Other Questions

European Union Values

Sean Fleming

Question:

65Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he undertakes any activities in conjunction with the EU representation in Ireland to promote EU values here; the work he carries out abroad to promote the EU through Ireland’s diplomatic representation; his plans for such work; the plans in place for Europe day in the Oireachtas this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9557/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

81Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he continues to use his influence at EU level to reaffirm focus on a cohesive vision of a modern Europe with particular reference to the ideals as set out by Europe’s founding fathers; the extent to which it has been possible to obtain reassurances in respect of this commitment; if the experience over the past five years has served as a useful reminder of the need to return to the values and ideals of Adenauer, Monnet and Schuman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9603/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 81 together.

Both questions touch on fundamental aspects of Ireland's relationship with the European Union and I welcome the opportunity to record once again the firm commitment of the Government to the ideals and values enshrined in the European treaties. The European Union has faced and continues to confront a crisis of a scale and complexity that has been without precedent since its foundation. It is understandable that concerns have been expressed both about the adequacy and the manner of our collective response to that crisis. I am confident, however, that when we look back at this difficult period, we will see that it was precisely those ideals and values of solidarity and co-operation espoused by the founders of today's European Union that steered us safely through the crisis. Every step of the way we have seen the European institutions, particularly the Commission, the European Council and the Parliament, working together to seek common solutions to shared problems. In a matter of months, we have made unparalleled efforts to reinforce structures for economic governance and devised new instruments to safeguard the economic stability of the European Union.

The Government is also committed to ensuring our citizens have adequate information to form a judgment on the European Union and Ireland's place in it. Working with the European Commission representation and the European Parliament office in Dublin we have an agreed joint communications strategy which aims to improve communications on European Union issues in Ireland and to promote greater understanding of the EU. My officials meet the heads of the Commission and Parliament officials here on a monthly basis to review progress on the implementation of the plan. We work closely together on a range of initiatives such as the recently launched Blue Star programme for schools, an initiative I pioneered in the Department of the Taoiseach which is designed to develop knowledge and understanding of the European Union at primary level. The Communicating Europe initiative is designed to deepen public awareness of the role the European Union plays in our daily lives and an important plank of the work in my Department.

It is important that we engage citizens on the terms of the new treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. This has important implications for our future economic well-being, will help to ensure greater security and stability for our shared currency and strengthen the obligation of those member states whose currency is the euro to live up to their responsibilities. The Government is prepared to play its full part in this regard.

Our network of diplomatic missions plays a key role in disseminating information to our partners at the highest level on Government policy on the European Union and keeps us updated on the evolving positions of other member states. This constant flow of information feeds into and guides our approach to issues in Brussels and within the institutions.

I am working closely with my colleagues on Europe Day activities in the Oireachtas this year and we aim to build on the success of last year's events. Details of this work will have to be agreed in close consultation with the Oireachtas and I hope to be in a position to come back to the House on the matter in the coming weeks.

I agree that last year's Europe Day events were a great success. I believe I heard in the Minister of State's response an invitation to Members on all sides of the House to participate in organising this year's events. However, one does not need to engage in polling or avail of the services of focus groups to realise Irish citizens and, one suspects, citizens throughout Europe increasingly feel alienated from the institutions of the European Union. Does the Minister of State accept, for example, that the unprecedented manner in which President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel frequently pose as thede facto leaders of the Union is proving problematic? Does she accept that we must actively engage at national level in educating citizens about the positive aspects of the Union? Does she also accept that in this country, in addition to undertaking such a positive initiative as Europe Day, there is a need to engage actively across the country, perhaps by setting up a structure similar to the Forum on Europe, to bring a positive message about the Union to the people? Does she further accept that what would be seen throughout the country as the marked reluctance of the Government to engage with the public on the fiscal treaty by way of a possible referendum on the issue is contributing to public unease and scepticism about the entire European project?

