Header Item Written Answers Nos. 23-45
 Header Item Policing Co-operation
 Header Item Legal Services Regulation
 Header Item Courts Service Administration
 Header Item Naturalisation Applications
 Header Item Legal Aid
 Header Item Immigration Policy
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Charities Regulation
 Header Item Crime Prevention
 Header Item Family Law Cases
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Crime Prevention
 Header Item Garda Station Closures
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Court Accommodation Refurbishment

Friday, 16 September 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate

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Written Answers Nos. 23-45

Policing Co-operation

 23. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald further to her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 118 of 19 July 2016, if her attention has been drawn to a German Government request that the Pitchford inquiry be extended to cover UK undercover police who operated in Germany; if it is open to the Government to make a similar request regarding UK undercover police who operated here; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24530/16]

 24. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she has been briefed on the UK undercover police operating here and the dates on which she has been briefed. [24531/16]

 25. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her views on whether it is reasonable that the public be assured that the gardaí had knowledge of whether foreign undercover police officers were operating here.  [24532/16]

 26. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if a person (details supplied) was given official permission from an authorised person to operate here.  [24533/16]

 27. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald further to her reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 116 to 118 of 19 July 2016, to clarify if she is stating that foreign undercover police may operate here without official permission or clearance from an authorised person.  [24534/16]

 28. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the procedures a foreign undercover police officer must engage in if they wish to operate here. [24535/16]

 29. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she is aware of any foreign undercover police operating here currently. [24536/16]

 63. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if a person (details supplied) was paid by her Department or by An Garda Síochána for undercover work spying on Shell to Sea and Irish anti-war activists.  [24869/16]

 81. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if a Garda Síochána report (details supplied) has been finalised and will be released; if not, the reason this is the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25012/16]

 82. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she sought the list of the more than 400 organisations that the British Metropolitan Police have admitted spying on; if so, the Irish organisations that are listed; if not, the reason this is the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25013/16]

 83. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she or her Department has ascertained if any convictions here were assisted through the actions or involvement of a person (details supplied) or any other undercover British police officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25014/16]

 112. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she or her Department had or have knowledge or information on the activities of an undercover British police officer (details supplied) operating covertly here; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [25106/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 to 29, inclusive, 63, 81 to 83, inclusive, and 112 together.

It may be helpful to inform the House that in March 2011 my Department received a report from the Garda Commissioner in the light of media coverage and Parliamentary Questions to the then Minister on the alleged activities of the person to whom these questions primarily relate.

In relation to the general question of the possible presence of undercover officers from another jurisdiction, the then Garda Commissioner explained that the assistance of police officers from other jurisdictions is a recognised and necessary tactic in the special circumstances where external activists with a track record of violence and whose identities are unknown to local police seek to shape and control violent protest actions. He explained that agreement on such deployments would be made between the police forces involved as an operational matter and that An Garda Síochána would insist in relation to any such deployment that no criminal or agent provocateur activities would be allowed or undertaken. Any such officer so deployed would be focussed on reporting on the actions and intentions of external activists rather than domestic protestors. He indicated that the use of such deployments can be crucial to the prevention of wide-scale public disorder, destruction of property and violence.

The then Commissioner's report also stated that the capacity of An Garda Síochána to enter into such arrangements was vital in the interests of national security. The maintenance of confidentiality was an essential feature of those arrangements and the Commissioner indicated his belief that, notwithstanding the public attention which had been given to the case of the person in question, that for An Garda Síochána to disclose whether the person in question acted as an under cover agent in the context which was outlined would impair the ability of An Garda Síochána to enter into such arrangements and to protect the security of the State. In the circumstances the report to my Department did not indicate whether the person in question had acted in such a capacity here.

These are entirely Garda operational matters and my Department would not be involved in any way in such arrangements.

In the circumstances which I have outlined I am not in a position to comment on matters relating to any specific deployments.

That report indicated that An Garda Síochána was aware of the presence of the person in question on a number of occasions between 2004 and 2006. They had established no evidence that while in this jurisdiction that the person in question was involved in criminal activities and indicated that any person coming forward in possession of such evidence could be assured that it would be pursued fully by An Garda Síochána.

