Irish Water Expenditure

Questions (125)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

125. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way he expects savings to be generated from Irish Water; the way he foresees savings being generated after the service level agreements with local authority staff expire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5036/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The establishment of Irish Water in 2013 was an integral component of the Government’s water sector reform strategy and involves major organisational change, an entirely new funding structure governed by economic regulation, the introduction of domestic water charges based on usage and the roll-out of a national domestic metering programme. The PwC independent assessment on establishing a public water utility stated that the public utility model represented an opportunity to build a fit for purpose operating model, a more efficient cost base and lower unit of delivery. It also stated that with Irish Water controlling all assets, revenues and costs, it will be better positioned to leverage economies of scale, drive operational excellence, reduce operating costs and optimise the lending capacity of the company.

I expect significant savings to operational and capital expenditure through the delivery of water services by Irish Water. In capital project delivery, standardising asset design specifications to drive tender price reductions, centralising procurement spend and implementing best practice project management to reduce the risk of cost overruns are ways in which savings can accrue. In operational terms, procurement, volume and billing efficiencies are expected to be achieved. The Commmission for Energy Regulation, which will be responsible for the economic regulation of Irish Water, will seek efficiencies through its reviews of revenue controls.

These savings will accrue during the life of the service level agreements (SLA) which Irish Water has entered into with each of the 34 local authorities for the provision of specified services. The SLA reflects the transformation agenda required for the sector, with provision for annual service plans which will set out required performance, budgets and headcount. A particular focus is placed on the collaboration necessary to complete the transformation to a public utility model by the end of 2017.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Questions (126)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

126. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the 4,500 to 5,000 social housing units due to be delivered this year, as announced under budget 2014, with details of the local authority areas in which these units will be delivered; if he will further provide the number of units due to be delivered under the following headings: through the transfer of further units from the National Asset Management Agency, the use of the rental accommodation scheme, completion of mortgage-to-rent arrangements, completion of existing building and acquisition programmes and new builds. [5055/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The information requested regarding social housing supports is set out in the following table. It is not possible to provide a breakdown by local authority area at this time.

Delivery method

Number

Rental Accommodation Scheme

2,500

Leasing, including:

400 NAMA sourced properties and

350 Mortgage to Rent Scheme

1,200

Deinstitutionalisation Programme -

new Units for people with disability leaving institutional care

150

Social Housing Investment Programme (new homes)

200

Units for People with Special Housing Needs under Capital Assistance Scheme (new homes)

175

Social Housing Stimulus Programme

500

Local Government Reform

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 108.

Questions (127)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

127. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in relation to section 35 of the Local Government Reform Bill 2013, the reason behind deleting lines 12-30 on Page 51, and replacing them with new wording by him; if he will then clarify the merit of amendment No. 34 which is lost or is it included elsewhere in the Bill, as he stated he would bring forward an amendment to that effect on Committee Stage in the Seanad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4837/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

These amendments and others relating to the provisions in the Local Government Reform Act 2014 have already been debated and agreed by the Oireachtas. In respect of Section 35 relating to Local Community Development Committees, lines 12-30 in section 128F were deleted as they related to the making of Regulations and General Policy Guidelines for Local and Community Plans to be developed by Local Community Development Committees. These provisions have been effectively replaced by new provisions at Section 44 of the 2014 Act under which local authorities and Local Community Development Committees are tasked with preparing integrated Local Economic and Community Plans for their areas. This integrated economic and community plan will provide for a more co-ordinated approach at a local level. Section 44, which inserts new sections 66A to 66H in the Local Government Act 2001, now provides for the making of regulations in relation to the new integrated plan and accordingly, the provisions of Section 128F(2)(c) – covering the making of regulations for the standalone community plan – are not now required.

In respect of amendment no. 34, which was discussed at Dáil and Seanad Committee Stages, on both occasions I committed to bringing forward an amendment on this issue. I can now confirm that there is provision for the making of regulations in relation to engagement and consultation with communities as part of the Local Economic and Community Plan process as provided for in section 44 of the 2014 Act.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 108.

