Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (175)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

175. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice the resources being allocated to An Garda Síochána to deal with the Covid-19 situation as restrictions ease. [23179/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

An Garda Síochána has been allocated an unprecedented budget of €1.88 billion for 2020, as well as capital funding of over €116 million this year. This level of funding is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff and as a result, An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation with approximately 14,700 Garda members and over 3,000 Garda staff nationwide.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and control of An Garda Síochána. This includes responsibility for the allocation of all Garda resources and I as Minister have no role in these matters.

In common with many other public service organisations An Garda Síochána has incurred additional expenditure related to Covid 19, including expenditure on Personal Protective Equipment, vehicles, and enhanced ICT capability.

These expenditure needs are being monitored on an ongoing basis in the context of overall management of the Garda Vote but I am satisfied that the necessary resources will be available to enable An Garda Síochána to continue to effectively fulfil its role in the evolving response to Covid 19.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems

Ceisteanna (176)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

176. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice the rules which apply to local communities that wish to install CCTV equipment for the purposes of crime prevention and detection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23225/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that community-based CCTV is governed by section 38(3)(c) of Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006. This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must:

- be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee,

- have the prior support of the relevant local authority, which must also act as data controller, and

- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of how they are funded and these key legal requirements have not changed since 2006. The option to establish a Community CCTV scheme is available to groups that meet these legal requirements, anywhere in the country.

Since 2017, my Department has administered a grant aid scheme supporting groups wishing to establish a community-based CCTV system in their area. To date, 29 applications have been approved under the scheme, involving approved grants totalling more than €689,000. Eligible groups, including community groups and local authorities nationwide, can apply for grant aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000.

As the Deputy may be aware, last year the grant aid scheme was extended to cover not only new CCTV systems but also to allow funding applications for extension or upgrade of existing Community CCTV systems which are incomplete or obsolete. Applicants can now also seek a once-off grant of up to €5,000 for minor maintenance costs.

However in all cases, grant funding can be considered only for CCTV systems which meet the legal requirements, in other words CCTV systems which have been approved by the relevant Joint Policing Committee, the relevant Local Authority (also acting as Data Controller) and which have received the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

If the Deputy is aware of groups wishing to avail of the grant aid scheme, further details are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie and support and guidance is available to help interested groups through a dedicated email address fundsadmin-comm-based-cctv@justice.ie.

Crime Data

Ceisteanna (177)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

177. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice if crime and antisocial behaviour have increased in County Meath in recent years; and if so, the measures she is taking to address the matter. [23226/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible by law for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources.  As Minister, I have no responsibility for these matters.  I am assured however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of emerging crime trends and policing priorities.

The new Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, underlines the need for close engagement between An Garda Síochána and local communities.  This is an essential feature of the strong community policing ethos which has long been central to policing in this jurisdiction.  Consequently the Programme for Government commits to prioritising visible policing in rural and urban communities which will ensure community policing is at the forefront of our police service and an integral strand of our social contract with the public.    

With regard to crime trends in the Meath Division, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the most recently available data (as on 7th June 2020) shows that under most headings crime rates have reduced significantly in the year to date. For example, Property Crime has reduced by 16%, Burglary (non-aggravated) has reduced by 15% and Crimes Against The Person have reduced by 17%.  The circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic are considered to have been a factor in such significant reductions.  I can inform the Deputy that the official crime statistics from the CSO for the second quarter of 2020 are due to be released later this month and I look forward to reviewing these statistics when they are available. The statistics for Q2 of this year will be of particular benefit in terms of assessing the impact of Covid-19 on crime trends.

The CSO crime statistics for Q1 2020 showed that while there have been increases in the Meath division in some crimes, such as theft, compared to the same period in 2017, there have been welcome decreases over this time period of 28% in recorded burglary and related offences and 26% in public order offences in Meath. 

