Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 45.

Departmental Staff Recruitment

Questions (53)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

53. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the date on which the current panel for the recruitment of third secretaries in his Department was formed; when the panel will expire; the number of persons listed on the current panel and the number appointed from the panel; when a new panel will be formed to generate a new list of persons to be called to become third secretary; if applications for inclusion on the panel will be publicly advertised through the Public Appointments Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26473/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The recruitment of Third Secretaries is conducted on behalf of my Department by the Public Appointments Service (PAS). The approval of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is required before a competition can be held. Competitions are advertised through the PAS website www.publicjobs.ie which includes an automatic e-mail alert service for potential candidates. The most recent competition was held in the second half of 2008 when a panel of 30 qualified candidates was put in place. Since then, a total of 14 appointments have been made, the last of which occurred in December 2010 and involved the person who secured 16th place in the 2008 competition. The Deputy will be aware that the moratorium on recruitment to the civil service introduced in 2009 remains in force, and of the reasons for it. Nevertheless, my Department is in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform about the urgent need to hold a Third Secretary competition later this year in order to fill a number of existing and emerging vacancies in the grade at home and abroad.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Questions (54)

John Deasy

Question:

54. Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the measures his Department is taking with regard to potential changes to the J1 visa system in legislation currently being considered in the United States Congress. [26482/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The welfare of the Irish abroad in general, and especially the position of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States, remains an important priority for the Government. The Government have also attached great importance to providing for future flows of migration between Ireland and the United States through the extension of the so called E3 visa scheme to include Irish citizens. The Government is continuing to follow closely the progress of the Senate bill on comprehensive immigration reform that is currently under consideration and which would address these issues.

The Senate Immigration Reform Bill (S.744) is a very extensive piece of draft US legislation that contains a comprehensive and complex set of reforms across the US immigration system. The Government has already welcomed the inclusion of provisions which would provide a solution for the undocumented Irish and opportunities for future flows of migration between our two countries. However, all of its provisions, including those in relation to the J1 programme, are at the early stage of the legislative process and it is too early to indicate the timing and final shape of any legislation.

The Government greatly values the current provision of the J1 programme and believes it is important that the programme be as accessible as possible and that efforts be made to ensure high levels of uptake. Our Embassy in Washington remains in very close contact with the US Congress and the Administration to ensure that the interests of all Irish citizens are advanced in any immigration legislation that is passed.

Departmental Budgets

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 49.

Questions Nos. 57 and 58 answered with Question No. 45.

Questions (55)

Seán Fleming

Question:

55. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has received any indicative figure from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the fiscal adjustments his Department will be asked to make in 2014 and 2015; the size of that adjustment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26549/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In the context of the forthcoming Budget, the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform has asked my Department to identify savings which will feed into the expenditure decisions by Government for the Estimates 2014 and the setting of future Ministerial ceilings. The identification of savings options should ensure that a sufficient range of proposals are made by all Departments to help the Government make well-informed choices about spending priorities and allocations. The scale of the adjustments for 2014 was set out in part 1 of the Expenditure Report 2013, which was published in December 2012. The Government will be making decisions on the future ceilings as part of the forthcoming budgetary deliberations.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 49.
Questions Nos. 57 and 58 answered with Question No. 45.

Middle East Peace Process

Questions (59)

Brendan Smith

Question:

59. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if any new initiatives were discussed at the recent EU Foreign Affairs Council in relation to the urgent need to renew the Middle East peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26562/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Due to pressure of other business, the discussion of the Middle East Peace Process which had been planned for the Foreign Affairs Council on 27 May was postponed to the Council’s meeting in June. It had been intended that Ministers would discuss the initiative of US Secretary of State Kerry to restart the peace process, and in particular what the EU could do in support of, and in parallel to, his efforts. It is likely, depending on the timing of any US moves, that there will be a major discussion of the Middle East Peace Process at the Foreign Affairs Council on 24 June, which will include a review of developments in relation to the issues raised in the May 2012 Council Conclusions on the MEPP.

