Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (279)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

279. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether a new primary school in Ashbourne is needed. [21390/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, I announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

In addition to the new schools announced, there will be a need for further school accommodation in other areas in the future which, based on the current analysis, can be addressed through either planned capacity increases in existing schools or additional accommodation or extensions to existing schools. It is important to note that approximately 40% of extra school places are delivered by extending existing schools.

I have highlighted that the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular would have regard for the increased roll-out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

In line with the ongoing review of school planning areas generally, I can confirm that my Department is currently reviewing the position in relation to primary provision for the Ashbourne school planning area.

DEIS Eligibility

Ceisteanna (280)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

280. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) can be considered for an allocation of DEIS status at the next available opportunity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21405/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

We have, for the first time, introduced an objective, statistics based model for deciding which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS Programme, so that all stakeholders can have confidence that we are targeting extra resources at those schools with the highest concentrated levels of disadvantage.

The key data sources used in the DEIS identification process are the DES Primary Online Database (POD) and Post-Primary Online (PPOD) Databases, and CSO data from the National Census of Population as represented in the Pobal HP Index for Small Areas which is a method of measuring the relative affluence or disadvantage of a particular geographical area. Variables used in the compilation of the HP Index include those related to demographic growth, dependency ratios, education levels, single parent rate, overcrowding, social class, occupation and unemployment rates. This data is combined with pupil data supplied by schools, anonymised and aggregated to small area, to provide information on the relative level of concentrated disadvantage present in the pupil cohort of individual schools.

A detailed document explaining the methodology used in the Identification process is available on the Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/DEIS-Identification-Process.pdf.

An update of the identification model is currently underway. This will take account of updated school data as provided by schools for the current school year combined with the Pobal HP Index of Deprivation, based on CSO Small Area Population statistics derived from the 2016 National Census. It is envisaged that this process will be completed in the coming weeks.

Should this exercise reveal that any school, including the school referred to by the Deputy, which did not qualify for DEIS in 2017, meets the criteria applicable to schools with the highest concentration of disadvantage based on the updated information, then additional schools may be included, subject to available resources.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (281)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

281. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the parents of the 27 children that avail of the services and support of the ASD unit in a school (details supplied) and that are worried that their children will not be able to access a similar unit when they move to secondary school; if the process of establishing an ASD unit in a school will commence to accommodate these children's needs during the next stage of their education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21410/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools, which have enrolled students with special educational needs, including those with Autism in order to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

My Department therefore provides for a continuum of provision which includes mainstream school placements with additional supports, or for pupils who require more specialist interventions, special school and special class placements.

This network includes 130 ASD early intervention classes, 635 primary ASD classes and 277 post-primary ASD classes in mainstream schools and 125 Special schools of which 20 are ASD special schools.

Students with ASD should be included in mainstream schools unless this is not in their best interests or the interests of those with whom they are to be educated. Some students with ASD with more complex special educational needs may be supported in a special class in a mainstream school.

Others may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school.

This decision is based a recommendation contained within a professional assessment in consultation with the NCSE.

The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), in consultation with the relevant education partners, is responsible for planning and co-ordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs.

The NCSE is aware of emerging need in Dublin from year to year, and where special provision, including special class provision, is required, it is planned and established to meet that need. This process is ongoing.

To this end, the NCSE has contacted the school in question in relation to opening an ASD special class. The final decision to open a special class rests with the school’s Board of Management and I understand that to date the school has not applied to the NCSE to do so.

In the case of existing schools, where a school is not in a position to accommodate a special class within its existing accommodation, it is open to the school to submit an application to the Department for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class or to construct additional accommodation.

My Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that any required additional special class placements will be available for the forthcoming school years.

Residential Institutions

Ceisteanna (282)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

282. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the survivor consultation talks; when these talks will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21414/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Following a meeting with survivors, I expressed a willingness to have a series of consultation meetings around the country, led by and for survivors of institutional abuse. The detail of how this can happen is being worked out and Department officials are in contact with survivors.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (283)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

283. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter regarding a special needs application by a school (detail supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21415/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are provided to assist recognised schools to cater for pupils with disabilities, who have additional and significant care needs, in an educational context and where the nature of these care needs have been outlined in medical and other professional reports as being so significant that a pupil will require additional adult assistance in order to be able to attend school and to participate in education.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which is an independent agency, is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.

The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed. My Department’s policy is to ensure that every child who is assessed as needing SNA support will receive access to such support.

