Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 13.

Arramara Teo

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 13.

Questions (41)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

41. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Pearse Doherty den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé soiléiriú ar thodhchaí Arramara Teo; agus cad atá á dhéanamh aige chun slí bheatha na mbainteoirí feamainne a chaomhnú. [26249/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

Dírím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Dála 13092/13 ar 13 Márta 2013 inar thug mé le fios go raibh próiseas ar bun ag Údarás na Gaeltachta le tamall anuas chun féachaint ar na roghanna inmharthana agus forbartha is fearr chun todhchaí an chomhlachta Arramara Teo. a dhaingniú. Chuige sin, cuireadh próiseas ar bun le páirtnéir a aimsiú a bheadh in ann an comhlacht a fhorbairt agus tugadh deis don chomhlacht féin cás gnó a dhéanamh chomh maith.

Ag cruinniú de bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta ar 1 Márta 2013, tógadh cinneadh scaireanna an Údaráis sa chomhlacht a dhíol leis an gcomhlacht Acadian Seaplants Ltd., faoi réir mo chead agus cead an Aire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe a bheith faighte agus coinníollacha dlí ina leith a bheith socruithe. Is é an staid reatha ná go bhfuil an cás a mheas ag oifigigh mo Roinne faoi láthair agus táim dóchasach go mbeidh cinneadh déanta sa chás réasúnta luath. Tuigtear dom ó Údarás na Gaeltachta go raibh todhchaí agus leas na mbainteoirí feamainne lárnach i bpróiseas cinnteoireachta an Údaráis maidir le todhchaí an chomhlachta Arramara Teo.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 13.

Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge

Questions (43)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

43. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an dtabharfaidh sé soiléiriú i dtaobh an bhfuil i gceist aige scéim deontais a chur ar fáil do mhná tí sna Coláistí Samhraidh a bhfuil gá acu le breis spáis lóistín chun tacú leo a dtithe a thabhairt suas chuig na caighdeáin chuí ó thaobh sábháilteachta agus sláinte de. [26252/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

Ar an gcéad dul síos, tá áthas orm a rá go leanfar ag íoc deontas ó mo Roinnse le teaghlaigh a choinníonn foghlaimeoirí Gaeilge ar iostas faoi Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge agus iad ag freastal ar choláistí Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Mar is eol don Teachta, cuireadh an scéim tithíochta faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltachta) 1929 – 2001 ar fionraí ar an 7 Aibreán 2009. Is faoin scéim seo a tugadh cabhair deontais d’úinéirí tithe sa Ghaeltacht chun feabhas a chur ar a dtithe, lena n-áirítear iad siúd a chur iostas ar fáil d’fhoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge. Níl i gceist an scéim tithíochta a athoscailt san am i láthair. Bheadh aon chinneadh i leith na scéime le tógáil i gcomhthéacs na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030.

Overseas Development Aid

Questions (44)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

44. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline Ireland's contribution to the recent international conference on education and development in Brussels on post-2015 millennium development goals; his interaction with European Commissioners, Andris Piebalgs and Kristalina Georgieva; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26317/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Access to quality education is a fundamental right which enables communities around the world overcome inequality and tackle the causes of poverty and hunger. While there have been very significant advances in terms of access to education in developing countries over the last decade, progress has been uneven. Today, 61 million children of primary school age remain out of school and almost of half of these are living in countries and regions affected by conflict.

Ireland has a strong and internationally recognised commitment to education, as an important priority of our development cooperation programme. The focus of our programme is on improving access to education for children in some of the poorest countries and communities in the world, and on improving learning outcomes, by supporting activities such as teacher training and curriculum reform.

During our EU Presidency, as we review progress under the Millennium Development Goals and prepare for the negotiation of the post-2015 framework for global development, Ireland has played a leading role in ensuring the EU has a coherent approach to the challenge of ending poverty and achieving sustainable development. Last week, I attended the International Conference on Education and Development convened by the EU Development Commissioner in Brussels, with the objective of ensuring that a commitment to education remains central to global efforts to reduce poverty.

