Garda Investigations

A deferred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Ceisteanna (109, 110)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

109. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of cases in which items or data seized as part of investigations into suspected child abuse are awaiting examination by length of time in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18218/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

110. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of cases in which items of suspected child abuse material are awaiting examination, by length of time examination has been pending in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18219/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 110 together.

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

A deferred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (111)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

111. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the Garda allocation in each Garda station in the DMR north and DMR north central areas by grade for each year since 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18220/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

I am informed by the Commissioner that the strength of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (D.M.R.) North Division and the D.M.R. North Central Division on 28 February 2018, the latest date for which information is readily available, was 666 and 613 respectively. There are also 43 Garda Reserves and 39 Garda civilian staff attached the D.M.R. North Division and 35 Garda Reserves and 42 Garda civilian staff attached to the D.M.R. North Central Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. 

This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of whom 140 and 170 have been assigned to the D.M.R. North Division and the D.M.R. North Central Division respectively. Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 – a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.

I am pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College. In total, 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year, some 200 of whom attested last month. Further, Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, are on track to reach 14,000 by the end of this year.

In addition, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training in 2018.

This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Division, including the D.M.R. North Division and the D.M.R. North Central Division.

For the Deputy's information I have set out in the spreadsheets at the following links the Garda allocation in each Garda station in the DMR North and the DMR North Central areas by rank for each year from 2010 to 2017 and up to 28 February 2018, the latest date for which figures are currently available.

DMR North Central 2010 to 2018

DMR North 2010 to 2018

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (112)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

112. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship being processed by his Department; the number of active applications being processed for more than one, two, three and five years, respectively; the average waiting time per application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18221/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the number of applications for naturalisation currently on hands, by year of application for each of the years 2015 - 2018 inclusive and 2014 and earlier is as follows:

Year of Application 

 2014 and earlier

 2015

 2016

 2017

2018 to date

 Total

Applications currently on hand

 340

 330

 1,700

 7,330

 2,770

 12,470

It should be noted that statistics of the cases on hands will always include a cohort of cases where a decision has been made and the applicant has been notified of same, but where the applicant has yet to swear their oath of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, as required under the Act, and be granted their certificate of naturalisation at a citizenship ceremony arranged for the purpose.  In this context in excess of 3,000 of the cases on hands have already received their decision and my Department is currently issuing invitations to these individuals to attend a citizenship ceremony on 21 May next to make their declaration before a judge and to be granted their certificate of naturalisation.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay.  While the Citizenship Division endeavours that most straightforward cases are processed to a decision within six months, this has to be seen in the context of the work involved in dealing with volumes of applications, some of which can be very complex in nature, and the need to ensure that each applicant fulfils the statutory conditions for naturalisation. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process.  In some instances, completing the necessary checks may take a considerable period of time.  As outlined, even where a decision may be made, the certificate cannot be issued until the applicant attends a citizenship ceremony arranged for the purpose of swearing the oath of allegiance before a judge.  In the circumstances it is not possible to give any meaningful average processing time per application

Processing timescales can often be impacted due to further documentation being required from the applicant, or payment of the required certificate fee is awaited, or the applicant has not been engaging with the office.  In some instances delays can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which requires to be considered.  In other instances the applicant themselves may request that a hold be put on their application, for example, where they may have returned to their country of origin for a prolonged period, to facilitate them in making arrangements to return to reside in the State, or where they have difficulty in obtaining satisfactory evidence of their identity or nationality.

As the Deputy will appreciate, 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 as well as international level.  It is therefore important that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the integrity of the regime for granting Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is held in high regard both at home and internationally.

INIS devotes a considerable amount of its overall resources to the processing of these cases. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants interested in the progress of their application, details of which are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

Ceisteanna (113)

John Brady

Ceist:

113. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of refurbishment works at County Wicklow courthouse; when these works will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18274/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, a number of developments in relation to Courts Service accommodation requirements are outlined in the Government's recent National Development Plan 2018 -2027. They include:

- Further new or refurbished courthouses in regional cities and county towns where facilities remain substandard (including Galway City, Wicklow Town, Portlaoise, Tralee and Roscommon) and further provincial locations such as An Clochan Liath (Dungloe) to serve as the Gaeltacht court for the region, and Tuam;

- Regional Family Law Centres;

- A nationwide condition survey of all court buildings in the estate will be undertaken to determine their condition and identify works required in relation to any issues identified and meet ongoing maintenance requirements.

