Questions Nos. 31 to 34, inclusive, answered orally.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Questions Nos. 36 to 39, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (35)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

35. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of refugees Ireland has accepted under the resettlement and relocation strands of the EU relocation programme; the number of those accepted that have been found permanent accommodation; and the number that remain in reception centres. [27174/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

In 2015, as part of Ireland's response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe, the Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Under this programme, the Government committed to accepting up to 4,000 people into the State, primarily through a combination of the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR-led Refugee Resettlement Programme, which is currently focussed on resettling refugees from Lebanon and Jordan.

To date, a total of 2,519 people have arrived in Ireland under the various strands of the IRPP, 45 of whom are unaccompanied minors. An IRPP mission to Lebanon in March 2019 selected 331 refugees for resettlement to Ireland. A further mission to Jordan this July will select approximately 300 refugees. This will complete Ireland’s commitment to admit 1,985 programme refugees under the Resettlement strand of the IRPP. The remaining refugees are due to arrive in Ireland during the remainder of 2019.

The IRPP programme also includes the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme under which Irish citizens, programme refugees, Convention refugees and persons with subsidiary protection can apply for family members to come to Ireland where those persons are living in the top 10 refugee generating countries. 530 persons are being admitted to Ireland this year under that programme.

Of those who have arrived in Ireland to date, 1,875 persons have been provided with permanent housing by local authorities. In addition, 106 persons have been housed in accommodation through the Irish Red Cross. 9 persons are participating in the Community Sponsorship scheme which is an innovative scheme whereby local communities directly support the process of integrating refugees into their communities. Taken together, 1,995 people who arrived under the IRPP have been resettled in communities across Ireland. This represents 86% of the arrivals so far under the resettlement and relocation strands of the programme.

At present, 365 persons from the two strands of the programme are living in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs).

Questions Nos. 36 to 39, inclusive, answered orally.

Direct Provision System

Questions Nos. 41 and 42 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (40, 48)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

40. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on reports that residents at a direct provision centre were moved to accommodate a wedding; if inquiries will be made as to whether this has happened at other direct provision centres; and if contact with the centre responsible has been made. [26862/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

48. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to secure appropriate long-term accommodation for asylum seekers following the situation in County Monaghan in which over one hundred asylum seekers were removed from their accommodation and transported to County Wexford to facilitate a private function. [26852/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 48 together.

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department has been encountering significant upward pressure on its accommodation portfolio. This pressure has increased further in recent months with an increase in the number of persons claiming international protection and a growth in the percentage of protection applicants who require assistance with accommodation. There are upwards of 700 persons residing in accommodation who have permission to remain in Ireland or who have received international protection status.

In order to ensure that the State can continue to provide accommodation for all protection applicants while experiencing a shortage of accommodation nationwide, RIA has, since last September, been forced to arranged for the provision of emergency beds where the mainstream accommodation centres were at capacity. This was done by contacting a large number of accommodation providers and also through a national print advertisement seeking expressions of interest for providing emergency accommodation on a short term basis. RIA is hoping to increase the capacity of the mainstream system by opening new centres.

In December 2018, the Reception and Integration Agency of my Department was informed that residents in emergency accommodation had been removed from their accommodation to facilitate a private function. On behalf of my Department, I wish to state that this was wholly inappropriate and that the Department had no prior knowledge of this decision. RIA addressed the issue directly with the service provider at the time and received assurances it would not happen again. I can assure Deputies that RIA remains in regular contact with emergency accommodation providers and in regular contact with residents through on-site clinics. I am satisfied that this was an isolated incident.

In order to secure suitable accommodation centres for those in the international protection process, my Department is in the process of tendering for suitable premises throughout the country. In relation to Monaghan, a tender covering the border region will be advertised later this year.

Questions Nos. 41 and 42 answered orally.

Direct Provision System

Question No. 44 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (43)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

43. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken with the Coroners Service, An Garda Síochána and the various companies that run the direct provision centres to ensure the circumstances regarding the death of a person (details supplied) are never repeated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26864/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to state once again my Department's sincere regret at the circumstances which led to a person being buried without her friends being informed. It is clear that there was a breakdown in communication in this particular case, which the Department very much regrets.

Where a person dies while they are being provided with accommodation by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department, RIA works closely with the centre manager to assist the family in accessing the supports by the State, and to ensure that any residents affected by the death are assisted in accessing services that can support them. All deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by the Department are referred to the Gardaí as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local coroner's office.

In light of what happened in this particular case, RIA is examining its protocols around fatalities in order to ensure that this situation does not arise again, and in particular to ensure there is a formal record of the interest of the Department in knowing any proposed arrangements for inquest or burial.

In an effort to better understand the communications between all parties concerned, a senior official from the Department of Justice and Equality spoke to the Galway West coroner on the 7 June 2019. I should say that the coroner noted the efforts that had been made to identify the person's next of kin.

While thankfully, the occurrences of deaths where the deceased remains unidentified, unclaimed or where no next of kin is identified, are very rare, the Department will take all possible steps to ensure that this outcome is avoided in future and that friends who have expressed an interest are properly informed through appropriate communications with the coronial service and by liaising with other relevant agencies.

