Laois TD and Minister oversees a €3 billion budget

Leinster Express Reporter

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Leinster Express Reporter

Laois TD and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan welcomes recruitment of prison officers after 'deep recession'

Minister for Justice Flanagan and some of the first recruits to be hired by the Irish Prison Service after the recruitment embargo was lifted.

Laois TD and Minister  Charlie Flanagan oversees a Department which will have a budget of nearly €3 billion next year.

The Fine Gael Minister for Justice and Equality said he was pleased with a €190 million increase in day to day and capital spending approved in Budget 2020.

Text of Budget 2020 Dáil Speech by Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD

Let me begin by highlighting the challenging budgetary environment for next year. We are in an unprecedented position and we need to be responsible in our preparations for the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit.

In this context, I am pleased to have secured an overall increase of €190 million for the Justice Vote Group in 2020, which will safeguard and support the progress that has been made in recent years towards our vision of a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland.

The total 2020 allocation for the Justice Sector is €2.98 billion, split into 6 Votes as follows:

An Garda Síochána - €1.882 billion
Prisons - €383.3 million
Courts Service - €150.9 million
Department of Justice and Equality - €549 million
Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission - €6.8 million
Policing Authority - €3.4 million
 

Garda Vote

I am particularly pleased with the increase of €122 million in the Garda Budget for 2020.  This is a clear illustration of the Government’s commitment to the Garda reform process and the implementation of the plan, A Policing Service for the Future.

The current expenditure allocation has increased by almost €98 million. In real terms, what this means is that the Commissioner will be able to recruit up to 700 new Garda recruits next year, along with administrative and professional support staff.

The overtime budget of €95 million will be maintained for 2020. In combination with ever-increasing Garda numbers, this will provide flexibility of deployment for the Commissioner to meet demands which may arise over and above those which can be met from rostered Garda resources.

Gardaí must have the modern technology and resources necessary to detect and investigate crimes, and to prevent loss and harm to citizens and their property on a 24/7 basis.  The key importance of ICT and digital innovation was emphasised in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

Significant capital funding in the order of €75 million will continue the vital investment in ICT and communications technology. This will support the ongoing business requirements of An Garda Síochána and enable them to deploy the latest, cutting-edge technologies in the fight against crime.

The capital budget, which has increased by 26% to €116.5  million, includes €9 million to strengthen and expand the Garda Fleet.  €32 million will provide for the Garda Capital Building and Refurbishment Programme.

Justice and Policing Reform Programmes

I have already touched on areas of Garda transformation. A Policing Service for the Future is already delivering results and the new Garda Operating Model recently announced by the Commissioner is a concrete sign of the real and significant reform of the Gardaí now underway.

This year my Department embarked on a programme of significant transformation from a traditional, divisional structure to a functional structure. This move to a functional organisation model is the largest change programme in the Department’s history.

The work of the Department has been aligned under a Civil Justice and Equality Pillar and a Criminal Justice Pillar. Both pillars are supported by central enabling functions of Corporate, Transparency and European Affairs.  The new structure will enable more flexibility, better service to our customers, greater transparency and accountability and evidence-led strategic planning. Funding for this reform will continue in 2020.

Turning to the Justice and Equality Vote, an increase of €47.6 million (9%) brings the Department’s Vote to €549 million. This will be used to improve access to justice and to provide supports to the vulnerable people who need them.

I am particularly pleased to announce funding of €1 million for the establishment of the Judicial Council, bringing the total allocation to €1.25 million. The Judicial Council will have a significant role to play in ensuring excellence across the judicial system, in developing sentencing guidelines to ensure greater consistency, and in examining the issue of personal injury claims. 

An additional €4 million for Criminal Legal Aid brings the total allocation to €65.3 million. The Legal Aid Board has been allocated €42.2 million for 2020, which includes €1m to continue the Abhaile Scheme for mortgage arrears. Since it was set up in 2016 the Scheme has provided financial advice and negotiation support to over 12,000 households at risk of losing their homes.

