1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the Dublin-Monaghan bombings were mentioned when he was last speaking with or when he met Prime Minister May. [39810/16]
1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the Dublin-Monaghan bombings were mentioned when he was last speaking with or when he met Prime Minister May. [39810/16]
I discussed the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and other legacy cases with Prime Minister May when I met her in July and highlighted to her the importance of dealing with legacy issues and hoped there could be progress on the overall arrangements for dealing with the past.
This House unanimously adopted a third all-party motion on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings on 25 May, following the 42nd anniversary on 17 May. In our engagement with the British Government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and I continue to raise and seek substantive progress on the Dáil motions and urge the British Government to allow access by an independent international judicial figure to all original documents in their possession relating to the these bombings.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, has raised the matter in his meetings with Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, on a number of occasions, outlining the importance of this issue for the Dáil and the Government and the expectation of a response. The Minister will continue to raise the Dublin-Monaghan bombings with the British Government and he has instructed his officials to remain in close contact with their British counterparts on the issue also.
The Government will continue to engage with the British Government on the request in relation to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and pursue all possible avenues that could achieve progress on this issue, consistent with the request made by the Dáil and in the hope that this could bring some measure of closure to the families.
As the Taoiseach said, there have been many all-party motions in this House about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the need for the British Government to be far more forthcoming with the release of vital documentation that could bring clarity to the appalling attack and the loss of life incurred at the time. A total of 34 people, including an unborn child, were murdered as a result of the explosions that tore through the city centre of Dublin and Monaghan. We have had a significant number of inquiries such as the Barron inquiry, the McEntee inquiry and others which reveal very serious concerns and the non-co-operation of the British Government is unacceptable. Its refusal to make progress on the matter in response to a united parliamentary vote in this House is more than regrettable.
The Taoiseach said he raised this with the British Prime Minister in recent conversations and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, has also raised it on a number of occasions with the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire. What response is the Government getting? What is the British Government saying? What has the response been to the Taoiseach's proposition that an international judicial figure have access to the documentation? That would be a reasonable compromise, a reasonable avenue on which to proceed in pursuing this issue. It goes to the heart of the issues of the past and the need to make sure people are accountable. On this side of the Border we opened up our documents for various inquiries, such as those into the murders of RUC constables, and we held a judicial inquiry, the Smithwick inquiry. We fulfilled our side of the agreement but the British Government has not met its responsibilities. This can be said of others as well and I have had a scepticism about other paramilitaries from the time as to whether they are really that anxious to come forward and admit their guilt in various atrocities such as Kingsmill or other activities involving loyalist paramilitaries.
A lot of views have been given and there are genuine reasons to believe loyalist paramilitaries were involved in these atrocities and that British security forces, through inactivity or non-action, could have facilitated the atrocities. There is an urgent need to explore these issues fully and comprehensively and to get access to all the evidence. The British Government has stonewalled in the name of national security and this is damaging. It is injurious to British-Irish relations and the idea that, whatever about non-state actions, the state and governments have certain norms by which they must abide in the conduct of their duties. The potential orchestration of these explosions by elements of the British security forces should be fully examined. These were the worst atrocities of that period, coming as they did against the backdrop of the Sunningdale agreement, and we must spare no effort to get to the truth. I pay tribute to Justice for the Forgotten, which has been campaigning relentlessly over the years for justice and the truth.
The Taoiseach said he wanted to explore every avenue. Can he identify what "every avenue" might mean? What other ideas has the Government come up with to pursue the issue over and above what has been said to the British Government so far? What has the British Government response has been to the recent attempts by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, to raise this issue?
Just before Christmas, the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, acknowledged the feelings of this State when he recalled that the investigation into the Dublin-Monaghan bombings closed after just three months. He was trying to explain the complexities of dealing with the past. He made it clear, and we would endorse this, that it is totally unacceptable for the British Government to use national security as an excuse not to co-operate on this hugely important issue.
