National Debt

Questions (195)

Seán Fleming

Question:

195. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach the way the Central Statistics Office will record the changes in the national debt arising from the recent announcement in respect of the promissory notes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8438/13]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Central Statistics Office reports on the General Government Gross Debt (GG Debt) to EUROSTAT under the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) as set out under the Maastricht Treaty. EDP returns are made to EUROSTAT twice a year, at the end of March and the end of October of a given year, in respect of the previous four years. In March 2013, therefore, GG Debt will be reported for the years from 2009 to 2012, with the 2012 figure being a first estimate. The Department of Finance will report forecast data for 2013 in this same return. In addition to the EDP returns, the CSO also reports on GG Debt on a quarterly basis to EUROSTAT under the European System of Accounts (ESA95) transmission programme. Therefore, the first time the CSO will report on GG Debt for 2013 will be at the end of June 2013, when the Quarterly Government Debt return (Table 2800 of ESA95 transmission programme) for the first quarter of 2013 will be made. General Government Gross Debt (or Maastricht Debt) is defined as the sum of liabilities of the General Government sector in the categories of Currency & Deposits (AF.2), securities other than shares, excluding derivatives (AF.33) and loans (AF.4). With regard to the recent announcement in respect of the promissory notes, the immediate impact on the reporting of GG Debt for 2013 will be the reclassification of these particular debt instruments from the category of Long-Term Loans (AF.42) to Long-Term Securities (AF.332). This reclassification will not impact on the overall GG Debt figure. The CSO will also report on any changes in the GG Debt which may arise as a result in this change of debt instrument on a quarterly basis under the ESA95 transmission programme and for annual data in the EDP returns.

International Relations

Questions (196)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

196. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach if he will confirm the discussions he had at the recent Davos summit with respect to investment in Myanmar and Burma; the persons with whom he had discussions; the nature of these discussions; and if he has committed to deliver any assistance to any party in respect of communications investment in Myanmar. [8629/13]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The opening up of Myanmar and prospects for development and investment there is an important global theme, which arose in various discussions in Davos. It is also part of the Government's ongoing consideration of international opportunities for trade and investment for Ireland. Last year's visit to Ireland by Aung San Suu Kyi was a signal of the important and positive reforms being made by the Myanmar government. These reforms should be welcomed as key building blocks to improved international relations. I did not make any commitment to deliver assistance to any party in respect of communications investment in Myanmar.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (197)

Joan Collins

Question:

197. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Taoiseach the total amount spent on outsourced security services in his Department; and if he will provide details of the companies providing these services. [8656/13]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

My Department had no expenditure on outsourced security services from 1 January 2012 to date.

Departmental Expenditure

Question No. 199 answered with Question No. 194.

Questions (198)

Joan Collins

Question:

198. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Taoiseach the total amount spent on outsourced cleaning services in his Department; and if he will provide details of the companies providing these services. [8657/13]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The total spend by my Department on outsourced cleaning services in 2012 was €16,665.48. Two companies provide this service. Embassy Cleaning provides window cleaning services and Fiberseal Limited provides specialist carpet cleaning services.

Question No. 199 answered with Question No. 194.

Ministerial Appointments

Questions (200, 202, 203)

Shane Ross

Question:

200. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of all appointments made by him to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by him since taking office, including the State owned banks and the Judiciary. [8120/13]

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Shane Ross

Question:

202. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the qualifications of all the appointees made by him to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by him since taking office including the State owned banks and Judiciary for the appointments they have accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8138/13]

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Shane Ross

Question:

203. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of appointees and the percentage of appointments made by him to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by him since taking office including the State owned banks and the Judiciary that were subject to a public applications process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8156/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200, 202 and 203 together.

There are no State agencies or commercial bodies operating under the aegis of my Department. The Fulbright Commission has a unique status in that it was established pursuant to an international agreement, is funded jointly with the US Government and is therefore not a body solely under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Under the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the USA) Act 1991, the Commission consists of eight members. The legislation specifies that four of them should be Irish citizens appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and four of them should be citizens of the US and appointed by the US Ambassador. Vacancies on the board arose in December 2012, November 2012 and May 2011. These vacancies were publicised on the Department’s website and expressions of interest were invited. The process to nominate the Irish members is at an advanced stage and should be completed shortly.

