Counselling Services Provision

Ceisteanna (243)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

243. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports and counselling services available through schools to assist children suffering with anxiety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37652/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is strongly supportive of the promotion of positive mental health awareness in schools. The Department adopts a holistic and integrated approach to supporting schools in promoting positive mental health and to supporting those with a broad range of problems including behavioural, emotional and social.

To support this holistic approach my Department has published a Well-being Policy and Framework for Practice (2018-2023) for all schools which will inform how schools can promote student well-being. To implement the Well-being Policy every school is required by 2023, to use the six-step School Self-Evaluation (SSE) process with the Well-being Framework for Practice, to consider their existing provision for well-being and to devise and implement a plan for improvement. The participating schools will engage in a Well-being Promotion Process, working through the six-steps of School Self Evaluation with sustained in-school support from the Department’s support services.

The Well-being Policy also includes an Implementation Plan with seven high level actions to support the realisation of the policy. My Department is working with a range of education partners and agencies to realise the ambition in the plan.

The Well-being Policy also builds on the work already taking place in schools including the new Framework for Junior Cycle (2015) which places a clear emphasis on overall student health and well-being.

Responsibility for provision of mental health services and counselling for young people lies with the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive. There are no plans for a national school-based counselling programme. The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides consultation for school staff who may have concerns about individual pupils or students. NEPS supports schools in putting interventions in place for individuals with clearly identified and serious difficulties. Consultation in relation to appropriate therapeutic interventions delivered in the school setting is also available. When counselling is considered to be required a referral is made to an outside agency. Schools are advised to have identified appropriate referral pathways in consultation with HSE and other mental health services in their local community.

Schools are advised to identify supports and services that are available in their community, build relationships and agree referral pathways for students needing referral. The (NEPS) in my Department provides psychological support and engages in collaborative work helping school staff including the school’s Guidance Counselling Service in how to access appropriate mental health services. Psychologists support schools in connecting with Primary Care Psychology Services and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services in relation to individual children and young people with mental health needs. Psychologists support and encourage the establishment of referral and communication protocols between education and health services at local level and work with others to develop community based mental health promotion strategies. In addition NEPS psychologists provide support to schools in implementing Student Support Teams in Post Primary Schools.

NEPS also provides guidelines and resource materials for schools to enable them to deal with certain traumatic events which can adversely affect students and school staff. The guidelines responding to Critical Incidents: Guidelines and Resource Materials for Schools (2016) refer to preventive approaches that schools can adopt in creating a safe and supportive environment. It also outlines how schools can plan for crises. The publication provides support to schools at a potentially overwhelming time with practical step-by-step guidance for teachers and principals on how to respond when a tragedy occurs. The guidelines focus on alerting schools to planning processes, structures and actions which will better allow them to cope with a traumatic incidents such as suicide or suspected suicide, murder, accidental death including road traffic accidents and drowning, and death through illness of members of the school community. In relation to suicide, advice is also given on prevention and positive mental health stratagems and approaches. NEPS psychologists will also, at the specific invitation of school authorities, attend at the schools immediately following such incidents to offer direct advice and assistance to school staff and students.

School Closures

Ceisteanna (244, 246, 248, 252)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

244. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 458 of 6 September 2019 did not reply to the question posed; the reason the commitment to meet a deputation was not honoured before a decision made in relation to the subject matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37665/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

246. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the consideration which was given to the concerns raised in Topical Issue Debate No. 3 of 2 July 2019 on the proposed closure of two second-level schools (details supplied) in County Cavan with particular reference to the commitment of the Minister of State with special responsibility for higher education to bring these issues to his attention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37667/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

248. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding has been committed to a proposed project (details supplied); if so, when a decision was made; the level of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37669/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

252. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason detailed and comprehensive submissions (details supplied) forwarded to his Department were not acknowledged on the proposed closure of two second-level schools; his views on whether this manner of ignoring the views of local communities and organisations is unacceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37726/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244, 246, 248 and 252 together.