In considering applications for SNA supports for individual pupils, the SENOs take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources. SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

The deadline for applying for SNA support for the 2018/19 school year was extended from 28 February to 7 March 2018 due to the effects of adverse weather. The NCSE continue to receive applications after this date and they are processed according to date of receipt. the NCSE aim to respond to valid applications received later this month.

The NCSE Appeals Process may be invoked by a parent or a school where it is considered that a child was not granted access to SNA support on the grounds that Department policy was not met in accordance with Circular 0030/2014.

Schools may also appeal a decision, where the school considers that the NCSE, in applying Department policy, has not allocated the appropriate level of SNA supports to the school to meet the special educational and/or care needs of the children concerned.

I have arranged for the NCSE to respond directly to the Deputy, as this relates to an individual school and the NCSE's complaint procedures, which is available at http://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Comment-and-complaint-Procedure-FINAL13.05.15.doc.pdf.

Action Plan on Bullying

Ceisteanna (284)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

284. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he has taken on foot of the Action Plan on Bullying. [21427/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Action Plan on Bullying, which was published in January 2013, sets out my Department's approach to tackling bullying and promoting an anti-bullying culture in schools. It recommended 12 actions that focus on support for schools, teacher training, research and awareness raising and aim to ensure that all forms of bullying are addressed. A number of these actions have been implemented in full while others, which by their nature involve continuous action, are the subject of ongoing implementation.

As part of the implementation of the Action Plan, National Anti-Bullying Procedures for schools, which were published in September 2013, are currently being implemented by all 4,000 primary and post primary schools in the country.

Other actions include support for anti-bullying awareness raising initiatives and the development and roll out of anti-bullying training materials for parents, teachers and Boards of Management.

My Department is committed to continuing implementation of the Anti-Bullying Action Plan through continued support for the development of anti-bullying training materials and awareness-raising initiatives, which include support for schools, teacher training, research and awareness raising and aims to ensure that all forms of bullying are addressed.

In addition, the national anti-bullying website, www.tacklebullying.ie, was launched as a single point of information and support for young people, parents and teachers affected by bullying. The 2016 Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to review implementation of the National Action Plan on Bullying in our schools as part of the development of an LGBTI+ Youth Strategy. My Department is represented on the Oversight Committee for the LGBTI+ Youth Strategy.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects

Ceisteanna (285)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

285. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the engagement and level of support he and his officials have had and offered to Garda youth diversion projects and local communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21002/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I take it the Deputy is referring to the proposal in relation to a Call for proposals with respect to the future provision of Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP) services.

I am very conscious that GYDPs deliver valuable services for young people who have committed a crime or may be at risk of offending as well as providing important support for An Garda Síochána at local level. I can assure the Deputy that in the context of the proposed Call for Proposals my Department is committed to ensuring continuity of service for participants on GYDPs and maintain a community driven approach to their operation, as well as minimising any disruption for workers and service providers. In this regard, and in line with the overall objective of providing GYDP services to all children and young persons who require them, I am advised that the intention in relation to the proposed Call for Proposals would be to require applicants to provide for continuity of GYDP services for young people currently participating in the service.

My Department is very much aware of the range of concerns expressed in relation to the proposed Call for Proposals and is undertaking an extensive consultation process. This process includes arrangements for an extensive series of meetings with community based organisations and project workers which will facilitate closer communication and exchange of information in relation to these matters. Local projects have been invited to come back to the Department with:

a) views on the content of a formal statement of the objectives, working methods, evaluation processes and required links with relevant local statutory and community organisations providing related or complementary services (in a context where community ownership and participation of the projects is an essential dimension that must be preserved and strengthened in the working out of this process) to inform the Call process and future developments in relation to GYDPs generally; and

b) the optimum local geographical areas for organisation of individual projects with the objectives of keeping the strong links with local community and other service provider stakeholders that are essential to the successful operation of GYDP and of ensuring that the service is available throughout the State.

In addition, there are arrangements to hear the views of young people, including participants or former participants in local projects.

I can assure the Deputy that the Department's approach to GYDP provision is intended to ensure that we do not reduce the level of service that already exists, or the importance of community involvement in its delivery. On the contrary, the intention is to build on, update and improve a very valuable service so that it is available to every child or young person in the country who requires it. The improvement envisaged to the service will have benefits for significant numbers of young people in the State who cannot currently access GYDP services.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems Provision

Ceisteanna (286)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

286. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if extra assistance is available for poorer communities that wish to apply for the recently announced funding to install CCTV but cannot raise the matching funding required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21279/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has launched a community-based CCTV grant-aid scheme to assist groups in the establishment of community-based CCTV systems in their local areas.