Overseas Development Aid

Questions (60)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

60. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade following his Department's acknowledgement of the contradiction between policies to promote biofuels, on one hand, and hunger alleviation goals, on the other, if he will raise this issue forcefully at the upcoming Hunger Summit in London on 8 June as EU policies on biofuels are currently under review during the Irish EU Presidency; if he will demonstrate Irish Aid's commitment to a whole-of-Government approach to development in its new policy document, One World, One Future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26573/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy is aware from replies to previous Questions on this matter, I share concerns that biofuel production, unless properly regulated, can have a negative impact on food production, and on food prices. My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, takes the lead on Government policy in relation to biofuels and EU policy on biofuels, including the European Commission's proposal to limit the use of foodcrop-based biofuels in transport to 5% by 2020.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive of 2009 requires that, by 2020, 10% of transport fuels should come from renewable sources. The Directive also provided that the ongoing effects of its implementation be monitored by the European Commission. Following a number of studies on the Directive’s effects, in October 2012 the Commission published a proposal to amend the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive. The Commission included a proposal that foodcrop-based biofuels should at most comprise half of the 10% quota required to come from renewable energy sources. This proposal, in conjunction with the incentives for advanced (next-generation) biofuels, signals the desire of the Commission to move towards the use of advanced biofuels made from feedstocks which do not compete with the production of food. While Member States agree that the issue must be addressed, it remains an extremely complex matter, and agreement has not yet been reached on the 5% cap. Negotiations are continuing, and it is expected that a progress report will be submitted for the meetings of the Energy and Environment Councils in June 2013.

The fight to end extreme hunger is, and will remain, a key priority for Ireland’s international development programme, which takes a comprehensive approach to the challenge. This includes a focus on good governance in respect of land use. The scale of the challenge of fighting global poverty and providing nutritious food for a growing population, in the context of a changing climate, was highlighted at the international Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice which the Government organised in Dublin last month.

In the context of its G8 Presidency, the British Government is hosting an important international meeting on hunger and under-nutrition in London on 8 June, on the theme ‘Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science’. Ireland is a core partner in this initiative and the Taoiseach will participate, at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. The event will build on the Olympic Hunger Summit held at Downing Street in August 2012, which the Taoiseach also attended.

The London meeting will focus specifically on under-nutrition, an often silent element of hunger which has devastating consequences. Over 40% of children under the age of five in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished, putting them at greater risk of infection and death, and seriously limiting their ability to reach their full potential. I am determined that Ireland will continue our strong international advocacy and action to address hunger and under-nutrition. In London, we will focus particularly on supporting efforts to harness public and private investment which will assist low-income countries to fight under-nutrition.

Ireland’s new policy on international development, One World, One Future which was launched in early May, sets out in clear terms the goals and focus of our development efforts. It aims to enhance coherence of Government policies for development results. It will result in a more focussed approach across all Government Departments, harnessing the particular contributions, expertise and knowledge that each can offer. The Interdepartmental Committee on Development, which I chair, will have a strengthened role, and will be responsible for producing a biennial report on Ireland’s progress on policy coherence for development. This report will be submitted to the Government and the Oireachtas.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Questions (61, 62)

Brendan Smith

Question:

61. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the up to date position in relation to the new E3 visa initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26593/13]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

62. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the up to date position in relation to the Immigration Reform Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26594/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 62 together.

A resolution of the situation facing the undocumented Irish in the United States has been and remains a priority for the Government in ongoing contacts with the US Administration and Congress. The Government have also attached great importance to providing for future flows of migration between Ireland and the United States through the extension of the so called E3 visa scheme to include Irish citizens. In this context, we very much welcome the recent publication of the US Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Bill which provides for reform of the US immigration system. The bill is progressing through the Senate system and on May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its detailed examination of proposals for comprehensive reform of the US immigration system as set out in Bill. It is expected that the Bill will now go forward for further debate by the full Senate over the coming weeks.

The comprehensive draft legislation, which was drafted over several months by a bi-partisan group of eight US Senators, includes provisions that would legalise the status of thousands of undocumented Irish people and provide a path to permanent residency. It also provides for future flows of legal migration between Ireland and the US via the proposed E-3 visa. The Bill is a very positive development. Its provisions, if adopted, would help to end the great hardship and uncertainty faced by undocumented Irish in the US and their families here in Ireland. The inclusion of a new provision to allow several thousand Irish citizens to legally avail of employment opportunities in the US every year is also particularly welcome.

It is important to recall that the overall issues involved are complex and sensitive ones within the US political system. Our Embassy in Washington continues to closely follow developments and lobby as necessary, in keeping with the approach we have adopted over many years in our pursuit of a resolution of the situation facing the undocumented in the United States. I would like to reiterate my appreciation for the active support we continue to receive from a number of Irish community organisations, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Chicago Celts and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.