As the Deputy may be aware, Census 2016 results show that Meath is one of the fastest growing counties in the country with the population growing by 5.9 per cent between 2011 and 2016 to 195,044.  This population growth rate is the second fastest growth rate recorded in the State (after Fingal).  The Meath Garda Division contains four Districts - Navan, Ashbourne, Trim and Kells - and 16 Garda Stations. The Garda strength of Meath Division at 31 July 2020, the latest date for which figures are available, is 335 members and 43 Garda Staff.  There have been several allocations of Trainees to the Division over recent years which has resulted in an increase in personnel, mainly in Navan and Ashbourne Districts.

That said, I am very conscious of how the impact of anti-social behaviour affects the quality of life for local communities. Preventing children getting involved in and diverting children away from criminality when they have already become involved is a key priority for me as Minister for Justice and the Programme for Government contains a number of commitments with regard to tackling anti-social behaviour.

Some of the measures either currently underway or due to be progressed in line with the Programme for Government include:

- A commitment to set up a special expert forum on antisocial behaviour, to consider the effectiveness of existing legislation and propose new ways forward, including new powers for An Garda Síochána and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders. 

- New legislation, implementing the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which will, among other elements, redefine policing to include prevention of harm to those who are vulnerable. This approach will mandate multi-agency collaboration, in conjunction with impacted communities, to address in a holistic way the range of social problems including those exploited by criminals to involve young people;   

- The Joint Agency Response to Crime (JARC) programme has had success managing prolific offenders and the Programme for Government includes a commitment to extend the pilot scheme of the programme to more areas to target prolific repeat and vulnerable offenders aged 16-21;

- The Garda Youth Diversion Programme and over 100 Garda Youth Diversion Projects operate nationwide. Funding for these projects has increased every year since 2015. €15.3 million was provided in 2019 and at least €15.6 million has been committed for 2020;

- Development of a Youth Justice Strategy 2020-2026 is currently underway. This includes consideration of the full range of issues connected to children and young people at risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system, including early intervention and preventative work, family support and diversion from crime, through to court processes and facilities, supervision of offenders, detention and reintegration and support post release. 

The Deputy will also be aware that as part of the overall strategy to oppose criminality, the Garda authorities pursue a range of partnerships with community stakeholders; for example, the Community Alert Programme and the Garda Text Alert Scheme.

These projects are being progressed in parallel with record investment in An Garda Síochána. €1.88 billion has been allocated to An Garda Síochána for 2020 along with €116m in capital investment.  This investment is aiding the sustained growth of the organisation and there are now more approximately 14,700 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff.

Extensive information is available on my Department’s website in relation to the numbers of Garda members and their assignment nationwide at the following link: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Workforce

This information is updated every month with the latest data provided by An Garda Síochána. Details in relation to the number of Garda staff nationwide are also available on my Department's website at the following link: http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Staff

Naturalisation Eligibility

Ceisteanna (178)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

178. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination of eligibility for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); if the matter can be urgently examined with a view a resolution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23235/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Citizenship Division of the Immigration Service Delivery function of my Department requested further documentation from the person concerned on 31 August 2020. On receipt of the requested documentation, the application for naturalisation will be fully considered with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision in due course.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

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 level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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.

Naturalisation Applications

Ceisteanna (179)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

179. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice when urgent humanitarian consideration will be given to an application for residency or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); if their case can be urgently considered at an early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23236/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The person referred to is the subject of a Deportation Order made on 1 February 2019. The effect of a Deportation Order is that the person named on the Order is legally obliged to leave the State and to remain outside of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Representations were received on behalf of the person concerned requesting that the Deportation Order be revoked, pursuant to the provisions of section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). All relevant aspects of the case will be considered before a decision is made. The decision to issue from the consideration of this request will be to have the existing Deportation Order either ‘affirmed’ or ‘revoked’. Once a decision has been made, it will be notified 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 is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Deportation Orders

Ceisteanna (180)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

180. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice if consideration will be given to a person (details supplied) who has left the jurisdiction and returned to their homeland prior to the issue of a deportation order and therefore left the jurisdiction voluntarily; if the order will now be set aside under joint spousal arrangements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23237/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The person referred to is the subject of a Deportation Order made on 20 June 2002, and therefore has no entitlement to residency in the State.