Mr. Justice Barron said, "Given that we are dealing with acts of international terrorism that were colluded in by the British security forces, the British government cannot legitimately refuse to co-operate with investigations and attempts to get to the truth". However, that is exactly what this British Government is doing. It is not just a passive British Government, it is actively working to undermine processes that can get to the truth. It is refusing to fund legacy requests, inquests and investigations, all in clear breach of international human rights obligations.
I put this to the British Secretary of State in a number of conversations over the last week or so, but I asked myself why he should he listen to me if the same point is not consistently being made by our leaders here in the Government. Raising this or another issue with the British Prime Minister or Secretary of State is not the same as having a consistent domestic and international strategy in Britain and Europe, and at the United Nations, to persuade the British Government to co-operate. I put the same point to Teachta Micheál Martin when he was in government as Minister for Foreign Affairs, that if the Government is serious about helping victims it needs to publicly challenge the British government on this national security excuse.
The Stormont House Agreement proposes the establishment of an independent commission on information retrieval, which would cover both jurisdictions on this island and deal with all conflict-related deaths. As part of that process, both Governments drafted and published an international agreement to establish the independent commission on information retrieval. It was led jointly in the Houses of the Oireachtas and Westminster in January, but it has not yet been commenced. It is sitting there because the British Government objects and uses this national security excuse. So what is the Government doing about that? The Government has an obligation to proceed with ratifying this legislation irrespective of what a British Government may do. The Government has a responsibility to show leadership on this issue. Both Governments signed up to the Stormont House Agreement which is sitting there now, so I call upon the Taoiseach to move on this issue. Perhaps then we will get the British Government to co-operate in a way it had not done thus far.
The Stormont House Agreement provided for the establishment of a number of things, including a suite of bodies to address the historic investigations unit and to take forward outstanding investigations in Northern Ireland into troubles-related details. There is also the independent commission for information retrieval which, as Deputy Adams pointed out, would enable victims and survivors not just to seek, but privately receive, information about the troubles-related deaths of their next-of-kin. The Oral History Archive is providing a central place for people from all backgrounds throughout the UK and Ireland to share experiences and narratives related to the troubles.
Deputy Martin asked me if I raised this matter with Prime Minister May, which I did. It is not the first time that this has been raised. I told the new prime minister that this was a matter of serious concern to people in Ireland. We want elements of the past to be focused upon and action taken on them.
The last motion that was passed on 17 May 2016, which was the 42nd anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, requested the Government to continue raising the matter with the British Government. It directed the Ceann Comhairle, the Clerk and the Chairs of relevant committees, when appointed, to do likewise with their respective British counterparts in order to actively pursue the implementation of the 2008 and 2011 all-party motions.
I discussed this with Prime Minister May's predecessor, David Cameron, in Stormont. If people are serious about this, the independent commission for information retrieval holds out the possibility of providing information that is requested from anybody who lost a loved one from any side, and that all of the information will be made available to them by an independent, international judicial figurehead. I raised the question specifically as to whether this would be blocked by the British military machine. At that time, Mr. Cameron answered that as he was only a child when most of this was going on he had no objection to this kind of information being made available in terms of the truth. This has not been commenced yet, but the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Flanagan, the British Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Executive took part in a meeting to review the Stormont House Agreement. Part of the case the Minister made was that we should get on with the business of implementing the three suites that were part of the Stormont House Agreement.
The Independent Reporting Commission, which comprises Professor Monica McWilliams, Mr. John McBurney, Mr. Tim O'Connor and Mr. Mitchell Reiss, will meet - if they have not already met - in January this year. The Government approved the general scheme of an independent reporting commission Bill for priority drafting. The legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas in the near future.
Despite our conversations about Brexit and a focus on Northern Ireland, when I get the opportunity shortly I will raise this matter again. If we are serious about it, and if the Stormont House Agreement is to mean anything, this would hold out a real opportunity for people on either side to find out information about the cause of death of their loved ones. I recall being up in Ballymurphy, as Deputy Adams is aware, seeing a copy of the faxed sheet stating that his father was dead. These are legacy issues of the past about which Deputy Martin has often spoken. They are very hurtful for people and they need to be dealt with.
