Victims Commission

Ceisteanna (652)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

652. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider reappointing a victims commissioner to liaise with victims and families in relation to legacy issues. [31971/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to an equivalent position to the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Victims and Survivors.

The Deputy will recall that former Tánaiste, the late John Wilson, was instrumental in chairing the Commission which produced the Report of the Victims' Commission, "A Place and a Name" in August 1999. John Wilson went on to play an important role as Commissioner to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains.

The Stormont House Agreement, concluded by the two Governments and the Northern Ireland Parties in December 2014, provides for a framework of measures to address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The Agreement provides for the establishment of an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR).

The objective of the ICIR will be to enable victims and survivors to seek and privately receive information about the Troubles-related deaths of their next of kin. Individuals from both the UK and Ireland will be able to seek information from the ICIR. Relevant authorities will cooperate with the ICIR.

The Irish and UK Governments concluded an agreement on the establishment of the ICIR in October 2015. The ICIR will consist of five members: an Independent Chairperson of international standing, appointed by the two Governments; one Commissioner each appointed by the Irish and UK Government; and two Commissioners appointed by the Office of the Northern Ireland First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Work on the implementation of the Stormont House Legacy framework has been unduly delayed by the political impasse in Northern Ireland, although I am hopeful of progress and indeed the Government has been actively supporting recent efforts to try to find a way forward.

The Government has been progressing a programme of major reform in supporting victims of crime in recent years. This is being driven by a strong commitment to make our criminal justice system one which is much more accommodating and more supportive of all victims of crime, including those who have suffered during the troubles.

In particular, the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act, 2017, which transposed the European Union’s Directive (2012/29/EU) establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, into national law has provided for new statutory rights for all victims of crime in Ireland. This legislation, which was enacted in November 2017, includes new rights, particularly in areas such as the right to information and the provision of additional supports and protection.

At an operational level, significant work has been, and continues to be, taken across the relevant criminal justice agencies to ensure that the necessary structures and arrangements are in place so as to ensure effective and streamlined implementation of the Act and in the overall provision of better supports to victims of crime.

Garda Investigations

Ceisteanna (653)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

653. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if further consideration will be given to the establishment of a historical investigations unit as discussed with a group (details supplied) at its meeting in February 2019. [31972/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) is to be established in Northern Ireland, as part of the framework of measures under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement that will address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The HIU will specifically be tasked with conducting criminal investigations into unsolved troubles related killings in Northern Ireland.

Under the terms of the Stormont House Agreement, the HIU is not mandated to investigate troubles related killings in either this jurisdiction or in Great Britain. The HIU structure is dedicated to Northern Ireland because of the particular political situation there and the crucial need for the legacy process to have cross community acceptance and confidence.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the investigation of crime in Ireland is a matter for An Garda Síochána and the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the deployment of all Garda resources, including personnel. I have no role in such matters.

I have been advised by the Garda authorities that, in general terms, responsibility for the investigation of criminal offences resides in the first instance with the Superintendent of the District where the offence was committed.

The Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, under the command of the Assistant Commissioner for Special Crime Operations, holds a national investigative remit and it is specialised in the area of major crime investigation. It undertakes and supports investigations on the direction of the Garda Commissioner.

The support provided includes using the expertise of the Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT), which was established in 2007 to provide independent review of historical investigations, including homicides. The purpose of a review conducted by the SCRT is to assist the Senior Investigating Officer with the criminal investigation. Such review is an independent examination of evidence and other material, gathered during investigation and to ensure that it conforms to approved standards; that the investigation has been thorough, conducted with integrity and objectivity; and to identify further investigative opportunities.

The range of other bureaux within Special Crime Operations support major investigations at a national level depending on the category of crime under investigation.

The investigation of terrorist-related offences falls under the remit of the Special Detective Unit under the command of Assistant Commissioner, Security and Intelligence. Other services within An Garda Síochána, such as the Analysis Service or the Technical Bureau, also provide support and assistance in the investigation and review of serious crimes.

The Deputy can be assured that in circumstances where historic, troubles-related offences have not been resolved, the investigations remain open and the Garda Authorities will and do follow up fully on any new evidence or information that becomes available to them, whether that comes from the public, from other police services or from their own investigations.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (654)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

654. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the four person international oversight of paramilitaries established under the Fresh Start Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32619/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the two Governments established the four person Independent Reporting Commission in order to facilitate monitoring of the implementation of the measures aimed at ending paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, agreed under the Fresh Start Agreement.