There are a number of general points which it may be helpful to make, which I have made in previous replies to Parliamentary Questions (in the context of which I have been briefed on the general issues which arise in this regard). In particular, there is no question of a police officer from outside the jurisdiction exercising police powers here. Any such person is subject fully to our laws and any evidence of breach of our criminal law would be fully pursued. Following any criminal investigation it would be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine whether charges are warranted in any given case. It will be appreciated also that there are statutory mechanisms in place to deal with complaints about the conduct of members of An Garda Síochána.

I am aware that an Undercover Policing Inquiry was established by the UK Government in March, 2015 in order to inquire into and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales. As Deputies will understand, the establishment of the inquiry and its terms of reference were and are matters solely for the UK authorities and, accordingly, I have not sought any information from them in relation to the matters subject of the inquiry. I am aware of reports that the German authorities have been in contact with the UK authorities in respect of the inquiry. However, the issue of my requesting the extension of a UK inquiry into matters which may relate to this jurisdiction does not arise. I can assure the House, however, that should anything emerge from the inquiry's findings that would be relevant to policing in this jurisdiction, I will consider it fully and take any action that may be required.

Legal Services Regulation

 30. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if the Legal Services Regulatory Authority will have a role in the drafting of the new criminal legal aid legislation she is proposing; if the authority will be consulted on its contents; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24549/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department is currently preparing legislation to give effect to the Government's commitments to transfer the administration of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to the Legal Aid Board and to strengthen aspects of its operation. It is my intention to consult with all relevant stake-holders in the development of this legislation including the Legal Services Regulatory Authority which may wish to make appropriate observations to make in this regard. In keeping with normal practice, the drafting of any new legislation will be a matter for my Department under the relevant Government decision and in conjunction with the Offices of Parliamentary Counsel and of the Attorney General.

It should also be noted that, while the Legal Services Regulatory Authority will be the statutory regulator of all legal practitioners and the body to which complaints concerning legal practitioners are submitted, it has no specific statutory function in relation to the administration of criminal legal aid.

Courts Service Administration

 31. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the persons tasked with providing expert child welfare and safety assessments to the courts in family law matters to assist the courts in making custody and access determinations in circumstances of domestic violence.  [24551/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As the Deputy will be aware, the Courts Service Act 1998 provides that management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided the following information. In private family law cases, it is the responsibility of the person who is alleging the violence to bring an application for a domestic violence order. In some, but not all, cases of domestic violence, applicants also seek orders in relation to custody or access. In bringing an application, it is open to an applicant to call any witnesses the applicant sees fit or engage any expert to provide evidence to support the applicant's case. The State does not provide reports for the Courts hearing private family law cases. If requested, the Courts make orders dealing with the terms of custody of and access to children where domestic violence is alleged.

In public family law proceedings, the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, apply to bring children into care, in instances of abuse, neglect or domestic violence. In making an application, Tusla engages experts to prepare reports on the welfare of the children who may also give direct evidence in Court.

The Deputy will be aware that the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 contains new provisions regarding the best interests of children which have been in operation since 18 January 2016. Section 45 of the 2015 Act replaces section 3 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 with a new provision which clearly stipulates that the best interests of the child will be the paramount consideration for the court in any proceedings where the guardianship, custody or upbringing of, or access to, a child is in question.

The best interests of a child are to be determined in accordance with the new Part V of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, inserted by section 63 of the 2015 Act. The new Part V contains two important sections. Section 31 sets out a wide range of factors that the court is required to take into account when determining the best interests of the child. These factors include any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering as a result of household violence, and the protection of the child’s safety and psychological well-being. Section 32 provides the court with the option to seek a written expert report on the welfare of the child. It also enables the court to appoint an expert to determine and convey the child’s views to the court, so that the child’s voice can be heard in the proceedings.