As the Deputy is aware the decision making authority for any amalgamation is the Patron/Trustees of the schools, and this is subject to the approval of my Department. I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has recently approved an application from Cavan Monaghan Education & Training Board to amalgamate St Mogues College and St Bricin’s College in West Cavan.

The schools will continue to operate from the existing school sites until a new school building can be provided for the amalgamated school. It is envisaged that the construction phase for the new amalgamated school will be facilitated with investment available during the second half of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018 to 2027.

The new amalgamated school will enable facilities to be modernised in an energy efficient building that will be compliant with Part L of the Building Regulations 2017. It will also provide the opportunity for the school to have a fully equipped PE Hall facility with fitness suite together with a 2-class special education needs base.

School Closures

Question No. 246 answered with Question No. 244.

Question No. 247 answered with Question No. 245.

Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 244.

Ceisteanna (245, 247, 251)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

245. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a commitment he gave to this Deputy concerning a meeting was not honoured (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37666/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

247. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the consideration given to the renewed request for a meeting with a deputation regarding the proposed closure of two second-level schools during Topical Issue Debate No. 3 on 2 July 2019 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37668/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

251. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the request from a group (details supplied) for a meeting with his officials was not acceded to in relation to the proposed closure of two second-level schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37713/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 245, 247 and 251 together.

As the Deputy is aware the decision making authority for any amalgamation is the Patron/Trustees of the schools, and this is subject to the approval of my Department. I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has recently approved an application from Cavan Monaghan Education & Training Board to amalgamate St Mogues College and St Bricin’s College in West Cavan.

The schools will continue to operate from the existing school sites until a new school building can be provided for the amalgamated school. It is envisaged that the construction phase for the new amalgamated school will be facilitated with investment available during the second half of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018 to 2027.

The new amalgamated school will enable facilities to be modernised in an energy efficient building that will be compliant with Part L of the Building Regulations 2017. It will also provide the opportunity for the school to have a fully equipped PE Hall facility with fitness suite together with a 2-class special education needs base.

Unfortunately it was not possible to arrange a meeting.

Question No. 246 answered with Question No. 244.
Question No. 247 answered with Question No. 245.
Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 244.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (249)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

249. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the new secondary school (details supplied) for Castleknock and Carpenterstown, Dublin 15; when the school will open; if the school will open in September 2020; the efforts under way to ensure the school opens on time; the contingency plans in place if the school does not open as planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37694/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The building project referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department's Design & Build programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Management team to progress the project through the stages of architectural planning, tendering and construction.

The next step in the process will be the application for planning permission which is expected to be lodged shortly. Thereafter, as with all school building projects, the exact timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission. My Department will be working to have the first phase of the school's permanent accommodation handed over by September of 2021 with phase 2 to follow in a matter of months.

A meeting was held between Department officials and representatives of the Board of Management of the school on September 3rd. In the course of the meeting the projected timelines for the progression of the project were outlined and the factors underpinning those timelines were explained in considerable detail. Following the meeting an email issued to the Board confirming the timelines for the project.

For the school year commencing September 2020, the school will remain in it's current location and plans are being put in place to provide the necessary additional accommodation.

My Department officials will keep the Board of Management fully informed of developments as they occur.

Schools Inspections

Question No. 251 answered with Question No. 245.

Question No. 252 answered with Question No. 244.

Ceisteanna (250)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

250. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of times the inspectorate of his Department has challenged the use of reduced timetables in the context of the school inspection process since 2011; if so, the year in which a challenge was made; the county in which it was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37695/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Inspectorate is committed to supporting continuous improvement in the provision for and school experience of learners at risk of educational disadvantage (DEIS) and students with special educational needs (SEN). In line with this purpose, in September 2018, the Inspectorate amended elements of its DEIS and SEN inspections to include a focus on the issue of students on reduced timetables. Prior to that date, inspection models did not include a specific focus on the issue.