Question No. 44 answered orally.

Crime Data

Ceisteanna (45)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

45. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the Garda Síochána review into homicides between 2003 and 2017; when it will be published; and when the CSO will be in a position to publish crime statistics provided by An Garda Síochána without reservation. [26881/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána initiated a review of homicide classifications, initially for the period 2013-2015 but later extending the review to cover the period 2003-2017. An Garda Síochána is currently working, in conjunction with the CSO and the Policing Authority, to resolve this issue. This is obviously a time consuming and complex process but it is important that both An Garda Síochána and the CSO are confident that their data is robust and accurate so that the public can have confidence in the data which informs the development of effective policies by the Department of Justice and Equality. The review by An Garda Síochána has not been published as it is not yet complete, however the details will be made public on completion. It is important to bear in mind that issues with the consistent recording of crime data are not unique to this jurisdiction.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of all crime statistics.

While the most recent publication of the official recorded crime statistics for Q1 2019 remain 'Under Reservation', it is important to note the 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. It should also be recognised that the issues with the crime statistics is by no means unique to An Garda Síochána and, as I mentioned earlier, similar issues have been reported in other jurisdictions including the UK, Australia, Denmark and US. That said, 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.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (46)

James Browne

Ceist:

46. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which his Department plans and will plan policing and security matters from a North-South and east-west perspective in the event of a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26664/19]

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 and Departments, including my Department, 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, it has long been recognised that Brexit increases the risk that dissidents and criminals may seek to undermine peace on the island and engage in criminal activities on a cross border basis.

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 has been preparing for Brexit with a wide-ranging focus to determine operational requirements, including personnel, infrastructure, training and technology and continue to progress their contingency preparations. The Commissioner is 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 have the resources required to keep our people and our communities safe.

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

The Garda Commissioner intends to recruit 600 trainee Gardaí and 600 Garda Staff (civilians) in 2019 and 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 combating 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.

Postal Codes

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 40.

Ceisteanna (47)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

47. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the impact the use of Eircode postcodes will have in combatting rural crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21511/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I want to thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I am assured that An Garda Síochána, and other emergency services, consider the use of Eircodes to be of vital assistance in locating the position of emergency callers, particularly in rural areas where non unique addresses can be a significant issue.

Eircodes can assist on a practical level with preventing crime. An Garda Síochána encourage the marking of property as a crime prevention measure. Where this is done in communities, signs can be erected in the area indicating that property has been marked. This, in itself, acts as a significant deterrent to criminals and has, I understand, had very positive effects on crime rates.

While neither my Department nor An Garda Síochána endorse any particular property marking product or service provider, the act of marking the property, be that with an ultra violet pen or an embossing machine, acts as a deterrent and makes it more difficult for criminals to profit, .

Marking property with an Eircode has a number of distinct advantages. Aside from reducing the likelihood that your property will be stolen in the first place, it can assist Gardaí in identifying stolen property that a person may have in their possession and provides evidence for prosecutions. It also allows for identification of the rightful owner and the return of property quickly and efficiently.

I am informed that highly successful pilot projects involving the marking of property with eircodes have been carried out in West Cork and Monaghan and are being adopted by communities elsewhere in the country. While supported by An Garda Síochána, these initiatives have been successfully adopted by the local communities involved.

Whatever method is used, I would strongly encourage people to mark their property be it farm machinery, bicycles, computers or other personal property and to consider the advantages of using a unique identifier - such as eircode - in doing so.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 40.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (49)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

49. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for upgrading refugee centres nationally. [26666/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

These improvements follow on from the recommendations made by Justice Bryan McMahon in 2014.

Some significant improvements to living conditions for applicants for international protection have already been implemented. These include the implementation of self or communal catering arrangements in a number of accommodation centres. As of the end of May 2019 2,395 residents across 11 centres have access to a Food Hall and cooking facilities operating under the Agency’s Independent Living Model. Independent Living is a system where residents can obtain food, toiletries and other products for personal use from a dedicated Food Hall in the centre using a cashless points system. The residents then cook any food purchased in the cooking facilities available in the centre. An additional ten other centres offer cooking facilities to a further 1,416 residents, but the residents must provide the food themselves. At present, 3,811 residents, or 57% of persons availing of accommodation, have access to cooking facilities and are no longer under the Direct Provision model as originally developed and further progress will be made in this area this year.

In addition, there have been significant improvements to recreation opportunities. Friends of the Centre groups have also been established in each centre. This initiative aims to bring residents, community and voluntary groups together with a view to increasing integration opportunities and providing for the development of greater community linkages with the residents and the centre.

In order to meet the accommodation needs 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, are being 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. Under this competition, all successful bids must provide residents with the option of preparing their own meals as part of their proposal.

In addition, all successful bidders under the tender process must provide designated living room space for families only to allow them to carry out the normal experience of family life outside of their sleeping quarters and provide as part of their bid an implementation plan to meet the social care needs of residents.