Waste Disposal

Questions (129)

Joan Collins

Question:

129. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a detailed report on the Oxigen site in Ballymount that went on fire on the morning of 25 January; and his views on whether sites handling hazardous waste should be located in built up areas. [5034/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

At approximately 3 a.m. on Saturday, 25 January, the Dublin Fire Service responded to an emergency call reporting a large fire at the Oxigen Environmental Waste facility in an industrial estate at Ballymount, Dublin. In co-ordination with An Garda Síochána, the Dublin Fire Service has been managing the incident since that time. The Fire Service has worked since Saturday morning to bring the fire under control and at one point as many as 75 of their personnel were on the site. There was significant traffic disruption in the area as a result of the incident. A large plume of smoke remained over the area on Saturday and Sunday, although high winds over the weekend helped somewhat to disperse the plume.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also on site since early on 25 January. The Agency has been liaising closely with the Fire Service and monitoring air quality in the area, and has advised anyone in the path of the plume to keep their windows and doors closed. The EPA has also provided general health advice to adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems and older people to reduce activity, particularly outdoors.

The fire was brought under full control by Wednesday 29 January. The EPA has taken steps to commence a full investigation in the normal way. It is too early at this stage to say what exactly caused the fire. The Gardaí and Fire Service are also moving now to commence their own separate investigations into the incident and what caused it.

I am very concerned about the fire and its possible impact on residents in the area. I am also relieved that there have been no injuries reported and that all staff at the plant are safe and fully accounted for.  I commend the Fire Service, An Garda Síochána and the EPA on their work so far in responding to this significant incident. The particular facility is located in an industrial estate and is licensed by the EPA to accept household and commercial dry recyclables, construction and demolition waste and hazardous waste. It is not yet known whether any hazardous waste was caught up in the fire but I expect this issue to be addressed in the various investigations.

Irish Water Remit

Questions (130)

Micheál Martin

Question:

130. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his policy in relation to Irish Water; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3531/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Programme for Government promised to introduce a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water; to establish a new State-owned utility to take responsibility for water infrastructure; and to implement a metering programme and water charging system based on usage above a free allowance. The water sector reform programme implementation strategy aims to implement these commitments. The role of my Department is to drive the overall water sector reform process which includes developing the policy and legislation and ensuring delivery of the implementation strategy which was published in December 2012. Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE) had responsibility for most of the deliverables under the Government water sector reform implementation strategy.

The establishment of Irish Water in 2013 was an integral component of this strategy. The reform programme underway is of huge scale and complexity and involves major organisational change, an entirely new funding structure governed by economic regulation, the introduction of domestic water charges based on usage and the roll-out of a national domestic metering programme.

The establishment of Irish Water seeks to reform the current funding model for water services, a model in which less than 20% of costs are borne directly by the users. The funding model is being reformed to ensure a sustainable level of funding so the current level of infrastructural investment increases significantly. The PwC independent assessment on establishing a public water utility found that the dependence on the Exchequer for capital funding has in the past constrained investment in the sector. The assessment assumed annual investment levels of €600 million per annum. In 2014, Irish Water will invest some €310 million in core water services infrastructure, in addition to the metering programme.  Implementation of the water sector reform programme should also lead to Irish Water being able to deliver services with greater economies of scale, manage operations and plan infrastructure with a more national approach, and to access third party funding.

The establishment of Irish Water, and related reforms, will help ensure security of quality water supply, thus helping to sustain public health, and to increase economic competitiveness by making the economy more attractive for water intensive industries such as ICT, pharma-chem and agri-food. Reform will also help improve protection of our water bodies through increased infrastructural investment in water and wastewater treatment, and lower water abstraction from water bodies as a result of reduced consumption.

Election Management System

Questions (131)

David Stanton

Question:

131. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has issued guidelines to local authorities regarding the hiring of staff for polling stations in view of the upcoming European and local elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5026/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The primary role of my Department in electoral matters is to provide an appropriate policy and legislative framework for a modern and efficient electoral system. Within that framework, local returning officers are responsible for all matters in connection with the actual conduct of elections and referendums, including the selection, appointment and training of polling station and count staff in accordance with the relevant provisions of electoral law.

Where two or more elections have the same polling day, as is the case for the forthcoming European Parliament and local elections to take place on 23 May 2014, regulations governing the taking of the polls may be made under section 165 of the Electoral Act 1992 to modify, as required, electoral legislation to enable the polls to be taken together. As in the case of the European Parliament and local elections held in 2009, regulations to be made under section 165 of the Electoral Act 1992 in advance of the 2014 elections will provide that arrangements in relation to polling stations, including the selection of polling staff, will be a matter for the local returning officer responsible for the European Parliament elections.

My Department routinely issues guidance to Returning Officers in advance of each election and referendum. The guidance to be issued in advance of the European Parliament and local elections being held on 23 May 2014 will emphasise that the smooth conduct of polls is dependent on maintaining a cadre of sufficiently skilled and experienced people. Having regard to that overall objective, returning officers will be advised to employ competent and efficient persons as polling staff and asked to give consideration, where possible, to employing suitable persons who are unemployed, particularly for the position of polling clerk where the responsibilities of the post can be fulfilled under the guidance of the Presiding Officer.

