Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (245)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

245. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of legal cases that are ongoing for those families that are still being accommodated in direct provision centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39273/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I must inform the Deputy that it is not possible to accurately determine the number of legal cases taken by families or individuals who are accommodated in a direct provision centre.

I can say that presently there are 460 Judicial Reviews against the Department of Justice and Equality taken by applicants who are entitled to access direct provision if they so wish.  These are comprised of 207 cases against International Protection Office decisions and 257 against International Protection Appeals Tribunal decisions.  A single case can involve one person or a family or other group of 2 or more people. It not possible to determine how many of the cases involve persons currently living in direct provision. The court papers may not outline such circumstances as the living arrangements of the applicant(s) is not relevant to the legal issue or the facts of the case, nor is the fact that someone is taking a judicial review relating to their decision determinative of their entitlement to access the direct provision system. 

In addition to Judicial Reviews, the Department has 20 active legal files currently with the State Claims Agency. However, it is not possible to definitely say (a) if they are part of families or individuals, or (b) if there are other public liability actions where residents have taken cases against any commercial company that runs a direct provision centre and in taking a legal case has not named the Department or the Minister as a respondent in the case.

Garda Data

Ceisteanna (246)

James Lawless

Ceist:

246. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of operational gardaí on duty across all stations in north County Kildare on each Saturday in August 2019, in tabular form by station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39278/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for managing An Garda Síochána and for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. This includes responsibility for personnel matters. As Minister I have no direct role in these matters. I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the number of Gardaí on operational duty at any given time can vary, for operational reasons. The Deputy may however wish to be aware that as at 31 August 2019 there were 393 Gardaí assigned to the Kildare Division.

Court Sittings

Ceisteanna (247)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

247. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the OPW has carried out a recent assessment of Carndonagh Court House, Carndonagh, County Donegal; if issues have been identified; if so, his plans to remedy same; the timeframe involved; if the OPW will work with the Courts Service to ensure a temporary venue is made available in Carndonagh and that court sittings continue to be held in Carndonagh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39318/19]

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 have been advised by the Courts Service that immediate health and safety issues were identified by the Office of Public Works following an inspection of Carndonagh Courthouse. As a result, unfortunately, court hearings could not continue at the courthouse in the short term.

The Courts Service is currently undertaking a review of all its courthouses. In view of the serious circumstances in Carndonagh, priority has been given to this courthouse and it is anticipated that this review will be carried out within the next three months.

I understand that the sitting of Carndonagh District Court, which sits once per month has been transferred to the nearest Courthouse, Buncrana Courthouse, which is just under 20 kms distance from Carndonagh. Carndonagh District Court will continue to sit in Buncrana Courthouse until the review is complete.

Garda Powers

Ceisteanna (248, 293)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

248. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to ongoing public concern regarding the dangers of the widespread illegal use of scramblers and quad-bikes; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that An Garda Síochána is requesting new powers to enable it to tackle this issue in public parks and other off-road situations; if urgent consideration will be given to providing An Garda Síochána powers to confiscate the vehicles when they are being used illegally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39324/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Curran

Ceist:

293. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress that has been made in relation to the dangerous use of scrambler and quad bikes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39873/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 and 293 together.

I would like to begin by stating clearly that my officials, alongside their colleagues in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and An Garda Síochána, are striving to find solutions to this complex policing issue.

As I have outlined in previous Parliamentary Responses, a cross-agency group has been examining the misuse of scramblers. This process has involved my Department, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Housing, Planning and Local Government and Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, as well as An Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority, the Revenue Commissioners and representatives of local authorities.

On foot of advice from the Office of the Attorney General, it was agreed by all attendees at the last meeting of the group that, in the main, current legislative provisions appeared to be sufficient. Nonetheless it was also agreed that the group would remain open to considering workable legislative solutions to any specific legislative gaps specifically identified by An Garda Síochána.

My officials wrote to the Garda Commissioner to seek his formal views on the matter. A response was received on 28 June and has since been shared with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, as a primary contributor to the work of the cross-agency group. The response from the Office of the Garda Commissioner does suggest potential legislative changes which the organisation believes could assist in improving policing in this area.