Under the scheme, eligible community groups can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum grant of €40,000. Upon approval of the grant, the applicant will receive an up-front payment of 50% of the grant with the balance to be paid when the system is fully operational. It is intended that the scheme will run for 3 years with funding of some €1 million being made available each year.

Full details of the scheme, including guidelines and other relevant documentation are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie.

Some of the key requirements of the scheme are that the proposal must

- be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee,

- have the prior support of the relevant Local Authority, which must also act as Data Controller – this is a long-standing statutory requirement, set out in the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 289 of 2006), for the establishment of community CCTV systems generally, and

- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner in accordance with Section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

The scheme is modelled closely on the previous grant-aid scheme operated by Pobal on behalf of my Department between 2005 and 2013 under which some 45 Community-based CCTV systems were established operating in a mix of urban and rural environments.

I am keen to ensure that interested groups take full advantage of the available funding. The scheme is currently intended to cover up to 60% of the costs of establishing these systems. Applicants for grant aid under the scheme are not precluded from applying for funding from any other sources which may assist in making up the balance of funding required. Guidance is available from my officials to provide any clarifications or assistance required, with a dedicated email address available for that purpose - communitycctv@justice.ie.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (287)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

287. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the significant drop in Garda numbers (details supplied); if he will raise the matter with An Garda Síochána in view of the ongoing gangland feud in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21480/18]

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.

As the Deputy will be aware the Ballymun Garda Station forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Division. I am informed by the Commissioner that on 31 March 2018, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the DMR North Division was 665, of whom 109 were assigned to Ballymun Garda Station including 12 sergeants. There are also 43 Garda Reserves and 39 civilians attached to the 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. More than 120 extra Garda were assigned to the specialist units within Special Crime Operations since 2017. In addition, a dedicated Armed Support Unit for the DMR was established at the end of 2016 in order to enhance armed support capability in Dublin.

I am also advised that a number of measures have been put in place to address the difficulties experienced in Ballymun. These measures include additional high-visibility patrols, support from the regional public order unit and operations by the local drug unit and will continue into the future.

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. 140 members of this cohort have been assigned to the DMR North Division. 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; some 400 of whom have already done so. In total, 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year, some 200 of whom attested in March. 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 DMR North Division.

Appointments to the ranks of sergeant are a matter for the Commissioner under section 14 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

I am advised by the Commissioner that the overall strength of the sergeant rank was 1,861 as of 31 March 2018, the latest date for which figures are available. I am further advised by the Commissioner that there is currently a competition in train for promotion to the rank of sergeant with the aim of bringing the strength to 2,000, as agreed under the Employment Control Framework. I am assured by the Commissioner that following completion of these competitions the needs of all Garda Divisions including the DMR North Division will be fully considered when determining the allocation of Sergeants.

Family Reunification Applications

Ceisteanna (288)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

288. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if an application for a join family Irish national spouse visa by a person (details supplied) will be processed and granted to allow them to return home.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20794/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the application referred to was received by the Visa Office in Dublin on 28 March 2018. All visa applications are dealt with in chronological order by date of receipt within the particular category.

Such applications, where the sponsor is an Irish national, can normally be expected to be dealt with within 6 months of receipt of all the required documentation, as set out in the Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification. This is a business target which reflects the detailed assessment that is required to be carried out in relation to applications for family reunification. It does not constitute a legal obligation and such applications may take longer due to the individual circumstances or complexity of the application.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

In addition, applicants may themselves e-mail queries directly to INIS (visamail@justice.ie).

Immigrant Investor Programme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (289, 290)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

289. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the criteria applicable for receipt of endowments under the immigrant investor programme; if there is a specific criteria which indicates that the said endowment has to be applied to a capital programme rather than to the running costs whereby a project that is already in existence for the past 15 years requires an endowment will continue to be sustainable subsequent to the said funding being invested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20823/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

290. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if it is possible for the beneficiaries of the endowment to meet with the evaluation committee in the context in which an application under the immigrant investment programme is refused to ascertain the criteria involved in the programme which would enable them to submit a new or fresh application under the programme. [20824/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 290 together.

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) was introduced in April 2012 to encourage inward investment so as to create business and employment opportunities in the State.

The programme provides investors with the opportunity to invest in Ireland. Key to the programme is that the investments are beneficial for Ireland, generate or sustain employment and are generally in the public interest. There are currently four options for investing, one of which is the endowment of €500,000 (or €400,000 where a group of 5 or more combine to make a large endowment) towards a project of public benefit in the arts, sports, health, cultural or educational field.

