Written Answers. - Victims Commission.

Tuesday, 23 April 2002

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 552 No. 3

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  168.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue   if, in regard to the report of the Victims Commission published in August 1999, he will list the recommendations which have been implemented and those which have still to be implemented; the reason all recommendations have not been implemented in view of the undertaking that this would be done within six months; if it is intended to proceed with the promised review which is due in August 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12519/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Victims' Commissioner, Mr. John Wilson, published his report, A Place and a Name, in August 1999. Since then a sub[987] stantial number of the recommendations have either been addressed or are being addressed. Last week I obtained Government approval for an implementation plan in relation to all outstanding recommendations. The following tabular statement groups the report's recommendations according to the Departments primarily responsible for dealing with them, and details the current position in respect of each one. Imminent or proposed future action is outlined in the statement.

As regards the time taken to implement the report's recommendations, the position is that Mr. Wilson recommended that an outline implementation plan be produced within six months. Interdepartmental consultation began almost as [988] soon as the report was published and a draft implementation plan was drawn up some months later. However, as the process had not yet yielded a definitive response on every issue to my own satisfaction, consultation continued on a number of the more complex matters raised by the report. I appreciate that it has been a lengthy process but I believe that a careful and considered approach was necessary for the process to result in a comprehensive, definitive and fully viable implementation plan.

A review of the implementation of recommendations will take place under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach, a senior official of which is to be designated to advance and monitor the continued implementation of recommendations.

Recommendation(with Report Paragraph Numbers) Action Already Undertaken and Action Proposed (in italic)
Department of Health and Children
1 Each Health Board to
(i)Develop an integrated plan to manage the psychological and emotional aspects of incidents,
(ii)establish a trauma team and
(iii)educate professionals and potential victims (4.1.1 - 4.1.7)
The emotional well-being of those affected by any major accidents or incidents is recognised as important. Health boards have established an integrated intra-board approach and have established cross-border links. The development of child and adolescent psychiatric services has been a priority in recent years. Significant additional revenue funding has been provided to the health boards in recent years, which has enabled them to develop mental health services.
The Mental Health Association of Ireland provides information, including specific school-based initiatives. Substantial additional revenue funding and lottery grants have been provided to voluntary organisations, both nationally and locally.
The post-Omagh Buncrana experience is used as an exemplar when health boards are considering establishing crisis intervention teams and outreach services.
Education and training for staff of statutory bodies and voluntary organisations is provided on an ongoing basis.
2 Assist voluntary groups providing outreach and counselling for past victims (4.1.8) See 1 above.
3 Accelerate implementation of plans for development of mental health services (4.1.9) The Department provided additional resources to health boards for improvements in the mental health services. The services have been provided with approximately £150 million as part of the National Development Programme 2000-2006, and it is anticipated that significant improvements will be made in the coming years.
4 Health Boards/hospitals to formulate explicit written policies on victims (4.3.1) Guidelines published by the Department have been circulated to all mental health service providers. The Mental Health Association of Ireland has also published guidelines. The rights of patients have been strengthened with the enactment of the mental Health Act, 2001, which will be implemented on a phased basis. It is intended that guidelines on the rights of patients will be published to take cognisance of the changes.
5 North-South review of long-term treatment of physical trauma (4.3.2) The Minister and the Minister for Health and Social Service in Northern Ireland have agreed through the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) to assess and evaluate emerging and new technology, endorsed the establishment of working groups on ambulance services and emergency planning and commissioned proposals for further developing the local collaborative projects already commissioned on inter-hospital co-operation.
The Department, in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs, will keep under close review the opportunity to extend the remit of the NSMC in the health sectoral format to cover co-operation in this area.
6 Joint services review of programmes for dealing with stress/emotionally traumatic incidents (4.4.5) A study of the Current status of programmes for emergency services personnel and related groups being undertaken by the National Network on Critical Stress Management is well advanced and is expected to be completed shortly.

