In answer to a Dáil question by Clare Daly TD, (pictured) Justice minister Charlie Flanagan gave the figures for solicitors working in Legal Aid Board centres in each of the past five years.
Most numbers are static or show a small increase or decrease.
Blanchardstown law centre went from two solicitors in 2013 up to four in 2018 while Finglas dipped from five to three.
The medical negligence unit went from two solicitors in 2013 to four in 2018. Smithfield law centre saw an increase from one to 18 solicitors in five years.
The numbers of solicitors employed remained static in 2013/14 at 128, rose to 138 in 2015, then to 143 in 2016. By 2017 the figure was 146, and this increased to 150 in 2018.
In its annual report, the board says that in 2017 there were just over 17,100 new applications to law centres, which was an increase of just under 3% on 2016. A total of 68% of these cases involved family matters with 1,358 involving asylum or international protection.
The equivalent figure for applications in 2013 was 17,559 cases, with 16,851 relating to general matters and 708 involving asylum. Not every applicant is provided with legal services and a number do not pursue their cases when offered an appointment.
The board uses a triage service to deliver legal advice in a timely manner.
The numbers seeking services in relation to international protection matters fell from 1,658 in 2016 to 1,358 in 2017.
While the level of demand has remained relatively stable in the last few years, this figure does not include demand for services on foot of the Abhaile Scheme which the Board facilitates.
At year-end 2017, there were 1,776 people waiting for legal services, down from 1,864 at the start of the year.
The board says that the trend is towards reduced waiting times with significant numbers of applicants prioritised and given an “on-demand” service, such as cases involving domestic violence or care orders for children.
Legal aid vouchers
In 2017, 1,933 vouchers for legal aid were issued to those facing potential repossession of their homes.
There were over 500 duty solicitor attendances at court repossession lists with 470 legal aid certificates issued for Circuit Court appeals.
At the recent FLAC annual conference Chief Justice Frank Clarke said that legal aid budget should be significantly increased since a common law system puts an increased burden on the parties.
Roles that are conducted by judges under civil law, are outsourced to the parties in common law, he said.
An EU justice expenditure scoreboard shows a typical civil-law system spends three times as much as common law, the Chief Justice added.
Total courts expenditure in Ireland is estimated at under €200 million a year.
“That suggests a civil-law system would cost €500 million on a crude view,” he said.
The Irish taxpayer is saving the Exchequer €300 million a year, which is “a powerful argument for a significantly expanded system of legal aid," the Chief Justice said.