Where relevant, inspectors are currently required to discuss the issue of reduced timetables with school principals and management teams and to make a judgement as to the appropriateness or otherwise of the school’s actions.

DEIS inspections have been conducted in the following counties since September 2018: Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Donegal, Cavan, Mayo, Galway, Wexford, Longford and Clare. DEIS evaluations conducted since September 2018 have identified seventeen cases of students being placed on reduced timetables. In each case, inspectors examined the school’s rationale for the implementation of the measure and determined that the school’s actions were appropriate.

SEN inspections have been conducted in the following counties since September 2018: Dublin, Cork, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway, Kildare, Wicklow, Tipperary, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath, Kerry, Monaghan, Laois and Clare.

SEN inspections conducted since September 2018, have identified thirteen cases of students being placed on reduced timetables. In all cases, inspectors examined the school’s rationale for the implementation of the measure and determined that the school’s actions were appropriate.

Question No. 251 answered with Question No. 245.
Question No. 252 answered with Question No. 244.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (253)

John Curran

Ceist:

253. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made in providing a new school building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37747/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A project to provide a new building for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department's school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan.

My Department recently met with the Patron of the school to discuss this project and is now in the process of finalising the brief. My Department will be in further contact with the Patron shortly on this matter.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (254)

John Curran

Ceist:

254. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the acquisition of land from South Dublin County Council for a school (details supplied) is complete; the timeframe for the future development of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37748/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The conveyancing process is underway in respect of the additional plots of land to which the Deputy refers. At this point it would be premature to give a timeframe for the future development of the school. I can assure the Deputy that every effort is being made to expedite the process.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (255)

John Curran

Ceist:

255. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school building project (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37749/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

Following the appointment of the replacement design team Quantity Surveyor, the design team is currently working on the Stage 2(b) report which on completion will be submitted to the Department for review.

In completing the Stage 2(b) report the Design Team is required to upgrade the current design to ensure that the new school building is a Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) report my Department will revert to the school with regard to the further progression of this project at that time.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (256)

John Curran

Ceist:

256. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made in advancing a school building project (details supplied) which was first identified as needing a new building in 2004; the current stage the project is at; the timelines for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37750/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

In completing the Stage 2(b) report the Design Team is required to upgrade the current design to ensure that the new school building is a Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) report my Department will revert to the school with regard to the further progression of this project at that time.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (257)

John Curran

Ceist:

257. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made regarding a school building project (details supplied) which is currently at stage 2B; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37751/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

In the context of reviewing the revised Stage 2(b) report submitted to the Department it was noted that the estimated Stage 2(b) cost plan had increased substantially from the approved costs at Stage 2(a).

In accordance with my Department's Design Team Procedures, where the approved cost limits have been exceeded, a Brief Change Report is necessary. The Brief Change Report was recently received by my Department and is currently under review.

Upon review and approval of the Brief Change Report by my Department, the design team will then commence work on any necessary revisions to the Stage 2(b) submission.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (258)

John Curran

Ceist:

258. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made to provide a new school building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37752/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (ETB).

Under this arrangement, it will be a matter for the ETB to appoint a Design Team for the design and construction phases of the project. As the project has not yet commenced architectural planning, it is too early in the process for a timeline for completion of the works.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (259)

John Curran

Ceist:

259. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of an extension at a school (details supplied); the timeframe for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37753/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) Detailed Design which includes the application for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.

At a recent meeting with the schools, their design team and officials from my Department, the consultant Quantity Surveyor advised the Boards of Management and my Department that the firm is withdrawing from the project. A tender process to replace the design team Quantity Surveyor will commence shortly.

In the interim, the design team is continuing to progress the Stage 2(b) requirements.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (260)

John Curran

Ceist:

260. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made regarding a school building project for a school (details supplied) following a revised stage 2b report being submitted in January 2019; the timeline for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37754/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

Following a review of a revised Stage 2(b) submission, my Department have issued comments to the school and its design team.

