Header Item Written Answers Nos. 513-535
 Header Item Family Reunification Applications
 Header Item Magdalen Laundries Report
 Header Item Garda Investigations
 Header Item Immigration Status
 Header Item Citizenship Applications
 Header Item Personal Insolvency Act
 Header Item Garda Stations Closures
 Header Item Garda Stations Opening Hours
 Header Item Constitutional Amendments
 Header Item Domestic Violence Policy
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Garda Recruitment
 Header Item Garda Vetting Applications
 Header Item Magdalen Laundries Report
 Header Item Drugs Courts
 Header Item Garda Resources
 Header Item European Arrest Warrant Issues
 Header Item Criminal Law Review
 Header Item Legal Services Regulation
 Header Item Firearms and Ammunition Security
 Header Item Garda Vetting Applications

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 792 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 513-535

Family Reunification Applications

 513. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the procedure to be followed and eligibility for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7024/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The individuals referred to currently have visa applications under consideration. The visa applications were received in the Visa Office, Dublin on 5 November 2012. They were referred to the Visa Office in Abuja for processing, as the individuals concerned are currently resident in Nigeria. Preliminary assessments of the applications have been completed and the reference in Ireland has been contacted requesting further documentation. Cases of this type are dealt with in chronological order and comprehensive examination of the applications referred to will take place in due course. The actual processing time for dealing with such applications can vary depending on the particular circumstances of each individual case and the type of investigation required. The nature of the applications referred to by the Deputy require more in depth consideration than straightforward 'visit' visas. Queries in relation to general immigration matters may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Magdalen Laundries Report

 514. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if printed copies of the Magdalen laundries report will be provided to persons who request them in view of the fact that some citizens with a strong interest in reading the report may not be computer literate. [7062/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The report was published on two websites - www.idcmagdalen.ie and www.justice.ie. While only a limited number of copies were printed, I can assure the Deputy that my Department will do its best to facilitate people with access where possible.

Garda Investigations

 515. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update on the cash for cars signs around Dublin; and the role of criminals on this matter. [7076/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matters raised by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the report is to hand.

Immigration Status

 516. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views on an incident detailed in a press statement (details supplied) issued by representatives of the International Transport Workers Federation; and if he will issue a directive that ships' crew in similar situations will be supported by the Garda and his Department. [7083/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I would like at the outset to make it clear that the men concerned were not deported from the State nor were they detained at any time but were returned to their country of origin to be reunited with their families as they themselves had requested. In this regard, when the people concerned were located by An Garda Síochána, a spokesman on their behalf alleged that they had been the subject of poor working conditions while on board the vessel concerned and that they had not been paid by the owners of the vessel for work done. The spokesman made it clear that they would not return to the vessel and that they wished to return to their country of origin. The spokesman indicated that they wished to make contact with their embassy. They made no request to contact any other body or agency. Contact was made by the local Garda Síochána with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) at Dublin with a view to determining the appropriate course to be taken. The GNIB in turn contacted officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). The request to make contact with Consular officials at their Embassy in London, was facilitated and INIS made inquiries with a view to sourcing accommodation for the people concerned, which resulted in accommodation being provided at no cost to them until they were repatriated.

Neither INIS nor An Garda Síochána is aware of any proceedings being initiated over the 11 days during which the vessel was at port, which would have prevented the vessel from leaving this jurisdiction and there is no provision in immigration related legislation which could have given rise to such a situation. The issue of the alleged dispute regarding conditions and payment of wages is not a matter for my Department or An Garda Síochána. I am informed that the in relation to the issue of payment of wages to the crew onboard fishing vessels that this is the responsibility of the flag state, which in this case is the United Kingdom. However, if the people concerned are required to return to Ireland in connection with the alleged dispute, it is open to them to seek an Irish entry visa for that purpose. I can inform the Deputy that all the people concerned have now travelled back safely to their country of origin.

Citizenship Applications

 517. Deputy Jim Daly Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the status of a citizenship application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork which was lodged on 27 March; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7092/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in March 2012. The application is being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation, such as good character and lawful residence, and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. As well as being a significant event in the life of its recipient, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation as provided for in law is also a major step for the State 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 INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Personal Insolvency Act

 518. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update regarding the personal insolvency service; if the service will be operational by March; if not, when the service will be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7097/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The full operation of the provisions of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 is expected in the early part of 2013. The Insolvency Service of Ireland aims to open its office, launch its website, commence an information campaign with the issuing of publications and relevant guidelines in March 2013. The regulatory and IT frameworks required for the Service to accept and process applications for the new debt arrangements should be in place during Quarter 2 of 2013.