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Recommendation(with Report Paragraph Numbers) Action Already Undertaken and Action Proposed (in italic)
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
7 For future victims review Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (4.2.1 - 4.2.6) A comprehensive review of the Scheme, which is taking into account these recommendations, in currently well advanced. The Minister hopes to receive a report on the matter shortly and will bring any proposals for change to Government.
8 Compensation schemes for Garda and prison staff to allow for review of cases in appropriate circumstances (4.4.3) Compensation for prision staff is provided through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which is currently being reviewed (see 7 above). The question of any change to the Garda Compensation Acts will be considered in the context of the wider review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. Any proposals for change will be brought to Government.
9 Conduct inquiry into Dublin/Monaghan bombings (4.5.2) The Government agreed on 8 February, 2000 the terms of reference for an inquiry into the bombings. Mr. Justice Henry Barron is well advanced in this work.
10 Conduct enquiry into Séamus Ludlow case (4.5.3) The Government approved in principle on 28 September, 1999 the appointment of a suitable eminent legal person to inquire privately into the case, and on 18th December, 2001 noted the agreement of Mr. Justice Barron to carry out the inquiry.
11 Introduce procedures to allow families of victims to request reports on investigations of unsolved murders (4.5.4) The Victims' Charter provides for liaison between the Garda and the families of murder victims.
12 Publish Crowley Report on McAnespie case (4.5.5) A summary of the findings of the Crowley Report will be released to the family.
13 Procedure to be put in place to enable accused persons outside the jurisdiction to apply to DPP for review of their cases to see if they still have a case to answer (4.7.3) It is open to any such person to apply to the DPP for a review of his or her case. A decision on any such case would be entirely a matter for the DPP, who is, of course, independent in the exercise of his functions.
14 Seek to have procedures put in place in Northern Ireland to allow accused individuals, outside the jurisdiction, to apply for review of their cases as to whether they still have a case to answer (4.7.3) Discussions are continuing with the British authorities regarding such procedures.
15 Review Malicious Injuries Acts (4.8.1) Review will be undertaken in consultation with the Department of Environment and Local Government.
16 Acknowledgement payments for bereaved families and payments to victims for continuing costs (4.2.7, 4.2.9 - 4.2.10) It is proposed to establish a Trust Fund to address the needs of victims. An interdepartmental working group is being established to draw up detailed proposals for the operation of such a fund.
17 Make payments of up to £10,000 to bereaved families and injured persons who had to move to this jurisdiction and who show economic needs as a result (4.7.1) See 16 above - the Trust Fund will be used to address the needs of those involved.
18 Pay relocation grant of up to £5,000 to those bereaved or injured wishing to return to this jurisdiction (4.7.2) See 16 above - the Trust Fund will be used to address the needs of those involved.
19 Annual Government commemoration to honour Gardai who died in the service of the people (4.4.7) While an annual commemoration by the Garda Síochána is already held the Department is to consider the matter further in consultation with the Garda Síochána
20 Victims' Pension for certain categories (4.2.8 - 4.2.10) See 16 above - the Trust Fund will be used to address the needs of those involved.

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Recommendation(with Report Paragraph Numbers) Action Already Undertaken and Action Proposed (in italic)
21 For returning exiles:
(i)facilitate verification of cases and transfer of benefits and allowances between jurisdictions and (i)The EU Social Security Regulations co-ordinate social security schemes for workers, self-employed persons and their families moving between Ireland and the UK.
(ii)consider rent guarantee scheme (4.7.4) However, the Department will discuss verification and transfer with the UK Department of Social Security and the Northern Ireland Department of Social Development and the Social Security Agency, which comes under that Departments's aegis.
(ii)Assistance is already available for a deposit to secure private rented accommodation and a rent supplement payment, provided that means test and qualifying conditions are satisfied. Department of Environment and Local Government is taking over responsibility for this area.
22 Institute similar arrangements in Northern Ireland (4.7.4) Department to discuss the recommendation with the Northern Ireland Department of Social Development.
Department of Finance
23 The Report of the Commission on Public Service Pensions, recently published, recommends that the relevant authorities here take up with the relevant authorities in the UK the question of amending the respective transfer schemes so as to enable individuals who have built up pension entitlements in the public service in one jurisdiction to have the benefit of those entitlements transferred to the other jurisdiction. The Government has accepted the thrust of the Commission's recommendations and has established a working group to advise on implementation.
Examine transfer of pension rights for public and health sector employees in both jurisdictions (4.8.3) The Pensions (Amendment) Bill 2001 has now been enacted and the relevant Regulations will be drafted in due course by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in consultation with the Department of Finance.
24 Public service pensions payable to spouses of those killed in the line of duty should not be stopped on remarriage (4.4.4) The Report of the commission on Public Service Pensions recommends the removal of the provision which requires a spouse's pension to cease on grounds of remarriage or cohabitation.
The Government has accepted the thrust of the Commission's recommendations and has established a working group to advise on implementation.
25 Welfare/medical care for those injured in the service of the State should be extended to families of those so killed or injured (4.4.6) Department to consider implications of this recommendation, in conjunction with other relevant Departments.
Department of the Taoiseach
26 High ranking civil servant to be designated to advance and monitor the implementation of these recommendations (4.10.1) Department to designate such an official.
27 Review implementation within three years (4.10.3) Department to carry out such a review.
Department of Foreign Affairs
28 Urge British Government to publish Stalker/Sampson and Stevens reports (4.5.5) The Department has been in discussion on the issue with the British side for some time, without progress to date.
Department to continue to discuss publication with the British side through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat.
Department of Environment and Local Government
29 For returning exiles (i) facilitate verification of cases and transfer of benefits and allowances between jurisdictions and (ii) consider rent guarantee scheme (4.7.4) See 21 above.
30 Review Malicious Injuries Acts (4.8.1) See 15 above.
Department of Defence
35 Compensation schemes for military personnel to allow for review of cases in appropriate circumstances (4.4.3) The Army Pension Acts Already allow for such reviews.

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