Garda Resources

Ceisteanna (56)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

56. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if extra funding is being provided for Garda resources in the Cavan-Monaghan Garda division in 2019. [4168/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion.  This represents an increase of over 6% over the initial allocation for 2018.

In terms of capital investment, €342 million is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies and to deliver on reform.  €46 million is being made available for investment in the Garda Fleet over the same period, in addition to the investment of almost €30 million in the fleet from 2013 to 2015.  And further €60 million exchequer funding underpins the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme, which is a 5-year programme based on agreed Garda priorities benefiting over 30 locations around the country.  This is in addition to the investment of approximately €100 million provided for the development of 3 major new Divisional and Regional Headquarters recently completed and entered into operational use at Galway, Wexford and Kevin Street, Dublin.

This significant current and capital investment in An Garda Síochána is in support of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country, to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

It is a matter for the Commissioner to efficiently manage these resources provided for An Garda Síochána and to determine the allocation of budgets to all Divisions, including Cavan/ Monaghan Division, based upon operational requirements.  I am informed by the Garda authorities that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review so as to ensure their optimum use.

For example, I can confirm to the Deputy a capital allocation of €10 million will be available to An Garda Síochána for the Garda fleet in 2019.  I am not in a position to confirm to the Deputy today what the exact allocation will be across the Garda Divisions, including Cavan/Monaghan Division, of the additional Garda vehicles which will be purchased from this allocation.  Equally I cannot confirm the allocation across the Divisions of the roll-out of additional ICT infrastructure across the Divisions.  These matters will be determined by the Commissioner, in accordance with operational needs.

Nonetheless the Deputy may wish to be aware that the strength of the Garda fleet in the Cavan/Monaghan Division was 59 vehicles as at 31 December 2018, the latest date for which figures are available. 

In terms of the Garda estate, I would first recall that the Office of Public Works (OPW) has the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation and accordingly the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the OPW. 

I can confirm to the Deputy that the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme includes provision for a new station in Bailieborough, County Cavan.  I understand from the Garda authorities that the Part 9 Planning Application in that regard has been approved by the Commissioners for Public Works and that the OPW is currently finalising tender evaluation for the next stage.  I am further informed that in advance of that new development, essential remedial works at the existing station in Bailieborough were completed in 2016, involving enhancements to the public office and safety improvements throughout the building.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that the Programme for a Partnership Government commits to a pilot scheme to reopen 6 Garda stations to determine possible positive impacts on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. Bawnboy, County Cavan, is included in that pilot along with Ballinspittle, Co. Cork, Donard, Co. Wicklow, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, and Rush and Stepaside, Co. Dublin.  I am informed that the Garda authorities are continuing to engage with the OPW in relation to this project.  As the works required are different at each of the 6 former stations, it can be expected that they will reopen at different times.  I am informed that the works required at one station – Donard – have already been completed and the building has been handed over to An Garda Síochána by the OPW.  I understand that implementation of the programme and reopening of all 5 remaining stations, including Bawnboy, is being pursued as a priority. I understand in that regard that the OPW expects works should be completed in each case in 2019.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (57)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

57. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the recent comments by a union (details supplied) in addition to other bodies on the new domestic violence legislation and the lack of training provided to gardaí to carry out the duties required of them by this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4290/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Government is totally committed to preventing and addressing domestic violence and the recently commenced Domestic Violence Act 2018 significantly strengthens the civil and legal protections available to victims.

It is important that frontline Gardaí understand the nature of this legislation in order to effectively respond to victims. Training is crucial in this regard. As you will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the training of the members and civilian staff of An Garda Síochána and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

I am, however, informed by the Commissioner that a number of measures have been taken and further measures are underway to ensure frontline Gardaí have a solid understanding of the new legislation.

In preparation for the Domestic Violence Act 2018, which came into law on 1 January this year, a number of documents to support the introduction of the new Act were created and uploaded on to An Garda Síochána’s intranet portal, prior to the commencement of the Act. Every member of An Garda Síochána, of every rank, was emailed on how to access all of this information to ensure that all Gardaí had ample time to familiarise themselves with the act prior to its introduction. 

The information that was uploaded to the portal included the following:

1. An extensive guidance document outlining the offences that remain in force from the previous Domestic Violence Act of 1996 but which have now been updated to reflect the changes in society, along with a number of new offences that were created including the offence of coercive control

2. Guidance documents including one on the Special Sitting of the District Court as per Section 24 of the Act in order to facilitate how to obtain an order outside of office hours when the court not sitting and the second on coercive control which was developed in conjunction with the office of the Director of Public prosecution.

3. Q & A document that anticipated questions that may be asked by members in relation to the new Act including information on the additional offences included in the new Act

4. Documents were also created that covered every Garda action at a Domestic Abuse call, post incident engagement guidelines, guidelines on the prosecution of orders and a vulnerable victims advisory document.

In addition, the following is also in the process of currently being implemented:

- Train-the-trainers training is currently taking place to cover the area of coercive control.

