49. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to ensure that residents in direct provision centres are being advised of their right to vote in local elections in 2019; and the way in which contact with candidates will be facilitated in order that residents can engage fully with the democratic process. [49718/18]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): The Department of Justice and Equality, through the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), has always facilitated and encouraged the registration of and voting by protection applicants in local elections.
The general policy in relation to local elections has been to allow candidates to drop off election leaflets which could be placed in a common area in the centre where they could be picked up by residents. Candidates can provide, on the leaflets, contact details or times of political meetings in the local community that residents can attend.
Residents are also advised as to how they may register with the relevant local authority so that they may vote in elections as appropriate.
A reminder of this policy will issue to all centre managers and residents in the run up to future local elections.
Given the particular nature of the accommodation provided in centres, there are a number of factors that would deter unrestricted access by candidates to the private living quarters of residents. These include, the communal nature of the accommodation system and the many practical and logistical difficulties that would arise for centre managers in providing unsupervised access in circumstances where families and children live together.
This general policy ensures that there are no restrictions placed on residents’ voting rights, or on their rights to access whatever information candidates wish to convey to them, or on any rights to meet with candidates in the public areas of centres. It also ensures privacy in the residential units and the on-going protection of children in the centre.
There is also an opportunity for the newly established Friends of the Centre group at each centre to provide information to residents on how to register to vote and on the importance of local government within the political structure of the State. The Friends of the Centre groups can also raise awareness in an informal way about the importance of voting. Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 25.