Election Monitoring Missions

Questions (56)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

56. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will list in tabular form the persons sent abroad from 2007 to date in 2013 to monitor elections and referenda; the cost to his Department of each election and referenda observation; the process by which election observers are appointed; if he is satisfied with the recruitment and selection procedure used; if he is considering changes to the appointment procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21623/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

International election monitoring missions play an important role in the promotion of democracy and human rights. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains a roster of observers for election monitoring missions. We aim to ensure that, when requested, Ireland is represented at an appropriate level in international observation missions for both elections and constitutional referendums. Irish observers participate primarily in missions organised by the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. However, they have also been involved in missions organised by the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the Carter Centre. When a request for electoral observation is received, the Department seeks expressions of interest from all observers on the election roster. A list of suitably qualified observers is drawn up, taking into account the specific criteria for the mission, including language proficiency. Gender balance and length of time since serving on a mission are also key factors in the selection process. Following completion of the internal selection process, a draft list of nominees is submitted for Ministerial approval.

In the case of European Union election observation missions, the final selection of observers from the list of approved nominees submitted by the Department rests with the European Commission. In the case of OSCE election observation missions, all the observers nominated by the Department are usually selected.

Last year, I asked that the Department carry out a review of the election observation roster. Following a call for applications and a subsequent appraisal process against published criteria, 200 individuals with a strong mix of skills and experience have now been selected to serve on a new roster, which will come into effect on 15 May 2013. I am satisfied that the recruitment and selection process has been carried out in a fair and transparent manner.

I am confident that the establishment of this new roster will ensure that Ireland can consistently nominate the best qualified people for election monitoring missions. At this point, I do not envisage changes to the procedure by which members of the new roster will be nominated for missions.

The costs to the Department of Foreign Affairs of each observation mission relate exclusively to the costs of sending the individuals selected for the mission. In the case of EU missions, all costs are covered by the European Commission with the exception of a pre-departure grant of €600, which observers who participate in missions are entitled to in every twelve month period. For OSCE missions, the costs of Irish observers, over and above the pre-departure grant are fully met by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

A list in tabular form of persons sent on election observation missions between 2007 and to date in 2013 is set out as follows. In the time available, it is not possible to provide a detailed breakdown of costs per mission for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. For these years, the total annual cost of all election observation missions is provided. From 2010 onwards, the cost of each individual participating in missions is provided.

The table is available as attachment Q56.docx at the top of the web page.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (57, 59)

Robert Dowds

Question:

57. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide a report on his visit to Northern Ireland on 30 April 2013. [21702/13]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

59. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his recent meetings with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and members of the Northern Ireland Executive; the issues discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21871/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 59 together.

I travelled to Belfast on the 29th April 2013 as part of my ongoing series of contacts with Secretary of State Villiers and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The Secretary of State and I co-hosted an event to mark the 15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in the Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast. The event featured some sixty 15 year olds and representatives of civil society and was interactive in nature with lively and interesting questions from the young audience. The event underlined the progress achieved in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement and the continuing challenges ahead to achieve a reconciled, prosperous and shared society in Northern Ireland.

In a separate meeting with Secretary of State Villiers we discussed the British Government’s recent initiative involving economic support for Northern Ireland, the challenges ahead in delivering a reconciled, prosperous and shared society in Northern Ireland and the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement that have yet to be implemented. We discussed the EU PEACE IV programme and the continuing role of the International Fund for Ireland. We also discussed prisoner issues and the security situation in the light of the upcoming parading season.

The Secretary of State and I also met the First and Deputy Minister. We discussed community relations, economic matters including corporation tax issues, EU budget discussions, the opportunities for Ireland North and South of EU trade talks with the United States and Canada, the EU PEACE programme, the forthcoming parades season, and the Narrow Water Bridge project.

I also had a meeting on North South Institutional matters with the First Minister and deputy First Minister. We discussed issues concerning youth employment, the North West Gateway Initiative, economic and EU matters and the St. Andrew’s Agreement Review.

As I noted previously, these meetings were part of an ongoing schedule of close contact with the Secretary of State, and with the First Minister and deputy First Minister, which I fully intend to continue.

Foreign Conflicts

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 57.

Questions (58)

Brendan Smith

Question:

58. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if any new initiatives are being considered at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council in relation to the ongoing conflict in Syria and the catastrophic humanitarian situation in that region; if the European Union has had negotiations recently with the United Nations in relation to the urgent need for the Security Council to achieve an agreed resolution which is long awaited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21861/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The situation in Syria has understandably dominated discussions at recent Foreign Affairs Council meetings, including at the last meeting in Luxembourg on 22 April which I attended. Against the background of escalating violence and a deepening crisis not just within Syria but the wider region, discussions focused on how the EU can best promote a peaceful resolution and alleviate the sufferings of the Syrian people, more than 70,000 of whom have been killed since March 2011. We will continue this discussion at the next Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 27 May which I will attend and where Syria will again figure prominently on the agenda. Of paramount importance to the EU and Ireland is the achievement of a political solution to the conflict which is the only way to stop the relentless violence and promote a peaceful transition within Syria. UN/Arab League Joint Special Envoy Brahimi briefed the UN Security Council on 19 April and reiterated his view that a negotiated settlement alone can salvage what is left of Syria and offer the hope of an end to the conflict. Given the reciprocal deep mistrust between both sides to the conflict, he has long insisted that only concerted action by the Security Council will carry sufficient weight to bring both parties to the negotiation table. Special Envoy Brahimi’s task is extremely challenging and, together with our European colleagues, we have pledged on numerous occasions our fullest support to his work. We hope he will keep his resolve in conducting this essential mission.