- As a result of the Train-the-trainers training the core Continuous Professional Development programme, which will run for the next two years and has been remodelled to reflect An Garda Síochána’s advanced knowledge on domestic abuse and the role that An Garda Síochána have when responding to domestic abuse incidents, will include training on the complexities of Domestic Abuse and the changes introduced in the new Act.

- Since June 2018 bi-monthly seminars have been held in the Garda College for all serving members regardless of rank to cover all aspects of domestic abuse.  These seminars cover domestic abuse, data quality, legislation and multi-agency engagement.

The Garda National Protective Services Bureau are also liaising with the College of Policing in the UK, Lancaster University Law School and London Metropolitan Police in order to establish international best practice in this area and training requirements on the provisions of the new Act will be kept under review by Garda management.

Legal Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (58)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

58. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the scheduled date for the commencement of operations by the legal practitioners’ tribunal in accordance with the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4378/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The regulatory reform of the legal services sector has been taking place since the enactment of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and the establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, which is independent in the performance of its functions, on 1 October 2016. 

The Act is the vehicle for the relevant reforms which include, under Part 6, the introduction of an independent complaints and professional conduct regime for legal practitioners including the establishment and appointment of an independent Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal. The new Tribunal will deal with allegations of serious misconduct by both solicitors and barristers and will replace the existing bodies which currently operate for that purpose and will be winding-down their existing caseloads. Members of the public will no longer make their complaints through the legal professional bodies as they do at present but directly to the Authority. Extensive preparations are underway at the Legal Services Regulatory Authority with the aim of being in a position to receive and process public complaints from 1 July 2019.

This will coincide in time with the introduction of the new legal costs transparency regime set out in Part 10 of the 2015 Act including, separately, the transition of the Office of the Taxing-Master to that of the Legal Costs Adjudicators which will maintain a publicly accessible Register of its legal costs determinations.  Similarly, the roll-out of new legal business models in the form of Legal Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships is due to take place in Quarter 1 of this year.

The Legal Service Regulatory Authority's forthcoming actions are set out in its first Strategic Plan for 2018-2020 which I laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 1 May 2018 as required under the 2015 Act. The Plan, under which the Authority is set to come into substantial operational mode in the middle of this year, sets out the indicative timelines for the roll-out of the Authority's key functions. As Minister I will, of course, continue to support this in each instance with the timely commencement of the relevant provisions of the 2015 Act.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (59)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

59. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to bring forward changes to the manner in which Garda protected disclosures are dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4381/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Under the Protected Disclosures Act introduced by the then Government in 2014, members of An Garda Síochána may communicate their concerns to the Garda Commissioner, as their employer if they so choose, or they may make a disclosure to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), which is a statutorily independent body, for investigation.  The legislation also allows that an individual employed by a public body may also make a Protected Disclosure to the Minister with responsibility for that body; in the case of An Garda Síochána, that is the Minister for Justice and Equality.

It might be helpful if I outline briefly the manner in which protected disclosures made to me by members or former members of An Garda Síochána are handled in my Department. 

In the first instance, the correspondence is assessed to determine whether it constitutes a Protected Disclosure under the Act.  Second, consideration is given to what action is required by me as Minister.  Depending on the individual case, actions may include seeking a Garda report from the Garda Commissioner (having first confirmed that the individual is agreeable to that course of action); referring matters to GSOC under powers available to me as Minister under the Garda Síochána Act 2005; or referring matters to an external body or person for review.

In December 2018, in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Attorney General, I established a panel of counsel to assess disclosures made to me by members or former members of An Garda Síochána.  The purpose of the panel is to provide independent advice to my Department on how each case should be treated.  In order to ensure an independent assessment of these matters, counsel have been instructed to assess all relevant documentation relating to the allegations, without prejudice, and to make whatever recommendations they see fit. 

There is no timeframe specified in the Act for the assessment of protected disclosures.  The Deputy will appreciate that, by their very nature, this correspondence may involve varying degrees of complexity and careful consideration of each issue.  However, I am anxious that there will be no unnecessary delays in carrying out the assessment and following through on any recommended actions.

With regard to the handling of disclosures by An Garda Síochána, the Deputy may be aware that the Garda Síochána have published a Protected Disclosures Policy and all Garda members and Garda staff have been informed of this policy.  A Protected Disclosures Manager was appointed.  An Garda Síochána works with Transparency International Ireland and other external providers to create an environment to ensure that whistleblowers are properly protected and supported.  Transparency's “Integrity at Work” pledge was signed by the Garda Commissioner in 2017.  The Garda Síochána Code of Ethics includes very strong commitments for each individual member in relation to 'Speaking Up and Reporting Wrongdoing'.

The Garda authorities have previously committed to ensuring that anyone who brings forward issues or concerns will be listened to and supported whilst also ensuring that the identity of any worker making a protected disclosure in accordance with this policy is protected, save in accordance with Section 16(2) of the Protected Disclosure Act, 2014 which provides exceptions in clearly defined circumstances.  These commitments have included that the focus of this process will be on the wrongdoing rather than the person making the disclosure.