What was put together in the Stormont House Agreement holds out the possibility, if people are willing, of dealing with what is locked away in files wherever. In that way, the information people need to know concerning how they lost loved ones on either side would be made available. I will raise the matter with the British Prime Minister shortly when I have an opportunity to do so.
That is not promising.
We are out of time, so we will now move on to Questions Nos. 2 and 3.
2. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the commitments in the programme for Government relating to his Department; and the progress on same. [39812/16]
3. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of commitments in the programme for Government pertaining to his Department. [1909/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 3 together.
The Programme for a Partnership Government was published on 11 May 2016 and sets out an ambitious programme of work to be implemented over the lifetime of the Government. Last month, the Government published a progress report on the programme setting out the progress made to date across all of Government on implementing those actions and commitments and includes measures recently announced under budget 2017. This is the first of many regular reports to be published in addition to the annual report which will be published in May following the Government’s first year in office.
In the first six months, some of the key issues progressed across Government included a new action plan for housing and homelessness; the establishment of a €200 million local infrastructure housing activation fund; an increase in rent limits under the rent supplement and housing assistance payment; the establishment of a task force on the implementation of personalised budgets for persons with disabilities; the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly; a new dedicated Cabinet committee working on a new rural action plan; the establishment of a mobile phone and broadband task force; two weeks' paternity leave introduced since September 2016; and reforms implemented to give the Oireachtas a stronger role in planning its business and in the budgetary process.
My Department has responsibility for certain commitments in the programme, including the areas of Dáil reform, relations with Britain and Northern Ireland, managing the new partnership approach between Government and Parliament, and the establishment of a Citizens' Assembly.
Officials in my Department are working to progress these issues over the lifetime of the Government.
Immediate areas progressed to date include the setting up and supporting of the Citizens' Assembly to carry out its work independently; a range of Dáil reforms including power for Parliament to plan its own business, a new budget oversight committee to allow the Oireachtas to play a greater role in the budgetary process, the appointment of committee Chairs through the d'Hondt system, the provision of more time for Private Members' business in the Dáil and the grouping of votes to encourage a more family-friendly policy. My Department is actively supporting a whole-of-Government response through dedicated action plans for jobs; housing and homelessness; rural development, and a creative Ireland, which latter plan was launched recently. These action plans are further supported through specific Cabinet committees on the economy, trade and jobs; housing; regional and rural affairs, and arts, Irish and the Gaeltacht, respectively. My Department is ensuring that there is a whole-of-Government response to Brexit, including contingency planning and Brexit negotiations and this is being co-ordinated through a new Brexit Cabinet committee. I expect further progress to be reported on these and other commitments in the next report which I expect to see published in the spring.
I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. The programme for Government is 155 pages long and contains many recommendations and commitments, some of which, dare I say it, will never see the light of day. They were included anyway. The commitments in respect of the health service are particularly worrying. I ask the Taoiseach to comment on the assertion by the director general of the Health Service Executive last week to the effect that he needed €9 billion for capital infrastructure. The Taoiseach may raise his eyebrows, but that is what was stated in relation to the deficits in health infrastructure, which are real. In terms of the operation of the health budget this year, real questions marks exist over whether we got a proper assessment of the needs of the health service vis-à-vis the money allocated because the service has been left short very quickly in the new year. The bed capacity issue is flailing around the place and there has been no real focus on it or a coherent approach to it. Approximately €9 million of new money has been allocated to acute hospitals for new services and it is arguable that it will go nowhere. I acknowledge the allocation earlier last year in terms of balancing the budget, but there are still serious issues in relation to health. It seems the director general of the HSE is laying down a very strong marker.
If one looks at funding for A Vision for Change on mental health, it is our view that the relevant part of our confidence and supply agreement has not been upheld. When the budget was announced, it was indicated that there would be full funding for A Vision for Change but in the end it emerged in reply to Deputy Browne's questions that only €15 million was going to be made available this year for mental health commitments. That falls well short of the commitment announced in the budget by the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, himself. That was bad form and it sent a very wrong signal to the mental health community and those with concerns about mental health because it illustrated a somewhat cynical approach. We will pretend it is €35 million but in essence it is actually only €15 million. That kind of sleight of hand is unacceptable in relation to a sensitive issue such as mental health and we will be engaging further with the Government on that.