The Commission’s functions are to:

- report annually (or on such further occasions as required) on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland;

- report on the implementation of the relevant measures of the three administrations - critical here will be the NI Executive’s Strategy to tackle paramilitary activity and associated criminality; and

- consult the UK Government and relevant law enforcement agencies, the Irish Government and relevant law enforcement agencies and, in Northern Ireland, the Executive, PSNI, statutory agencies, local councils, communities and civic society organisations.

The Commission has been actively engaged in carrying out its functions since its appointment, engaging with a range of relevant stakeholders, North and South, including with my Department. It published its first report in October 2018.

I informed the Deputy of my intention to meet with the Commission in response to question 26959/18 of 20 June last. I can confirm that I met the Commission on 26 June to hear further on its progress with its work. At that time, the Commission also met separately with the Garda Commissioner, the Director General of the Prison Service and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

I look forward to the Commission's second report which it is intended will be provided later this year.

Judicial Retirement Age

Ceisteanna (655)

Hildegarde Naughton

Ceist:

655. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the retirement age for serving judges; the status of proposals; when considerations will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32988/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Association of Judges of Ireland has recently requested that my Department review the matter of retirement age for serving judges (currently age 70 years). This issue is currently under consideration by officials within my Department, and in consultation with officials of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform who have policy responsibility for judicial pensions.

Assisted Decision Making

Ceisteanna (656)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

656. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if significant funding up to €10 million will be sought in budget 2020 to implement the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33389/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced.  The Act provides for the establishment of new administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health). 

The Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in 2020.  This lead in timeframe ensures that the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations will be in place so that the Decision Support Service will have the capacity to be up and running effectively. There are many complex strands to this preparatory work, including the involvement of multiple organisations.

A high-level Steering Group comprised of senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission and the Courts Service, together with the Director of the Decision Support Service, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the Decision Support Service and this work is ongoing. There are many complex strands to this work, including involvement of multiple organisations.

The 2018 Budget provided for an allocation of €3 million for the Decision Support Service in a new subhead D. 10 of the Justice and Equality Vote.  €2.111 million of the 2018 allocation was drawn down. The 2019 Revised Estimates Volume provides for an allocation of €3.5 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service. The expenditure requirements for the Decision Support Service for 2020 are being evaluated in the context of the Estimates process that is currently under way.

Garda Station Refurbishment

Ceisteanna (657)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

657. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the upgrade of Tubbercurry Garda station, County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33397/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources made available to An Garda Síochána. This includes responsibility for the identification of requirements in relation to Garda accommodation and close cooperation thereafter with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of the Garda estate.

I have asked the Garda Commissioner for the information requested and I will write directly to the Deputy when I receive it.

National Disability Authority

Ceisteanna (658)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

658. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a review of the role of the National Disability Authority has been conducted as outlined in A Programme for A Partnership Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33841/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware there is a commitment in the Programme for Government 2016 -2021 to review the role of the National Disability Authority (NDA). 

The NDA is an independent advisory body to Government, on disability matters which informs national policy and its implementation towards achieving a society where persons with disabilities can have their rights to equal participation in economic, social and cultural life realised, can reach their maximum potential and where universal design of the environment can be progressively realised.

The focus of work with regard to disability has been on starting the midterm review of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy, advancing implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on agreeing the second Action Plan on the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities.  Preliminary work has been undertaken on the review of the NDA.

Assisted Decision Making

Ceisteanna (659)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

659. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, excluding Part 8, will be implemented; the progress made to establish a functioning decision support service; the estimated cost of establishing the Act in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced.  The Act provides for the establishment of new administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health).

The Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in 2020.  This lead in timeframe ensures that the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations will be in place so that the Decision Support Service will have the capacity to be up and running effectively. There are many complex strands to this preparatory work, including the involvement of multiple organisations.

A high-level Steering Group comprised of senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission and the Courts Service, together with the Director of the Decision Support Service, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the Decision Support Service and this work is ongoing. There are many complex strands to this work, including involvement of multiple organisations. The 2019 Revised Estimates Volume provides for an allocation of €3.5 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service.

A number of provisions of the 2015 Act were commenced in October 2016 in order to progress the setting up of the Decision Support Service. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 515 of 2016) commenced provisions of the Act to enable the recruitment of the Director of the Decision Support Service. Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the Decision Support Service on 2 October 2017.

The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health.