The policy is a standing item on the agenda for Governance meetings between my Department and the Garda Commissioner at which assurance is provided in relation to the operation of the policy.

The Deputy may be aware that a review of the 2014 Act was completed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in July 2018 which concluded that no legislative amendments should be made at this time, but noted that the EU Directive on whistleblowing which is currently being negotiated is expected to result in amendments to the Act in the context of its transposition.

However, while no legislative changes are currently being considered, my Department is actively engaging in a process of review initiated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform concerning the policies and procedures presently in place governing disclosures.  Any changes resulting from this review will be applied to protected disclosures made by members of An Garda Síochána.

Protected Disclosures Data

Ceisteanna (60)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

60. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of protected disclosures being dealt with by the IPS; if he is satisfied with the system that is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4382/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The principal objectives of the Protected Disclosure Act 2014 are to encourage staff to make Protected Disclosures at the earliest opportunity and to provide protection where such disclosures are made.  I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service issued a revised Protected Disclosures Policy on 1st July 2018.  The Policy is aimed at supporting the Irish Prison Service’s values, ensuring employees can raise concerns about relevant wrongdoing which comes to their attention in connection with their employment, without any fear of penalisation, and providing a transparent and confidential process for dealing with concerns.

In order to support the implementation of the policy the Irish Prison Service has committed to the Integrity at Work (IAW) Programme and Pledge of Transparency International Ireland (TII). Staff are made aware of the Transparency International Ireland Speak Up Helpline 1800 844 866 for independent guidance on reporting a concern or making a protected disclosure.  A dedicated Protected Disclosure Manager for the Irish Prison Service has been appointed and a dedicated confidential email address and PO Box Number have been set up. The revised policy provides for independent external assessment and investigation.  All assessments, investigations and reviews of protected disclosures made under the revised policy are conducted externally.

The procedures are designed to ensure that all protected disclosures will be subject to an independent assessment and investigation followed by appropriate action, based on the investigation findings.

I am informed that senior members of staff from all prisons participated in training run by Transparency International Ireland on managing protected disclosures in July and October 2018. The organisation's commitment to the Integrity at Work programme was promoted internally to coincide with the launch of the new Protected Disclosures policy in July 2018 and information about the Policy and the support available was disseminated via the intranet and by email to all staff.  The Policy was launched internally and discussed at staff meetings as well as featuring in the internal newsletter Prison Service News.  The Integrity at Work Pledge is displayed in each of the prisons.  I am further informed that this information is also included as part of induction for new staff.  In terms of external communications, unions and membership bodies have been informed about the Irish Prison Service participation in Integrity at Work Programme.

I am informed there are currently 4 protected disclosures being dealt with by the Irish Prison Service.  This does not include protected disclosures received and dealt with by my Department. 

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (61)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

61. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to provide funding for a new Garda station in Carndonagh, County Donegal; the timeframe for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4172/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána, and that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.  As Minister, I have no role in these matters.

The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is based on agreed Garda priorities.  It is an ambitious 5-year programme, which continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country. The programme includes over €60 million of Exchequer funding as well as a major Public Private Partnership (PPP), with the goal of addressing deficiencies in the Garda estate and providing fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff as well as the public interacting with them.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Programme does not include the development of a new Garda station in Carndonagh, Co. Donegal.  The programme does however include the refurbishment and extension of Donegal Town Garda Station.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the need for building works or new stations are considered by An Garda Síochána in the context of the overall accommodation requirements nationwide, having regard to the expansion of the Garda workforce and in the context of the ongoing reform process.

Garda Investigations

Ceisteanna (62)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

62. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will meet with the family of a person (details supplied) killed in a hit and run incident to discuss concerns regarding the conduct of Garda investigations into the case and their request for a public inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4379/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have met with members of the family of the person concerned in this tragic case in the past and it is my intention to meet with them again in the near future at an appropriate time.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (63)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

63. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the potential threats posed to rights and equality by Brexit have been examined, in particular pertaining to citizenship here and in Northern Ireland for Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4286/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the potential implications of Brexit, including as they relate to rights and equality.

In respect of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, as my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has previously confirmed to the House, the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland that is an integral part of the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, confirms the Union citizenship of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland.  

As Union citizens, Irish citizens in Northern Ireland will continue to enjoy the right to move and reside freely throughout the EU, benefiting from the important right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality while doing so. The Protocol also confirms that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, “will continue to enjoy, exercise and have access to rights, opportunities and benefits” that come with EU citizenship. In addition, through the Protocol, the UK has confirmed its commitment to ensure “no diminution of the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity that are set out in the Good Friday Agreement”. 

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a long-standing arrangement between the UK and Ireland which means Irish citizens can move freely to live, work, and study in the UK on the same basis as UK citizens and vice versa. It provides for associated rights and privileges including access to employment, healthcare, education, social protection, and social housing, as well as the right to vote in certain elections. Both the Irish and British governments have committed that the CTA will be maintained in all circumstances, and their ability to do so is acknowledged in Article 5 of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Government’s focus must remain on getting the Withdrawal Agreement ratified, which remains the best way to ensure an orderly UK exit, including by ensuring the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.