Garda Stations Closures

 519. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his further plans in relation to the closure of Garda stations; if he has had discussions with An Garda Síochána in relation to this matter; if they are working on any proposals to be brought to his attention on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7126/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Each year the Commissioner prepares a Policing Plan which outlines his proposals for providing the policing service in the country for the following year. Among other things, this plan must include any proposals he has for the re-organisation of the Divisional or Regional network together with any plans he has for the closure of a Garda station. While the Policing Plan for 2014 has not yet been prepared, I understand, from discussions with the Garda Commissioner, that the current consolidation process will be largely completed by the end of this year and it seems unlikely at this point in time that there will be any further station closures in 2014 and 2015.

Garda Stations Opening Hours

 520. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if his Department or the Garda Síochána are preparing any proposals for him regarding reducing the opening hours of Garda stations throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7127/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Any decision on the opening hours of Garda stations throughout the country is an operational one for the Commissioner and I have no function in the matter. The Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2013, which I laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 5 December 2012, sets out details of the future opening hours of some stations in Cork and Dublin. It is important to remember that while these Garda stations are listed for revised opening hours from 24 hour stations, they will remain as functioning Garda stations on a 24 hour basis. The full list of these details is available in the Policing Plan which is available in the Oireachtas Library and on the Garda web site. The delivery of the most effective policing service possible to the public remains a core objective of the Commissioner and he will continue to have my full support in seeking to maximise the number of gardaí on active frontline duty, preventing and detecting crime right across the country.

Constitutional Amendments

 521. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update on future plans regarding marriage for same sex couples. [7139/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I refer to my response to Parliamentary Question no. 146 of 7 November 2012 in which I indicated that legislation providing for same-sex marriage cannot be enacted without an amendment to the Constitution following a decision of the people in a referendum on the matter in accordance with Article 46 of the Constitution. In this regard the programme for Government includes a commitment to establish a Constitutional Convention to consider constitutional reform on a number of issues including provision for same-sex marriage. I understand that the Constitutional Convention is expected to consider the issue of same-sex marriage in April.

Domestic Violence Policy

 522. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to introduce reforms of current laws which will improve safety for victims of domestic violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7158/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As I indicated in response to Parliamentary Question No. 103 of 11 December 2012, the programme for Government commitment - to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation, in a way that provides protection to victims - will be progressed as soon as possible having regard to the need for consultations and the need to dispose of urgent legislative matters in my Department under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for the State.

Proposed Legislation

 523. Deputy Brian Walsh Information on Brian Walsh Zoom on Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update in relation to the preparation of the family relationships and children's Bill; and if he envisages that it will afford legal recognition to the relationship between the children of one partner and the other in a civil partnership. [7162/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As I indicated in response to Question No. 789 of 16 January 2013, I am presently engaged in the preparation of a Family Relationships and Children Bill. I intend to publish the Heads of the Bill as soon as possible in 2013 having regard to the need for consultations and the need to dispose of urgent legislative matters in my Department under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for the State. In preparing my proposals for legislation, I am considering the detailed recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its Report on the Legal Aspects of Family Relationships.  The Commission recommends that legislative provisions be introduced to facilitate the extension of guardianship (parental responsibility) to civil partners and step-parents either by agreement with the other parties who have parental responsibility for the child or by application to court. In that context, I am considering the Commission's specific recommendations on legislative reform, which would put same-sex couples and step-parents on an equal footing with other couples in relation to their children. I am also reviewing existing legislation worldwide addressing the issues of parentage, assisted human reproduction and surrogacy and considering the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction published by the Department of Health in 2005. Those reforms must ensure that children in lesbian or gay family units are able to form a legal connection with their non-biological parent and that kindred relationships flow from such legal connection. In particular, reform of the law is needed in the areas of guardianship, custody and access, and to ensure maintenance and inheritance rights for the children of civil partners.

