Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - EU Presidency.

Ray Burke

Question:

5 Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the numbers and grades of full-time, temporary and part-time staff who will be employed for the duration of the Irish Presidency of the EU. [8274/96]

I refer the Deputy to the reply of 6 February 1996 to Questions Nos. 30, 57 and 75 which details the additional staffing arrangements for the Department of Foreign Affairs for the period of the Irish Presidency.

Approximately 100 additional staff will be recruited for the Presidency. Around 85-90 of these will be civil servants recruited by the Civil Service Commission from either interdepartmental promotion or recruitment panels. The remaining staff will be employed directly by my Department on temporary contracts. In this context the reply to Question No. 65 of 24 April is relevant.

It is not possible to give a definitive breakdown of the grades of the additional staff at present. The grades of the officers concerned will depend on the specific requirements of the additional Presidency posts as well as the availability of staff to fill these posts.

To date 55 additional staff have commenced work in the Department. This figure includes eight assistant principal officers, nine administrative officers, three higher executive officers, two executive officers, nine clerical officers, 22 clerical assistants, one paperkeeper and one service officer.

In addition to staff assigned to the Department from outside, approximately 30 officers in the Department will be redeployed for the Presidency period.

A figure of 100 additional officers sounds impressive until one sees the number allocated to each grade. I wish the Government every success in holding the EU Presidency later this year. We have held that position three times in the past and on each occasion it brought us great honour. Our last Presidency coincided with German re-unification and since then the Germans have recognised the role we played as a nation at that time.

The Minister of State will be aware of the controversy that surrounds the leave of absence taken by a senior officer who is dissatisfied with the level of co-ordination and effort being put into the preparations for the Presidency. I do not wish to mention any names, but the Minister of State will know about whom I am speaking. Will he comment on this issue?

This is a statistical question and the way it is framed does not leave much scope for going into other areas.

I am not aware of any official in the Department of Foreign Affairs who departed on temporary leave or otherwise because of the preparations for the Presidency. This year's Estimate for the Department of Foreign Affairs contains a provision of £8.704 million to cover Presidency related costs. The comparable figure for 1990 was £2.655 million. Additional costs were incurred in 1995 for this year. This indicates that the Government is not sparing resources on its preparations for the Presidency. As chairman of the European Co-ordinating Committee I assure the House that all necessary steps are being taken to prepare for the Presidency and I have not heard one complaint about the preparations or the resources that have been made available.

This is not a question of money being thrown at a particular task, it is a question of co-ordination and the achievement of certain objectives by the Government. The Minister of State assured the House that a resignation or leave of absence has not been requested in the manner reported.

I have not seen reports that suggest an official in the Department of Foreign Affairs departed temporarily or otherwise because of the resources or the preparations for the Presidency. As Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs I assure the House that I have not even heard a rumour about such a departure. The Government will provide the necessary resources for the Presidency. I anticipate some criticism from the media about the extent of the resources that will be made available for this purpose. This is a golden opportunity for Ireland. We have received approximately £25 billion in net transfers from the European Union since we joined. We have a duty to discharge and we look forward to discharging it. The Government is taking the necessary steps to ensure we discharge our responsibilities in an effective manner.

The people with whom I have had the pleasure to work in the Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs have identified all the requirements for the Presidency and to my knowledge the necessary resources have been provided.

In deference to the official involved, I will not mention his name.