The Deputy has asked three questions which I will try to address. On the role played by Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, it is fair to say there has been widespread criticism of the European Union's capacity to respond in an efficient and speedy manner to the crisis that has engulfed us in the past two years. It is also fair to say neither the Union nor the eurozone was equipped to react and respond as quickly as possible. We can condemn the European institutions or whomsoever we like, but when one considers that there are 27 democracies, each operating an entirely different system, it is very difficult to come together on the basis of consensus and move forward. The lack of leadership has been constantly lamented. In the vacuum the German Chancellor has stepped forward to show leadership, which is important.

There has been cynicism, as well as scepticism, in the past six months, but much of what has been said has been disproved. Last November we were told by a reputable international newspaper, quoted regularly on the other side of the House, that the eurozone had ten days to survive. That was not true. Therefore, the criticism of France and Germany can be overstated. The reality is we have required leadership from all member states. It is quite obvious that the larger ones have been most in focus and in the headlines most but that is not to deny that there is a role for smaller member states. The institutional design will have to change. We have seen significant changes in the architecture of the Union, particularly in the eurozone, in how we function and deal with such crises and in the obligations we have as members of the eurozone. That will evolve in the years ahead. I hope that if the Union and, in particular, the eurozone, faces a crisis of this scale in the future, we will have the capacity through member states and the institutions to respond in a much more coherent fashion.

I agree with the Deputy regarding the need to communicate and educate our citizens but I do not agree with the contention that the Forum on Europe should be reinstated. I was a member of the forum and I enjoyed it greatly. I enjoyed the intellectual arguments but millions of euro were spent each year to create what was essentially a talking shop where people preached to each other. The outreach from the forum never reached its full potential and a forum of this nature cannot achieve that.

We can take many other initiatives. I have spearheaded the blue star programme in my Department. It was launched last week on a pilot basis and I feel passionately about it. I anticipate that between 30 and 40 schools will participate in the pilot, with a total of 100 schools having signed up for it. Secondary schools have contacted my office asking whether we can do something similar for them. Clearly, our resources are limited but there is huge scope for such educational programmes.

The Deputy referred to the reluctance of the Government to engage in the fiscal treaty debate. That is entirely untrue. I have travelled to different parts of the country and I have addressed fora organised in partnership with the European Commission office in Dublin and European Movement Ireland, which have been hugely successful. All my ministerial colleagues are available and they have been engaged in various media debates. I have attended the Seanad twice for debates on this matter and the Joint Committee on European Affairs. There is no shortage of willingness to engage on the part of the Government.

If the Minister of State rejects the notion of reconstituting the Forum on Europe, would she consider the prospect of town hall meetings, for example, throughout the country where Oireachtas Members and the Minister of State would engage with the public? That would be useful and it would give members of the public an opportunity to ask the questions bothering them on a day-to-day basis and to be given answers.

I have participated in a number of meetings of that nature, which were organised in conjunction with the European Commission office and European Movement Ireland, and they were hugely beneficial. I am very much open to further meetings but our resources are limited. The entire budget for the communicating Europe initiative in the Department of the Taoiseach is €150,000. It is negligible in the context of the amount the previous Government spent on the same initiative, which, sadly, was not all that effective. We face a huge challenge and we have a minute budget to get the message across. I have, along with my ministerial colleagues, including the Tánaiste, put in endless hours to communicate what is happening. I have asked that a small group be established in the Department of the Taoiseach to explore ways in which we can communicate better with the public. I have made one simple proposal, although I am not certain if we can find the funding for it, which is to send a leaflet to every household in the country explaining the contents of the fiscal compact. That would be useful and I am committed to delivering on that, but I must find the funding in my Department to do that.

In 2008, surveys showed that only 8% of the public considered membership of the EU to be a bad thing. The previous Government, therefore, made good use of the money it spent on the communicating Europe initiative.

That is why the Lisbon treaty referendum failed.

OSCE Chairmanship

Brendan Smith

Question:

66Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the preparations for Ireland’s chairmanship of the OSCE; when the chairmanship was confirmed; when initial interest in holding the chairmanship was expressed; the length of time that preparations and discussions for the chairmanship have been ongoing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9576/12]

On 1 January this year Ireland assumed its year-long chairmanship-in-office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Comprising 56 participating states in Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE is the world's largest intergovernmental regional security organisation, dealing with a range of issues in the areas of democratisation, human rights, arms control and economic and environmental security.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I will be the chairperson-in-office for the duration of our chairmanship and will bear overall responsibility for the executive action of the organisation and the co-ordination of its activities. These responsibilities include representing the OSCE in various contexts and supervising activities relating to conflict prevention and post-conflict rehabilitation. I presented our chairmanship priorities to the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna on 12 January and have also addressed the United Nations Security Council in my capacity as chairperson-in-office.