 While it is in no party’s interest to end up with no deal, the Government, in close cooperation with the EU, will continue and intensify our work on preparedness for all possible outcomes, with increased focus on no deal preparations.

Public Order Offences

Ceisteanna (64)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

64. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the issue of organised and pre-arranged fights in Fingal and other areas across north County Dublin; if he has considered increasing the number of gardaí in the area to deal with the matter; if additional community policing will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4360/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the manner in which Garda resources are deployed is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no direct role in this regard. However, I am assured that 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 advised by the Garda authorities that, in most instances, notification of these pre-arranged fights come through concerned parents or school staff and a proactive approach is taken throughout the Dublin Metropolitan Region, North Division.  Social media is monitored and appropriate policing plans are put in place and where pre-arranged fights are confirmed policing plans may include the deployment of the Public Order Unit.

Information regarding pre-arranged fights is circulated throughout the Division for the attention of all members, and in instances where young people are identified commenting on social media regarding pre-arranged fights, they are visited by local Community Gardaí and the Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Furthermore, close liaison is maintained with Irish Rail to monitor the movements of large congregations of individuals using the rail network.  Use of the trains and light rail systems has been a common feature in respect of pre-arranged fights in the DMR North Division. 

I am informed that the proactive approach outlined by An Garda Síochána has seen notable successes in combatting and preventing this type of activity.

Finally, I would encourage anyone with information pertaining to any organised fight, such as those referred to in the Deputy's question, to contact their local Garda Station or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800666111.

Asylum Support Services

Ceisteanna (65)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

65. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the capacity in the international protection and asylum system in the context of recent events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4288/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The State is legally obliged to offer accommodation services to those persons who enter the state seeking international protection and who request accommodation. The accommodation services for those persons is managed within my Department by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). 

There has been a sustained rise in demand for accommodation services in recent years. At the end of 2016, there were 4,425 persons resident in accommodation centres. At the end of 2017 there was 5,096 persons and at the end of 2018, there was 6,106 persons resident in accommodation centres.

It should be noted that there is significant turnover within the population using accommodation centres as new applicants are entering the system and others are exiting the system. In 2018, there were 2,480 new applications for accommodation and 1,462 persons left their accommodation.

In order to meet this increase in demand, RIA has been expanding capacity within existing centres and identifying new premises for use as accommodation centres through expressions of interest published in the national press. As a result of these efforts, there was a net gain of 757 bed spaces within the portfolio.

RIA have identified two further accommodation centres in Moville, Co. Donegal and Rooskey, Co. Leitrim for opening. As the Deputy is aware, both of these premises were the subject of fires and in both instances, discussions are ongoing with the respective contractors to get the centres open.

As a result of the rising demand and the delays in opening the accommodation centres in Moville and Rooskey, and in order to ensure that the State can continue to provide accommodation for all protection applicants and continue to comply with the EU Reception Directive which was transposed into Irish law in June of last year, RIA has, since September, arranged for the provision of emergency beds where the mainstream accommodation centres were at capacity. 

As a result of this increased demand, my Department has had to use emergency beds on a temporary basis. Given that the accommodation is utilised on a temporary basis there is no set contract in place with each provider.

As of 20 January 2019, RIA was using hotel accommodation to accommodate 337 persons in 10 hotels in Cavan, Dublin, Louth, Monaghan and Waterford. 

RIA is making every effort to secure sufficient capacity to meet the demand and to remove the need for protection applicants to be placed in emergency hotels. As I mentioned previously, RIA is seeking to open new accommodation centres in Moville and Rooskey. In addition, some 12% of the people currently residing in the accommodation centres (over 700 people), have permission to remain in Ireland.  The fact that people are staying in the centres for some time after they receive permission to remain is a situation that is putting increased pressure on the system as new arrivals have to be accommodated. Where an individual or family has permission to remain in Ireland they can access the mainstream housing supports and services on the same basis as nationals/European Economic Area nationals. 

Considerable work continues to be done to support residents with status to move out of accommodation centres and to secure long term accommodation in Ireland. A number of NGOs have been awarded monies under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) specifically to assist and support residents with international protection status move out of accommodation centres into longer term accommodation.  Additionally, the Department of Justice and Equality has also provided funding and are working with NGOs to assist those with status/permission to remain secure accommodation.

In order to meet the accommodation needs of asylum seekers in the longer term, the Department has recently commenced a public procurement exercise under which public tenders for the provision of accommodation and ancillary services to persons in the protection process, by way of the independent living model, will be advertised. This process is scheduled to continue throughout 2019 and is due for completion in 2020. This will be delivered via a series of regional competitions to cover the entire State.

Gambling Legislation

Ceisteanna (66)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

66. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the report of the working group on gambling; when the report will be brought before Dáil Éireann; when the gaming and lotteries (amendment) Bill will be published; if it will address the anomalies in regulating the slot machine industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4166/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am happy to update the Deputy on the work of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Gambling, established as a result of the Government Decision to review the 2013 General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill and all relevant developments since.  I chaired this group, comprising all stakeholder Departments and the Office of the Attorney General.

