Written Answers Nos. 492-510
Dáil Éireann Debate
Written Answers Nos. 492-510
Air Accident Investigations
492. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Defence if all investigations and inquiries into an accident (details supplied) in County Galway have been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42262/14]
Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): I wish to advise the Deputy that there have been three separate reports into this tragic accident. The first of these was conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Department of Transport. Their Final Report was published on 24th January 2012 which set out their findings. It found that the probable cause of the accident was the spatial disorientation of the instructor/pilot in conditions of poor visibility resulting in controlled flight into terrain.
493. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Defence the number of quangos set up since 2011 in his Department; the number of members of same; the cost and expense incurred to date including details of the briefs that they cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42512/14]
496. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to make changes to the ground rent regime here in view of the dubious constitutionality of the provisions as they currently stand; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40999/14]
The position is that section 2 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1978 introduced a prohibition on the creation of new leases reserving ground rents on dwellings. As regards existing ground rents, Part III of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No.2) Act 1978 contains a statutory scheme whereby a person may, at reasonable cost, acquire the fee simple in his or her dwelling. To date, over 80,000 applicants have acquired freehold title to their property under this scheme. In the case of property other than dwellings, the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1967 contains provisions which facilitate acquisition of the fee simple in certain cases subject to agreed terms or on terms set out in an arbitration carried out by the County Registrar. Comprehensive details of the manner in which the fee simple can be purchased under these schemes are available on the Property Registration Authority's website (www.prai.ie).
As regards the constitutionality issue, the position is that the ground rents issue was considered by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in their 2004 Report 'Private Property'. The Committee took the view that a ground landlord's ground rent is a form of property right which is constitutionally protected and that abolition of such rents would be unconstitutional in the absence of adequate monetary compensation. The Committee also noted that where leases were approaching expiry, any legislation providing for the abolition of ground rents would have to provide for the payment of enhanced compensation by the ground tenant. In light of the foregoing, I have no immediate plans to introduce further legislation in this area. Operation of the existing law is, however, being kept under review by my Department.
Constitutional Convention Recommendations
495. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 118 of 7 October 2014 stating that the Government has also undertaken to look at making Article 41.2 of the Constitution on the role of women gender-neutral, and at including other carers both in and beyond the home, it has also undertaken to look at amending the Constitution to include the principle of gender equality, as well as the use of gender-inclusive language in the Constitution, if she will report on the status of this undertaking; the persons involved in advising on and making this decision; and if she will confirm that the Government will propose a constitutional amendment or amendments to this effect. [41619/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Government has undertaken to look at the question of the most appropriate wording to be presented to the people arising from the recommendations in the Second Report of the Convention on the Constitution in relation to amending the language in Article 41.2 on the role of women in the home. It has also undertaken to look at the feasibility of including the principle of gender equality as well as the use of gender-inclusive language in the Constitution.
A Task Force composed of officials from the Equality and Civil Law Divisions of the Department of Justice and Equality has been established to examine these issues. The Task Force has collaborated in its work with the Attorney General's Office and other Departments as necessary. The report of the Task Force is nearing finalisation and I would hope to receive it shortly. Following consideration of the matter, I will bring proposals to Government.
497. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding Garda recruitment; and when the next recruitment date for new trainees (details supplied) will be. [41013/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced a further intake of 200 recruits into the Garda College, Templemore. The intake will be in two batches, one later this year (late November / early December) and the second in January 2015. This will bring to 300 the number of recruits in the Garda College and is a measure of this Government's commitment to ensure that recruitment to An Garda Síochána continues seamlessly. The first batch of recruits (already in training) will attest as members of the Garda Síochána in May of 2015 and will be assigned to Garda Stations throughout the country by the Garda Commissioner.
498. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to introduce or amend legislation in order that judges have the full range of options available to them including community service when sentencing persons from another legal jurisdiction. [41030/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The fact that a person who has committed an offence in Ireland is from another jurisdiction will not prevent a court, when sentencing the person, from imposing the sanction it considers appropriate in all the circumstances of the case, subject to the maximum penalty provided in law for the offence concerned.
An offender who is subject to a community service order will be required to reside in the State while performing the unpaid work required by the order. This is provided for by section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983, as substituted by section 5 of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011, which requires a community service order to specify the district of residence, where made by the District Court, or the circuit of residence, where made by the Circuit Court, in which the offender resides or will reside while performing work under the order.
The Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Probation Judgments and Decisions) Bill, which is currently being drafted, will facilitate the enforcement in other EU Member States of community sanctions imposed by the Irish courts on persons who are ordinarily resident in other Member States.
The Bill will give effect to EU Council Framework Decision 2008/947/JHA on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments and probation decisions with a view to the supervision of probation measures and alternative sanctions. The Framework Decision is based on the principle of mutual recognition by EU Member States of judicial decisions in criminal matters. It provides for cross-border supervision of probation measures and alternative sanctions, such as probation, community service, suspended sentences and temporary release. The Framework Decision is intended to make it easier to impose and enforce such measures and sanctions on non-residents by providing legislative arrangements for Member States to recognise and supervise probation measures and alternative sanctions imposed in another Member State.
499. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on an extension of the deadline regarding a matter (details supplied) regarding programmes at an international college of technology. [41047/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I have no plans to extend the deadline for the commencement of the reforms to the international education sector and student immigration system which I announced on 2 September in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ms. Jan O'Sullivan, TD. From 1 January 2015, non-EEA national students coming to study in Ireland can only receive an immigration permission to study on an Irish accredited higher education programme or in an ACELS/IEM recognised English language college.
These reforms are required to address the abusive practices within the sector in which a number of private-sector colleges are recruiting non-EEA nationals primarily on the basis of facilitating residence in the State and access to the labour market rather than delivering the education programmes which these colleges purport to teach. The recent closure of another college in Dublin illustrates both the necessity and the urgency of the reforms.
I understand that the particular college referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for ACELS recognition for its English language programmes, which would have allowed it to continue to recruit non-EEA students from 1 January 2015. However, following the comprehensive ACELS assessment process the college has been judged not to have met the standards required for recognition.
Public Order Offences
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The law on begging is set out in the Public Order Act 2011. The Act defines begging as requesting or soliciting money or goods other than in accordance with a licence, permit or authorisation.
Further provision is contained in section 3(2) of the Act with regard to begging at certain locations. The Garda Síochána may, under that section, direct a person begging at or near automated teller machines or vending machines, such as parking ticket machines, to leave the vicinity in a peaceable and orderly manner. Failure to comply with such a direction is an offence. Section 4 of the Act gives the Garda Síochána powers of arrest without warrant where there are reasonable grounds to believe that offences under this legislation have been committed.
501. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans regarding confirmed reports of the way the Provisional IRA movement dealt with complaints of sexual abuse; her views that victims are still afraid to speak out; if she condemns any attempt to suppress reports of abuse going to the proper authorities as this enabled abusers to continue to abuse; and if she plans to request the Garda to examine the matter. [41068/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Deputy's Question arises in the context of the recent allegations of the rape and sexual abuse of a young woman, and her subsequent mistreatment at the hands of members of Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA. It is obviously a very difficult story to tell and she has taken a brave, public stance in telling it. It is a pity that those who have questions to answer in relation to her mistreatment have, in stark contrast, relied on evasion and distortion.
502. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will review a stamp 4 application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41083/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person in question was issued with a letter granting them permission to remain in the State on 15 October 2014. This permission will now regularise this person's former illegal status in the State. His case will be reviewed upon the expiration of this initial permission.
Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the 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 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.
503. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Garda PULSE system will shut down temporarily to facilitate updates and the input of information in relation to new offences or new sanctions for existing offences. [41093/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the PULSE system is upgraded periodically to support the introduction of new offences and changes to existing offences. These technical upgrades require a very short period of downtime and are carried out using well-proven processes designed to avoid impacting upon Garda operations. The next such upgrade is planned before the end of this year.
504. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of the sharp rise in break-ins, particularly in homes and business premises, and an armed robbery at Saggart post office on 18 October 2014, if she will ensure that sufficient Garda resources are available to a Garda station (details supplied) to deal with such eventualities; her plans to increase resources in the area to ensure that homes and businesses are protected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41110/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of personnel among the Garda Regions, Divisions and Districts. Garda management keep this distribution under continuing review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of these resources. This necessary ongoing flexibility in the distribution of personnel means that it is not feasible to identify specific vacancies within specific areas of the force.
I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of Rathcoole Garda Station on 31 August 2014, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 24. Rathcoole Garda Stations forms part of the Clondalkin Garda District. The personnel strength of Clondalkin Garda District on the same date was 198. There are also 11 Garda Reserves and 14 Civilians attached to Clondalkin District.
The Deputy will be aware that the first intake since 2009 of new Garda recruits entered training at the Garda College in Templemore on Monday 15th September 2014. This marked a positive step forward for policing in Ireland. Furthermore, as provided for in Budget 2015 the process of recruiting 200 new Gardaí to the force will continue over the next few months. The situation will be kept under review and when these additional personnel become available the needs of Rathcoole Garda Station will be fully considered within the overall context of policing needs throughout the country.
505. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to examine a person's claims (details supplied) that the Garda bureau of fraud investigations failed to screen the allegations against a company by not interviewing the complainants involved or the alleged perpetrators, or by examining the accounts of the company before the bureau arrived at a decision not to proceed with an investigation. [41191/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The complaint to which the Deputy refers is amongst those being considered under the mechanism established for the independent review of certain allegations of Garda misconduct, or inadequacies in the investigation of certain allegations, which have been made to me as Minister for Justice and Equality, or the Taoiseach, with a view to determining to what extent and in what manner further action may be required in each case.
A panel consisting of two Senior and five Junior Counsel was established for the purpose. The counsel appointed to the panel were all selected on the basis of their experience of the criminal justice system. The review of each complaint will consist of an examination of the papers in the complaint by a counsel from the panel. Following the review of each complaint a recommendation will be made to me as Minister as to whether any further action is desirable and could practicably be taken.