The key preparations are being put in place under the oversight of the Steering Group to allow for further commencement orders for the provisions of the 2015 Act to be made when the Decision Support Service is ready to roll out the new decision-making support options.

Significant progress has been made on preparing for commencement of the 2015 Act. In April 2018, the Mental Health Commission engaged the consultancy firm BearingPoint to support the development of a detailed, costed plan to establish a fully operational Decision Support Service. The contract also includes ongoing project management support for the design and establishment of the organisation, business processes, IT systems and risk management framework.

The Mental Health Commission has also received sanction for the recruitment of a number of staff for the Decision Support Service and also a number of staff to provide shared services for the Mental Health Commission and Decision Support Service. These staff are being recruited on a phased basis by the Mental Health Commission.

The National Disability Authority is currently finalising its work on the suite of draft codes of practice in relation to non-healthcare matters which are required to be prepared under section 103 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015.

In June 2018, my Department recruited an external legal expert to assist in the preparation of draft regulations in relation to decision-making assistance agreements, co-decision-making agreements, certain matters relating to decision-making representatives, and enduring powers of attorney.  These regulation-making powers are provided for in sections 10(4), 31, 45(3), 45(4), 46(3) and 79 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. Work on the draft regulations is ongoing.

The 2018 Budget provided for an allocation of €3 million for the Decision Support Service in a new subhead D. 10 of the Justice and Equality Vote.  €2.111 million of the 2018 allocation was drawn down.  €3.5 million has been allocated for the Decision Support Service for 2019. The expenditure requirements for the Decision Support Service for 2020 are being evaluated in the context of the Estimates process that is currently underway.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (660, 661)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

660. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the primary legislation enacted since May 2016; and if the legislation in each case placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises. [31486/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Deering

Ceist:

661. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the secondary legislation enacted since 1 January 2018; and if the legislation in each case placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises. [31494/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 660 and 661 together.

Please see the following document which outlines the primary legislation enacted by my Department since May 2016 and if the legislation in each case placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises. The document also outlines the secondary legislation enacted by my Department since 1 January 2018 and if the legislation in each case placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises.

Dept Justice response

Courts Service Expenditure

Ceisteanna (662)

John Brady

Ceist:

662. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the running costs associated with the closed courthouse in County Wicklow in each of the years 2010 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [31553/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

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

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided the running costs requested by the Deputy in respect of Wicklow Courthouse from 2010 to date in 2019 as follows:

Wicklow Courthouse

 Year

 Running costs

 2010

 €4,689

 2011

 €18,290

 2012

 €27,935

 2013

 €32,824

 2014 

 €13,091

 2015

 €3,224

 2016

 €3,963

 2017

 €3,322

 2018

 €3,478

To date in 2019

 €591

The Courts Service has advised that maintenance spend was higher in 2011 to 2014 due to heating costs and remedial works being carried out in relation to the roof of the courthouse.

Courts Service Data

Ceisteanna (663)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

663. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the latest statistics from the Courts Service on prosecutions and convictions relating to fraud within the personal injuries area in accordance with recommendation 12 of the Cost of Insurance Working Group report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31584/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As noted in the most recent progress report from the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG), published on 19 July 2019, it was agreed that the statistics referred to by the Deputy would be provided by An Garda Síochána rather than by the Courts Service, as had been originally envisaged by the CIWG. This data flows from the new 'insurance fraud' data category introduced to An Garda Síochána's PULSE system on 1 November 2018.

Access to the CIWG's progress report published last week is available at the following link: https://assets.gov.ie/19322/8404160a5cc44b53b482c34ac1316f3b.pdf (See pages 34 and 35 of the progress report).

In relation to the scale of insurance fraud reported to An Garda Síochána, the most recent figures available to my Department indicate that, in the period 1 November 2018 to 31 May 2019, 50 incidents of insurance fraud were recorded on PULSE (This data is correct as at 6 June 2019, however data is operational and, therefore, subject to change). 50% of these incidents relate to staged collisions and 18% relate to forged documentation concerning no claims bonuses.

As outlined by the Deputy Garda Commissioner and Chief Superintendent of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) at the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform's discussion on insurance fraud on 9 July, decisions relating to prosecution are awaited in the case of some of the 50 incidents I have mentioned, while other incidents are still in the early stages of investigation.

I understand that An Garda Síochána has committed to providing further statistical data to the Joint Committee at a future date. I too have asked for sight of this data, once compiled.

