Dáil debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General: Financial Resolution (Resumed)


5:15 pm

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this year's budget. The record Department of Justice allocation for 2023 of €3.3 billion will help keep our communities stronger and safer. It will support victims and maintain a momentum of modernisation right across the justice sector. It represents a 5% increase, which has been welcomed by all.

The total gross allocation for the Garda Vote is a record €2.14 billion, an increase of over €7.8 million. This will make a real and tangible difference in our communities. We recognise the devastating impact crime has, not just on individuals whose lives have been affected but on the wider community. I am committed to increasing the number of gardaí and civilian staff and to investing in the resources they need to do their vital work protecting the public. High-visibility policing is crucial to making sure that communities across the country are safe and feel safe and that is why we will see up to 1,000 new recruits enter the Garda College in Templemore next year, as well as the recruitment of 430 civilian staff to free up more front-line gardaí for core policing duties. In order to make sure we have the numbers to put through Templemore we will open another campaign next year to supplement the 11,000 men and women who applied this year to help us guarantee that there are 200 new recruits entering Templemore every three months over the coming years. Beyond next year, those kind of figures will continue. More gardaí plus additional civilian staff will help people feel safer and reduce crime. We will also provide more money for overtime, which means that gardaí will be deployed as needed to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in our communities. There will be additional funding for ballistic vests and we will start the roll-out of body-worn cameras. There is also additional funding for ICT equipment and mobile technology, all making sure the Garda can do its work more efficiently and effectively.

On the general justice Vote, the gross allocation of €445 million for my Department includes an additional €63 million which will be used to support victims, vulnerable people and to provide vital supports and services to those who need them. Tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is a priority for me as Minister for Justice, both providing victim-centred supports and services and ensuring that the responsible perpetrators are punished. A zero tolerance plan, which was published earlier this year, is an ambitious five-year strategy to help achieve zero tolerance in our society for this appalling type of violence and abuse. The year 2023 will see us establish a new agency for domestic violence, which will become fully operational in 2024. This budget provides an extra €9 million for 2023, a 23% increase, which is record funding for combatting domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. This includes increased funding of €7 million for organisations funded by Tusla to address the acute service demands in existing services throughout the country, acknowledging the huge amount of work they do and the support they need, and for investment in new services. We have significant plans to expand and develop the services across the country. This funding will also strengthen the nationwide supports that will help to maintain the momentum in implementing the ambitious goals I have set out in our national strategy. We also have an additional €2 million, which has been allocated to help set up the agency. There is also a funding increase for victims of crime and there are other supports looking at the various different campaigns around consent, including the Still Here campaign, the No Excuses campaign and other areas that will be developed, particularly focusing on the preventive side of domestic violence. In addition, €2 million has been allocated for the criminal injuries compensation scheme. This is for the payment of claims from victims of crime.

As a country, we can also be proud of our response to the Ukraine crisis. I am particularly pleased with the additional funding of €9.2 million this year for my Department's response. So far we have welcomed, as of today, just over 50,000 Ukrainians to Ireland and we will continue to ensure that those fleeing this conflict and seeking temporary protection receive the support they need.

Since the pandemic, we also have seen a significant rise in immigration and international protection applicants. Again, this figure is reaching approximately 10,000, whereas in previous years, it would have been approximately 3,000. Additional funding of nearly €18 million will go towards increasing efficiency in processing applications, to reduce the risk of people remaining in the system for long periods and allowing uncertainty about their own status.

I will shortly announce the first successful applicants to the community safety innovation fund. This was established to reinvest the ill-gotten proceeds of crime seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau into the communities that are impacted by this crime. I am pleased that because of this budget, the fund will now increase by 50%. This year, the figure will be €2 million and next year it will be €3 million. I hope to see that increase further in the years ahead. An increase of €2.8 million will bring the total allocation for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to €16.2 million and this is to support its vital complaints investigation work.

I am also pleased to have secured additional funding of €4 million for the Legal Aid Board and €2 million for the Probation Service to support their essential work. In terms of the prison Vote, the gross allocation in 2023 is €411.2 million. Some €6.5 million of this is for additional staff and this is the first time in many years that we will have additional staff members. At least 100 prison officers will be recruited across a range of functions. There will be additional prisoner capacity in the new Limerick women's prison and it will support a new wing in Limerick Prison that will become operational shortly. It will also mean that these officers will be available for other types of duties, particular educational programmes and supports in healthcare needs that are currently not being pursued or that are not possible because of the other work that has to be done.

In terms of the Vote for the gross allocation of the courts, the figure is €176.5 million. This includes capital funding of €67 million. The Courts Service modernisation programme is vital to improving access to justice. Additional funding of €2.5 million will continue the delivery of the digital solutions and user-centric services. A further €2.5 million will future-proof judicial support staffing in light of current backlogs, expected demands and future reforms across the system. It will complement a report that I will bring forward on additional judges.

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