Naturalisation Applications

 32. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her proposals to reduce the fee charged for a naturalisation application; the total fees applicable should an applicant be successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24577/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The fees to be paid by an applicant for a certificate of naturalisation are governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 569 of 2011). The application fee, stipulated at €175, is payable on application for a certificate of naturalisation and a certification fee is payable on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation. The standard certification fee is set at €950, while a reduced fee of €200 applies in the case of an application made on behalf of a minor or in certain cases where the application is made by a widow, widower or surviving civil partner of an Irish citizen. In the case of recognised refugees and stateless persons the certification fee is nil.

The standard fees payable by an applicant are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing applications for a certificate of naturalisation. I might also add that following the grant of citizenship it is no longer necessary for the person to register their presence in the State with the Garda National Immigration Bureau which requires the payment of a fee of €300 per registration.

The Deputy will be aware that formal citizenship ceremonies have been introduced at no extra cost to applicants. These have been universally well received by participants as the ceremonies provide a sense of dignity and occasion that serves to underscore the importance to both the State and the applicant of the granting of Irish citizenship.

All of the fees payable under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 are kept under ongoing review by my Department; however, currently there are no plans to reduce or abolish these fees.

Legal Aid

 33. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if it is permissible for a solicitor who is acting for a defendant in a criminal case under the free legal aid scheme to charge the defendant top-up or additional fees; the rules and sanctions in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24587/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962 provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings. Under the Act, the grant of legal aid entitles the applicant to the services of a solicitor and, in certain circumstances, up to two counsel, in the preparation and conduct of their defence or appeal. The assignment of lawyers or the granting of aid are matters for the Court and, as such, are handled by the judiciary.

  Regulations made under the Act set out the fees payable by my Department to a solicitor assigned to a case in pursuance of a free legal aid certificate. On being assigned, the legal practitioner makes a declaration that they have not received, nor will they accept any payment towards the cost of a case from, or on behalf of, the defendant. A solicitor, therefore, should not charge a defendant top-up or additional fees and may not accept fees from a defendant in relation to any case where that solicitor has been assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, and the relevant sanction is set out in section 12(2) of the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Regulations 1965. Section 12(2) states as follows:

If the Minister so thinks fit, he may refuse to make a payment under the Act in relation to a case in respect of which a certificate for free legal aid has been granted unless the person in respect of whom the payment falls to be made, furnishes to the Minister a document stating that he has not made or agreed to make and will not make or agree to make a payment towards the costs or expenses of the case in relation to which the certificate was granted and is not aware of a payment or intention to make a payment by any other person (other than under the Act) towards such costs or expenses".

  It is open to any client of a solicitor to complain to the Law Society in any case where it is believed that he or she has been overcharged, or incorrectly charged, by a solicitor, and similar safeguards are contained in the legislative provisions establishing the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority.

  I should add that, if it is the case that the Deputy is aware of any instance where top-up or additional fees may have been charged by a solicitor under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, I would invite the Deputy to make me aware of the relevant details.       

  My Department is currently preparing legislation to give effect to the Government's commitments to transfer the administration of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to the Legal Aid Board and to strengthen aspects of its operation.

Immigration Policy

 34. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will ensure that when documents are being handed in at the Immigration Office that the person receives a receipt for those documents. [24604/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It is assumed that by ‘Immigration Office’ the Deputy is referring to the public office at Burgh Quay in Dublin.

This is a large public office dealing with up to 700 people per day. Its primary function is to provide face to face services with its customers in relation to registration for immigration permission and for re-entry visas. I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department, that operational control of the registration function in Burgh Quay transferred from the Garda National Immigration Bureau to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department on 25th July 2016.

In relation to the registration process, the majority of documents presented by customers are returned to them before the completion of their registration/renewal. The Deputy will appreciate that many of these customers are in correspondence with INIS before the registration of their immigration permission takes place, and in most cases will have previously forwarded relevant documentation to INIS. The only documents retained by the Registration Office are what are termed 'College Letters', provided by some colleges to assist students to complete the registration process. INIS is in the process of phasing these letters out with electronic communication.

In relation to re-entry visa applications similar procedures apply, with all documentation returned to the customer at the end of the re-entry visa appointment transaction.