Representations were received on behalf of the person concerned pursuant to Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), to revoke the Deportation Order. Following the consideration of those representations, a decision was taken that the Deportation Order should be affirmed and this decision was communicated to the person concerned by registered post dated 9 November 2017.

It is open to the person concerned to submit further representations requesting that the Deportation Order be revoked, pursuant to Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). However, such an application would require substantial grounds to be successful. To date, no such further representations have been received in this case, and consequently 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 Delivery 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 (181)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

181. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which provisions are in place or are being negotiated to improve living conditions at the various direct provision sites where it has not been possible to upgrade the facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23238/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Direct Provision system has provided accommodation, food, healthcare and other essential needs for more than 65,000 people since its inception some twenty years ago. While it ensures that these basic needs are met, the intervening years have shown that people claiming international protection need a system that is responsive to their individual needs and that fully respects their right to privacy and family life.

A number of important reforms have been introduced in recent years under my predecessors, most notably the roll-out of cooking facilities across centres to support independent living; the introduction of labour market access to foster greater economic independence; and the agreement of National Standards to promote consistency in services and standards across centres. Currently we impress upon all our service providers to upgrade their facilities to independent living in line with the National Standards. The Department commenced  a tender process in late 2018 to source suitable premises for the provision of accommodation services. As a result, a number of regional tender competitions have been  advertised, assessed and awarded. The competitions were held for the South East, Midlands, Mid-West, South-West, Mid-East, West, Dublin and the Border Regions. Any new contract awarded will be required to meet these new national standards. Discussions are ongoing with the OPW in relation to State centres and the requirement that they meet the these new National Standards.

More needs to be done. The Government has committed to ending the current system of Direct Provision within the lifetime of the Government and to replacing it with a new international protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach.   

Responsibility for the accommodation system is transferring from my Department to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and officials from both Departments are making the necessary arrangements to facilitate the transfer of functions as quickly as possible.

Last year, Dr. Catherine Day was asked to bring together an expert group with representation from asylum seekers and NGOs to examine best practice in other European States in the provision of services to international protection applicants, to examine likely longer term trends and to set out recommendations and solutions. Any new system for the provision of accommodation and additional supports to international protection applicants will be informed by the Report of this Expert Group, which is expected by the end of this month.

The intention is to publish a White Paper by the end of this year, informed by the recommendations of the Expert Group, which will set out how a replacement to the Direct Provision system will be structured and the steps to achieving it. It will be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, to progress the matter following the transfer of this function to his Department.

Criminal Assets Bureau

Ceisteanna (182)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

182. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which the Criminal Assets Bureau continues to be successful in dealing with organised crime in all areas throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23239/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996.  The Bureau’s remit is to target a person's assets, wherever situated, which derive, or are suspected to derive, directly or indirectly, from criminal conduct. Since its inception, the Bureau has been at the forefront of fighting organised crime in this jurisdiction and disrupting the activities of criminal gangs by depriving them of ill-gotten assets.

The Bureau is widely regarded as a best practice model in the context of combating organised crime.  It works closely with law enforcement bodies at national and international levels and continues to relentlessly pursue the illicit proceeds of organised crime activity. The actions of the Bureau send a strong message to criminals and to local communities that profiting from crime will not be tolerated.

CAB have been central to many recent significant operations to combat organised criminal activity.  The Deputy may be aware that as part of Operation Coronation, on 17 June last, in excess of 170 members of An Garda Síochána from Limerick, Clare and Tipperary Divisions supported by the Criminal Assets Bureau carried out 67 searches at dwellings, businesses and land in Counties Limerick, Clare and Tipperary. Gardaí arrested 14 people and seized approximately €220,000 in euros and foreign currency as wells as deeds to overseas property and €100,000 in jewellery and luxury watches. Two bank accounts have also been frozen containing sums in excess of €119,000.  Significant evidence to support the investigation including financial accounts and property documentation was also recovered as well as €23,500 of suspected drugs and two cocaine presses.   