Departmental Reviews

Ceisteanna (664)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

664. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of reviews carried out by his Department pursuant to Standing Order No. 164A of Dáil Éireann; the pieces of legislation to which each review refers; the number and title of each piece of legislation in respect of which a review pursuant to Standing Order 164A has not been undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31634/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to confirm to the Deputy that the information sought cannot be provided in the time allowed. As soon as the information has been collated I will write to the Deputy on the matter.

Garda Equipment

Ceisteanna (665, 666)

James Lawless

Ceist:

665. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the communications he has had with the Garda Commissioner in relation to the decision to remove equipment from laptop computers used by senior officers manufactured by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31706/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

James Lawless

Ceist:

666. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if all technology manufactured by a company (details supplied) will be removed from all equipment used by An Garda Síochána in the interests of national security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31707/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 665 and 666 together.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána as well as for decisions in relation to the allocation and management of Garda resources, including in relation to ICT.  As Minister I have no direct role in these matters. 

I am informed by the Garda authorities that in general and for operational reasons, An Garda Síochána does not comment on the specifics of particular equipment in use in the organisation. 

However in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy, the Garda authorities have indicated that An Garda Síochána purchases the majority of its ICT equipment through Office of Government Procurement frameworks. The Garda authorities have further advised me that the only equipment in use in An Garda Síochána which has been manufactured by the company referred by the Deputy are branded modems supplied by mobile network operators.  I am further informed that these external modems are being phased out, as they are being replaced by laptops with an internal modem.

Garda Operations

Ceisteanna (667)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

667. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if queries have been raised with the Embassy of the United States of America regarding the publication of a security alert relating to a festival (details supplied) on 5 to 7 July 2019, which it published online; if An Garda Síochána made contact with the embassy in advance of the alert; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31742/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, Diplomatic Missions may from time to time issue notices to their citizens with regard to personal safety and related matters.

In the context of policing of events, the arrangements and measures taken are first and foremost matters for the Garda authorities, who have operational responsibility in this regard.

The Deputy will appreciate that for reasons relating to the proper operation of security measures, communications between An Garda Síochána and Diplomatic Missions may not be disclosed.

Private Security Authority

Ceisteanna (668)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

668. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will make contact in respect of a matter with an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31761/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Private Security Authority (PSA) is the regulatory body responsible for the regulation and licensing of the security industry in Ireland. The Authority is an independent body under the aegis of my Department. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of the PSA.

I am advised that this incident was investigated by the PSA and in the absence of a criminal conviction, the Authority is not in a position to take action.  A member of the family was advised by the PSA in 2015 that the incident will be reviewed should any criminal convictions be recorded against any PSA licence holder. That remains the position.

Garda Transport Data

Ceisteanna (669)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

669. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda community relations vans purchased in 2018 and to date in 2019; and the number withdrawn during the same period. [31842/19]

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 An Garda Síochána, including a total of €46 million for investment in the Garda fleet between 2016 and 2021. This continuing investment is intended to ensure that An Garda Síochána can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community to prevent and tackle crime. 

The Deputy may 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.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána.  Further, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands. This includes responsibility for the allocation of Garda vehicles among the various Garda divisions.  As Minister, I have no role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure their optimum use.

In relation to vehicles for community support, I am informed by the Garda authorities that three mini buses have been purchased and added to the Garda fleet in 2019 and that these vehicles have been allocated by Garda management to the Cork West Division, Cork City Division and Westmeath Division.  I am further informed that two mini buses and one custom fit-out van (which can be used as a community support van) were purchased in 2018 and were allocated to the DMR North, DMR West and DMR North Central respectively.

Finally, I am advised by the Garda authorities that no community relations vans were withdrawn from the fleet in 2018 and that one van has been removed from the fleet in 2019.

Visa Applications

Ceisteanna (670)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

670. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the level at which a decision is made in his Department to grant or reject an application (details supplied); the grade of the person making such a decision; if elements of the consideration of applications are outsourced; and if so, the elements concerned and the persons or agencies to which. [31845/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that, in addition to the Dublin Visa Office, visa applications are decided in Irish Embassies either by specialist visa officers seconded from INIS or by consular staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under delegated sanction.  Decisions are taken based on established and transparent criteria. Guidelines on the application process including details of the required supporting documentation can be found on the INIS website (www.inis.gov.ie).