Can the Taoiseach indicate when the Seanad reform implementation group will be established? It is to implement the Manning report. It should be put in place forthwith. On the budgetary process, there is meant to be an independent office. While the Oireachtas is working on it, it is still not established. The reports of the fiscal council do not get due attention from the Government. It is interesting to note that in the general election last year the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, said the fiscal space was €500 million. Fast forwarding to just before the budget was announced, the Government found €300 million in the space of a week, which took us to approximately €1.3 billion. We have now found in the first week of January a further €120 million. The election took place in February last year, the budget was passed in October and we are now at a fiscal space of €1.4 billion and climbing. Questions must be asked about the veracity of all of that. I put it to the Taoiseach that the commitment we have made to an independent budgetary office and proper recognition of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council must be looked at far more seriously than appears to be the case right now.
I turn to appointments to State boards. We had the extraordinary revelations in the Sunday Independent newspaper about the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, and the former Minister, Liz O'Donnell, in the Road Safety Authority. I am not against Ministers being particularly attentive to detail, but the rounding on the Road Safety Authority for its lack of grammatical precision and some spelling mistakes was a bridge too far in terms of the Minister's engagement with a very serious authority which has had a significant impact on the reduction of deaths and injuries on our roads. He seems to have a particular problem with appointing State boards and members to them notwithstanding the reforms which have taken place. He seems to be picking needless fights and undermining the morale and contribution of boards to society through the kinds of needless row revealed by the Sunday Independent. I ask the Taoiseach whether the Minister has a some sort of waiver in terms of the implementation of programme for Government commitments. Is he exempt from having to comply with basic standard agreements and Government policy on appointments to State boards? What is the position?
Likewise, I refer to the commitments in the programme for Government in terms of public transport. It is extraordinary that the Minister was in a position to brief the Cabinet today on the Bus Éireann dispute. It must have been a very brief briefing given the fact that the Minister said himself that he had not seen or read the report. Every worker in Bus Éireann is very much aware of the report and is worried about its implications for their working conditions and status, the status of the company and the overall Government strategy on public transport. Is the Government committed as per the programme for Government to public transport in principle? Is it committed to basic standards in wages in public transport? In the modern world with pay inequality, it is an important point. All analysis globally shows that there has been a growth in inequality between the corporates, multinationals and big industry and people who are working. We need to be very careful about going down a particular route. It is grand to privatise everything but one ends up with everyone on a very low threshold of wages. As such, we need a debate in the House. The ESRI has previously done some work on the issue and raised concerns about it. It is a global issue and it is one that affects us in the State. Given the grave implications of the Grant Thornton report, I was very taken aback by the Taoiseach's revelation this afternoon that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport had not actually read a core report relating to Bus Éireann and which people read on the front page of The Irish Times.
And he sought it.
Every worker is aware of it as are the trade unions involved. It is a dereliction of duty and it suggests someone who is not engaging. There could be a political reason for it to the effect that "I hear no evil, see no evil and do not want to be involved. It is somebody else's problem". However, public transport is the Minister's responsibility and he cannot waive it. It is per the programme for Government. In terms of the implementation of the programme for Government, what is the Taoiseach's take on the Government's commitment to public transport and does he think it is acceptable that the Minister has not acquainted himself with the content of the Grant Thornton report on Bus Éireann? I find it an incredible admission by the Taoiseach and the Minister that the latter has not seen a copy or read its contents.
I note that we have only four minutes left. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Taoiseach as freagra a thabhairt ar na ceisteanna. The first progress report was published just before the Christmas break and was noticeably light in terms of the Government's achievements.
I get a bit confused sometimes. Is the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil still in place? I assume it is, notwithstanding what the Fianna Fáil leader said-----
It is a bit more robust than the DUP and Sinn Féin programme for government.