The Criminal Assets Bureau, under the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996-2016, has frozen assets to the value of €231,918,179, GBP £21,864,840 and USD $12,935,685 under Section 2 and Section 3 for the years 1996 – 2019.

The investigations conducted by the Criminal Assets Bureau and the consequential proceedings and actions resulted in €194,518,433.05 returned to the Exchequer as a whole for the years 1996 – 2019, a breakdown of which is below:

Proceeds of Crime legislation:           €30,519,179

Revenue legislation:                           €159,284,028

Social Welfare legislation:                  €4,715,226

Total Returned to Exchequer:   €194,518,433

The Deputy will be aware that CAB published its Strategic Plan for 2020 to 2023 in July of this year. The strategic plan describes the structure of CAB and its key programmes of activity to deliver its remit. CAB has trained a nationwide network of asset profilers to identify assets acquired from the proceeds of criminal conduct. The Bureau continues to develop specialist expertise and technology to trace and investigate these assets. It also continues to work closely with international crime investigation agencies, and has successfully targeted proceeds of foreign criminality from countries such as the US and the UK.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (183)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

183. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice when the proposed legislation to amend the law on Garda compensation in respect of more than 4,000 gardaí currently off duty due to injuries received in the course of their work will be introduced; the extent to which she expects the concerns of the gardaí to be dealt with adequately in the legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23240/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

For clarity, I wish to inform the House that it is not the case that there are more than 4,000 Gardaí currently off duty due to injuries received in the course of their work. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the most recent figure, as of August 2020, is 155 Gardaí.

As the Deputy will be aware, in May 2017, the Government published the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Bill.

The new Scheme is intended to repeal and replace the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 to 1945. The 1941 and 1945 Acts provide compensation in respect of death or injury which is maliciously inflicted upon a member of An Garda Síochána while on duty or in connection with their duties.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) was approached, with the assistance of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and agreed involvement in the proposed new compensation arrangements. The PIAB will, under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, assess quantum in Garda compensation cases.

I understand that, during the preparation of the new General Scheme, a copy of same was circulated to the Garda Commissioner and to the Garda Representative Associations. The General Scheme was amended to reflect their key concerns. In addition, the views of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the State Claims Agency, and the PIAB were taken into account in developing the Scheme.

Following approval by Government, the General Scheme was submitted to the Office of the Attorney General for drafting. Work is ongoing and officials from my Department will engage with stakeholders, including the Garda Representative Associations.

The Scheme is intended to operate along the following broad lines—

- The member will, within 6 months of the injury, submit an application for compensation to the Garda Commissioner,

- the Commissioner will arrange for the preparation of a report confirming that the injury was inflicted as a result of a malicious incident as defined in the legislation,

- if the report is to the effect that the injury was inflicted as a result of a malicious incident, the member is entitled to compensation,

- if the report is to the effect that the injury was not inflicted as a result of a malicious incident, the member will be able to seek a review by the review officer,

- if the review officer determines that the injury was inflicted as a result of a malicious incident, the member is entitled to compensation and the claim proceeds,

- where the report determines that the injury was inflicted as a result of a malicious incident, the report together with the application and accompanying documentation is to be sent directly to PIAB and the State Claims Agency by the Commissioner or review officer, as the case may be,

- PIAB will process the application in accordance with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 and make an assessment of quantum,

- applicant and respondent (State Claims Agency on behalf of Commissioner) will be notified of the assessment and have an opportunity to accept or reject the assessment,

- if either or both reject, PIAB will authorise applicant to proceed to court, the State Claims Agency will manage the court proceedings on behalf of the State.

Garda Strength

Ceisteanna (184, 190, 192)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

184. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the total strength of An Garda Síochána as of 1 June in each of the past five years to date and on 1 June 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23241/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

190. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the number of extra gardaí who have been provided for police work at various locations throughout the country in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23247/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

192. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the current strength of An Garda Síochána at the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare; the degree to which numbers have fluctuated in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23249/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184, 190 and 192 together.