Garda Recruitment

 524. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will commence the recruitment of additional gardaí in view of dwindling numbers; if he will recommence training in Templemore, County Tipperary, for this purpose; if he will give an indication as to when the next intake of Garda trainees will commence in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7169/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As of 31 December 2012, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the total strength of the Force was 13,424 which is, in fact, slightly more than the figure of 13,350 proposed by the previous Government in its National Recovery Plan 2011-2014. There are also approximately 2,000 civilian support staff and almost 1,000 Garda Reserves in the Garda Síochána. Garda numbers have been reducing due to the moratorium on recruitment. My objective, despite the enormous financial pressures facing the Government is to ensure that Garda numbers will not fall below 13,000. I have informed my Cabinet colleagues that I am reviewing the position regarding Garda strength in light of an estimated reduction to just over 13,000 by the end of 2013, and, in this context, I will be bringing all relevant proposals to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

Garda Vetting Applications

 525. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the safeguards that exist for somebody to challenge the soft evidence permitted in the 2012 Vetting Act, whereby gardaí or the national vetting unit could make a disclosure which bypasses the courts; and the redress does an individual has to challenge these assertions. [7202/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The National Vetting Bureau (Children & Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 sets out procedures to allow the disclosure of criminal records and specified information for vetting purposes. "Specified information" is information other than a court determined criminal record. For example, "specified information" includes conclusions from investigations of child abuse or neglect that have been conducted by the HSE, where such investigations have concluded that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons. The procedures set out in the Act are designed to ensure that the human rights of the person being vetted are adequately protected. It is important to note that before specified information can be disclosed, the person who is the subject of the information must be given a copy of that information and must be given the opportunity to challenge the proposed disclosure. The Act also provides that a disclosure of such information will only occur where there is a bona-fide concern that the person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons, and the information has been assessed for its reliability and relevance, and the disclosure is in accordance with principles of natural justice.

The Act provides for the appointment of an independent Appeals Officer who will be responsible for assessing and deciding appeals against the proposed disclosure of specified information. A party to an appeal can also appeal a determination of an appeal by an appeals officer to the High Court, on a point of law. By confining the information that can be disclosed to information arising from criminal investigations or statutory inquiries, and by ensuring that individuals who are the subject of such information have their right to defend their name protected in the Act, the Act seeks to ensure that information such as vague rumours, or innuendo or false allegations cannot form any part of the vetting process. The Act also seeks to ensure that the constitutional right of all citizens to protect their good name, as provided in Article 40.3.2 of the constitution, is fully protected.

Magdalen Laundries Report

 526. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Magdalen laundries report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7240/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Government is committed to playing its full part in a healing and reconciliation process with a view to bringing closure for the women concerned. When we have a full debate in the House next week, the Deputy can be assured that An Taoiseach, who has been meeting some of the women involved, will be responding to the significant issues identified in the McAleese Report in a fair and compassionate way.

Drugs Courts

 527. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter further to Parliamentary Question No. 630 of 14 September 2011, if the review mentioned has taken place; if he will outline the up to date situation with reference to any such review finding; the numbers dealt with by the court in 2011 and 2012 [7253/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Support and Advisory Committee for the Drug Treatment Court has over the course of 2012 undertaken a detailed evaluation of the court's operation and is in the process of completing some final enquiries which are due to be submitted to my Department in the near future. I will consider this issue further when all of the information is to hand.

Garda Resources

 528. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the reason he did not publish an independent report which recommends improving Garda management of front-line resources; the length of time the report has been with his Department; the reason for the delay in issuing the report; the date he will issue the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7254/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I presume the Deputy is referring to the Garda Inspectorate report on Frontline Supervision in the Garda Síochána. The report was received in my Department in April last year. The content and various recommendations in the report required detailed consideration by my Department in consultation with An Garda Síochána. These considerations have recently concluded and I expect to have the report laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the immediate future.

European Arrest Warrant Issues

 529. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views on the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7262/13]

 531. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views regarding an extradition case (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7265/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 529 and 531 together.