On occasion, individuals whose applications are not being considered by the public office, have sought to hand in documentation at the reception desk in the public office. INIS recommends that, in all cases, individuals wishing to submit such documentation, particularly if it contains valuable documents such as passports, etc., should do so via recorded postal delivery addressed to the correct Division of INIS. INIS cannot take responsibility for documentation that is forwarded outside of this method of delivery.

Garda Data

 35. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of enforcement actions taken by An Garda Síochána pursuant to the Protection of Children's Health (Tobacco Smoke in Mechanically Propelled Vehicles) Act 2014 since 1 January 2016; the number of fixed penalty notices issued and higher penalties imposed in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24606/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy and I will forward this report to the Deputy as soon as the information is to hand.

Charities Regulation

 36. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her views on whether section 8 of the Charities Act 2009 is functioning as intended; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24616/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Section 8 of the Charities Act 2009 provides that the Act shall not apply to certain trusts the only property of which consists of: (a) shares in a qualifying company established for the purposes of Section 110 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997; (b) shares in a company whose business consists solely of the leasing of plant and machinery; (c) dividends paid in respect of such shares (being dividends that are not retained as part of the property of the trust for more than 12 months) or; (d) any other distribution of cash or assets made in respect of such shares (being cash or assets that are not retained as part of the property of the trust for more than 12 months).

The Charities Regulatory Authority ('Charities Regulator') has commenced a review of charities on its Register which hold shares in special purpose vehicles established for the purposes of Section 110 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 on trust. The purpose of the review is to determine the most appropriate regulatory approach for these organisations and whether these entities fall within the remit of the Charities Act 2009. It is a statutory requirement and strategic objective of the Charities Regulator to ensure that the Register of Charities is complete and accurate in accordance with the requirements of the Charities Act 2009.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Minister for Finance has announced that he is proposing to amend Section 110 in the forthcoming Finance Bill.

Crime Prevention

 37. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her view on concerns regarding the old and vulnerable (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24659/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am of course very much aware of the particular concerns which may arise in relation to the safety of elderly and vulnerable persons. In this regard I can assure the Deputy that I am in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that the available Garda resources are used as effectively as possible for tackling crime in our community. In addition An Garda Síochána work in partnership with a wide range of community based groups, including Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch groups, to support enhanced community safety and with particular regard to the needs of elderly and more vulnerable people.

  The protection of elderly and vulnerable people was a key consideration in the broad review of our response to burglary and related crimes which I initiated in the early part of 2015. Arising from this the Deputy will be aware of the concerted strategy which has been put in place to tackle such crimes and protect householders. In particular, very important progress has been made under Operation Thor which has led to concentrated Garda activity with more than 30,000 crime prevention patrols and in the order of 38,500 targeted checkpoints nationwide, with 2,500 arrests and 2,900 charges being made. The success being achieved through Operation Thor is reflected in the official CSO Crime Statistics which show that in the first three months of 2016 there were 36% less burglaries than in the first three months of 2015.   The recently announced package of additional resources to support Garda operations in 2016 includes provision for the ongoing implementation of Operation Thor. So there will be no let-up on the pressure which the Gardaí are bringing to bear on the organised gangs engaged in burglary, including the mobile gangs who have targeted rural communities in various parts of the country.

  These intensive policing measures are backed up by the specific legislation targeting repeat burglars with previous convictions which was enacted in the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act   2015. I am very pleased that these provisions are now available to Gardaí to support prosecutions arising from Operation Thor.

  More generally, An Garda Síochána’s Older People Strategy promotes actions to support and respond to the needs and expectations of older people on an ongoing basis. In addition, the Seniors Alert Scheme, which is provided by my colleague the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government, provides grant assistance towards the purchase and installation of personal monitored alarms to enable older persons, of limited means, to continue to live with independence and peace of mind in their own homes. As part of the Community Policing approach Gardaí engage with a wide range of local groups, including more than 3,700 Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert groups established countrywide. as well as participating in more formal structures such as Joint Policing Committees, which provide an important forum to address a wide range of local policing concerns.