During the Conference, I had discussions with Commissioner Piebalgs, who emphasised the need for a continued focus on education, particularly for children from the poorest families, and with Humanitarian Commissioner Georgieva, who highlighted the important role education can play in preventing conflict and improving the resilience of communities affected by conflict or natural disaster. In speaking at the Conference and in my discussion with the other participants, I affirmed the Government's continued commitment to working for improved access to quality education in developing countries, and ensuring that education remains an international priority in the fight to end poverty, and especially in a new framework for global development beyond 2015.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (45, 52, 57, 58)

Robert Dowds

Question:

45. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if any consideration has been given by the United Nations or European Union to imposing a no-fly zone over Syria to prevent the bombing of civilians by the Syrian regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26356/13]

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Andrew Doyle

Question:

52. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his position regarding the EU arms embargo against Syria; if he supports arming rebels in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26459/13]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

57. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the outcome of discussions at the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting of 27 May 2013 in relation to the ongoing conflict in Syria and the humanitarian crisis in that region; if any new initiatives were approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26560/13]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

58. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the request of the Irish-Syrian Solidarity Campaign in relation to the call by the local co-ordinating committees of the opposition in Syria for a no-fly zone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26561/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45, 52, 57 and 58 together.

Syria dominated the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council which I attended in Brussels last Monday. What was most clearly evident during the long and sometimes difficult discussions was the very strong and unanimous support among member States for efforts to reach a political solution to this appalling conflict. The EU is extending its full support to the initiative of the US and Russia to bring all sides in Syria to the negotiating table on the basis of the Geneva Communique of June 2012. In its Conclusions, the Council reaffirmed that the EU will spare no effort in helping to create the appropriate conditions for a successful convening of the conference which is envisaged.

The EU also remains deeply engaged in efforts to address the horrendous humanitarian consequences of the conflict. The Union is the largest contributor to the UN-led humanitarian efforts, with some €700 million pledged in support of the relief operations in Syria and in neighbouring countries. The Council renewed its commitment to respond to humanitarian needs in Syria and in neighbouring countries and it urged all donors to fulfil pledges made at the Kuwait humanitarian conference on 30 January.

Renewal of the EU's sanctions against Syria, including the arms embargo, gave rise to long and intense discussion within the Council. I reiterated on behalf of the Government our firm view that lifting the arms embargo would be unlikely to assist efforts to achieve a political resolution. On the contrary, the provision of arms to the Syrian moderate opposition, no matter how well-intentioned, is only likely to contribute to further militarisation of the conflict and to greater levels of violence in Syria and in the wider region. I further stated my belief that lifting the arms embargo ran the clear risk of endangering the US-Russia led "Geneva II" initiative.

It is obviously a matter of regret that the Foreign Affairs Council was unable to agree to renew the EU arms embargo against Syria. As a result, this will now expire on 31 May. However, I welcome the fact that the Council did agree to renew the remainder of the existing sanctions directed against the Assad regime. These will continue in force for a further year, following adoption of a Council Decision later this week.

It is important to emphasise that all 27 member States of the EU remain fully united in their desire to promote the earliest possible end to violence and a political resolution leading to transition and the establishment of a functioning democracy in Syria. In the Council Declaration that accompanied the Council Decision on renewal of the sanctions package, it was noted that no member State intending to do so will proceed at this stage with the delivery of arms to Syria. The Council also agreed to review its position before 1 August on the basis of a report from the High Representative on the developments related to the US-Russia initiative and on the engagement of the Syrian parties.

In relation to calls which have been made for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, this would obviously necessitate broad international agreement and could only be authorized through a UN Security Council Resolution specifically mandating such a step. Regrettably, the Security Council has not been able to agree any Resolution on Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 and it appears most unlikely that the political will exists within the Council at present to reach agreement on such a proposal.

Overseas Development Aid Provision

Questions (46)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

46. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the expected level of funding that will be provided in his Department's budget for overseas aid in budget 2014; if he will confirm that Ireland will be in a position to fulfil a commitment to keep its provision of overseas aid at 70 cent in every €100 by the year 2015; if he will indicate the current level of invigilation of that funding in programme countries; and the way his Department measures the impact and success of Irish Aid in each country concerned. [26367/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government is strongly committed to Ireland's overseas aid programme. Last month we launched Ireland's new Policy on International Development, "One World, One Future". The policy clearly sets out our vision for a sustainable and just world, and our goals and areas of focus for the coming years. It reaffirms the Government's commitment to international development and its centrality to our foreign policy.

The new policy restates the Programme for Government commitment to achieving the UN target of providing 0.7% of GNP for Official Development Assistance (ODA). Over the past two years, the Government has broadly stabilised the budget for development assistance. This is an important achievement. We will endeavour to maintain aid expenditure broadly at current levels until economic circumstances permit us to make further progress towards achieving the 0.7% target.