The Group met 6 on occasions since February 2018 and reviewed all of the provisions of the 2013 Scheme. The final meeting of the Group took place on 24 January 2019. 

The Group's Report will now be finalised and I hope to bring it to Government for consideration as soon as possible. 

I would also like to take the opportunity to update the Deputy on the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill, which I hope to publish early in the current Oireachtas session. This will be an interim reform measure, pending the bringing forward of comprehensive gambling control legislation. 

The amendments proposed under the  Bill address certain deficiencies with regard to the conduct of activities regulated under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, and provide for the modernisation of that Act by way of, among other matters, arrangements for the better promotion of lotteries, updating certain stake and prize limits and standardising the minimum gambling age at 18.   

As the Deputy may be aware, gaming machines are licenced under the provisions of Part III of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. The Minister for Justice has no role in the process which concerns a local authority resolution, District Court certification and licence issue by the Revenue Commissioners as appropriate.

‘Slot machines’ are not defined in Irish law. However, ‘gaming machines’ are defined in the Finance Act 1975.

The approach to be taken to the licensing of gaming machines in the future, will form part of the wider reform of gambling legislation, to be effected through a revised Gambling Control Bill.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (67)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

67. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans in place to police the Border in the event of a hard Brexit. [4392/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is coordinating the whole-of-Government response to Brexit.  In this capacity, he is working closely with all Ministers, including myself, to address, in a joined up manner, the many challenges Brexit will present.

In keeping with Government policy, there are no plans to provide for a hard border on the island. However, Brexit does increase the risk that dissidents and criminals may seek to undermine peace on the island and engage in general illegal cross border activities.

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for operational matters including the distribution of personnel, which is kept under review in line with operational and security demands.  

An Garda Síochána is preparing for Brexit with a wide-ranging focus to determine operational requirements, including personnel, infrastructure, training and technology and will continue to progress their contingency preparations. They are committed to ensuring the organisation is prepared for the associated policing implications and challenges arising from Brexit.

I want to assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in dealing with the implications of Brexit and will provide the resources required to keep our people and our communities safe.

The Commissioner has been provided with an additional €100 million in 2019 bringing his total budget to almost €1.8 billion.  This substantial investment will allow the accelerated recruitment programme to continue in tandem with new and leading edge technology being deployed to support our front line Gardaí in carrying out their work and increasing visibility in the Border Divisions.

The Garda Commissioner intends to recruit 600 trainee Gardaí and 600 Garda Staff (civilians) in 2019 The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will facilitate the redeployment this year of 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline duties for which they are trained.

As part of the ongoing increase in Garda resources, the Commissioner has deployed a number of additional Gardaí to border counties in recent months and this will continue.

In the event that a “no deal” Brexit gives rise to additional requirements in border areas, further resources can be provided through normal deployment. These requirements will be kept under ongoing review by Garda management and detailed consideration given in due course to the medium to long-term implications.

The Deputy will also be aware that there is close and ongoing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI on all aspects of policing, with a particular focus on combatting security threats and cross-border crime. The Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI, who are responsible for operational policing cooperation, have repeatedly emphasised the scope and the value of the close and high quality cooperation between the two police services in combating crime, protecting community safety and saving lives. The two police services operate a joint Cross-Border Policing Strategy which has as its aims to improve public safety throughout Ireland, to disrupt criminal activity and to enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island.

Bail Law

Ceisteanna (68)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

68. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which changes in the law affecting bail have addressed the issue of recidivism with particular reference to the number of offenders repeating offences while on bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4372/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that addressing the issue of offences committed by persons while on bail is a priority for this Government. 

The Criminal Justice Act 2017, enacted on 28 June 2017, made a number of changes to the bail laws with the aim of strengthening the bail system and making the law as effective as possible in protecting the public against crimes committed by persons on bail. The court has the power to refuse bail where there are reasonable grounds to believe the person is likely to commit a serious offence. In assessing this likelihood, the court must take into account the nature and seriousness of the offence, the accused person’s previous offending and may also take into account the danger he or she poses to the public if bail is granted.

The Criminal Justice Act 2017 also strengthened Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail providing a power of arrest without warrant in certain circumstances, and made provisions to increase the use of curfews and to facilitate the introduction of electronic tagging for those on bail in certain circumstances.  

The Deputy will appreciate that given the new bail laws were only introduced in 2017, the full impact of these provisions will not yet be reflected in the official recorded crime statistics. As you will be aware, the Central Statistics (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of the official recorded crime statistics.  The table at Appendix A shows the number of crime incidents which are recorded as having at least one offender on bail for the years 2013-2017.  The figures for 2018 are not available from the CSO at this time.