  The Garda authorities strongly support the ongoing development of community partnership initiatives, and I as Tánaiste greatly value this work. In fact, the Deputy will be aware that I secured a doubling of the funding for crime prevention initiatives to be funded by my Department in 2016. Most of this funding goes to support the Community Alert programme which provides a very practical model for communities working in partnership with local Gardaí to prevent crime and to provide reassurance for more vulnerable people. To support the establishment of local groups An Garda Síochána have published Community Crime Prevention Guidelines as well as guidelines for local Text Alert Groups. The Garda Text Alert Scheme is a particularly successful example of community partnership with An Garda Síochána, with over 900 local groups in operation, involving in excess of 160,000 subscribers and with an estimated 200,000 text messages sent each month. I am informed that every Garda Division, rural and urban, now offers the Text Alert service.

  Underpinning all of these measures is the Government’s commitment to increase Garda numbers to 15,000 by way of recruitment into An Garda Síochána and the Deputy will be aware of my recent announcement in this regard.   This process will involve the recruitment of some 3,200 new Garda members on a phased basis over the next four years, to ensure that the service is renewed and has the capacity to provide visible, responsive and effective policing to every community throughout the country.

Family Law Cases

 38. Deputy Josepha Madigan Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if the plan to rezone part of the site of the Hammond Lane, Smithfield, Dublin will cause delays in the development of the Family and Child Court Complex scheduled for completion in 2020; the steps being taken to prevent any possible delays in the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24663/16]

 97. Deputy Josepha Madigan Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if the dedicated Family Court complex at Hammond Lane, Smithfield, Dublin 7 will be delayed due to current proposed rezoning considerations; when she expects the complex to be operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25043/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 97 together.

  As the Deputy will be aware I have previously announced, together with the then Minister of State responsible for the Office of Public Works, the intention to provide a dedicated facility including new family courts at the Hammond Lane site. The project is to be delivered by way of Public Private Partnership in accordance with the Government’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Programme 2016 - 2021 and it is anticipated that the project could be completed by 2020.

  I am informed that the rezoning of a part of the Hammond Lane site as a park, has been proposed in an amendment which has been tabled by some members of Dublin City Council to the draft Dublin City Development Plan 2016 - 2022. The Courts Service has informed me that this would have a serious and detrimental effect on the proposed development of that site.

  Currently family law cases and cases involving children are dealt with at four separate locations in central Dublin and the facilities currently available at these locations are considered inadequate. The proposal to develop a dedicated Family Law and Children’s Court complex on the Hammond Lane site provides a unique opportunity to address the inadequacy of the current facilities by providing a purpose built courthouse specifically designed to cater for the particular needs of those involved in family or child care cases.

  However, if the proposed rezoning is adopted the Courts Service advise that this would impact negatively on plans to develop the Family Law and Children's Court complex. The site is quite small (approximately 0.45 hectares) and a major challenge in the design work undertaken to date has been to fit all the necessary courtrooms, support services and court offices into the available space. A reduction in the size of the site would severely restrict the size of the complex and could have the potential to delay the project and also to jeopardise its viability.

  Since becoming aware of the proposed amendment the Courts Service has written to Dublin City Council expressing its concerns and has made a submission requesting that the rezoning proposal be withdrawn. The Courts Service understands that similar submissions have also been made by other organisations working in the area of family and child care law. I am informed that all submissions will be considered by City Councillors at a special meeting scheduled for 23 September next following which the Courts Service will consider the matter further and I can assure the Deputy that it is my intention to continue to take a very strong interest, from the Government's perspective, in the delivery of this critical enhancement of our family court facilities in Dublin.

Departmental Expenditure

 39. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of credit cards issued to Ministers and officials working in her Department; the amount spent on credit cards by her Department in 2014 and in 2015; the amount of bank interest paid on credit cards in 2014 and 2015; the controls in place to monitor the issuing of and the expenditure on these cards; the controls in place in each agency to monitor expenditure on personally held credit card bills that are subsequently used to recoup work related expenses; if these controls are being reviewed in view of recent events in agencies funded by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24746/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I wish to advise the Deputy that over the period in question, 6 credit cards were held by officials in certain posts in my Department. Currently, official credit cards are held by two officials within my Department. No new credit cards were authorised during the period. In 2014 the total expenditure charged to these cards amounted to €25,243.27, whilst a sum of €27,588.36 was charged in 2015. No bank interest was incurred in these periods.