Similarly, our attention has been increasingly devoted to the worsening humanitarian situation in and around Syria. I was personally able to witness first-hand the ravages of the war on the civilian population when I visited the refugee camp of Nizip in Southern Turkey in early April. As UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres vividly explained to the UN Security Council on 18 April, the situation in Syria and in surrounding countries risks becoming simply unsustainable. This prompted the Council to issue a unanimous Statement on 18 April, calling all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded access to those in need in all areas of Syria and urging the Syrian authorities, in particular, to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance, including across borders. It also called upon all countries that pledged financial support at the UN pledging conference held in Kuwait last January to honour these pledges as a matter of urgency.

Ireland and its EU partners are making a major contribution to the UN-led humanitarian relief operations. The EU is collectively the largest donor to such efforts, having contributed some €600 million in aid to date. Ireland’s humanitarian assistance to Syria over the past year now amounts to €8.15 million which include the additional €1 million pledge I announced when visiting the Nizip camp.

Considerable attention has also been devoted at EU level recently to reviewing the current EU sanctions which apply against Syria. We want to ensure through these measures that pressure remains on the Assad regime to stop its repression and to engage in a process of political dialogue with the opposition. At the 18 February Foreign Affairs Council, we agreed to renew the full range of existing sanctions for a further period of three months, until 1 June. We also agreed at the last FAC meeting in Luxembourg to ease some of restrictions currently in place, so as to allow a limited amount of trade to take place to the benefit of the moderate Syrian opposition and to improve the plight of civilians in newly-liberated areas.

We will continue our discussion at the next Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 27 May with a view to reaching a common position ahead of the 1 June renewal date.

There is also a need to ensure full accountability in relation to the many gross human rights violations and war crimes which have been committed by all sides to this conflict, including the latest reported massacre at Baida only last week. Ireland has been to the forefront within the EU in supporting calls for the situation in Syria to be referred by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court. Discussions are currently underway at the UN in New York about a possible adoption by the UN General Assembly of a Resolution on the situation in Syria. Together with our EU and Arab partners, we are working towards ensuring that the Resolution contains strong accountability messages. We are also encouraging the sponsors to seek as wide a measure of support for the Resolution as possible within the General Assembly so as to demonstrate the extent of international concern over the current situation.

The conflict in Syria has been a major priority for Ireland and the EU over the last two years and will remain at the top of our foreign policy agenda during the remainder of Ireland’s EU Presidency. We will continue to use whatever influence we have in our Presidency role and at all levels of our international engagement to support and promote European and UN efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 57.

Air Services Provision

Questions (60)

Brendan Smith

Question:

60. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions, if any, he has had in relation to the need to develop direct flight connections between Ireland and west coast USA in view of the potential to develop further trade opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21881/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government is strongly supportive of efforts to re-establish a direct air link with the US West Coast which would further enhance our considerable existing economic relationship with the region and increase tourist traffic. I am optimistic that progress will be made in this regard. My Department through our Consulate General in San Francisco continues to closely monitor the issue and encourage the efforts to re-establish the direct air link. It is a matter that has arisen frequently in my discussions with US-based members of the Global Irish Network. In addition, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport continues to highlight this opportunity in his discussions with airlines, Irish and foreign. It is, of course, open to any EU or US airline to operate services between Ireland and the US under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. Ultimately, decisions on what routes to serve are a matter for the airlines based on their own commercial judgements.

Tax Code

Questions (61)

Michael McGrath

Question:

61. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance in relation to Part 18C Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, if he will confirm that the levy, in certain circumstances, applies to persons who are tax resident here; if he will state if this was the intention of the legislation; if he will confirm the number of Irish tax resident who paid the levy in 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21608/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Part 18C of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, as inserted by Finance Act 2010 and amended by subsequent Finance Acts, which concerns the Domicile Levy, makes no reference to the tax residence of the individuals to which the legislation applies. The levy therefore applies to individuals both resident and non-resident who meet the criteria set out in the legislation. It is important to note that an Irish domiciled individual, resident in Ireland, who is otherwise liable to the Domicile Levy for a tax year, and who pays Irish Income Tax for that year, is entitled to credit the Irish Income Tax paid against her/his liability to the Domicile Levy. This means that such a person who pays €200,000 or more in Irish Income Tax for a tax year will have no liability to Domicile Levy for that year. However, to the extent that such a liable person pays less than €200,000 in Irish income tax for a tax year he or she will be liable to the Domicile Levy whether a resident of Ireland or not, and will also be entitled to a credit for whatever Irish Income Tax s/he paid for that year.

This treatment was always intended as it ensures that such high wealth individuals with a substantial connection to Ireland, whether they are Irish tax resident or not, make a tax contribution to this country in a year of at least €200,000, either by way of Domicile Levy or Income Tax.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of persons who filed a Domicile Levy return for 2010, paid a Domicile Levy liability in relation to 2010 and who filed an Income Tax return showing that they were resident in Ireland in that year was four.

The number of persons who filed a domicile levy return for 2011, paid a Domicile Levy liability in relation to 2011 and who filed an Income Tax return showing that they were resident in Ireland in that year was two.

NAMA Court Cases

Questions (62)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

62. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to an affidavit filed in the High Court in Dublin in which the National Asset Management Agency was seeking a judgment against a person (details supplied), if he will confirm that NAMA has provided confidential details, both the par value of the loan and the NAMA acquisition value, to persons not directly connected to the borrowers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21635/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised that this matter relates to a position taken by a NAMA debtor in attempting to defend judgment proceedings taken by NAMA against him. I do not propose to comment as this relates to a matter which is within the jurisdiction of the Courts.