Dáil Questions: Foreign Affairs

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Dáil Issues, Foreign Affairs, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised or plans to raise at EU level or otherwise, the issue of potential safe passage for a person (details supplied) from the UK to Ecuador in view of recent legal developments in their case. – Clare Daly. 

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.

Ref No: 25453/17

Julian Assange

REPLY

The case to which the Deputy refers is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings in the United Kingdom.  As Ireland has no locus standi in this case, I do not plan to take any action on the matter.  

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will initiate discussions with the Northern Irish and British authorities with regard to the need for a Patten style commission regarding the prison service in Northern Ireland. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.

Ref No: 25454/17

REPLY

Since the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Executive in the Hillsborough Agreement of February 2010, prison policy has been a devolved matter. An executive agency of the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Prison Service, has operational responsibility for prisons, while the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland retains certain responsibilities around separation.

Prison issues feature regularly in my discussions with the Secretary of State and with successive Northern Ministers of Justice.  I will continue my discussions on prison issues with the next Minister for Justice following the restoration of the Institutions.

The Northern Ireland Executive last summer agreed to implement the recommendation of the Fresh Start Paramilitary Panel that a review of the separated regime in Maghaberry be established.  This would, I believe, involve assessing how the separated regime impacts on the operation of the prison itself.

My Department engaged fully in the Paramilitary Panel’s consultation process.  I look forward to that review panel being appointed and to seeing their work completed.  That cannot happen until the new Executive is established and a Minister of Justice is in place.   Clearly the sooner an Executive is formed the better.

I believe that such a review opens up an opportunity to address genuine concerns regarding separation, including such issues as association on the landings and access to education.  I know the Deputy and a number of colleagues have strong concerns about these and related issues.  It may open a wider discussion on other potential reforms in the prison service.

My officials at the Secretariat in Belfast continue to monitor prison issues closely and to meet with the range of agencies responsible for prisoner issues in Northern Ireland, including the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Prison Ombudsman, and on non-devolved aspects, with officials from the Northern Ireland Office.