Ireland was approached in the course of 2009 by a number of states which expressed interest in Ireland assuming the chairmanship of the OSCE for 2012. That was unanimously agreed at a meeting of OSCE Foreign Ministers in Athens in December 2009. My officials have been working on preparations for the OSCE chairmanship since the decision was made. To this end, a dedicated OSCE task force was established within my Department in October 2010 to develop the policy framework and practical capacity required for the chairmanship and the diverse range of meetings and conferences in Vienna and elsewhere. This comprises a total of 12 Dublin-based officials, with 14 officials working at Ireland's OSCE mission in Vienna. This total is less than the resources allocated by any other country which recently held the OSCE chairmanship; I am confident, however, that Ireland's chairmanship will involve a highly efficient use of these resources and compare favourably with past chairmanships.

Regular consultations take place with officials from other Departments who will also contribute relevant expertise over the course of Ireland's chairmanship. I am keen to ensure all Departments are in a position to contribute to and gain from our chairmanship. I hope our chairmanship will also be helpful in terms of the Government's economic objectives. To this end the State agencies have also been consulted as part of our preparations.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

As part of last year's preparations, Ireland joined the OSCE troika with the 2011 chair of the organisation, Lithuania, and the previous chair, Kazakhstan. Ireland continues to participate in the troika this year, with Kazakhstan having been replaced by Ukraine, the 2013 chair. Weekly troika meetings take place at OSCE headquarters in Vienna.

Ireland was one of the founding states of the OSCE and we have always recognised the organisation's vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe. I am honoured to chair the OSCE this year and greatly look forward to using this role to raise the profile of Ireland, thereby contributing to the restoration of our international reputation.

I acknowledge that the preparations for the chairmanship of the OSCE began in 2009 and that much of the groundwork was done by the previous Administration. It is no harm to say this, given the negative things said in the House from time to time about the diplomatic initiatives taken by the previous Administration.

Can I take it from what the Tánaiste said that the issue of conflict resolution will be at the heart of his chairmanship of the OSCE? What does he envisage will be the lasting legacy of Ireland's chairmanship? We heard an interesting presentation last week at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs at which we were briefed on the efforts of human rights defenders. Does the Tánaiste anticipate being in a position to do something to put human rights defenders at the heart of his chairmanship of the OSCE? Will he give us more information on the conference he proposes to hold on conflict resolution on 27 April? Where will it be held? Who will be the participants and what does he hope the outcome will be?

I am very happy to have the Deputy and his party colleagues share in the achievements of the Government in the area of foreign affairs. I have no difficulty in acknowledging that the agreement that Ireland should take the chair of the OSCE was made in 2009.

The contribution Ireland intends to make on the issue of conflict resolution is to draw on the experience of it in Northern Ireland. What we have in mind is holding a high level conference on 27 April which will be moderated by a former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, who was very much involved in the Northern Ireland peace process. The idea is to invite representatives of all 56 participating states, in particular the states in which there are protracted conflicts, and those who were involved in the Northern Ireland peace process to contribute to the discussion. The idea is not that the formula found in Northern Ireland is transportable to other conflicts but that people will hear about the patience and persistence which characterised the talks in the Irish peace process and, I hope, draw something from this.

Separately, we are working to progress discussions to resolve the protracted conflicts. In that context, the first meeting as part of the Transnistrian settlement process, the so-called 5+2 talks, will take place in Dublin next week, on 28 and 29 February.

On the human dimension, we are paying particular attention to the concept of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. We will concentrate, in particular, on Internet freedom, in regard to which there are a number of issues that require international discussion. It is our intention to hold a conference in Dublin in June which, again, will involve the 56 participating states and also many of the Internet companies which have their headquarters in Dublin.

