Single Payment Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (40)

John McGuinness

Question:

40. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of applications received on a county basis for the single farm payment this year; the number disallowed; the number paid to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55978/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The details sought by the Deputy are set out in the table. However, with appeals ongoing and payments being made twice weekly, in order to maximise payments by year end, the picture continues to evolve. In a total of 74 cases, a 100% penalty was applied as the applications concerned were received after the closing date for receipt of late applications. The governing EU regulations require that a 1% cumulative penalty be applied for each working day a given application is received late, with a 100% penalty to be applied where a given application is received more than 25 days late. The 74 cases in question were not covered by Force Majeure/exceptional circumstance provisions.

County

Number of applicants

Numbers paid

Numbers disallowed

CARLOW

1,626

1,611

0

CAVAN

4,699

4,658

2

CLARE

6,018

5,974

1

CORK

12,790

12,621

11

DONEGAL

7,981

7,856

3

DUBLIN

622

614

0

GALWAY

11,809

11,606

15

KERRY

7,544

7,469

3

KILDARE

2,004

1,980

1

KILKENNY

3,401

3,363

0

LAOIS

2,904

2,875

2

LEITRIM

3,348

3,269

5

LIMERICK

5,052

5,006

4

LONGFORD

2,325

2,302

1

LOUTH

1,477

1,465

2

MAYO

11,292

10,968

2

MEATH

3,689

3,651

2

MONAGHAN

3,938

3,850

0

OFFALY

2,990

2,945

5

ROSCOMMON

5,611

5,523

3

SLIGO

3,873

3,782

3

TIPPERARY

6,854

6,791

5

WATERFORD

2,394

2,361

0

WESTMEATH

2,907

2,811

0

WEXFORD

3,974

3,953

1

WICKLOW

2,062

1,986

3

123,184

121,290

74

Single Payment Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (41)

Brendan Smith

Question:

41. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide information in respect of details on the number of single farm payment and disadvantaged areas applications for County Leitrim covering the number of land eligibility and cross compliance inspections; the number of satellite inspections and the number of farmers that received penalties across these schemes for 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55975/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As it is not possible to compile the full information requested in the available timescale, I am arranging for it to be provided directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

European Council Meetings

Questions (42)

Dara Calleary

Question:

42. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there have been any discussions at the EU Agriculture Council of Ministers meetings in relation to the terms and conditions being imposed by the large supermarket chains on food processors and producers; the nature of these discussions; the decision taken by the Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55988/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Presidency Conclusions of the Council on 29 March 2010 invited the Commission to explore ways of favouring a proportionate balance of bargaining power between stakeholders in the food supply chain and underlined the necessity for the Commission in cooperation with member States to identify and combat unfair trading practices and to put in place stricter controls and easier reporting procedures to eliminate such practices in the food supply chain. The Conclusions supported the idea of establishing a Forum to address the relationships between the players in the food supply chain.

In response the European Commission established a High Level Forum and a business-to-business Expert Platform to make recommendations on eliminating unfair practices. During 2011 the Platform agreed on a list of general and specific principles of good practice as well as relevant best practices in commercial relations. These were endorsed by the Forum and the Commission requested the Platform to identify possible actions taking into account the positions expressed by Council and the European Parliament. The Expert Platform made progress in 2012 but did not reach agreement on the form of implementing arrangements and whether there should be statutory provision. At the Forum meeting on 5 December the Commission indicated that it will now adopt a green paper on unfair trading practices in the retail supply chain which will involve a horizontal cross-sector approach. The Commission is also contracting a study on legal frameworks in Member States that seek to address unfair trading practices and is considering launching an impact assessment on different options including a legislative initiative in this field, taking into account the advice of national authorities and of all the relevant stakeholders. This will in due course be reviewed by Council.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (43)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

43. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of applications received under the disadvantaged areas scheme in 2012; the number paid to date; the number of applications rejected and the number yet to be decided broken down by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55977/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Payments under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme commenced, on target, on 26 September and, to date, payments worth in excess of €193 million have issued to 87,322 farmers. Payments continue to issue twice weekly, as individual cases are confirmed eligible.