Trade Data

Questions (132)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

132. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach the proportion of GDP which is attributable to cross-Border trade for the most recent five years for which data is available. [4900/14]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The answer to question 4900/14 is set out in the table. Goods exports and imports statistics provide data on the physical movement of goods between countries, which is a different concept than the residence principle used in Balance of Payments and National Accounts. Northern Ireland is not separately identified from the rest of the United Kingdom in Services statistics, hence it is not possible to include data for Services in the table below.

Table: Merchandise Goods Trade with Northern Ireland as a percentage of GDP 2008-2012

Year

Goods Exports (€ million)

Goods Imports (€ million)

Goods Trade Surplus (€ million)

GDP at Market Prices (€ million)

Goods Trade Surplus as a % of GDP (%)

2008

1,565

1,261

303

178,882

0.17

2009

1,292

941

351

161,275

0.22

2010

1,326

990

336

156,486

0.21

2011

1,422

1,047

375

158,993

0.24

2012

1,436

1,026

410

163,596

0.25

Departmental Contracts

Questions (133)

Shane Ross

Question:

133. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Taoiseach the way the departmental contracts for taxi companies for the purposes of taxis for the use of departmental staff are decided and allocated; if there is a public tender process for taxi companies wishing to apply for these contracts; the process for allocating the contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4844/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

My Department publicly tenders in respect of a taxi service for the Department. The Department most recently entered a contract for the provision of taxi services on 22nd July 2013 following a competitive tendering process which was placed on e-Tenders in May 2013.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Questions (134)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

134. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Taoiseach in relation to capital building projects currently under way under the remit of his Department, and the building programmes planned for 2014, if he will outline the impact the new building control regulations 2013 which come into effect on 1 March will have on the costs of each specific project; if he will list the projects under way; the extra costs that will be incurred on each due to increased professional fees due to the increased supervision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4845/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

There are no capital building projects currently underway under the remit of my Department and there are no plans for any building programmes in 2014.

Pensions Legislation

Questions (135)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

135. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Taoiseach if he has considered the establishment of a junior Minister with special responsibilities for pensions, as in the UK, to tie together the disparate departmental elements across finance, social protection, health and public expenditure and reform that are responsible for pensions, in view of the looming pension crisis, the complexity of pension arrangements here, the need for ongoing changes and reforms in the pensions sector and difficulties being experienced by private pension arrangements. [4909/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The appointment of a Minister of State is a matter for the Government under the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1977. The Department of Social Protection has lead responsibility for pensions policy. However, given that it is an issue with broad implications, including across a number of Government Departments, there is an Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on Pensions, similar to a Cabinet Committee and which I chair, which ensures broad consideration of pensions policy and related issues as required.

Departmental Agencies Board Appointments

Questions (136)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

136. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach if he will itemise in tabular form the occasions on which his Department has engaged the services of external professional advice such as a company (details supplied) on the appointment of persons to State boards; if he will list the fees paid in respect of such services; the persons who were ultimately appointed on foot of advice received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4994/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

My Department has not engaged the services of the company identified by the Deputy for appointments of persons to State Boards under the remit of my Department.

Departmental Agencies Board Appointments

Questions (137)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

137. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach if he will identify any instances where a person appointed to a State board after recruitment advice was received from professional external consultants was subsequently deemed to be unqualified for the duties and responsibilities attached to the role; the costs incurred in obtaining advice in respect of each such instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5010/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

With regard to the State Boards under the aegis of my Department, no such recruitments took place as outlined in the Deputy's question.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (138, 139, 140)

Gerry Adams

Question:

138. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when he next plans to meet with the British Prime Minister David Cameron. [5040/14]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

139. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when he next plans to meet with the Northern Ireland First and Deputy First Ministers. [5041/14]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

140. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when he plans to meet members of the Northern Ireland Executive. [5042/14]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 to 140, inclusive, together.

I plan to meet with Prime Minister Cameron in London next month for our Annual Summit review. Apart from at the North South Ministerial Council Plenary which I will host in Dublin this year, I have no plans to meet with the First Minister, deputy First Minister or members of the Executive.

World Economic Forum

Questions (141)

Gerry Adams

Question:

141. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5044/14]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, (WEF), from 22 to 24 January. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan also attended the Forum. The theme of this year's meeting was “The reshaping of the World; consequences for society, politics and business”.