On the Tánaiste's chairing of the OSCE, will he outline his approach to the ongoing difficulties in the Balkans? At a recent meeting Paddy Ashdown provided us with a very interesting analysis of the situation there and outlined his concerns about the situation in Bosnia and Serbia. The issue of Internet freedom is an interesting one, but in terms of the situation in the Balkans, where there is a real danger that the considerable advances made will be undermined and unravel, what are the Tánaiste's plans during his chairmanship of the OSCE?

As the Deputy will be aware, the OSCE has field offices in respective countries of the Balkans. The good news is that this year the field office in Croatia has been wound down because Croatia is acceding to membership of the European Union, which is a sign of progress. Also, the applications for EU membership made by states in the Balkans present an issue. The Minister of State, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, and I see an opportunity in that respect in that our role in chairing the OSCE and the role we will play in the discussions on accession will be complementary. We are, therefore, taking a very active interest in this issue, coming at it from two ends, our chairmanship of the OSCE and our role within the European Union in the discussions on the accession of states in the Balkans.

Armenian Elections

Micheál Martin

Question:

67Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions he has taken or actions in conjunction with the EU to ensure that the upcoming elections in Armenia will be conducted properly in accordance with international and European standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9562/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

75Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will advocate providing the EU delegation in Armenia with additional resources to effectively monitor the upcoming elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9567/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 75 together.

Observation of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia will be carried out by the OSCE, not by the European Union. The Union does not engage in election observation activities in OSCE participating states, of which Armenia is one. It would not, therefore, be appropriate to request additional resources for the EU delegation in Armenia for this purpose.

All OSCE participating states have committed themselves to inviting international observers from other OSCE participating states, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to their elections. The ODIHR deployed a needs assessment mission to Armenia from 30 January to 1 February to advise on the type, format, duration and scope of a potential election observation activity. The report of the needs assessment mission has recommended the deployment of an election observation mission according to the standard ODIHR methodology, contingent on the receipt of an official invitation from the Armenian authorities. The ODIHR has been informed by the authorities that a timely invitation will be forthcoming once the election has been formally announced.

In its needs assessment mission report the ODIHR recommends that the election observation mission include a core team of experts, 24 long-term and 250 short-term observers. As with all such missions, Ireland and the other OSCE participating states will be in a position to nominate observers for deployment with the mission.

Ireland has full confidence in the ODIHR's election observation methodology which reflects the highest international standards for election observation, based on the principles of independence, impartiality and professionalism.

Notwithstanding that the OSCE is the agency with responsibility for election monitoring, I am sure the EU has a role in overseeing the situation, commenting, and supporting, where possible, efforts to achieve effective parliamentary elections in Armenia. In 2008, there was serious public concern about what were seen as fraudulent presidential elections, which were followed by civil unrest. We need to ensure the elections this coming May are held in a fair and transparent manner. Has the Minister had discussions with his counterparts in Europe on this? Has he had any bilateral communications with the current Armenian authorities? Despite Europe's obsession with the economic crisis - perhaps rightly so - it is important that we do not lose sight of the original objectives of the Union and how important are civil and democratic human rights. We must continue to assist and monitor wherever possible.

In fact, the European Union does not monitor elections in the OSCE region; that work is left to the OSCE itself, and there is an agreement between the EU and the OSCE to that effect. The EU carries out election monitoring in Africa, Latin America, Asia and other areas outside the OSCE. As I have said, we have already made arrangements through a needs assessment mission that took place between 30 January and 1 February, which resulted in a recommendation that there should be an election observation mission. The size of that mission has been agreed; a formal invitation is required from Armenia to bring it about, but I have no reason to believe that will not be forthcoming. I expect that when the election mission has completed its work, as is normally the case, the OSCE will publish a report of the mission, which will be available to the EU, and the Minister of State and I will take the opportunity to discuss this at the Foreign Affairs Council or the General Affairs Council, as appropriate.