Nationally, 127 applications were subject to 100% penalty, as each was received after the final date for receipt of applications. The governing EU regulations require that a 1% cumulative penalty be applied for each working day a given application is received late, with a 100% penalty to be applied where the application is received more than 25 days late. The 127 cases in question were not covered by Force Majeure/exceptional circumstance provisions.

The details requested are set out in the table. However, with appeals ongoing and payments being made twice weekly, in order to maximise payments by year end, the picture continues to evolve.

County

Number of applicants

Number paid

Amount paid

Carlow

748

691

€1,428,514.60

Cavan

4,845

4,353

€9,569,689.89

Clare

6,137

5,496

€13,402,026.99

Cork

7,126

6,320

€14,591,581.04

Donegal

8,366

6,968

€16,185,426.87

Dublin

133

112

€238,988.96

Galway

12,191

10,356

€22,587,535.97

Kerry

7,719

6,631

€16,532,763.59

Kildare

517

454

€804,459.51

Kilkenny

1,766

1,596

€3,360,736.92

Laois

1,713

1,540

€3,082,264.13

Leitrim

3,492

2,962

€6,749,060.31

Limerick

2,929

2,557

€5,131,039.16

Longford

2,389

2,096

€4,668,470.85

Louth

749

641

€1,081,359.69

Mayo

11,577

9,303

€19,896,599.44

Meath

1,322

1,205

€2,224,294.52

Monaghan

4,091

3,527

€7,166,891.49

Offaly

2,395

2,067

€4,172,431.08

Roscommon

5,746

4,928

€11,081,818.96

Sligo

4,039

3,317

€7,369,437.05

Tipperary

4,531

3,962

€8,550,527.04

Waterford

1,433

1,263

€2,604,936.77

Westmeath

2,641

2,283

€4,699,570.11

Wexford

1,425

1,226

€2,254,139.81

Wicklow

1,732

1,468

€3,593,926.04

TOTALS

101,752

87,322

€193,028,490.79

Budget 2013

Questions (44)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

44. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the anticipated impact of all the cuts arising from budget 2013 on farm income. [55962/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The budget for my Department in 2013 was largely determined by the gross expenditure ceilings that were allocated to all Departments under the Government’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework, 2012-2014. The Department’s 2013 Exchequer allocation is €1.25 billion, including €6m capital carry-over from 2012. The original budget reduction envisaged for my Department for 2013 under the expenditure ceiling was €114 million. Through negotiation with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I secured much-needed additional capital funding of €25m, including the carry-over, thus reducing the cut in expenditure from 2012 to 2013 to €89m.

In allocating the available funding, I was determined to minimise the impact of the scale of the reduction so that the most important schemes and programmes were protected to the greatest extent possible. Through re-orientating and re-scheduling payments, I have also managed to fund some new worthwhile programmes while remaining within the financial constraints. In overall terms, the 2013 Estimate for my Department represents a significant Exchequer commitment of support for the agri-food sector and is recognition of the contribution which the sector can make to economic recovery and future growth. My priorities are to:

- Protect the incomes of family farms

- favour small farm holdings in disadvantaged areas

- provide taxation measures to restructure, modernise and promote growth in the agri-food and farming sector

- provide support programmes in line with the targets of Food Harvest 2020, in particular job creation

- support the future of the sector through funding for research and development and through investment in food safety and animal health and welfare controls

- continue a programme of reform within the Department aimed at improving service delivery and reducing costs.

In specific terms, I have:

- minimised reductions in expenditure in the Disadvantaged Areas Schemes while protecting the most disadvantaged from any cut,

- replaced the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme with a new measure and

- avoided any cut in REPS payments by restructuring payments in 2013 and early 2014.