In a busy schedule of meetings, panel discussions and workshops, my main focus was on the continued promotion of Ireland as a top class destination for international business and investment. I participated in a number of formal events on the WEF programme including a Plenary Session on European competitiveness. I also participated in a high-level discussion group on the prevailing global themes for 2014, which included the political situation in the Middle East, global financial issues and climate change.

During my time in Davos I had several bilateral meetings. I along with Minister Noonan, met US Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew. I briefed Secretary Lew on recent positive economic developments in Ireland and related issues. We also discussed the current economic situation in the US. I met individually with leaders of several major multinational firms from a variety of fields, principally in the high-tech and financial services areas. I emphasised Ireland’s pro-business and world-class R&D environment as well as our young and well educated flexible workforce. On Thursday evening, 23 January, I attended an IDA event for senior executives of major international companies, to promote Ireland as a key location for international business, investment and expansion.

Oireachtas Reform

Questions (142)

Gerry Adams

Question:

142. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will set out his planned reforms for the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5045/14]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Programme for Government outlined an ambitious agenda for Oireachtas Reform to be introduced in a phased process over the lifetime of this Government. The two phases of Dáil reform already introduced since the Government took office in March 2011 have significantly improved the working of the House. The first phase of Oireachtas reforms introduced in 2011 restructured the Oireachtas Committee system, introduced an additional Leaders' Questions on Thursdays, established Topical Issue Debates, allowed TDs introduce their own Bills and have them debated in the Dáil and started to develop a pre-legislative stage before Committees.

The second phase of Oireachtas reform expanded the Friday sittings, allowing more Private Members Bills and Oireachtas Committee Reports to be debated in the Dáil, further developed the Pre-Legislative stage at Committee and takes steps to reduce the use of the guillotine. It now provides for new structures for interaction between the Government and the Dáil and Committees, including an annual outline to the Dáil by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste of Government Priorities, an economic update and projections for the next three years, a National Risk Assessment which will set out the risks (both financial and non-financial) which the country faces and a National Progress Report produced independently by the CSO.

The Dáil continues to extend the number of days it sits and the length of those sitting days. But this is by no means the end of the reform process. The roll-out of reforms announced in autumn 2013 will continue over the next few months as will the development of an Oireachtas Inquiry system. Work has already started on the next phase of reform. Reforms being considered for inclusion in the next phase include the establishment of an Oireachtas Inquiry system, the restructuring of Oireachtas Committees and expanding the powers and functions of those Committees, along with a number of Programme of Government commitments. The Tánaiste, the Government Chief Whip and I have met the Opposition Leaders and Whips to discuss what should be included in this phase.

The Constitutional Convention met last weekend to discuss the issue of Dáil Reform and I look forward to seeing the Convention's Report on this in the coming weeks. The outstanding Programme for Government commitments, items considered by the Dáil Reform Sub-Committee, discussions with Opposition Party Leaders and Whips, consultation with all TDs, the report of the Constitutional Convention on the subject and debate time scheduled to discuss the issue in the Dáil will all provide suggestions for reform that will form part of developing the next set of proposals.

As regards the Seanad, the Tánaiste and I met the leaders of the other parties and groupings in the Dáil and Seanad on 18 December last to discuss reform of the House. The outcome of the meeting was as follows.

Work on operational/procedural reform could proceed immediately. All the parties and groupings in both Houses would present their proposals to the Seanad CPP early in 2014. The Government will do so through the Leader of the Seanad.

As regards electoral reform, a task force, representative of the different parties and groupings within the Oireachtas, could look at this matter. The parties/groupings could present their proposals to the task force, which would be in a better position to propose a timeline for the enactment of legislation once it had scoped out the nature and extent of the legislation proposed, and examined any possible constitutional implications. There was also broad consensus at the meeting that the question of constitutional reform, which would require a referendum or referendums, could be considered at a later date.

The Government has, of course, already announced that draft legislation will be prepared to give effect to the 1979 referendum decision, which allowed the State to extend the provisions for the election of members of the Seanad by certain universities to other institutions of higher education in the State. The General Scheme of the Bill, when ready, will be referred to the Seanad, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and other stakeholders, including the institutions of higher education in the State, for their consideration.

Referendum Campaigns

Questions (143)

Gerry Adams

Question:

143. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will set out the referendums he plans to hold in the next two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5046/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Deputy will be aware that, arising from recommendations in reports of the Convention on the Constitution, the Government has already announced that it will bring forward proposals in 2015 for referendums on same-sex marriage, reducing the voting age to 16 and reducing the age of candidacy for Presidential elections to 21. In addition, the Government has referred to the relevant Oireachtas Committee the question of a constitutional amendment to give citizens a say in the nomination process for Presidential candidates. The Government has also undertaken to look at making Article 41.2 of the Constitution (on the role of women) gender-neutral, and at including other carers both in and beyond the home. It has also undertaken to look at amending the Constitution to include the principle of gender equality, as well as the use of gender-inclusive language in the Constitution.

