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Minister Congratulates Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Defence on success at Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards.

The Minister for Justice Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, was delighted today to congratulate four areas within his two Departments for winning Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards: within the Department of Justice and Equality, the Citizenship Division for Citizenship Ceremonies; the Forensic Science Laboratory for the ‘Complaints to Compliments’ project; and the High Support Unit in Mountjoy Prison which provides increased expert support for prisoners suffering physical or mental illness; within the Department of Defence, the Irish Naval Service for the award won by the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC), based in Haulbowline.

The Minister said
“I am delighted that both of my Departments, through their commitment to innovation and to achieving excellent results, have done so well in receiving this much deserved recognition for their hard work and professionalism. This is a tangible demonstration of the reform driven agenda of this Government.”

Speaking about the IMERC the Minster said
“IMERC is a unique example of joined-up-thinking across three public sector institutions, the Irish Naval Service as an element of the Defence Forces under the Department of Defence, University College Cork and the Cork Institute of Technology. This collaboration has produced results that have leveraged major capital investment, succeeded in attracting inward investment, supported indigenous industry and enhanced capacity for research and innovation in Ireland’s maritime sector.”

In June 2011, Citizenship Ceremonies were introduced by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence for the first time since the foundation of the State. To date, 51 such ceremonies have been held in a variety of venues at which citizenship applicants have become Irish citizens under the new procedures. Citizenship Ceremonies allow applicants to receive their certificate of naturalisation in a meaningful and dignified manner which befits the importance and solemnity of the occasion.

Commenting on the award presented to the citizenship project the Minister stated,
“On taking up office I initiated a major reform of the citizenship process to deal with the citizenship backlog and to give a greater sense of occasion and meaning to the granting of citizenship. My officials have implemented these reforms efficiently and with great success. This award is due recognition of the huge efforts invested by my Department’s staff in clearing the citizenship backlog and a tribute to the capacity of the civil service to deliver on far-reaching reforms.
I also want to give recognition to the role played in various ceremonies by the Defence Forces, in particular the Army Band and Colour Parties, and to the role played by the Garda Band and to thank them for their support and participation.”

The Minister went on to say that,
“The Citizenship Ceremonies are being met with universal approval and, as well as being a major celebratory event in the citizenship process, they have removed the burden on District Court resources of applicants previously having to make their declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State in open court.”

The High Support Unit ( HSU ) in Mountjoy is a 10 bed facility, opened in the Medical Unit in Mountjoy Prison in December 2010. The project is a collaboration between Mountjoy Prison and the in-reach Mental Health Team from the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum (HSE).

Speaking about the award to High Support Unit ( HSU ) in Mountjoy the Minister said
“I am proud, as Minister, that this innovative prison based healthcare initiative should be awarded a Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Award. It bears testament to the commitment and innovation of all prison based staff who have contributed to the successful implementation of this initiative and is real evidence of the innovation that is shown by our public servants across the public service on a daily basis”.

Complaints to Compliments’ was a project to rectify delays associated with an exponential increase in drug samples needing to be tested between 2006-2009 which resulted in delays in court and complaints from the Gardaí. The Forensic Science Laboratory liaised with An Garda Síochána, the DPP and District Court judges to facilitate the introduction of presumptive drug testing by the Gardaí in minor cases where the identity of the Drug was not contested. These new systems have lead to more than 90% of all Drug Certificates been issued within 30 days of receipt of a drug sample into the laboratory.

The Minister concluded by congratulating the ‘Complaints to Compliments’ project saying
“This project was based on co operation between agencies across the Criminal Justice system and a multi faceted approach to problem solving in the laboratory which allowed for enhanced results. It is a perfect example of what can be achieved when officials from a number of agencies work together in order to vastly improve public service delivery. ”

21 June 2012

Note to Editors

Further information on the projects involved:

Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster, IMERC

The Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) is a unique tripartite alliance between the Irish Naval Service as an element of the Defence Forces under the Department of Defence, University College Cork and the Cork Institute of Technology. IMERC aims to promote Ireland as a world class research and development location, through the provision of a national maritime and energy research campus and commercial cluster. It seeks to harness and integrate public sector and industry expertise to develop the Cluster and to realise the potential of emerging economic sectors, including the nascent ocean energy sector.

The IMERC vision is to build on Government investment in our national assets, such as, the National Maritime College of Ireland, the Naval Service and the third level institutions of UCC and CIT, to become a research and commercial cluster of world standing and realise Ireland’s potential in the global maritime and energy markets of tomorrow. Our goal is for IMERC to be an engine for new ideas through research, where ideas will translate into the sustaining, innovative enterprises of the future.

Planned IMERC Targets:
2012 – Demonstration projects.
2013 – Beaufort Laboratory opened.
2014 – expected 70 new research jobs.
2015 - Up to five companies incorporated.
2016 – A minimum of two FDI clients and the Naval Service as Knowledge Institution, evidenced by 10 PhDs and 30 masters from the Service.

Introducing the State’s first ever Citizenship Ceremonies and tackling the backlog of naturalisation applications

Strategies implemented to deal with the backlog of citizenship applications which stood at 22,000 when the Government came into office have proven very successful. Since March 2011 the Minister has made decisions on almost 28,000 applications, including more than 13,800 so far this year. The citizenship backlog has now been substantially reduced.

High Support Unit- Mountjoy Prison

The High Support Unit (HSU) provides expert, supportive, short term input for prisoners who are in an acutely disturbed phase of a mental illness or require observation for a physical illness. The HSU provides a more controlled and supportive environment for a vulnerable prisoner as a short term intervention.

An International Judging Panel recently awarded this project a World Health Organisation Health in Prisons Best Practice Award in October 2011. In addition the HSU won the award in its category "Excellence in Healthcare Management" at the Irish Healthcare Awards in 2011 and it also won the Overall award at the Awards.

‘Complaints to Compliments’

The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) liaised with An Garda Síochána, the DPP and the District Court Judges to facilitate the introduction of presumptive drug testing by the Gardaí in minor cases where the identity of the Drug was contested. FSL provided validation of the kits, training for Gardaí and practical demonstrations for legal practitioners and judges; Acceptance resulted in a significant drop in minor cases submitted and allowed a greatly improved service in the major cases.

The change was timely because the laboratory needed to address the additional complexity of products from Head Shops. Liaison with academic institutions allowed the laboratory to overcome the analytical challenges of products not previously encountered.

Gardaí have praised the service. Requests for urgent certificates, at one time a normal feature of laboratory life, are now rare. Staff have transferred from the Drugs area to other sections of the laboratory to help deal with growing needs.

Complaints to Compliments’ was successful because the laboratory was proactive in promoting liaison with bodies across the Criminal Justice system combined with internal process changes to produce a service that is ‘fit for purpose.’

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