The design team is requested to incorporate those comments into the tender documents and carry out a final review of all its tender documentation to ensure that it is complete, correct and in compliance with my Department's requirements and with Building Control (Amendment) Regulations.

Upon receipt of the design team confirmations that this final review is complete, my Department will revert to the school with regard to the further progression of this project at that time.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Ceisteanna (261)

John Curran

Ceist:

261. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made in advancing proposals (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37755/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Officials from my Department have recently met with representatives of the Patron bodies of the two schools referred to by the Deputy.

The Department is currently examining these proposals and will be back in contact with the Patron bodies on these matters shortly.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (262)

John Curran

Ceist:

262. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that more than ten children failed to secure a primary school place in Rathcoole, County Dublin, for the school year 2019/2020 and many have had to return to pre-school; the actions he will take to ensure all local eligible children can secure a primary school place in Rathcoole in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37756/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department's has not been made aware that more than 10 pupils were unable to secure a primary school place in Rathcoole for the 2019/2020 school year.

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including a new 8 classroom primary school to be established in 2020 to serve the Newcastle_Rathcoole/Saggart school planning area. This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

The requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard to the impact of the increased roll out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040. My Department will also continue to monitor areas where the accommodation of existing schools may need to be expanded in order to meet the needs of the local population. Rathcoole is also an area of growing demographic demand and additional residential development and my Department is actively reviewing the potential need to establish a new primary school in Rathcoole.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department approved two temporary classrooms and a Special Education Teaching room for Scoil Chronain National School, Rathcoole in 2018 to provide for immediate additional school places. In addition, my Department approved 2 further mainstream temporary classrooms for Scoil Chronain in April 2019 to cater for further additional primary school places in Rathcoole.

Deportation Orders

Ceisteanna (263)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

263. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision will be made for persons (details supplied) to stay here; when their deportation order will be lifted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37605/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Immigration Service of my Department that the persons concerned are the subject of a Deportation Order signed on 7 September 2018.  Representations have subsequently been received on their behalf requesting that the Deportation Order be revoked, pursuant to the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended).  

Following consideration of this request, a decision will be made either to have the existing Deportation Order 'affirmed' or 'revoked'.  Once a decision has been made, it will be notified to the persons concerned in writing.  In the meantime, the Deportation Order remains valid and in place. 

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the Immigration Service 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 Immigration Service is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (264)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

264. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship being processed; the number of active applications being processed for more than one, two, three and five years, respectively; the average waiting time per application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36989/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Immigration Service of my Department that the number of applications for naturalisation currently on hand, by year of application for each of the years 2016 - 2019 and 2015 and earlier, is as follows:

Year of Application 

 2015 and earlier

 2016

 2017

 2018

 2019 to date

 Total

Applications currently on hand

 563

 753

 2,142

7,331

5,220

 16,009

It should be noted that over 78% of the applications on hands were made either this year or last year. 

The number of cases on hands will always include a cohort where a decision has been made and the applicant has been notified of same, but they have not yet attended the citizenship ceremony to swear their oath of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State and be granted their certificate of naturalisation. 

The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process.  In some instances, completing the necessary checks may take a considerable period of time.    Processing timescales can often be impacted due to further documentation being required from the applicant, or payment of the required certificate fee being awaited, or the applicant not engaging with the office.  In some instances, the applicant themselves may request that a hold be put on their application, for example, where they may have returned to their country of origin for a prolonged period, to facilitate them in making arrangements to return to reside in the State, or where they have difficulty in obtaining satisfactory evidence of their identity or nationality.  In other instances, issues can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which is required to be considered before a final decision is taken.  

Accordingly, an average wait time for applications is not a meaningful measure.  However, I am advised that, 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 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. 

The Immigration Service devotes a considerable amount of its overall resources to the processing of these cases. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants to enable queries to be dealt with, including the progress of their application.  Details are available on the Immigration Service website at www.inis.gov.ie.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (265)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

265. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 166 of 28 May 2019, the directives forming part of the procedural rights roadmap transposed into law to date; the directives opted out of by Ireland; the directives not transposed into law to date; the deadline imposed by the EU for the imposition of same; the estimated date for transposition into law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37010/19]

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.