It is worth noting that all statistics on recorded crimes are currently categorised as “Under Reservation”.  The Central Statistics Office (CSO), in conjunction with An Garda Síochána continue to make good progress on returning the crime figures to the higher standard expected of our national crime statistics.  I am determined that this body of work be completed as soon as possible and I welcome the continued diligence of the Policing Authority in monitoring this matter.

Appendix A

The following table shows the number of crime incidents which are recorded as having at least one offender on bail for the years 2013-2017. The figures for 2018 are not available from the CSO at this time.

No. of Crime Incidents which are Recorded as having at least one Offender on Bail for the years 2013 - 2017

Incident Type

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

01 Homicide Offences

7

10

8

4

5

02 Sexual Offences

20

26

28

24

30

03 Attempts/Threats to Murder,assaults, harassments and related offences

504

669

745

746

912

04 Dangerous or Negligent Acts

216

300

326

431

502

05 Kidnapping and Related Offences

7

6

16

8

13

06 Robbery, Extortion and Hijacking Offences

285

399

371

322

351

07 Burglary and Related Offences

1241

1674

1532

1331

1342

08 Theft and Related Offences

4116

5136

5636

6007

6907

09 Fraud, Deception and Related Offences

168

224

281

243

248

10 Controlled Drug Offences

1163

1822

1883

1987

2035

11 Weapons and Explosives Offences

337

438

463

436

463

12 Damage to Property and to the Environment

641

878

901

866

841

13 Public Order and other Social Code Offences

2841

3713

4558

4258

5180

15 Offences against Government, Justice Procedures and Organisation of Crime

4777

6629

8073

8823

9519

Immigration Policy

Ceisteanna (69)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

69. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which he plans to apply the findings from a report (details supplied) which identified a positive shift in public attitudes on immigration and asylum here; the way in which he will use the report to shape and inform immigration policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4259/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am grateful to the Deputy for raising this matter and he will note that my colleague, David Stanton, T.D, Minister for Equality, Immigration and Integration launched this report last month. The report provides us with a valuable insight into public perceptions of migrants and migration in Ireland, and it is encouraging to see the largely positive and welcoming attitudes to migrants. The report reinforces Ireland’s reputation as an open, tolerant and welcoming society, a reputation that is well established.

Migration is good for the State socially, politically and economically. While EU citizens enjoy free movement, there are a number of schemes and policies to facilitate legal migration pathways into Ireland for non-EEA nationals.  Many of these people subsequently make their homes here and became naturalised as Irish citizens. Indeed since 2011, over 120,000 people, including just over 27,000 children have been naturalised. It is heartening to read that the public share the view of Government on these issues as demonstrated by our many pathways for legal migration and our supports for international protection applicants and refugees.

We have seen unparalleled international population movements arising from conflict, hunger and climate change. Ireland has played its role in responding to such challenges. From the outset of the migration crisis in Europe, we have demonstrated our commitment to solidarity and to protecting the most vulnerable people.  With the approval of the Oireachtas, Ireland opted into two EU Council Decisions on the Relocation programme and we established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme under which the Government pledged to accept a total of 4,000 people into the State.  This programme has evolved in response to needs including welcoming minors from the Calais camp, and more recently the ships who have encountered humanitarian difficulties in the Mediterranean.   

In addition, operating under discretionary Ministerial powers, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP) 2 provides an opportunity to Irish citizens and persons with international protection status who have immediate eligible family members from the UN's list of top 10 major source countries of refugees, to propose to the Minister for these family members to join them in Ireland. 

In relation to international protection generally, a proactive approach to reform has been adopted including opting into the Recast reception Conditions Directive, providing the right to work as well as the implementation of a wide range of reforms recommended by the Mc Mahon Working Group. 

The Migrant Integration Strategy, which was published by Government on 7 February 2017, offers a blueprint to promote the integration of all migrants who are legally in the State, for the period to 2020.  Many of the recommendations in this report will inform the implementation of the strategy.

Ireland will continue to operate a fair and humane immigration and protection policy. The production of the report and its findings further endorses the positive view of our people in ensuring that we play a responsible role not only in our economic development but in managing and providing channels and opportunities to further evolve our modern and diverse society.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (70)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

70. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in County Donegal in each of the past ten years; his plans to allocate additional resources to County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4171/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the manner in which the resources of the Garda Síochána are deployed is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no direct role in this regard. I am informed by the Commissioner that 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 resources.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 2,400 recruits have attested as members and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, including the 800 trainees who passed out from the college during 2018.

The Government has increased the budget by for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019, which includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí this year.  The Commissioner has now informed me that he plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and, in addition, it is his intention to recruit a net 600 Garda Civilian Staff.  This Garda Staff recruitment will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline policing in 2019. 

The Garda Commissioner has confirmed that the Government’s commitment to increase the overall strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 Garda members will be achieved by the target date of 2021. The Government fully supports the Commissioner’s management decision which will ensure that increasing numbers of Gardaí are available for frontline duties in the prevention and detection of criminal activity in 2019 and beyond.