Decisions may be made by staff at various levels depending on the type and complexity of the application.  Visa officers are generally at the Clerical Officer level in the Dublin office and at the Executive Officer grade in offices abroad.  Where a decision to refuse an application is made the application is generally referred to a more senior grade prior to the conclusion of the case.  In most cases appeals are allowed within two months of the decision.  

An appeal against a decision to refuse an application will be considered by a different officer than that which made the initial decision.  The officer considering the appeal will generally be of a higher grade than the initial decision maker.

While no element of the decision making process is outsourced beyond my department or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, both INIS and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have arrangements in place with third party service providers in relation to frontline and administrative services which include the receipt of visa applications and supporting documents and the subsequent transmission of same to the relevant embassy for processing. This provides a customer focused service using a network of regional offices to negate the need for applicants to travel to Irish embassies.  For example, there are 13 and 15 regional offices available in India and China respectively, significantly reducing travel times required in these countries.  Four regional offices are available in Pakistan.  These third parties have no role in the processing of a visa and all decisions on Irish visa applications are made by officials, either from my Department or from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In the case of applications from the Country specified by the Deputy, these are forwarded by the service provider to the Irish Consulate in Country where the applications are recorded on the Automated Visa Application Transaction System and forwarded under diplomatic post to Dublin for decision.  The Consulate may verify certain documents if requested by the deciding office but it plays no role in the decision of an application.  

The central concern in deciding on visa applications, as with all visa services worldwide, is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria.  Each visa application is therefore decided on its own merits taking all factors into account.

Visa Applications

Ceisteanna (671)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

671. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason an appeal against the decision to deny persons (details supplied) 90 day visas will, according to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, likely take eight weeks to process. [31852/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the visa appeal was received in the Visa Office in Dublin on 4 July 2019.

In order to be fair to all applicants, appeals are generally processed in the chronological order in which they are received.  While every effort is made to process appeals as soon as possible, processing times will vary having regard to the volume of appeals received, the resources available to process them and the individual complexity of the application and subsequent appeal.  It is currently expected to be about eight weeks to reach and decide on the application referred to.

I am further advised by INIS that each visa application is considered on its individual merits.  In assessing an application, the Visa Officer will have regard to all of the information available to them including any previous applications made. The onus rests at all times with the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer that any visa sought should be granted.  Guidelines on the application process including details of the required supporting documentation are provided on the INIS website (www.inis.gov.ie) and visa applicants are advised to read them.

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

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (672)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

672. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that resided and reside in direct provision centres in each county in each of the years 2010 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the number of children aged zero to five, five to ten and ten to 18 years of age in each centre in each of the periods, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31859/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The statistical data that the Deputy has requested is set out below in tabular form. Over the past 20 years more than 60,000 people have been supported by the Direct Provision system.

While an international protection claim is being examined, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) offers accommodation and related services to anyone without means. This includes all meals, and utilities. It is a whole-of-Government approach to supports and services for applicants. A weekly personal allowance is paid to each person and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection cover exceptional needs.  The Department of Education and Skills provides school places for children resident in the centres and children also have access to the free pre-school scheme, the Early Childhood Care and Education programme. The HSE provides mainstreamed health services to residents.

Residents by County

Children Age Range

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (673)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

673. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the proposed sites for direct provision centres in each county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31860/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The State is obliged to offer accommodation and ancillary services to persons who enter the state and seek international protection. The list of current accommodation centres by county are as follows:

County 

Centre

Capacity

Comment 

Clare

Knockalisheen, Meelick 

250 

Accommodation Centre 

 

King Thomond, Lisdoonvarna

115 

Accommodation Centre 

Cork

Ashbourne House, Glounthaune 

95

Accommodation Centre 

 

Davis Lane, Mallow

52 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Kinsale Road, Cork City

 299

 Accommodation Centre

 

Glenvera, Wellington Road, Cork City

130 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Millstreet 

290 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Clonakilty Lodge, Clonakilty

110 

Accommodation Centre 

Dublin 

Balseskin

487 

Reception Centre 

 

The Towers, Clondalkin 

250 

Accommodation Centre 

Galway 

Eglinton, Salthill 

210 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Great Western House, Galway City 

162 

Accommodation Centre 

Kerry

Atlas House Killarney 

90 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Atlas House Tralee 

100

Accommodation Centre 

 

Atlantic Lodge, Kenmare 

98 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Johnston Marina, Tralee 

90 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Linden House, Killarney 

57 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Park Lodge, Killarney 

55 

Accommodation Centre 

Kildare

Hazel Hotel, Monasterevin 

143

Accommodation Centre 

 