In parallel with the public procurement process which will see all commercially owned accommodation centres provide independent living, my Department is also in discussions with the Office of Public Works to progress the introduction of independent living in the state owned centres at Knockalisheen, Co. Clare, Kinsale Road, Cork, Atlas House and Johnston Marina in Tralee, Co. Kerry and Atlas House and Park Lodge in Killarney, Co. Kerry. Independent Living has already been implemented in the remaining state owned centre in Athlone, Co. Westmeath.

Following the McMahon Report, a Standards Advisory Group was set up in 2017. The work of this group is to build on the recommendations of that Report and to develop a set of standards for accommodation provided for those people seeking the protection of the State. The Standards will meet the standards set out in the Recast Reception Conditions Directive and EASO Guidance on Reception Conditions. Operational Standards and Indicators will also take account of national developments in the provision of services to those in the protection process. They will take due cognisance of the responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by policies and plans as defined by the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty. The timeline for implementation of the Standards is by January 2021.

When allied with significant changes to the time taken by applicants in the international protection process and these improvements, such as granting access to the services of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children, when fully implemented, I wish to assure the Deputy that the Department is putting in place a number of measures which will substantially improve the experiences of those using our accommodation centres.

Garda Strength

Ceisteanna (50)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which Garda strength nationally is expected to increase in all Garda stations in both urban and rural areas, with particular reference to areas experiencing an increase in criminal activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26839/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána including personnel matters.

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.

The Deputy will be aware An Garda Síochána is currently undertaking a programme of accelerated recruitment, as part of the Government’s commitment to achieve an overall workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, including 15,000 Garda members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 30 April 2019, the total Garda strength was approximately 14,000. As of the same date, there were approximately 2,650 Garda Staff employed by An Garda Síochána undertaking a range of administrative and technical duties in the organisation. 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.

The Commissioner has further informed me that he plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and 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 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. Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,800 recruits have attested as Members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide.

The Government remains committed to a vigorous and comprehensive response to burglary, theft and other property-related crime. Both urban and rural communities across the country will benefit from the significant injection of policing resources provided by the Government and the concentrated anti-crime drive coordinated under Operation Thor. The scale of Garda activity against burglary and property-related crime under Operation Thor has led to concentrated Garda activity. As of 7 May 2019, almost 201,000 targeted checkpoints and 356,400 crime prevention patrols have been conducted nationwide. To give you an idea of the impact of the Operation, I can inform you that this concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 10,000 arrests and 11,600 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, include handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.

Operation Hybrid has been established to coordinate the response to violent crime in Dublin and address public safety concerns about community safety and benefits from significant support by Armed Support Units. The robust Garda response to the series of shootings perpetrated by violent criminals in Dublin has, as of 5 May 2019, seen 76,699 high visibility checkpoints implemented. In addition, a number of arrests have been made and weapons seized during the Operation.

I believe that the injection of a large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities and I want to reassure you that criminal gangs that target all areas of the country and prey on communities, both urban and rural, are continuously monitored and relentlessly targeted by An Garda Síochána.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (51)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

51. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extra number of gardaí graduating from the training college at Templemore; the degree to which he expects such available numbers to be made available in all areas nationally, with particular reference to those areas experiencing pressure from the activities of criminal gangs or to address reductions in the force over the past number of years since the training college closed down in 2008, especially in areas of burgeoning population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26838/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána including personnel matters.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 30 April 2019, the total Garda strength was approximately 14,000. As of the same date, there were approximately 2,650 Garda Staff employed by An Garda Síochána undertaking a range of administrative and technical duties in the organisation. 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.

Approximately 2,800 Garda recruits have successfully completed training and attested as members of An Garda Síochána since the reopening of the Garda College in 2014. This has seen an increase in the number of Garda members to just over 14,000 at the end of 2018, a net increase of over 1,000 since the end of 2016. Approximately 400 Garda recruits have passed out of the Garda Training College and been assigned to mainstream policing duties nationwide to date in 2019, and a further 200 trainees are due to attest before year end.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that he intends to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019. I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner that this level of recruitment of Garda members planned for 2019 will ensure that, taking account of projected retirements, the Government's commitment to increasing the strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 Garda members by 2021 remains on target. I further welcome the Garda Commissioner’s decision to recruit a net 600 Garda staff in 2019. The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 Gardaí from administrative duties to visible frontline policing duties in 2019.

The Government remains committed to a vigorous and comprehensive response to burglary, theft and other property-related crime. Both urban and rural communities across the country will benefit from the significant injection of policing resources provided by the Government and the concentrated anti-crime drive coordinated under Operation Thor. The scale of Garda activity against burglary and property-related crime under Operation Thor has led to concentrated Garda activity. As of 7 May 2019, almost 201,000 targeted checkpoints and 356,400 crime prevention patrols have been conducted nationwide. To give you an idea of the impact of the Operation, I can inform you that this concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 10,000 arrests and 11,600 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, include handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.

Operation Hybrid has been established to coordinate the response to violent crime in Dublin and address public safety concerns about community safety and benefits from significant support by Armed Support Units. The robust Garda response to the series of shootings perpetrated by violent criminals in Dublin has, as of 5 May 2019, seen 76,699 high visibility checkpoints implemented. In addition, a number of arrests have been made and weapons seized during the Operation.