Commissions of Investigation

Ceisteanna (266, 287)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

266. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a commission of investigation into the death of a person (details supplied) will be commenced as voted by Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37022/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John McGuinness

Ceist:

287. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the scoping exercise in relation to the investigation into the death of a person (details supplied) has been completed; if his Department has agreed in full the terms of reference; if the family were asked for their input; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37338/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 287 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell have been addressed by me on several occasions in both the Dáil and the Seanad and I have met with the O'Farrell family.

Following the Dáil motion calling for a public inquiry last year, I sought the advice of the Attorney General on how best to proceed, given the fact that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was still investigating certain matters in relation to the case. Following the conclusion of the GSOC investigation, I appointed retired District Court Judge Gerard Haughton to conduct a scoping exercise into the circumstances leading to Shane's tragic death.

Judge Haughton subsequently met with the O'Farrell family to discuss the terms of reference and to seek their views. Following his engagement with the family, I received a proposal from Judge Haughton for some changes to the terms of reference for the scoping exercise.

This necessitated further consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. Subsequent legal advices have been provided which, in particular, emphasise the requirement to abide by the jurisprudence set down in the decision of the Supreme Court in Shatter v Guerin . I am sure that Oireachtas Members will appreciate the importance of ensuring that any new scoping exercise is framed and conducted in accordance with that decision. Work is ongoing on a priority basis to finalise the terms of reference of the scoping exercise and I am grateful to Judge Haughton for agreeing to undertake this sensitive and necessary work.

I regret the time it is taking but the Deputy will be aware of the new legal landscape that all of us in these Houses must operate within in the context of these sensitive and important endeavours which are subject to the supervision of the Courts.

My intention is that the terms of reference will be finalised as quickly as possible to allow for Judge Haughton to commence the scoping exercise shortly.

In terms of future timelines, I note that the judge is required to provide me with an interim report within 8 weeks of commencement. He is of course free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry. Should he consider it necessary to recommend an inquiry, of whatever type, I have asked him to provide me with draft terms of reference.

Garda Policing Plans

Ceisteanna (267)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

267. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the implementation group and the Garda Commissioner are taking the national planning framework into consideration in the proposed amalgamation of Garda divisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37024/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As Minister for Justice and Equality, I warmly welcome the announcement in recent weeks by the Garda Commissioner of a new Operating Model of An Garda Síochána.

This functional model has long been recommended by independent policing specialists, including the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and in the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI). Rollout of this model meets a key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future , the four year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

While new to Ireland, this model is the norm in other countries. It is designed to reduce bureaucracy and will shift real decision-making power from Garda Headquarters to the Chief Superintendents, closer to the communities they serve. Importantly, it will also result in significantly more Sergeants and Inspectors on the ground where leadership, supervision and mentoring is crucial.

I understand that the finer details of the implementation of the new Divisional structures are currently being determined by the Garda Commissioner and his team, and that the new model will be implemented on a phased basis throughout 2020.

Regarding the approach which will be taken to the merger of Divisions - the Deputy will appreciate that the Commissioner is by law responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources made available to An Garda Síochána including the deployment and distribution of Garda personnel. Accordingly the detail of the implementation of the new Divisional structure is solely for the Commissioner and not for me as Minister.

I understand however that the Commissioner and his team is meeting Joint Policing Committees all over Ireland in the weeks ahead and there will be opportunities for detailed local engagement at that stage.

Finally, it is important to note that these changes are being introduced at a time of record investment in An Garda Síochána. €1.76 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. In terms of Garda numbers the Deputy will be aware of the Government's commitment to achieving a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021.

I am confident that this ongoing investment in Garda resources together with the ongoing reform process will result in an improved policing service for all communities.