Any endowment proposed should be regarded as a philanthropic contribution with a clear public benefit and investors will receive no financial return or recoupment of the principal. The evaluation of an endowment project examines how the project proposes to utilise the funds made available and where the funds are to be spent on salaries and overheads it is deemed not to have met the IIP criteria. Any successful endowment project must provide a benefit to the public that is enduring and not one that is no longer sustainable once the endowment funding ceases.

The independent evaluation committee is not available to meet individual project proposers or applicants. However, officials of my Department who administer the programme and provide secretariat to the committee have met with project proposers to explain applicable criteria. This can be arranged in this case if requested.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (291)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

291. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20857/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that no expenditure was incurred by my Department, or Agencies under the remit of my Department's Vote (Vote 24), to any of the companies specified, since 2010. I have requested that other relevant bodies and agencies under the remit of my Department contact the Deputy directly in the event that any such contracts exist within their specific areas of responsibility.

Road Safety Data

Ceisteanna (292)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

292. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 280 of 23 of January 2018, the number of persons that have been killed or sustained a serious injury, respectively in road traffic collisions involving a learner driver that was driving unaccompanied by a qualified driver in which the learner driver did not die; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20869/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have requested a report from An Garda Síochána in relation to the statistics sought by the Deputy and I will be in contact with the Deputy directly on receipt of this report.

Work Permits Eligibility

Ceisteanna (293)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

293. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the rules in relation to asylum seekers' access to the workforce have time and employment sector restrictions on them in view of the fact there is shortage of available labour in many sectors and areas of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20880/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Supreme Court has acknowledged that it is a matter for the Executive to determine immigration policy. However, it found that in a system where there is no limit on the timeframe within which an application for international protection is determined, the applicants’ constitutional rights would be breached. The Government responded to the Supreme Court decision by agreeing to opt in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive. This will allow effective labour market access for applicants who have not received a first instance decision within nine months of their application. Opting into the Directive is a very positive development for the entire protection system and for applicants and their families while they await a final decision on their application. In addition to labour market access, the Directive also includes important provisions in relation to children’s rights, health, education and material reception conditions for applicants, which includes housing, food, clothing and a daily expenses allowance.

During the opt-in process with the EU which we expect to have completed in June, interim arrangements have been put in place. When the Supreme Court struck down the law prohibiting labour market access, international protection applicants, as a category of non-EEA nationals, came under the terms of the Employment Permits Act 2003 (as amended). Under that Act, third country nationals can apply for an employment permit in certain sectors defined by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Employment permit fees apply, set by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (these are generally paid by wholly or partly by employers). I also introduced a complementary self-employment scheme for eligible applicants (those in the system for over nine months without a first instance decision) – Ireland being one of very few European countries allowing such access. The total number of Self Employment applications received to date is 584, of which 399 have been granted.

I would stress that this interim scheme is designed to be of very short duration until the opt-in process into the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive is completed. The process of compliance is on course to be completed within the expected timeframe. Once this happens, access to the labour market will be underpinned by EU law and I will have the opportunity to propose to Government a new scheme allowing effective access to the labour market. I expect that this permanent scheme will provide for a broader access to the labour market for qualified applicants – the details of which are well advanced and will be announced in the coming weeks.

I am confident that this progressive approach by Government, which for the first time will see additional elements of our protection process subject to EU law and verification by the EU Commission, will be a further major effective and reforming step as we seek to improve the standards of our reception conditions and efficient determination of protection applications.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (294)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

294. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to a submission by the Royal College of Physicians in relation to the digital age of consent; and the reason the submission has not been referenced by him in the Dáil Éireann debate on the issue. [20896/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, during earlier Seanad discussions on the Data Protection Bill 2018, and more recent discussion in the Select Committee, I explained the background to the Government's decision in favour of a digital age of consent of 13 years.

I referred in particular to submissions that my Department and the Government Data Forum had received in response to the public consultations processes carried out in 2016. During these consultations, interested parties were invited to make submissions on the "digital age of consent" to apply in this jurisdiction under the GDPR. A majority of those that responded favoured 13 years, and it was on that basis that the Government decided in favour of a digital age of consent of 13 years. The submissions received by my Department are available on the Department's website, www.justice.ie. The Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality also had consultations with experts in the course of pre-legislative scrutiny of the Data Protection Bill 2017.

More recently, I have received a number of letters and representations from individuals and organisations, such as the Royal College of Physicians, expressing a range of views on the digital age of consent. These contributions are welcome, but they do not form part of the background to the Government's decision in favour of 13 years as the digital age of consent in this jurisdiction.