All applications for credit cards must be made in writing accompanied by a business case and submitted to the Assistant Secretary with responsibility for Finance who, if in agreement, submits for approval to the Secretary General. If approved, the card is issued on the basis that it will be used exclusively for official purposes. All bills are processed for payment on a monthly basis and individual transactions are scrutinised by the Department's Financial Management Unit to ensure they are appropriate to a charge on the Department's Vote. All credit card expenditure must be accompanied by receipts and when submitted in support of an expense claim must be approved by a line manager who is senior to the applicant.

Credit cards of this nature are utilised as a business tool which is tightly controlled and facilitates the efficient and cost effective discharge of Departmental business. In some instances it is not possible to procure goods and services without a credit card, where for example, suppliers insist upon advance payment or for on-line purchases. The control process is kept under review but my Department is satisfied that the controls in place restrict the number of such cards to a minimum and that the priority is ensuring best value for money.

Departmental Expenditure

 40. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of credit cards issued to staff working in each State agency funded by her Department, in tabular form; the number of cards per funded agency; the amount spent by credit card in 2014 and 2015 by each agency; the amount of bank interest paid on credit cards in 2014 and 2015; the controls in place to monitor the issuing of and the expenditure on these cards; the controls in place in each agency to monitor expenditure on personally held credit card bills that are subsequently used to recoup work related expenses; if these controls are being reviewed in view of recent events in agencies funded by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24761/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I wish to advise the Deputy that over the period in question, 2 credit cards were held by officials in the National Disability Authority, an Agency funded by my Department's Vote. Details of the total expenditure charged to these cards are as set out in the following table. No bank interest was incurred in these periods.

AgencyNumber of Credit Cards20142015
National Disability Authority2€14,572.74€19,923.4


  All applications for credit cards must be accompanied by a business case and submitted to the Assistant Secretary with responsibility for Finance, who, if in agreement, in turn submits it for approval to the Secretary General. If approved, the card is issued on the basis that it will be used exclusively for official purposes. All bills are processed for payment on a monthly basis and individual transactions are scrutinised by the Department's Financial Management Unit to ensure they are appropriately charged to the Department's Vote. All credit card expenditure must be accompanied by receipts and when submitted in support of an expense claim must be approved by a line manager who is senior to the applicant. The control process is kept under review but my Department is satisfied that value for money is the key priority.

Departmental Expenditure

 41. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of credit cards issued to staff working in any third party agency funded by her Department, in tabular form; the number of cards per funded agency; the amount spent by credit card in 2014 and 2015 by each agency; the controls in place to monitor the issuing of and the expenditure on these cards; the controls in place in each agency to monitor expenditure on credit card bills that are subsequently used to recoup work related expense; if these controls are being reviewed in view of recent events in agencies funded by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24776/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald On an annual basis, my Department provides funding to approximately 300 third party non governmental bodies.

In terms of gaining assurance on the control environment operating within these bodies, It has not been the practice to require internal operational details at a level requested by the Deputy. Instead my Department relies to a large extent on independent external audit assurance that satisfactory internal controls are in place over the probity of transactions and conducts its own audits on a rotating basis. This ensures that the requirements of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's Circular 13 of 2014 "Management of and Accountability for Grants from Exchequer Funds" are implemented to the fullest extent. In addition to the existing safeguards, my Department is currently examining the potential for additional measures to strengthen governance procedures in relation to such third party bodies.

Crime Prevention

 42. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the steps that can be taken to prevent online purchase or selling of illegal substances on websites available here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24798/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I can advise the Deputy that An Garda Síochána is committed to investigating any breaches of the law resulting from the availability of illegal substances on the internet. I can also advise that the availability, on-line, of illegal substances is being closely monitored by An Garda Síochána.

