Adults living in direct provision accommodation will soon be allowed to work, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.

The minister, who was speaking in the Seanad, said: "Adults who will soon have access to the labour market will also see their capacity for economic independence enhanced in line with the finding of the Supreme Court." 

Mr Flanagan acknowledged that "there has been a great deal of criticism of direct provision over the years" and "much of it has been warranted".

He said that his department is acting on the recommendations of a 2015 report compiled by Mr Justice Bryan McMahon to deliver real improvements.

Currently, around 50 new applicants arrive in Ireland every week. 

Mr Flanagan noted that the key recommendation in Justice McMahon's report was to address the length of time taken to process applications, which leads to long stays in State provided accommodation.

He said that Ireland now has a single application procedure which was "the biggest reform to our protection process in two decades."

"It means that an applicant will have all aspects of their claim, refugee status, subsidiary protection status, and permission to remain, examined and determined in one process. Our intention is to provide first instance decisions in the shortest possible time-frame," he said.

Mr Flanagan added that the landscape of processing and delay has substantially changed.

He said that when Justice McMahon's report was published in 2015, 36% of applicants were in the direct provision system for three years or less.

This figure is now 72%, which he said "represents a radical improvement".

Mr Flanagan said: "An increase to the disposable income for adults and children living in direct provision was provided in August.

"Since the Justice McMahon report, we have more than doubled the weekly rate of direct provision allowance for children.

"Adults who will soon have access to the labour market will also see their capacity for economic independence enhanced in line with the finding of the Supreme Court."

Independent Senator Billy Lawless said: "As we lobby for the undocumented abroad with cross-party coalition support, we must have the moral fortitude to deliver for the undocumented here in Ireland."

Referring to the recent Supreme Court decision about asylum seekers' right to work, he added: "The Supreme Court has not called on the floodgates to be opened for an unrestrictive immigration regime in Ireland.

"What the Supreme Court has said is that this State has an obligation to vindicate the rights of asylum seekers in Ireland to have a limited opportunity at employment and not just spend their lives in the purgatory that is direct provision."

Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee asked when will people in direct provision have access to the labour market.

She said: "You have large numbers of people who have been a long time in direct provision who don't have any relevant work experience. Are you going to propose any schemes to allow them transition back into the work place?"

Independent Senator Frances Black warned that if you deny people the right to work, then you confine them to poverty.

Sinn Féin's Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said direct provision needs to be scrapped, saying he sees it as a form of incarceration.

Independent Senator David Norris said: "Thank God for the Supreme Court and the humane and decent people who serve upon it."

Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said there is a need to move towards people spending no more than six months in direct provision instead of having people languishing in them for a long time.

Mr Flanagan pointed out that "the granting of access to the labour market could have repercussions on the system of direct provision as we know it. If for example an applicant has economic security then the need to be dependent on the system will be alleviated."