Preparations for Budget 2014 are currently under way. Budget 2014 will be framed in the context of the Government's overall fiscal consolidation strategy of reducing the deficit to below 3% of GDP by the end of 2015. Departmental budget allocations for 2014 must be set in this context, and all Departments will be required to provide further savings. While I am firmly committed to working to maintain aid allocations at their current level, the final allocation will be a matter for Government decision and will be announced in the Budget Statement.

Under the Government's aid programme, Ireland has long term, strategic development partnership programmes with a small number of developing countries. Working with our partner countries, we are helping to build government and institutional capacities to deliver the essential services their populations need, mainly in the areas of health, education and food security. There is an approved strategy for each partner country, which includes a detailed results framework. Rigorous systems are in place for planning, monitoring, evaluating and auditing the aid programme and in particular our assistance to Partner Countries. Programmes are continually monitored and assessed at mission level and by headquarters staff to ensure they deliver the intended results. Crucially, this enables us to measure the impact and effectiveness of our programmes.

In addition a comprehensive system of internal audit is in place in the Department and audits are carried out on an annual basis, as appropriate by auditors based in our Embassies, the Department's evaluation and audit team, international accountancy firms whom we commission and the national audit offices of our partner Governments. Oversight of the internal audit function is by the Department's independent Audit Committee which provides an independent appraisal of the Department's audit and evaluation function, meets with the Comptroller and Auditor General, and publishes an annual report on its work. The Committee reports directly to the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Passport Applications

Questions (47)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

47. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the upcoming changes to passport application procedures that are currently pending; if these new changes will make the process of acquiring a passport for Irish citizens cheaper, faster and more efficient; if an effective communication plan is in place to deal with this new process and effectively relay this message to the general public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26405/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Over the coming weeks the Passport Service are introducing a number of changes to passport application procedures. These include the move from the very successful pilot to full implementation of the appointments service in the Molesworth Street office; and the withdrawal of the ordinary post service over time.

In November 2012, the Passport Office in Molesworth Street launched a pilot programme to allow customers to book, via a simple web based system, guaranteed time slots before travelling into the office. The pilot has proved very successful. The public have responded very well to this pilot programme and in particular are very welcoming of the fact that the many hours previously spent queuing in the office has been eliminated. Customers are now in and out having lodged their application in approximately 10 minutes. Additionally the pilot has extended the public opening hours of the office from 09.30-16.30 to 09.00 -17.00.

Priority in the system is given to those with urgent travel needs (travelling in 3-10 days) with the majority of appointments available to those who fit into this category. Additionally, the Passport Service continue to provide the service of turning around applications on the same day in cases where a passport is required for travel necessitated by an emergency such as the death or illness of a family member. All others are encouraged to use the passport express service.

There has been a 33% decrease in counter applications year to date with a corresponding increase in passport express applications. The appointments system critically allows the Passport Service to identify and prioritise those applications with greatest need for short turnaround. Additionally, from the customer perspective, the change has removed the necessity for the public to queue for many hours, of unknown duration, and early in the morning outside in inclement weather.

For citizens resident on the island of Ireland, the cheapest and most efficient means of processing their passport application continues to be through the passport express services operated on behalf of the Passport Service by An Post and by the Post Office in Northern Ireland. This service, which involves a pre-checking facility, has a maximum ten working day turnaround.

This compares favourably to postal applications not transmitted through the passport express system, of which over 90% are either inaccurate or incomplete on arrival, with 35% lacking the correct documentation and the vast majority lacking the correct fee. As a consequence, these applications take more than twice as many man hours to process as passport express applications, thereby draining resources from the processing of valid applications submitted through the passport express system or through the appointment system.

With a view to further improving the quality of service to the public, therefore, applications from addresses on the island of Ireland received by regular and registered post after 30 June 2013 will be returned to the applicant who will be advised to resubmit their application through the passport express service. Information on the changes to application procedures will be advertised in the national press, on the Passport Service website and through social media channels.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (48)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

48. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the recent discussions he had, in addition to discussions the Minister of State with responsibility for trade and development had, with the former British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Right Honourable David Miliband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26408/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I met with David Miliband on Wednesday, 22 May, in his capacity as former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the British government. In the course of a wide-ranging and useful conversation, we discussed issues related to British-Irish relations, the European Union and wider foreign policy issues.