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions.  As Minister, I have no direct role in the matter.  Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

The Garda strength of all Divisions, as provided by the Commissioner, is available on my Department’s website through the link below.

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Workforce

Garda Strength

Ceisteanna (185)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

185. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the degree to which she remains satisfied that the increase in Garda numbers is continuing on course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23242/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources. As Minister, I have no responsibility for 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, to ensure their optimum use.

The resources provided to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2020 of €1.88 billion. This level of funding is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff and as a result, An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation. There are now almost 14,700 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff and these numbers are continuing to grow. Taken together, this increase in the number of Garda members and staff is delivering a significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide.

As the Deputy will appreciate and in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated public health restrictions, public access to the Garda College has been prohibited since 12 March 2020. At that time, over 300 Garda trainees attested earlier than scheduled and sworn members of Garda College staff were deployed to operational duties in order to enhance Garda capacity to respond to that pandemic.

In terms of the current position, I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that arrangements have been made to permit further intakes of Garda recruits, despite the current situation. With regard to recruitment plans for 2020, An Garda Síochána have confirmed that they still intend to run a sworn member recruitment plan this year.

I am informed that approximately 150 new recruits commenced training under a revised delivery method, in light of the current circumstances. The first batch of approximately 75 commenced training on 25 May, and second batch of 75 recruits on 22 June.

I understand that training will consist of:

- 3 weeks on-line distance learning;

- 1 week residential at the Garda College;

- Weeks 5-16 assisting operational policing in allocated training stations in home divisions;

- Weeks 17-32 residential at the Garda College and attestation (all other things being equal).

I am further informed that the Garda College has put in place strict contingencies for the period during which recruits will attend the college and strict social distancing will be enforced for the duration.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (186)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

186. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which the various Garda stations throughout the country are in the course of refurbishment or replacement or scheduled for works; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23243/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and control of An Garda Síochána and for the effective and efficient use of Garda resources. Further, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

Works in relation to Garda accommodation are therefore progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the OPW.

I have requested information from the Garda Commissioner in relation to this matter but it was unfortunately not possible to compile it in the time available.

I will write to the Deputy directly with the information requested, when it is available.

Prisoner Data

Ceisteanna (187)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

187. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the number of prisoners deemed to have absconded who have not been recaptured in each of the past seven years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23244/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that Irish Prison records indicate that over the past 7 years 61 persons are deemed to have absconded, and that 8 remain unlawfully at large.

The Irish Prison Service defines an absconder as a prisoner who leaves an Open Centre without the relevant approval.

Year 

Number of Absconders 

Number Still at large 

2020 (to date)

9

3

2019

2

2018

7

0

2017

6

0

2016

9

0

2015

13

2

2014

11

1

An Garda Síochána are informed when prisoners abscond and they have the power to detain, arrest, and return such persons to prison. Experience has shown that the vast majority of offenders who abscond return voluntarily or are returned to custody to complete their sentences within a short time frame.

Gender Balance

Ceisteanna (188)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

188. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which gender balance is maintained throughout An Garda Síochána at all ranks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23245/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the administration and operation of An Garda Síochána, including matters of personnel and Human Resources policy. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters, however I fully support the Commissioner and his management team in their efforts to strengthen and diversify An Garda Síochána in all areas.

I am informed by the Commissioner that the total number of women in all ranks of An Garda Síochána as of the 31 August 2020, the latest date for which figures are currently available, was 4,003 or approximately  27 % of the total strength of 14,628. This compares favourably with 3,130 or 21.7% of the total strength on 31 December 2008.  While this is broadly in line with other police services in England and Wales, there is clearly plenty of scope for improvement.  At the critical leadership rank of Assistant Commissioner I welcome the fact that 44% are women with the recent promotion of two women to this rank.

The Report of Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland recommended that An Garda Síochána needs to develop its recruitment strategies to reach a more diverse intake of students

In addition, the report also recommended that An Garda Síochána should reflect the diversity of Irish society, not only in gender and ethnicity, but also in terms of socio-economic, educational and geographical backgrounds and that they would need to develop recruitment strategies which reach a more diverse intake. The Report also recommended the reform of the current roster system to support the wellbeing of all Garda Members and introducing greater flexibility in work practices to enhance the attractiveness and job satisfaction of policing as a career. 