-----in terms of the areas of significant challenge. Let us note that the leader of Fianna Fáil was in a Cabinet for 14 years which was replete with allegations of corruption and brown envelopes. He humoured and put up with that, but Sinn Féin did not. That is the difference between us and his party.
The areas of significant challenge include homelessness, chaos in health, a lack of provision for mental health services, housing, the rental sector, water charges and public transport. I note that the Taoiseach very skilfully hung the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport out to dry earlier during Leaders' Questions.
There has been little movement on issues which are the direct responsibility of the Taoiseach. I have already put it to the Taoiseach that the commitment to actively fulfil the Government's mandate as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement has not been fulfilled. I note that the commitment of the Taoiseach to maintain the needs of victims at the core of building on the progress made to establish the new institutional framework on the past, as agreed under the Stormont House Agreement, has not been fulfilled. There are other commitments in respect of North-South infrastructural projects, specifically the Narrow Water bridge project and the southern relief road between Warrenpoint and the M1. A range of other commitments are the direct responsibility of the Taoiseach's Department.
Progress in these areas has not happened, including Ministers of State playing a more substantive role in policy formation and a re-examination of their functions within departmental structures and with Ministers. I am obliged to give the Taoiseach space to answer these questions.
To be helpful in light of what has happened, perhaps we could take five minutes from the next tranche of questions and give ten minutes to Deputy Howlin, who has not come in on the earlier questions. From tomorrow, on foot of the Standing Orders we have just adopted, we will have a strict time limit in terms of contributions for each question so we will not be getting into these difficulties any more. If Deputy Adams is amenable, we will take an extra five minutes.
There are time limits on Leaders' Questions too. They do not seem to be-----
They do not, but let that be a new year's resolution.
I am amenable, but obviously we are in this bind because the leader of Fianna Fáil went over his time.
That is why I am saying we will give you an extra-----
I am enjoying the new year's salutations from the leader of Sinn Féin.
If Members are amenable, we will add five minutes.
There is a commitment to examine the creation of unpaid roles for parliamentary private secretaries as well an examination of the balance of power and the responsibility between the Government and Civil Service. Maybe that has happened, but, to my knowledge, it has not.
There is no one left in Fine Gael without a job to be appointed.
I urge the Taoiseach, if he can, to give comprehensive answers to these very important questions.
Far from using the words the Deputy said about the Minister, Deputy Ross, I made it perfectly clear that the Minister has not received this report and has not read it-----
Has he asked for it?
-----because he did not receive it. I do not know how the report was leaked to one of the national newspapers. The Minister said that from his knowledge of what might be in the report it seemed to focus more on elements other than specific routes. The negotiations that will take place between management and unions will explore the conditions and circumstances, and routes may well come into that. I am not sure whether the company involved, when it completed the report, held onto it or-----
The Minister is a shareholder.
-----how it was leaked to a national newspaper.
Briefed by management.
There is no waiver for anybody from the Government programme. Deputies should expect these commitments to be dealt with as speedily and effectively as possible.
What about the Road Safety Authority?
I have heard the comments and seen the report on that. It is an area I would not get into, in terms of correct grammar or whatever.
I have had some discussions about the Manning group. There might be different views about who should chair it, and I am following through on that. I hope it can be established very quickly. I thought it might happen before the Christmas break but it did not.
In regard to mental health, I understand the point the Deputy made. Substantial funding of €115 million and more than 1,100 posts have been provided for in this area since 2012. Significant additional funding will be provided for mental health in 2017, which means that the HSE funding for this key care programme will increase to €851 million in 2017. It was never a case of not being able to spend the money that was allocated. The Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, is working hard on this area.
In regard to youth mental health, further improvements in child and adolescent and adult services, services for older people and further enhanced out-of-hours responses to those in need of urgent services, the service plan produced by the HSE in respect of the strategy Connecting for Life provides for improved early intervention for youth mental health, including embedding the Jigsaw site for young people and the development of primary care based therapeutic responses.