Citizenship Ceremonies

Ceisteanna (295)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

295. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the timing of citizenship ceremonies will be examined in cases in which a ceremony takes place after the deadline for the supplementary register; if other options will be made available for persons wishing to take their oath of affirmation prior to the deadline in view of the inability of new citizens to update their citizenship details after the deadline for the supplementary register of electors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20911/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Formal citizenship ceremonies were introduced in June 2011 for the first time since the foundation of the State. The ceremonies, which have been met with universal approval, are held at no extra cost to applicants, allow large numbers of candidates for citizenship make their statutory declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State and receive their certificate of naturalisation.

In accordance with the law, the oath of fidelity must be sworn before a judge. Prior to the introduction of the ceremonies, each individual applicant was required to attend their local District Court to swear the oath and this was done as part of the normal business of the court on the day that usually included a range of other business both criminal and civil. Apart from taking up valuable court time, it was considered that a dedicated ceremony would provide a much more meaningful and dignified manner for swearing the oath, befitting the importance and solemnity of the occasion. Accordingly, there are no plans to revert to this practice or to introduce alternatives to the ceremonies.

Citizenship ceremony days take place periodically throughout the year. The organisation of a ceremony day which can involve over 3,500 applicants, together with their family and friends, is a significant logistical exercise usually taking a number of months to organise. To date, 131 such ceremonies have been held at which around 83,000 candidates have become Irish citizens. On 21 May next a further 3,500 persons will be conferred with Irish citizenship.

Extensive coordination is required to establish a date for ceremonies. Not only does a venue have to be sourced and dates agreed, the Presiding Officers and Ministerial speakers need to be available on the day. The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department also liaises closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with regard to ceremony day dates as there is an inevitable rise in demand for passports following ceremonies. This is a complex logistical exercise and to attempt to dovetail dates with the closing date of the supplementary register would make the entire process unworkable.

The date for the next ceremony which is scheduled for 21 May was announced on the website www.inis.gov.ie on 5 March 2018, which was prior to the announcement of the date of the upcoming referendum.

Commissions of Inquiry

Ceisteanna (296, 300, 301, 303, 304)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

296. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to commission an inquiry into the circumstances regarding the death of a person (details supplied) and potential involvement of the Church and State in a cover up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20934/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Barry

Ceist:

300. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will initiate a commission of investigation arising from the claim that a member of the clergy encouraged a minor to destroy a document that would have been germane to the then inquest into the circumstances of a death further to an interview published in a newspaper (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21031/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Barry

Ceist:

301. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a file on the Garda investigation into the circumstances of person (details supplied) exists, either an original or the copy sent to the Coroner's inquest; if so, the statements that were collected by An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21032/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

303. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to reports that the location and content of the Garda file relating to a person (details supplied) are unknown; the steps he is taking to locate the file; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21045/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

304. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the files relating to the death of a person (details supplied) that are held by his Department; if he will publish them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21046/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296, 300, 301, 303 and 304 together.

I am aware of the recent coverage about the death of the person in question and her infant baby in 1984. This was a particularly tragic case and one that still resonates with the Irish people after all this time.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that an inquest was held into the death of the person in question on 21 February 1984. The Coroner, in the independent performance of his duties, directed the jury to deliver a verdict of death consistent with the pathologist’s findings which, I understand, related to complications arising from childbirth.

As you may be aware, the Coroner's Act 1962 provides that a coroner is a statutory officer exercising quasi-judicial functions, in relation to which he or she is independent. The Minister for Justice and Equality has no role in the scheduling or conduct of an inquest, which is a matter for the relevant Coroner.

I am further advised by An Garda Síochána that an investigation into this matter took place and a file was prepared and forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which issued a direction that there was to be no prosecution in the matter. As the Deputies will appreciate, the question of whether or not a particular person should be prosecuted, and for what criminal offence, is the sole responsibility of the DPP, who is independent in the performance of her functions.

In relation to the Garda investigation file on this case, I have been advised that the file in question is located at Granard Garda Station. I have asked my officials to check what papers are held on the matter in my own Department and I will communicate further with the Deputy in that regard.

The Deputies will appreciate that any decision to conduct further investigations into this matter is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, have no role in an operational matter such as this. The question of the holding of a Commission of Investigation into the matter is not one that I am aware of having arisen and I have no plans in this regard.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42.

I am now advised that my Department holds one legacy file in relation to this case from 1984. I am further advised that the file in question is a duplicate copy of the Garda investigation file into the death of Ann Lovett. I hope you will appreciate that given the sensitive nature of the file, and the fact that it refers to details of a Garda investigation, I do not intend to publish its contents. I have, however, instructed my officials to bring the existence of the file to the attention of the Garda authorities.