These proposals are receiving detailed consideration in my Department and it is expected that the cross-agency group will reconvene shortly to further scrutinise these proposals and to ascertain whether they can be progressed alongside targeted enforcement measures, awareness raising and youth engagement, which will be key to success in combatting this behaviour.

Fire Safety

Ceisteanna (249)

John Curran

Ceist:

249. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that legislation in relation to the sale and use of fireworks is effective and fit for purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39332/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy has asked a question in relation to legislation on the sale and use of fireworks.

I would first explain that fireworks, as explosives, are regulated under national and EU legislation. Accordingly, fireworks can only be imported into the country under licence and stored and sold in accordance with explosives law.

I am satisfied that the current law in Ireland governing the use of fireworks is particularly robust.

As Deputies may be aware, fireworks are classified into four separate categories, depending on their level of hazard and whether they require specialist knowledge for use. Category F1 is the least hazardous category and covers party poppers and sparklers, while Category F4 represents the most hazardous.

In the interests of safety and security, it is Government policy to restrict the availability of the more hazardous fireworks to the general public - including categories F2, F3 and F4. A licence is required to import fireworks in any of these categories.

I can further confirm that licences under the Explosives Act are issued by my Department only for the importation of fireworks which are to be used in organised displays conducted by professional and competent operators.

Under Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, it is an offence:

- for any person to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence,

- to throw an ignited firework at any person or property, and

- to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 also gives An Garda Síochána the power to make arrests in relation to the possession of unlicensed fireworks.

The penalties provided for in connection with these offences are very severe. Having unlicensed fireworks in your possession with intent to sell or supply can result in a fine of up to €10,000 and up to five years imprisonment. Igniting fireworks or throwing an ignited firework at a person or property is also liable to the same severe penalty.

More generally, the Deputy may also be interested to know that each year, as Halloween approaches, special efforts are made by An Garda Síochána to combat the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

To complement this added Garda attention, my Department also runs an annual advertising campaign in the run-up to Halloween, highlighting the illegality of fireworks as well public safety aspects of their use. This campaign will be launched in the coming weeks in print media as well as online, including on social media platforms.

Court Judgments

Ceisteanna (250, 251)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

250. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will apply the recent High Court judgment by a person (details supplied) regarding the continuous residence requirement for those applying for Irish citizenship criteria of no travel in year preceding citizenship application retrospectively. [39348/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

251. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if emergency legislation will be sought to amend the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 to ensure the continuous residence criteria allows travel for a reasonable length of time, for example, the six weeks advised by his Department before the judgment was made in view of the recent High Court judgment by a person (details supplied) regarding the continuous residence requirement for those applying for Irish citizenship. [39349/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 and 251 together.

I am aware that the recent judgment of the High Court relating to continuous residency under Section 15(1)(c) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 (as amended) has given cause for concern. The matter remains before the courts with the lodgement of an appeal before the Court of Appeal and is therefore sub-judice.

I can, however, assure the Deputy that my Department is doing everything possible to put in place a solution on an urgent basis. I have taken expert legal advice and I intend to introduce legislation to address the issue. At the end of July, I obtained Cabinet approval for a proposed Bill and intensive work is taking place in my Department where officials are working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in the Attorney General's Office to finalise the draft Bill.

I am advised that the appeal is likely to be heard early next month. The outcome of the appeal will, of course, have a bearing on whether or not legislation is required. Should it be necessary, I intend to introduce the Bill in the Oireachtas as soon as possible this term. I know that colleagues of all parties are concerned with the difficulty that has arisen and I am hopeful that the Oireachtas will give the Bill early and positive consideration.

Court Judgments

Ceisteanna (252)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

252. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of citizenship applications affected by the recent High Court judgment by a person (details supplied) regarding the continuous residence requirement for those applying for Irish citizenship. [39350/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am aware that the recent judgment of the High Court relating to continuous residency under Section 15(1)(c) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 (as amended) has given cause for concern. The matter remains before the courts with the lodgement of an appeal before the Court of Appeal and is therefore sub-judice. I am advised by the Immigration Service of my Department that, as of 30th September 2019, there were some 18,500 applications for citizenship on hand. All of these applicants are potentially affected by the ruling. 

