before Dáil Éireann a list of all the individuals and entities to whom his Department has granted legal status as Irish trust operators in the past 24 months; and if he will indicate the way in which his Department monitors the conduct of parties who purchase such services. [12072/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 ("the Act"), the person to whom the Deputy refers was granted two applications for authorisation to carry on business as a trust or company service provider under section 89 (6) of the Act on 1 December 2010 and 16 January 2012 for periods of three years, having satisfied the requirements for authorisation under the Act.

It is a matter in the first instance for all designated persons as provided for under section 25 of the Act, including those authorised to carry on business as a trust or company service provider, to apply customer due diligence requirements under the Act in relation to a customer including the identification of any beneficial owner connected with the customer or service concerned, to report suspicious transactions to the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners, to adopt policies and procedures to prevent and detect the commission of money laundering and terrorist financing and to ensure that other related requirements are met.

It is the function of the State Competent Authority in accordance with Section 63 of the Act to effectively monitor designated persons and take measures that are reasonably necessary for the purpose of securing compliance by those designated persons with the specified requirements in relation to money laundering. To give effect to the role of the Competent Authority under the Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Unit was established in my Department on the enactment of the Act and two authorised officers were appointed under section 72 of the Act.

Under the Act, authorised officers have wide-ranging powers to determine the position with regard to the compliance standing of designated persons including holders of authorisation to carry on business as a trust or company service provider. Since inspections by the Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Unit of trust or company service providers commenced, a total of 239 have been inspected by an authorised officer and this includes the trust or company service providers in respect of which the person to whom the Deputy refers is a designated person.

In respect to a list to which the Deputy refers, the following link details the Trust or Company Service Providers that have been authorised by the State Competent Authority:

Trust or Company Service Providers

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

Question No. 432 answered with Question No. 412.

Ceisteanna (431)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

431. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the current poor state of a courthouse (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will consider remedial works to allow a possible hand-over of this building to the community or the local authority. [12124/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

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. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that Ballinamore Courthouse is no longer in use for court sittings. As you will appreciate, the funding available to the Courts Service for the maintenance of buildings is limited and it must focus its resources on buildings that are in use for court sittings. The Courts Service has indicated that it is willing to consider alternative public use of the building and it will discuss the matter with the local authority.

Question No. 432 answered with Question No. 412.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission

Ceisteanna (433)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Ceist:

433. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 530 of 4 March 2014, if he will clarify which institution of the State, or to whom, a member of the public may submit a complaint in relation to the performance and function of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission; if the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is answerable or is open to scrutiny in respect of its performance to any parliamentary or State body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12152/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I presume the Parliamentary Question being referred to by the Deputy is number 530 answered on 25 February 2014, not 4 March 2014 as stated by the Deputy. Where a member of the public feels aggrieved over the level of service he or she has received from the Ombudsman Commission they may take this up with the Commission itself. As has been pointed out previously, the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is independent in the exercise of its functions. I have no role in the processing of individual complaints which are referred to the Ombudsman Commission for investigation.

The accountability of the Garda Ombudsman Commission is provided for under the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Section 78 of the Act provides that the Ombudsman Commission shall, whenever required to do, appear before the Public Accounts Committee. Section 79 provides the attendance of the Ombudsman Commission before other committees appointed by either or both Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, the Ombudsman Commission is required under section 80 to submit an annual report of its activities in the preceding year to me as Minister, and this and other reports from the Ombudsman Commission are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Deputy is, no doubt, aware that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has been requested to hold such hearings as it deems appropriate and necessary for the purpose of making any recommendations as to amendments it proposes be made to the 2005 Act concerning the oversight of the Garda Síochána. The Deputy may wish to consider raising at this forum any particular proposals he has in relation to the powers and remit of the Ombudsman Commission.

Defence Forces Personnel

Ceisteanna (434)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

434. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence the statutory basis upon which pensions and gratuities of former serving solders are being withheld in order to be offset against alleged debts for overholding; and if he has sought legal opinion on the legitimacy of same. [11536/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Under Defence Forces Regulations made in accordance with the Defence Acts 1954 as amended, married quarters were allocated to serving members of the Defence Forces in certain circumstances and a number of these serving personnel still occupy the quarters with their spouses and children. Where a serving member is in authorised occupation of such quarters, the Regulations provide for deductions to be made from pay in respect of the accommodation provided. On retirement or discharge from the Defence Forces a serving member ceases to be eligible to occupy quarters and is required to vacate the property previously allocated. Those that remain in unauthorised occupation, described as overholding, are liable in accordance with Defence Force Regulations to charges by way of compensation for the use of the quarters. In addition, they are liable to charges for electricity supplied to the quarters that they continue to overhold. Regarding former members of the Defence Forces who commenced overholding after October 2011 the charges for use of the property increase on a sliding scale, over the first six months of the unauthorised occupation of the quarters, by 100%.