Emigrant Support Services

Questions (49, 56)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

49. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the funding that the Irish International Immigrant Centre in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, has received from his Department per year from 2007 to 2012; if the centre is legally obliged to report Irish citizens to immigration authorities for taking extra work; if the centre could instead offer supports to Irish citizens and help Irish immigrants in view of the fact that it receives Irish taxpayer funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26414/13]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

56. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the recent actions of the Irish International Immigrant Centre in Boston in relation to a young J1 Irish visa holder; his views on the adequacy and suitability of advice provided by such centres; if he has received a comprehensive report on this particular incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26556/13]

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European Council Meetings

Questions (50, 51)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

50. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the developments and discussions that took place at the 27 May 2013 meeting of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council held in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26416/13]

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Andrew Doyle

Question:

51. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions he held with ministerial colleagues at the 27-28 May 2013 meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council held in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26458/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 51 together.

I attended the most recent meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 27 May. As you will be aware, the deteriorating situation in Syria and specifically discussions around the renewal of the sanctions package - including the arms embargo – dominated the meeting. I will return to this point.

In her opening remarks, High Representative Cathy Ashton mentioned the successful outcome of the High-level Donors Conference on Mali which had taken place in Brussels on 15 May. Pledges at the Conference exceeded the target of €2bn, with Ireland pledging new funding of €2.5m for Mali. The Council adopted Conclusions which underscored the EU's support for the implementation of the transition road map. HR Ashton gave a short update to Ministers on the latest round of EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. It is hoped that the implementation plan for the agreement reached between the two sides in April will be fulfilled by the end of this year.

HR Ashton and the UK Foreign Secretary noted the successful outcome of the London conference on Somalia on 7 May, which raised $350m for justice, security sector and governance development programmes.

Ministers had an exchange of views on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in preparation for the discussion on defence issues scheduled to take place at the European Council meeting in December. In my intervention I noted the importance of civilian CSDP missions as instruments for advancing the EU's foreign and security policy objectives, and the importance of the December European Council also addressing these missions. I agreed with other colleagues on the need to improve the management of civilian CSDP missions to ensure that they respond effectively to developing needs.

While it was hoped to have a detailed discussion at the Council about the Middle East Peace Process, due to time constraints it was agreed that this item would be postponed until next month's meeting, when it is also intended that Conclusions will be adopted.

As mentioned, discussions at the Council were dominated by consideration of the ongoing crisis in Syria in advance of the deadline for renewal of the EU sanctions package on 31 May. There was strong and unanimous support among member States for efforts to reach a political solution in Syria. The EU is extending its full support to the initiative of the US and Russia to bring the parties to the negotiating table on the basis of the Geneva Communiqué of June 2012. As emphasised in the Council Conclusions, the EU will continue to work with all stakeholders to try and find a peaceful solution to bring the conflict to an end.

The Council renewed its commitment to respond to humanitarian needs in Syria and in neighbouring countries, notably Lebanon and Jordan, and urged all donors to fulfil pledges made at the Kuwait humanitarian conference on 31 January. Renewal of the EU sanctions package, and in particular the arms embargo, was the subject of long and intensive discussion among member States. In my intervention, I set out the Irish position, in particular our view that lifting the arms embargo is unlikely to assist efforts to achieve a political resolution. On the contrary, the provision of arms to the Syrian moderate opposition, no matter how well-intentioned, is only likely to contribute to further militarisation of the conflict and to greater levels of violence in Syria and in the wider region. I further stated the Government's belief that lifting the arms embargo runs the clear risk of endangering the US-Russia led "Geneva II" initiative.

The Council agreed to extend, for a twelve-month period, all of the existing restrictive measures in place against Syria and its current rulers, with the exception of the arms embargo. It is obviously a matter of regret that we were unable to agree to renew the arms embargo. As a result, this will now expire on 31 May. It is important to emphasise that all 27 member States of the EU remain fully united in their desire to promote the earliest possible end to violence and a political resolution leading to transition and the establishment of a functioning democracy in Syria. In the Council Declaration that accompanied the Council Decision on renewal of the sanctions package, it was noted that no member State intending to do so will proceed at this stage with the delivery of arms to Syria. The Council agreed to review its position before 1 August on the basis of a report by the High Representative on the developments related to the US-Russia initiative and on the engagement of the Syrian parties.

Despite these difficult discussions, it is worth repeating that the EU remains fully supportive of, and engaged in, the efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to this appalling conflict and to address its horrendous humanitarian consequences. This position has been clearly affirmed in the Conclusions adopted by the Council on 27 May which can be accessed on the official EU website (links below).

- Council conclusions on Syria:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/137316.pdf (original version - EN)

- Council declaration on Syria:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/137315.pdf (original version - EN)