Furthermore, An Garda Síochána in partnership with its European and International counterparts is continuously monitoring the sale of all drugs via the internet in order to identify emerging trends and patterns.

An Garda Síochána also maintains close liaison with the Enforcement Section of the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and Revenue's Customs Service regarding the issue of on-line drug sales.

All of the agencies are working to proactively target the availability of drugs online, both within their respective remits and together.

The agencies also participate in international co-ordinated action in this area as demonstrated, for example, by their involvement in the Interpol co-ordinated Operation Pangea. This Operation targets the supply of falsified/counterfeit and other illegal medicines and medical devices, primarily through illicit online sales. The latest phase of this operation was conducted last May, the Irish component of which was carried out by the HPRA in partnership with Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, and resulted in the detention in Ireland of approximately 60,000 falsified/counterfeit and other illegal medicines of an estimated value of €350,000.

Garda Station Closures

 43. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if, in view of recent census data, the decision to close Whitehall Garda station will be reviewed; if spare capacity within the building or on the grounds which is now housed by other services will be utilised; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24802/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As the Deputy will be aware, during 2011 and 2012, An Garda Síochána completed a comprehensive review of its district and station network with a view to identifying opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within the organisation.

Having reviewed all aspects of the Garda Síochána policing model, including the deployment of personnel, the utilisation of modern technologies and the overall operation of Garda stations, Garda management concluded that a revised district and station network commensurate with the organisation’s resource base would best meet public demand.

Arising from this process, the Garda District and Station Rationalisation Programme was implemented and resulted in the closure of 139 Garda Stations throughout the State, including Whitehall Garda Station in 2012.

As with other stations that were closed under the Rationalisation Programme, the former Garda Station at Whitehall was returned to the control of the Office of Public Works which, as the Deputy will be aware, has refurbished the building to facilitate its use by the Office of the State Pathologist and the Dublin City Mortuary.

Garda Data

 44. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of newly recruited gardaí who have resigned in the past 18 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24805/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that in the last 18 months 5 trainee Gardaí have resigned from An Garda Síochána prior to attestation and 8 probationer Gardaí have resigned post attestation.

  This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. Key to achieving this goal is the commitment in the "Programme for a Partnership Government" to   continue the ongoing accelerated Garda recruitment programme with a view to increasing Garda numbers to 15,000. Taking account of projected retirements, reaching a strength of 15,000 will require some 3,200 new Garda members to be recruited on a phased basis over the next four years in addition to the 1,200 that will have been recruited by the end of this year since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014. So far 534 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream uniform duties nationwide.

  In order to continue to ensure seamless ongoing recruitment I was very pleased to announce the commencement of a new recruitment campaign on 8 September. The campaign is being organised by the Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Garda Commissioner. Applications must be made through www.publicjobs.ie   before the closing date for applications on 29 September 2016.   The existing recruitment campaign (launched last November) is ongoing and successful candidates will continue to be called from that campaign this year and into next year. It is expected that successful candidates from the new campaign will enter the Garda College from mid-2017.

  As I have stated previously, when accelerating recruitment it is essential to ensure that An Garda Síochána has the capacity to train larger numbers without any diminution in the quality of its training programme, and to provide appropriate supervision and support to newly qualified Gardaí to ensure that victims and the public are well served. I welcome the detailed planning process that the Commissioner and her team have in place to ensure the delivery of increased numbers of Gardaí without any compromise on the quality of those recruited or the training programme.

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

 45. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will provide the necessary funding to the Courts Service in Tralee, County Kerry, to carry out the necessary refurbishment and upgrade works on the existing site at Tralee Courthouse (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24816/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that it is aware of the need to improve court accommodation in Tralee and has been exploring options for providing modern courthouse facilities in the town. The scope for refurbishing and developing the existing courthouse on Ashe Street to provide the range of services expected in a modern courthouse is extremely limited due to the nature of the building and space constraints. For this reason the Courts Service is considering the building of a new courthouse subject to securing a suitable site and the availability of funding in due course.


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