At the same time, I have provided funding for new producer group activities in the sheep and dairy sectors while the additional funding for capital which I have secured will enable my Department to continue to implement a range of schemes including forestry planting and the schemes for on-farm investment.

I believe that the outlook for the agri-food sector remains very bright and the sector will continue to contribute strongly to national economic recovery. There is a new awareness of the vital economic importance of the sector and a strong recognition that the sector has the fundamental building blocks in place to reach the demanding targets it has set itself in Food Harvest 2020, a blueprint that will contribute hugely to the growth in food and drink exports and to national prosperity. I am confident that the measures introduced in Budget 2013, in a very challenging fiscal environment, will help us to continue on this path towards national recovery.

Suckler Welfare Scheme Extension

Questions (45)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

45. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the changes made to the suckler cow welfare scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55965/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, is, in fact, is due to end on 31 December 2012. This Scheme was a five-year Scheme for beef animals born in herds owned by eligible participants during the period, which commenced on 1 January 2008 and ending on 31 December 2012. In that regard, I have made funding of €10 million available in 2013 to continue to make aid payments on calves born in 2012. The primary objectives of the Scheme are summarised as follows:

- Enhance welfare standards for animals produced from the suckler cow herd.

- Improve husbandry standards at weaning time leading to reduced illness and mortality and enhanced health of the National herd.

- Provide education and knowledge building among farmers on best practice in suckler herd health and welfare.

- Improve the genetic quality of the national suckler herd.

- Improve the competitiveness of the Irish beef industry and the quality of the beef produced.

A Value for Money Audit, which was undertaken in accordance with the Department of Finance Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative, established that the Scheme has largely achieved these objectives. The 34,000 participants, who continued in the Scheme over its five-year duration, are fully aware that following best practice in the breeding, animal health/welfare aspects and rearing of suckler calves leads to better prices and demand at weanling sale time. In addition, I have allocated €10 million in 2013, financed from unspent Single Farm Payment Funds for a new support programme for suckler beef farmers to participate in a new Beef Data Programme. This programme will assist farmers in improving the genetic quality of Irish cattle and will maintain the data flow into ICBF in order to build further knowledge and more rapid progress in breeding and ultimately in profitability for farmers..

In total, I have made provision for the payment of aid amounting to €25 million to the beef sector in 2013. I announced the establishment of a Beef Technology Adoption Programme in 2012, which will be retained in 2013. This Programme is built on the lessons of the Dairy Efficiency Programme and provided a €5 million financial stimulus to encourage, through the medium of professionally facilitated discussion groups, and a task oriented approach, the adoption of a more focussed commercial approach to beef farming.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (46)

Michael McGrath

Question:

46. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of money allocated to his Department in 2012; the amount spent up to 30 November 2012; the amount profiled for expenditure by that date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55979/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The total Vote funding available to my Department for 2012 is €1.339 billion. This includes €27 million capital funding carried over from 2011. A profile of projected expenditure on a monthly basis is drawn up at the beginning of each financial year in order to anticipate the Department’s funding requirements and financial management over the course of the year. The profile which is the best estimate of expenditure available at that time is difficult to forecast and may vary significantly during the year for a variety of reasons, such as the level of payments under demand led schemes, the pattern of draw-down of Grants-in-Aid by State bodies, etc.

The total actual gross expenditure incurred over the period 1 January to end November was €1.046 billion. This compares to a profiled expenditure of €1.169 billion for the same period. For a variety of reasons, a number of budget lines were behind profile at the end of November. I expect that in most cases expenditure will ‘catch up’ before the end of the year. All elements of expenditure are being monitored and managed carefully with a view to minimising savings on this year’s Vote. While the final outcome is to a large extent driven by factors outside the Department’s control, I do not expect a significant underspend this year.