I can, however, assure the Deputy that my Department is doing everything possible to put in place a solution on an urgent basis. I have taken expert legal advice and I intend to introduce legislation to address the issue. At the end of July, I obtained Cabinet approval for a proposed Bill and intensive work is taking place in my Department where officials are working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in the Attorney General's Office to finalise the draft Bill.    

I am advised that the appeal is likely to be heard early next month.  The outcome of the appeal will, of course, have a bearing on whether or not legislation is required.  Should it be necessary, I intend to introduce the Bill in the Oireachtas as soon as possible this term. I know that colleagues of all parties are concerned with the difficulty that has arisen and I am hopeful that the Oireachtas will give the Bill early and positive consideration.

As soon as the legal issues are resolved, my officials will make all necessary arrangements for the next Citizenship Ceremony. Invitations will issue four weeks in advance of the ceremony to ensure everyone has adequate notice.  

In the interim, the Immigration Service of my Department is advising those who are planning to apply for citizenship to continue to collect all of the necessary proofs that support their application and to submit a comprehensive application form. Once a solution is in place, if any additional information is required, applicants will be contacted as part of the processing of their application.  

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (253)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

253. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of residents in direct provision granted refugee status or subsidiary protection; the cost of retaining these residents in direct provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39351/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed by officials in the Immigration Service of my Department that, as of 31 August 2019, 479 people with a Protection status grant, being either Refugee or Subsidiary Protection status, were residing in accommodation centres provided by the International Protection Accommodation Service. 

The spending review on Direct Provision published on 15 August 2019, showed that last year, the average daily rate per person in commercially owned centres was €35.50 rising to €44.00 per person in centres where independent living is provided. This is very competitive and importantly offers value for money for the taxpayer. It remains a target that all centres by the end of 2020 will provide independent living facilities.

The spending review was prepared by my Department with key input from the International Protection Accommodation Service of the Department.

For the Deputy's further information the published review is available at the following link:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Spending_Review.pdf/Files/Spending_Review.pdf

People with an international protection status have the same access to mainstream housing supports and services as Irish nationals. We are working intensively with organisations like the Peter McVerry Trust, Depaul and the Jesuit Refugee Service to assist these people to transition to mainstream housing services but that is challenging in the current housing environment. 

Officials from the International Protection Accommodation Service of my Department meet regularly with colleagues from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and with staff from the City and County Manager's Association (CCMA) to work collectively to ensure those with status or permission to remain are assisted to move on to longer term accommodation as soon as possible.

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (254)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

254. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the name and location of each direct provision and emergency reception and orientation centre being used to accommodate international protection applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39355/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Immigration Service of my Department that there are currently 38 accommodation centres in the State, the locations of which are set out in the following table.

As these centres are currently operating at full capacity, as of 22nd September, there are also 1,379 people being accommodated by the International Protection Accommodation Services unit (IPAS) of my Department in emergency accommodation in hotels and guest houses. My Department does not disclose the location of emergency accommodation centres in order to protect the identity of international protection applicants.  

Refugees who are admitted to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) by way of resettlement from UNHCR camps in Lebanon and Jordan are accommodated in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) before they are settled in communities across the country. There are currently two dedicated EROCs, in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon and in Clonea, Co. Waterford. There are also a number of dedicated EROC spaces in the Mosney Accommodation Centre due to its suitability for families. 

IPAS Accommodation

Commencement of Legislation

Ceisteanna (255)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

255. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when sections of the Judicial Council Act 2019 regarding the personal injuries guidelines committee will be commenced; the specific conditions that need to be in place before the sections are commenced; the reason the sections involving sentencing guidelines and judicial conduct committees have been commenced ahead of the sections involving the personal injuries guidelines committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39391/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Judicial Council Bill was enacted on 23 July 2019. This is a major landmark piece of reforming legislation which provides for the establishment, for the first time, of a Judicial Council comprising all members of the judiciary. The primary function of the Council will be to promote and maintain excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions and high standards of conduct among judges. The Board of the Council will be responsible for carrying out the functions of the Council on a day-to-day basis.