In this regard, I am advised that work is well advanced on the development of an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for the Garda workforce and I look forward to engaging with the Garda Commissioner on its implementation.

For the Deputy's information I have attached below in tabular form, the Garda strength by gender and rank on the 31 August 2020, the latest date for which figures are currently available, as supplied by the Commissioner.

Rank

Male 

Female

Female as % of total

Commissioner. 

1

0

0%

Deputy Commissioner.

1

0

0%

Assistant Commissioner. 

5

4

44%

Chief Superintendent. 

37

10

21%

Superintendent. 

149

17

10%

Inspector. 

307

70

19%

Sergeant. 

1,630

471

22%

Garda.

8,495

3,431

29%

Total 

10,625

4,003

27%

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 184.

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 12.

Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 184.

Questions Nos. 193 and 194 answered with Question No. 12.

Ceisteanna (189)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

189. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which drug trafficking has been successfully curtailed throughout the Covid-19 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23246/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the operation and allocation of resources within An Garda Síochána are matters for the Commissioner and his management team. As Minister I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured by the Commissioner that the allocation of resources is kept under constant review to respond to emerging crime trends.

An Garda Síochána are of course continuing in their duties to prevent and investigate crime in addition to their specific role in supporting public health restrictions during the Covid-19 emergency. As such, long-standing legislation for offences such as public order, assault, road traffic, and drugs continue to be used. For example, while conducting Covid-19 patrols or checkpoints, Gardaí have had a number of significant seizures of drugs and other illicit items, including firearms, and have made arrests in that regard.

The Garda Commissioner, on 13 March 2020, when announcing An Garda Síochána’s measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighted that resources assigned to specialist units, including drugs units, were not affected by these measures. An Garda Síochána had commenced a process to establish/re-invigorate Drugs Units in each Garda Division. The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (NDOCB) leads in tackling all forms of drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs in Ireland. It is having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs in Ireland, as well as organised crime groups.

An Garda Síochána also remains committed to tackling the supply of drugs by supporting local communities through various preventative and detection initiatives and engagement with Local and Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Forces; the Garda Youth Diversion Programme and Projects; the Garda Schools Programme; the Joint Policing Committees and Community Policing Fora.

I am advised that Divisional Drug Units are now established in every Garda Division. The uninterrupted policing of organised crime at a national level and considerable increase in the size of Divisional Drugs Units at a local level, during the policing of the COVID-19 pandemic, has contributed to this success in seizing controlled drugs and in the apprehension of those involved in the sale and supply of the substances involved.

In addition, the significant increase in the number of members of An Garda Síochána circulating in communities and engaged in checkpoints throughout the State, has also presented an obstacle to the movement of criminals.

It is important that communities work together with An Garda Síochána in this task. Reporting by the public of illegal activity, including drug dealing or intimidation, is important to assist in this work and there are a range of channels to do so, including through the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111; as well as the “Dial to Stop Drug Dealing” campaign run in partnership with Crimestoppers at 1800 25 00 25.

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 184.
Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 12.
Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 184.
Questions Nos. 193 and 194 answered with Question No. 12.

Travel Documents

Ceisteanna (195)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

195. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice when new travel documents will issue in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23252/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, staff in the Immigration Service Delivery function of my Department have had limited access to their offices and to the relevant case files until recently. However, it is expected that the person concerned should receive a determination on their travel document application in the coming days.

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.

Naturalisation Applications

Ceisteanna (196)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

196. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination of an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); when the application process is likely to be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23253/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

An application for naturalisation in relation to the person referred to is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision in due course. Documentation requested from the person concerned on 13 June 2020, has yet to be received.

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 level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

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.

Naturalisation Applications

Ceisteanna (197)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

197. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23254/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy continues to be processed and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

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 level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

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.