Beef Data Programme

Questions (47)

Mick Wallace

Question:

47. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether there may be limited uptake of the new beef data programme due to the significant reduction in payments in comparison to the suckler cow welfare scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55956/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme was a five-year Scheme which is ending on 31 December 2012.. Taking into account payments of €22 million approximately, which will be issued in respect of 2012 born calves, over the coming months, the Exchequer will have paid €158 million in total under this Scheme. This is a very substantial contribution to the very important beef sector. I am, therefore, pleased that a Value for Money Audit, which was undertaken in accordance with the Department of Finance Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative, established that the Scheme has largely achieved these objectives. The 34,000 participants, who continued in the Scheme over its five-year duration, are fully aware that following best practice in the breeding, animal health/welfare aspects and rearing of suckler calves leads to better prices and demand at weanling sale time.

It was important to build on progress made under the lifetime of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme. Therefore, I have allocated €10 million in 2013, financed from unspent Single Farm Payment Funds for a new support programme for suckler farmers to participate in a new Beef Data Programme. When taken together with residual payments of €10 million under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, this will amount to €20 million in direct payments to suckler farmers in 2013. This programme will assist farmers in improving the genetic quality of Irish cattle and will maintain the data flow into ICBF in order to build further knowledge and more rapid progress in breeding and ultimately in profitability for farmers.

The objectives of the new measure are summarised as follows.

- An increase in the number of commercial suckler herds that are engaged in the submission of beef data for breeding purposes;

- An increase in the amount of data from commercial farms around the country on traits of high relevance to beef farmers (e.g. Sire, dam, calving ease, weanling quality, docility) that can be used in genetic evaluations;

- Substantially more accurate genetic evaluations for a wide range of traits. The lack of data recording hampers the production of Beef Genetic indexes with reliable figures (large volumes of data are needed to increase reliability/accuracy);

- An increase in the uptake of cattle breeding related information services;

- An increase in the use that commercial beef producers make of genetic evaluations;

- Improvement in Ireland’s capability to capitalise on Genomics technology in the beef herd. This technology has already enabled the acceleration of genetic gain in the dairy herd (worth an extra €30m per annum to the dairy sector). Without the scheme, this will not be possible on the beef side.

The exact details of this new measure are being finalised and my priority is to ensure that the funding is fully utilised within the suckler sector. My view is that the level of funding (€10 million) made available is more than sufficient to encourage suckler farmers to participate in this one measure given that the total amount of aid paid to date under the 2012 Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme on 2012 born calves is approximately €22 million.

Common Fisheries Policy Negotiations

Questions (48)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

48. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on what he must achieve in terms of TACs and quotas at the December EU Fisheries Council on 18 to 20 December; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55845/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The levels of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and ultimately the quotas for Ireland in 2013 will be determined at the December Council of Fisheries Ministers being held on December 18 and 19 in Brussels. The December Council will also decide on fishing effort, which determines days spent at sea, available for the Irish fleet in the Irish Sea and off the north-west coast for 2013.

The European Commission proposals for 2013 are based on formal advice received from ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas), and also on the views of the STECF (the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries). The process of preparing for the Council is well under way with the publication of the European Commission’s proposals for TACs and quotas of key stocks of interest to Ireland. Since the publication of the proposals I have conducted a number of bi-laterals with the EU Commission, a number of Member States and the Irish fishing industry. I have also formally commented on the Commission proposal in advance of negotiations.

I have had an assessment of the impacts of the Commission proposal on internal TACs through the preparation of a Sea Fisheries Sustainability Impact Assessment which is provided for in the Programme for Government. I presented the results of this Impact Assessment to the Dáil on 6 December. The Impact Assessment acknowledges that while many stocks in which the Irish fleet have an interest are not in a healthy biological state, there has been an improvement in 2012 on the state of the resource base in relation to pressure and state indicators. It agrees with the need to cut quotas for some of the stocks in 2013, though the level of these cuts is queried in some cases, while in others there is clear scientific data to suggest that the level of cut is unwarranted.