In keeping with Government policy, there are no plans to provide for a hard border on the island but Brexit increases the risk that dissidents and criminals may seek to undermine peace on the island and engage in general illegal cross border activities. As part of the ongoing increase in Garda resources, the Commissioner has deployed a number of additional Gardaí to border counties, including Donegal, in recent months and this will continue.

In the event that a “no deal” Brexit gives rise to additional requirements in border areas, further resources can be provided through normal deployment. These requirements will be kept under ongoing review by Garda management and detailed consideration given in due course to the medium to long-term implications.

The Garda strength of the Donegal Division from 2009  up to 31 December 2018, as provided by the Garda Commissioner, is available on my Department’s website through the following links.  http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and%20Station_2009_to_30_December_2018.xlsx/Files/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and%20Station_2009_to_30_December_2018.xlsx

For additional and more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the following link: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures

Crime Levels

Ceisteanna (71)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

71. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 277 of 13 November 2018, if he is satisfied that the system for recording the number of knife crimes is accurate; and if so, the number of knife crimes recorded in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [4389/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As outlined to the Deputy previously, it is my understanding that the information being sought in relation to this knife crime is not available through the Central Statistics Office (CSO) at this time. I also note the CSO has further explained the reasoning for its decision in relation to this category of crime.

While the CSO's official crime figures remain “Under Reservation”, it is clear that progress is being made by An Garda Síochána and the CSO in improving the quality of the crime statistics. Notably, on 11 December 2018, the CSO published a third review of the quality of recorded crime statistics, based on data recorded on the PULSE database system for crimes reported to Gardaí in 2017. The review concluded, inter-alia, that clear improvements had been made in the manner in which criminal incidents were being recorded on the PULSE system.

While this is encouraging, it is also clear that there is more work to be done in this area and my Department, in conjunction with the Policing Authority, will continue to monitor the progress of An Garda Síochána in ensuring that the national crime statistics are returned to the higher standard required by the CSO.

Notwithstanding the above, I am assured that An Garda Síochána continues to address knife crime through education and engagement with communities. I am advised that at an operational level, Gardaí pro-actively target public disorder and anti-social behaviour, including knife-related crime through the strategic deployment of Garda resources.  Areas identified as public order hot-spots by local Garda management are the subject of additional foot and mobile patrols. 

Commission on the Future of Policing Reports

Ceisteanna (72)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

72. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress being made on the implementation of recommendations in the policing commission report in respect of obligations to co-operate with the HSE and Tusla; and if legislation and protocols have been drafted in this regard. [4391/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

On 18 December 2018, the Government endorsed the Commission’s report and accepted all 157 key recommendations. I also published a high level plan, ‘A Policing Service for the Future’, which sets out the approach to implementation over the next four years of the Commission’s recommendations, which will be overseen by a dedicated programme office in the Department of the Taoiseach, as recommended in the Commission’s Report.

The Implementation Plan identifies a number of actions to be taken forward in 2019 in respect to cooperation among agencies these include the mapping of existing joint working protocols, a review of information sharing protocols and the extending of national protocols to relevant sectors.  Work has commenced and it is hoped to shortly finalise an information sharing protocol between An Garda Síochána and Tusla.

The Government also approved the preparation, as a matter of priority, of the General Scheme of the Policing and Community Safety Bill, as recommended by the Commission. In addition, to providing for a new coherent governance, oversight and accountability framework for policing in the State, the Bill will redefine the functions of An Garda Síochána to include community safety and the prevention of harm to persons who are vulnerable as recommended by the Commission. In tandem with this the Bill will place an obligation on relevant state agencies to cooperate with An Garda Síochána in carrying out this function. Work on the preparation of the Scheme is underway in my Department with a view to submission to Government later this year.  Obviously a pre-legislative scrutiny process will be particularly useful in this detailed and far-reaching legislation and I look forward to engaging with colleagues across both Houses on this.

Policing Issues

Ceisteanna (73)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

73. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which policing practice here continues to be in accord with best practice throughout Europe, with particular reference to combatting organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4373/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

In accordance with section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the direction and control of An Garda Síochána. In exercising this function the Garda Commissioner ensures that relevant policing developments in other jurisdictions are reviewed on an on-going basis so that international best practice can be identified and, where appropriate, applied throughout An Garda Síochána. In addition when developing policy or legislative proposals on policing matters my Department would always have regard to international models.

As the Deputy will be aware the Garda Síochána Act 2005 contains provisions to assist the Garda Síochána to operate to international best practice. For example, the Act requires the Garda Síochána Inspectorate to benchmark their recommendations by reference to the best standards of comparable police services, therefore, every inspection conducted by the Garda Inspectorate, and any recommendation arising therefrom, has involved examining and taking account of policing best practice internationally.