With regard to the on-going, highly volatile feud in Drogheda, Garda Operation Stratus was established. This operation consists of high visibility patrols and checkpoints, days of action and covert policing initiatives, targeting specific parties to the feud. Extra resources have also been assigned to the area with 30 recruits being assigned to the Louth area from the most recent Garda attestation on the 7 June.

Kildare has also seen a significant increase in the number of Gardaí assigned to the Division. Excluding the DMR, Louth and Kildare have been assigned the largest number of recruits since the reopening of the Garda college with 136 and 118 respectively. Kildare, as a Dublin hinterland, has seen the largest increase in its workforce since 2009 with 74 more Gardaí since 2009. Louth has had the third largest increase at 42.

I believe that the injection of a large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities and I want to reassure you that criminal gangs that target all areas of the country and prey on communities, both urban and rural, are continuously monitored and relentlessly targeted by An Garda Síochána.

Naturalisation Applications

Ceisteanna (52)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

52. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for naturalisation on hand at present; the average time taken to process such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26671/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union as well as international level. It is therefore important that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the integrity of the regime for granting Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is held in high regard both at home and internationally. These procedures are continually evolving such as reflecting the need to respond to changing international circumstances and also to ongoing service improvements due to the introduction of new technology and work practices.

In general, it takes around 6 months for a standard application to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made. The average processing time from the date an application was received to the date a decision was made was 6.7 months in 2016, 7.2 months in 2017 and 6.5 months in 2018. Additional checks with state agencies which in turn may require liaison with counterparts in other jurisdictions can result in some applications taking longer than this average timescale. These checks are fundamental to maintain the legitimacy of the naturalisation process both nationally and internationally.

As of the end of May 2019, there were 12,500 applications on hand. To date this year a total of 2,348 adults and 638 minors have been naturalised while a further 680 adults are due to attend a citizenship ceremony in Waterford this coming Friday.

The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process. Each citizenship application is unique and is assessed on its merits according to the administrative and legislative conditions in place at the time of application

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

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (53)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

53. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to facilitate the 200 plus residents at Hatch Hall direct provision centre following the announcement of its closure; the reason for the closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26871/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Regretfully, due to circumstances outside the control of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department, the Hatch Hall accommodation centre will close on 15 July 2019. This was a commercial decision by the operator.

RIA is proactively engaging with residents to discuss their options in order to minimise disruption. This includes seeking to re-accommodate those still in the protection process within RIA’s accommodation portfolio and providing residents with an international protection status or a permission to remain with support from DePaul Ireland to transition from RIA accommodation and into mainstream housing.

The current occupancy of Hatch Hall, as of 9 June, is 213 persons.

38 residents have status or permission to remain and are receiving assistance from DePaul Ireland, which is contracted by my Department to find accommodation in the community.

32 residents have been offered accommodation in Co. Leitrim.

The remaining residents have all been offered accommodation at the Balseskin reception centre in Dublin.

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (54)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

54. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason he has ceased publishing data with regard to the number and nature of deaths of persons residing in direct provision centres; if he will consider recommencing collection of the data; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26863/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department has no official role in the collation of statistics on deaths of asylum seekers living in RIA provided accommodation. All records of deaths in Ireland are held in the General Register Office, which is the central civil repository for records relating to Births, Marriages and Deaths in Ireland.

International protection applicants access health services (including mental health services) in the same way as Irish people – through the GP, primary care and hospital system. RIA has no role in the provision of these services. The details of a protection applicant’s medical condition is a confidential matter between the patient and his or her medical practitioner.

Sometimes, RIA may have general knowledge of the cause of death – perhaps by way of a relative voluntarily providing the information or arising from the specified medical needs of the resident concerned prior to their death. It does not, indeed cannot, hold or have access to death certificates.

In most cases, the deaths of residents occur in hospitals. Where information may be provided to centre managers by residents or friends of the deceased, it is informal in nature and is not an official record of death.

RIA will provide data where it has information on deaths. However, that data cannot substitute for the formal records held by the appropriate authorities on deaths in Ireland and on the causes of such deaths.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (55, 62)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

55. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the need to provide additional staffing resources to the Border region for the remainder of 2019 and 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26892/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

62. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the need to provide additional staffing resources to the Border region in 2020 in view of the adverse impacts of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26893/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 62 together.

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.

However, I can assure the Deputy that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that optimum use is made of resources.

It is Government policy that we are not countenancing a hard border but, both the Government and An Garda Síochána are acutely aware that 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.

Garda deployments in all areas of the country, including those along the Border, have benefitted from increased recruitment in recent years. Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána, with 346 of those assigned to the border region. I am advised by the Commissioner that the strength of the Northern Region as of 30 April 2019, the latest date for which figures are currently available, was 1,452 Gardaí. There are 57 Garda Reserves and 153 Garda civilian staff attached to the Northern Region. An additional 50 Gardaí were assigned to the region with effect from 7 June 2019.

The increased resources coming on stream have provided the Commissioner with the capacity to expand the resources available to the specialist bureaus that come within the ambit of Special Crime Operations including 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 all of which are particularly active in the Northern Region.