I have repeated many times my belief that decisions on setting TACS should be informed by the science available and I stick to that. I am opposed to blanket rules on so called “data poor” stocks requiring automatic reductions, even where the quantitive information available shows that the stock is being fished sustainably and where the biological indicators are positive. The non-agreement at the Coastal States talks on mackerel, blue whiting and atlanto scandian herring aligned to the inconclusive second round of bilateral negotiations between the EU and Norway, now means that some stocks where Ireland have an interest including mackerel , horse mackerel, blue whiting, ling & saithe will be subject to provisional quotas at the December Council. Coastal States negotiations on blue whiting and atlanto scandian herring will resume on December 14 in London. The discussions with Norway are scheduled to reconvene in Clonakilty on the 16th January; it is expected that final quotas will be determined early in the Irish Presidency.

Food Industry Development

Questions (49)

Alan Farrell

Question:

49. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the impact that the introduction of a sugar tax or an increase in regulation of the food industry in relation to matters of obesity would have on the food industry here; if there has been stakeholder contact with him since these recommendations have been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55809/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Obesity is a major public health challenge, particularly in regard to diabetes and cardio vascular disease, and has been exacerbated as a result of our changing social, economic and physical environment and by a dramatic reduction in physical activity, and changing dietary patterns.

My colleague Minister Reilly set up a Special Action Group on Obesity (SAGO), comprising representatives from his Department, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, the Health Service Executive, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Safefood. The Group has focused on a range of measures including calorie posting in restaurants, a possible tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, nutritional labelling, marketing of food and drink to children, the supply of healthy food products in vending machines, detection and treatment of obesity and healthy eating guidelines. SAGO recommended a Health Impact Assessment on the possible introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened drinks and the Department of Health established a Steering Group in 2012 to oversee such an Assessment. In this context the industry has made representations to me in relation to their willingness to proactively address the issue and I have made these known to the Department of Health.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (50)

Finian McGrath

Question:

50. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support the Tibetan community in Ireland and its campaign against the occupation of Tibet. [56011/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government follows closely ongoing issues in Tibet and is concerned about aspects of this situation. Ireland together with our EU partners believes that constructive dialogue between the Chinese Government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama is the best way to address differences and tensions in Tibet and to reach a solution that respects Tibetan culture, language, religion and identity. It is important for the long-term peace and stability of the region that the two sides come to an agreement on the future of Tibet. To this end, we continue to encourage an early resumption of dialogue by the parties.

The promotion of human rights is an important dimension of European foreign policy, as enshrined in the Treaty of the European Union. Constructive dialogue remains the EU’s preferred channel for working to improve the human rights situation in China. Human rights are discussed as part of regular political dialogue as well as during specific human rights dialogues with China which have taken place since 1995. The Irish Government continues to convey its concerns about the situation in Tibet directly to the Chinese authorities through regular contacts in both Dublin and Beijing. The issue of Tibet is also raised by the European Union in its dialogue with China. Most recently, the EU raised the issue of Tibet at the 31st round of the EU-China human rights dialogue in Brussels at the end of May.

United Nations Funding

Questions (51)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

51. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of money that Ireland contributes to the United Nations that is spent directly on Internet related challenges, such as cyber security, cyber-crime, Internet freedom, privacy rights, and other related issues; if this money is contributed directly to such programmes or through a general fund; the percentage this makes up of the total allocation of United Nations funding on these areas; the person responsible in the United Nations for allocating these resources either directly or from a general fund; the agency that is responsible for implementation; their location; and if any Irish personnel are working for them either on secondment or independently. [56100/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In view of the degree of detail requested, which is not readily available, I propose to follow up directly with the Deputy providing any relevant information at the earliest opportunity.