The Deputy may also wish to note one of the functions of the Garda Professional Standards Unit, is to promote the highest standards of practice, as measured by reference to the best standards of comparable police services. The Unit undertakes reviews, as directed by the Garda Commissioner, into operational, administrative and management matters relating to the Garda Síochána at all levels. Arising from these reviews, measures to improve performance and promote the highest standards of practice throughout the Garda Síochána are proposed. The Garda Commissioner draws on the Unit's proposals to enhance policing practices and policies

The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) carries out long term strategic and short term tactical investigations into the activities of Organised Crime Gangs (OCGs) based both here and on the European Continent and has strategic partners in the United Kingdom, Spain, Holland and Belgium; countries where OCGs affecting the Irish jurisdiction tend to be the most proactive. Information and intelligence regarding drug trafficking is disseminated and procured through international agencies such as Europol and Interpol.

The GNDOCB has forged an important relationship with the Maritime Analysis Operations Centre for Narcotics (MAOC-N) which seeks to intercept sailing vessels from South America carrying primarily high quality cocaine destined for the European market. The GNDOCB also liaises closely with the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom.

As the Deputy will be aware the Commission on the Future of Policing published its report on 18 September. With regard to combatting organised crime, the Commission recommended that An Garda Síochána’s security and intelligence capability must be strengthened, with the ability to recruit specialist expertise.

On 18 December 2018, the Government endorsed the Commission’s report and accepted all 157 key recommendations, including the aforementioned. I also published a high level plan, ‘A Policing Service for the Future’, which sets out the approach to implementation over the next four years of the Commission’s recommendations, which will be overseen by a dedicated programme office in the Department of the Taoiseach, as recommended in the Commission’s Report. As set out in the implementation plan, work will commence on the identification of the requirements to strengthen An Garda Síochána’s security and intelligence capability in 2019.

As I said on publication of the implementation plan, the Government has endorsed the Commission’s clear vision for a modern, highly professional police service. Implementation of this programme for reform will not only address current challenges in policing, but also enable An Garda Síochána to meet future challenges and allow An Garda Síochána to evolve in a coherent and strategic manner in accordance with international best practice.

Domestic Violence

Ceisteanna (74)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

74. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the estimated cost of domestic violence to the economy per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4178/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has completed a study to identify and recommend appropriate methodologies to measure the cost of gender-based and intimate partner violence in EU-28 Member States. Three main types of costs were identified: lost economic output, provision of services, including health, legal, social and specialised; and the personal (physical and emotional) impact on the victim. The report is structured around these types of costs, providing accounts of the investigations into the methodologies in each of these fields found in the relevant literature.

The EIGE report concluded that the detailed case study it reported on would not be easy to replicate in other countries. This is largely because the data requirements are high and the field of gender-based and intimate partner violence has insufficient data collected to meet these requirements in most countries. EIGE concluded that there is currently insufficient data to robustly cost the impact of intimate partner violence separately for each EU-28 Member State.

My Department has also considered this issue and concluded that methodological and data deficiencies militated against a robust cost estimation of the impact of domestic violence in Ireland.

To illustrate the difficulties involved, a Council of Europe Study examined a range of estimates of the cost of gender-based violence. Depending on data and methods used, the lowest cost estimate was just 1.6% of the highest cost estimate, rendering any estimation meaningless in the context of such a broad divergence.  

My Department has engaged with various EIGE meetings in relation to administrative data on gender-based violence and will continue to do so.

Constitutional Amendments

Ceisteanna (75)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

75. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to hold referendums in 2019. [4260/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Government has approved the holding of a referendum to amend the constitutional provisions on divorce.  The referendum will be held alongside the votes for the European and local elections in late May 2019.

I believe that it is important to have broad consensus in the Oireachtas for the proposal that will be put to the people. In that regard, I have recently engaged in consultations with parties and political groupings on the scope of the constitutional amendment that might be proposed.

The Government has agreed that the proposal on divorce to be put to the people in the May referendum will, subject to the passage of the necessary Constitution Amendment Bill by the Dáil and Seanad, contain two elements. 

The first proposal is an amendment to Article 41.3.2º of the Constitution to remove the minimum living apart period for spouses applying for a divorce.  It is the Government’s intention to deal with the living apart period by way of ordinary legislation.  If the referendum is passed, the Government will bring forward a Bill to amend section 5(1)(a) of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period specified in that Act from four years during the previous five years to two years during the previous three years.

If the referendum is passed, the existing provisions in Article 41.3.2º of the Constitution which require that there be no prospect of reconciliation and that proper provision exists or will be made for spouses and children will continue in force in the Constitution. It will also remain the case that only a court can grant a divorce. 

The second proposal is an amendment to replace the provision on recognition of foreign divorces in Article 41.3.3º of the Constitution.  The people will be asked to approve new text to replace Article 41.3.3º with a modern, readily-understandable provision which clearly provides that the Oireachtas may legislate for the recognition of divorces obtained outside the State.

The Government intends to bring forward its proposals for amendments to Articles 41.3.2º and 41.3.3º of the Constitution by way of amendments to the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016 (PMB), which is currently awaiting Report Stage in the Dáil.

With regard to the proposed referendum on Article 41.2, Minister of State Stanton and I are considering the Report of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, published on 6 December 2018, on pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme of the 38th Amendment of the Constitution (Role of Women) Bill, with a view to making proposals to Government in due course.