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 at the same time as new and leading edge technology is deployed to support our front line Gardaí in carrying out their work and increasing visibility.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that it is his intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 along with a net 600 Garda Staff (civilians). The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy this year a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to the frontline duties for which they are trained. I believe that the injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities.

This and on-going recruitment will clearly provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible, effective and responsive policing service. As part of this 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 with a view to addressing any policing requirements for the Border region which may arise depending upon the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

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 combating 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.

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 necessary resources to keep our people and our communities safe.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (56)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

56. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the proposed minimum standards on direct provision; when he plans to publish same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26877/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I and my colleague Minister Charles Flanagan T.D. have recently approved new standards for direct provision accommodation centres. They were prepared by a Standards Advisory Group, established in 2017 and comprising officials from my Department, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the HSE National Office for Social Inclusion as well as representatives from AkiDwA, Children's Rights Alliance, the Core Group of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, the Jesuit Refugee Service, SPIRASI, and the UNHCR. The Standards address a range of themes including accommodation provided for those people seeking the protection of the State, food and catering, individual, community and family life, health and wellbeing, governance and meeting the special reception needs of applicants. They therefore build on the work done in the 2015 McMahon Report and meet the requirements of the Recast Reception Directive.

The standards went out for public consultation last year which included dedicated information workshops at a number of accommodation centres.

It is planned to launch the standards next month. The current procurement process in respect of direct provision accommodation was designed with a view to ensuring that all direct provision accommodation will adhere to these standards, when they come into force on January 2021.

Garda Operations

Ceisteanna (57)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

57. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress being made with regard to the establishment of a dedicated transport police; the meetings he has had on the matter; the estimated cost of such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21729/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Garda Commissioner and his management team are responsible for the allocation of all Garda resources, including personnel, and I have no role in such matters.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that it is not proposed to establish a specialist or dedicated transport policing unit of An Garda Síochána to police the rail network and that effective local community policing can meet the policing needs of the rail network and its stakeholders.

It is important to note that An Garda Síochána engages extensively with transport operators and that a range of regional and local operations have been put in place to address incidents and issues that have arisen at specific locations. There is ongoing communication between An Garda Síochána and the respective control centres, and access to good quality CCTV can assist the Gardaí when investigating serious incidents.

Furthermore, I welcome Irish Rail's plan to install more CCTV cameras and increase security patrols on DART carriages over the coming months, which is a positive step. I also support the introduction of a text alert system which was announced by Irish Rail recently. This service will facilitate customers to discreetly report any incidents as they develop on rail services.

The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána already employ a wide range of operational measures aimed at tackling public-order offences and anti-social behaviour. These measures are underpinned by the existence of a comprehensive legal framework, which assists the Gardaí in tackling this type of crime, including provisions under:

- the Criminal Damage Act 1991;

- Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994;

- the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003; and

- the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.

For its part, the Government remains committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána have all the necessary resources to tackle all forms of criminality in our communities. A total budget of €1.76 billion has been provided to An Garda Síochána in 2019, an increase of over €100 million on the 2018 allocation. The Commissioner has 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 provision of these additional resources to the Commissioner is a key component in this Government's approach to improving public safety throughout the country which will undoubtedly also benefit policing of transport services in Dublin and in other areas.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (58)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

58. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the discussions he or his officials have had with the Office of Public Works or other agencies with a view to progressing the new Macroom Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26875/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware 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 the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 includes the development of new Garda stations in Macroom, Clonmel and Sligo. These stations will be delivered by way of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

The development of PPP projects is progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). The Department of Justice and Equality and the Garda authorities are working with the OPW to progress this matter, with the input and assistance of the NDFA.

I can confirm that the OPW has agreed to provide its expert services in the design of the three stations included in this PPP. Discussions with the OPW have included direct engagement between the Secretary General of my Department and the Chair of the OPW. There are also ongoing working level meetings between my Department, An Garda Síochána, the OPW and the NDFA, in order to progress this project.

The establishment of PPP projects can be complex and it is vital to get the projects right at the planning and design stage. I can assure the Deputy that delivery of the new Garda stations in Clonmel, Macroom and Sligo through this PPP arrangement is being pursued as a priority.

Pending delivery of the new stations, I am informed that Garda management and the OPW have been working to improve conditions and facilities at the existing stations.

Garda Resources

Ceisteanna (59)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

59. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if extra funding is being made available for Garda resources in the Cavan-Monaghan division in 2019 and 2020; if extra gardaí have been allocated; the details by district in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26669/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion. Very significant capital investment is also being made in Garda ICT, the Garda fleet and the Garda estate - in total, the Garda capital allocation has increased from €61 million to €92 million in 2019, which represents a 50% increase.

In accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. It is a matter for the Commissioner to efficiently manage the significant resources which have been provided and to determine the allocation of budgets to all regions, including the Northern Region and all Divisions, including Cavan/ Monaghan Division, based upon operational requirements.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the table below sets out the vehicles attached to the Cavan/Monaghan Division, broken down by District, as of 20 June 2019.

