Skip to main content
Normal View

Wednesday, 19 Feb 2014

Written Answers Nos. 37-43

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 12.

Passport Controls

Questions (38)

Brendan Smith

Question:

38. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the implementation of policies by his Department to ensure the security and integrity of Irish passports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8018/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The worldwide good reputation and integrity of the Irish passport helps ensure the safe travel and wellbeing of Irish citizens, as they travel abroad.

In line with the best practice recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, passport books are redesigned on a periodic basis to protect against forgery. I launched a new Irish Passport Book in October last year. This book has new range of features incorporated into the passport design to significantly enhance the security of the document. Indeed, the range of security features integrated in the book is unique among passports worldwide.

The issue of a passport is the culmination of a legally-binding process. The checks and balances within the passport process help to ensure that the identity of the applicant is known and that the person in question is an Irish citizen. Moreover, it helps to combat passport and identity fraud.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade takes the issue of passport fraud very seriously. The Passport Service continues to balance measures to protect against identity theft on the one hand with maintaining our customer focus. The application and checking processes have therefore been designed to protect our customers. I can confirm that new measures were put in place in the last year to improve our processes. These include changes to staffing structures, enhanced links with other Government Departments and overseas agencies. I can confirm that these new measures were instrumental in the Passport Service identifying the irregularities that led to the recent launch of the joint Passport Service/An Garda Síochána investigation.

Humanitarian Aid

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 21.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 10.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 15.

Questions (39, 62)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

39. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the success to date in efforts to distribute aid to civilians trapped by the war in Syria; the extent to which aid missions are under threat and by whom; if the international community can be more effective in protecting those distributing aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8071/14]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

62. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which international aid can be made available in the course of the ongoing conflict in Syria; if adequate efforts are being made to protect aid convoys and personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8578/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 62 together.

The protracted crisis in Syria has resulted in unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, requiring a sustained response from the international community. As the number of fatalities reaches an estimated 130,000 people, there are now over nine million people in need of immediate life-saving support. More than 6.5 million people are displaced within Syria, and nearly 2.5 million Syrians have fled to take refuge in neighbouring countries.

It is simply unacceptable that while millions of people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and humanitarian personnel continue unabated. As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, the challenge of reaching trapped civilians in urgent need of live-saving assistance remains one of most difficult issues.

While reaching people under siege is an urgent priority, humanitarian access across the whole country remains exceptionally difficult as a result of increasing disregard by armed groups on all sides of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.

Recent events during the agreed ceasefire in Homs, when UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian teams were deliberately targeted as they worked on the evacuation of people who have been besieged, with little aid, for nearly two years, highlighted the conditions under which humanitarian agencies are working and the ongoing threats to the lives of their personnel.

Ireland welcomes the extension of the ceasefire in Homs and strongly supports the statement last week by UN Under Secretary General and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Valerie Amos, calling on Security Council members to use their influence on the parties to ensure they abide by humanitarian pauses and ceasefires, give humanitarian actors regular and sustained access, and commit in writing to uphold humanitarian law and systematic access across lines.

Last month, in Kuwait, at the second international pledging conference for Syria, I pledged a further Irish contribution of €12 million for humanitarian assistance in 2014. This will be disbursed to key UN partners, the Red Cross movement and NGO partners, supporting the provision of life saving humanitarian supplies and essential services such as health, education and protection. Since the start of the crisis, Ireland has committed to providing more than €26 million for the relief effort in Syria. We have also provided supplies of non-food items from our emergency relief stocks held in Dubai and specialist emergency personnel under the Rapid Response Initiative. There has been a huge international effort to provide assistance. The combined EU pledges in Kuwait amounted to some €550 million. However, this funding will not have the impact it needs to have if humanitarian agencies continue to be denied access to those in greatest need trapped in areas under siege.

Ireland has always argued the need to keep the humanitarian issue at the top of the international agenda while understanding that only a political solution can bring the suffering of the Syrian people to an end. The ongoing talks in Geneva offer the best hope for a permanent end to the conflict and suffering in Syria.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 21.
Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 10.
Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 15.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (43)

Seán Kyne

Question:

43. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will confirm that the proposed Irish consulate in Austin, Texas, will follow the template of other embassies which house representatives of the Industrial Development Agency, Enterprise Ireland and so on and are successfully attracting foreign direct investment particularly from those with a connection to Ireland. [8106/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Our diplomatic and consular missions abroad work closely with the state agencies in the promotion of inward investment, exports, and tourism and it has been policy for many years that, where feasible, missions and state agencies be brought together in a single location, designated as "Ireland Houses".

There are many variations to the model which reflect local conditions and other factors.

The arrangement is designed to increase the impact of Ireland's presence abroad, to improve coordination among all the parties involved, and to maximise cost-efficiencies.

The potential for expanding the network of Ireland Houses is kept under review, particularly when new missions or agencies are opening in, or moving to, new locations and a sharing arrangement is considered the optimal solution.

With regard to the proposed Consulate General in Austin, I can confirm that a co-location arrangement is under consideration by my Department.

Top
Share