Human Rights Issues

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

68Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress he made during his recent trip to Israel in relation to the blockade of the Gaza strip; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9573/12]

I visited Gaza during my recent visit to the region as I wanted to see personally the effects of the blockade on the civilian population. I had useful discussions with Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, which kindly facilitated my visit. I also visited an UNRWA school and a refugee camp and met with a number of Gazan business people and human rights defenders. The people of Gaza, similarly to people everywhere, simply want the chance to lead a normal life. Gazans want to provide for their families and see their children educated. Young people want the opportunity to pursue their education and business people want to return to running their businesses.

The blockade prevents any semblance of normal life in the territory. It has stifled the Gazan economy and reduced much of the population to a state of complete dependency. It has choked off private industry and encouraged a growing and thriving black market. It prevents UNRWA from transporting the necessary equipment and materials into Gaza for the reconstruction of schools, homes and other necessary infrastructure. The blockade is not only unjust and contrary to international humanitarian law but also totally counterproductive.

In my meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, and Foreign Minister, Mr. Lieberman, in Israel last month, I stressed the futility of the blockade. I reiterated the Irish Government's view that the blockade clearly causes unnecessary hardship for the civilian population in Gaza and those working to assist them, and that it is not in the interests of Israel or its security. I urged Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues to take decisive action with regard to ending the blockade of Gaza and, in particular, urged them to ease restrictions on exports and speed up the approval process for vital reconstruction projects being undertaken by the UN. In reply, Mr. Netanyahu indicated that he was open to considering facilitating greater exports from Gaza.

I will be reporting on my visit to Gaza and my discussions with Israeli leaders at the next Foreign Affairs Council on 27 February. The EU has been extremely active in pressing the Israeli authorities to alter fundamentally its policies with regard to Gaza and open up the border crossings to all normal commercial, humanitarian and human traffic, as called for in Security Council Resolution 1860 of January 2009. While there has been some easing in the succeeding three years, the changes made are clearly insufficient and do not fundamentally alter the nature of the blockade imposed on Gaza. I look forward to discussing with my EU colleagues what further steps can be usefully taken at this stage to persuade Israel to abandon its unjust blockade of Gaza.

I commend the Minister on his visit. In his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, did the Minister get any sense of embarrassment from the man about the fact that 38% of Gazans live in poverty, 31% of the workforce are unemployed, including 47% of young people, and 54% of the Gazan population suffer from food insecurity? It is a horrific indictment of the situation that continues to prevail there. Did the Minister come away from the meeting with the Prime Minister with any sense of hope for the future?

The Minister speaks, rightly, about a renewed drive within the Foreign Affairs Council to address this issue. Is he optimistic that something can be achieved within a reasonable timeframe?

Embarrassment is not the word that comes to mind to describe the response of Mr. Netanyahu to the issues I raised. However, I made it clear to him and to the other Israeli leaders I met that Ireland is very much opposed to the blockade of Gaza, which clearly has a major impact from a humanitarian point of view and also for families and businesses as well as the Gazan economy. I also drew his attention to the fact that the blockade is counterproductive, in that there is a thriving black market within Gaza. Those who are most undermined at an economic level by the blockade are those who are trying to conduct legitimate businesses, as well as the UN agencies that are trying to reconstruct Gaza. I learned, from UNRWA in particular, of the extent to which the blockade is affecting people's daily lives and the impact it has on food security. I visited a food distribution centre and saw the great work that is being done in distributing food supplies and also the major human need for access to food supplies of a very basic nature.

What adds insult to injury is the continued illegal development of settlements within the Palestinian territory. Does the Minister have any information about this? I anticipate that he will be making a visit to Capitol Hill for St. Patrick's day - at least, one hopes so. If he is, will he be raising the Israeli-Palestinian situation with the American authorities?

The settlements in the West Bank are another aspect of the very oppressive regime in which Palestinians have to live. I drew attention in particular, when I was meeting with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, to the implications of going ahead with the planned settlement in the area known as E1, on the fringes of East Jerusalem, which, if proceeded with, will have the effect of severing the northern part of the West Bank from the southern part and will further complicate the prospects for a two-state solution.