The Hungarian authorities issued a European arrest warrant for the person in question in 2005. Surrender was refused in the High Court on the basis that the person concerned had not fled the state in question, which was a requirement of the European Arrest Warrant Act at that time. The decision of the High Court was appealed to the Supreme Court which affirmed the original decision to refuse surrender. Legislation was subsequently amended to remove the 'fled' requirement in respect of persons sought to serve a sentence in the issuing state. This amendment brought the Act into closer compliance with the relevant EU Framework Decision which referred to 'fleeing' in the Recital but did not include the term in the relevant Article. After the legislation was changed, the Hungarian authorities submitted a new warrant. The High Court ordered the surrender of the person concerned and that Order was appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the appeal and refused to surrender the person. As the Deputy will be aware, the courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their functions. In the circumstances, I am not in a position to make any further comment in the matter other than to say that there are no further EAW proceedings pending in this jurisdiction.

Criminal Law Review

 530. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide a timeframe as to when the European Council Framework Decision 2008/909/JHA will be enacted into Irish law (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7264/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Legislation will be required to give effect to the provisions of EU Council Framework Decision 2008/909/JHA on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgements in criminal matters imposing custodial sentences or measures involving deprivation of liberty for the purpose of their enforcement in the European Union. It is expected that Government approval for the required legislation will be sought later this year. It is envisaged that a Bill will be published in 2014. Under an existing 1983 Council of Europe Convention, to which Ireland is party, individuals convicted of an offence in another Convention state, and for which he or she has received a custodial sentence, may be transferred to their home state to serve that sentence. The Framework Decision seeks to extend the circumstances in which a person may serve a custodial sentence, imposed in another EU state, in their home state.

  Whereas the 1983 Convention provides for the physical transfer of the person from the sentencing state to their home state, the Framework Decision, inter alia, permits the transfer of the sentence where the person subject to that sentence is in either the issuing state or the state being asked to execute the sentence. Moreover, the consent of the sentenced person will not be required where the request for execution of the sentence is sent to that person's state of nationality. However, there is a restriction on the application of the Framework Decision insofar as it applies to Ireland. Under article 28.2 of the instrument, a member state may make a declaration that existing arrangements will continue to apply in relation to judgements delivered prior to 5 December 2011. Ireland has made such a declaration.

  Question No. 531 answered with Question No. 529.

Legal Services Regulation

 532. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the efforts he has undertaken to reduce service costs such as legal on business. [3242/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, which has completed Second Stage and is due to commence Committee Stage during this Session, gives legislative expression to the commitment in the Programme for Government to "establish independent regulation of the legal professions to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints".  Furthermore, as a sectoral objective under the EU/IMF/ECB Troika Memorandum of Understanding, it supports the objectives of structural reform, national competitiveness and early economic recovery, building on the relevant recommendations of the Legal Costs Working Group and the Competition Authority. The Bill is, therefore, a key component of the Government's strategy to reduce legal costs in this country by way of increasing our competitiveness, both sectorally and nationally.

  The Legal Services Regulation Bill makes extensive provision, particularly in Part 9, for a new and enhanced legal costs regime that will bring greater transparency to how legal costs are charged along with a better balance between the interests of legal practitioners and those of their clients. The Bill sets out, for the first time in legislation, a series of Legal Costs Principles. These are contained in Schedule One and enumerate the various matters that may be taken into account if disputed costs are submitted for adjudication. These cost transparency measures will apply to barristers as well as to solicitors. Under the Bill it will no longer be permissible to set fees as a specified percentage or proportion of damages payable to a client from contentious business. It will no longer be permissible to charge Junior Counsel fees as a specified percentage or proportion of Senior Counsel fees. Legal practitioners will be obliged to provide more detailed information about legal costs from the outset of their dealings with clients. This will be in the form of a Notice written in clear language which must be provided when a legal practitioner takes instructions. Among other things, the Notice must, as set out in Section 90 of the Bill, disclose the costs that are involved, or, where this is not practicable, the basis upon which such costs are to be calculated. A cooling-off period is to be allowed for the consideration of costs by the client. When there are any significant developments in a case which give rise to further costs the Bill provides that a client must be duly updated and given the option of whether or not to proceed with the case in question.

  The Bill also provides that a new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator will deal with disputes about legal costs – at present these are dealt with by the Office of the Taxing-Master. The new Office, headed by a Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator, will modernise the way disputed legal costs are adjudicated with greater transparency. The Office will be empowered to prepare Legal Costs Guidelines. It will establish and maintain a publicly accessible Register of Determinations which will include the outcomes and reasons for its determinations about disputed legal costs. Two new Taxing-Masters have been appointed by public competition under the enhanced qualification criteria of Part 14 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 to prepare the way for these modernisation measures.