The precise allocation and timing of additional funding over the entire ten year period remains to be fully determined. It will be dependent on the outcome of further detailed planning and analysis of costs which will determine prioritisation of projects from a timing and budgetary perspective.

Furthermore, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that, as part of its provincial capital building programme, one of the objectives is to extend and refurbish the courthouse in Wicklow town to provide a significantly larger 4 courtroom venue together with a range of facilities for staff, the judiciary, persons in custody, jurors, legal professionals, other state agencies and members of the public.

The Courts Service has indicated that while detailed planning or design work has not yet commenced, it has purchased a number of adjacent properties, some of which will be demolished in order to create a larger site capable of accommodating a courthouse building on the scale envisaged. The Courts Service plans to undertake some of this demolition work in 2018 and has sought assistance from the OPW in this regard.

Work Permits Data

Ceisteanna (114)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

114. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding employment permits and non-EEA workers. [18113/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The employment of all non-EEA nationals in the State is governed by the Employment Permits Acts 2003 – 2014. Under this legislation in order to work in the State all non-EEA nationals require a valid employment permit or relevant immigration permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality which allows them to reside and work in the State without the requirement for an employment permit.

Ireland operates a managed employment permits system which maximises the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the domestic labour market. In order to ensure that the system is responsive to the changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions, the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List (HSEOL) and the Ineligible Categories of Employment List (ICEL) for employment permit purposes are reviewed on a twice yearly basis.

Following a review of the Highly Skilled and Ineligible lists of Employment earlier this year certain chef grades were removed from the ineligible occupation list. This means that if an employer is unsuccessful in filling a vacancy either domestically or from across the European Economic Area (EEA) it can be filled by a suitably qualified non- EEA national.

The review was evidence based on independent labour market analysis carried out by the relevant state agency. The removal of certain chef grades from the ineligible lists will ensure that there is a mechanism to address the identified shortage of qualified chefs in the short-term. A quota of 610 permits has been applied to ensure that in the longer term the demand for chefs is met from a steady supply in the Irish labour market and to that end work is underway to increase the supply of chefs through training initiatives such as the development of a new Commis Chef Apprenticeship and a Chef de Partie Apprenticeship.

It is also imperative that the employment permits system remains correctly oriented to meet the State’s emerging labour market needs, be they labour or skills shortages. Consequently, my Department is undertaking a review of our economic migration policy. An Inter Departmental Group to steer the review has been established with a report expected by the end of June 2018.

In order to safeguard the employment opportunities of Irish/EEA nationals, significant restrictions exist on the granting of employment permits The Workplace Relations Commission are authorised to carry out inspections, examinations or investigations for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing compliance with employment legislation. In respect of the alleged abuses of the Employment Permits Acts my officials will make contact with the above named person with a view to seeking more information in order to investigate the matters raised.

Any queries relating to Immigration permissions and visas are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, and should be directed to that Department. If the above named person has any specific information relating to any criminal offence that person can contact the confidential Gardaí free phone number on 1800 25 00 25.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (115, 116)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

115. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the amount her Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18158/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

116. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if training has been delivered in her Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18194/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 116 together.

Between 2011 and 2016 no training courses were delivered on the use of social media, within my Department.

My Department does promote the development of staff through attendance at conferences on topics relevant to their work. In this regard, four staff members attended conferences on social media during this period. The conferences provided insights from industry experts on how social media could be used to effectively communicate with stakeholders and customers through the application of best practice.

My Department did not spend any money on social media consultancy during this period (2011-2016).

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (117)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

117. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the status of a hospital appointment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18105/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (118)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

118. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive an appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18106/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (119)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

119. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive a hospital appointment. [18109/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Services

Ceisteanna (120)

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

120. Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that MRI scans are not available to persons presenting through accident and emergency departments with joint injury in circumstances in which a consultant cannot give a definitive medical diagnosis using X-rays alone; his views on whether it is acceptable that many persons will have to wait between 12 and 18 months for said MRI scans in such circumstances or alternatively attend privately for same and then return to accident and emergency with MRI results to obtain a definitive diagnosis and pertinent treatment; his further views on whether this is best practice; his plans to address or review this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18112/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter, the question raised by the Deputy has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (121)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

121. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 152 of 6 March 2018, if another appointment for a person (details supplied) will be arranged due to the fact that the MRI and nerve conducting studies are now complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18121/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Health Service Capacity Review

Ceisteanna (122)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

122. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Health if the examination of an additional scenario under the capacity review which assumes primary and acute care is free at point of use will be commissioned in line with Sláintecare recommendations. [18122/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Capacity Review stated clearly that the scenarios it examined were modelled on the assumption of no changes in eligibility arrangements. Due to the Review’s timeframe and its scope, it would not have been possible to model any changes in eligibility at that time.