There will also be increased services to meet the needs of those with severe and enduring mental illness and complex presentations and improved specialist clinic responses to clinical programmes. Improved regulatory compliance and incident management in the HSE will strengthen the governance arrangements to improve performance and the effective use of human, financial and infrastructural resources.
The Deputy is aware that the Minister for Health set out his view that we should develop a ten-year action plan for health. Given that the population is ageing and increasing in number, we will have to decide what the scale of capital investment will be in order to provide real opportunity in the health service over the next ten to 15 years. Primary care centres are built for a purpose, namely, to keep people out of hospitals. The Minister made the point that GPs have not had a new contract for many years, and he wants to focus on that.
It is a fact of life that energetic GPs should have at their disposal the opportunity in primary care centres to carry out diagnostics, X-rays and many other things that would mean people could avoid going to hospital or accident and emergency departments in the first place. There have been some comments about the necessity to bring people to accident and emergency departments late at night when no other services are available. That is an issue on which the Minister for Health is focusing.
With all due respect, Sinn Féin proposed that a couple of weeks ago.
In respect of the list of things that are happening in health, capital funding of €20 million was made available to the HSE last year to relocate 160 people currently living in 14 institutions around the country. Medical card coverage for all children in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance was provided for in the budget, which was mentioned today. The waiting list action plan is always a topical issue and was launched to reduce the number of patients waiting more than 18 months on the inpatient day care waiting list by 50%.
In terms of endoscopy waiting lists for 2016, we will outsource endoscopy procedures in order to benefit 3,000 patients who are currently waiting more than 12 months. In addition, a further €15 million was provided in budget 2017, rising to €50 million in 2018, for the National Treatment Purchase Fund, an issue raised by Deputy Martin on many occasions.
We are eating into the next tranche of questions.
4. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if there has been a skills needs assessment in his Department; and if any direct hires have occurred in the past year. [39820/16]
5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the number of staff assigned to each division in his Department; and the number of staff assigned to each section and unit of each division. [1910/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 and 5 together. The development of my Department's workforce plan for 2015 to 2017 incorporated a skills assessment. An assessment of skills also informs the individual learning and development plans of staff working in my Department as part of the performance management and development process. This process, which is closely aligned with my Department's business planning process, facilitates the identification of international skills required to meet the strategic objectives and changing business needs of the Department.
Nine members of staff have been recruited directly to my Department during the past year. All other recruitment has been organised through the Public Appointments Service.
My Department has prepared a table detailing the assignment of staff to divisions and units, which I will circulate with the reply.
The remainder of staff in my Department are assigned to private offices and Government information services.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
My Department has prepared a table detailing the assignment of staff to divisions and units.
International, EU and Northern Ireland Division
Total Staff : 29
(including 1 Second Secretary and 2 Assistant Secretaries
Britain and Northern Ireland
Total Staff: 18
(including 1 Assistant Secretary)
Economic Infrastructure, Regulation and Climate Change
Social Policy and Public Service Reform Division
Total Staff: 18
(including 1 Assistant Secretary)
Public Service Reform and Programme for Government
Parliamentary Liaison Unit
Protocol and General
Total Staff: 20
(including 1 Assistant Secretary)
Corporate Affairs Division
Total Staff: 51
(including 1 Principal Officer)
I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. Earlier in the discussions on Brexit, one of the most important issues we as a Parliament and as a people will face, we spoke about the skill set required in our public administration to deal with it. In particular, we spoke about the skill set within the Taoiseach's Department.
On the negotiations that will start once Article 50 is triggered, has the Taoiseach undertaken an analysis of the skill set required to support him and his Department relating specifically to Brexit? Does he have the economic evaluation capacity within his Department? Who specifically is involved? Has the Taoiseach appointed a new economic adviser to replace the economic adviser who left during the course of last year? In terms of one of the most important aspects from Ireland's perspective, international trade negotiation, does the Taoiseach's Department have the skill set to input within the negotiations by the EU 27 a capacity to understand and people who have been involved in international trade negotiations? Specifically, who are those people who will give him that direct support?
