16. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 23 February 2017, the names and positions of the additional 15 full-time staff at the Legal Aid Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15747/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As outlined in my previous response, the Legal Aid Board is committed to providing all international protection clients with early legal advice and to support this function the Government provided funding to the Board for additional staff. The budget assigned to the Board for the use of private solicitors where necessary has also been increased.
I am informed by the Legal Aid Board that three of the board's law centres - Smithfield, Dublin 7; Seville House, Galway; and Popes Quay in Cork - are directly involved in protection cases and a number of additional staff have been assigned to those offices. Another office, the Refugee Documentation Centre, provides information services to all of the bodies involved in international protection cases. While it is not the practice to name individual staff, I understand that staffing levels in these offices has increased from 64.3 FTEs in December 2015 to 76.6 FTEs at the present time and the board plans to recruit two additional staff for Smithfield in the near future. They are also considering the need for additional solicitors. The Deputy will appreciate that each law centre undertakes a range of civil legal aid work in addition to the international protection work and I am assured by the Board that these arrangements are proving sufficient at present but the matter is kept under ongoing review.