I envisage that the Judicial Council will be established by the end of this year and a great deal of work is underway to facilitate establishment within that time frame. As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, this is a very ambitious timetable for such a significant new structure and it underlines the seriousness of the approach being taken.

Last month, I commenced a number of the Act's provisions under Statutory Instrument No. 457/19. These provisions concern the appointment of the interim Secretary to the Council, and the process of identifying and recommending to the Government, persons who are suitable for appointment to be lay members of the Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee, the Judicial Conduct Committee and panels of inquiry. The membership of other Committees such as the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee does not include lay members.

The commencement of these provisions will enable the Council to commence its work on establishment day and the Committees of the Council to undertake their functions within the time frames specified in the Act.

Committees of the Council will be established by the Council having regard to the timelines set out in the Act. The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee is to be established no later than 3 months after the first meeting of the Judicial Council itself, and that Committee is to meet no later than one month after its establishment. 

Firearms Licences

Ceisteanna (256)

John Deasy

Ceist:

256. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of handguns licensed in the State; and the number of handgun licences issued by Garda district and Garda division in each of the past three years. [39394/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The data requested by the Deputy refers is not maintained by the Department of Justice and Equality. I have asked the Garda Commissioner for the information requested and I will write directly to the Deputy when I receive it.

Garda Data

Ceisteanna (257)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

257. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints made to An Garda Síochána against activists protesting against the termination of pregnancy in the vicinity of hospitals, general practitioner offices or other health centres from 1 January 2019 to date in tabular form; the locations of these complaints; the number of arrests made on foot of such complaints; the number of convictions for public order related offences or fixed charge penalty notices issued on foot of such complaints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39404/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have asked the Commissioner to provide me with the requested information and will write to the Deputy directly when I receive it.

Alcohol Sales Legislation

Ceisteanna (258)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

258. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is specific legislation or regulations that those organising underage discos must adhere to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39462/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that there is no specific legislation or regulations governing the organisation of underage discos.  The organisation of dances generally falls under the Public Dance Halls Act, 1935.  An application under this Act for a public dancing licence will in the main be made at the District Court. 

If the Deputy’s question relates to the sale, supply or consumption of intoxicating liquor at such events, the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988 as amended applies.

Section 31 (Sale of Intoxicating Liquor to persons under the age of 18 years) states that:

(1) the holder of any licence shall not:

(a) sell or deliver or permit any person to sell or deliver intoxicating liquor to a person under the age of 18 years,

(b) sell or deliver or permit any person to sell or deliver intoxicating liquor to any person for consumption on his licensed premises by a person under the age of 18 years,

(c) permit a person under the age of 18 years to consume intoxicating liquor on his licensed premises, or

(d) permit any person to supply a person under the age of 18 years with intoxicating liquor on his licensed premises.

(2) The holder of a licence of any licensed premises shall not sell or deliver or permit any person to sell or deliver intoxicating liquor to any person for consumption off his licensed premises by a person under the age of 18 years in any place other than a private residence.

(3) A person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) of this section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding—

(a) £300, in the case of a first offence, or

(b) £500, in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, and the offence shall be deemed for the purposes of Part III (which relates to the endorsement of licences) of the Act of 1927 to be an offence to which that Part of that Act applies

Private Security Authority

Ceisteanna (259)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

259. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is specific training carried out by the Private Security Authority for door supervisors that work for underage discos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39463/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As Deputies are aware, the Private Security Authority (PSA) was established under the Private Security Services Act 2004, as amended. It is an independent statutory body under the aegis of my Department. It is responsible for the licensing and regulation of the private security industry in the State.

I am informed by the PSA that a Door Supervisor (Licensed Premises) licence is required where a security service is provided at one of the following licensed premises:

- a premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor under the Licensing Acts,

- a premises licensed under the Public Dance Halls Acts,

- a premises licensed under the Gaming and Lotteries Acts,

- a club registered under the Registration of Clubs Acts,

- a food premises, or a food stall or food vehicle, within the meaning of the Food Hygiene Regulations.

The Deputy raised the question of underage discos. A number of factors need to be considered in relation to such events. For example, many of these underage discos are held in locations other than licensed premises and may be manned by local volunteers rather than security personnel. Depending on the circumstances, there may not be a requirement for licensed door supervisors under the provisions of the Private Security Services Act.