Forensic Science Ireland’s expert advice and scientific analysis contributes greatly to the investigation of crime and I am pleased that  the allocation for the construction of the Forensic Science Laboratory will be almost €40 million in 2020. An additional €2.6 million in current funding brings the total allocation for Forensic Science Ireland to €54.4 million.

The work of the Probation Service is key in reducing recidivism, and the total allocation of €48.9 million for the Probation Service includes additional funding of €1.1m for 2020.

It has also been possible to allocate additional funding for a number of other areas within the Justice and Equality Vote, including; 

 

·         €0.5m for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, bringing the total allocation to €11,2 million.

·         €0.5m will bring the total allocation for the Criminal Assets Bureau to €9.1 million.

·         €0.5m will bring the allocation for the Private Security Authority to €3.8 in 2020

·         The Data Protection Commissioner’s overall allocation of €16.9 million is up by €1.6 million from last year.

·         €0.7m brings resources for the Inspector of Prisons to €1.2 million.

Research is vital to support evidence-based policy-making and service delivery and I am pleased therefore to announce a total allocation of €1.3 million for research, which includes funding of €0.7m for the CSO for the Sexual Violence Prevalence Study.

Earlier, I mentioned our vision of a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland.  It is very positive that an Equality Budgeting analysis took place this year, following our engagement with the OECD, who have provided us with a framework. This approach to budgeting is one that we will need to augment and be guided by into the future.

I am pleased that for 2020 it is possible to provide increased funding of over €700,000 for LGBTI+ initiatives.  This funding will support implementation of the LGBTI+ Strategy which the Government plans to publish shortly.

I am also pleased that funding has been maintained for the various subheads within Programme D of the Vote – An Equal and Inclusive Society. In this context, there is an allocation of over €7 million for Refugee and Migrant Integration and over €4.8 million for the National Disability Authority.

Direct Provision

I would like to turn to the subject of Direct Provision, which has been the topic of much commentary in recent weeks. There has been a significant increase in the numbers of people seeking international protection this year – 53% in the last nine months – and this has naturally put the system under considerable pressure.

While funding of over €80 million is being allocated towards the significant pressures being faced by the Direct Provision system, the requirements and policy responses will need to be kept under review on a whole-of-Government basis in 2020.

An Inter-Departmental Group chaired by my Department is reviewing how best to meet our obligations in providing material supports to people seeking international protection. Their recommendations, expected shortly, and which will feed into considerations by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy, are expected to have an impact on this area of expenditure.

My Department needs to find new accommodation centres and we are currently running procurement competitions around the country. Reducing our reliance on emergency accommodation will be a priority. We will also continue to make improvements to existing accommodation centres.

Processing applications more efficiently will help to reduce pressure on Direct Provision services and I am pleased to announce an additional allocation of €1m for Immigration Service Delivery, which will include additional staffing to fast-track applications. This will speed up the process of identifying as early as possible the people who require our protection and those who can safely return to their countries of origin.

Prisons Vote

An increase of €24.3 million (6.8%) on the 2019 allocation will bring the total Vote to €383.3 million.  Additional current expenditure of almost €10 million includes €5 million across a number of areas to meet the demands arising from higher prisoner numbers and  increased maintenance costs of the prisons estate, along with €5 million in pay increases.

The capital budget for 2020 has increased significantly from €32.3 million last year to €46.7 million. Most of this will be utilised for the redevelopment of Limerick Prison.

Courts Vote

I am delighted that it has been possible to allocate an additional €12.5 million for the Courts Vote, which will have an overall allocation of €150.9 million in 2020. The capital budget for the Courts has been increased by €10 million.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleague Paschal Donohoe for his cooperation in supporting these proposals for 2020. I recognise that the budgetary context is challenging this year, and appreciate the support of Minister Donohue in providing for necessary developments and reforms across the Justice and Equality sector.