The Regulations provide that such charges that become payable in respect of overholding be recovered by way of public debt from monies due to the former member of the Defence Forces or the estate of a deceased member as the case may be. Further, the Defence Forces (Pension) Scheme 1937 allows for deductions, from pension or gratuity, of monies owing to the Minister for Defence. In the case of the deductions being made from the pension entitlements of former PDF personnel who are overholding, my Department sought the advice of the Chief State Solicitors Office who confirmed that this was in order.

Defence Forces Records

Ceisteanna (435)

Seán Kenny

Ceist:

435. Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Defence his plans to have a recruitment drive for the Defence Forces in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11685/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I announced the launch of a new recruitment campaign for Enlisted Personnel in both the Permanent and the Reserve Defence Force on Friday 7th March 2014. The Government is committed to maintaining the stabilised strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel and this current campaign will enable us to do that.

The Defence Forces plan to induct up to 400 personnel to the Permanent Defence Force (both Army and Navy) and up to 500 personnel to the Reserve Defence Force (both Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve) in 2014. This will be the first intake of recruits to the Reserve following on from the reorganisation of the Permanent and Reserve Defence Force in line with the 'Single Force Concept' whereby Reserve Units are embedded into Permanent Defence Force Formations.

The new recruitment campaign is designed to attract enthusiastic and committed men and women from all backgrounds and ethnicities to a career in the Defence Forces. With the changes in the makeup of Ireland's population, it is important that we raise awareness and attract recruits from all backgrounds, including the new Irish, so that our Defence Forces, Permanent and Reserve, reflect the society that they serve. As part of the recruitment campaign the Defence Forces are contacting various groups representative of the different ethnic groups in the State. There is also extensive engagement with schools, colleges and sports clubs and organisations. The Defence Forces are particularly interested in attracting applications from women. The Defence Forces is committed to full equality among all its personnel irrespective of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Applicants for recruitment to both the Permanent and Reserve Defence Force will be required to complete broadly similar assessments including physical fitness and interview assessment. The recruitment competition for both the Permanent and Reserve Defence Force will be run through a centralised online application system on the Defence Forces website www.military.ie. Details of the competitions will also be available on the website.

With the support of the Chief of Staff and within the resources available, I intend to retain the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas.

Departmental Legal Costs

Ceisteanna (436)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

436. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence if he will set out in tabular form, by reference to each named firm, the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by his Department to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to it; if he will provide in a similar format the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by State bodies, including commercial or non-commercial and regulatory bodies established by or under his Department, to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11868/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Chief State Solicitor's Office, Attorney General's Office and the State Claims Agency deal with all legal matters on behalf of the Department. As such it would seldom arise that the Department procures the services of external law firms. The following table lists the amounts paid to law firms rendering services to it in 2013:

Law firm

Amount paid in 2013

Baynes & Co.

€30,507.69

Hayden & Co.

€ 3,342.44

M.E. Hanahoe Solicitors

€ 1,211.28

Brian A Rennick & Co.

€16,969.39

B.P. McCormack & Sons

€ 1,105.00

Total

€53,135.80

There were no payments made in respect of legal fees during 2013 by any State bodies established by or under my Department to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered.

The main requirement for legal services in my Department is in the context of litigation, usually in the form of administrative law and personal injury proceedings. The Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO) and the State Claims Agency (SCA) manage and provide legal representation in relation to all cases taken against the Minister for Defence. The Chief State Solicitor's Office is responsible for the costs of the State's legal teams in cases that it manages on behalf of the Department. External legal costs incurred by the State Claims Agency arising from the defence of any claims managed by the Agency for the Department are refunded to the Agency by the Department. In addition, the Department may pay plaintiff's legal costs as part of awards and settlements.

The following table sets out the total amounts paid by my Department to the CSSO and SCA in 2013 which includes legal fees, compensation, and miscellaneous costs associated with litigation:

2013

Amount Paid - €

CSSO

629,711

SCA

3,168,300

Total €

3,798,011