The Review did state that further work would be needed to assess the optimum reform strategy that takes account of eligibility arrangements and their impact on implementing reforms.

This further work will be addressed in the context of the Sláintecare implementation plan. Work on the Implementation Plan is at an advanced stage in my Department and I expect to bring these proposals to Government shortly.

Hospital Waiting Lists Data

Ceisteanna (123, 124)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

123. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the number of children on the waiting list for assessment for juvenile arthritis; and the number of children in County Louth awaiting for such an assessment. [18124/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

124. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the number of children diagnosed with juvenile arthritis who are awaiting treatment; the number of children in County Louth diagnosed with juvenile arthritis who are awaiting treatment; and the length of time they have been waiting. [18125/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 124 together.

I am aware that there are challenges in meeting the growing demand for rheumatology services, and that the Health Service Executive is working towards improving access to such services. In relation to rheumatology service provision, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to you directly as soon as possible.

Health Screening Programmes

Ceisteanna (125)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

125. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if the routine screening of children with Down syndrome for arthritis has been considered. [18126/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I am aware that there are challenges in meeting the growing demand for rheumatology related services, and that the Health Service Executive is working towards improving access to such services. 

In relation to your query, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to you directly as soon as possible.

Health Services Staff

Ceisteanna (126)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

126. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking in order to meet the WHO recommendation that there should be a minimum of six paediatric rheumatologists in the State. [18127/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I am aware that there are challenges in meeting the growing demand for rheumatology services, and that the Health Service Executive is working towards improving access to such services. 

In relation to rheumatology service provision, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to you directly as soon as possible.

Health Services Staff Recruitment

Ceisteanna (127)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

127. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the reason no Garda vetting application has been issued by the HSE to An Garda Síochána in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal as required for a staffing vacancy with home support services; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this failure may render the person's job application invalid as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18129/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly on this matter.

Medical Card Eligibility

Ceisteanna (128)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

128. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health if measures to automatically grant medical cards to persons diagnosed with cancer will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18133/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The HSE's Expert Group on Medical Need and Medical Card Eligibility examined the issue of awarding medical cards on the basis of illness and concluded that it was not feasible, desirable, nor ethically justifiable to list medical conditions in priority order for medical card eligibility. The Expert Group also concluded that a person’s means should remain the main qualifier for a medical card.  This position remains unchanged.

Medical card provision is based on financial assessment. In accordance with the provisions of the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for a medical card is determined by the HSE.  The Act obliges the HSE to assess whether a person is unable, without due hardship, to arrange general practitioner services for himself or herself and his or her family, having regard to his or her overall financial position and reasonable expenditure and every application must be assessed on that basis. Under the legislation, having a particular illness, in itself, does not establish eligibility for a medical card and therefore, the medical conditions of applicants for this scheme are not monitored on that basis. Where the applicant's income is within the income guidelines, a medical card or GP visit card will be awarded.

Every effort is made by the HSE, within the framework of the legislation, to support applicants in applying for a medical card and, in particular, to take full account of the difficult circumstances in the case of applicants who may be in excess of the income guidelines. It should be noted, in certain circumstances, the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card, even though an applicant exceeds his or her income threshold, where he or she faces difficult financial circumstances, such as extra costs arising from an illness. Social and medical issues are considered when determining whether undue hardship exists for an individual accessing general practitioner or other medical services. The HSE affords applicants the opportunity to furnish supporting information documentation to fully take account of all the relevant circumstances that may benefit them in the assessment, including medical evidence of cost and necessary expenses.

It should also be noted that the Director General of the HSE, on accepting an interim recommendation of the Expert Group, made a decision to award medical card eligibility to all children under 18 years of age with a diagnosis of cancer from 1 July 2015, with the card to be held for a period of five years.