In terms of the nine direct hires he has made - I understand that the Taoiseach will circulate a list relating to those to us - will they assist specifically in the Brexit process? Will the Taoiseach provide the House with a flavour of the specific roles those nine direct hires were recruited to fulfil?
In the same line, the crux of my question is about Brexit and whether the Taoiseach anticipates allocating additional staff to deal with the range of issues which arise as a consequence of the British decision to leave the EU. Will those staff have the range of skills and the experience needed? I have never considered a soft Brexit possible and the British Prime Minister signalled clearly today what her Government intends to do. She went on to state that the electorate voted with their eyes open to leave the European Union. On this island, the voters in the North voted to remain. This is not just a matter of the Taoiseach's Department and officials being able to deal with the British Government in terms of the affairs of this State; it concerns the entire island. Incidentally, in what was a fairly long speech the British Prime Minister gave the North 21 words, which shows how much consideration she gives the matter.
I will repeat my question. In terms of the complexity of all the issues arising, the need to engage fully with our European partners and in terms of outreach - I welcome the ongoing national conversation and that there will be sectoral conversations in the North - does the Taoiseach anticipate bringing in additional people with the necessary skills and experience to deal with these complex issues?
First, in respect of staff who attend at committees, they seem to turn up in serious numbers.
I take on the responsibility for a whole-of-Government response to Brexit which means that, as required, Ministers and specialists attend at the Cabinet Committee on Brexit. They are all involved. This concerns Ministers as well as their Departments and agencies and, as Deputy Howlin is well aware, a consistent and comprehensive response is required at all times.
I restructured the Department to ensure that Brexit is treated as a particular, special and crucial cross-cutting issue. This included creating a newly amalgamated international, EU and Northern Ireland division under a new second Secretary General. The work of the division includes supporting the Cabinet Committee on Brexit and the Cabinet Committee on European Affairs. It is also supported by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade who now has a greater role in EU matters overall, with a newly created EU division and the existing division dealing with Anglo-Irish affairs both having important roles to play.
My Department has also availed of a range of specialist expertise and knowledge required to respond to the challenges associated with Brexit through the secondment of senior civil servants and personnel from semi-State bodies and the private sector to strengthen the Department's capacity in this particular area. If it is necessary to enhance that, that will happen.
At the moment, I am satisfied that we have the range of expertise required. It is always possible to take into account advice or views from other quarters. When the Prime Minister, Theresa May, triggers Article 50, these negotiations will formally start. No doubt there will be a response to her contribution today from various locations around the world. I expect that Mr. Barnier, who is heading up the Commission's negotiating team, will respond to the Prime Minister's comments, but the formal negotiations will not start until she triggers Article 50.
In respect of economic policy and European policy, I am satisfied that between officials, experts, special advisers and so on we have the range of skills and expertise necessary to deal with economic, financial, European and social policies as well as public sector reform.
The same applies in the case of international relations. In terms of academic qualifications, a number of the relevant team have undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in areas that are of direct relevance to their work in the international section.
It would be helpful if the Taoiseach told us who specifically-----
These include degrees in international development and in food policy, a PhD in political science, a Master's of Economic Science in policy analysis-----
Who specifically is leading up each of the sections?
Gabh mo leithscéal.
Who is dealing with the trade aspect? Who has the Taoiseach recruited? Who has he seconded in from the private sector?
I can give the Deputy the individual names if he wishes to have them.
That would be helpful.
This comes under a second Secretary General who has responsibility overall for Brexit and that feeds out into all-----
This comes back to the weekly bulletin that the Taoiseach promised.
There is reference to undergraduate degrees in economics and in history and politics as well as modules in international relations. There is a whole range of expertise available. In fact, as the issues arise, as I stated, if particular specialist expertise and information is required, we will recruit people with it.
We need to have them.
Between all of the agencies, Departments, Ministers and experts of one sort or another, we have that range and we are better prepared than the vast majority of other countries because we have been working on this for quite some time.
We are more impacted than any of them.
I will circulate that detail with the reply.