EU Presidency Expenditure

Questions (52)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

52. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the total cost of the EU Presidency 2013 on his Department and its agencies; if he will provide a full breakdown of same; the way this cost compares to the previous Irish Presidency; the specific sponsorship deals that have been entered into in respect of the EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56159/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government decided in December 2011 to allocate a total budget in the order of €60m over 2012 and 2013 to resource the Presidency, with an additional allocation to be made in respect of security costs. €23 million was allocated in 2012 across a range of Departments and Offices. A further allocation of €36m has been included in the Estimates for Public Services, published on 5 December last. A further €10m has also been included to address security costs related to both the Presidency and the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting held in Dublin last week.

This budget is broadly in line with budgets for recent Presidencies and is less than the budget for the Irish Presidency in 2004 where total expenditure, when all costs were taken into account, was approximately €110m. Expenditure in 2012 focused primarily on planning costs which included:

- the refurbishment of Dublin Castle conference facilities;

- the fitting out of extra office accommodation within the Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels;

- Increased staffing in Dublin and Brussels to support the Presidency;

- Costs for re-location of additional staff to the Permanent Representation;

- The development of a Presidency website;

- The development of an accreditation system to handle the approx 15,000 delegates expected to visit Ireland. This system was also used for the OSCE Ministerial meeting;

- The provision of Presidency materials such as stationery and branding;

- The preparation of a Cultural programme;

- Increased travel to Brussels and Strasbourg in the build-up to the Presidency.

The majority of expenditure in 2013 will be for the following:

- the management of the Presidency agenda in home Departments;

- the operation of a significantly-enlarged Permanent Representation in Brussels (+90 people);

- a programme of Presidency events taking place in Ireland;

- a cultural programme that uses the Presidency to promote Ireland and Irish culture to an international audience and which also showcases the role of the EU in Ireland.

To date approximately 20 proposals of sponsorship have been received in respect of the Presidency. These cover a wide spectrum of companies from smaller domestic companies to larger multinationals and include offers of support in relation to transport, telecommunications, IT-related projects and to cover certain event costs. In addition, State agencies and other bodies have been of assistance in providing services and support. The assessment of sponsorship offers is underway and a full list of sponsors will be released when this is finalised.

An overarching focus of the Government in planning for Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union is to perform this important function in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The use of Dublin Castle and a small number of other state-owned venues mainly in Dublin to host most Presidency meetings will reduce venue hire, transport and set-up costs, not to mention significantly reducing the “carbon footprint” of the Presidency. An effectively managed Presidency will deliver long-term reputational benefits for Ireland. Short-term benefits include significant benefits for the local economy from an influx of up to 15,000 delegates, press and representatives of NGOs who will use local services including hotels, restaurants, taxis etc. over the six month Presidency period.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Questions (53)

Brendan Smith

Question:

53. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised the matter of US immigration reform and the status of the undocumented Irish with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her recent visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56191/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government continues to attach particular importance to the welfare of the Irish abroad in general and especially to the position of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States. A resolution of the situation for undocumented Irish migrants will continue to be pursued by the Government in our ongoing contacts with the US Administration and Congress. The advice of Ireland’s friends and contacts within the US Administration and Congress has long been that comprehensive reform of the US immigration system and procedures is likely to be the only manner by which such a resolution can be achieved. The prospects for such reform would appear to have advanced in the wake of President Obama’s re-election.

Through our Embassy in Washington and in close liaison with Irish-American community representatives, our contacts with the US Administration and Congress will intensify over the coming weeks and months with a view to ensuring that the interests and concerns of undocumented Irish immigrants are captured in any future legislative deal in this area that emerges. In this regard, I raised the issue with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during our bilateral meeting on 6 December last and recalled our strong support for comprehensive immigration legislation and the passage of E3 visas for Irish citizens. Much further debate and discussion is likely to be required within the US political system as to what any future legislative deal might comprise. It is therefore not possible at this stage to specify its contents or identify an exact timescale in which these may become clear but the area will continue to receive the Government’s close attention over the period ahead.