CAVAN/MONAGHAN DIVISION

Cars

Vans

Motorbikes

4 x 4

*Others

Total

BAILIEBORO DISTRICT

9

2

0

0

0

11

CARRICKMACROSS DISTRICT

7

2

0

1

0

10

CAVAN DISTRICT

14

4

1

0

1

20

MONAGHAN DISTRICT

8

6

1

0

2

17

TOTAL VECHICLES IN DIVISION

38

14

2

1

3

58

*The category 'others' refers to MPV, SUV, Minibus or Prisoner Conveyance Vehicles

With regard to the fleet, the Deputy may further wish to be aware that a total of €10 million has been made available for the purchase and fit-out of Garda vehicles in 2019. I understand from the Garda authorities that this allocation will be used for purchase and fit-out of over 300 new vehicles for operational use this year.

I am further informed by Garda management that the Garda strength of the Cavan/Monaghan Division on 31 May 2019 (the latest date for which figures are readily available) was 365. There are also 8 Garda Reserves and 42 Garda Staff attached to the Division.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. Of this total, 100 have been assigned to the Cavan/Monaghan Division, with 10 assigned from the last allocation on 7 June 2019.

This and ongoing recruitment will clearly provide significant additional policing hours throughout the country, both in terms of the increase in new Gardaí and the redeployment of Gardaí to frontline policing duties due to civilianisation of their current roles. I believe that the injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be greatly beneficial in terms of protecting communities and will provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities across all Garda Divisions, including Cavan/Monaghan Division.

For the Deputy’s information, the attached spread-sheet supplied by the Garda authorities sets out the breakdown by Division of the total number of Gardaí assigned to the Cavan/Monaghan Division as on 31 May 2019, the latest date for which figures are currently available.

Cavan/Monaghan

Division

District

Station

GD

SG

IN

SU

CS

AC

Total

CAVAN/MONAGHAN         

BAILIEBORO             

BAILIEBORO               

1

2

6

39

48

BALLYJAMESDUFF           

1

3

4

COOTEHILL                

6

6

KINGSCOURT               

1

2

3

MULLAGH                  

2

2

SHERCOCK                 

1

1

VIRGINIA                 

1

5

6

TOTAL

1

2

9

58

70

CARRICKMACROSS         

BALLYBAY                 

1

2

3

CARRICKMACROSS           

1

1

8

40

50

CASTLEBLANEY             

5

25

30

ROCKCORRY                

1

1

TOTAL

1

1

14

68

84

CAVAN                  

ARVA                     

1

2

3

BALLINAGH                

1

1

BALLYCONNELL             

4

15

19

BELTURBET                

1

4

5

BLACKLION                

3

3

CAVAN                    

1

3

8

60

72

DOWRA                    

2

2

KILLESHANDRA             

1

1

KILNALECK                

4

4

SWANLINBAR               

1

1

TOTAL

1

3

14

93

111

MONAGHAN               

CLONES                   

1

4

5

EMYVALE                  

1

2

3

MONAGHAN                 

1

2

4

12

71

90

SCOTSTOWN                

2

2

TOTAL

1

2

4

14

79

100

CAVAN/ MONAGHAN          Total

1

5

10

51

298

365

The number of newly attested Gardaí allocated t the Cavan/Monaghan Division since the recommencement of recruitment to date

Cavan/Monaghan

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total

CAVAN

5

7

10

4

6

32

MONAGHAN

5

0

8

12

5

30

CARRICKMACROSS

0

0

5

13

8

26

BAILIEBORO

0

0

0

6

6

12

Garda Resources

Ceisteanna (60)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

60. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to tackle serious crime, cross-Border crimes and rural crime in view of concerns raised relating to these areas by organisations representing gardaí. [26880/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that investing in the capacity of An Garda Síochána to tackle criminals and enforce the law effectively is a key objective of the Government's response to tackling crime.

The Government has dedicated very significant resources to support An Garda Síochána in tackling the activities of criminal gangs, including mobile criminal gangs, that seek to target our communities.

The Deputy will be aware that there are a number of successful Garda operations in place to disrupt the activities of criminal gangs.

This concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 10,000 arrests and 11,550 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, have included handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences. An Garda Síochána will continue to bring pressure on the gangs and individuals responsible for these type of offences.

The Deputy will also be familiar with Operation Hybrid which has been deployed as a result of an escalation in violence between organised crime gangs in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. The strategic objective of Operation Hybrid is to have a three-pronged approach - preventative, investigative and targeted. As of 5 May, there have been in the region of 76,700 high visibility checkpoints carried out under Operation Hybrid.

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.

With respect to tackling cross border crime, there is strong ongoing co-operation between the Gardaí and the PSNI in respect of the full range of policing activities. A joint Cross-Border Policing Strategy operates between the two services. The Strategy covers the range of policing activities and contains a series of initiatives in which both police services are actively engaged.

The Joint Agency Task Force established under the Fresh Start Agreement engages the two police services in a lead role in structured strategic and operational co-operation in combating cross-border organised crime. The Joint Agency Task Force is a positive example of the extensive North-South co-operation that is undertaken between the police and other law enforcement agencies aimed at tackling crime and enhancing the safety of all communities on this island.