  Taking account of developments and the pressures being experienced by legal practitioners in other open common law jurisdictions the Bill seeks to address the danger of Irish law firms and legal practitioners operating at a cost disadvantage. Several types of new alternative business structure models have been, or continue to be, rolled-out in England and Wales, Scotland, Australia, Germany, Netherlands and parts of Canada in direct competition with Irish legal service providers - for example, solicitors, accountants and insurers practising as one business or "multi-disciplinary practice" providing their complementary services in a pooled and more cost-effective setting. In other provisions the Bill lifts existing restrictions on direct professional access to a barrister and on barristers who share premises or costs from advertising themselves as such a group. The Bill also allows that a barrister in employment may provide legal services for his or her employer. The Bill, therefore, contains numerous measures aimed at opening up the provision of legal services to more responsive and more competitive legal service models building on the enormous advances that have been made in supporting business technologies. Through its extensive legal costs transparency provisions and its provision for modern and more competitive business alternatives, the Legal Services Regulation Bill is providing an opportunity to ameliorate the cost to business and other consumers of legal services while also creating new business opportunities for the legal services sector. I am confident that this concerted approach to reducing legal costs will be of lasting benefit to all consumers of legal services and contribute to our early national economic recovery.

Firearms and Ammunition Security

 533. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of firearms seized in each year since and including 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7297/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table shows the number of firearms seized in each year from 2005 to 2012.

Number of Firearms Seized in Each Year from 2005 to 2012.

Year Number Seized
2012 595
2011 737
2010 948
2009 871
2008 978
2007 886
2006 1009
2005 939


  An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2013 reflects the priorities which I have set for the current year and includes as a strategic goal the objective of confronting serious crime in all its forms, including armed crime. Gardaí employ multi-disciplinary, intelligence-led approaches to ensure the activities and resources of individuals and groups involved in all such criminal enterprises are effectively targeted. A wide range of legislative powers are in place to support the investigation and detection of serious crime, including by means of covert surveillance, and very serious penalties have been introduced for firearms offences. The Firearms Acts are kept under review in the interests of public safety and law enforcement. In this regard, the Deputy may also wish to note that Weapons and Explosives Offences fell by 17.4% in the most recent published crime statistics from the Central Statistics Office.

Garda Vetting Applications

 534. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the current waiting time for Garda vetting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7298/13]

 535. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the current waiting time for Garda vetting when the person in question has received clearance in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7299/13]

 536. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the current waiting time for Garda vetting when the person in question has received clearance in the past 18 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7300/13]

 537. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the current waiting time for Garda vetting when the person in question has received clearance in the past 24 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7301/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 534 to 537, inclusive, together.

  The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organisations in Ireland which employ personnel to work in a full time part time, voluntary or student capacity with children and or vulnerable adults and who are registered with the Unit for this purpose. The average processing time for vetting procedures is currently 8 to 10 weeks. However, seasonal fluctuations and the necessity to seek additional information on particular applications can result in this processing time being exceeded on occasion. All organisations are aware of the processing time frames for the receipt of Garda vetting and have been advised to factor this into their recruitment and selection processes.

  As the Deputy may be aware, Garda vetting certificates are issued to specified organisations registered with GCVU for that purpose in respect of a particular post or employment. A vetting disclosure is made in response to a written request and with the permission of the person who is the subject of that request. I should emphasise that the certificate is a disclosure to the requesting, registered organisation of the position at the time when it is issued. Each time a new vetting application is received, new and full vetting checks are conducted. This is to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account. Accordingly the processing time remains the same whether for new applications or cases where previous vetting has occurred. The Deputy may wish to note that in order to observe equity and fairness in respect of all applicants for Garda vetting, the standard procedure is that all applications are processed in chronological order from their date of receipt. It is my objective that processing times should be kept to a minimum, while maintaining the overall integrity of the vetting system. In that regard, following discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, I am pleased to announce that sanction has been granted for an additional 25 staff to be re-deployed from the Department of Agriculture to the Garda Central Vetting Unit in the near future.


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