Recommendations for amendments to the Constitution in the Convention's later reports are currently under consideration by the relevant Ministers and the Government will give its formal response on them in due course. Where the Government agrees to the holding of a referendum, it will give a proposed timeframe in its response. In addition, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation is currently examining the question of an amendment to the Constitution in relation to a Unified Patent Court, while the Minister for Justice and Equality is examining the question of an amendment to the Constitution to provide for a separate family court structure. Any proposals on these matters will be brought to Government when ready and the Government will announce any decisions on them in due course, including the timing of any referendums.

World Economic Forum

Questions (144)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

144. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Taoiseach if he met with representatives of the US Chamber of Commerce at the World Economic Forum in Davos; if the issue of lobbying against proposals to ban tobacco advertising on cigarette packets was raised with him in Davos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5397/14]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I had no scheduled meeting with representatives of the US Chamber of Commerce at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. However, I exchanged brief remarks with the President and CEO of the Chamber, Thomas Donoghue at one of the Forum events at which we were both present. We did not have a detailed discussion on any topic nor was the specific issue referenced in the question raised during any of my engagements at the World Economic Forum.

Information and Communications Technology

Questions (145)

John Deasy

Question:

145. Deputy John Deasy asked the Taoiseach the apps his Department or its agencies have been involved in developing for smartphones and other multimedia devices in the past three years; the cost and the software developer employed in each case. [5466/14]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only agency under the aegis of my Department. Neither my Department nor NESDO has been involved in developing any Apps for smart phones and other multi-media devices in the past three years.

Passport Applications Fees

Questions (146)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

146. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will consider introducing a provision which would allow a reduced cost for old age pensioners applying for passports and passport renewals, similar to the provision of passports for under three year olds (details supplied). [5097/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

A reduced term of validity for children’s passports is necessary as children’s appearances change significantly within a short period of years, which can lead to uncertainty regarding the identity of the passport holder. This is not generally the case for adults of any age and it is the norm internationally to provide standard validity passports to all adults. Introducing an arrangement whereby adults of any age would be eligible to apply for a passport for a period of less than 10 years would increase the total demand for passports on an ongoing basis and would require the recruitment of additional staff in the Passport Offices to cope with increased demand.

For these reasons, there are no plans to introduce a passport of less than 10 year validity for adult applicants, regardless of age. I would emphasise that the annualised fee for a standard Irish passport compares favourably with many other jurisdictions. The annualised cost of an Irish passport for an adult is €8. This fee has remained unchanged since 2009. The fee compares with approximately €8.60 in the UK, €8.15 (USA), €8.55 (New Zealand), €11.50 (Canada), €8.80 (France) and €8 (Germany).

Human Rights Issues

Questions (147)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

147. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made representations to Myanmar officials urging them to investigate reports of more than 40 persons having been killed in attacks on Rohingya Muslims as called for by the UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4861/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government continues to closely follow the situation of the Rohingya people in Myanmar/Burma and is deeply concerned by the recent reports of serious violence against the community in Du Chee Yar Tan village on 9 and 13 January 2014. As mentioned by the Deputy, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called for a full and prompt investigation into these incidents to ensure that victims and their families receive justice. This follows from a comprehensive country resolution on Myanmar/Burma, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 2013, in which negotiation Ireland played an active role. This resolution encouraged the government of Myanmar/Burma to facilitate full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations to ensure accountability and bring about reconciliation.

Last week, a delegation of EU Ambassadors to Myanmar/Burma visited Rakhine in response to the ongoing difficulties in the region, including a visit to the village in question. During this visit, the delegation was accompanied by Myanmar/Burma’s Minister for Border Security of the Union. Ireland’s Ambassador to Myanmar/Burma visited Yangon from 20 -22 January 2014, and attended the monthly EU Heads of Mission meeting there. During this latest visit, the Ambassador also received updates on the situation in Rakhine from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and from Non-Governmental Organizations actively working in Rakhine.

Myanmar/Burma continues to undergo a process of long-awaited transition towards full democracy. Ireland, together with our EU partners, recognises that significant progress has been made, but that difficult and complex challenges remain. Ireland will continue to utilize the relevant bilateral and multilateral channels to urge the Government of Myanmar/Burma to address these challenges, particularly issues in regard to the Rohingya minority.