Direct Provision System
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The first meeting of the Working Group to report to Government on improvements to the protection process, including direct provision and supports to asylum seekers, will take place on Monday 10 November 2014. I will be in attendance at that meeting and look forward to the work of the Group getting underway.
[As the Deputy will be aware the establishment of the Group arises from the Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016 and follows on from a roundtable consultation on the protection process with non-governmental organisations which I hosted with my colleague the Minister of State, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin in September. The Group under the Chairmanship of retired High Court Judge, Bryan McMahon is tasked with identifying practical improvements to the direct provision system and supports for protection applicants that show greater respect for the dignity of persons in the system and improve their quality of life. The Group has also been tasked with identifying improvements to existing arrangements for the processing of protection applications taking account of the Government's commitment to legislate for a single application procedure. All recommendations are, of course, subject to the need to ensure that the overall cost of the protection system to the taxpayer is reduced or remains within or close to current levels and existing border controls and immigration procedures are not compromised.
The task facing the Group is a challenging one requiring consideration and evaluation of a wide range of issues and complex policy questions. I am, however, confident that the membership of the Group, with its varied composition and expertise will come forward with a set of practical recommendations to Government to address the many concerns that have featured in commentary on the system in recent times.]
507. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason she has not replied to the request by the Sex Workers' Alliance of Ireland that she meet with sex workers to hear their objections to proposed prostitution laws, in view of the fact that she has met with NGOs that support the proposed laws; her views that it is unacceptable to introduce legislation without first consulting with persons directly affected; and if she will meet with sex workers before any new legislation is introduced. [41300/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I can confirm to the Deputy that I have arranged to meet representatives of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland. An appointment was made on 24 October and is scheduled to take place shortly.
In June 2012, my Department published a discussion document on the future direction of legislation which was then referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. The publication of the document was followed by a conference organised by my Department, in October 2012, which heard from all sides of the debate. My Department has also received numerous correspondence and emails concerning this debate, the contents of which were noted and replied to.
Based on the outcome of these consultations, the review of prostitution laws continues. As you will be aware, prostitution raises a wide spectrum of issues and when I have fully considered the matter, I will bring legislative proposals to Government in the usual manner.
508. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of meetings she or officials from her Department had with a person (details supplied); the purpose of each of those meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41331/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I can advise the Deputy that neither myself nor officials from my Department have met with the person referred to in the last twelve months.
Direct Provision System
509. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, in view of the well-established and well-documented human rights and value for money concerns that have been in the public domain for many years, as well as the need to meet Ireland's obligations with respect to international standards on refugee reception, her plans to replace the direct provision system; if not, her reasons; and if so, if she will provide the anticipated timeframe for its replacement. [41336/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of protection applicants in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Direct provision provides for full board accommodation supports while a final decision is awaited by a person on their protection or any related leave to remain application. At 12 October, 2014, there were 4,309 persons residing in 34 asylum accommodation centres under contract to RIA. The number of asylum seekers this year is currently running at 40% higher than last. This, invariably, creates additional pressures and challenges for the State.
The Statement of Government Priorities 2014 – 2016 contains a number of commitments in the area of asylum. One of these commitments is to establish an independent Working Group to report to Government on improvements with the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports for asylum seekers. The terms of reference and Membership of the Working Group - chaired by retired Judge, Bryan McMahon - were announced last week and these can be found on the website of the Reception & Integration Agency - www.ria.gov.ie.
Among the issues to be considered by the Working Group is the length of time persons spend in the protection applications system, the non-execution of deportation orders and the impacts that court proceedings have on the finalisation of decisions. Plainly, I cannot anticipate at this stage what the findings of the Working Group will be. A further commitment in the Statement of Government Priorities is to introduce a Protection Bill to establish a single application procedure. Work on the Bill is ongoing in the Minister’s Department and the expectation is that the Bill will be published at the start of 2015 and enacted by early 2015. In preparing the Bill, my Department is also examining to what extent the new single procedure can be applied to persons currently in the protection determination process.
510. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will confirm receipt of correspondence in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and the process involved to have this matter dealt with and the timeframe involved. [41342/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I can confirm that the correspondence from Ernest J. Cantillon Solicitors, dated 11th July, in respect of an applicant to the Restorative Justice Scheme which was established by Government for the benefit of those women that were admitted to the Magdalen laundries, was received by my Department.
As provided for under the Scheme, where the applicant does not agree with the provisional assessment made by the Restorative Justice Implementation Unit on the length of stay in a relevant institution, the applicant can seek, in the first instance, to have her case reviewed by a more senior officer.
On receipt of the letter from Ernest J Cantillon Solicitors the applicant's case was reviewed in accordance with the terms of the Scheme. A letter setting out the decision of the Reviewer was issued to the Solicitor on the 5th August. At that stage the applicant's solicitor was advised that if the applicant did not agree with the Reviewer's decision she could avail of an independent appeals process and lodge an appeal with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The applicant lodged an appeal and the applicant's file was sent to the Ombudsman's Office on the 9th September. The Ombudsman communicated his decision directly to the applicant and the file was returned to the Restorative Justice Implementation Unit on the 31st October. The Ombudsman has upheld the decision of the Restorative Justice Implementation Unit.
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