Eyrepowell, Newbridge 

152 

Accommodation Centre 

Laois 

Hibernian, Abbeyleix 

63 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Montague, Emo 

202 

Accommodation Centre 

Limerick

Hanrattys, Glenthworth Street

118 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Mount Trenchard, Foynes 

85  

Accommodation Centre 

Longford

Richmond Court, Longford 

80 

Accommodation Centre 

Louth

Carroll Village 

60 

Accommodation Centre 

Mayo

Old Convent, Ballyhaunis 

245 

Accommodation Centre 

Meath

Mosney 

600 

Accommodation Centre 

Monaghan

St. Patricks, Monaghan 

212 

Accommodation Centre 

Sligo

Globe House, Chapel Hill 

218 

Accommodation Centre 

Tipperary

Bridgewater, Carrick-On-Suir 

161 

Accommodation Centre 

Waterford

Atlantic House, Tramore 

82 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Birchwood, Ballytruckle Road 

145 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Ocean View, Tramore 

100  

Accommodation Centre 

 

Viking House, Coffee House Lane

81 

Accommodation Centre 

Wicklow

Grand Hotel, Wicklow Town 

111 

Accommodation Centre 

Westmeath

Athlone 

300 

Accommodation Centre 

 

Temple Accommodation Centre, Horseleap

100 

Accommodation Centre 

In order to meet the demand for accommodation places, my Department has sought expressions of interest from owners of suitable premises to meet the demand in the short term. While my Department is in negotiations with a number of interested parties, no agreements are in place currently.

In parallel, my Department is running a series of regional procurement competitions through the Government's procurement portal www.e-tenders.gov.ie to provide accommodation places in the medium to long term. While no additional centres emerged from the South-East Tender competition, a number of competitions are currently in process (Midlands, Mid-West, South-West and Western Region) and the remaining Regions (Dublin, Mid-East and Border Regions) will be advertised by end of Q3 of this year. 

Details of any new accommodation centre identified through either process will be communicated to relevant stakeholders such as local authorities, HSE, Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Employment and Social Protection prior to its opening.

Prisoner Transfers

Ceisteanna (674)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

674. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a prisoner (details supplied) has been transferred to Shelton Abbey; and the reason this happened only three months into a three year sentence. [31861/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to go into detail in relation to individual prisoner matters.

 I will however advise the Deputy that all prisoners being considered for a transfer from a closed prison to an Open Centre are risk assessed by my officials who take into consideration a number of factors including:

- the safety of the public (specifically flight risk in the case of open centres)

- compassionate and humane considerations (including facilitating family visits)

- nature and gravity of the offence

- length of sentence served to date

- length of sentence left to serve

- prior record on temporary release

- behaviour in prison

- previous criminal history

- family support

- addiction issues/history

- prisoner's home address

In this case the prisoner was assessed for suitability and transferred on the recommendation of the Prison Governor. Finally I am advised that the prisoner has posed no difficulties for management in the Open Centre.

Parental Leave

Ceisteanna (675, 678)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

675. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the parental leave and benefit Bill will be enforced by November 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31923/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

678. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin 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. [31999/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 675 and 678 together.

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.

Visa Applications

Ceisteanna (676)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

676. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the applications officer to deem the documents supplied with an application (details supplied) as fraudulent; the reason for the statement by the officer that information supplied with the application was false and misleading; and the basis for the opinion of the officer that the event would not take place. [31958/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that every visa application is considered on its individual merits. 

In assessing any application, the Visa Officer will have regard to all of the information available to them.  The onus rests at all times with the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer that any visa sought should be granted.  Guidelines on the application process including details of the required supporting documentation can be found on the INIS website (www.inis.gov.ie).

The Visa Officer, in deciding on an application, seeks to verify the information provided by the applicant, for instance accommodation bookings, public advertisement of conferences and formal invitations.  Where documentation provided by the applicant is of poor quality or not in the format required by INIS then the Visa Officer may form an opinion on the documents and the overall application. 

However, in most cases applicants are afforded the opportunity to appeal a negative decision within two months of the decision date.  This allows the applicant to address the reasons for the refusal and to provide clarification on any particular matter that they wish to.  It also allows them to provide further information if they believe that it will assist their application. 

I am further advised by INIS that no appeal was received from the applicant in this case. 

The central concern in deciding on visa applications, as with all visa services worldwide, is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria. 

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

In addition, members of the public may themselves e-mail queries directly to INIS (visamail@justice.ie).