Since taking office, I have made new appointments to two advisory committees, the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee and the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group. The four people I have appointed to the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee are John Gormley, who is a Former President of the GAA in Britain; Joe Brown, who is the Chair of the Irish Travellers Movement; Frances Henderson, who is a Member of the Scottish Branch of the Irish Professional Network; and Sinéad Crowley, who is an Executive Director with the Irish International Business Network in London. These appointments were made in addition to the following serving members of the board, who are Mr. Séamus McGarry, who is a Member of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain and on the Board of Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith (appointed 2004); Cllr. Sally Mulready, who is a Councillor in the London Borough of Hackney and a member of the Irish Elderly Advice Network (appointed 2008); Tony Cusack, who is the Manager of the Irish Centre in Leicester (appointed 2008); Breege McDaid, who is the Chief Executive of Irish Community Care Merseyside (appointed 2008); Tony Corcoran of the Tyneside Irish Festival and Secretary of the Tyneside Irish Centre (appointed 2008); Des Hurley, who is the Chief Executive of the Irish Arts Foundation (appointed 2008); and Bridie Nugent, who is a Board Member of the Irish Welfare and Information Centre in Birmingham (appointed 2009).

The two people I have appointed to the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group are Ms Nora Owen, who was appointed Chairperson in October 2011, and Dr. Naomi Ngirwa. Ms Owen holds qualifications in Chemistry and Biochemistry (University College Dublin) and Business Law (National College of Ireland). During her service in Dáil Éireann, she held various positions including Chairperson of the Parliamentary Overseas Aid Committee and Minister for Justice between 1994 and 1997. Dr. Naomi Ngirwa was appointed as a member of the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group in October 2011. At the time of her appointment, Dr. Ngwira, who holds a doctorate in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University, was an Economist Consultant with the Institute of Policy Research and Analysis in Malawi. Dr. Ngwira resigned from the Expert Advisory Group in late 2012 to take up her role as Deputy Governor of the Malawi Central Bank. Of the nine new appointments made by me, three were publicised. The remaining new appointments which are to specialist advisory committees, were made following consultation within the relevant sectors.

EU Presidency Priorities

Questions Nos. 202 and 203 answered with Question No. 200.

Questions (201)

Tom Fleming

Question:

201. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the main priorities for Ireland during the Irish Presidency of the EU Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8128/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

During our Presidency, the Irish Government is focusing on measures to restore Europe’s financial stability, stimulate sustainable economic growth and, above all, to promote jobs. Ireland’s Presidency agenda reflects very closely our domestic priorities. The opening phase of Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU is now over. Our Presidency Programme “for Stability, Jobs and Growth” has been well received and work is now well under way to deliver on Ireland’s key Presidency priorities. The Presidency has actively supported the President of the European Council in securing agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) which is essential to underpin Europe’s economic recovery, future growth and social cohesion. We are engaging intensively with the European Parliament in order to secure its formal assent to the MFF regulation and accompanying Inter-Institutional Agreement. We will be chairing discussions on almost 70 separate sectoral regulations (including on Common Agricultural Policy reform) related to the MFF proposal and negotiating their passage through the Parliament.

One of the most pressing problems in Europe today is high level of unemployment, in particular of young people. Ireland’s Presidency has placed the spotlight on youth unemployment and is taking the necessary measures to secure significant progress on related legislative dossiers such as the youth employment and social investment packages and the youth guarantee file. We will be seeking to make good progress in this area at the Employment and Social Affairs Council at the end of February. External trade is also a key driver for jobs and growth. This is why Ireland’s Presidency is focusing substantively on the EU external trade agenda, in particular EU-US relations and with the rapidly growing markets in Asia. Recent statements by the President of the United States and by EU leaders have given us an additional impetus for working on a mandate necessary for launching negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States.

Ireland is seeking to manage the effective implementation of economic governance measures that have been agreed at EU level, in particular the European Semester process of budgetary and economic co-ordination, and the Banking Union proposals. In order to foster growth and boost job creation across the Union, Ireland is paying special attention to unlocking the potential of the European Single Market and, in particular, of the Digital Agenda. The Presidency is working to advance proposals on intellectual property, cyber-security, e-Signatures/e-Identification, Data Protection, web accessibility and high-speed broadband roll-out. Enlargement is also a high priority for our Presidency, seeing this not only as a historical responsibility but also as fundamental for the peace and security of our continent. The Irish Government is continuously monitoring progress in fulfilling our Presidency Programme. We have had a good start but there is a lot of work ahead. During our Presidency, we are strongly committed to achieving tangible results for our citizens.