However I can confirm that the PSA has indicated that in cases where an underage disco is held in a venue deemed to be a licensed premises, then all persons providing security must hold a valid Door Supervisor (Licensed Premises) licence from the PSA.

I can further confirm that the PSA requires all individuals who apply for such a licence to hold a national training qualification. The minimum training requirement for this particular sector is the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 4 Minor Award, or equivalent, in Door Security Procedures.

Health Insurance

Ceisteanna (260)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

260. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the INIS requirements regarding private medical insurance for non-EEA students undertaking full-time education here; if his attention has been drawn to the recent decision by the Health Insurance Authority regarding the removal of the current policy; if his Department has been engaging with the Department of Health on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39465/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

My Department is aware of the High Court judgment of last year on the provisions of the Health Insurance Act 1994 and its impact on insurance policies for non-EEA nationals and in particular non-EEA Students. The Deputy should be aware that I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, have no responsibility or influence as regards such matters. The regulation of private health insurance is solely a matter for the Health Insurance Authority (HIA), which is the statutory regulator of the private health insurance market in the State.

I can advise the Deputy that it has always been the case that students seeking an immigration permission to reside in the State must prove that they have sufficient finances to support themselves without recourse to State funds. This includes the necessity to provide proof of individual private health insurance or medical insurance as part of a group insurance scheme operated by the college/school or travel insurance. This would provide the student with adequate medical insurance cover in Ireland.

I understand that the High Court judgment provides that private medical insurance for non-EEA nationals, who are considered  as being ordinarily resident in the State for the purpose of the Health Insurance Act 1994, are, as a result of the judgment, subject to the principle of community-rating. In this regard, while the judgment changes the requirements for the way private medical insurance is operated for non-EEA nationals, it does not, in itself, change immigration policy and the requirements for non-EEA students wishing to study in Ireland.

The Deputy may also be aware that there is an appeal pending on the judgment and as a result it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on matters that are before the Courts and therefore sub judice.

However, officials of my Department have had ongoing contact with the relevant officials in the Department of Health and the Department of Education and Skills to discuss issues relevant to the judgment. I am advised that no changes to immigration policy for non-EEA students are currently envisaged as part of such discussions.  

Further information on the requirement for non-EEA students to hold private medical insurance when coming to and residing in the State for the purposes of study is available on the website of the Immigration Service www.inis.gov.ie .

Visa Applications

Ceisteanna (261)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

261. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason it takes two to three months to process a visit visa; the causes of the delay; his plans to implement an improved system in relation to the processing of visa applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39497/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The processing times for visa decisions are published on the visa pages of each Visa Office and Embassy website.  As of 24 September 2019, the Dublin Visa Head Office was processing tourist/visit visa applications received in Dublin on 26 August 2019. Processing times for other Visa Offices overseas and for Embassies will vary but are generally between 3 and 6 weeks at this time, with many applications processed inside those timeframes if the intended travel date requires a faster decision.

While the Immigration Service of my Department advises people to apply 3 months in advance of the intended travel date, processing of the application is usually much quicker. Our business target for processing short-stay 'C' visas is within eight weeks  and current processing time in Dublin for most types of short-stay visas is around four weeks.  The processing time an individual visa at each office and location worldwide is determined by a number of factors such as the volume and complexity of applications, whether investigation is required or not, individual circumstances, peak application periods, seasonal factors, and the resources available.  While every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible, processing times for individual applications inevitably vary as a result. 

I am also advised by the Immigration Service  that the visa service is experiencing an increase in the number of visa applications across most categories, in line with increased economic activity generally.  Notwithstanding this, processing times are on a par with, and in many cases, better than the same period last year.

The Deputy can be assured that every effort is made to keep processing times to a minimum, and a number of measures have been put in place to deal with the increased demand for visas to come to Ireland.  This has included the assignment of additional staff to deal with applications, and more generally the streamlining of visa processes where possible.  The position in this regard is being kept under review.