I can assure the Deputy that the Government remains committed to ensuring An Garda Síochána have all the necessary resources to tackle all forms of criminality that affects our communities

Public Sector Staff Sick Leave

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 55.

Ceisteanna (61)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

61. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 31 of 16 May 2019, the number of serving members of An Garda Síochána absent from work on sick leave due to stress-related factors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26865/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that sickness absences are recorded on the Sickness Management Absence System under the following categories:

- Ordinary illness

- Occupational injury/illness arising from duty

- Critical illness

I am further informed there is currently no specific sub-category on the Sickness Absence Management System for the recording of absences due to stress, anxiety or depression but in some cases, this is recorded under the sub-category of Mental Health illness.

I am advised by the Commissioner that the following statistics have been compiled using the Mental Health illness sub-category. There is no guarantee that all absences due to stress, anxiety or depression have been recorded under this category.

I am advised by the Commissioner that further to Parliamentary Question No. 31 of 16 May 2019, 10 Gardaí members were recorded as being absent under the Mental Health illness sub-category on Friday 10th May 2019.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 55.

Family Law Cases

Ceisteanna (63)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

63. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to reform the family law system; the status of the development of family law centres and the Children Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26870/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I intend to publish proposals in 2019 for a new approach to handling family law cases in Ireland at District, Circuit and High Court levels. A Family Court Bill will be introduced to create a new dedicated Family Court within the existing court structures. These courts will have new procedures aimed at less adversarial resolution of disputes and will have appropriate facilities and case management arrangements.

A working group was established in 2017, comprising officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Courts Service and the Legal Aid Board, to examine the operational aspects relating to the family court and develop an overall architecture for the new family court structure. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla also participated in the working group. Key issues that arose in consultations included family court venues and facilities, resources and capital investment in family courts and integration of relevant family and child services to provide the best possible family law outcomes.

In 2018, a task force on the Family Court comprising senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Legal Aid Board and the Courts Service was formed to seek agreement on core questions of policy and costs. A representative of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has also joined the group. The work of this group is at an advanced stage. Issues being examined include court areas and locations, use of courthouses, provision of facilities and services, arrangements for management of resources, and oversight arrangements.

Work is well advanced on the General Scheme of a Family Court Bill. When finalised, the General Scheme will be submitted for Government approval in the usual manner and will have to undergo pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill will then be drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. It is not possible at this stage to estimate when the Bill will be ready for publication.

The Family Court Bill is only one component of a new Family Court system. The provision of appropriate court facilities and services, and the capital and current resources that may be required for this, will be just as important, if not more so, for the operation of a new family court system.

The Government is committed to building a new Family Law Centre and Children’s Court in Dublin 7. The Government’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021 provides for development of a Family Law and Children’s Court at the Hammond Lane site. The project is to be delivered as a Public Private Partnership.

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

My officials have been in ongoing discussions with the Courts Service who have been advised that €80 million in capital funding has been made available for the project.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (64)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

64. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress in tendering for new Garda stations in County Cork in 2019; the locations of the stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26876/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

There has been an unprecedented level of investment in An Garda Síochána in recent years. An allocation of €1.76 billion has been made to An Garda Síochána for 2019 and very significant capital investment is also being made, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021; and investment of €46 million in the Garda Fleet over the same period.

In relation to the Garda estate, the Deputy will be aware that the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is based on agreed Garda priorities. It continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and OPW Votes. In addition to that programme, other major works to the Garda estate which are ongoing include the pilot Garda station reopening project, the development of a new facility at Military Road and the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street station. The goal of this ongoing investment is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff, as well as the public interacting with them.

The Deputy will appreciate that the Office of Public Works (OPW) is responsible for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. Accordingly, replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the OPW.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a number of Garda stations in Cork are included in these planned or ongoing works to the Garda estate.

First, the development of a new station in Glanmire, which will be located in Glanmire Industrial Estate, is included in the Building and Refurbishment Programme. The construction of this station is ongoing and the Garda authorities and OPW advise that completion is expected in Q3, 2019.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that in order to facilitate the Divisional Policing Model in Cork City, the Cork City Divisional Roads Policing Unit is relocating from Anglesea Street to Ballincollig Garda Station, and that works to accommodate the Divisional Roads Policing Unit in Ballincollig Garda Station are scheduled for this year.

A new station in Macroom is also included in the programme, with delivery of that station along with new stations in Clonmel and Sligo to be achieved as part of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. It is not possible at this point to provide a timeframe for completion of these projects. However I can assure the Deputy that delivery of these new stations through this PPP arrangement is being pursued as a priority.

A station in Cork is also included in the pilot Garda station reopening project. As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for a Partnership Government commits to a pilot scheme to reopen 6 Garda stations to determine possible positive impacts on criminal activity. The Garda Commissioner's final report, which is available on my Department's website, recommended that Ballinspittle Garda Station be reopened, along with stations in Bawnboy, Co. Cavan, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, Donard, Co. Wicklow, and Rush and Stepaside, Co. Dublin. The OPW and Garda authorities are cooperating closely on this project. In relation to Ballinspittle, I am informed the OPW has undertaken technical surveys to determine the works required to enable the Garda Station at Ballinspittle to reopen and is preparing tender documents to procure the required works. I am informed that it is envisaged works will be completed this year.