Questions Nos. 202 and 203 answered with Question No. 200.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (204)

Brendan Smith

Question:

204. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the most recent discussions in relation to Mali at the European Foreign Affairs Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8194/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The situation in Mali has been discussed at all recent meetings of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, most recently at the Council meeting I attended in Brussels yesterday. The Council yesterday adopted comprehensive conclusions which reaffirm the EU’s support for international efforts to support stabilisation in Mali and to counter the threat of terrorism. Recognising that the issues in Mali cannot be addressed by military means alone, Ministers emphasised the importance of progress on the political track and especially the implementation of the transition roadmap which has been agreed by the Malian Government and Parliament. In particular, EU Ministers have underlined the preparations for the free and fair elections that are scheduled to take place before the end of July, and the establishment of a National Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Mali. The Council stressed the importance of international co-ordination on Mali and welcomed the outcomes of the meeting of the Support and Follow-Up Group which took place in Brussels on 5 February, at which the Minister of State for Trade and Development represented Ireland as part of our Presidency of the EU.

Following the discussion on the resumption of development assistance to Mali, which took place at the informal meeting of EU Development Ministers in Dublin on 12 February, the Council welcomed the gradual resumption of EU development aid, within the framework of a "State-Building Contract", linked to implementation of the transition roadmap. I am particularly concerned at the impact of the crisis on the civilian population of Mali, which was addressed by the Council yesterday, with particular emphasis on the plight of refugees and displaced persons. The Council also addressed reports of human rights violations in Mali. The EU's commitment of support for the deployment of human rights monitors in the country is an important development. In our discussions on Mali, the Council reviewed progress on the deployment of the EU Training Mission in Mali and reaffirmed the EU’s support for the efforts of the African Union and the regional authorities to put in place the African-led force, AFISMA. We also discussed the broader regional dimensions of the crisis and underlined the importance of the EU’s Sahel Strategy and the appointment of an EU Special Representative for the Sahel.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (205)

Brendan Smith

Question:

205. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the recent Foreign Affairs EU Council extended the EU sanctions package against Syria beyond the end of March; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8196/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since the crisis first erupted almost two years ago, the EU has been prompt in adopting a wide range of restrictive measures targeted against the Assad regime and its supporters to compel them to stop their brutal crackdown and engage in an inclusive process of national dialogue aiming for transition and reform within Syria. EU sanctions include a series of individual listings as well as restrictions on goods and services, including an oil and arms embargo. The Foreign Affairs Council at the end of November renewed the EU sanctions package for a period of three months, allowing a comprehensive review of all applicable sanctions and restrictive measures to take place before they expire at the end of February. The Foreign Affairs Council on 18 February devoted considerable attention to reviewing the existing sanctions regime and assessing how to further apply pressure against the Syrian authorities given their continuous campaign of repression and violence. Along with my European colleagues, we had a thorough and comprehensive discussion on the range of options available and how EU sanctions can be used to best effect to further the prospects for a political resolution of the conflict. I welcome the fact that the Council was able to agree on renewing the full range of existing sanctions for a further period of three months. The Council also agreed an amendment to the sanctions regime to allow for the provision of non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians.

Nuclear Proliferation

Questions (206)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

206. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will be represented at the forthcoming International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, to be held on 4-5 March in Oslo. [8233/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I welcome and strongly support the initiative by the Norwegian Government to host an International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. I believe this conference - and, indeed, the discussion on this topic more generally - will help to highlight the calamitous, unmanageable and immoral implications of any use, whether accidental or deliberate, of nuclear weapons. It will also help to demonstrate again that the possession of nuclear weapons entails unacceptable risks and that there is no place for these weapons in defensive arsenals or security postures. The Deputy may be aware that there was discussion of the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament at the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which expressed its “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons" and reaffirmed "the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law".

When the preparatory process towards the next (2015) NPT Review Conference commenced in Vienna last May, Switzerland sought to generate discussion around this topic with a joint statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament, which it delivered on behalf of 16 states. It delivered the same statement to the 67th UN General Assembly First Committee meeting in October on behalf of 34 states. Ireland was involved with both statements from the outset and we are associated by name with them. I can confirm to the Deputy that Ireland will participate actively in the Oslo Conference. Last December I was invited by my Norwegian counterpart to nominate Irish representatives at senior official and expert level to participate in the conference. The Director for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will attend on my behalf. Our Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, which covers disarmament issues, will also be represented. We are consulting other interested Government Departments to establish how best we might frame a constructive contribution to the discussion in Oslo. The conference will be preceded by a civil society meeting, organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which will debate the same topic. A contingent of NGOs from the civil society meeting will then participate in the official conference. I believe civil society has an extremely important role to play in raising awareness about this important issue and contributing to debate. I hope Irish civil society will be able to feed into the useful and timely discussion that is emerging. Ireland has an established track record of support for efforts to promote nuclear disarmament. I assure the Deputy that it is my intention that we will continue to participate actively in these efforts.