I will not be on Capitol Hill for St. Patrick's day, as the Taoiseach will be visiting Washington. However, I was in the USA two weeks ago, as I mentioned earlier, for work in connection with my role as chair of the OSCE, and also for the investment conference that was convened by President Clinton. While I was in Washington I met the Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Bill Burns, and had a discussion with him about the Middle East peace process, among other things. I discussed the visit I made to the Middle East with him and the discussions I had with both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

I welcome the Minister's strong words of condemnation of the appalling treatment by Israel of the people of Gaza. Frankly, it is difficult to understand how this State or other states in Europe continue to treat Israel as if it is a normal state when it does this type of thing, yet they impose sanctions on Iran and roundly condemn it. Did the Minister raise the matter of Khader Adnan on his visit and, if not, will he raise it? Khader Adnan has been on hunger strike for 66 days. He is now critically ill and will possibly die in the next few days. He is held in so-called administrative detention, which means imprisonment without trial. He is one of 300 Palestinians, including 180 children under the age of 18 years, who are imprisoned without trial. This is a routine part of the Israeli flouting of human rights when it comes to Palestinians. Will the Minister make a public statement calling on the Israelis to release this man and to end the absolutely despicable practice of administrative detention?

I was glad to see the Tánaiste visit Gaza. He has agreed previously in the House that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main source of problems in the area. Will the Government lobby this year for a little sanity with regard to Iran, given that Israel might be tempted to take advantage of the US election in November? President Obama is probably at a vulnerable point where he is eager to gain the favour of the Israeli lobby, which is very powerful in America, before the election. The Minister will agree that a military strike against Iran would be absolute madness.

That is a different issue, Deputy.

Deputy Boyd Barrett has a separate question on Khader Adnan. When we reach that question I will expand more fully on the subject but I understand from our officials that an understanding might have been reached in the last few hours, which would include Mr. Adnan ending his hunger strike on the basis of certain understandings he has reached. A supreme court case was due to be heard this morning and, while I do not yet have confirmation of this, I have a note to the effect that progress has been made on the matter. That would be very welcome.

As regards the issue raised by Deputy Wallace, a military strike by anybody on Iran would be disastrous. When I was in Israel there was much speculation in the Israeli press about the possibility of a military strike against Iran. I made it very clear that Ireland would be absolutely opposed to such a strike, and this view is shared in the European Union. I hope the very robust decision of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council to impose sanctions on Iran will receive a positive response from everybody concerned and that no military action will be taken against Iran. In addition, since that decision was taken there are indications that Iran is now showing a greater willingness to engage in negotiations about its nuclear programme. The purpose of imposing sanctions in the first place was to bring Iran to the table to discuss its nuclear programme.

Diplomatic Representation

Timmy Dooley

Question:

69Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of money he estimates it will cost to have a Dublin based diplomatic representation to the Holy See; the regularity with which it is anticipated that he will be physically present in the Vatican state; if any additional support staff have been attributed to the new diplomatic representative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9555/12]

While the details have not been finalised it is estimated the annual cost of a Dublin based diplomatic representation to the Holy See will be under €25,000. This includes the cost of maintaining a small office in the Villa Spada compound, staffed on a part-time basis by a locally recruited secretary. It is intended, in principle, that the ambassador to the Holy See would travel to Rome once a month. No additional support staff have been allocated to him, although the third secretary of the embassy, formerly resident in Rome and now resident in Dublin, will continue to be accredited. No additional payment will be made to the Secretary General of the Department for carrying out his functions as ambassador to the Holy See.

What is the situation relating to the residence of the former ambassador to Italy? Did the State hold a lease on the premises he had occupied and did the State have to buy its way out of that lease? Was there any capital investment in that property over the last decade or so? Where are the chancery offices of the Irish Embassy to Italy? Have these offices moved to the Villa Spada or does the office of the Irish Embassy remain at its former location?

As the Villa Spada is State-owned, there were no rental costs associated with the operational costs of the mission. This meant the running costs of that mission were low compared with those of other missions abroad. The plan is that both the chancery and the residence will be closed down and that the residence of the ambassador to Italy and the office of the embassy will be located in the Villa Spada. There are rental arrangements in respect of both and those arrangements are being terminated.