Finally and more generally, I am informed that An Garda Síochána in consultation with the OPW seeks to address minor maintenance issues and refurbishment works across all Divisions as they arise, having regard to overall Garda accommodation priorities.

Cyberbullying Issues

Ceisteanna (65)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

65. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views regarding an enhanced role for a service (details supplied) in combating serious online harassment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26866/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Hotline.ie is operated by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland. It is the national reporting service for illegal online content. It deals primarily with child sexual abuse material as defined in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 as amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 and its takedown in line with the provisions of EU Directive 2011/93 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. It also takes reports concerning other illegal online content such as racism as covered by the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. Its remit does not extend to content which may be considered harmful but is not illegal.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment deals with the wider issue of online harms that are not illegal. That Department held a public consultation which was open until April 2019. It sought the views of citizens and stakeholders as to an achievable, proportionate and effective approach to regulating harmful content, particularly online. I understand that a significant number of submissions were received during the consultation period including one from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. I further understand the submissions are currently being considered by DCCAE in developing policy in this area and that the monitoring and take down of online content which is harmful will be considered as part of this process.

As the Deputy will be aware, harassment is already an offence under Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. The 2016 Law Reform Commission Report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety identified a number of areas for reform in criminal legislation, including harassment.

The Deputy will also be conscious of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 which is a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Deputy Brendan Howlin. The main provisions of the Bill as published include extending the existing offence of sending threatening or indecent messages to apply to all threatening, false, indecent and obscene messages using any form of online or traditional method of communications.

The Bill also proposes extending the existing offence of harassment as contained in section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 to include all forms of communication, including through online or digital communications to or about a person. The Bill will criminalise the distribution of intimate images without consent that causes harm, commonly known as “revenge pornography”.

Following the agreement by Cabinet to support and amend the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017, my officials engaged in extensive consultations with the sponsor of the Bill and the Office of the Attorney General to prepare draft amendments. These amendments were approved by Government on 1 May 2019 and have now been sent to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to be formally drafted before they can be introduced at Committee Stage in the Dáil.

The amendments will ensure consistency in the provisions of the Bill overall. In relation to criminal offences, they will introduce a distinct offence of stalking in Ireland for the first time. They will provide for two separate image-based offences to deal with the phenomena of “upskirting” and “revenge pornography”. The amendments will also remove some of the civil provisions in the Bill that may be more appropriately dealt with through proposals to establish the Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner or a Regulator. These matters are, as I have said, currently being examined by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Parental Leave

Ceisteanna (66)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

66. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the progress of legislation to increase the level of paid parental leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26891/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that as part of Budget 2019, the Government announced the introduction of a new social insurance-based paid parental benefit scheme. This new scheme will support parents during the first year of the child's life by providing two weeks of paid leave to both parents, and will allow parents more flexibility in achieving and managing a work life balance.

It is envisaged that the scheme will commence in late 2019 and will be available to parents in respect of all children born on or after the date of its implementation.

The conditions of eligibility for the scheme will be provided for in legislation which is currently being developed by my Department, in cooperation with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

I can advise the Deputy that work is well advanced on drafting the legislation, which will be brought to Government for approval shortly.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Ceisteanna (67)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

67. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee D, infrastructure, last met; and when it is next scheduled to meet. [26691/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Cabinet Committee D works to ensure a co-ordinated approach in the areas of infrastructure investment and delivery, housing and climate action. The Cabinet Committee last met on 27 May 2019 and its next meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Since then the Government published the Climate Action Plan, which aims to give Irish people a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future.

This far reaching Plan sets out the actions across electricity, transport, heat, agriculture and other areas that we need to take to meet our EU 2030 targets, put us on a trajectory to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.

There is significant work underway across each of the areas covered by the Committee through Government Departments, agencies and a range of interdepartmental groups such as the Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board. These matters are also regularly considered at meetings of Government and in bilateral meetings with the relevant Ministers.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (68)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

68. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his visit to Luxembourg; and the meetings he attended and the issues that were discussed. [27157/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I travelled to Luxembourg following the European Council in Brussels on Friday 21 June.

I had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Bettel, as well as engagements at the European Investment Bank and the European Court of Justice.

Ireland and Luxembourg are, of course, like-minded on many EU matters and, in my meeting with Prime Minister Bettel, our discussions covered bilateral relations as well as Brexit and other important issues on the EU agenda, including the future strategic direction and leadership of the Union.

At the headquarters of the European Investment Bank, I met with President Hoyer and Vice President McDowell. I was present for the signature of an EIB loan of €350 million to DAA for the development of operations at Dublin Airport, including the conversion of the airport vehicle fleet away from fossil fuel.

In my visit to the European Court of Justice, I met with the President of the Court, Koen Lenaerts, as well as the Irish Judge and Advocate General at the Court of Justice, and the Irish Judges at the General Court. We discussed the importance of the Court’s work in upholding the Union’s Treaties and laws, as well as the implications of Brexit for its work.