The Deputy may wish to note that 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 is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (262)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

262. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of direct provision centres under consideration for development in east County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39513/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the State has a legal obligation to offer accommodation, food and a range of other services (including meals, utilities, healthcare etc.) and allowances to any person who claims a right to international protection in Ireland while their legal claim is being examined.

The number of applicants has been steadily increasing (up 36% since the start of the year) and to cope with demand, my Department has invited premises to tender to offer accommodation and other services through a nationwide regional procurement process using the etenders website. Additionally, advertisements were placed in the national press seeking expressions of interest from accommodation providers for suitable accommodation, which my Department could contract for twelve months. Accommodation providers can offer premises through either or both processes.

An evaluation of offers received is now underway.   It is anticipated that the evaluation process for the Western region will conclude by mid November 2019.  For the purposes of the tender, the Western region covers Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Until the evaluation is complete, the Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment on the possible location of any new centres.  When the evaluation and commercially sensitive aspects of the process are completed, my Department will begin engagement with local communities and their political representatives.

We currently have 38 accommodation centres across 18 counties and there are positive relationships between residents and local communities in all cases including through the Friends of the Centre Groups.  

Naturalisation Certificates

Ceisteanna (263)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

263. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider an application for a certificate of naturalisation for a person (details supplied) under the provisions of section 15A (2) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

A certificate of naturalisation may be granted to applicants who comply with certain conditions under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended.  Section 15A of the Act provides that a certificate of naturalisation may be granted to the non-national spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen if, among other things, the applicant has been married to or in a civil partnership with that citizen for a period of not less than 3 years and has been resident on the island of Ireland for a period of 1 year immediately prior to the date of application and for 2 years in the 4 year period before that. 

I am advised by the Immigration Service of my Department that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in May 2019. 

The documentation submitted with the application showed that, at the date of the application, the person concerned had not completed the required three years period of residency and had not been married to, or in a civil partnership with, an Irish citizen for the required period. Therefore, the application was deemed ineligible and the person concerned was notified in writing. 

It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements applicable.  

Section 15A(2) provides that I may, in my absolute discretion, waive some of the conditions in relation to an application from a spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen if I am satisfied that the applicant would suffer serious consequences in respect of his or her bodily integrity or liberty if not granted Irish citizenship.  It is incumbent on any applicant making an application under Section 15A(2) to make me fully aware of all the factors relevant to the application and why it should be considered under this section. 

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.   

Prisoner Data

Ceisteanna (264, 265, 266, 267)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

264. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of pregnant women that have been cared for in prison in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39524/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

265. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of babies born to pregnant women in prison in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39525/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

266. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of ante-natal education care classes the prison service provides to pregnant women that may be in prison during their pregnancy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39526/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

267. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the length of time babies remain in the care of their mothers in prison; the number of babies by ages currently with their mothers in prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39527/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 264 to 267, inclusive, together.

I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that the level of maternity care provided to women in custody, is comparable to that available to women in the community. It is provided on a shared care arrangement between the maternity hospital to which the patient is referred, and the Healthcare Team in the Dochas or Limerick Prison.

The Health Service Executive is responsible for ante-natal education services and the number of these classes is a matter for the Health Service Executive and the hospital to which the patient is referred.

Expectant mothers are always facilitated to have their children born in hospital and no babies have been born within the confines of a prison.

The Irish Prison Service can confirm that there is a mother and baby unit in the Dochas Centre. Expectant mothers are transferred from Limerick Prison to the Dochas Centre during their last trimester and remain there as long as their baby remains with them.

The prison rules provide for a child to remain in the care of their mother in prison, until the child has reached twelve months of age. Presently there are no babies in custody.

The number of pregnant women that have been cared for in prison in each of the years 2016 to date is set out in the following table.

Prison

2016

2017

2018

2019

Dochas

Data prior to 2017 was not recorded in this format, it was retained on individual files

17

16

19

Limerick

7

4

5

4

The Irish Prison Service has not previously provided the above data owing to concerns that patient confidentiality could be compromised. However having reviewed this matter the Irish Prison Service is now satisfied that the disclosure of this data does not impinge on patient confidentiality.

The number of babies born to pregnant women in prison in each of the years 2016 to date is set out in the following table.

Prison

2016

2017

2018

2019

Dochas

3

3

4

0